Essential Outdoor Survival Skills

Learn outdoor survival skills and you won’t be caught unprepared.

  • A campfire is used for cooking.
    Photo by Gaspr13
  • A campfire provides warmth.
    Photo by Thinair28
  • Build a basic shelter for protection.
    Photo by Naumoid
  • Study the terrain and use maps.
    Photo by Benedek
  • Starting a fire is a necessary skill for survival.
    Illustration by Brad Anderson

Years ago, I led wilderness expeditions for college students, and then later for troubled youth. As we taught the participants, my colleagues and I could see that some were able-bodied students, some struggled along the trail, and some would not fare so well if a true survival situation ever occurred while on their own.

But regardless of your physical state, knowing a few basic outdoor survival skills gives you an edge if a survival situation were to ever arise. It is far better to know such skills and not need them, rather than the other way around.

Our greatest tool

More than anything else, survival in the outdoors is directly linked to common sense and awareness of self, others, and the surrounding environment — train your brain to help you out. Add to that the following seven skills, and the chances of a positive outcome increase.

Key outdoor survival skills include: (1) building a fire; (2) sheltering yourself in extreme heat and cold; (3) staying hydrated; (4) signaling and increasing your visibility; (5) taking care of injuries and wounds well enough to help yourself return to safety; (6) knowing where you are and knowing how to get where you’re going; and (7) knowing your skill level and when to back off, retreat, etc.

Building a fire

Learn to build a fire correctly on the first try — as you may not get a second chance.

Three essentials to building a fire are heat, fuel and oxygen. As simple as it may sound, all fires require these components. Take any one of these away, and there cannot be a fire. Additionally, there are other aspects of making a fire that must be considered: tinder, kindling and sustaining fuel.

10/25/2014 1:24:36 PM

Gordon, it seems the common sense part is the hardest skill to develop. These skills will serve well in many other aspects of life, as well.

10/25/2014 1:22:29 PM

Gordon, it seems the common sense part is the hardest skill to develop. These skills will serve well in many other aspects of life, as well.

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