Being prepared is about a lot more than acquiring mountains of gear. True preparation is about gaining experience, learning new skills and practicing those skills until you can’t get them wrong when the pressure is really on.
When you look at the cross section of skills you’d be advised to learn, it can seem like a monumental task to get truly ready.
Where will you get the time? Most of us prepare to live, not live to prepare, and if you aren’t involved in a high impact, high risk profession your extracurricular practice time might be very limited indeed between work, family and other obligations.
How are we supposed to call ourselves proponents of personal readiness if we don’t even have the time needed to master the skills?
I will roll out an old cliché here, and remind you that where there is a will, there is a way, and if you are intent on mastering a wide variety of skills you’ll need to take your practice when and where you can get it.
I am happy to report that you’ll have more opportunities to practice than you might be thinking. Today we will be sharing with you 15 places where you can get in practice.
Practice Where You Can Get It!
Getting in meaningful practice is all about doing repetitions, good ones, and not so much about a formalized training class or a specialized setting for the purpose.
Obviously, it depends on the skill being practiced, but I see too many preppers out here fall into the trap of thinking that because they can’t go to the ideal place for practice that they don’t have any chance to practice. This is just not true.
Just because a seasoned boxer couldn’t make it to the gym to get in some sparring doesn’t mean he can’t get any work done. If he has a heavy bag or speed bag in his garage, he can at least work on those skill sets or if worse comes to worst, practice combinations by shadow boxing.
The same can be done for many of the skills we employ as preppers.
Maybe you can get in some hands-down total systems practice or maybe you can only rehearse one or two elements depending on where you are, but no matter where you are and what you plan on doing there is always something you can do.
The list below contains 15 places where most of us go on a regular or semi regular basis, and each and every one of them affords us practice opportunities for a variety of survival centric skills.
Even better, with a little ingenuity it is possible to practice without anyone around you knowing you are practicing “survival skills”. You’ll either look like you are engaged in a pastime activity or otherwise doing something else, your practice being nothing more than a mental exercise. It will make sense as I explain it below.
15 Places to Practice Your Survival Skills
Your Own Home
For most of us, our own home offers abundant practice opportunities for many disciplines. At home we can dry practice with firearms, or even get in some live fire if we live in a remote area work on combatives, perform first-aid and disaster preparedness drills with our family, work on knot tying and so much more.
If you have a garage that isn’t full of junk and the weather is amicable enough, you can pull your vehicles out and easily turn it into a multipurpose space suitable for all sorts of practice tasks, from combatives to physical fitness and even bushcrafting if you have the right raw materials close at hand.
Perhaps the only limitation when practicing at your home is what your family or neighbors can put up with and the obvious fact that you really shouldn’t be doing any destructive practice inside your own castle.
The obvious “annex” to your home, your backyard, affords you tons of practice opportunities if you don’t mind strange looks from the neighbors.
Physical fitness and fire starting skills immediately come to mind, and for the latter skill in particular there is nothing stopping you from working out even with primitive fire starting techniques and various styles of building a camp or cook fire just because you aren’t in the middle of nowhere.
If you strictly limit what tools you can use for the job, you can easily refine skills that will save your life in the wilderness.
There’s no reason why you should be halted from practicing setting up and taking down your campsite in the backyard, and even sleeping in the backyard under the stars in order to break in or test run the gear you have in your BOB before you actually have to use it when the pressure is on.
You need not look at your backyard as a space only suitable for cookouts, and the occasional bout of lawn care. Look at it instead as a sort of outdoor laboratory for practicing your prepping skills!
On a Running Trail
The running trail is another good place to practice survival skills, and even if you are only running to stay in shape or to enhance your athleticism, that is still a valuable survival skill unto itself!
As it turns out strong, healthy people are more useful all the way around, and more difficult to pick on in general, so you shouldn’t underestimate that when it comes to a survival situation.
But beyond the mundane use of a running trail for its intended purpose, you can implement various running drills or workout programming to further refine your ability to survive.
One of my favorites is a circuit of wind sprints where I might have to run flat out for 30 seconds to 2 minutes to better simulate the rigors of survival, particularly in a situation where human antagonists might be involved.
If you really want to step up the survival-centric programming, you can start employing mental exercises at the same time.
Perhaps you can challenge yourself with keeping an eye out for people wearing a certain pattern of clothing, or perhaps counting everyone you pass with certain characteristics.
The physical strain will degrade your mental performance unless you are in excellent shape, and you should challenge yourself to see how much you can recall at the end of a tough workout.
In the Woods
Most preppers naturally think of the woods when it comes to bugging out, and when it comes to practicing the skills we will need to survive. Accordingly, anytime you can get out into the woods for any reason you’ll have ample opportunities for practicing all kinds of skills.
A “total systems” practice session can be had with a simple on foot camping expedition as this will put much of your equipment and all of your skills to the test compared to car camping or pulling out in the RV.
Beyond this, you can refine your land navigation and trapping skills as well.
You should make it a point to keep an eye out for animal tracks and trails to hone those skills and your eye, and if you are heading out onto private or public land make sure you file a flight plan with someone you trust and then perhaps go off the beaten track to get to your destination or return to your departure point.
The only way to practice land navigation is to actually do it, but make sure you don’t leave yourself genuinely lost with no one looking for you!
Lastly, consider starting a fire using primitive methods, or with whatever items you keep in your fire starting kit to ensure they work, but challenge yourself by gathering your tinder and fuel from the local environment.
We take for granted having high quality fuel on hand to get a fire going, and using substandard or damp fuel makes the entire affair significantly harder, although it can be done with practice!
At the Mall or Department Store
If you were like me, you probably have to make innumerable trips to the mall or your local department store in order to run errands, pick up gifts and generally complete various shopping tasks assigned by your family members.
Whether you enjoy these trips or hate them, you can still get in some meaningful practice on your consumerist forays.
Especially if it is a retail establishment that you frequent you should be practicing what if scenarios in response to various emergencies.
- Where is the nearest exit?
- Where is the nearest piece of hard cover that would protect you from bullets?
- How will you get there?
You should also make it a point to practice remaining oriented to where your vehicle is in relation to your travels through the mall or other structure.
Also this is a great opportunity to practice breaking habits and patterns. I am very guilty of this one.
If you enter the mall or the store through the same entrance and park generally in the same place, anybody who might have cause to follow you or scoping for easy victims might use that against you.
Make it a point to vary where you park and where you enter, and at the same time practice setting yourself up for a rapid exit to and down neighboring roads.
At the Dojo or Gym
Obviously you can get in good survival skills practice at your local mixed martial arts gym or traditional martial arts dojo.
Chances are you and everyone else is there to do one thing and pretty much one thing only, and that is get better at self-defense. In addition to the obvious benefits to your capability, you’ll also be getting in a good workout.
If the class allows it, or if your instructor or other students are interested in setting it up, this is a good opportunity to start adding in additional scenario based practice, particularly skills of verbal de-escalation, distance management, and interacting around crowds.
Although it might be challenging to get everyone on the same sheet of music at first, this type of practice is absolutely invaluable to sharpening your self-defense skill set.
It is easy to brush off heading into the gym or dojo when finances get tight or time gets limited, but make it a point to get in there at least once a week and get some work done!
On the Range
The pistol or rifle range is the ideal place, and maybe the only place, to work on your firearms-based survival skills.
Shooting and handling a firearm is a highly frangible skill set that will deteriorate rapidly if not vigorously maintained, and no you don’t have to do every practice repetition on a live fire range there is no substitute for live fire with real ammo.
Just like going to the gym or dojo mentioned above, you should be hitting the range once a week if you are able, even if it is just for a short session, or no less than once a month.
A couple of times a month combined with regular, focused dry fire sessions will do a lot to prevent the degradation of nuanced gun handling skills.
Try not to let yourself get lulled into a false sense of security if all you do is slow fire bullseye practice.
Even though it is an essential drill, you should make it a point to increase speed, time and target discretionary pressure to help ensure your defensive shooting skills don’t atrophy.
If your range allows you to draw from a holster, and in particular draw from concealment, definitely work that into your practice as well.
On a Long Drive
Even doing something as mundane and boring as taking a long drive someplace via the interstate can be put to better use my practicing actively your defensive driving skills.
We are all guilty of setting the cruise control, and half zoning out with the flow of traffic, but if you make it a point to be more actively engaged with what is happening on the road and the rest of the traffic around you, not only will you be safer but you’ll be actively cultivating skills that might well help you avoid a deadly accident.
Beyond this, you can play games with yourself or with other occupants in the vehicle it can actually help you prepare to survive.
You can practice other road safety and contingency skills. Do you know which mile marker you passed? Do you know what direction you are heading on what road and where your nearest exit is? Where is the next major settlement?
By playing a game like this as practice you will eventually cultivate the mindset of a relaxed but acute awareness of your situation on the road.
Wherever You are Waiting
If there is one thing I don’t do well with, it is waiting. Waiting in line, sitting in a waiting room, anything like that. I suppose I am just not particularly patient.
Mercifully, we have these wondrous smartphones to keep us entertained with a boundless amount of information and content at our fingertips. But instead of scrolling mindlessly on social media or through the archives of your favorite website, put that waiting time to good use by practicing instead.
One great way to do it, and do so completely discreetly, is to quiz yourself on survival mnemonics or other information. You might review the steps and components of MARCH for treating someone who is injured or unconscious.
You might mentally review which plans and fungi are edible in your region. Anything you can rehearse to further engrave it in your gray matter will help you hang on to it.
Alternately, you could perform unobtrusive physical tasks. One of my favorites that is easily done is practicing knot tying using a small length of paracord or accessory cord.
Plenty of people know how to tie knots but only through long practice can you tie one so swiftly and so certainly that it looks like a magic trick! Getting in a few revolutions in the waiting room is a good way to while away the time.
On a Lake
Going out to the lake can certainly be relaxing and you’ll have many activities to choose from why you are there, but you would be wise to choose ones that will allow you to practice vital survival skills.
Probably the most obvious one is fishing, and though it is a greatly beloved pastime bordering on obsession for some anglers, it is nonetheless a critical survival skill, and an excellent way to supplement your food stores in a long-term situation.
While you are there, you might consider practicing swimming or if you are out at the lake with a group you could even put to use your skills in drowning swimmer rescue, handling a boat and other related tasks.
Most lakes have campsites or if they don’t at least locations for barbecuing and picnicking, so this is yet another opportunity to practice building and tending a fire through whatever means.
One of my favorite skills to practice when I’m at the lake is handling any number of oar propelled craft. Kayak, canoe or rowboat, all require considerable practice to maneuver proficiently.
At the Beach
Going to the beach is yet another opportunity for survival practice, even though you might just want to relax in the sun with your toes in the sand while enjoying an adult beverage. Sand is an excellent media for recording foot and paw prints alike, so I always like to brush up on the finer, technical points of tracking while I’m there.
It is also a great opportunity to get in some swim and drown proofing practice and even do a little bit more fishing as with the lake above. Beaches are also superb opportunities for people watching, and though it is slightly macabre I like to scan the tourists and couples who invariably strong beaches to try and pick out the ones with harsh body language or bad vibes and maybe figure out who is having a bad day or on the verge of an eruption.
It is one of the few places where you are genuinely expected to sit and hang out even while surrounded with people going to and fro, and so it presents a rare opportunity to people watch in this way without you sticking out in the least.
At a National Park
National parks can provide you probably the best opportunity for a total systems test of your survival skills while still having a lifeline, at least a nominal one, in the form of well-mapped terrain and Park rangers who are likely to put up the balloon if you are overdue, so long as they are on duty and you check in at the ranger station.
Doing a hike in camp or a multi-day hiking expedition is a great way to put everything together and really test your mettle.
Most national parks are so big as you can sort of fine-tune your experience based on your skill level and your comfort, sticking near to more travel routes if you are a “tenderfoot” or really getting out there all by your lonesome if you are a seasoned, hard-bitten prepper.
Depending on the park you were at, you might have other ample opportunities for practicing other survival skills like climbing, hunting, shooting and more.
At a Local Park
A local park near your home might be nearly as good as your own backyard or even a much larger national park depending on what it is that you need to do.
At a local park you will have ample opportunities for people watching, physical fitness opportunities using built-in workout equipment or kids’ monkey bars (and make sure you wait till the kids are off the monkey bars, creep!) and plenty of footpaths for jogging and running.
Around Your Neighborhood
Your local neighborhood is itself an excellent setting for survival practice, especially if you are part of a prepping co-op, mutual assistance group or are fortunate enough to be surrounded by like-minded people that you know well, more or less.
Clever preppers can set up exercises covering everything from natural disaster response to contingency plans covering man-made incidents, loss of communications and more. With careful planning and strict control put in place, you can get multiple households involved in intricate scenarios.
At the very least, like-minded neighbors make for great training partners for everything from outdoor survival skills to combatives and more, and you should have plenty of fodder for practice by getting to know them better and seeing what they are good at.
They can very likely teach you a thing or two, and everyone benefits when knowledge is reproduced.
At the “Office”
Believe it or not, you can even get in some survival practice at work. Wherever you work, and whatever you do, with the right mindset you can refine your survival skills.
Maybe it is “wargaming” out where you would go or hide if a crazed killer stormed the building. Maybe you can practice taking different routes to or from work in order to avoid falling into a pattern as mentioned previously, or just to get to know your surrounding area a little better.
Depending on where you work and what you do, you might even be able to get some corporate sponsored survival practice in. An increasing amount of corporations and businesses are putting employees through mandatory first-aid and other training that could come in handy in any survival scenario.
And as distasteful as you might think it is, most workplaces provide ample opportunities for practicing your leadership and verbal jib jab skills on coworkers and superiors alike.
Learning how to be persuasive, well liked and a fixed point of certainty and anxious situations is always beneficial, and if you can pull it off in the environment of office politics you can pull it off in a survival scenario!
You don’t always have to participate in a training class or head to a special environment in order to get in practice for a variety of survival skills.
Most of us will frequent places where we can get in meaningful practice, even if it is just our own home, backyard or a local park. The right attitude and knowing what is important as foundational skills for survival makes all the difference.
Tom Marlowe practically grew up with a gun in his hand, and has held all kinds of jobs in the gun industry: range safety, sales, instruction and consulting, Tom has the experience to help civilian shooters figure out what will work best for them.