Surviving the front country of an urban jungle is one thing, but surviving the backcountry in the wilds of nature takes some basic survival skills. You need skills that allow you to survive whatever Mother Nature throws at you, or for that matter, what she doesn’t.
When you need some sustenance in the front country, grocery stores are prevalent. But you’ll be hard-pressed to find a grocery store in the backcountry when your well-thought-out meals are washed away down a stream that you didn’t cross so well.
When that happens, what are you supposed to do? Well, if you know your basic survival skills, you’ll be all set when it comes to handling emergency situations in the wilderness. Get ready to learn some basic survival skills for your next excursion.
Table of Contents
- What Are Survival Skills?
- What Are Basic Survival Needs?
- Why Are Basic Survival Skills Important?
- 7 Basic Survival Skills Everyone Should Know
- Do You Know These Basic Survival Skills?
What Are Survival Skills?
Survival skills can be anything from knowing your street address to get home from work to building shelter to not die from exposure. Both allow you to survive in the environment that you’re in.
But when it comes to survival skills when exploring the great outdoors, building shelter is quite different than simply putting up a tent. And knowing your location is slightly more complicated than plugging in the directions on your phone.
What Are Basic Survival Needs?
So that brings about the question of what one needs when it comes to surviving outside the urban jungle. To answer that question, let’s take a look at something called the Rule of 3s. You might come across some varying definitions, but, for the most part, it all boils down to one thing—priorities.
At its very basic, the Rule of 3s starts with three seconds – three seconds to breathe. In other words, when faced with a situation where you need to consider what you need to survive, you need to do so with a clear and calm head. So take three seconds to breathe deeply and calm down.
Three hours without shelter – Humans need shelter from the heat, the cold, and the elements.
Three days without water – After determining your shelter needs, water is your next priority. Death from dehydration is a very real thing, and without water, your body will begin to shut down.
Three weeks without food – We all need food, but in a real survival situation, food should be your last priority. Your body can function for quite a while without food. You’ll feel hungry after a few hours of not eating, but you’ll still be able to function just fine.
Keep in mind that the Rule of 3s is just a guideline to remind you of your priorities for your survival needs. You’re not going to instantly keel over if you don’t breathe for three seconds or find shelter within exactly three hours. On the other hand, if you don’t have water for three days or food for three weeks, that could be quite deadly. Your body may not be able to handle it.
Why Are Basic Survival Skills Important?
Basic survival skills are important. Nobody plans to get lost, fall off a cliff, or get stranded in a snowstorm. But, when or if that ever happens, having basic survival skills may keep you alive long enough for somebody to find you.
Granted, most survival situations won’t be a week or a month-long ordeal. However, it could be, and if it is, knowing basic survival skills could very well save your life.
Look at survival skills as an insurance policy. You have them just in case something does happen, yet you hope to never have to use them.
7 Basic Survival Skills Everyone Should Know
There are seven basic survival skills everyone should know. Some are simple and take little to no effort, like purifying water. Others are difficult and take hours to create, like building a shelter. Some require education like foraging for food and knowing what’s safe to eat. Others simply require having a heat source on your person if you need to start a fire.
You can dive deep into all of the survival skills, but simply having a basic knowledge of each of them will go a long way when heading out of the urban jungles into the natural ones.
And speaking of proper tools, having a survival kit in your backpack is a must, so when it comes time to use your skills, you’ll have the tools to do so. Check out our top tips below to know what tools to include in your survival kit.
1. Building a Shelter
Why Shelter Is Important: You could find yourself in a situation where you’re lost, and the temperature will drop before you get out or anyone finds you. After you’ve assessed the situation, your first priority is shelter. This is the same for being out in hotter temperatures.
Top Tips: Shelter can be anything from something as simple as putting on or taking off a layer of clothing or protecting yourself from the elements with an umbrella. It can also be as complicated as building a snow shelter called a quinzhee or a debris shelter. There’s a very real possibility that you will be spending the night in the great outdoors because you are lost.
If you’re facing the possibility of having to stay overnight, your first need will be warmth when the temps begin to drop. While building a full-on quinzhee or debris shelter may not be something in your skillset, looking for a place that may offer something similar to those types of shelters is a skill you have.
Pine needles can offer quick warmth. A small cave with a rock face to get you out of the wind is another quick solution. Just be sure no other animals are using it beforehand.
Having an emergency blanket will greatly benefit your basic survival skills. It’s a metalized plastic sheet that folds down to mere inches and weighs just a few ounces, yet it can work in a jiffy to keep you sheltered if needed.
2. Filtering and Purifying Water
Why Water Is Important: Our bodies are made up of up to 60% water, and we need it to survive. It filters out wastes, lubricates our joints, helps to protect our organs, and acts as a transportation system to get nutrients where they need to be.
When you don’t drink enough water, your body gets dehydrated. This can result in a foggy feeling where your thoughts become unclear, and it’s harder to think. That makes it harder to make sound decisions.
Top Tips: Drink water more often than you think. If you’re thirsty, you’re already dehydrated. However, drinking water isn’t as easy as turning on the faucet when in the backcountry. You need to be sure that the water you are drinking (if not coming from the water you brought with you) is safe from harmful bacteria, parasites, and other possible contaminants.
In your survival kit, keep iodine tablets tucked away in case of an emergency. You can fill your water bottle using almost any water source and then drop a tablet in for potable water in less than 30 minutes. In your backpack, carry a water filter or a UV device. These also allow you to filter and purify water from almost any source.
Pro Tip: Make sure your water is safe to drink by using one of these 5 Ways to Purify Water for Survival in the Wilderness.
3. Foraging for Food
Why Food Is Important: Food is energy. Our bodies need it to function properly, and quite frankly, food tastes good. Just like a car running out of gas, without food, we will run out of energy. However, foraging for food should be your last priority. There are simply more important things to consider first.
Top Tips: However, if you find yourself in a dire situation where you have been in the wilderness for days, it may be time to start thinking about foraging for food. But be careful. Nature doesn’t mean non-toxic. For example, many plants and berries are poisonous, so don’t assume they’re nutritious just because they’re plant-based.
In all honesty, eating insects is more likely to be safer than eating unknown plants. If you plan to embark on long backpacking trips, do your research ahead of time to know what you should or shouldn’t eat.
Include cheat sheets of images and descriptions of edible plants and berries in your survival kit. And in your backpack, stash raw nuts, granola bars, jerky, and anything that won’t go bad or rot. However, only use those as emergency rations when needed. Having a bear canister to protect them is also a good idea.
4. Starting a Fire
Why Fire Is Important: Fire is one of the best tools to have under your belt. No, not literal fire, but several ways to start a fire are a must. And along with the tools to start a fire, knowing how to start one is an essential survival skill—one of the most important.
When related to the Rule of 3s, you could easily place fire under shelter, as it immediately offers warmth. It could also be placed under water, as it provides clean water. Additionally, it can be placed under food, as it can be the heat source needed for cooking. Another benefit of fire is keeping the bugs and possible animals away from your space.
Top Tips: Making a campfire is 90% preparation and 10% effort. In other words, take the time to collect the wood and campfire materials beforehand. That way, when it comes to starting it and keeping it burning, the effort is minimal.
Collect all sizes of wood, starting small with a bundle of matchstick thin pieces, then 18-inch long pieces of wood to medium and large pieces. Light the matchstick-sized pieces first. Then, add on the bigger pieces once the smaller ones are burning. Fire needs fuel and oxygen, so if you smother it with too much wood or don’t give enough fuel, it can go out. Take care of your fire.
In your survival kit, have several ways to start a fire, including a lighter, matches, and a flint and steel fire starter.
Pro Tip: Don’t know how to make fire? Use these 5 Best Techniques To Start A Fire Like An Expert.
5. Administering Basic First Aid
Why First Aid Is Important: Accidents can happen anywhere. If they happen in the urban jungle, it’s pretty easy to pick up a phone and call 911. But if they happen even 5 miles into a hike, there may be no cell service, meaning there may be no 911.
This means it’s crucial to know how to administer basic first aid. Some of the most common injuries while spending time outdoors are sprained ankles, burns from campfires, cuts, and scrapes. And generally, these aren’t life-threatening if taken care of quickly and properly.
Top Tips: The best tip for this basic survival skill is to carry a well-stocked first-aid kit. A few items to include in this kit are bandaids, medical tape, a syringe, an ACE bandage, and gauze. Maxi pads are actually a great item to always carry with you, too. They are quite good at soaking up blood and work wonders on cuts that may need more than just a bandaid.
Bring along ibuprofen and Benadryl, as well. Ibuprofen helps with swelling and headaches, and Benadryl can be a lifesaver if needed for allergic reactions. Of course, no first aid should ever be administered without a person’s permission if they can give it.
If you find yourself taking off into the wild more often, consider becoming more knowledgeable about first aid by taking either a Wilderness First Responder Course or a Wilderness First Aid Course, just to name a couple. NOLS is one of the top companies offering many types of first aid courses.
6. Navigating With a Compass
Why Navigation Is Important: Navigation is one of the most important survival skills. If you can determine where you are or where you need to be, then you can probably prevent getting lost in the first place.
Top Tips: Know the parts of a compass, what they show, and how they work. To really familiarize yourself with navigating with a compass, take time before your backcountry excursion to learn how a compass works.
Most importantly, know the difference between magnetic north and true north and how declination determines where you really want to be. The red end of the floating needle is always pointing towards magnetic north. But magnetic north doesn’t mean true north. That’s where declination comes into play. Declination is simply the difference in degrees between the two norths.
In your survival kit, be sure to have a compass and either a manual or the knowledge of how to use it.
7. Tying Knots
Why Knots Are Important: Knots are important for several reasons. First, they make putting up a makeshift shelter much easier.
Second, if you are stuck on a cliff and have the proper equipment, the proper knots can help you climb higher or lower to safety. Knowing how to correctly combine two ropes can be extremely helpful when faced with survival situations. Hauling heavy loads is much easier with the correct knots.
Top Tips: Before heading out into the wilderness, be sure to have basic knowledge of a few helpful knots. And according to Alderleaf Wilderness College, those three knots are the square knot for tying bandages, the clove hitch for tying a rope to an object, and the bowline for securing makeshift shelters and climbing.
In your survival kit, be sure to have a parachute cord, commonly called paracord, and a knife. Not only does a knife make it easier to cut the paracord, but it’s also a great tool to have for almost everything else when heading into the backcountry.
Pro Tip: Make learning your knots easy with our guide on Knot Tying for Beginners: An Illustrated Guide To 6 Essential Knots Everyone Should Know.
Do You Know These Basic Survival Skills?
Whether you’re on a day hike or a multi-day hike, a wilderness camping trip into the unknowns of Alaska, or an overnight in Yellowstone National Park, you’re ready for an adventure.
Basic survival skills are the tools of the backcountry. Now you’ve got the tools under your belt to do so. You wouldn’t leave home without your hammer if you were a carpenter, so don’t leave home without your survival skills if you plan on heading into the backcountry.
Do you have these basic survival skills? Tell us your most important tips in the comments!
Become A Mortons On The Move Insider
Join 10,000+ other adventurers to receive educating, entertaining, and inspiring articles about RV Travel Destinations, RV Gear, and Off-Grid Living to jump-start your adventures today!
Read More From The Mortons: