The 10 Essential Outdoor Survival Skills Everyone Should Know

When you find yourself in the great outdoors, it’s important to be prepared for any situation. Knowing basic outdoor survival skills is essential for anyone venturing into the wilderness, and it can be the difference between life and death. The 10 essential outdoor survival skills everyone should know are navigation, shelter building, fire starting, finding food and water, first aid, signaling for help, tool making and use, plant identification, animal tracking, and survival psychology. Knowing these skills will not only help you survive, but also build confidence and improve your outdoor experience. Being knowledgeable and prepared can give you the peace of mind to enjoy the outdoors and all the beauty it has to offer.


Navigation is the skill of finding your way in unfamiliar terrain without the aid of a map or GPS. It’s important to know how to navigate with or without modern tools because you may be in an emergency situation where your GPS breaks or batteries die. The simplest way to navigate is with a compass, which will show you the direction of north. Map reading can also help you navigate and find your way, but it requires familiarity with the map and the scale used on the map. Additionally, you may want to learn about the sun’s position and how it changes throughout the day. Knowing where the sun rises and sets each day can help you determine what time it is and your location.

Shelter building

Building a shelter can keep you safe from the elements and protect you from predators. Consider what type of terrain you are in, such as high or low desert, and choose shelter accordingly. 

Prepare: Before you begin building, you’ll want to gather materials, such as a tarp or poncho, and build a fire if you’re likely to spend a night in the wild. When choosing a site for your shelter, keep in mind that it should be well-hidden and clear of any plants that may cause allergies or poison.

Fire starting

Fire can keep you warm, cook your food, and repel dangerous wildlife, so it’s important that you know how to start one with minimal materials. That said, building a fire in dry conditions can be very dangerous, so be sure to check the weather before you head out. You can start a fire with a flint and steel or use fire starters or tinder if there is a high risk of drought or if you’re in a forested area. If you have paper or kindling with you, you can easily start a fire with the help of a candle or a lighter.

Finding food and water

It’s important to know how to find food and water in the wild if you get lost or are on an extended hike. You’ll want to keep an eye out for edible plants and be sure to avoid poisonous ones. You can find a guide to edible plants here. It’s also a good idea to pack a lightweight water filter with you when you go hiking to avoid getting sick from contaminated water. You can filter water by placing sand, pebbles, or other materials in the bottom of a container and pouring the water through it. Be sure to boil any water you find in a river or stream to avoid getting sick from bacteria. Finding food and water is essential, especially if you’re injured and need to survive until help arrives.

First aid

First aid is the skill of treating injuries until you can receive professional medical attention. First aid is especially important in the wilderness, where help may not arrive as quickly as it would in a city. It’s also a skill that can be used to help others. First aid kits contain the essentials, such as gauze, ointments, and bandages, but you can also create your own kit and customize it based on your needs. First aid kits should be lightweight and easily accessible. It’s important to know where the items in your first aid kit are located, so that you can access them easily if you need to.

Signaling for help

After you’ve built a fire and found food and water, you’ll want to signal for help. Signaling for help applies to any situation where you need assistance, whether it’s an injury or getting lost in the woods. The most basic way to signal for help is by creating a fire. Signal for help by making noise, such as by clapping or yelling, and also by moving large rocks or branches to attract attention. You can also use a bright piece of clothing or a whistle to attract attention. Another option is to send an S.O.S. by Morse code.

Tool making and use

Knowing how to make and use tools outdoors is an important skill. If you get lost or break your equipment, you may need to rely on these tools. You can make a variety of tools by using natural materials, such as vines or bark, to strengthen an item you already have. You can also use an item as a tool, such as a piece of bark to wipe dirt off your shoes. If you break a tool, it’s important to know if you have the skills to repair it or if you will have to discard it and find a new one.

Plant identification

Plants are essential to survival, so you’ll want to learn how to identify them. Look for plants with edible roots, leaves, and berries, and stay away from any plants that have thorns or are poisonous. You can quickly identify plants by their leaves and flowers, and it’s important to do this before you eat any plants. Some plants may be poisonous if eaten raw and can cause food poisoning. Be sure to bring a guide to edible plants with you when venturing into the wilderness. Before eating any plants, be sure to identify them and know which plants are edible and which are not. Some plants can be poisonous if eaten raw, so it’s important to cook them.

Animal tracking

Animal tracking is the skill of finding and following a trail left behind by animals in the wild. Animal tracking can be used to find food or identify unwanted predators in the area, such as bears or snakes. When tracking animals, you’ll want to keep an eye out for broken branches, foot prints, scat, or feathers.

Survival psychology

Survival psychology is the study of how the mind reacts to dangerous situations and how to best respond to them. Most people don’t want to be in a dangerous situation, but accidents do happen, and it’s important to know how to react. Know your strengths and weaknesses, and identify how you’re likely to respond to different situations. Be sure to prepare yourself mentally for an outdoor excursion by visualizing positive outcomes. When you’re outdoors, be sure to stay positive, remain observant, and stay focused on your goal.