17 Old School Survival Skills You Should Know

Feature | Old School Survival Skills You Should Know

Master these survival skills and learn how to stay calm when the situation gets tough and crucial!

Few Basic Survival Skills Everyone Should Know

The Importance of Survival Skills

Survival skills are timeless and a lot of them come from many generations before us, yet these things seem to fall by the wayside as time goes on. We recently came across a treasure trove of old survival tips from the New York Public Library.

These tips are old, but the benefits of survival skills training are endless. So, it might be worthwhile to check these old tips out. One day, they may save your life.

1. How to Purify Water in Cistern

Run out of fresh water to drink? Don't worry, because you can purify water in a cistern with a very simple trick.

 How to Purify Water in Cistern | Old School Survival Skills You Should Know

All you need to do is add one tablespoon of powdered alum to 16 to 20 gallons of water. Wait for several hours, then you've got yourself fresh and pure water!

This is among the basic survival skills you need to know. Who knows when this will come in handy.

2. How to Detect Escaping Gas

A gas leak is very dangerous. It can blow up your house if not attended to immediately. To detect a gas leak, paint a strong soap solution on the suspected pipe.

How to Detect Escaping Gas | Old School Survival Skills You Should Know

There is a gas leak when bubbles appear from the escaping point.

Once you detect where the escaping point is, fix the problem straight away. An essential survival skill like this might make a difference between life and death.

3. How to Measure with Coins

So you're out in the wilderness, and you need to measure something, but you have no measuring tools. Here's a basic survival tip for you.

How to Measure with Coins | Old School Survival Skills You Should Know

Check your pockets for some spare change. A penny, for example, weighs around 2.5 grams and has a 19.05mm diameter.

4. How to Pick Up Broken Glass

Accidents happen and sometimes, you can't avoid breaking a glass. To clean up the broken pieces, use a soft damp cloth to ensure the small splinters get picked up, too.

How to Pick Up Broken Glass | Old School Survival Skills You Should Know

Use an old rag so you can throw it away with the broken glass once you're done. This skill seems too simple, but you might need it one day in a survival situation.

5. How to Treat Sprains

If you have a sprain, get some cloth to use for wrapping and cold water in a jar. Elevate the sprained joint, then wrap it with the cloth.

How to Treat Sprains | Old School Survival Skills You Should Know

Put the cold water in a jar higher than the sprained joint and get a strip of cloth. Place one end of the cloth in the jug while the other rests upon the wrapping of your sprained joint.

If you have oil or liniment with you, rub it on the injured joint as the sprain gets better.

6. How to Extract a Splinter

You might get a splinter when creating a survival shelter. Extracting it with your fingers or a pair of tweezers can be painful, but there is an easy way to do this with less pain. All you need is a wide-mouthed bottle filled with hot water.

Ensure the hot water is up to nearly the bottle's brim, then press it tightly against the affected part.

This creates a suction, pulling down the flesh, while the steam of the hot water draws out the splinter. For wilderness survival, you need to know simple skills like this.

7. How to Remove Foreign Particles from the Eye

When you're out in the wild, you're most probably faced with strong winds. Then, you might catch a foreign particle in your eye. Remove the foreign particles with castor oil.

How to Remove Foreign Particles from the Eye | Old School Survival Skills You Should Know

Put a few drops in the corner of the affected eye. If in case the foreign particle is of lime or mortar, rinse your eye with weak vinegar and water. Make sure to include castor oil and vinegar in your survival kit.

8. How to Treat an Animal Bite

Put a ligature between the wound and the rest of the body. Then, cleanse the animal bite well.

If you suspect the attacking animal is mad, ensure the place is well sucked. Cauterize it with silver nitrate, after cutting the flesh with a knife.

How to Treat an Animal Bite | Old School Survival Skills You Should Know

Go to a doctor once you've performed the first aid. Don't pass on learning this tip. This is one of the most important wilderness survival skills.

9. How to Make a Hack Saw Frame

A hacksaw is one of the most useful tools you can have. The good news is you can make it with a piece of hardwood cut, a saw blade, and a small screw and nut.

Make a cut in the area where you will attach the saw blade. Attach the blade with a screw and nut near the handle.

How to Make a Hack Saw Frame | Old School Survival Skills You Should Know

The metal fitting is for the other end, where the top should fit into the slot in your wood frame. This prevents the blade from turning. Tighten the saw by using the nut on A.

RELATED: 7 Survival Tips From Bear Grylls: Best Of The Living Legend

10. How to Make a Spirit Level

Make your own spirit level with a wooden box and a glass tube, but you must construct the box well.

How to Make a Spirit Level | Old School Survival Skills You Should Know

To do this, cork both ends of the glass tube, filled with enough water or spirit (leaving a bubble of air). Seal the tube by using sealing wax to prevent the spirit inside from evaporating.

11. How to Use Up Coal Dust

Recycling is always a good idea, so why not turn some coal dust into bricks of fuel? Mix a shovel of coal dust with a handful of salt, then add water.

How to Use Up Coal Dust | Old School Survival Skills You Should Know

Stir the mixture until it turns into a stiff paste. Mold the mixture into bricks using an old tin box, then let it dry on a shelf.

These are great outdoors man skills in a survival situation where you can use these coal blocks for shelter.

12. How to Make a Fire Extinguisher

Don't have a fire extinguisher at home? Make one on your own! As shown in the image, dissolve the salt and salamoniac in water.

How to Make a Fire Extinguisher | Old School Survival Skills You Should Know

Put about a quart of the solution in glass bottles. Pour out one of the bottles in the fire to extinguish it.

13. How to Light a Fire Without Wood

You want to light a coal fire, but there's no wood available? No worries! You can use twisted pieces of paper (as shown in the image).

How to Light a Fire Without Wood | Old School Survival Skills You Should Know

A newspaper would be a good choice. Take about two or three sheets and start lighting your coal fire. Knowing this survival skill is helpful if you're stuck somewhere urban and cold.

14. How to Pull Out Long Nails

Pulling out long nails with a pair of pliers can be tough, but there's an old trick for doing this without a hitch.

How to Pull Out Long Nails | Old School Survival Skills You Should Know

Place a small piece of wood under your pincers. Start pulling the long nail, and you'll see how easy it is!

15. How to Cure Chilblains

Suffering from chilblains due to extreme cold? Use a slice of apple and some salt to solve your problem.

How to Cure Chilblains | Old School Survival Skills You Should Know

Dip a slice of apple in common salt, then rub it gently on the affected parts. It will be best to use a juicy apple for this trick.

16. How to Light a Match in the Wind

So, you're out camping and ready to start a bonfire. The winds are too strong for you to light a single match.

How to Light a Match in the Wind | Old School Survival Skills You Should Know

To light a matchstick in the wind, cut thin shavings towards the match head. This way, the shavings will catch the fire and make the flame stronger.

A major tip: Never forget to pack boxes of matchsticks in your survival kit.

17. How to Secure Loose Hammer and Axe Head

Securing loose hammers and axeheads ensures your safety. This tip comes in handy when you're building a survival shelter in the wilderness.

Secure a hammer by wedging it in the handle as tight as you can. Then, drill two holes at the top and drive in two screws.

How to Secure Loose Hammer and Axe Head | Old School Survival Skills You Should Know

An ax head, meanwhile, is secure when tied with wire. To do this, bore a hole through the shaft. Make sure it is right below the head. Put a wire through the hole, then over the top.

Do this as tight as you can. Then, twist the wire and staple it to keep it secure.

Have you ever wondered what the most important survival skills are? WatchMojo breaks it down for you in this video:

There are more contemporary versions of these old survival tips. But when the situation is dire, and we don't have a lot of resources, we have to go back to basics.

This said we need to know at least a couple of timeless survival skills. And thanks to the New York Public Library for letting us remember some of them. We hope you enjoyed this survival guide as much as we did!

What's the most unexpected event where you were able to use your survival skills? Let us know in the comments section below!

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Editor’s Note: This post was originally published on March 28, 2018, and has been updated for quality and relevancy.

21 Responses to :
17 Old School Survival Skills You Should Know

  1. Softballumpire says:

    More than a few of these were new to me. thank-you very much for the collage of lost wisdom. My grandfather tried to teach me, but a few of these were something which he never encountered on the ranch.

  2. dave says:

    Well, aside from the fact that only a few of these are actually ‘survival’, and the rest are more like ‘Hints from Heloise’, there are two I want to comment about. The pennies = ounces one was probably correct at the time, but modern pennies weigh less than older solid copper ones. Just find a pre-1982 penny (not one of the war-time zinc ones) and any post-82 penny, and the difference in weight is noticeable. Maybe somebody reading has a gram scale and could calculate the new ratio of pennies to ounces – but I don’t have one.

    The bottled fire extinguishing idea is a good one, and the full bottles could also be used to clock out a home invader if that became necessary – although your pistol is still likely to be more effective.

  3. Mark says:

    Physical specifications for coins can be found at

    Penny: 2.500 g Diameter 0.750 in.
    Nickel: 5.000 g Thickness 1.95 mm (almost two)
    Quarter: 5.67 g Diameter .955 in (almost one)
    Five quarters weigh one ounce (av) (a roll of quarters is 1/2 lb)
    Two dimes and a penny is pretty darn close to a 1/4 ounce

    Trivia: There is over 30 times as much copper in a dime as in a modern penny;
    The lines on the edge of a coin are called reeds – a quarter has only one more reed than a dime (119 vs 118)

    1. It costume in approximately 2.9 cents per each penny made, if Americans have any Common Sense we need to discontinue the penny and move forward. We used to be a nation that made Intelligent Decisions that was a long time ago though

      1. Um I don’t know if your being for real or just playing dumb but what did any of that have to do with the artical. No wonder the US has issues. If all we had to worry about in live was the second amendment we would be set.

  4. Mark Walker says:

    The one about measuring with money is only useful if you happen to have some old (i.e., pre-decimalization) British coins lying around.

  5. It costs the U.S. Mint 2.9 cents to produce each Penny!!!! The president is supposed to be a businessman and a money maker a small child to figure out how simple this is to fix. He could literally go to Congress tomorrow tell them how absurd this is they would push it through the mint would quit making the penny and he would come out looking like a halfway decent president by the time it’s all said and done now he will have taken away so many of our second amendment rights we will be like third class citizens

    1. This is your political view, nothing more

  6. wow , this is a best article i see it in my life , i have benefited so much ,

    continue to forward

  7. Cring Packer says:

    Great list of 17 different survival skills. Really enjoy reading.

  8. Craig Burr says:

    Great stuff as always, keep it coming

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