Survival Skills: 14 Resolutions for 2014

While everyone's making New Year's resolutions to join a gym or start a diet, let's think about resolving to do things that will help us save our butts, not just make them smaller. Here's our list of 14 survival-inspired resolutions to start 2014 smarter and safer than ever before.

1) Gain Medical Skills

Since you own a human body, it certainly makes sense to know how to keep it alive and running. Basic first aid and CPR are essential skills to have under your hat. Do an online search for first aid training in your area, then sign up for a class. Or check with your local branch of the Red Cross--they should be able to point you in the right direction.

2) Build a Better Medical Kit

There are many good medical kits out there, ready to go right off the shelf. But you can do much better by building your own kit designed specifically for your favorite activities and the terrain in which you do them. Make sure you familiarize yourself with how to use each of the contents. Also make sure you know exactly where they are located in the kit. This can save precious time, should you need to tend to a very bad injury.

3) Carry a Sharp Knife

If you don't carry a pocket knife every day, start now. If you already do, make sure you keep the blade sharp. I'm not suggesting that you carry a knife in one pocket and a sharpener in the other (though I do keep a stone in my car's glove box). Just make time to sharpen the knife often, so that it is the most effective tool it can be.

4) Get Fit

It's not called "survival of the fattest." Find a few ways to increase your fitness this coming year. You don't need to blow out your spine powerlifting, but you should be able to swim, run, and climb, should you find yourself in a survival situation.

5) Stock Your Vehicle For Survival

I always feel like a broken record on this one, but I cannot overemphasize the importance of stocking your vehicle with supplies. Shelter items, water, food, tools, medical supplies, and even communication equipment can be worth their weight in gold to a person stranded and in trouble. Stock up your ride with these essentials before you get behind the wheel again.

6) Bring a Light

One of my favorite gifts I received in 2013 was the little Microstream flashlight from Streamlight. This little critter is about the diameter of a pen, and only half its length. I have started carrying it clipped in my pocket next to my EDC folding knife, which gives me both a cutting tool and a light within easy reach. Whether you're hanging out in the woods or in an urban jungle, lighting your way can be the first step to getting out of a bad situation.

7) Carry a Lighter

Even if you don't smoke, few people will question the presence of a simple Bic lighter in your pocket. This fire starting tool is often overlooked by some segments of the survival crowd, but there is no simpler way to get a fire going than using a butane lighter. Select a bright-colored casing in case you drop it.

8) Load Up the Pantry

Grab some of your favorite canned food and shelf-stable food items--especially when they're on sale--and you'll be much better off no matter what situation befalls you in the near future. You don't have to be a full-on food hoarder, but having some extra chow on hand is a great way to enhance your family's security. Make sure you cycle through the food throughout the year, using your older stock first, to avoid storing unnecessarily old food.

9) Get a Bug-Out Location

Heading for the hills in case of crisis? Where exactly do you think you'll go? If you already have some family land in a remote area, you're all set. But if you're without a designated place to seek refuge, then you are literally a refugee if you're stuck wandering around the countryside or woodlands. Having a real bug-out site typically requires some money to rent, lease, or buy the property, but the biggest benefit is you will be authorized to be there, rather than acting as a squatter. This could be a very important detail to the local people and the local authorities during a crisis.

10) Make Your Concealed Carry Legit

Take a concealed carry class and get the permit. Select a class in your state that reciprocates with many other states, especially if you travel. Who knows, you might learn a few new tricks in the class, but more importantly you'll know how to satisfy the letter of the law in your state and other states you might travel through. Ignorance of the law is not a valid excuse for breaking the law. Ask any law enforcement professional and they'll tell you the same.

11) Carry an Extra Magazine

Your beloved concealed carry weapon isn't much more than a blunt object once the ammo runs out. Yes, an extra magazine is heavy and a bit bulky, but it also presents a lot more opportunities to defend yourself and those in your care.

12) Have a Phone Charger (Or Two)

Being able to call for help is one of the most practical things you can do in an emergency. Don't let a dead phone battery act as a harbinger of your impending fate. Keep a car charger for your phone in each of your vehicles. Consider a backup charger for that as well. Battery-powered chargers are cheap and easy to use. Solar-powered phone chargers cost quite a bit more than the battery back-up, but they should be able to work off of sunlight for decades.

13) Add to Your EDC Keychain

Add some supplies to your keychain to form the foundation of an everyday carry system. Select the best tools, lights, and gizmos that you can afford, while still keeping the keychain a manageable size and weight. On my keychain, for example, I have a squeeze light, a small butane lighter, some 550 cord, a SOG sharpener/fire starter, and, of course, my keys.

14) Learn Some New Survival Skills

Let 2014 be the year you finally start learning the skills you have always dreamed of trying. Learn friction fire building. Tan one of your own deer hides. Set a trap line. Make your own jerky, soap, medicine, arrowheads, or bows. Embrace the diversity of our ancestors' skills and pick a topic to start learning about. Books and videos can get you started, and then when you're ready, take a survival class to put your knowledge to the test. I just happen to know a guy. We here at OL hope you and yours have a safe and happy New Year.