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8 Basic Survival Skills - Survival Fitness Plan

Discover the 8 basic survival skills you need to stay alive in the wild

If you are an outdoor person who likes to camp and hike, it is essential to learn survival skills to help ensure your safety. The following basic survival skills will help you meet your basic human survival needs to stay alive.

Surviving in the wilderness greatly depends on how knowledgeable you are regarding what to do in different survival situations as well as how skilled you are in using your available resources.

Basic Survival Skills 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.

1. Finding Drinking Water 

A person can survive up to several weeks without food, but only three days without water. The threat of dying from dehydration makes the ability to find drinking an extremely important skill.

Search for a Stream

Keep in mind that the flow of water is always downhill. If you are having trouble looking for streams and creeks, just take a moment and listen to the sound of the water rushing and just follow that sound. Another sign of water in an area is that there are a lot of animals. Animals frequently inhabit areas that have suitable drinking water. 

In the worst-case scenario that you aren’t able to find a water source, you can try digging a hole where the soil is damp to find groundwater. However, it is important to remember that groundwater is not clean and must be purified first before drinking. 

Depending on your location in the world, you can also try looking for bamboo. Amongst having many other survival uses, bamboo segments often contains ready-to-drink water. 

Stagnant/Still Water

Moving water is always cleaner than stagnant water, but sometimes you have no choice. If you must drink stagnant water, it is imperative that you purify it to avoid getting sick.

With water that is moving rapidly, you may get away without purification (though you still should purify it if you can), but with stagnant water, your chances of not getting sick are much worse.

Survival Water Purification

Even if you think the water you found is clean, it is a good idea to purify it. One of the easiest and most reliable methods of survival water purification is buy boiling it for several minutes.

If you want be prepared, a commercial water filter is an excellent piece of kit for when you go hiking and/or camping. My favorite is the LifeStraw personal water filter. It is lightweight and long lasting.

2. Fire Starting 

The ability to build a fire in survival situations has a lot of benefits. You can use it for cooking, purifying water, keeping yourself warm, warding off predators, and signaling for help. Being able to start a fire without a match or lighter is an essential skill. Here’s how you can do it using the fire plough method:

  • Collect fuel. Get as much as dry fuel as possible. The ground below a tree is a good place to look for cracked and dead branches, which are good for building a fire. You also need tinder and kindling.
  • ​ Look for two sticks of the same kind. For the first stick, carve a straight line in the middle that is about 8 inches in length. Its width should be around 0.2-0.5 inch which will then be enough for another stick to fit into the line made. 
  • ​ For the other stick, cut and carve it until its width fits the straight line carving on the other piece of wood. Rub this stick against the one with a vertical carving to create an ember. Its tip should be at a 45-degree angle. 
  • ​ Before producing an ember, make sure that you have you tinder ready tinder. A tinder is the best fire starter because it is highly flammable. The fibers inside the coconut which is called coir is a good tinder to use. If you can’t find a coconut, dry grass will work too. 
  • ​ Start rubbing the stick with a 45-degree angle at the end against the other stick in a vertical motion. The stick you’re moving will directly trace the spaces carved in the other wood. Do this repeatedly until the wood produces smoke. 
  • ​ Once the wood is smoking, embers will pile up on the edge of the vertical carving on the wood. Continue rubbing until there is enough ember for igniting the tinder nest. 
  • ​ Carefully transfer the ember to the tinder nest and sandwich it within both sides.
  • ​ Blow air in the tinder nest to feed the fire with oxygen to help it ignite faster. 
  • ​ Between each blow, wave the tinder nest in the air to allow air to enter the tinder nest. 
  • ​ Once the fire has been lit, put small twigs to keep the fire burning. A mixture of dead grass and dry twigs are great materials to use for sustaining the fire. ​

3. Wilderness Survival Shelter

Hypothermia in a survival situation is a serious problem, and a good shelter is your primary way to combat it. It is important to know how to build different wilderness survival shelters. Here are the two most common types of survival shelters in the woods


This shelter structure is called “lean-to” because it comprises leaning building materials against a wall, a fallen tree, or a rock face. It can also be free-standing in which two materials will lean against each other, forming an A-shape shelter. 

However, this type of survival shelter structure has a disadvantage because it does not offer 360-degrees of protection. At the same time, it is not that resistant to water.

Round Lodge

This type of shelter structure is more commonly known as “teepee” or a “wikiup”. A round lodge is harder to make than the lean-to structure. It comprises many branches leaning against each other to create a circle-shaped shelter. 

This shelter offers more protection because it encircles the person inside. This all round protection protects you from the elements and also from predators. 

4. Survival Navigation

A quality compass is an essential bit of kit anytime you plan on entering the wilderness, but what if it breaks or you lose it?

Here are some tips that you can do to find your way back to civilization without a compass.

Look for High Ground

Going to the highest point in a mountain will help you see where you are going or where you need to go. This is the simplest way of navigating your way out of the woods. When you are at a high altitude, it becomes easier to see areas that have a high probability of having people living in them. 

Follow the Sun

The sun always moves from east to west. Using the sun, you can make a simple compass to help you find your way out of the woods faster. 

Place a stick on the ground and make sure that the angle between it and the stick is 90 degrees. Mark the position of the sun from the stick’s shadow and mark it again after a few minutes. This will show you which direction is east and west. Draw a perpendicular line on the east to west line to determine which is north and south. 

Follow the Water

All existing civilizations depend on water for their survival. Using this logic, following a water source has a high probability of leading you back to civilization, particularly a river. If the river doesn’t lead you back, you will at least have a clean source of water which will increase your chances of making it out alive. 

5. Knowing the Best Survival Knots

The ability to create knots is one of the most underrated survival skills. Knots can help you create a more durable shelter, effective hunting traps, and cross dangerous areas safely. 

There are many knots, each with its use according to a specific situation. Some basic knots that are essential in a survival situation are clove-hitch, square, and bowline.

6. First-Aid

Having an injury during a survival situation can be very serious. A simple a wound will make you vulnerable to infection, while bone and joint injuries will make you immobile. 

If you are planning to go on a hike or camping, always make sure you take a survival first aid kit.

It is important that you know how to do first-aid to tend to your wounds. Make sure that any open wound that you have is bandaged with a sterile dressing. With a broken limb, bind the injury to keep it from getting worse. If you are not sure about treating a broken bone, do not even attempt to since it can cause the fracture to become even more severe. 

7. Finding the Best Survival Foods

Knowing the best foods for survival will help minimize the amount of effort it will take for you to get your essential nutrients. Paired with the right wilderness survival tools, the likelihood of you staying alive until rescue arrives will be higher. This food survival guide will also help in avoiding foods that can cause you sickness.

The 5 Best Foods to Look for in a Survival Situation Video

Here’s an abridged version of this section in video format for those of you that prefer to watch than read.

Nuts and Seeds

Nuts and seeds are the best emergency food because they are nutritious and (relatively) easy to obtain. It is important to remember to wash or soak the nuts and seeds in water before eating them. This will help remove the tannins. 

You can also chew on wild grass to extract its juices and just spit out the grass afterward. Some nuts and seeds you may come across amaranths, Indian rice, wild rice, wild rye, acacia, walnuts, acorns, pine nuts, and hickory nuts. 


As gross as it may sound, insects are rich in proteins, which makes them once of the best options of food for survival. There many types of insects that are edible raw, but unless you know exactly which ones, it is better to cook them in the same way you would meat, e.g., in a soup or grilled. 

Some insects that are good to eat are ants, grasshoppers, maggots, termites, beetles, and earwigs. 

Fish and Seafood

In the movies, spears are shown as a good way to hunt fish. However, in real life, it is more practical to make fish traps and leave them in the river as you build your temporary shelter.

Some seafood that you can eat are fish, clams, shrimp, crabs, squid, kelp, and nori. 


Eggs are one of the best sources of protein. They also provide other nutrients such as Vitamin B12, Vitamin D, and Vitamin B6. When trying to eat a wild egg, boil it first to remove any potentially harmful bacteria. 

Reptiles and Amphibians

Among the two, amphibians are easier to catch even without the use of a trap. Reptiles, on the other hand, move quickly, which makes them harder to catch, but they usually taste better than amphibians.

Some reptiles and amphibians that can be eaten are turtles, lizards, snakes, salamanders, and frogs. 


Mushrooms can provide a lot of nutrients and are easy to gather, but they require extensive knowledge of their color and shape. Many poisonous mushrooms look a lot like edible mushrooms. Unless you are 100% sure you have an edible kind of mushroom, it is best not to eat it.

Like the other foods in this list, boil the mushrooms first before attempting to eat them to prevent yourself from catching diarrhea.

Examples of mushrooms that are edible to eat chanterelles, chicken of the woods, oyster mushroom, western giant puffball, and morels. 

Mammals and Birds

The wild is rich in different animals that can be hunted and cooked for meat. For small game hunting, you may be lucky enough to find geese, quail, pigeons, ducks, rabbits, chipmunks, squirrels, and mice.

Large game hunting, on the other hand, requires more patience and skill. Weapons like spears and bows are usually used for larger animals, contrary to smaller animals where traps and snares are the common methods to hunt them. These large animals include deer, wild boar, moose, elk, and caribou. 

Also, large game poses a much greater threat to you. Unless you are in a group, it is better to hunt smaller game.

8. Camp Cooking

When you are catching food in the wild, anything bigger than a few centimeters usually requires that you remove the guts. Sometimes organs such as the liver are also poisonous, so if you are unsure it is best to discard them. The best thing to do is to stick with meat from the muscles and limbs. In addition, it is always best to overcook food rather than risk eating it undercooked. You need to make sure you remove any harmful bacteria or pathogens that might be in the meat. 

Bamboo makes for excellent survival cooking equipment. You can use it for cooking soups, vegetables, rice, and even as skewers for meat.

After eating, remember to dispose of all of your waste as a preventive measure against predators. Animals such as bears, wolves, or large cats might smell the food and enter your campsite. 


Surviving in the wild is never easy, but even just knowing the basics can increase your chances greatly. Your knowledge combined with a strong will to live are your greatest assets in all kinds of emergency and survival situations. 

Did you find these 8 basic survival skills useful? If so, please share this article 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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