Best ways to refresh your survival skills in the Great Outdoors

Knowledge is power. Information is liberating. Education is the premise of progress, in every society, in every family.

Kofi Annan

Without knowledge, there’s no chance of survival to an emergency situation. 
There is plenty of story of survivors who have literally nothing with them. No cutting tools, no medications, no food, sometimes not even proper clothes.  

We are all aware about the fact that survival isn’t about owning the most sophisticated gear.
We can’t deny the priviledge that dressing a goretex jacket with miserable jacket surely helps a lot under several points of view.
Nonetheless, survival is deprivation. 

As a matter of fact, once we are deprived of our comfort, of energy, of sleep, of food, of water and, ultimately, even of home, we are pretty much inside a dangerous situation.

From a psychilogical perspective, we have just two chances. 
Fight or fly. They pop up in every dangerous context, when threats becomes real. No matter if they are represented by a feral predator who is on our tracks, or by an ill-intentioned individual whose desire is to hurt us. 
Or, again, it could consist of a sudden change in the weather conditions, which may catch us off guard.

The range of possible threats is, as sheer fact, endless. Individual or multiple. Temporary or long-term. 

Reacting is mandatory, but we have to learn how to disciple our reactions. Without a proper approach, in fact, we may go… “too big”. Over- reactions, in fact, are pretty much common in a survival scenario.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 ways 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 our regulate our actions if caught up in a disaster situation, we need to start on working on ourselves on daily regular basis.

The triggering point, in fact, is to learn more about ourselves. The Ancient Greek motto (γνῶθι σεαυτόν – gnōthi seauton, “know yourself”) should be raised to the level of our credo. 

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

Surely it isn’t easy at all. Acquiring a brand new standpoint on…. ourselves (!) require 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, endevour, even luck.

In that 90% we find:

  • will to live
  • tenacity
  • hope
  • perseverance
  • courage

In few words, if we 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 out for more.

First step is to observe youselves 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:

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

You might have exaggerated your reactions about what you were living. If so, you just need to step back and, simply as it is, breath. You can adopt, for example, the 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 will work on yourself, the more – and profitable! – benefits you will achieve.

This will work also with your fears. In my personal case, it was successful in helping me to fix my problem related to vertigo. 

I am not saying I can actually climb the Himalaya right now, but… surely I achieved some successes on me I wouldn’t even imagined a bunch of years ago.

To sum up, if you learn how to observe yourself – (bear that “know yourself” in your mind!) – you will learn how to predict your reactions, and how to regulate with them.

How to deal with over – reactions

The larger the island of knowledge, the longer the shoreline of wonder.

Ralph W. Sockman

Over reactions are the natural result of flow of too much energy. 

It is pretty much common to over – react 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 caliber our considerations in a proper way.

Long story short, we literally rush into a series of actions.

In case of a sudden change of weather, we rush into looking for a safe place where to spend the night out. If we know how to caliber our knowledge with common sense, we will be able to make a safe shelter in safe area, far away from any potential flash flood event… and, most important thing, how to save energies.

Over- reactions, in fact, can be lethal in terms of waste of energies.

As a matter of fact, they steal from us precious vigour which we actually need when in despair.

By that saying, try to be as much clever and wise as possible. Do the essential. Avoid over-reacting and, consequentially, 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, simply, to refresh it on regular basis.

In my case, as I am mostly on Tracking skills, I set four/five days per month entirely dedicated to the most valuable skills you need to trust on.



For someone reading a map and using a compass is like breathing. For other people may happen to be a little bit… insidious! If you find yourself in the second category, get used to frequently refresh your abilities, especially when it’s dark and you are starting to feel mental fatigue. 

Using cutting tools

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

Starting a fire


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

Making shelter


Again, muscolar memory will pave you the way:

  • to make correct knots
  • to set a proper and well mounted shelter

Observation and risk analysis will do the previous job, about detecting the correct location where to set the camp.


Patience, dedication and curiosity is the ingredients to turn yourself into a good Tracker! No matter if you need to track small/big game or if you are checking if the area hasn’t recently interested by the passage of someone.

First Aid skills

You can definitely practice by yourself

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

The more you practice, the faster you will become. Be accurate, take your time and, if possible, ask a pro to monitor your first attempst. Better be safe than sorry!

Plant ID

Far from being an easy task to accomplish, plant ID may save your life. In fact, if you are able to identify the most useful plants of your area (edible or for medical purposes), the most self- reliant you will turn yourself.



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 of the skills you need to refresh you will run no risks in skipping any of them. 

With a systhematic approach, and accuracy, you will become more confident, more fast and more proficient in a considerably short amount of time.

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Kyt Lyn Walken is the official European representative and instructor for Hull's Tracking School (Virginia, USA), and is a certified Conservation Ranger for C.R.O.W. (Conservation Rangers Operations Worldwide). She has been an outdoors and tracking enthisast since childhood. She is contributor as a writer for several magazines in U.S. and U.K.Kyt is author of the manuals "The importance of being a Tracker", "The Urban Tracker, "Tracking Compendium" (this one with Andy Martin), "Jungle Trackers: S.A.S. In Malesia and Borneo".

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