These days, surviving outdoors is something that we do for fun. But, for thousands of years, outdoor survival was essentially just survival. Since then, most the population has lost some necessary skills required to keep them alive outdoors, and although all of these skills are skills you naturally have, they are not necessarily well developed for outdoor survival. With popular doomsayers popping up more and more often, it is a necessity that you improve your skills for survival outdoors. Not a follower of potential catastrophe? That’s okay, maybe you just want to survive outdoors for fun. Regardless, these skills could one day help you beyond belief.
The Difference Between Capable and Effective
No doubt, you have these skills already in your toolbox. However, just because you can chop a tree down, does not mean you can do it safely and quickly all while making the most of your energy expenditure. Likewise, just because you can run the streets of New York City daily, does not mean you can run through the forest dodging limbs and roots while you chase down a deer with a spear.
Just because your skills could currently “get the job done” does not mean that you will be highly effective with them in situations where your life could be on the line. However, with only a little practice, these skills can greatly be increased to a level where survival in the outdoors would be nothing more than a normal day for you.
And before you ask, workouts in the gym cannot accurately help develop these skills. You might be able to pick up a thick bar that is similar to a log in the gym, but can you actually lift a real log, whose shape is not uniform and may not have stability all the way through? Probably not.
So, these skills should be practiced and mastered to put you in peak position for performance outdoors.
Physical Skills to Master for Survival
Walking is easy, most people do it. However, most people do not have to walk long distances frequently. Even if you live in New York City, walking long distances over uneven terrain and surfaces is just not something experienced often. So, walking is a necessary skill for survival.
Now, it is not enough to just walk distances and outdoors often to perfect this skill. To truly be able to survive outdoors, you need to be confident in your ability to walk long distances especially when conditions are not favorable.
How do you practice for this skill?
- Walk long distances. Both carrying gear and not carrying gear
- Walk in many different places, with different terrain and surfaces.
- Get walking in the rain, snow, and heat.
Following a mastery of walking, balancing is the next progression in being able to move freely outdoors. You will encounter many different surfaces and terrains, which could easily slow you down if you are unprepared for balancing. On top of being able to quickly traverse terrain, balancing helps keep your mind directly connected to the physical sensations of the body, something that is greatly overlooked when the discussion of survival comes up.
How do you practice balancing?
- Practice on a beam (a 2×4 works great), going many directions with different foot positions and stances.
- Perform basic actions while balancing.
While you might not think that lifting follows balancing properly, be assured that balancing is a necessary skill to accomplish lifting. If you cannot properly balance, how can you expect to be able to lift objects from a variety of stances?
Most of the time, we think of strong when we hear about lifting, which is true to an extent. However, strength does not cover agility and flexibility needed to lift oddly shaped objects. So, good practice of lifting involves the use of agility, flexibility, and strength.
How do you practice lifting?
- Pickup objects with varied shape, size, weight, and textures.
- Change the surface and elevation from which you lift objects.
- Pick things up, and put them down.
After lifting, carrying is the next natural step in being able to survive outdoors. After all, what good is picking up a fallen tree if you can’t move it out of the way?
There are three types of carries for objects:
- Shoulder carry: carrying objects on or leveraged against your shoulder(s).
- Chest carry: carrying objects by resting it against your chest, often supported by the strength of the arms.
- Waist carry: carrying an object leveraged against your waist.
There is not much to say about carrying, but know it is important to have enough skill to carry (nearly) anything from any one of the above positions.
How do I practice carrying?
- Switching up the position, grip, and surface.
- Changing the object being carried.
- Carrying objects long distances.
- Carrying objects through obstacles.
While not necessarily following the skill of carrying, I would consider this to be the least important of the five skills listed. Although the surface of the earth is ~71% water, not everywhere has water sources that would mean life or death in a survival sense. However, if in a situation where water is present, knowing how to swim effectively could be the difference between life and death.
How do I practice for this?
- For long periods of time.
- Swim in moving water and still water.
- Swim with and without clothes on.
- Swim in harsh conditions.
- Swim with and without gear on.
Bonus) Mental Toughness
Survival outdoors requires a lot of mental control. There is often a lot of time with your thoughts, whether you find yourself alone or with company. Anyone who has ever worked a mindless job can easily tell you how too much time with your thoughts can be a bad thing. It is important that you have the mental toughness to be able to weather the storm, because the mind is generally the first thing to break down when surviving outdoors.
There is no real training plan for developing mental toughness. Living a life that requires you to face challenges, and have the thoughts and emotions that accompany them. Living a strenuous life is the best way to develop mental toughness.
Hopefully you found this useful, and are well on your way to practicing for survival outdoors.
Let me know if there are any skills you would like to see added to this list.
How do you train for survival? Let me know!