Few people know more about being tough and surviving like the United States Marines. Half of their toughness comes from being a special breed of soldier, and the rest comes from their training. U.S. military training is easily the best in the world, which is why our soldiers are prepared for just about anything the world can throw at them.
We can all learn a lot from the Marines, especially when it comes to survival. While we would rather not go through their summer survival training course, we did read their guide to learn some of their tips and tricks, five of which we provided below.
1. Get your priorities straight – the first 24 hours
One of the biggest keys to survival is setting your priorities. The first 24 hours of a survival situation are vital and can easily mean the difference between success and failure. The top of your list should always be shelter. Sure, water and food are pretty important, but even the most basic shelter can protect you from wind, rain, and even animals.
After securing shelter for yourself you should build yourself a fire. Fire should be your second-highest priority, even if it’s warm out and the middle of the day. Trust me, it’s far easier to build a fire when you don’t need it than when it’s dark and cold. Start by collecting wood at varying sizes and stages of the fire building process, collecting as much as you can in the time you have. Once you have enough wood to get you through the night you can start building the fire itself. Keep it small while you don’t need it, and build it up when you walk away so it keeps burning.
After your fire is taken care of, you should look for a clean source of water. If you can’t find a clean source, find the best quality you can and start the purification process. In a perfect world you should drink around a gallon of water every day. Add in extreme heat, cold, or activity and this number goes up. Thankfully, you built yourself a fire already, so you have a way of boiling water before drinking it.
With the basics of shelter, fire, and water under control, you should look into a way to signal anyone looking for you. The best way to signal is something shiny like a mirror or mirror-like object. You can polish the back of a watch, the blade of a knife, or use a signaling mirror if you’re extra prepared. Another great way to signal is with smoke and fire. Live leaves and greenery burns with a thick white smoke, and while this isn’t ideal for cooking, it’s perfect to draw attention to yourself. Have some lying next to your fire, ready to be set afire at a moment’s notice. The moral of the story here is to have your signaling tools ready before you need them and within easy reach. You may only get one chance to signal a plane or helicopter, and you don’t want to miss it because you can’t find your mirror.
2. Even more priorities – the second 24 hours
With the preparations in section one complete, you’ll probably want to get some rest. Build your fire up and take it easy. The first 24 hours of survival are often the hardest for even veterans of survival. When darkness comes the reality that you’re not being rescued that day really sinks in. Thankfully you already have a fire, water, and shelter to bide you over.
The second 24 hours, while far from a party, can be slightly easier. It’s this day that you can start focusing on the tools that will keep you alive until you can be rescued or the emergency you’re avoiding is over.
You want to start your second day of survival off by making some tools and weapons. These can include makeshift shovels, saws, and utensils. You can also work on fishing equipment and hunting implements like spears. You also want to prepare yourself against running into any less-than-friendly people, too.
Once you have a few tools and weapons made or sourced, it’s time to get some real food. Hopefully you already know how to make traps and snares for hunting, as this is the time to put that knowledge to use. Look for animal tracks and set your snares there. You can even build yourself a fish trap and catch fish the easy way while you’re out doing other tasks.
Finally, once you have food and protection, you need to set yourself a few path guards around your camp. These help you know when people and animals alike come too close to your camp for comfort. Even if the alarms never go off, their presence alone can help you get a good night’s sleep without the worry of someone or something sneaking up on you. Use anything that makes noise or trips someone for best results. Rigging weapons around your camp isn’t recommended. You want to be alerted of their presence, not kill them; you don’t know if the person or animal in your trap is friend or foe.
3. Have a proper survival kit
The old saying goes that the best offense is a good defense. In the world of survival this means being prepared for survival before you need to actually survive. The best way to do this is to have a proper survival kit. A good kit should include fire starters, a length of 550 cord, a candle wrapped in aluminum foil, knife, fishing line and hooks, a sewing kit, and basic first-aid items.
Keeping a survival kit with you can help ensure you have the basics of survival if something bad happens and you need to "get out of Dodge" in a hurry. When building your kit, keep three key ideas in mind. First, make it small enough that you’ll actually keep it with you. A backpack-sized survival kit is great, but not so easy to carry with you when hiking. Second, customize the kit to fit your needs. Extra medicine and necessities like epi-pens for allergies are a very good idea. Finally, the kit should be enough for you to survive for 72 hours. You can always stretch it to last a little longer, but it should comfortably work for 72.
While trapping food is a very good idea, much of your food will come from foraging in the wild. Fruits, nuts, and even bugs can provide a great and very much needed source of nutrients. The key to foraging is to NEVER EAT ANYTHING YOU CANNOT 100% IDENTIFY AS SAFE. The last thing you want to do is eat something that’s poisonous when you’re cut off from society and emergency help.
When foraging for survival, never take more than you can eat at that time. Accidents happen and extra food sitting around attracts animals and bugs, in a bad way. If you’re eating items that you don’t commonly eat but are sure is safe, only experiment with one new item each day. This way, you can pick out items that might not agree with you without limiting yourself too much.
Finally, once you have food, water, fire, shelter, and protection all lined up, you should start paying attention to evasion tactics. Take different paths and cover your trail whenever you can. If you believe there may be enemies in the area, you don’t want to stay in one place for too long. The shelter you use should blend into the ground around it, basically disappearing into the woods.
The key to proper evasion is planning ahead. Know escape routes from where you are, as well as from where your snares and traps are located. What you don’t want is to be surprised and run in a direction you’re unfamiliar with. Explore around you and know where you’ll run if need be.