6 Forgotten Survival Skills Your Grandparents Knew

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Hopefully, you have never ended up in a forest by yourself or tried to find a way to survive after a natural disaster. Other people have experienced this, though, and should you find yourself in a similar situation, there are several survival skills that your ancestors were good at and that you should consider practicing. One of the best books on how to ensure that you always have clean water and fresh food is The Lost Ways by Claude Davis.

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In this article, we will be covering the forgotten survival skills that are essential and should increase your chance of surviving in a setting that is free of technology and basic amenities.

Forgotten Survival Skills Our Ancestors Had

Ensuring a Fresh Water Source

When it comes to making it in the wild, the first thing that you should focus on is water. The fact that the human body is more than 65% water makes it essential for you to be able to collect and purify it. Without water, you can start to get dehydrated within 24 hours. The first symptoms are related to dry mouth, after which a mild headache can occur.

Fresh Water

Frankly, learning how to find and filter water can save you in several situations. If you are looking to go the more professional route, then you can invest in a mini-filter, such as the ones that Sawyer manufactures. These can filter up to 100,000 gallons of unpurified water. The other, less convenient method is to have cloth on you that you can use to eliminate all the impurities.

Although we all take clean water for granted, these methods are applied in many parts of the world, mostly in Africa and more rural locations in South America. The last method is to boil water if you have a coffeepot and are able to light a fire.

Building a Shelter

Naturally, we aren’t designed for exposure to extremely hot or extremely cold weather. For this reason, you must be able to find a stable shelter, even if that means building it from scratch. There are a couple of different designs depending on whether you are looking to protect yourself from direct sunlight or piercing cold weather.

Our personal favorite is a round lodge, as it can be installed to help you stay comfortable no matter the current weather. It blocks wind, rain, and in most cases, it has a hole at the top. This is essential for smoke ventilation (allowing you to start a fire), as well as for having some source of natural light. This style is something that was practiced by Native Americans and people in pre-Roman Britain. You can always customize it further by covering the bottom with grass mats or leaf litter.


The second fantastic design is Quinzhee, and it is similar to a common igloo. However, you won’t need a lot of previous experience to construct this snow shelter. The first step is to pile up some gear in one spot and put a lot of snow over it.

Once you have done that, you should stick anywhere from 36-48 sticks in a dome to ensure stability, and have the snow packed to the base of each stick. Lastly, you will want to punch a hole at the top to ensure a natural light source and proper ventilation.

The third shelter design is ramada, and it stands as the perfect choice if you are out in the wild during the spring or summer. You can use tarps or a regular bush as a ramada roof to ensure proper sunlight and wind protection.

Locating a Campsite


Another crucial skill is to determine the best spot to set up camp. While that is something that you can learn a lot about in The Lost Ways, we can tell you that the main thing that you should be looking for is an area by a river or another source of water. Additionally, you should be figuring out how the wind blows to ensure proper ventilation through your tent or shelter. Last but certainly not least, ensure that your camp spot is on even ground.

Hunting and Butchering an Animal

Native Americans practiced and became masters of making food from basic ingredients. When it comes to a protein source, you will need to learn how to hunt. Your best bet is to make a couple of foolproof traps and put them around your campsite, as well as at the spots that you know are frequently visited by rabbits and other forest animals. Of course, if there is a river nearby, you can sharpen a stick and use it as a pole for fishing.


As Claude Davis mentions in his book, The Lost Ways, being familiar with butchering an animal can be incredibly valuable when you are out in the wild.

Predicting Weather

Today, we are comforted by weather forecasts on the TV, but there are a couple of old-fashioned ways to predict whether it will be sunny, rainy, and how strong the wind is going to be. Seeing clouds such as the cumulonimbus or mammatus can point to heavy thunderstorms, in which case you should be prepared and under a shelter (or in your tent if you have one).

Predict Weather

Another way to predict the weather is by looking into the sky – a red sky at sunset means that there are a lot of dust particles coming towards you, but if it is red in the morning, rain will be coming soon. Also, you can take a deep breath and focus on your surroundings, such as the strong smell of flowers or the earth (rainy).

Keeping Yourself Entertained

Native weapon

Last but certainly not least is making sure that you don’t get bored. Whether you have found yourself in the wild by choice or because some disaster has occurred, making sure that you are in high spirits is essential. This includes walking through the forest, crafting shelter and weapons from clay and sticks, as well as simply enjoying the beauty of nature that is around you.

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