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Keeping Your Survival Skills Alive

by Kyt Lyn Walken

Without knowledge and experience there’s very little chance of surviving a disaster. There are plenty of stories of people who’ve survived crazy situations with literally nothing other than their raw skills. No cutting tools, no medications, no food, sometimes not even proper clothes.



We’re all aware of the fact that survival isn’t about owning the most sophisticated gear. We can’t deny the benefits of a Goretex jacket compared to a miserable jacket. Nonetheless, survival is usually about overcoming deprivation.

As a matter of fact, once we are deprived of our comfort, energy, sleep, food, and water we are pretty much in the very definition of a SHTF situation.

From a psychological perspective, we have two choices: fight or flight. They pop up in every dangerous situation, when threats becomes real. Whether they’re posed by a predator who is on our tracks, or by an ill-intentioned individual whose desire is to hurt us. Or it could even be a sudden change in the weather conditions, which caught us off guard.

The range of possible threats is endless. Individual or multiple. Temporary or long-term. Reacting is mandatory, but we have to learn how to discipline our reactions. Without a proper approach we may go… “too big”. Overreactions are pretty common in survival scenarios. Unfortunately they have a lot of cons. They have a lot to do with a loss of long-lasting focus, an abrupt reduction of energy, and, eventually, an unavoidable personal crisis.

In this article we will learn how to regulate our reactions, how to deal with over -reactions, and how to put into action the best tactics to refresh our survival skills, especially if we are alone in our activities.


How to regulate our actions

“To acquire knowledge, one must study; but to acquire wisdom, one must observe.” ~ Marilyn vos Savant

In order to learn how to regulate our actions during a disaster situation, we need to start working on ourselves on a daily basis.

The triggering point is to learn more about ourselves. If we know ourselves intimately, we can understand how we can react under various threats. The best way to start with is to have patience, and try to get a detached, aloof perspective on ourselves in the following situations:

  • When we feel exhausted for a sudden rise of a problem
  • When we have an argument with somebody
  • When we feel overwhelmed by daily routine
  • When we get nervous
  • When we over think

It isn’t easy. Acquiring a brand new standpoint on ourselves requirse a lot of time, dedication and tact. We can be our best allies or our worst enemies. This is absolutely true. Far from being rocket science, survival is 90% psychology. The remaining 10% are skills and even luck.

In that 90% we find:

  • Perseverance
  • Will to live
  • Tenacity
  • Courage
  • Hope

In few words, if we’ve already worked on ourselves on minor issues like small arguments, slip-ups and so on, we can predict how we can react in a real danger situation. How does it work, in practical terms? Let’s dig some more.

First step is to observe yourself in a stressful situation. Try to get out of you, like you were another person. Observe your muscle and veins begin to stiffen. Don’t judge yourself. Not now, perhaps. On the opposite, you can start asking yourself:

  • Does the context really worth my stress, or even my panic?
  • Am I really getting frustrated for the situation?
  • Do I overthink about this thing?
  • Is this a real problem?

You might have exaggerated your reactions about what you were living. If so, you just need to step back and, simply as it is, and breathe. You can adopt tactical breathing. Inhale for four seconds, hold for four seconds, release for four seconds. And repeat.

You can eventually repeat the whole process, and try to look at yourself from another different perspective. The more you work on yourself, the more benefits you’ll achieve.

This will also work with your fears. In my case, it was successful in helping me to fix my problem related to vertigo. I’m not saying I can actually climb the Himalaya right now, but I achieved some successes I wouldn’t have even imagined in the past.

To sum up, if you learn how to observe yourself you’ll learn how to predict your reactions, and how to regulate them.


How to deal with overreactions

“The larger the island of knowledge, the longer the shoreline of wonder.” ~ Ralph W. Sockman

Overreactions are a natural result of too much energy. It’s pretty much common to overreact to fear, to stress and to panic. In fact, in an attempt to face a negative situation in the best way we can, we tend not to calibrate our responses in a proper way.

Long story short, we usually rush into a series of actions. In case of a sudden change of weather, we rush into looking for a safe place to spend the night. If we know how to temper our knowledge with common sense, we will be able to make a safe shelter in a safe area, far away from any potential flash flood event, and most importantly how to save energy.

Overreactions can be lethal in terms of wasting energy. They steal from us precious vigor, which we need when in despair. Try to be as  clever and wise as possible. Do the essential stuff and avoid overreacting and over-doing.


How to refresh your survival skills

“Without knowledge action is useless and knowledge without action is futile.” ~ Abu Bakr

That 10% still counts a lot in an emergency situation. The best way to take advantage of our knowledge is to simply refresh it on regular basis.

In my case I am mostly skilled in tracking. I spend four to five days a month dedicated to the most valuable skills I feel that I’ll need to rely on when a SHTF event happens.



For some people, reading a map and using a compass is like breathing. For others it may pose an issue. If you find yourself in the second category get used to frequently practicing your abilities, especially when it’s dark and you’re starting to feel mental fatigue.


Using cutting tools

Knowing how to handle, use and sharpen cutting tools is mandatory in any outdoor scenario. Safety comes first, especially if you’re overwhelmed by things to do (making fire, setting a shelter..). Remember: it’s all into muscle memory.


Starting a fire

Awareness, common sense and plant ID play a huge role in collecting the right tinder. This is more true during poor weather conditions, or when darkness start to come in.


Making shelter

Again, muscle memory will pave the way to make correct knots and to set a proper and well mounted shelter. Observation and risk analysis will do the job when selecting the correct location of where to set your camp.



Patience, dedication and curiosity are the ingredients to turn yourself into a good Tracker! No matter if you need to track small game or big game, or if you’re checking if the area has been recently visited by others.


First Aid skills

You can definitely practice by yourself:

  • How to correctly put a tourniquet on yourself (arms and legs)
  • How to use the Israeli bandage using just one arm
  • How to make a sapping

The more you practice, the faster you ‘ll get. Be accurate, take your time, and if possible ask a pro to monitor your first attempts. Better safe than sorry!


Plant ID

Far from being an easy task to accomplish, plant ID may save your life. If you’re able to identify the most useful plants in your area (edible or medicinal), you’ll become very self reliant.



“Knowledge is power. Information is power. The secreting or hoarding of knowledge or information may be an act of tyranny camouflaged as humility.” ~ Robin Morgan

By creating a calendar to practice the skills you need to refresh, you’ll reduce the risk of losing them. With a systemic approach, and accuracy, you’ll become more confident, faster and more proficient in a reasonably short period of time.


Kyt Lyn Walken


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