Top 7 Survival Skills Anyone Can Learn

December 26, 2022
Survival Shelter

Whether you are surviving in the wilderness, bugging out of an emergency, or escaping a natural disaster, unexpected complications can happen. The difference between success and helplessness in a survival situation depends on whether you have the appropriate basic survival skills to face any emergency.

Many critical survival skills are simple to learn. Familiarize yourself with seven skills you can implement in a survival situation that can help save your life in an emergency.

Building a Survival Shelter

On average, 2,000 hikers get lost in the woods each year. This often occurs if you lose the trail or weather conditions prevent you from returning to the proper path. Knowing how to build a survival shelter can help you get through the night and offer protection while waiting for help.

A survival shelter protects you from rain, wind, sun, insects, and hostile predators. Shelters come in many forms, and knowing how to build multiple types of shelters for survival is critical because you can never be sure what resources you’ll have access to.

One of the simplest shelter types is the lean-to. Building one requires flat and dry ground, two trees, and a few long wooden poles. One pole is arranged horizontally between the trees, serving as a ridge, while the others are mounted diagonally, forming a primitive but efficient shelter.

If you have access to plenty of long branches, you can also try building a teepee or an A-frame survival shelter. Cover the frame with a tarp, trash bag, or reflective blanket to create a weatherproof shelter.

Starting a Fire

Fire provides warmth, a way to cook food and boil water, and serves as a light source and a deterrent to predators. While anyone can use matches or a lighter, knowing multiple ways to start a fire without these tools can be lifesaving. Consider learning these alternative fire-starting methods:

  • A Ferro kit (flint and steel) starts a fire using sparks produced by friction. This method works in wet or rainy conditions.
  • Use the Scout-tested bow and drill method. This involves creating a bow from a flexible branch about 12”-15” long and attaching a cord to both ends. You also need a spindle made from a branch the same length as the bow but approximately an inch and a half in diameter and blunted as one end. Finally, you need a flat piece of dry wood for the hearth. Wrap the cord around the spindle and place the blunt end of the spindle on the notch cut into the hearth. Move the bow back and forth to create friction and heat. Once you develop a spark in the hearth, place dry tinder on top and blow gently to build a flame.
  • Lens-based methods, such as the magnifying glass, can help you start a fire on sunny days.

Whichever fire-starting method you choose, always ensure the wood and kindling you use are as dry as possible.

Finding a Source of Water

The human body can survive without water for approximately three days. So it is vital to know how to find a water source if you are in a survival situation.

When looking for clean water in the wilderness, prioritize flowing water, like rivers, creeks, and streams, over stagnant or standing water, which may carry more bacteria.

Even if you find what appears to be a safe flowing source, you may still need to purify the water to ensure it is safe to drink. Boiling water over a campfire is the traditional purification method. You can also use canteens fitted with water filtration systems or water purification tablets.

important survival skills

Navigating the Terrain

One of the most important skills to learn is navigation, which involves using the right tools and knowledge to orient yourself.

Learning to read different types of maps with a compass can provide you with lifesaving information. For example, local road maps show where major highways and secondary roadways are, whereas topographic maps display the local geography and elevation changes. Most maps also show you the location of the nearest rivers and bodies of water, providing crucial information if you’re looking for a suitable spot to build a survival shelter.

The role of the compass is to determine your heading, which is the direction you are facing relative to the four cardinal directions. As virtually all maps show where North is, knowing your heading can help you rotate and orient a paper map to visualize where you are and where you’re going more efficiently.

Finding Food in the Field

Even the best-prepared survivalists cannot pack an indefinite amount of food in their bags. If your survival scenario extends past 72 hours, you will likely need to find or catch your next meal in your local environment.

Finding safe, edible food requires four skills: foraging, hunting, fishing, and trapping.


Foraging for food requires finding non-toxic, nutrient-dense berries, nuts, fungi, and greens. While you won’t know exactly what natural flora is available, there are some basic rules to follow to prevent accidental poisoning.

  • If you are unfamiliar with edible mushroom types, avoid foraging fungi. Many mushrooms are poisonous and can cause fatal liver and kidney damage within 48 hours.
  • Foul-smelling plants and those with thorns or spines are often inedible or poisonous. These physical properties are the plant’s way of protecting itself against predators.
  • Test the plant by rubbing it on your skin. Plants that cause irritation are typically unsuitable or unpalatable for consumption.

To ensure you are prepared to forage in an emergency, read books on plant identification and go foraging with a knowledgeable partner in your local area. This can help build your knowledge of common edible wild plants.


Trapping is a low-effort way to obtain high-protein, high-calorie food sources in the wilderness. It involves setting traps to lure small game animals and retrieving them later. Primitive trapping methods are challenging and require a lot of patience.

Before venturing into the Great Outdoors, it is vital to learn and practice several types of traps, including:

  • Deep hole trap involves digging a hole straight down, approximately 12” to 18”. The hole should be narrow towards the top and wider toward the bottom with smooth sloping walls to prevent the animal from escaping. You can place a small log on small stones over the trap to encourage animals to hide and fall into the trap.
  • Drag noose snare is ideal for trapping larger animals like foxes, hares, and coyotes on the run. It involves hanging a noose at head height from a stick above a well-used run. When the animal escapes into the run, its head is caught in the noose, dragging the stick behind it, which becomes entangled in the run’s branches.
  • Deadfall trap: is made from three small sticks and a large flat rock. One stick is staked into the ground, and the other two sticks are lashed together to form a V. This is attached to the stake so that the stick frame forms a number 4 shape. The rock is then balanced on top of the stake, setting the trap’s tension. Bait the trap with salt, corn, or edible plants local wildlife eat, and as the animal runs into the traps, it’ll trigger the rock to fall.


You can hunt larger game animals if you find yourself lost in the wilderness with your firearm. Learning how to identify what animals are in your area and the best hunting location is essential.

Check for paw or hoof prints and scat. You should also look for signs of animal bedding areas like depressions in grass, dirt, or brush, as well as other indicators that an animal has been in the area, like antler velvet, fur, or trees with visible rub marks.


Fishing is a simple passive way to find protein-rich foods, but you won’t always have your rod and reel with you in the wilderness. There are various ways you can land a fish without modern fishing gear, including spearfishing or gill nets created from cordage you find in the wild. However, one of the best low-impact ways to fish is to build a fish weir.

This ancient practice uses an ovoid or wedge-shaped ring of posts staked into a river bed with an upstream opening. The posts are connected via thin woven branches, which stop the fish from escaping the trap.

Dog Tag with Gut Hook

Once you have caught your fish, you need to be able to gut and prepare it effectively. The Freedom Fatigues dog tag with gut hook offers a simple, lightweight solution that allows you to scale and gut your catch in the wild. The 304 stainless steel tag features a serrated edge for scraping fish scales and removing fins and spines, while the hooked edge allows you to cleanly remove fish guts, leaving your catch ready to cook.

Knowing Basic First-Aid

Knowing basic first-aid is an excellent skill for everyday life and can save you from serious injury or death in an emergency. Necessary first aid skills include knowing how to respond to conditions such as choking, burns, external bleeding, anaphylaxis, poisoning, or spinal, head, or neck injuries.

To acquire first aid skills or brush up on your existing skill set, you can attend first aid classes with the Red Cross online or in person. You will learn life-saving techniques such as:

  • The Heimlich maneuver
  • Cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR)
  • Making a tourniquet to stop bleeding
  • Setting a splint for broken bones
  • Knowing the signs of a concussion or head trauma
  • How to treat different degree burns

Remember to pack a first-aid kit in your gear, so you have access to the right tools to perform life-saving techniques. You can make your own kit or purchase a ready-made option from the Red Cross. A well-stocked kit will include:

  • Adhesive cloth tape and bandages
  • Aspirin
  • Antiseptic wipes
  • Cold compress
  • Nonlatex gloves
  • Emergency blanket
  • Breathing barrier
  • Gauze roll and pads
  • Hydrocortisone ointment
  • Oral thermometer

Tying Knots

Although it might not seem like the most important survival skill, knowing how to use cordage and tie knots offers numerous benefits. For instance, a square knot can help you secure a bandage or dressing over a wound. Or try a clove hitch, which is ideal for securely tying equipment to a tree or building a simple tarp shelter.

Although many types of wild cordage and materials are available, paracord is the best option due to its lightweight and highly durable properties. You can wear a paracord bracelet any time you venture outdoors to ensure you always have some at your disposal.

Freedom Fatigues Paracord Bracelets

Freedom Fatigues paracord bracelets are hand-crafted by an American veteran and LEO using a durable Jacob basket weave. They are composed of two 3’ sections of rugged paracord, ideal for any survival application.  

Be Prepared for Any Situation with Freedom Fatigues

One of America’s greatest pastimes is enjoying the Great Outdoors. Whether you are a dedicated survivalist, a camping enthusiast, a hunter, an angler, or a curious patriotic American, Freedom Fatigues has the survival information and the patriotic apparel you need.

We are a proudly veteran-owned family business that embodies the most important American values: hard work, freedom, and unapologetic love for our country.