The answer — Host a “Survival Weekend” to test your survival skills!
However, a lot of preppers fail to actually put that equipment to the test. The gear goes into a bug out bag, which goes into the corner of their closet “ready for SHTF”.
Listen, in all honesty, it doesn’t matter if you have all the coolest gear or not if you have no idea how to use it properly.
Find a Location for Your Survival Weekend
Obviously, you’re going to need a location to host your survival weekend. It could be as simple as your back yard if you have a lot of land, or you could even do it in a national park if you’re close to one (just be sure to read the rules thoroughly).
If you’re planning to have a certain group of friends join you on this survival skills test, talk with them about possible locations. One of them may own (or have access to) lots of land where your group can camp. Just be sure you’re not trespassing on anybody’s property, and find out if there are any limitations as to what the property owner will allow. You wouldn’t want to go cutting down a bunch of saplings to build shelters if the land owner doesn’t want that.
Once you have found a location (or multiple locations), you can begin to compare notes with your friends and figure out the best time for you all to meet and start this process.
Start Simple — Camp-Out with Family and Friends
I would never recommend you strip down totally naked and only take one survival item into the depths of the Amazon rain forest as an initial test of your skills. The best thing to do is start simple with a friendly camp-out.
Just say, “let’s go camping” and place no restrictions on anybody. That will give you a good idea as to what gear each person thinks is vital to a “good” camping experience. It’s also a relaxing way to start the discussion about survival for those that may just be easing into it.
Remember, though — even though you’re relaxing and having fun, you still want to test your survival skills. During these camping sessions, work on the primitive skills you know so you can increase your chances of survival in extreme situations. Don’t practice until you get it right – practice until you can’t get it wrong.
Have everyone practice primitive fire making. Build temporary and semi-permanent shelters from natural materials found on-site. Locate food and water, and learn to prepare each safely. These skills can be practiced in safety knowing you have back-ups ready if you should fail.
Limit the Amount of Gear Each Person Brings
When you have a camping routine lined out, and you’ve started practicing primitive skills, talk about your gear with the group. Try to figure out what you could do to lighten your load so you’re not carrying around a bug out bag that weighs 70 or 80 pounds. My SOC Bugout Backpack would carry a ton of weight if my back could handle it, but on long treks, it would become more and more cumbersome.
Instead of bringing 5 lighters, a book of matches, a flint and steel kit (like my Emberlit fire starting kit), 2 ferrocerium rods, and a flame thrower, cut back to 1 small fire kit. Sure, it’s always great to be redundant when packing your emergency survival kit, but not to the point of taking up an entire section of your pack for 1 slice of survival.
As you continue your weekend outings, everyone can start bringing less and less, and eventually folks who were bringing 2 bags and an 30-quart Sterilite container full of gear will reduce their load to simply 1 pack full of gear — and that may not even be full.
The ultimate goal of the entire group is to have EVERYONE down to 1 gear bag each. When you get to this point, your group has made a major accomplishment! Pat yourselves on the back, and move on to the next step.
Learn and Practice New Skills
If you have someone in your group that is well-learned in primitive survival skills, let that person take the lead to teach the group new skills. In fact, it would be fun to challenge each person to learn a new skill to the point of mastery, and then take turns each weekend teaching their skill to the group.
This kind of mentality is great for morale, it helps everyone learn survival skills, and it builds a true team. These team building sessions should be fun so that everyone gets the most out of it. If you’re making it a snooze-fest, nobody will learn anything, and people will stop coming to the outings altogether.
So what kind of new skills could you learn and teach?
Use your imagination here. Figure out what you would need to do if you were stranded alone and without any gear. What would you need to survive? What would you need to thrive? Do some research on bushcrafting, and I guarantee you’ll learn everything you need to know.
(Have an idea of what needs to be on the list above? Leave me a comment below, and I’ll add it!)
Invite New People to Your Survival Weekends
Now that you have an established routine with your friends and family, begin adding new people into the group. Maybe your friend has a family member that wants to start learning survival and bushcrafting.
How would you initiate them into the group?
- Don’t make them feel dumb — Not that you’d do this intentionally, but it does happen. You act like someone should already know how to start a fire with a match, but to be honest, some folks just don’t… and that’s alright. Reassure them that it’s alright, and show them how. If you act like they should have already known that, it may make them feel dumb, and that’s counter-productive and will surely drive them away.
- Let them ease into it — If they bring 2 full bags of gear and an 30-quart Sterilite full of stuff their first trip out, that’s fine. They want to be safe, and peace of mind is psychological safety. Like you, they’ll get used to the routine and eventually slack off on what they bring — just like you did.
- Don’t make everything a competition — Yeah, friendly competition is fun, but when you’re trying to train someone on some serious skills that may save their lives one day, competition isn’t always the way to go. If they lose, they may feel like a failure and not want to participate any more.
I know, I know — some of you are already saying, “Patrick, what’s with all the PC mumbo-jumbo?! People need to feel bad sometimes! You hippies want everyone to just feel good all the time!! YOU’RE MAKING AMERICA WEAK!!”
Ok, maybe you didn’t go that far… at least I hope you didn’t…
But my point is this — when you first started all this, you didn’t know everything, either. Teach them first, taunt them (in a friendly manner) later. You can’t make fun of someone for not knowing something and then expect them to want to learn from you — it’s just that simple.
When Will You Host a Survival Weekend to Test Your Skills?
I’d love to see some pictures of your survival weekend! Feel free to share them with me on my Facebook page so we can all learn from each other!