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Survival Skills: They weigh nothing and are more important than any piece of gear you can carry.

Updated: Apr 13, 2020

Everyone has heard the saying knowledge is power. So is true when we are talking about survival. Survival skill knowledge will empower you to survive in a wide variety of adverse situations and the best part is you don’t have to make extra room in your kit to carry them! Find yourself less prepared or not expecting a certain turn of events these are the things that are going to save your life.

For the most part learning is free. The modern age is very fortunate to have “The Internet” in this respect as we can find information on almost anything we would like to learn about. This article will cover a select few of these skills and help us prioritize them.


The average human body needs to consume approximately 3.7 liters or 64 ounces of water each day to stay healthy and hydrated. Firstly “YOU CANT DRINK SALT WATER”! Just wanted to get that one out of the way if you live in a costal area on the ocean you need to look for fresh water either from inland areas of fresh rainwater unless you have a desalination device handy this is going to be your best bet water distillation is another option we will talk about below. We are lucky here in the U.S. as there are many sources of fresh water nearby for most of us. Lakes, Ponds, Rivers, creeks, and streams all hold an abundance of this necessary resource, however clear running water tends to be the best choice. In a bug out or preparation scenario a hand pumped well is an awesome find, as wells provide safe drinking water so long as the water source itself hasn’t been contaminated. Ok so you found your freshwater time to start drinking up and get hydrated right? No wrong! We want to make sure we have clean water to drink which a lot of times means we need to process it. Drinking contaminated water can and will lead to gastrointestinal issues leaving you sick and more dehydrated then when you chose to take a drink.


Boiling is one of the best ways to purify water especially when your out in the wild. Most bacteria and microorganisms cannot live in boiling water as the heating process kills them off. This makes boiling of clear water one of the most effective ways of to secure safe drinking water. You will need a container to boil water in. A pot works great but in a pinch, I have seen someone use a hollowed out cactus hahaha. Be inventive if you need to but even an aluminum can will work. You will need fire, place your potted water over the fire, once the water starts to bubble let if boil for 5 minutes minimum. Once boiling is complete let it cool to a tolerable temp and get yourself rehydrated.


Distillation is another great option. If your water source contains sediment or is from close to a costal plane where is could still contain sodium or minerals this is the best choice for separating the water from the contaminates. This approach requires more items however which my make it harder to perform if in the wilderness. You need two containers, one for boiling and one for clean water collection. You will also need a type of cover, a sheet of plastic works well. This sheet ill be used for catching the condensation. Build your fire and place the boiling pot in. Place your clean water collection container off to the side of the fire. Place the plastic sheet over top of the boiling pot. Make sure the sheet is not too close to the fire to be damaged. Also make sure your sheet will cover enough area to each your collection pot. You will want to place a stone on the sheet or something to create a drip point. The way this works. As the water boil the steam collects on the sheet. As the condensation collects it will run down the sheet to the drip point and collect in the other container. Drink up

These are two great methods and there are many more. Look into rock boiling and UV purification too. The easiest is having a water filter. I always carry my Sawyer Mini water filter in my day pack. It’s awesome, small and discreet this little guy is a beast with correct usage they say it can filter up to 100,000 gallons! I also like to carry a USGI canteen and cook cup for cooking and boiling water.


Fire is essential to any survival situation. A Nice fire to cook over, keep you warm, or keep predators away will be an integral part of any wilderness situation. It’s important to understand the basics to help make yourself more successful when afield.

1. Find a dry wind protected area or create one. If the ground is not dry one may create a mound off the wet ground to start making a fire.

2. Gathering fuel. There are three types of fuel needed. The first is tinder. Search the surrounding areas for dry moss, grass, leaves, wood trimmings. If no noticeable tinder can be located, you can shave the inside of dry bark to create stringy pieces of wood for tinder. One of these items or a combination of many of these should be rustled together to form a sort of a bird’s nest for tinder.

3. Next you will want to create or gather kindling. Small sticks and twigs work excellent for this part. If none can be found one can split larger pieces of wood up into pencil sized pieces these inner dry pieces of logs work great. If trouble still arises you can feather stick these pieces to help them catch fire from the tinder bundle once lit.

4. Large pieces of wood or logs are next. This will allow the fire to burn long warm and slow. Start smallest to largest when you are adding large pieces of wood to the fire until a secure fire is established.

5. Remember Fire needs oxygen to burn so please make sure everything is breathable when building.

6. You can prep this fire by setting your tinder in the center of your designated areas. Lay some of the kindling sticks overtop of the tinder in a tee TIPI or a log cabin pattern. Not too much just enough so when your tinder ignites it can catch the kindling.

7. Keep your larger pieces of fuel nearby so these can be added once your kindling ignites.

OK so we have gathered all the needed ingredients now we need an ignition source. The best most basic way to start this fire is by having a nice basic BIC lighter or matches handy. You can light your tinder bundle add kindling appropriately and ultimately your full-sized fuel you have gathered. If a lighter is not available to you there are many ways to light your fire. My third choice would be a ferrocerium rod. These create enough hot sparks to create a coal and ignite that much needed fire. One must scrape down the length of the rod towards the tinder bundle to create a coal and ignite the fire. To see more information about the use of a bow drill or plow technique please see our previous article:


When it comes to protecting yourself from the elements primitive shelter building is a highly important skill. Whether you need a wind break, a dry spot to lay your head or a safe haven from predators a properly built shelter is up to the task. There are a wide variety of styles used most of them determined by what adverse situation your presented with and what type of items you have at your disposal. A frame, lean-to, debris pile, snow cave, hut, tarp tent, all the way up to a rustic cabin just to name a few. For time sake we will just look at the simple and reliable lean-to.

Consisting of two posts, a stringer, two or more running braces to the ground, and roofing the lean-to shelter is as quick to build as it is efficient in protecting you from the elements. First you will need to take and evaluation of your group. You can scale this build up to fit multiple people inside or you can build it small and efficiently to only shelter yourself. First you will want to find a clear dry place to set up your camp. Look for higher ground that is not prone to run off or pooling if experience a rainstorm. Clear the area to prepare for construction. Next you will want to find your posts, younger trees or fallen branches with a “Y” work extremely well. You may want to sharpen the bottom of these Y posts. Space the posts out a sufficient amount and drive them into the ground. Look for your stringer next this branch or sapling should be sturdy enough to support your roof branches and foliage for roofing. Make sure it is long enough to reach across your two posts. Place the stringer and lash the material in place if you have cordage. Next you will place your running braces along the stringer with one end on the stringer and one end on the ground. Again, if cordage is available and necessary lash these pieces in place. Lastly you will search for foliage to cover the running boards and create a roof. Stacked pine branches, moss and or other leafy foliage work great! If you are in a tropical area palms are probably the best natural material to use. This Shelter especially works great if you have a tarp or some sort of cover to use for your roofing. Now that your shelter is set up be sure to build your fire close to take advantage of the warmth provided by your new shelter and your fire.

Food Acquisition-

It takes a lot of energy to build a fire, purify water, and build a shelter out in the wild. If you’re not replenishing calories at a semi regular rate your physical and mental health will deteriorate. Your physical / mental strength and fortitude in situations like this are all important. First bit of advice when your looking to find a meal out in the bush is “Know your area”. Knowing what kind of wild edible plants and wildlife are in the area is a great first step in knowing what is good and safe to eat. I would suggest picking up a book on edible plants for either the area you live or an area your planning on visiting that these skills may become a need. Starting with edible plants has advantages; so long as you can find and safely identify a plant your going to have a meal. Plants don’t run away from you and typically don’t take as much energy to acquire. On the other side of this a good amount of protein from hunting or fishing may give your body more energy than a large amount of vegetation. Protein based foods give the body fuel to repair and build tissue. Protein takes longer for the body to break down then carbohydrates providing a longer lasting energy source. When it comes to Hunting, fishing, and trapping start small unless you have the tools with you to hunt big game because you got lost on a hunting trip acquiring small game tends to e higher percentage with primitive tools.

Fishing is great if you have found yourself in and area with lakes and streams and abundant aquatic life, you’re in luck. You can create a fishing spear by splitting the end of a sapling into four or more spear heads making sure to sharpen each one. Wade slowly out into the shallows and wait for a fish to come in range to spear. If you have some sort of line with you hand fishing or making a simple cane fishing pole paired with a bone hook and dug up bait can be very efficient when it comes to food acquisition.

Making snares to catch small, medium and even large game animals can be one of the best low energy high producing techniques to acquire food. Find some cordage or wire, Look for high wildlife traffic areas. Find something to anchor too. Attach your wire snare to an anchor in the wildlife path and try to create a funnel to this point. You can move along and set multiple snares out like this increasing your chances of getting that all-important protein.

Building a primitive bow and arrow set can be a good way to hunt game or even spear fish. This again requires some cordage. I plan to talk about this in depth in another article.


Finding rescue can be considered a skillset in itself, that is if you want to be found. There are various techniques that can aid your chances of finding rescue. Again, know your area some techniques work better depending on the conditions you find yourself in.

Signal fires. Building a large or a series of signal fires can up you chances of being found greatly. Find a nice open area where the smoke could be very visible for miles. If you build a signal fire in a dense forest chances are no one with see it. In your open area build your regular fire base. Stack lots of green leafy foliage next to where your fire will be. Once you have started the fire you can pile on the foliage which will create dense pluming smoke that will be more visible to would be rescuers.

In a time of self-rescue where one must hike out you may happen across a river. Lots of towns, villages, and settlements are build along such waterways. Once you hit the river follow it down stream until you find civilization.

Finding or having a mirror for very reflective object can be useful. Use a signal mirror in an open area to signal planes over head or people at far distances.

Yelling, calling out, and making a lot of noise. Sound travels much farther and much faster than you can on your two feet so use this to your advantage.

Priority –

In conclusion, having a strong skill set and a positive attitude can be what keeps you alive in a dire situation. These skills should be used in an order of prioritization based off from your individual needs at the time. For example if its 105+ degrees and you’ve been walking without water all day your first step is probably going to want to be getting water to rehydrate your body. Or if you have just got separated from your group and you know you are close call out and seek rescue immediately. My best advice for setting a priority list is stop. Calm the panic. Asses what you have with you and your immediate needs. Only then will you be able to make an educated decision on what actions need to be taken first. So go out adventure, build a fire, camp, hunt, fish, get your hand dirty and start building your skill set. Go out, Be safe, Be prepared.

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