Top 7 Basic Survival Skills Everyone Needs to Know

basic survival skills

Do you have an upcoming outdoor adventure?

From figuring out the right clothes to pack, to choosing the right outdoor gear, to learning about your destination, there’s a lot that goes into planning an outdoor adventure.

However, there’s one thing that many people neglect to do before embarking on an outdoor adventure: learning basic survival skills.

Whether you’re a veteran survivalist or you’re a complete beginner, there are some survival skills that absolutely everyone should know.

What are these skills?

Read on to learn the top seven basic survival skills everyone needs to know.

1. Starting a Fire

When people think of basic survival skills, starting a fire is usually the first thing that comes to mind.

However, many TV shows and movies perpetuate the misconception that starting a fire is nearly impossible. Therefore, many people think they shouldn’t bother learning this skill.

But, if you know what you’re doing, starting a fire can be fairly easy.

A fire can warm your body, boil your water, and cook your food.

Here’s a brief explanation of how you execute this super important survival skill:

1. Gather dead, cracked branches from the ground (the drier the better)

2. Choose a few small branches to begin burning. The smaller the pile, the easier it is to burn.

3. Use a lighter, match, or friction to start the fire. Or, you can even get creative by burning some ants with a magnifying glass.

Building a fire can take time, so be patient and enjoy the process.

2. Finding Water and Purifying It

We can’t go very long without clean water in order to survive. Therefore, being able to find and purify water is one of the most important survival skills.

Usually, water coming from a stream is just fine.

However, if you find yourself in an extreme survival situation, you may have to resort to other sources of water.

If it is rainy, snowy, or dewy, you can use a bandana or t-shirt to capture drinking water. This is one of your safest bets in terms of purified water.

You can also ring out water from vines and certain types of cacti.

3. Building a Survival Shelter

Hypothermia is one of the most common reasons people die in remote survival situations.

Therefore, it is very important that you build a shelter so you don’t freeze to death.

Just like real estate, building a survival shelter is all about choosing the right location. The most important thing is to stay away from low-lying areas, such as a spot next to a river or stream. This is because flash floods can occur at any moment.

The ideal spot is one that’s on high ground and that’s blocked from the wind.

The simplest shelter to build will involve stacking branches in a tent-like formation.

Stack branches next to one another and use vines to tie them together. Then, create a 4 to 6 inch insulated bedding made of pine straws, leaves, and other debris.

If you’re with other people, be sure to cuddle in the shelter for extra warmth.

4. Finding Food

Humans can actually survive several weeks without food.

However, if you’re in a survival situation, food is extremely important for keeping your mind and body sharp.

Whether you’re trying to navigate your way back to safety or signal for help, food provides you with the energy you need to get moving.

If you’re completely out of food, you can turn to nature. Here are a few things you can safely eat:


These are the long, green plants with brown heads that you often see growing out of swamps.

You can safely eat the pollen heads, shoots, and roots.

Oak Tree

If you’re near an oak tree, you’re in luck. The acorns from oak trees are completely edible.

However, you first need to remove the tannic acid. You can do this by boiling the acorns. After you boil them once, dump the brown water out and boil again. Keep repeating this process until the water you dump is no longer brown.


Commonly known as evergreens, conifers are another source of food in survival situations.

Pull out the inner bark for a great source of calories and starches.

5. Treating Injuries

Getting hurt during a survival situation is very common.

And, unless you have a first aid kit on hand, you will need to know how to treat the injuries using mother nature.

Here are some plants you can make use of:

  • Yarrow: Treats large cuts, pain, and infection
  • White Pine: Treats small cuts and splinters
  • Plantain: Treats small cuts, infections, and scrapes
  • Sanicle: Treats bruises, infections, small and large cuts
  • Bonest: Treats small cuts and scrapes

6. Navigating Your Way Back to Safety

Sometimes, all you need to do is navigate your way back to safety to get out of a dangerous survival situation.

The best way to navigate back to safety is through the use of a compass. However, if you don’t have a compass on hand, you’ll have to resort to plan B.

You can either try walking to higher land, in order to see more of your surroundings. Or, if you are on sloped land, making your way downhill will be your best bet.

You can also use the sun to navigate. Find a straight, 3-foot stick and place it in tall ground. Mark the top of the shadow, and then mark it again 15 minutes later. The first mark should be to the west of the second. From this, you can figure out south, east and north.

7. Signaling for Help

Oftentimes, a rescue team is your best hope for making it to safety.

Therefore, it’s very important to know how to signal for help.

There are many safety signals you can purchase such as a whistle, a flare gun, or a flag. You can learn more about these devices here.

If these options are not available, you can build a fire to signal for help. You can create a whistle out of a tree branch. Or, you can use a mirror to send a reflective signal, which can reach up to 10 miles.

Ready to Put These Basic Survival Skills to the Test?

Whether you plan to travel deep into the woods or not, these basic survival skills are very important for everyone to learn.

After all, you never know when you’re going to find yourself in a dangerous survival predicament.

If you have any questions about these basic survival skills, please comment below.

And, don’t let these survival scenarios scare you off from enjoying the outdoors. Spending time outdoors offers many benefits, which you can learn about here.