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9 Basic Survival Skills Everyone Should Know How To Do

January 25, 2018 5 min read

9 Basic Survival skills everyone should know how to do. Visit and learn the basic skills that could save your life.

Are you prepared to survive the unexpected? 

Imagine you’re on a beautiful backpacking adventure in the mountains.  The sun is setting, and suddenly a huge disaster strikes, leaving you stranded.  Would you know what to do?

Whether you get lost hiking or your car breaks down in the woods, it is important that everyone is prepared with these 9 survival skills. They could save your life.

1.  Know how to send a survival signal.

It is really good to know how to attract attention with a survival signal to help rescuers find you.  The traditional signal of help is three of anything.  For example, if you are signaling by fire for an aircraft you would have a triangle with three fires.  This would indicate that you needed help.  If you needed to call someone by whistling, you would blow three blasts.  Many backpacks have whistles on them nowadays, but if you find yourself stranded without a whistle, try using an acorn as a whistle.  

2.  Know how to perform DIY first aid.

Basic first aid is a good life skill to have, especially if you find yourself in an unpredictable situation, hurt in the wilderness.  There are four common injuries that you should be able to treat.  

  • Cuts.  If you have a cut with minimal bleeding, simply apply direct pressure to the area and hold it there with your thumb for several minutes until the bleeding stops.
  • Athletic injuries (sprains).  There are many great things you can use in the environment to treat athletic injuries.  If you twist an ankle, for example, use the RICE method: rest, ice/cool it down (using mud or moss), compress it (wrap it in a t-shirt), and elevate it. 
  • Burns.  Hopefully, you never experience a painful burn.  But in the case that you accidentally spill boiling water on your hand or touch something red-hot, keep these four tips in mind: 1) cool it down with water, 2) keep it covered with dressing, 3) treat for pain, if needed (It is a good idea to keep Ibuprofen in your first aid kit.), and 4) stay hydrated.  
  • Fractures and dislocations.  It is good to know how to get a bone back in place in the event that one gets dislocated.  If a shoulder gets dislocated, roll on the ground or hit it against a hard surface.  For kneecaps, simply stretch your leg out to pop it back into its socket.  For fractures, you will need to find a couple of sticks and shoelaces to create a splint.  Stabilize the fractured bone with the sticks, then tie them together with the shoelaces to hold the brace in place.

3.  Know how to build a shelter.

If you do not have a tent in your pack, you will need a way to stay protected from the elements. You will need to build a survival shelter.  If possible, find a campsite that is dry, flat, and not right next to a body of water.  Avoid valleys and paths where water may flow toward you.  Make sure your shelter is well-insulated so you don’t catch hypothermia. There are many types of natural shelters in the wilderness, such as caves, hollow stumps, and logs.  Because you do not know ahead of time what supplies you will have on hand, learn now how to build a survival shelter from scratch.  

4.  Know how to start a fire.

There are many advantages to knowing how to start a fire in the wilderness.  Having a fire will keep you warm, boil your water, cook your food, and dry your clothes.  This is why it is a good idea to have a firestarter kit, such as a lighter, matches, flint and steel, on hand when you’re out adventuring.  Remember, these items will be of no use to you unless you are prepared with the knowledge of starting a fire.  So be sure to practice fire starting in different weather conditions with different habitats.  Did you know that you can start a fire with nearly anything, such as eyeglasses, a bottle of water, cell phone battery, and sticks???  

5.  Know how to find and purify water.

Many survival blogs suggest that an average person can survive for somewhere from two days to a week without liquids, but that's a rough estimate at best.  Staying hydrated is extremely important, so be knowledgeable about how to get that H2O into your body while you're in survival mode.

Just because water looks clear and clean doesn’t mean that it is safe to drink.  Most of the time rain, snow, and dew are reliable sources of clean water that don’t need to be purified.  But questionable water, such as water found in puddles or streams, will require purification. 

The best option to purify water is boiling, which is 100 percent effective in killing pathogens.  Another option would be chemical purification using tablets, iodine, or chlorine bleach. Then there is always a portable filer.  You should always have a water purification system of some kind in your pack. 

6.  Know how to feed yourself.

When you go in search of food, the best place to look is near water.  The good thing about water is that’s usually where you’ll find a wide variety of edible wild plants.  But you do not want to eat anything that is poisonous.  Keep this universal edibility test in mind:  Rub the plant on the skin.  Stop and wait a few hours to see how your skin reacts to the plant.  Does it rash up?  Does it burn?  Does it bubble the skin?  Then, rub on lips and wait.  If you feel any burning or stinging, stay away from it.  Nibble/don’t swallow.  Wait 12 hours or longer and see if you start to feel sick at all.  Small bite/swallow.  Wait a good 24 hours to see if you get stomach problems.  After all that, if everything’s good, it’s probably okay to eat it.  You can also familiarize yourself with edible plants such as acorn from oak, pine, cattail, and grass.  

7.  Know how to navigate your way back home.

When you are lost in the forest, it can be frightening to find your way out if you don’t have a GPS, map and compass, plus good navigation skills.  In a pinch, you can easily find north, south, east and west using a stick, two small stones, and the sun.  No matter what method you use, good navigation skills are what will help get you back to safety.

8. Know how to tie a bowline.

A bowline knot, also known as the "king of knots," is one of the most useful knots in the world. It is a type of "loop" knot that tightens more with any increase in pressure on the loop.  The bowline is useful for hanging items, such as food and survival gear, from tree limbs.  Spend some time practicing tying a bowline knot so you are well prepared to use it.

9.  Know how to stay calm.

No matter how extreme the situation may be, always remember to stay calm.  Fearful, anxious thoughts will not help you lead you home any sooner.  Have a positive mental attitude, remember the survival skills you have learned, and do the best you can.  Those are the most helpful things you can do in the moment.


Be ready for the unknown...

These are the 9 basic survival skills that everyone should know in case you ever find yourself in an unpredictable situation.  In addition to these survival skills, remember to pack the top 10 hiking essentials on your next adventure.


Now, let's go back to that beautiful backpacking adventure in the mountains.  The sun is setting, and suddenly disaster strikes.  Do you feel more prepared to jump into survival mode?  

What else do you consider an essential survival skill everyone should know?

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9 Basic Survival Skills Everyone Should Know How To Do