Essential Survival Skills You Should Learn, by B.T.

Life is a game of survival. Everything is possible. Anything can happen. Preparation is the key, but what if you are struck unaware? What if you are left with nothing but the clothes on your back and a flashlight?

Getting lost in the wilderness or being stranded on an island can be tough, but you will live if you have the will and courage to tackle the unknown and make do with what’s in front of you.

The Art of Survival

When it comes to events of a catastrophic scale, there’s nothing more important than staying alive and focusing on survival. In order to survive, you need to learn essential skills that will prepare you for the hardship and frustrations, especially when you’re not only up against circumstances but are also at the mercy of nature.

Cold and rain can increase the risk of hypothermia. Then there’s the problem of providing for your basic needs, including drinking and eating. Aside from that, you may meet danger in the form of avalanche, flooding, and wild animals.

Making sure you’ve researched and learned about survival skills that can aid you every step of the way, even if you’ve been lucky enough to get through a lifetime without encountering anything remotely close to peril. At some point, these skills may be able to lead you home safely or keep you alive long enough to wait for rescue.

Skills for the Ultimate Survivor

Building a Shelter

Your body can only cope with unregulated temperature for several hours. Freezing to death is not an option. Aside from that, nature has a way of reminding you of its presence in the form of insects or dangerous animals that may put you in danger if you’re out in the open.

Your best chance is to find a suitable shelter, like a hollowed log. Learning how to build a temporary shelter is your second best chance. It can protect you from the wrath of the sun, keep you from getting wet during a heavy downpour, and shield you from the worst of the wind. In the absence of a tent or a tarp, you can scavenge for useful debris that you can use to create your shelter.

Starting a Fire

A fire is not only for light that keeps some wild animals at bay and can be used as a signal in the dark. It can also keep you warm on a cold, dark night. Remember, hypothermia is the number one enemy when you are outdoors.

Hunting animals for food will also require fire for cooking, as raw meat has parasites and bacteria that heat can kill. During the day, the smoke from the fire can be used as a signal for help. Smoking meat can preserve it for days to come as well. Starting a fire without the aid of a lighter and fuel can be tricky, but it is a skill that can be learned through practice.

Finding Clean Water

You can go for weeks without food, but water can speed up your demise if you don’t get hydrated for three days. That’s why it is important that you find water. Locating a spring, stream, or other bodies of water is easy enough, if you’re in the midst of nature.

If that fails, you need to know some tricks in purifying water fit enough to drink, like the herbal method that kills viruses and bacteria. The leaves of plants can also be a clean source of water by making use of the process of transpiration, which involves collecting water from plants placed inside a sealed, clear, plastic bag in the sunlight.

Foraging for Food

If you’re in the heart of nature, you have more chances of survival if you have the necessary knowledge and are resourceful. Knowing which plants are edible and which ones you should avoid is very important. Many people have perished from consuming mushrooms and berries that can poison the human body.

Acorns, nuts, the bark of some trees, and even grass can be sources of food. Hunting rabbits, birds, and other animals is also quite helpful. Meat can give you more energy, after all.

If there is a lake or river nearby, you can also go fishing. That’s why it’s useful to learn the skills of fishing, hunting, and gathering.

Applying First Aid

You’re lucky if you survive whatever ordeal you went through unscathed. However, but if you have wounds or injury, it pays to help yourself and avoid the worst, like infections. The knowledge of how to apply first aid can make a huge difference. The ability to clean and close a wound, immobilize broken bones, and relieve hypothermia and heat exhaustion are the best first aid skills to master.

Making Tools Out of Scraps

It may not seem valuable, but knowing how to put together scavenged materials can give you the tools you need for hunting, fishing, or splitting wood. Fashioning a bow and arrow, making a fishing rod spear, and creating a slingshot are only some of the things that can help you hunt for food or defend yourself if the situation calls for it.

Navigating to Safety

Once your phone’s battery dies, you can say goodbye to GPS. Navigating can be a pain, but you need to learn how to do it manually. Securing a compass and a map may be a stretch if you are in unforeseeable circumstances, but using the old-school method of reading the directions through the sun’s movements can help keep you on track.

Sending Signal

You cannot wait forever for someone to stumble upon you. Sometimes, you need to help yourself too. Sending signals to ask for help should also be considered. There are two most common methods in doing this.

Signal fire is one of them. Find a clearing or a hilltop to increase visibility. Of course, you also need to find combustible materials to build a fire, and this includes wood, twigs, dried leaves, and other flammables. Once they catch fire, pile on green leaves, as this can produce thicker smoke. The smoke will lead your probable rescuers to your direction.

The mirror signal is another form you can use. Look for any reflective surface with you, such as a cell phone screen or rearview mirror. Aim right by forming a peace sign with your two fingers. Your target direction should be between the fingers, flashing the reflection across it in back-and-forth motions.

Miscellaneous Skills

While all the aforementioned skills refer to specific goals vital to your survival, there are also other skills that can help you in different ways. Mending clothing, or simply knowing how to sew, can be useful, if you’re somewhere cold. You can use additional protection from cold to avoid illness.

Defending yourself is not only applicable in apocalyptic scenarios, where looting and killing for food rations can be rampant. It’s important wherever you are—in urban or rural areas, in the mountain, in the wilderness, or even on an island. Bad elements are too unpredictable. Being able to stand your ground and ward off potential danger can increase your chance to survive and be rescued.

Being Mentally Strong

You may say this is negligible, but without the will to survive it’s easy to give up and accept your fate. This is especially common in desperate situations when the odds of survival seem thin. By training your mind to adjust to your new situation, assessing your options, and developing the iron will to live and do everything to make it out alive, you set a whole world of difference from you and others stuck in unfortunate circumstances.

It means you are strong enough to weather the storms, to face obstacles head-on, and to find ways to help yourself. It’s no different from climbers who conquer some of the world’s highest peaks. The best person they can trust in every climb is themselves, and this is not possible without their survival mentality.

Learning Won’t Hurt

There’s a great chance that you’ll go through life and get old without having to use these skills, but learning them won’t hurt. You don’t need to be a camper and an adventurer to encounter danger. Disasters can strike anytime. You may get stranded in the road. By knowing most of these survival skills, you’re very likely to make it alive.

Just remember to set priorities. Your basic needs are in hierarchy. Food is important, yes, but water takes precedence. A good shelter should be in order first before you venture out to hunt.

Treat nature like a friend and not a foe. Recognize that it’s superior in every way, but you can gain so much from it if you understand how it works.

Always make sure to weigh your options, maximize your resources, choose your battles, use your energy wisely, and maintain your zeal for life.

SurvivalBlog Writing Contest

This has been another entry for Round 77 of the SurvivalBlog non-fiction writing contest. The nearly $11,000 worth of prizes for this round include:

First Prize:

  1. A $3000 gift certificate towards a Sol-Ark Solar Generator from Veteran owned Portable Solar LLC. The only EMP Hardened Solar Generator System available to the public.
  2. A Gunsite Academy Three Day Course Certificate. This can be used for any one, two, or three day course (a $1,095 value),
  3. A course certificate from onPoint Tactical for the prize winner’s choice of three-day civilian courses, excluding those restricted for military or government teams. Three day onPoint courses normally cost $795,
  4. DRD Tactical is providing a 5.56 NATO QD Billet upper. These have hammer forged, chrome-lined barrels and a hard case, to go with your own AR lower. It will allow any standard AR-type rifle to have a quick change barrel. This can be assembled in less than one minute without the use of any tools. It also provides a compact carry capability in a hard case or in 3-day pack (an $1,100 value),
  5. Two cases of Mountain House freeze-dried assorted entrees in #10 cans, courtesy of Ready Made Resources (a $350 value),
  6. A $250 gift certificate good for any product from Sunflower Ammo,
  7. Two cases of Meals, Ready to Eat (MREs), courtesy of (a $180 value), and
  8. American Gunsmithing Institute (AGI) is providing a $300 certificate good towards any of their DVD training courses.

Second Prize:

  1. A Model 175 Series Solar Generator provided by Quantum Harvest LLC (a $439 value),
  2. A Glock form factor SIRT laser training pistol and a SIRT AR-15/M4 Laser Training Bolt, courtesy of Next Level Training, which have a combined retail value of $589,
  3. A gift certificate for any two or three-day class from Max Velocity Tactical (a $600 value),
  4. A transferable certificate for a two-day Ultimate Bug Out Course from Florida Firearms Training (a $400 value),
  5. A Three-Day Deluxe Emergency Kit from Emergency Essentials (a $190 value),
  6. A $200 gift certificate good towards any books published by,
  7. RepackBox is providing a $300 gift certificate to their site.

Third Prize:

  1. A Royal Berkey water filter, courtesy of Directive 21 (a $275 value),
  2. A large handmade clothes drying rack, a washboard, and a Homesteading for Beginners DVD, all courtesy of The Homestead Store, with a combined value of $206,
  3. Expanded sets of both washable feminine pads and liners, donated by Naturally Cozy (a $185 retail value),
  4. Two Super Survival Pack seed collections, a $150 value, courtesy of Seed for Security, LLC,
  5. Mayflower Trading is donating a $200 gift certificate for homesteading appliances, and
  6. Two 1,000-foot spools of full mil-spec U.S.-made 750 paracord (in-stock colors only) from (a $240 value).

Round 77 ends on July 31st, so get busy writing and e-mail us your entry. Remember that there is a 1,500-word minimum, and that articles on practical “how to” skills for survival have an advantage in the judging.


  1. My EDC- one of the small Bic lighters, large handkerchief , pocket knife, good penlight, Leatherman and a Galco magnifying glass. This does not include the pack stowed in the vehicle.

  2. One of the takeaways from watching shows like “Naked and Afraid” or movies like “The Grey” is to be able to imagine survival in a rather hostile environment with very limited resources, and various levels of skills. While these shows can be quite derivative, there is still a lot we can learn from them if we can simply place ourselves theoretically into some similar scenario. The we can ask ourselves “What would I need to know, what tools are most important to me fundamentally, what sort of people would be complementary partners for me?” etc.

    Pared down to the bare minimums, it’s really an exercise of “how far back in time can you go technically and still get live?” If you can make it back to the stone age and still get by, then maybe you have a chance??? Might be hard to do given today’s modern limitations on resourcing from the wild. Get caught and you may find yourself learning a whole new set of survival skills inside the concrete jungle.

  3. I once pitched a tent in the dark on a rocky mountaintop. I decided to gather some pine needles to put under the tent to insulate me from the cold, rocky terrain. I felt around in the dark and found a pile of pine needles to use. In the morning my forearms and hands were covered in poison ivy blisters from the small plants that were growing among the pine needles. So be careful if building a debris shelter.

  4. BTW, to check your fluid amount in your Bic lighter, take a small flashlight and place the lens up under the white plastic bottom and turn it (lighter) on. It will illuminate the contents level to show you how much there is left.

    1. Thanks Harry, I spend lots of time in wilderness areas and my EDC is a multi tool a side arm, and a pocket knife and I always carry a Bic lighter. But some simple things are over looked, I’m always wondering how to check the fluid level in my lighter, and with your advice I just checked, and the fluid level is very low. Thanks again. Trekker Out

  5. I have been requested to teach my nephews basic scouting skills. As an old school Eagle Scout from a very active backpacking troop it makes me smile that my sisters boys want to learn something about living well in the outdoors. I looked around and decided on the Canterbury’s Bushcraft books as their manual. Bushcraft 101, Advanced Bushcraft, Bushcraft Field Guide to Trapping, Gathering & Cooking, and Bushcraft First Aid contain all the necessary skills one needs to got along comfortably in the woods. Of course reading words in a book is not going to get you where you want to be until you PRACTICE each skill set several times until you can do it while wet, cold, hungry and hurting! And too, practice does NOT make perfect. PERFECT practice makes perfect. Doing the wrong thing over and over only makes you great at doing it wrong, not to mention, confident in skills you do not possess. Get help to guide you along.

  6. I would add that knowing where you are, including the knowledge of the surrounding area, can be very instrumental in helping you to survive. I never go anywhere without knowing both of those things. The other thing I would add is to let those who are friendly to you, family, friends, etc, know your whereabouts, and your basic schedule, as far as time, and changing locations. Other wise you could wind up like one unfortunate fellow, chopping his trapped arm off, mostly because he was a little too independent.

  7. I like this article very much and hope to see more of the same. Like your old format used to have with so much information, recipes and how to cook outside, etc. Thanks

  8. Survival for an overnight in the wilderness, survival for a week or two and survival for longer than two weeks. Very different situations. Finding enough food and potable water is the long term problem. So much of your other needs can be met with knowledge and preparation/practice. But in the wilderness food doesn’t grow on trees and one drink of bad water can kill you in a day or two. Most of the vegetative food you might be able to scrounge up won’t add up to enough calories to sustain you.

    On that note; there was a documentary where an American went to Africa and with a couple of natives tried to hike a one week journey in the wild. They carried corn meal which they cooked into a porridge and ate. The American literally could not eat 2400-3000 calories of this food a day. His stomach would not allow him to consume it. The natives ate more than enough but within days the American was on his last leg trying to just keep going on insufficient calories. Point being even if you find enough vegetative food in the wild you might need to consume 10 lbs of it just to get 2000 calories. Food in a survival situation is very problematic.

  9. Navigation isn’t just for daytime but celestial navigation can be much more precise(long distance/smaller deviation) and easier. Orions’ lucky star and the big and little dipper(point to Polaris) can get you almost anywhere in the northern hemisphere(Southern hemisphere a little more challanging)

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