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  • Writer's pictureRay Campbell

The 10 Basic Survival Skills Every Man Should Know

Speaking from experience, survival skills are incredibly important to have in your back pocket whenever you go into the outdoors. Here are 10 that every hiker and hunter should know.

Nothing beats going into the wild. All outdoor enthusiasts from hikers to hunters know that human beings crave a connection to nature. Reveling in the beauty of our world and allowing yourself to become part of it just melts away all of your problems. You can truly find your inner peace when you’re enjoying the earth.

With that being said, anyone who goes out into the wilderness knows that it can be dangerous. Fast changes in weather, dangerous animals, and many more factors outside of our control can turn a wonderful day into a terrifying nightmare. That’s why being equipped with certain skills is necessary.

So here are the top ten outdoor survival skills that you should master… and hopefully never need to use.

Making Water Safe to Drink

Human beings can survive for a long time without food. They can also survive in hot and cold temperatures for a while. But the one thing that humans will quickly perish without is water. Drinking water is absolutely key to survival. To start with, you should always carry more water than you think is necessary when going out into the wilderness. But if you are forced to spend more time in nature than you initially planned for, it’s good to know how to create drinkable water.

Remember, you can’t just start drinking water from any stream or pond that you find. Dangerous bacteria is often found in natural water sources. To make sure that water you find is safe to drink, you simply need to boil it for about a minute. After that, pour the water through a cloth of some sort to filter out the bigger particles. Voila, you’ve got safe drinking water!

Starting a Fire

Being able to start a fire out in the wild is important for many reasons. It keeps you warm, it allows you to cook food, and it will let you boil and purify any water that you find. But starting a fire isn’t as easy as it seems. Bringing tools along with you to start a fire is smart, but what should you do if you forgot your lighter at home? Well, you’ll need to learn at least one of a few difficult methods.

For instance, if you can find a good log laying around, carve a notch into it and rotate a stick in that notch. This will eventually create enough friction to create a coal which can be transferred to a tinder pile.

Building a Shelter

Exposure to the elements is far more serious than you might imagine. Spending a night out in the cold might sound miserable but survivable. In reality, exposure can become deadly over the course of just a few hours. That means that building a shelter is an incredibly important skill to have in your survival toolkit. But how do you do it? It all depends on what your surroundings are like.

If there is a lot of wood around you, you can make a lean-to by simply propping some sticks up at a 45 degree angle and supporting them with other sticks. Making shelter is trickier if you’re in a snowy place, but snow caves and igloos are incredibly survivable shelters. Practice making them the next time that you have a big snowfall.


Do you know what generally happens to people when they become lost in the wilderness? They become more lost. They panic, forget where they came from, and just disappear deeper into nature. Don’t let that happen to you. Knowing basic navigation skills with a compass or a GPS will save your hide, but you don’t even need those tools to make your way through the outdoors. Mark the path that you went using some sticks along the way, or make stone cairns for yourself every hundred yards or so.

One other thing that you should do is take note of landmarks. Turn around as you’re walking to make sure that you will know what it looks like when you’re walking back to where you came from. This can help you out in a big way in a survival situation.

Protecting Yourself

I don’t mean to alarm you, but nature can be a scary place. Predators like bears and mountain lions are found throughout the United States, and smaller animals like snakes can also pose a major threat. That means that you need to protect yourself to stay safe in the outdoors.

One great way to do that is to come equipped with a knife or other weapon that can keep you safe when a predator decides that you look like a tasty meal. If you don’t have a knife, you can make yourself a weapon by sharpening stones or sticks. You can even practice doing that in your backyard. Just don’t let the neighbors see… they might get creeped out. If all else fails, just carry a big rock with you in a survival situation. It might come in handy.

Signaling to Rescuers

If you are in a survival situation, you need to make the tough decision of whether you are going to sit and wait for help or try to find your own way out. Both approaches are valid, and both can make sense in different scenarios. Either way, you need to be ready at all times to signal if rescuers are near. Rescue often comes from the sky in the form of a helicopter, so you need to be prepared to signal to someone high above where you are.

The key to doing that is contrast. If you have something orange, yellow, or some other bright color that sticks out from the landscape, wave it around or put it on the ground. Reflecting light also works well here if you have a way to do that.

Medical First Aid

Most survival situations in the wilderness start when someone gets injured. It’s hard to know what to do if you get hurt when you’re out there on your own, and that’s where knowing a bit of first aid comes in handy. There are a lot of ways to go about learning first aid, but one thing is for sure: simply carrying around a first aid kit will do you no good unless you know how to use it. That means that you should study up before committing to exploring nature.

Sign up with your local outdoors shop for a first aid class. See if your university offers courses on the subject. Just do something to arm yourself with the knowledge you need to treat injuries that happen far away from medical help.

Foraging for Food

Finding food is often touted as the ultimate survival skill, but that’s not really the case. You’d be shocked to know how long you can survive without eating. But that doesn’t change the fact that it’s useful to know how to forage for food if you are in a long term survival situation.

The best way to do this is to do thorough research before you go. If you can learn to identify edible plants, berries, and nuts in an area before going there, your chances of survival greatly increase. Every area is unique, so every area requires research. With that being said, it can be smart to also learn what plants to avoid at all costs. If you’re not sure, stay away from mushrooms, as they can often be poisonous.

Hunting for Food

Foraging for a few berries here and there is one thing, but how long can you really last while eating such small sources of food? A great supplemental skill to have is hunting. It’s not easy when you’re out in the wilderness with minimal tools, but it can be done. You may have seen cartoon characters hunting with sharpened sticks, and that really can work in a survival scenario. It works well on fish, but it can be used to score some small mammals as well.

Potentially the most useful hunting skill, however, is trapping. A simple trap involving a rock held up by a few sticks can help you get small animals without expending much energy, and that’s key.

Not Panicking

All the skills that we have gone over so far are incredibly useful to know for all enthusiasts of the outdoors. But the one skill that will end up helping you the most is also the simplest: not panicking. When things start to go south in the wilderness, it’s incredibly easy to just freak out. When you do that, you stop thinking straight and you start making bad decisions. That can turn a salvageable situation into a far more dire one very quickly.

If you ever find yourself in a scenario in the outdoors where it seems like things are going wrong, take a deep breath and calm down. Think of what you can do in that situation to improve things. Panicking will only make things worse.


Planning your next camping adventure? Read about the 10 most dangerous spiders in the American wild before you head out.


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