5 Critical Wilderness Survival Skills

5 Critical Wilderness Survival Skills

You can't always be prepared for every situation, but you can arm yourself with enough basic knowledge to maximize the odds of surviving a life-or-death situation in the wilderness.  A few simple skills and a basic survival kit can be the difference between death and survival.
Even a highly educated survivalist is at risk of peril if the odds are stacked against them or they are ill-prepared for the situation.  Mother Nature can easily provide multiple challenges or obstacles that can quickly overwhelm even the best of the best.  The uneducated or underprepared are at the highest risk of succumbing to their circumstance.

People can spend years learning survival skills and still find themselves lacking in a real situation. Ultimately, knowledge and being prepared are both critical to your survival and it is always better to rely on these rather than to rely on luck.  The tips below will not guarantee your safety if you are lost in the wilderness however, implementing them can help you be a better survivalist or at the very least help make an unbearable situation just a little easier.  Any time that you choose to go into the wilderness, you are solely responsible for your own safety and are at the mercy of your knowledge and intellect.  Therefore, arming yourself with as much information and knowledge as you can absorb is always a benefit to you and your survival.

Below are 5 Critical Wilderness Survival Skills:

FIRE - Fire Building skills in any weather condition or climate using multiple methods.

Being able and capable of making a fire in a survival situation is important, not only for the purpose of heat in cold climates, but also it has many other uses.  If you are lost and waiting for rescue, fire and its smoke can be used as a signaling device for rescuers.  Other uses include cooking food, purifying water, drying your clothes or bedding, protection from wild animals, Light during the night-time hours, and many more. 

You should always carry multiple methods of making fire.  Matches are nice but you will eventually run out and they could fail in wet weather. We recommend that you also carry an All Weather Magnesium Fire Starter.  They are cheap to buy and can easily be tucked into any pocket. 

For fire, you will need wood and lots of it. It is always a good idea to keep this in mind when you are picking an area to call home while you await rescue.  Choose a spot where there is plenty of wood close by and easy to get to.  This is also a consideration for the materials to build your shelter. When building your fire, make it only as big as you need to conserve firewood.  When collecting firewood, collect as much as you think you will need then double it.  You don't want to run out in the middle of the night.

Lastly, know how to use your fire-building tools. Practice with them at home and learn their abilities and limitations.  Know your own limitations with them.  Don't wait until you are lost, cold, wet, and ten minutes from dark to try to figure out how the tools work. For other information about fires and fire building, read our article "Cold Weather Survival".

SHELTER - Multiple types of shelter-building skills in any environment or climate.

There are many types of Primitive Shelters and it is important to build the right shelter for the climate and environment that you are in.  Building the right type of shelter can make the difference between being cold or freezing to death. The biggest mistake that people make when building a shelter is making it too large. Always build the shelter just big enough to get inside out of the weather.  You want to utilize your body heat to help warm the shelter so you want to keep it as small as possible.

Utilize existing landscape features when possible.  Building your shelter next to a rock wall can help to reflect heat and also retain residual heat from the daytime hours.  Never build your shelter next to a body of water, or near dead trees that may fall on you during a wind storm. Try to avoid game trails or areas that large animals may frequent. 

Learn the various types of primitive shelters at home before you need to build one. Take time to research the pros and cons of each one so that you can make an informed decision when the time comes. Spend some time in the woods and practice so that you are confident in your ability.  For more information on Shelters and other skills read our article on "Cold Weather Survival".

WATER - Water Procurement and Purification using multiple methods.

The ability to keep your body hydrated can be difficult when you are lost in the wilderness but is of the utmost importance.  The human body can survive weeks without food but only a few days without water. Proper hydration is oftentimes overlooked and can lead to many health issues including death.  Therefore, having the knowledge to procure and purify water is critical to your survival.

In the wilderness, water is usually pretty easy to find in rivers, lakes, streams, or springs, but clean water is another story altogether.  There are plenty of waterborne parasites and bacteria that can make a bad situation even worse so it is important to purify water that could potentially be infected.  The pacific northwest is host to many of these parasites and bacteria including Cryptosporidium, and Giardia.
These can knock a person down for days if not permanently.  Some can however be rendered safe with basic purification methods such as boiling or purification tablets. Study up and know the risks before drinking or before treating any water that you plan to drink.  It could save your life. For more information read our article on "Water Procurement in the Wilderness".

FIRST AID - Knowledge of basic first-aid for minor treatments.

It would be nice to have an EMT with you every time you go hiking or backpacking but that just isn't realistic unless you are one yourself.  Since most of us are not, knowing some basic first aid is a must, and having an adequate survival first aid kit is just as important. The only thing worse than being stranded in the wilderness is to be stranded and injured.

You can pick up a good first aid kit for little cost and keep it in your survival bag or pack.  Generally, they don't have provisions to doctor major wounds or injuries, but they do have other items that can come in handy to treat yourself or others if the need arises.  Knowing CPR is also a great skill to have under your belt to assist others that may be with you. 

SIGNALING FOR HELP - Multiple Methods in various conditions and environments.

Most of the time, a rescue team will search an area and then mark it "Complete" to move on to other areas.  This means that you may only have one chance of being rescued from that area.  So it's critical to get their attention when they are in your area.  Signaling for help can be done using various methods.  It is imperative that you use the most effective method(s) for the area that you are in.  Using multiple methods at the same time will increase your chances of being seen by rescuers.  Be sure that you have them ready to go, such as wood for signal fires or smoke signals. For additional information read our article on "Signaling for Help".

The Conclusion

The best way to protect yourself from becoming a statistic while on a wilderness outing is to prepare yourself before leaving your house.  Take the time to learn about the area where you are going. Buy yourself a small backpack and supply it with the basic survival items and then never leave home without it.  Know how to use each item and practice with them ahead of time.  Don't wait until you are sitting in the rain with only a few minutes of daylight left to try to figure out how a firestarter works.  

Above all, keep your head on straight at all times, and no matter how bad the situation seems, never panic.  If you have prepared properly, then help will be on the way and you will have the tools to survive until they reach you.       

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