8 Survival Challenges You Should Do

The topic of survival sometimes gets talked about a lot and can even be “fantasized” about more than it is practiced. 

There is an old saying that goes something like this, a plan never survives first contact with the enemy. Or more simply, things never go according to plan. 

survival challenges

If you add in never having practiced a plan or rarely doing so, that plan is even more prone to failure. 

I’ll give you an example from my own experience. At one point in time, I knew all about bow drills, it’s components, how to make one, what to expect, how to troubleshoot problems, etc.

But it wasn’t until I made the first bow drill that I realized how things work in my head are not how they always work in real-world applications.

It wasn’t until I actively started making bow drills and practiced using them that it became easier. 

Plans and knowledge are wonderful but if you haven’t gone through certain experiences, there are going to be little things that you miss. To that end I wanted to offer a list of survival challenges if you will, to help you get a little more skin in the game.   

Disclaimer: Please use common sense and critical thinking when deciding to try out some of the following challenges. These are meant to be done in a safe and controlled environment to hone your skills and make you better prepared. Otherwise, you may find yourself in a true survival situation.

8 Survival Challenges You Should Do

All of the following items are listed in no particular order except for the first challenge. I put that one at the top for a very important reason. 

Turn the Power Off 

As technology continues to be engrained in our daily lives I think this challenge is incredibly important for people to experience. 

Now there are two ways to do this challenge and I believe both of them should be done. Here is my challenge to you.

The first way is to go camping. And I do not mean in a camper or RV but the traditional sense of the word. To quickly get this out of the way I am not suggesting leaving technology behind because that would be a safety issue. By all means take your phone, GPS, flashlight, etc. I am suggesting that technology is used as little as possible. This will force you to see and experience weaknesses as well as strengths in your abilities. 

The second way to do this challenge is to turn the power off at home. Now, because of food storage and your situation, this is something that needs to be planned before doing it. Once everything is taken care of choose a timeframe, such as the weekend, and turn the power off. Like above, this will force you to see what areas you are weak in and what areas you are strong in. Take notes throughout the experience so that weakness can be fixed. 

Create Fire

Making fire is one of the most popular survival topics to discuss and that is because it is an incredibly important skill to know. 

But how many different ways do you know how to make it? How many different styles of fires do you know? Have you ever made a fire in the rain or snow?

Here is my challenge to you. Learn how to make fire with what I consider to be the top five methods. That is with a lighter, matches, ferrocerium rod, magnifying glass, and a friction method such as a bow drill. 

Once you have successfully created fire with all five methods under ideal conditions it is time to take it a step further. Using the same methods create a fire when it is raining out, windy, or snowing. By changing the conditions just a little bit, the task can become much more difficult. But by practicing in those adverse conditions you will become better at it (hint: this can be done in your backyard) 

Build an Outdoor Shelter 

Best SHTF Shelter

Many people carry tents with them and there is nothing wrong with that. Other people carry tarps, which is a nice alternative to a tent because it has multiple uses. 

The problem with a tent is that you can become dependent on that structure. The problem with a tarp is that some people only use it in one way because it is there favorite way. Both of these limit experience in the different ways to build shelters especially with natural materials.

Here is my challenge to you. Build as many different types of outdoor shelters that you can to serve in different environments. Also, use only natural materials when possible. This leads me to my next challenge. 

Source Natural Materials

Gear is good, gear is great. But learning how to source materials from nature will be a huge benefit when things go sideways. Gear can be lost, stolen, or broken. Even if it is not, it will eventually wear out. 

Take a look at your gear and figure out if there is a natural alternative to it. If there is, learn as much as you can about that alternative and then practice obtaining it or making it outdoors. 

Here is a quick example. Cordage is another one of those favorite items to discuss and to have among outdoorsmen. It is lightweight, compact, and can serve a million and one purposes. But if you didn’t have any manufactured cordage, do you know how to find or make some from natural materials? Cordage can be made from trees, vines, grasses, and other sources if you know where to look and how to make it. 

I wanted to use cordage as an example because I was recently reminded of why this is so important. When it comes to practicing with bow drills people source all of the materials from nature except for one, the bowstring. Many people will use paracord for this. Now, if you have ever used a bow drill you will know that sometimes the bowstring can wear out quickly. If you only have a single piece of paracord to use for this, what do you when it breaks?

Map and Compass

GPS has completely taken over how most people get from point A to point B without any regard as to what is between those two points. If GPS was taken away, would you know which way North is? Do you know how far it is from your location to the next? Do you know how to plot a path for traveling? 

It is because of the above that it is important to carry navigational tools and how to use them. 

Here is my challenge to you. Start small and in town. Let’s say you want to visit a new restaurant this week. Find out the address and use a physical map to figure out how to get there. Maybe you are taking a quick weekend road trip. Again, use a physical map to plan out the route. Start small and build from there. 

Find Water 

This may be one of the most important challenges on the list. That is because of how critical water is to life and because we take it utterly for granted. 

Three days without water and a person is going to be in a very dangerous situation.

  • What would you do if you walked to your tap and no water came out?
  • What are your plans if you are on the move and you can only carry a few bottles of water?
  • Do you know how to find water?
  • Do you know how to decide whether it’s safe to drink or not?
  • Do you know different methods for collecting it, filtering it, and purifying it?

Here is my challenge for you. In the area in which you live find no less than five different sources of water, several ways to collect it, and several ways to filter and purify it.

No Reference 

This will be the last “real” challenge on the list. There are many different ways in which to learn things. In-person with teachers or through books, videos, and the internet Do we know what we think we know, or do we rely on reference material too much? 

Here is my challenge to you. Pick a skill, any skill, that you think that you know, and go do it without looking anything up about it beforehand. How did it turn out? Were you able to accomplish it or did you have problems? If you run into problems than practice it until you know it. Then move on to another skill, rinse, and repeat. 

Daily Challenge 

Hopefully, at this point, you have done all of the above challenges. If you have then good for you! The key now is keeping all of the skills fresh in your mind and your hands. 

Here is my challenge to you. Get a stack of index cards and write out a daily challenge on each of them. They can be whatever you want. For example, on one card write make a feather stick and make a fire with whatever tool you have. On another write make a bow drill only with natural materials. As you can see the options are endless on what you want to work on but the point of this exercise is to not let your skills atrophy.  

Wrapping it Up

There may be other survival challenges that you wish to do that are not on this list. By all means please do them if that is what you want to do. I merely chose a few of the ones I believe are of the utmost importance.

Please remember to always be safe, be prepared and practice, practice, practice! Are there some survival challenges that you have accomplished? Please share your thoughts in the comment section below!

Written by Bryan Lynch

Bryan grew up in the Midwest and spent every waking moment outdoors. Learning how to hunt, fish, read the land, and be self-reliant was part of everyday life. Eventually, he combined his passions for the outdoors, emergency preparedness, and writing. His goal was to spread positive information about this field. In 2019, Bryan authored the book Swiss Army Knife Camping and Outdoor Survival Guide. His second book, Paracord Projects For Camping and Outdoor Survival, is scheduled to be released on March 2, 2021. Read more of Bryan's articles.