6 Basic Survival Skills That Will Actually Keep You Alive

6 Basic Survival Skills That Will Actually Keep You Alive
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These 6 Survival Skills Will Actually Keep You Alive

Do You Know Which 6 Basic Survival Skills Are The Most Important?

Answer: The ones that keep you alive.

If you’re new to survival or even a veteran, it’s worth a review of the 6 most important basic survival skills. The basic survival skills that will bring you home to safely.

There are many survival skills we get to choose from, but the following 6 are the ones you should master first. Because these are the 6 survival skills that will keep you alive long enough for rescue.

Finding and Purifying Water Survival Skill

1 – Finding and Purifying Water

In most survival situations, water is first.

Why? Because water quickly becomes a player. If not immediately, at least within the first 24 hours.

The human body makeup is 60% water and it requires constant rehydration. Human tissue is saturated with water.

  • Water protects and lubricates our internal joints, ligaments, and muscles.
  • Water is the primary constituent of our blood. It carries oxygen and nutrients from our lungs and digestive tract to the cells of the body.
  • The power that drives the pumping action for our heart is an electrical impulse. These pulses are derived from electrolytes dissolved in the water. The water that makes up our bloodstream.
  • Your brain tissue also requires water to keep neurons and synapses functioning properly.

The human body is designed to carry a specific percentage of water in its tissues. If the percentage of water carried becomes less than normal, dehydration is occurring.

Dehydration is what drives us to the water fountain.

Thirst can best be described as a dryness of the mouth. The mouth relies heavily on water saturation. To the point of being perpetually wet. The mouth continually produces saliva from the water in its tissues.

So the first sign of dehydration is through the mouth. The dryness we sense indicates an out of balance water situation developing.

Which is the human condition we call Thirst.

Often people are busy with some task and ignore this first thirst warning. Instead, putting off a trip to the water fountain or the kitchen sink.

The second warning the body gives is a mild headache. Which will get worse and worse over time.

Other dehydration symptoms include:

  • reduced urinary output
  • lethargy
  • the inability to perspire or produce tears
  • nausea
  • rapid heart rate
  • tingling of the skin
  • high body temperatures
  • hallucinations
  • heat exhaustion
  • and eventually death

Not being able to find and purify water is of primary concern when one finds themselves in a survival scenario. The dehydration process begins the moment you are lost, hurt and in need of rescue.

Plus in survival, you’ll have increased excursion and exposure, so you will dehydrate faster than normal.

So it’s of utmost importance to find, purify, filter and drink water continuously when in survival mode.

I realize it’s an overused cliche to say “learning this basic survival skill can mean the difference between life and death”. But in the case of locating water, it’s both profound and accurate.

Don’t you think it’s about time you mastered this basic survival skill?

Wilderness Survival Shelter

2 – Building A Wilderness Survival Shelter From Scratch

If forced to spend the night in the wilderness, a wilderness survival shelter is desirable. In some circumstances it downright essential.

Maybe you’ve acquired water, been able to produce a fire, even navigated your way through the wilderness. But shelter provides something often times more necessary than these.

A good survival shelter provides protection from extreme elements.

Humans are not designed for extended exposure to the following conditions:

  • freezing temperatures
  • sweltering heat
  • high winds
  • deep snow
  • driving sleet
  • heavy rains

We quickly become dehydrated in direct sunlight in a desert.

We can become hypothermic on the frozen tundra of the North within minutes, or even in more temperate regions when rain soaked.

Shelter equals protection. Like fur to a bear or blubber to a whale.

Yet, unlike the Animal Kingdom, humans have evolved to manipulate our personal environments.

We’ve created the entire concept of “indoors.”

We create living space and heat and cool them. We build in protection from all forms of precipitation.

We even moderate the humidity levels within our homes for comfort.

The truth is, we have flexed our cerebral cortex over thousands of years. This flexing has led to our modern environments. This process has had the unintended consequence of humans losing our natural defenses against the elements.

So when we go into the wilderness, we must bring our shelters with us. Or quickly create them from what we scavenge.

The water countdown clock will run out in a matter of days, but the shelter clock may expire in a matter of hours or even minutes in extreme environments.

So you must learn the areas in which you travel and what materials are available. So you know how to protect yourself quickly from the elements.

The last thing you want is for the rescuers who finds your dead body to say:

“Look at all the stuff around he could have used to make a shelter. I guess he didn’t know any basic survival skills.”

Fire Survival Skill

3 – Starting A Fire Without A Lighter

Firecraft is the art of making fire.

Those of us who are serious about basic survival skills know how important the ability to create fire is.

Fire is useful in all survival scenarios and can be a life-saver in many of them.

Fire gives us 3 critical survival elements:

  • heat
  • light
  • smoke

Hyperthermia can occur in low temperatures, especially in soaked clothing. Heat from a fire can keep us from dying of hyperthermia. Heat warms our bodies and heat dries wet clothes.

Heat is also essential to kill parasites and bacteria in raw meat.

Light from a fire can be used for signaling at night, as can the smoke from a fire during the day. The light from a fire illuminates the dark which helps keep wild animals at bay.

Smoke from a fire can also be used to smoke raw meats, an ancient method of food preservation. Smoke also can help protect you from of the biggest killer of them all, the mosquito.

So as the Blind Preist told Frankenstein’s monster,

“Fire is Good. Fire is Good, Yes. Fire is our Friend”.

And the key to successful fire starting is preparedness.

Starting a fire can be as difficult or as easy as you make it.

If you have fire starting materials with you (in your car, your backpack, your briefcase, etc.) then fire is only a few minutes away.

But what happens if you don’t? How prepared are you make a fire without a Bic lighter?

Please don’t us the excuse that you’ll always have a Bic on you at all times. We all know sh*t happens, we forget, and mechanical devices fail. Especially at inopportune times.

It’s wise to invest in your fire starting survival techniques today, just in case.

Navigation With A Compass

4 – Navigating Your Way Back To Safety

Many a survival scenario begins with one losing their bearings in unfamiliar surroundings.

The technical term for this condition is LOST.

I remember as a youngster watching MASH when Hawkeye tells a colleague they are lost.

“I’ve been lost before and this is exactly what it looks like.” 

As a former US Air Force navigator once told me,

“I made a career out of keeping my plane and crew from becoming lost, not that we weren’t “momentarily disoriented” from time to time.”

He also heard an SR-71 pilot say,

“You haven’t really been lost until you’ve been lost at Mach 3.”

The good news is that whether you are lost in the desert, dense forest, mountains, or skies at Mach 3, the condition of being lost is correctable.

The Almighty, through Nature, has given us a plethora of ways to “find our way”. But only if you learn these “ways” and practice them.

Lost is not good, but it’s also not hopeless.

If you take the time to learn the tools at hand, you hypothetically should never be perpetually “lost”. Having multiple ways to get you back on course in the wilderness is an underrated but basic survival skill worth mastering.

Rescue Helicopter

5 – Survival Signaling To Help Rescuers Find You

Assuming you are in a survival situation where rescue is desired, one must understand the basics of signaling. Signaling is drawing attention to oneself.

In the grand scheme of things, we are tiny compared to our vast planet.

Finding someone on the ground is difficult, especially if nothing is done to draw attention to oneself.

So what are the fundamental principles for effective signaling?

1) Contrast and 2) Intelligence.

First, you must contrast with your environment.

Second, the potential rescuer should see your signal and recognize it not as an anomaly of nature. Your signal should be a clear sign of intelligence at work.

There are many ways accomplish this. Many of these ways even compliment each other. So it’s always so sad to hear when rescuers struggle to locate the lost or missing in the wild.

Maybe the rescue team was too late and the unfortunate soul was gone before the search began.

But what about the poor souls who saw the rescuers. Yelled at the top of their lungs. Waved their arms frantically from the forest floor. Only to helplessly watch the helicopter cruise past and their rescue hopes vanish.

If only they would have taken some time to master the basic survival skills of signaling.

Figure 4 Deadfall Trap

6 – Food Aquisition To Stave Off Starvation

In most survival scenarios immediate rescue, water and shelter are the initial priorities. We introduced them already because they are more important than food acquisition.

Food acquisition should not be at the very top of a survival skills priority list. Why? Because Man can live for weeks without food, but can perish quickly without water or shelter.

That being said, perhaps you have long-term plans for living in the wilderness. Perhaps society has collapsed or a pandemic has forced you away from your fellow man.

Whatever the reason, if you must live for weeks in the wilderness you’ll need food nourishment.

To understand what foods you need, you must understand what nutrients your body requires. Carbohydrates, fats, proteins, fiber, vitamins, and minerals are required to survive long term.

  • Carbs and fats provide necessary energy.
  • Protein assists in the building and repairing of muscles.
  • Vitamins and minerals are critical for efficient bodily functions. Functions such as the immune system to prevent diseases.
  • A certain level of fiber is also required to keep everything moving through your body.

So where can you find these substances in nature and how can you acquire them?

Fish, small game, plants, berries, and fungi are all valid wilderness food supplies.

The average man needs 2500 calories a day to sustain his weight, the typical female 2000 calories. This is based on a nominal level of activity.

However, if you are in survival mode you will be:

  • moving long distances over rough terrain
  • carrying gear
  • gathering food
  • building shelters

You will be burning considerably more calories. Perhaps thousands more.

Family Calorie Needs Chart

Wild game comes in at about 500 calories per pound. Fish and seafood 600-800 calories per pound. Green plants around 100 calories or less per pound.

If rescue is not the goal, but living in the wilderness is the goal, this excessive calorie burn will make food acquisition a continuous struggle.  Similar to the continuous need to find and purify water.

Food acquisition no longer consists of stopping by the grocery store on your way home from work. Or calling the local pizza joint for the deal of the day.

No, finding enough nutritious calories just became your new full-time job. You better know what the hell you’re doing.

Action Plan

So How Do You Master These 6 Basic Survival Skills?

There are 2 things you need to do to master any skill (especially Basic Survival Techniques).

1) Learn


2) Practice

That’s it. If you do both of these properly, then you will eventually master them. It’s not a matter of if, but when.

However, if you learn but don’t practice, you are book smart but skills dumb. You might be able to explain how to survive, but you’ll fail miserably when put to the real test.

If you practice but don’t learn first, then you’re just messing around. You won’t be practicing the right basic survival skills or become proficient in any of the 6 critical survival skills we discussed today. That’s for certain.

That’s why today, to help you get started, we’re giving away our “Last Resort Fire Starting Guide. Just click here to get your free copy of it.

Remember: Prepare, Adapt and Overcome
– Just In Case Jack
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  1. David says

    I already have 3 very, very, good books on Survival. My favorite is the SAS Survival Handbook by “Johnny Wiseman”. It is the most complete Survival Handbook I have ever studied from. Not only does it have all the basic skills but also details for different food sources & how to find & identify edible plants, but the ones you should not eat. Making weapons & traps. I could go on & on.
    The best thing to do is purchase the book & see for yourself.

  2. Joe Scuderi Sr says

    Love the article. This is what we all need in these times. Thank you Just in Time Jack. I am going to get the book, hope its all you say as I am preparing for an event where these skills will help. Joe S.

  3. Mike Jones says

    Good Article and practical advise whether you are preparing for Armageddon or the next Tornado/Hurricane/Earthquake. Readiness + Preparedness.

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