Hi, I am a journeyman, millwright, and electrician by trade and do a lot of fabrication for the companies I work for. I also have 20+ years as a contractor, building houses. Additionally, I am an avid artist and a survivalist.
The basic principle of a survival journal is almost exactly as it sounds. I say almost, because there is a bit more to it than just a simple journal. I will give my general journal layout and some of my reasons for adding certain things. First off, I will give some description of what kind of book I currently use.
The Book Itself and How It Started
I found a leather bound standard 4″x6″ drawing pad for my use. Any book would work depending on your preference, be it a write-in-the-rain book or lined tablet; it doesn’t really matter what you choose, though I would try to stick to something small for a lighter weight and easier carrying ability. I even went so far as to make a pouch for mine out of leather so I can put it on my belt and have easy access to it when out. It is a constant work in progress. Revised and expanded as I learn new things, think of other tidbits to put into it, and add other techniques. The book is also quite disorganized at the moment, and will likely stay that way for the foreseeable future.
My survival journal started out as a guide to my wife and children, with as much of my knowledge written in it that I could think of, in the event of my inability to be around in the case of a SHTF scenario, or for any reason where they may need to know certain things. I agree that practicing skills with your loved ones should be the primary method of passing on information and I do, but a written history definitely has its advantages. The most important reason is that people forget things under the best of circumstances let alone in high stress situations. On the other hand, it is good for you as the writer/survivalist to write these things down as the actions are performed to positively reinforce them as they are happening. As you are trying new things, add them to the book. Include what works best for tinder, thatching for a shelter, or cordage for fishing; the best part is, it will be the specific resources of your region and area. In the end, it becomes the tailored survival guide for where you live. I speak of the wilderness survival aspect at the moment, but by no means does it have to be (or should be) limited to this. I live near the outskirts of a small town of about 3,000 people. This town contains plenty of businesses with useful items in them, as well as a ton of wooded area within and around four counties and larger cities about 30 miles away, so there will definitely be urban and wilderness survival mixed together. So on to the meat and potatoes of the content, and why certain things are added and embellished upon.
In the beginning of the journal, I lay out the various bug out plans. Considering these would be used in the most extreme cases, I want them clearly written and available with instructions of where to go, estimated times it should take to get there, and numerous contingencies for consideration, load limits of my immediate family, and means of travel, whether by foot, car, boat, or bike. There is so much information that I could put into the plan, it could take hours to write it all down. In another section, I also cover bugging in, which doesn’t change too much of the living conditions in the beginning.
This section takes into consideration the various elements involved in standard situations, specifically the environment and opsec. Given the area I live in, there are both urban and wilderness skills to be learned. The skills section covers but is not limited to trapping, skinning, primitive fire starting, tech fire starting (batteries and uncommon methods), water procurement, camouflage, and stalking. Basically, if it deals with learned skills needed to generally survive, I try to put it in here. The skills are a generalized set that would basically work in most any situation. There are many other survival sets that are covered and that will be expanded upon.
Weapons and Tools, including Field Expedient
This is my expertise. I began making weapons at the age of 12; though they were crude and mostly weak, they were generally functional. Over the years they have grown to be a bit more impressive, pretty, and extremely functional. Some of my most recent creations are two tantos– one that has a completely hand carved handle and sheath of mahogany for my late grandfather and one for my father with a tsuba of solid carved silver. A few more of my creations include a Viking axe for my best friend and the construction of two bows, which is relatively a new learned skill of only a few years. Teaching myself to build bows and arrows was a direct outcome of wanting to know how to create one of the oldest projectile weapons. Though i am still in need of fine-tuning the skill, they are definitely functional. Fom a weapon or tool perspective, function is the most important part, followed directly after by hardiness. At some point in my youth I found I had the ability to tell where the weak spot in any weapon/tool is and to use that to develop better designs and forms. This ability has helped tremendously over the years, and I can build pretty much all I need. In my journal I cover making every feasible weapon, trap, and tool I can think of that will be of use, though there are still quite a few that I haven’t added yet because of current time constraints. The basic principle of this section is to show hand-drawn instructions on how to complete a tool from start to finish with techniques and also the best materials to use.
Shelter, Water, Fire, Materials and Hunting
Here I show how to make various shelters, debris huts, lean tos, and teepees, and I include insulation methods and even how to lash it all together to be the most effective. I also cover how to make a water filter, trap water, how long to boil it, and where to get the freshest water in my area. The fire section has all the various methods of creating fire, including how to set up the fire bundle, birds nest, self-feeding fires, and the pit itself. The last bit on materials, hunting, and fishing is a bit more interesting in terms of content. The hunting part is pretty straight forward, all said and done. Then you get into how to skin and process the various animals where I live and prepare the meat. Also, this section is where the materials part comes into play, from the making of fishing gear including cordage to catch your first fish, which in turn is used to create objects like needles and more hooks, to using the skins and bones in animals to make even more gear. There is even a section in here that explains how to knap a knife from stone, make a fishing/frog spear, and tan a hide for clothing and shelter, though if I did my job right and the plan was followed, there shouldn’t be a need for a lot of this primitive gear for quite awhile, unless something breaks.
The urban survival section goes into pretty good detail for dealing with the trouble and unique issues of an urban setting. I try to encompass the local businesses in respect to a SHTF scenario. As in what to get from where, what to look out for, methods of moving around a city to shorten exposure to unwanted attention, and how to access certain buildings. At this stage, the focus is on scavenging useful items and supplies while there is still stuff to be had. [Editors Note: It is important to remember – unless you know for sure that what you are taking does not already belong to someone else, it is not scavenging, it is stealing and you may be severely hurting someone else’s ability to survive. In addition, while scavenging may be necessary at times, the risk to you goes up exponentially during those times.] Considering the ease of access to all of the amenities of our modern age in an urban setting, tools and weapons are not really an issue, though I do go through finding ammunition in abandoned houses and other items of interest. Toothpaste, toilet paper, clothing, hygiene products, medicine, and pots and pans are a huge bonus if you are trying to survive anywhere. You can’t really pick those up in the woods. (Yeah, I know there are alternatives to most of these in the wilderness.)
There is so much more that you could put into your journal, depending on your personal preferences. I have intentionally left out foraging for edible plants because my skill/knowledge of it is severely lacking at this point. My plans are to change that in the near future and to teach that to my wife and children as well. I am by no means an expert on most of these subjects (though my study of historical weapons has surpassed 20 years) and I make no allusions to being such. I am simply a student and teacher to my own little group. I am a craftsman of pretty good skill and a seeker of knowledge, which will help me and mine not just survive but thrive. Every little bit helps in the end, and if there is a way to continue to teach, even if i am no longer around, then I owe it to my children and my wife to try everything I can to accomplish that task. The easiest way that I have found so far is to have a history of my trials and successes, which I call my survival journal.