9 Essential Skills for Wilderness Survival

There are a few survival skills that every hiker and hunter should master before heading into the wild. These include knowing how to start a fire with one strike, building a shelter in the wilderness and navigation without a GPS.

It is also important to understand first aid. Being able to treat an injury can make the difference between life or death in a survival situation.

1. First Aid

First aid is a set of life-saving skills that can be applied to humans or animals in an emergency. This includes how to perform CPR, control bleeding, treat burns, and stabilize broken bones.

Fire-making and fire-maintenance are crucial wilderness survival skills because they provide warmth, light, and the ability to cook food and purify water. Learning how to start a fire using dry tinder such as moss or amadou (a fungus found on coniferous trees) is essential.

Knowing how to identify and forage for edible wild plants is another vital survival skill. Many backcountry foods are also medicinal, and some can be used to treat conditions such as dehydration and hypothermia. It’s important to practice these skills before going on an extended wilderness trip.

2. Navigation

The ability to navigate is a basic survival skill that everyone who spends time outdoors should know. Knowing how to navigate can save your life if you ever get lost on a hike or wilderness camping trip.

You can learn navigation skills from a survival class or by taking the time to study and practice with a map and compass before your backcountry adventure. It’s also important to take note of the terrain you are in and be familiar with how you can use landmarks and waterways to find your way.

Astronauts are also taught survival skills because a launch abort or misguided reentry could land them in the middle of a remote wilderness. They are then expected to be able to survive until rescuers arrive. In addition to learning survival techniques, they are trained on how to find and use edible plants and fungi.

3. Fire Making

One of the most important survival skills is fire making. It allows you to cook food, maintain body heat, signal rescuers and more. It is also a critical tool for purifying water in emergency situations.

When you are camping, it is important to have at least 2-3 ways to start a fire and to practice using them regularly. Having a fire is even more important in a wilderness survival situation as it could save your life by providing warmth and protection from the elements.

In addition to the standard lighters and matches, it is also a good idea to learn how to make a fire with flint and steel or other primitive methods. This will ensure you have a way to create a fire even if your modern fire-starting tools are lost. You should also practice finding or creating tinder such as pine needles and twigs.

4. Shelter

There are few things more important than having a comfortable place to sleep when out in the wilderness. Knowing how to build a lean-to or tarp shelter is one skill every outdoor enthusiast should have.

Even if you don’t have the ability to construct a full-on quinzhee or debris shelter, learning how to create a simple lean-to can save your life in a survival situation. Piling up pine needles or dried leaves offers quick warmth and protects you from the wind.

Survival skills also include the ability to administer first aid in case you or someone else is injured. This is why it’s vital to carry a first-aid kit with items like tourniquets and wound-packing gauze. It is also a good idea to know how to use natural remedies for stings and cuts. These skills can be vital in keeping you alive until emergency services arrive.

5. Food Preparation

For those who spend time in the wilderness, it’s important to know how to eat. Food is one of the primary survival skills, along with shelter and water which is why the top survival foods article at Practical Self Reliance can be a good source of information if an emergency might happen. Our hunter-gatherer ancestors knew how to classify plants, understand their medicinal qualities, and knew how each plant interacted with the others.

Having edible plant knowledge is essential for survival as it allows you to get calories without having to wait on an animal to appear or try to catch a fish. Berries are a good example of a readily available, high-calorie food source.

The ability to signal for help is another necessary survival skill. Whistles and mirrors can help alert rescuers to your location. It’s also a good idea to have a survival kit with you when venturing into the wilderness, which will include first aid items and fire-making tools.

6. Shelter Building

A basic wilderness survival skill, shelter building protects a person from elements such as wind, rain, and cold. In survival situations, this is often the first step in saving a life.

When constructing a survival shelter, it is important to leave no trace and not damage the natural environment. In fact, a debris shelter constructed with dead branches and leaves can offer amazing protection from the elements for those in need.

Having the right wilderness survival skills is essential for those who venture out into the wilds. From knowing how to use tourniquets to being able to find food, these skills can save lives in emergency situations. Even if you never plan on venturing into the backcountry, learning wilderness survival skills can still help. For example, you can practice a few of these skills in your backyard to be better prepared for emergencies.

In a survival situation, being able to use what is around you to build a shelter from branches and other natural materials can make the difference between sleeping comfortably and hypothermia. This is one of the skills that teens will enjoy learning as they gain proficiency with wilderness survival.

The ability to signal for help is a valuable skill that is also essential for wilderness survival. Whether using a mirror, whistle or other means, it is important to know how to communicate your location and status.

This is especially useful if you are lost or separated from your group. Many people have survived in the wild without food or water, but being unable to communicate your location can lead to death quickly. Practicing this skill will help your teen be prepared for any wilderness survival situation they may find themselves in.

7. Water Purification

If the human body is composed of 78% water, it’s no surprise that finding and drinking clean water would be a priority for survival in the wilderness. Many lost people die due to dehydration or water-borne pathogens.

The best way to ensure that your body has enough water is to learn how to purify it on the fly. This can be done using a water filter, iodine tablets or boiling.

Another survival skill is the ability to keep calm and think clearly when faced with an emergency. This is especially important if you’re far away from rescue services. A basic first aid course can teach you how to handle a variety of situations like hypothermia and dressing wounds. It’s also good to practice setting snares and survival fishing techniques. Foraging skills are also useful for obtaining nutritious food.

8. Signaling

If your wilderness adventure goes wrong, it’s important to know how to signal for help. This can include using light or fire, flags and markers, whistles and even a mirror.

Auditory signals, such as three sharp and evenly spaced blasts of a whistle or cracking rocks together, are an international signal for distress. This can be heard from a distance and will alert rescuers that you need help.

When constructing visual signals, remember that contrast is key. Bright colors like red or white will stand out against the surrounding wilderness. Also, use reflective material such as glow-in-the-dark survey tape or bird scare flash tape that can be found at garden centers to create eye catching marks on your gear or yourself.

9. Wilderness Medicine

Knot-tying, shelter building, emergency signaling and survival fishing are important skills to have for wilderness survival. These skills can help provide food, water, warmth and security in a survival situation. Additionally, many survival items have multiple uses such as fire-starters or flares that can double as emergency signals in the event of an emergency.

Wilderness medicine is the knowledge and ability to address injuries, illnesses, and emergencies outside of modern facilities. While most of the time, backcountry injuries are not life-threatening, it is important to know basic first aid skills such as dressing wounds and improvising tourniquets from materials available in the environment (e.g., wire, zip ties). Additionally, ACLS and BLS recertification is recommended.

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