Are you aware of the six fundamental survival skills that could save you life in the wilderness? Let’s take a look on the six most important basic skills that you need to stay alive and get back to the home.
These six skills are among the most important ones to master as they are needed to stay safe, and ultimately alive until you will find your way back, get rescued or other help arrives. These skills are also essential for long time survival in the wilderness. So, make sure that you know how to use these essential prepper skills.
How to search for water and purify it
In many situations, water is the most urgent things you need to take care of. Maybe not immediately, but most likely within 24h. That’s because of human body contains 55 – 65% of water, and continuous re-hydration is required to maintain healthy balance. Severe dehydration causes dead, so finding water and purifying it is one of the most basic survival skills you simply must have.
The water is so important for human body because of:
- Water is essential for cells to work normally, it’s a vital nutrient to the life of every cell.
- Water is an integral component of the blood. It transports nutrients and oxygen from the digestive tracts and lungs to the body cells.
- The brain tissues need water to make synapses and neurons to function normally.
- It lubricates and protects our joints.
- Water regulates our internal body temperature
- Water assists in flushing waste out of body through urination etc.
- It forms saliva
When the amount of water in body drops lower than normal, it means dehydration i.e. a harmful reduction in the amount of water in the body. It’s much better to find water while you are in good condition. Luckily we have internal alarm against dehydration. You feel thirsty when body needs more water.
At the first you will feel that at your mouth. Saliva is produced from water in the mouth, and when body water balance is not normal, you feel it in your mouth. This can simply be described as thirst. Unfortunately this internal alarm does not work always as expected. It might be for example because there are so many things requiring attention, that you will not just notice thirst. Whatever the situation is, it’s important to remember drink always enough water.
The other warning that the body gives are for example:
- A slight headache, which will change to even worse.
- A drop in urine volume
- Not being able to sweat or have tears come down from the eyes
- Irregular heart beat
- Very hot body temperature
It is essential to be able to find water, know how to purify water, and drink it frequently to avoid dehydration.
Finding water in wilderness could be challenging. However, ultimately as long as there is life, i.e. forest, animals etc. There must be water nearby. Look for streams, rivers, ponds and lakes. Clean, flowing water if among the best options as it does not allow bacteria to concentrate.
- You can try listening. You might hear running water, even if it’s far away.
- Try to find animal tracks, which could lead to water.
- Watch birds, follow their flight paths. Those could lead next to water.
- Water runs downhill, so find your way to low ground, and there might be water.
- Look at sky, if it starts raining, try to use big leafs or whatever to collect rain water.
- You could dig a well or underground still
- Fruits etc., even roots contain a lot of water, you can eat those.
- If there’s snow or ice, you can always melt it as long as you can make a fire.
What about sea water i.e. salt water? If you find yourself next to the sea, does that mean that water problem is solved? Unfortunately that’s not the case. Don’t drink salt water, it just worsens dehydration. Some argue, that drinking little sea water is fine, but it’s not. The 4% salt it contains, makes your body dry even faster. Every sip of seawater makes the situation even worse. However, you could dig a well nearby shore, and you’ll get unlimited amount of drinkable water.
As we just learned, not all water is drinkable such as salt water. Water could include also bacteria or toxins. Therefore it is essential to be able to purify water. There are three ways to purify water:
- You can use water filter.
- You can use water purifying tabs.
- You can spoil water.
If water situation runs dire, it’s best to stay away from water substitutes such as alcohol.
Some extreme survivalists say that drinking urine is their last resort. It can be, and it can give you in extreme conditions one day more time as it is 95% water, but 5% is waste, which leads to kidney failure if you drink it continuously. Furthermore, as dehydration develops, urine level drops dramatically.
Now we are aware the importance of drinking water, and also how challenging it might be find drinkable water in the wilderness, especially in the survival situation. Therefore, it is essential to include as much as possible water reserves in your survival stockpile.
- If you’re going to build survival shelter somewhere, keep water on your mind. If possible, build it nearby water source such as river or lake.
- Make sure also that your bug out bag contains water bottles.
- Keep drinkable water always in your car.
- Make sure you have water filter and purification tabs.
Below is a good video to watch how to find water in wilderness.
Constructing the Wilderness Survival Shelter from Scratch
You never know if you are forced to have the night out in the wild. It could be evacuation, accident or what ever. It could be one night or situation could last long. A survival shelter built for this purpose would mostly be appreciated. In most occasions, it is very important, especially if weather conditions are harsh or if the situation last long.
Perhaps you’ve got water, you are able to make fire and you have even food, but without shelter it could get really nasty. Therefore, do not underestimate the need of shelter. You could enjoy trekking in the wilderness, but when it starts raining not to mention even more harsh weather conditions, the shelter gets really important. It is not only more comfortable than sleeping under the sky, but it could also save your life.
Having skills to build a survival shelter in the wilderness is one of the most essential basic survival skills. A survival shelter will give you protection from the harsh weather elements such as:
- Cold and freezing temperatures
- Scorching heat
- Direct sun
- Deep snow
- High winds
- Heavy rains
These conditions are not only unpleasant, but also extremely dangerous. Especially getting wet at freezing temperature could cause serious illnesses such as hypothermia. Also high temperatures and direct sun light could be fatal. Especially in when in a desert body gets quickly dehydrated.
Most importantly, prepare in advance. Decide your ultimate evacuation destination, and build hidden survival shelter there with water and survival food stockpile.
Again, prepare in advance, make sure your bug out bag includes tent, tarpaulins and clothes, rain wear etc.
If you find yourself in the middle of wilderness without any shelter, regardless of your preparations, you need to know how to build a shelter, and where to build it.
- Try find a natural area that’s protected from wind and rain. Look at around, what is there? Is there any caves, outcrops, large burrows or other natural formations that could be used as a shelter? Remember, if it’s winter, snow cave is a good alternative, and you could even dig it yourself, or your could build an Igloo.
- Find optimal place to build shelter, use natural things such as big rocks etc. as a part of shelter. Those could offer shield against winds and make your shelter more durable.
- Use debris to build a shelter if you are without a tarp, or can’t find any natural shelter.
- If terrain is suitable for digging, you could build dug out survival shelter. It takes some energy to move earth, and shovel or similar survival tool would be extremely handy such a situation.
- If you are for any reason unable to find or create actual shelter, make sure to use what nature offers at least as some kind of shield against wind or direct sun etc. It could be tree, big rock or anything which gives a bit of protection.
Below is a quite good video of building a survival shelter with natural materials in the forest.
Making a Fire without Lighter
It is essential to know how to start a fire in wilderness, it could be even the life saver as it provides us most importantly heat and light. Fire could be used for cooking, disinfecting water by boiling and even for messaging without electronic gadgets and food preservation.
Let’s go through these things to fully understand why the skill to make a fire in all situations is so essential survival skill.
- Hypothermia is a condition that may come up in freezing or low temperature locations, additionally when you are on soaked clothing. With heat from the fire, your life can be saved or at least you could avoid serious illness. Heat keeps us warm and also helps to dry up the clothes.
- Heat is essential way to destroy bacteria and parasites in meat and other food.
- With the light from the fire at night, you can use it to signal at night just like the smoke would also do in the day. Light from fire lightens up the whole place to scare wild animals away.
- Raw meats can be smoked with the smoke resulting from the fire. This is an old food preservation technique. Smoke is also known to be effective in protecting against mosquitoes.
You need to make sure that you have in bug out bag etc. places enough matches, lighters etc. fire making tools. But what if you don’t have those or you will run out of matches or gas in long lasting situation? Making fire in the wilderness without lighter or matches is essential basic survival skill.
Let’s take a look on different fire making techniques without lighters etc.
- You can make fire using friction. You can create hand drill or bow drill.
- You can use flint rock, i.e. rock that emits sparks and steel i.e. for example your survival knife.
- Make sure that your bug out bag includes magnifying glass. You could make easily fire using it when sun shines. You can also use reflector from flashlight or even bottom of soda can to get fire started.
- You can use batteries for example from cell phone or flashlight to create sparks and start a fire.
Be sure to read our article how to make a fire in wilderness for more detailed information.
Watch the video below and learn how to start a fire without matches with bow drill.
Know your way back – know how to use compass and how to navigate without compass
In many cases survival situation starts because of people just get lost.You can get lost while trekking, your plane could crash in the middle of nowhere, you could get lost while training survival skills, hunting or you can find yourself just wandering around in the suicide forest.
There’s place called Aokigahara forest, also known as, “suicide forest” in Japan. It’s actually beautiful, but spooky wild forest next to the Fuji mountain. However, it’s a bit sad place as there’s long tradition that people go to the forest and commit a suicide. However, some of them are not yet sure if they really want to do it, but they go forward anyway. Unfortunately for many, it is too late to change the mind as they get lost, and starve or freeze to death -because of they can’t find way back to the civilization.
Some of those who are still unsure about their intentions leave extremely long rope behind while walking to deeper and deeper. They hope that they will find way back by following the rope in the case they change their mind. That’s actually the only thing that helps you back from the forest, if you don’t have any basic survival skills. You might wonder why they just don’t call help using cell phone, or navigate using some app or use even real compass? That’s because suicide forest is really tricky and spooky place – cell phones doesn’t work there, and as simple equipment as compass doesn’t work there. There’s no network available, because of earth contains magnetic rocks. Those iron rich rocks also disturbs compasses so badly, that they are useless – showing random directions.
Maybe that was a bit extreme example, but it’s real. You need to know how to find your way back without compass, apps or map. Maybe you are not planning a trip to the suicide forest, but as a survivalist, you might be visiting forest desert, mountains etc. beautiful places quite often. Can you guess how many people get lost every year while hunting, trekking or just enjoying nature in the wilderness? Sadly, some of them die. So, it’s better to be prepared and know always how to find your way back.
People have been able to find their way through history. Animals are also good on that. Nature has provided different ways to navigate regardless where you are. You need just to learn how to navigate using nature.
Of course as usual, make sure that your go out bag includes relevant maps, and compass. And make sure that you know how to navigate using compass & map or just compass alone. But you don’t always have those available, or maybe compass does not work, just like in Aokigahara forest. Maybe mobile networks are down or those does not cover the area where you are, or maybe your phone runs out of power. In a such case, it’s time to use your survival skills to navigate.
- Use shadow-tip method. I.e. use the shadow of a stick or any fixed object. Make a scratch in the ground. Wait 10 – 15 minutes that the shadow moves from west to east. Make another scratch there. Draw a straight line in the ground between the two scratches. This is an east-west line. Now stand with the first mark on your left, and the other on your right. Now you are facing toward true north! That works regardless of where you are in the world.
- Navigate using stars
- navigate estimating the Sun’s path
- Use landmarks to stay on the course
Watch the video below and learn how to find direction without a compass.
With these basic navigation skills to be lost does not mean that the world ends, you will be able to find your way back.
Making survival signals for rescuers to locate you or communicate with other survivors
You could find yourself in the middle of wilderness, far away from civilization amid plane crash, car accident, or maybe you just got lost. In a such case it would be extremely important to be able to know how to make basic signals to help rescuers to find you. Or maybe it’s a real mess, real SHTF, maybe you have been just forced to evacuate to your survival shelter, and need to get in touch with other possible survivors.
If you are waiting for rescuers, remember that it’s extremely difficult to spot a small object such as human from far away. It’s very hard to see human from plane or any vehicle, especially if you are in the middle of forest or other terrain obscuring line of sight or in worst case effectively camouflaging you. You should make it as easy as possible for rescuers to find you. You could try the following things:
- If you can’t get call through, try send text message, it could go through.
- Move to the more open place, from where you will be more easily spotted. Go to the top of hill, or any open area.
- Try to create some kind of a visible mark on the ground using wood, rocks or anything. You could even write help with super sized letters done of rocks etc.Unnatural structures are easy to spot from the plane. Straight lines and 90 degree corners are more unnatural than circular forms. Use contrast, for example dark materials against white background such as snow (dig a trench), or use orange / yellow tent against green background (one reason why your tent in bug out bag should be reversible with another side camouflaged and another bright orange / yellow). You want to make your mark as big as possible.
- You can also build a flag pole and use your shirt as a flag.
- Start a fire and keep it burning. At night it’s easy to see far away. It could help even at day time as fire produces a lot of heat which is very well visible on infrared cameras. For example, some rescue helicopters are equipped with thermal imaging systems.
- Use smoke, its visible far more away than fire. Put green material on the top of fire to generate more smoke. You can use leaves, pine boughs, branches and grass.
- If rescuers are near use movements such as vigorous arm waves. Those could help to spot you.
Now it’s time to start sending signals. The signal must be recognized as an intelligent signal, and not obscured to something natural. The same principles apply, if you are trying to establish contact with other survivors. The same methods works also as a communication method between far away locations.If you have bug out group, you can agree with all members about signals what to use. You can use the following signaling methods to get noticed and / or communicate with far away people.
- Use flashlight for sending signals if you have one available (as you should have at your bug out bag).
- Use reflections. You need something that reflects light. It could be a reflector from a flashlight or small signal mirror (which should be also in your bug out bag). Signal mirror has been spotted almost 100 miles away. You could also create reflections using space blanket (yes, it also should be at your bug out bag), aluminum foil, watches. etc. anything that reflects light.
- Use smoke signals. Just like native Indians used. Start a wire, if possible use wood that generates lot of smoke, and place some green material such as pine boughs, branches and grass at the top of fire as those generates a lot of smoke. Use small tarp or your jacket to create smoke signals.
- Heat signals are more sophisticated method, but those require that receiving party has some kind of equipment that could see heat. For example some sniper scopes, and night vision binoculars could be used for heat signal reading. You need just heat source, for example burning campfire and something you could use to block the heat quite the same way as sending smoke signals. Heat signals are also more discrete way of communication.
- Use noise. You can bang with a stick on a tree. You can use whistle (which should be at your bug out bag) or if you have a gun, you can shot from time to time. These noises carry far away.
Below is an excellent video to watch about signaling.
Real hardcore survivalists may have in their bug out bag even sea dye markers, flares, smoke grenades, even color smoke grenades, star parachute flares etc., and of course long range VHF / UHF hand held radio.
Gathering food to avoid starvation
Water, shelter (and sometimes trying to get help or navigating towards civilization) are usually the most urgent things. However, if the situation last, sooner or later comes the need for food. Human can survive quite long time without food, but you will get weak quite quickly without proper eating. Therefore you should consider the situation carefully. Is it going to last long? If it is, it’s time to start thinking also about food.
In the optimal situation, you have survival food stockpiled in your survival shelter, but unfortunately things does not go always optimal way. Of course you should have survival food packed also on your bug out bag, you can go quite long time with proper survival food. However, situation could last so long that you run out of your survival food or maybe you don’t have bug out bag with you.
To fully know what is required, you must know the nutrients required to stay in a good shape. Carbohydrates, proteins, fats, fibers, minerals and vitamins are all needed to survive. It’s not so complicated at all, below is a short list of nutrients and for what those are needed.
- Fats and carbohydrates provide required energy.
- Protein helps in muscle building and repairs
- Minerals and vitamins are important for effective body functioning.
- You need some forms of fiber to keep the body running properly.
The average male needs about 2500 calories, and women about 2000 calories daily. The question is how to get food in the wilderness, and does it contain the above mentioned substances at least in minimum required amounts?
It depends on the terrain how much there is food available. Desert conditions are among the worst, forests are the best, not to mention jungles, and seas. However, as long as we’re on the Earth’s surface, and no one have (yet) nuked the whole world, there’s food in the wilderness. Actually, if you take a positive attitude, wilderness is abundant source of food.
But it could be tricky, you need to know how to hunt, how to catch fish, and which fruits and plants etc. are eatable. It would be comical if you manage to survive harsh conditions, but ultimately manage to kill yourself by eating for example poisonous swamps. So, you need not only to know how to find food, but also what you can actually eat.
Below is a short wilderness menu:
- Fish, you can catch fish using traps, spears or hooks. Of course you need to find a lake, river or sea first.
- Berries, you can eat wild berries. Those are an excellent source of food. However, avoid white and yellow berries, as most of them are poisonous. Blue and black berries are probably edible.
- Plants, you can eat for example Asparagus, Burdock, Cattail, Clovers, Chicory, Chickweed, Curled Dock, Dandelion, Field Pennycress, Fireweed, Green Seaweed and White Mustard and plenty of other plants too. However, it’s essential to stay away from poisonous plants such as plants with bitter or soapy taste or plants with Almond” scent in the woody parts and leaves.
- Swamps, there’s huge number of edible swamps, but there’s also huge number of poisonous swamps. So, be carefully, and lear what you can eat beforehand.
- Small animals you can hunt with diy traps.
- Big animals you can hunt with gun, bow, survival knife or spear.
- Small and big birds you can hunt with traps or bow.
If you don’t know what plants you ca safely eat, you can use universal edibility test to identify edible wild plants.
Positive survival attitude
At the last but not the least you need to maintain positive attitude and be strongly engaged to survive whet ever comes. Some hardcore survivalists and army veterans argue, that the attitude is the most important thing what it comes to if you are going to survive or not. Of course attitude can’t replace basic survival skills, but together skills it makes you strong, you become survivor, no doubt about that.
With these skills, you can build shelter, have water, heating, and food. When all it’s arranged, you can start enjoying about the wilderness. Cook for yourself some delicious food, and have a small party alone or with other survivors. It’s going to get better! So, be sure to cultivate the mindset of staying alive.
SurvivalGearArmory.com’s secret sauce for surviving in the wilderness are the above six basic survival skills and strong survival attitude. You can make it, what ever the situation is, and where ever you are.