best survival skills

13 Best Survival Skills, Ranked by Importance


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Could you survive an emergency alone in the wild? Many people love to spend time in the outdoors, but do not have the necessary skills to sustain themselves if something actually goes wrong. There are multiple different scenarios that could thrust a person into a survive or die situation. Since that's the case, it's worth it to commit yourself to learning certain things, and doing so in a prioritized fashion. The following survival skills, ranked in order of importance, can help if someone finds themselves in a dire situation.

1. Making Water Drinkable

best survival skills

Water is life sustaining. The human body can sustain itself for a while without food, but only for a short time without water. The exact time period varies from person to person, but dehydration can be devastating to the body. It can cause a dis-regulated body temperature, unbalanced electrolytes, brain swelling, extreme blood pressure changes, and ultimately death.

Water is easily found in many regions, except the desert, but tracking it down it is only half the battle. Not all water is readily drinkable. Some sources include harmful bacteria, dirt or debris, and viruses lurking within. There are many methods survivalists use to clean water to drink, including boiling water, filtering through a special straw (survival straws), decanting in a container, wood tubing, cloth sieving, and using a pump or gravity filter. Some of these methods remove only dirt, while some remove most impurities. In developed countries, that would be enough to make the water safe to consume. In some undeveloped countries the water is not safe to drink and would only be so after being thoroughly purified.

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2. Fire Starting

best survival skills

It cannot be understated just how crucial the skill of starting a fire is to survival. It is needed to boil water, to cook food, to provide warmth, to stave off predators, and to signal for help if lost. Start a fire with a tinder bundle of dried leaves, twigs, and wood shavings, if available. Chop wood (another crucial skill) into pieces of varying sizes. Layer small pieces with the tinder when starting the fire, and add larger pieces as the fire grows. If using the fire to create a smoke signal, green leaves can be added to make it extra smoky.

3. Building Shelter

best survival skills

Humans need protection from the elements. The best tools to use to build a primitive shelter would be a cutting implement, such as an ax or large knife. If someone finds themselves without either of those in a bad situation, they may have to improvise. Shelter needs to be dry and insulated from the weather.

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4. Hunting

hunting with bow

Humans can't go without food for too long. Having the knowledge and skill to harvest game meat is extremely valuable. Meat can provide iron and protein, which is crucial in keeping a person's strength up to perform all of the necessary tasks to stay alive in a survival situation.

5. Foraging

foraging for food

Like hunting, foraging for food is an invaluable skill. It is important to be able to identify which plants are edible and which are not. Plus, many edibles have toxic (sometimes deadly) lookalikes. Chances are you will not have a guidebook on hand for identification, so this knowledge might be the difference between starvation and sustenance.

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6. Mindfulness

peaceful forest

None of the aforementioned survival skills matter much if panic takes over and renders a person useless. It can be difficult to gather thoughts and think clearly, but the mind is critical for one's survival. A strong will to live and the ability to stay calm and present can make all the difference.

7. Emergency First Aid

best survival skills

Broken bones. Snake bites. Medical emergencies. These things happen and they happen fast. Knowing the right reaction saves lives. Taking a wilderness first aid course ahead of time can equip an outdoorsman with the proper skills to deal with these emergencies and potentially save a life, or even their own.

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8. Self Defense

best survival skills

When a predator attacks, the wrong move will get you killed. Different reactions are appropriate for different creatures. Never run from a bear, for instance. Some animals will leave if you look big and make lots of noise. Others will charge upon eye contact. Knowing the nuances of the predators you may encounter is important.

9. Wound Care

wound care

Along the lines of emergency first aid, if someone is stuck in the wilderness for any prolonged amount of time with a wound, infection can set in and that can be deadly. Having at least a baseline knowledge of wilderness wound care is crucial.

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10. Knot Tying

nautical knotKnots are multipurpose but need to work when you are relying on them for survival. They can be used when building shelter, securing food, and for many other purposes.

11. Map & Compass

map and compass

The gold standard of wilderness navigation skills is knowing how to use a map and compass. Knowing multiple methods of navigation ensures that a person is not reliant on any one method to escape a sticky situation.

12. Cooking

cooking fish outdoors

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Some of the harvested food needs to be cooked to be safe to eat. This is where cooking comes in. It is a pretty basic but important skill to have when SHTF.

13. Weapons Construction

best survival skills

Many of the skills above, such as shelter construction or hunting, would be made much more efficient with the proper tools and weapons. This is where knowing how to construct a primitive bow and arrow or knife comes in.

READ MORE: Top 10 Basic Survival Tips for Everyday Folks

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