Imagine finding yourself in a daunting situation where your survival instinct kicks in. You’re lost in the wilderness, stranded in a remote location, or facing a natural disaster. What would you do? This article on “Survival Skills 101: Basic Techniques Everyone Should Know” offers valuable insight into essential techniques that can help you navigate through challenging circumstances. From building a shelter, starting a fire, finding clean water, to foraging for food, these basic survival skills are crucial for anyone who wishes to be prepared for the unexpected. So, strap in and get ready to learn the fundamental techniques that could save your life.

Shelter Building

Choosing a Location

When it comes to shelter building, the first step is choosing a suitable location. You want to find a spot that provides protection from the elements, offers good visibility, and is close to available resources. Look for an area with natural features such as trees or rocks that can act as additional barriers against wind and rain. Avoid low-lying areas that can become flooded during heavy rainfall. Remember to consider safety as well – avoid areas with the potential for falling branches or rocks.

Types of Shelters

There are various types of shelters you can build depending on your situation and available resources. Some common types include lean-tos, debris shelters, and tarp shelters. Lean-tos are simple structures that lean against a tree or a rock, providing protection from the wind and rain. Debris shelters are built using natural materials such as branches, leaves, and moss, to create a makeshift shelter. Tarp shelters utilize a tarp or a waterproof sheet to provide quick and effective protection from the elements.

Building a Shelter

To build a shelter, start by collecting sturdy branches or logs as the framework. Lay the branches against a tree or use them to create a basic structure. Then, layer smaller branches and leaves to create a thatched roof. Make sure to leave a small opening for ventilation to prevent condensation inside the shelter. Test the stability of your shelter by gently pushing against the walls to ensure it can withstand moderate winds.

Improving Insulation

Insulation is key to staying warm in a shelter. One way to improve insulation is by adding a layer of debris, such as leaves or grass, between the framework and the roof. This extra layer helps to trap heat and create a more comfortable interior. Another method is to line the walls of your shelter with natural materials like moss, which acts as a natural insulator. Pay attention to the ventilation of your shelter, as condensation can occur in poorly ventilated spaces.


Waterproofing your shelter is crucial to staying dry during rainfall. If you’re using natural materials, such as leaves or branches, for your shelter, make sure to layer them densely to prevent water from seeping through. If you’re using a tarp or a waterproof sheet, secure it tightly and ensure there are no gaps where water can leak in. Consider elevating the base of your shelter slightly to prevent pooling of water. Use available materials, such as rocks or logs, to create a barrier or gutter to divert rainwater away from your shelter.

Fire Starting

Collecting Firewood

Before starting a fire, you need to collect sufficient firewood. Look for dry twigs, branches, and logs that are easily combustible. Deadwood that is off the ground is ideal, as it tends to be drier. Start with smaller twigs and gradually work your way up to larger logs. Gather more firewood than you think you’ll need, as having an ample supply ensures you can maintain the fire for a longer duration.

Building a Fire Pit

A fire pit provides a designated area for your fire, reducing the risk of it spreading uncontrollably. Choose a spot away from any flammable materials, such as dry grass or leaves. Clear out the area and create a shallow pit, around one foot deep, and surround it with rocks or stones. This helps to contain the fire and prevents it from spreading. Make sure there is sufficient airflow by leaving gaps between the stones for the fire to breathe.

Survival Skills 101: Basic Techniques Everyone Should Know

Choosing the Right Fire Starter

There are several fire-starting tools you can use, including matches, lighters, and fire strikers. Matches and lighters are commonly found in survival kits. However, in a wilderness situation, it might be advantageous to have a fire striker or flint and steel. These tools create sparks when struck against a hard surface, igniting the tinder and starting your fire. Practice using these tools before you find yourself in a survival situation, as they can be more challenging to use than matches or lighters.

Lighting a Fire

To light a fire, start by gathering tinder, such as dry leaves, twigs, or even birch bark, which ignites easily. Arrange your tinder in a loose nest-like structure to allow for proper airflow. Use your fire starter to create sparks and ignite the tinder. Once the tinder catches fire, gradually add smaller twigs and sticks to build it up. As the fire grows, you can add larger logs. Remember to constantly feed the fire with fuel to keep it burning.

Maintaining a Fire

Proper fire maintenance is crucial to ensure it continues to burn efficiently and provide the heat and light you need. Add fuel gradually, starting with smaller twigs and gradually moving to larger logs. Avoid smothering the fire with too much fuel, as this can extinguish it. Pay attention to the airflow and adjust the position of the logs if necessary. Keep an eye on the fire at all times and never leave it unattended, as it is essential for warmth and signaling for help if needed.

Finding and Purifying Water

Locating Water Sources

Finding a water source is vital for survival. Look for nearby freshwater sources such as rivers, streams, or lakes. If you are in a desert or arid environment, keep an eye out for signs of hidden water, such as lush vegetation or animal tracks leading to potential water sources. Be cautious when drinking from standing water, as it may be contaminated. When in doubt, it’s best to prioritize collecting water from running sources, as they are less likely to contain harmful bacteria.

Water Collection Techniques

There are various techniques you can use to collect water in the wilderness. One simple method is to use a container to scoop water from a water source. If you don’t have a container, you can create one from natural materials such as large leaves or hollowed-out logs. Another technique is to dig a hole near a water source and wait for the hole to fill with water from the surrounding soil. You can also tie a plastic bag around a leafy tree branch to collect dew overnight.

Methods of Water Purification

Drinking untreated water in the wilderness can lead to waterborne illnesses. To make water safe for consumption, you must purify it. Boiling is the most effective method for killing harmful bacteria and parasites. Bring the water to a rolling boil for at least one minute, or three minutes at higher altitudes. Another method is using water purification tablets or drops, which contain chemicals that kill microorganisms. Follow the instructions carefully to ensure effective purification.

Emergency Water Filtration

In emergency situations where you don’t have access to fire or purification tablets, you can create a makeshift water filter using layers of natural materials. Start with a container to hold the dirty water. Layer charcoal, sand, and gravel in the container to act as a filtration system. Let the water slowly drip through the layers, and collect the filtered water in another container. While this method doesn’t eliminate all potential contaminants, it can significantly improve the water’s quality.

Survival Skills 101: Basic Techniques Everyone Should Know

Creating a Solar Still

A solar still is a technique that uses the sun’s heat to collect and purify water. Dig a hole in the ground and place a container in the center. Surround the container with moist vegetation, such as leaves or grass. Cover the hole with a clear plastic sheet, making sure it is tightly secured. The sun’s heat causes condensation, which collects on the plastic and drips into the container, providing you with purified water. This method is especially useful in areas with limited water sources.

Obtaining Food

Identifying Edible Plants

Knowing how to identify edible plants is crucial for obtaining food in the wild. While it’s best to learn from an experienced guide or reference book, there are a few universal edible plants to keep in mind. Dandelion leaves, cattail roots, and wild berries are common examples found in many regions. Always be cautious and avoid plants with thorns, bitter tastes, or milky sap, as they can be poisonous. When in doubt, it’s best to err on the side of caution and avoid consuming an unknown plant.

Hunting and Trapping

Hunting and trapping animals can provide a valuable source of protein in a survival situation. Learning basic trapping techniques, such as making simple snares or deadfalls, can significantly increase your chances of catching small game. Research the local wildlife and their habits to better understand where and when to set traps. Hunting with improvised weapons like spears or bows requires practice and skill, but it can be an effective way to catch larger animals.

Fishing Techniques

Fishing is a reliable method of obtaining food in many wilderness areas. Improvise fishing gear using items found in nature, such as sticks, rocks, and natural fibers. You can fashion a simple fishing rod using a long straight branch, attach a line made from twisted plant fibers, and make a hook from a bone, thorn, or improvised metal. Learn basic fishing techniques such as casting, setting the hook, and reeling in the fish to increase your chances of a successful catch.

Gathering Insects and Other Invertebrates

Insects and other invertebrates can be an excellent source of protein in a survival situation. Familiarize yourself with edible insect species in your area, as some insects can be toxic. Look for easily accessible insects such as ants, grasshoppers, and larvae. Check under logs and rocks, or near bodies of water, where many insects reside. Cook insects thoroughly to kill potential parasites or bacteria. Remember, it’s crucial to avoid brightly colored insects or those with strong odors, as they are often a sign of toxicity.

Preservation Methods

When you manage to obtain food, it’s important to preserve it to prevent spoilage and waste. Smoking, drying, and curing are common methods used to preserve meat and fish. Smoking involves exposing the food to smoke from a fire, which helps to dehydrate and preserve it. Drying food under the sun or using hot rocks removes moisture, making it less susceptible to spoilage. Curing involves using salts, vinegar, or other natural preservatives to extend the lifespan of the food. These methods can be essential when food sources are scarce.

Navigating With and Without a Compass

Understanding Basic Map Reading

Basic map reading skills are essential for navigating the wilderness effectively. Familiarize yourself with the symbols and legends commonly found on maps. Learn to interpret contour lines to understand the elevations and terrain features of an area. Practice using a compass rose to determine the directions on the map. Understand how to use scale and coordinates to measure distances accurately. These skills will help you navigate and make informed decisions about route planning and identifying landmarks.

Survival Skills 101: Basic Techniques Everyone Should Know

Using a Compass

A compass is an invaluable tool for wilderness navigation. Familiarize yourself with the basic parts of a compass, including the magnetic needle, bezel, and orienting arrow. Learn how to take a bearing by aligning the magnetic needle with the orienting arrow. Use the bezel to measure angles and follow a specific direction. When navigating, keep the compass away from any magnetic objects such as electronic devices or metal objects, as they can interfere with its accuracy.

Navigating by the Stars

The stars have been used as a navigation aid for centuries. Learn to identify key constellations, such as the North Star (Polaris), which remains relatively stationary in the night sky. The North Star can help you determine your approximate north direction when there are no other reference points available. Familiarize yourself with other celestial bodies, such as the moon and planets, which can also assist with navigation. Learning celestial navigation can be challenging but can prove invaluable in wilderness situations.

Creating Natural Landmarks

If you find yourself without a compass or any navigation tools, you can create natural landmarks to help guide your way. Look for distinctive features in the landscape, such as rock formations or clusters of trees, that you can easily recognize. Use these landmarks as reference points to orient yourself and maintain a general sense of direction. Be aware that these landmarks may change over time, so it’s important to keep evaluating their reliability.

Dead Reckoning

Dead reckoning is a method of estimating your current position based on a previously known position and your estimated speed and direction of travel. Start by identifying a landmark or reference point and noting your starting position. Then, use a compass or natural features to maintain a consistent heading. Estimate your pace and the distance covered to calculate your rough position along your intended route. Dead reckoning is a useful technique when navigating through dense vegetation or areas with limited visibility.

Basic First Aid

Assessing the Situation

When faced with a first aid situation, it’s important to assess the situation and prioritize care. Determine the severity of the injury or illness and address life-threatening conditions first. Ensure your own safety before providing aid to others. Evaluate the patient’s responsiveness, breathing, and circulation. Look for any visible injuries or signs of distress. Gathering as much information as possible, considering the available resources, and making informed decisions will help you provide effective first aid.

Treating Cuts and Wounds

Treating cuts and wounds promptly can prevent infection and promote healing. Clean the affected area with clean water or antiseptic wipes if available. Apply direct pressure to stop bleeding, using a sterile bandage or cloth. Cover the wound with a clean dressing or bandage, securing it in place. Monitor the wound for signs of infection, such as redness, swelling, or pus. Seek medical attention if the wound is deep, gaping, or won’t stop bleeding.

Dealing with Sprains and Fractures

In the wilderness, sprains and fractures can occur due to falls or accidents. Begin by applying the R.I.C.E. method – Rest, Ice, Compression, and Elevation. Encourage the injured person to rest and avoid putting weight on the injured limb. Apply a cold pack or immerse the injured area in cold water to reduce swelling. Use a compression bandage or improvised splint to stabilize the injury. Elevate the injured limb above heart level to minimize swelling. Seek medical help as soon as possible to ensure proper treatment.

Survival Skills 101: Basic Techniques Everyone Should Know

Handling Insect Bites and Stings

Insect bites and stings can cause discomfort and, in some cases, allergic reactions. If stung by a bee or wasp, remove the stinger by gently scraping it with a credit card or your fingernail. Wash the affected area with soap and water, and apply a cold compress or ice pack to reduce swelling. For mosquito or tick bites, clean the area and apply an anti-itch cream or calamine lotion to relieve itching. If you experience severe symptoms or an allergic reaction, seek medical attention immediately.

CPR and Rescue Breathing

Knowing CPR (Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation) and rescue breathing techniques can be lifesaving in emergency situations. Start by checking for responsiveness and calling for help. If the person is unresponsive and not breathing, begin chest compressions by positioning your hands on the center of the chest and pressing down firmly. Perform compressions at a rate of 100-120 compressions per minute. If trained in rescue breathing, perform rescue breaths after every 30 compressions. Continue CPR until help arrives or the person shows signs of life.

Signaling for Help

Creating Visible Signals

When in need of rescue, creating visible signals can increase your chances of being spotted by search parties. Use available materials like brightly colored clothing or objects to attract attention. Lay out a large “X” or “SOS” symbol on the ground using rocks, branches, or any other visible materials. Hang clothing or reflective materials on tree branches. Create smoke signals by smothering a small fire with green leaves or grass, producing dense smoke. These visible signals can significantly increase your chances of being noticed.

Sounding Audible Signals

In addition to visible signals, sounding audible signals can help attract attention in emergency situations. Carry a whistle or a signaling mirror in your survival kit. Use three short whistle blasts or flashes of light from the mirror to signal for help. If you don’t have a whistle or mirror, shout for help periodically. Make sure to conserve your energy and avoid shouting excessively, as it can lead to dehydration or exhaustion.

Using Smoke Signals

Smoke signals can be an effective way to communicate your location to rescuers during the day. Build a small fire using dry materials, and once the fire is established, smother it with green leaves or grass to produce thick smoke. Allow the smoke to billow upwards, making sure it stands out against the background. Use the smoke to create a signal pattern, such as three quick puffs followed by a short pause, to convey your presence or an emergency situation.

Using Mirrors or Reflective Objects

Mirrors or reflective objects can be powerful signaling tools in the wilderness. In clear weather conditions, use the mirror to reflect sunlight towards potential search aircraft or ground rescuers. Hold the mirror close to your eye and aim the reflected light towards the intended target. Move the mirror slowly to create flashes of light that catch attention. If you don’t have a mirror, any reflective surface, such as aluminum foil or CDs, can be used as a makeshift signaling device.

Creating SOS Patterns

An SOS pattern is a universally recognized distress signal that can attract attention from rescue personnel or passing aircraft. Use large rocks, logs, branches, or any other contrasting material available to create the distinctive SOS pattern on the ground or an open area. Space the letters about three times the height and width of each letter for optimum visibility. Maintain the pattern, refreshing it if necessary, until help arrives or you are rescued.

Making Basic Tools and Weapons

Survival Skills 101: Basic Techniques Everyone Should Know

Crafting a Hunting Spear

A hunting spear can be a valuable tool for catching small game or for self-defense. Find a straight and sturdy branch as the main shaft of the spear. Sharpen one end using a knife or a sharp rock to create a spearhead. Secure the spearhead to the shaft by tightly binding it with natural fibers or cordage. Test the stability and sharpness of your spear before use and handle it with caution.

Building a Survival Bow

A survival bow can increase your chances of successfully hunting larger game. Find a strong and flexible branch for the main body of the bow. Use cordage or flexible vegetation to attach the bowstring to both ends of the branch. Arrows can be made from straight and sturdy sticks, sharpened at one end and fletched with feathers or improvised materials for stabilization during flight. Practice your shooting technique to improve accuracy and increase hunting efficiency.

Making Rope and Cordage

Rope and cordage are essential for various survival tasks, such as shelter building, trapping, or securing items. Natural fibers, such as plant stalks or tree bark, can be used to create sturdy rope or cordage. Harvest long and flexible fibers, twist them together, and continue twisting until you achieve the desired thickness and strength. Alternatively, you can braid smaller fibers together to create a similar effect. Experiment with different plants and fibers to find the most suitable materials for your needs.

Creating Stone Blades

Stone blades can be used for various tasks, including cutting, carving, or scraping. Look for suitable stones with a sharp edge and a strong structure. Use a larger stone or hammer to strike the edge of the chosen stone, flaking off small chips to create a razor-like edge. Remember to wear appropriate safety gloves and eye protection, as creating stone blades can be hazardous. Sharpen and refine your stone blades using smooth rocks or sandpaper to increase their effectiveness.

Constructing a Fishing Spear

A fishing spear is an effective tool for catching fish in shallow water or small bodies of water. Find a sturdy branch or stake for the main body of the spear. Sharpen one end to create a spearhead with multiple prongs. Secure the spearhead to the shaft by tightly binding it with natural fibers or cordage. Use the spear by thrusting it into the water and aiming for the fish. Be patient and observe the fish’s behavior to increase your chances of a successful catch.

Creating DIY Survival Kits

Essential Items for Survival Kits

A well-equipped survival kit can make a difference in a wilderness survival situation. Some essential items to include are a knife or multi-tool, a compass, waterproof matches or a lighter, a whistle, a signaling mirror, a first aid kit, a water purification method, a flashlight, extra batteries, and a compact emergency shelter such as a space blanket or tarp. Consider adding other items specific to your needs and the region in which you will be traveling.

Choosing a Suitable Container

Choosing the right container for your survival kit is crucial for keeping your items organized and protected. Opt for a sturdy and waterproof container, such as a durable plastic box or a waterproof bag. It should be compact and lightweight to ensure easy portability. Consider adding multiple compartments or small bags within the container to keep items organized and easily accessible. Remember to regularly check and replenish your survival kit to ensure that items are in working order and not expired.

Including Fire-Starting Tools

Fire is a crucial element in survival situations, so including fire-starting tools in your kit is essential. Pack waterproof matches, a lighter, or a fire striker to ensure you can ignite a fire in various weather conditions. Consider adding fire-starting tinder, such as cotton balls coated in petroleum jelly or commercially available fire starters, to increase your chances of successfully starting a fire. Familiarize yourself with using these tools before an emergency situation arises.

Water and Food Procurement Tools

Water and food procurement tools are vital for sustaining yourself during a survival scenario. Include water purification tablets or drops to make water safe for consumption. Pack lightweight fishing gear, such as hooks, fishing line, and small lures or flies, for obtaining food from water sources. Lightweight cooking utensils or mess kits can be valuable when preparing food. Don’t forget to include a collapsible water container for collecting and storing water.

First Aid Supplies

A comprehensive first aid kit is crucial for treating injuries and preventing infections. Include bandages, adhesive tape, antiseptic wipes, gauze pads, tweezers, and scissors. Pack necessary medications, such as painkillers and antihistamines, as well as any personal prescription medications. Include a basic first aid handbook or reference guide to provide guidance in emergency situations. Regularly check and replenish your first aid supplies to ensure their effectiveness.

Building and Using Temporary Tools

Creating a Shelter Toolkit

A shelter toolkit helps streamline the construction process and ensures you have the necessary tools readily available. Include a small folding saw or wire saw for cutting branches or logs. Pack a compact shovel or trowel for digging holes and clearing debris. Include a hammer or hatchet for pounding stakes or splitting wood. Don’t forget to add a roll of strong cordage or rope for securing structures. Consider the specific needs of your shelter construction and adjust your toolkit accordingly.

Crafting Utensils and Cookware

When in a survival situation, improvising utensils and cookware becomes necessary for meal preparation. Carve wooden utensils, such as spoons or chopsticks, from sturdy branches or pieces of wood. Use stones or flat pieces of wood as improvised cutting boards. Fashion lids or covers for cooking pots or containers using large leaves or pieces of bark. Improvise improvised pots or containers using hollowed-out logs or large seashells. Creativity and resourcefulness are key when crafting utensils and cookware in the wilderness.

Building Simple Hunting Traps

Hunting traps can provide a reliable source of food when other methods are not feasible. Learn how to build simple traps such as snares or deadfalls. Snares are made by creating a looped snare line and placing it in an area where animals are likely to pass through. Deadfalls involve creating a mechanism that will crush or trap the animal when triggered. Study the behavior and habits of local wildlife to increase your chances of successfully trapping food.

Making Primitive Fishing Gear

When conventional fishing gear is not available, you can make primitive fishing gear from natural resources. Craft fishhooks using bone, thorns, or improvised metal. Create fishing line from natural fibers or twisted plant stalks. Attach bait such as insects, small pieces of meat, or brightly colored materials to attract fish. Experiment with different methods such as hand lines, trot lines, or fish baskets to increase your chances of success. Be patient and observe the behavior of the fish to optimize your fishing techniques.

Designing Camouflage and Ghillie Suits

Camouflage and ghillie suits help you blend into your surroundings, making it easier to move undetected through the wilderness. Make use of natural materials such as leaves, moss, and branches to create a camouflage pattern that matches the environment. Attach these materials to your clothing or gear using cordage or adhesive patches. Ghillie suits involve attaching strips of fabric or natural materials to create a three-dimensional effect, providing enhanced concealment. Make sure to practice and test your camouflage in different lighting and terrain conditions.