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Top 7 Wilderness Survival Priorities

Learn about the 7 wilderness survival priorities + Check out the top 10 survival items to have when you're exploring the great outdoors

Knowing the right outdoor survival skills may save your life in times of disaster or if lost in the great outdoors. In this article, you will learn about the 7 wilderness survival priorities to help you stay alive should you ever find yourself in a survival situation.

Top 7 Wilderness Survival Priorities Video

Here’s an abridged version of this post in video format for those of you that prefer to watch than read. The complete article continues below the video.

What is the Meaning of Survival?

The definition of survival is one’s ability to stay alive through dangerous situations in which there is a likelihood of death. Your chance of surviving is determined by your knowledge of the things that you should or should not do. When you are in a survival situation, your mind is the best asset that you have. 

The 7 Wilderness Survival Priorities to Remember

The two most common reasons for perishing in the great outdoors is:

  • Not knowing which goals to prioritize.
  • ​ Panicking.

People die because of the mistakes they make, which is why it is important to have a survival priority list. The following are the 7 priorities of wilderness survival that will help keep you alive.

1. Planning Ahead

As soon as you think you are lost, take a moment and make a plan. If you don’t know how to navigate your way out of the woods and back to civilization, just stay where you are and plan how you are going to survive. 

Most people who are lost in the woods are found within 24 hours as long as they stay put. Following unknown trails can be deceiving and will probably make you harder to find for rescuers. 

2. First Aid

First aid is a massive subject. Here are a few main points for you to remember:

  • Ensure that everybody, including yourself, stays well hydrated. 
  • ​ If anyone in the team has blisters, cuts, or broken bones, immediately perform first aid. A bacterial infection is the last thing you want to happen in a survival situation. 
  • ​ Continuously monitor everybody for signs of hypothermia, exhaustion, and heatstroke.

The main thing is to do your best to catch potential medical threats early on or before they happen. This that would normally be of little concern (such as a small cut or getting cold) can quickly turn into life threatening situations in the wild.

3. Wilderness Shelter Building

Hypothermia is your biggest enemy during night time for survival situations. A shelter will help keep you warm and dry against wind and rain. When it comes to making an improvised shelter, a good general rule to follow is the smaller, the better.

Shelter also relates to adequate clothing. Take good care of your clothes and if you need extra insulation, you can pack them with dry leaves and other foliage. 

4. Starting a Fire

Fire is necessary to help keep you warm at night, purify water, and cook food. 

When attempting to create a fire, you need three things.

  • Tinder. Tinder is an easily burnable material that ignites with a spark. 
  • ​ Kindling. Kindling is slightly bigger than tinder. It feeds the fire to help it grow larger.
  • ​ Fuel. This is like the main meal for the fire. In most cases it is larger pieces of wood.

5. Wise Survival Food

Food is important for the human body to function properly, but is actually quite low on the priority list. This is because you can actually survive for several weeks without food. 

However, that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t be looking for food. The longer you go without fueling your body, the weaker you will get, which will affect your physical ability and decision making skills which are vital for survival.

After securing the other survival priorities, look for food to fill in your stomach. 

6. Calling for Help

The best way to get help is to send a distress signal. Here are some of the most effective ways to signal rescuers. 


This includes things such as your cell phone or hand held radio. If you are lucky enough to have something like this, conserve your battery until you can get signal and/or a response. Try on high points such as the top of hills


The internationally recognized signal for the word “Help!” are three consecutive loud sounds. It could be loud sound blasts, a shout, an emergency whistle, a horn, three gunshots, and such. 

Bright Colors

Search your belongings for brightly colored items spread them on the ground where potential rescuers will see it. Open areas are best. 

Creating a flag with these items is another good way to attract attention.

Signal Mirror

A signal mirror is useful in flashing the sunlight towards potential rescuers. If you don’t have a mirror, you can use an old CD or some glasses. 

When signaling for rescue, put your other hand up and create a V-sign with your two fingers. Tilt the mirror back and forth to create flashes which is better for attraction attention. 

Fire and Smoke

A smoky fire can help the rescuers pinpoint your location. When creating a cloud of smoke for signaling, use wet wood, moss, ferns, and wet leaves. These types of materials will make the smoke much thicker and easier to see. 

Ground Signals

You can spell out the “H E L P” on the ground for plane rescuers to see. It is also helpful to know the technical usage of codes. Here are three you can easily remember:

  • V stands for “require assistance”
  • ​ X stands for “requiring medical help
  • ​ ↑ pertains to a direction, e.g., the direction of your campsite.

7. Water

This last survival priority is by no means the least important. In fact, depending on your situation it may be the first thing you need to acquire. Unlike food, your body can’t go without water for more than a few days. It is also useful for cooking and cleaning.

Do your best to keep yourself hydrated at all times. You can check if you are dehydrated by looking at the color of your urine. If it is a dark yellow, you are not drinking enough. 

The best places to find water are valley bottoms, rock cliff bases, streams, hollow stumps, and rocks with depression. Water purity is also extremely important. The clearer water is, the higher the probability that it is safe to drink. However, there are no guarantees and it is best to purify all water with methods such as boiling before consumption.

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Knowing the 7 priorities of survival in emergencies such as being lost in the wilderness will help keep you alive. 

Preparation is your first line of defense. Make sure that everything on your survival kit list is in your bag. This will help ensure that your basic survival needs are met until you find your way back to civilization in case you get lost. 

Knowledge will always be your greatest weapon in the face of danger. Using the above survival techniques in the wilderness will help increase your chances of staying alive.

Did you find this article about the 7 survival priorities useful? If so, please share it with your friends.

Article by Sam Fury

Sam Fury 3 png
Sam Fury 3 png

Sam Fury is the creator and owner of the Survival Fitness Plan.

He has had a passion for martial arts and outdoor pursuits since he was a young boy growing up in Australia.

As a young adult he joined the military and studied outdoor leadership in college. After that, to further his skills, Sam started traveling to learn from the best in the world in various fields related to the Survival Fitness Plan including various martial arts in China, SE Asia and Brazil, Parkour in Singapore, Surf Life Saving in Australia, and others. 

These days, he still enjoys learning new things, traveling and sharing what he has learned via the Survival Fitness Plan. 

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