Top 7 Survival Skills Every Man Should Know

More than three million people in the US now identify themselves as ‘preppers’, also known as ‘survivalists’. A series on National Geographic trained a spotlight on their world – handgun practice after school, pantries stocked with enough dry and canned goods to feed a cruise ship, and a preference for camouflage clothing at all times. This is a movement primed for ‘WSHTF’ (something to do with human waste colliding with ventilation) – that moment when society collapses and they can finally grab a bug-out bag, retreat to a shelter, and start picking off marauding zombies, bankers or encyclopedia salesmen with a fearsome range of weaponry.

But not everyone has the time to build a submerged nuclear bunker in their backyard, or the budget to stockpile a year’s worth of pineapple chunks. When the apocalypse comes, use our handy guide to see you through those awkward moments…


Finding Water

The human body can survive no more than 3 days without water, even less without coffee. Your continued existence depends on finding it, purifying it and storing it. Look for areas where there are plants, trees, or animal tracks and dig down. Or a river. You can boil whatever you find in anything from a plastic bottle to a paper bag, add a few drops of iodine or bleach to zap any remaining bacteria, and carry it in that condom from your wallet that you had prepped for spring break. Above all, resist the temptation to drink seawater. You’ll only go mad, wear jewellery made from albatrosses, and bore wedding guests.


Securing Food

Your first reaction after a cataclysmic global collapse might be to phone out for a pizza, but can you really trust the delivery boy? And how much do you tip a flesh-eating zombie? Your first step should be to try your local supermarket. These typically hold enough food to last six days, so there should be some great deals. Luckily, your body can survive three weeks without food, by coincidence the same amount of time you’d need for a really thorough tour of Great Britain. Beyond that, you’ll need to learn how to hunt, fish, or at least open a can by rubbing it vigorously on a sidewalk until the seam breaks. There’s no need to go all Bear Grylls, though, and start chewing everything with a pulse. You got through college on ramen, so you can get through the apocalypse. Plus you’ll be saving money.

Finding Shelter

After three hours without appropriate protection, you could be at risk from hypothermia or sunstroke, depending on conditions. If you’re going to be in the same place for some time, it’s worth looking up a Ray Mears or Ed Stafford video on YouTube on how to construct a modestly sized, eco-friendly vacation home out of bamboo and parachute cord. But if you just want to get out of the sun, or a blizzard, conserve energy by fashioning some sort of shelter out of what’s readily available. That could be anything from corrugated zinc sheeting dislodged by gale force winds, to a dead bison. In an apocalyptic scenario, the key is to conserve your supplies by keeping people away. Make your shelter invisible to the naked eye by covering it with a Canadian flag.

Protecting your family, your freedoms… and the American way of life

Remember Michael Douglas in Falling Down? He’s in all of us, especially after three days without food or ESPN. If you’re a hardened prepper, the moment you get to walk into your big room full of guns and toss weaponry to waiting family members is what you’ve been waiting for. But if you’ve never taken another life, this is the point at which you’ll have to ‘sack up’ fast. Start out with something familiar like a baseball bat or chainsaw and… well, have fun with it. Remember that for zombies, you must destroy the brains. For bankers, the designer watch. A word of warning, however. Unless you’re in Chester, England, where a person is still permitted to shoot a Welshman with a bow and arrow within the city walls after midnight, you’re probably breaking the law. If in any doubt, check first with your family lawyer that society has disintegrated into full anarchy.

Build a Fire

You’ve secured your perimeter, skinned a bear, and made a jerkin out of its pelt that really highlights your guns. Now’s the time to invite the neighbors round for a barbecue. But keeping them waiting while you fumble with your bow drill will only exacerbate the tension, especially in the absence of beer. Make a fire by throwing a spark onto nachos, or burning your children’s crayons. They won’t be needing them anyway. Key to fire-starting is patience. Even Les Stroud struggles most of the time, and he’s Survivorman. Look, you know what. Just buy a pack of disposables from the gas station next time you fill up. They’re less than a dollar.


Emergency First Aid

You will get sick, you may get injured. You can afford neither. Your survival, and the survival of your family, arguably depends on your ability to perform an emergency tracheotomy at short notice, apply a tourniquet to a severed limb, or deal with environment-induced conditions such as frostbite, jungle rot and amoebic dysentery. For minor sprains and contusions, raise the affected limb and apply a cold compress. For severed limbs spouting crimson jets of arterial blood, dab with cotton wool soaked in two parts apple cider vinegar to one part tea tree oil.

Location, location, location

Your first reaction in a survival situation might well be to panic in the absence of technology. But relax, man has been finding his location for centuries with just the stars, planets and GPS for guidance. Remember, for example, that moss grows on the north-facing side of tree trunks. Wait, no trees? OK, try cows. Cows always stand on a north-south line. That’s a fifty/fifty shot. What, no cows? Erm, the sun always rises in the east and sets in the west. No sun? You want a survival guide for a world without sun…

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