Survival Basics, Survival Situations, Survival Tips

Survival Basics: Must Have Skills

In today’s world we are filled with modernized conveniences. When you’re thirsty you can quickly head to the sink and turn on the tap. When you’re hungry you can easily pop a meal in the microwave, or better yet, order it from your phone and have it delivered right to your door. Most of us never have to worry about where we’ll be sleeping, or if we’ll be safe at night. However, if you’re a survivalist these are all things that may not be so easy. Finding food, having fresh water, building a shelter, and protecting yourself, are skills you will definitely need to have. In order to truly call yourself a survivalist these are skills you should master.

Essential Skills:

Obtain Safe Drinking Water:

Did you know you can only survive three days without water? This is why it is so imperative to be able to find water that you can drink. Just because you see a water source, like a pond, lake, or puddle, does not mean that it is safe to consume. In fact, drinking unclean or unpurified water can be deadly. If you ever find yourself lost on a hiking trail, or without power in a snow storm, you’ll want to have other options on how to obtain fresh water. If you are in fact in nature there are several helpful tips to remember.

First, beware of stagnant water. It is more likely that stagnant water, or water that is not moving or flowing, will be full of harmful bacteria. If the only water source you can find is stagnant you will need to be able to purify the water before drinking it. One way to purify water is to boil it. Boiling the water will help to kill of that harmful bacteria. Another option is to purchase a water purifying system. These can be found at many survivalist stores or websites. Water purifying tablets are also a viable option.

Hunting or Gathering Food:

The average person needs to consume between 2,000 and 2,500 calories per day in order to maintain their body weight. This means that it is extremely important to be able to find and cook food if you are in the wilderness. Having food may be the difference between life and death. There are numerous methods to obtain food, each with their own positives and negatives. I suggest you decide which method is best for you and your situation.

Hunting: If you are a pretty decent hunter this may be the best method for you. It will also help if you have weapons or tools on hand. The positives of hunting are that it is pretty easy to find a long stick and sharpen it into a point. This can be used as a basic weapon. In addition, it isn’t a huge challenge to patiently wait and spear a fish. However, some drawbacks are that if you are not surrounded by water and you are hoping to hunt small critters it may take a lot of energy. Using up energy to hunt for an animal may be more than you are refueling from eating the meat. Another drawback is that if you are in fact going after a larger animal it may pose a danger to you.

Trapping: It may take some practice to create a decent trap. Even though there are several different methods for creating traps it may take awhile to figure out the right method for you and your situation. Most survival traps use materials you could easily find in your surrounding areas. Another positive is that this method takes a lot less energy than hunting. If you do choose to use a trap, however, it could be several days before anything wanders into it.

Foraging: You don’t get the same amount of energy from plants as you do from meat. Even so, if you are not having any luck with hunting or trapping your only option may be to forage for food instead. You’d be surprised at how many plants are edible. If you are going to go this route you should definitely have general knowledge about which plants are edible and which may be poisonous. Ingesting the wrong thing can be deadly. If you are unsure, skip it.

Starting and Maintaining a Fire:

I’m sure you already know how it important it is to be able to start a fire. A fire can be used not only for warmth, but for alerting others where you are, for cooking food, or for boiling/purifying water. Basically, you’ll most definitely need how to start, and maintain, a fire.

There are many ways you can start a fire. If you have a fire starter with you that’s probably your best option. Once you’ve collected your wood and kindling the fire starter is pretty simple to use. However, you should always have a backup plan just in case. Carrying matches is always a good idea – waterproof matches are an even better idea!

When attempting to start a fire you should remember to start small. Trying to light a log on fire is probably not going to be very successful. Start with much smaller items and once those catch you’ll have an easier time of having larger items catch fire as well. Be patient. One spark can make all the difference.

In addition, as a general rule of thumb – drier is always better. If it has just rained you may have a harder time trying to find dry items to use. Do not snap twigs or branches off of living trees. You should be trying to find dead branches instead. Even dried up or dead grass will work. You should only really use greenery if you are trying to communicate or have a smoke signal.

Cooking on a Campfire:

If you’re lucky enough to catch an animal to eat then you definitely need to know how to properly cook it over the fire. Consuming raw meat is never a good idea. Raw meat contains parasites and bacteria that can be especially harmful. When cooking meat over a campfire there are a few important things to remember.

First, remove the insides of the animal. Consuming certain organs, although it may be considered a delicacy in some countries, can actually be pretty risky. Just to be on the safe side you should only really consume the muscle and the limbs.

Second, always overcook instead of under cook. Again, consuming raw or under cooked meat can be extremely hazardous. I doubt that any animal you cook over an open fire is going to be an amazing dish, so overcook it a bit just to be on the safe side. At this point in a survival situation I’d be less worried about taste and flavor and more concerned about staying healthy. These are wild animals we’re talking about, not steak or chicken from the local market. You never know what kind of bacteria or pathogens are lurking so be safe and overcook the meat in order to truly kill off anything harmful.

Build a Shelter:

Hopefully you never become lost in the woods, but if you do you may need to build a temporary shelter. There are numerous methods to build a shelter. In fact, depending on where you are (forest, desert, etc.) there may be even more choices. Below are some of the more common shelter types. For a more comprehensive look at exactly how to construct these shelters check out this post.

Lean To: A lean to shelter is essentially using a natural element as one of the walls of the shelter. Quite literally the structure is leaning against another object such as a tree, a rock, or a hillside. The lean to shelter is pretty simple to construct. A disadvantage of this particular shelter is that is does not provide a ton of protection. Unless you are diligent about covering it and have a tarp or garbage bag to use as extra security you may be exposed to the elements quite a bit.

Debris Hut: As the name may suggest this type of shelter is constructed using the materials that are readily available around you. You start by constructing a frame and then filling it in with leaves, moss, dirt etc. This type of shelter may provide more protection from the elements such as wind and rain. It is also fairly quick to assemble since you are using items found around you. A downfall of the debris hut, however, is that it may not last for a long time. If you anticipate needing this shelter for more than a few days this probably isn’t the type you should build.

Swamp Bed: If you happen to find yourself in a damp or wet area this is the type of shelter you will want to be assembling. A swamp bed is a shelter that is raised off of the floor. This helps to protect from the wetness that may be on the ground. If you chose to construct this type of shelter be sure you have the necessary tools and equipment. This particular type does take bit more effort and supplies to construct so it may be more time consuming.


If you’re planning on venturing out into the wilderness I’d hope you’d have some knowledge on navigating the landscape. However, you may not have as many skills as you’d like to think. It’s a good idea to have several skills mastered before heading out.

You’ll definitely need to know how to read a compass. You may be thinking, “but I can use my phone!” – Think again. You should never rely on your cell phone when in a survival situation. You may run out of battery or you may be out of cell phone range. This is why having the basic skills are necessary.  The great thing about a compass is it will continue to work even when other technology won’t. You don’t even need to have a map when using a compass. It will certainly help, but a compass will always point north.

If you do find yourself lost another idea is to head to higher ground. It may seem like this doesn’t do much good but the higher you are the farther you can see. It may be a quick and easy way to spot a landmark or help you figure out where you are.

Another quick tip, if you’re lost, is to follow the water. Civilizations pop up along waterways for obvious reasons. So be sure to follow the flow and you’ll have a higher probability of running into other people. If you don’t, you’ll at least have a reliable water source nearby.


First Aid Basics:

It’s pretty essential to have a basic knowledge of first aid skills. Depending on what type of situation you find yourself in you may want to learn several things before heading out. No matter what kind of scenario you may be in it is extremely important to have some basics down.

First, you’ll need to know what to do if you are wounded. You will need to learn how to close a wound. Whether it’s a small gash, a severed finger, or a flesh wound you’ll need to know how to properly seal it shut. Open cuts can lead to infections so it’s important the wound is closed as soon as possible. First you should try to clean the area. Antiseptic is ideal but you can use water if necessary. Then, address the wound by closing it. You can use a band-aid, wound dressing, or in an emergency you can even burn the flesh to be sure no debris is getting in and to stop any bleeding. Be sure that whatever you are using is sterile. A quick note: a tourniquet should only be used as a last resort when the bleeding won’t stop. When using a tourniquet it can often lead to limb loss since you are essentially cutting off the blood supply.

Another skill you’re going to want to master is how to deal with a broken limb. If you or someone you are with has suffered a break you’ll need a sturdy item to ensure it does not get any worse. A sturdy tree branch that is relatively straight will be the perfect tool. Tie the branch to the limb with some rope or paracord. Unless you are a medical professional do not try to reset the broken bone. This could do a lot more damage.

Another piece of advice is to always carry a first aid kit. You may not plan on being injured but you never know what will happen. Having a basic first aid kit could really be the difference between life or death. You can stock your own kit and pack what you consider to be essentials, or you can purchase a pre-made first aid kit.


When traveling out on your own, or if you ever find yourself in a survival situation, you’ll be glad that you’ve mastered these basic skills. Again, having the knowledge of these techniques could be the difference between life and death.



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