Survival Techniques: 5 Basic Survival Skills
Photo by Kristi Dranginis

Survival Techniques: 5 Basic Survival Skills

Survival techniques are a-plenty, but regardless of which specific one, there are 5 Basic Survival Skills that everyone who ventures into the Outdoors should understand and be fully aware of their potential need and use. This is a just brief outline, not a full explanation of all the requirements and items required in each category.  One of the most important elements to survival is between your ears, your brain.  Of all survival techniques, the most important is DO NOT PANIC, use your wits and practice all elements of the 5 basic survival skills before you may need to rely on them.

Basic Survival Skill 1: FIRE

Fire is the king of survival techniques! Fire can purify water, cook food, signal rescuers, provide warmth, light and comfort, help keep predators at a distance, and can be a most welcome friend and companion. As a survival technique, it is one that is essential. Each and every person who ventures into the Outdoors should have a minimum of two ways to start a fire with them, one on their person at all times and the other with their gear.  A few small fires provides more heat than one large fire. Collect firewood you think you will need for the night and then collect the same amount again, experience shows you will need it.  Conserve fuel by making a “star fire”; where the ends of large logs meet in the fire only, push inward as more fuel is needed.  Make a reflector from your SPACE BLANKET on the back wall of a shelter to reflect heat of your survival fire to your back, sit between fire and back shelter wall.

Basic Survival Skill 2: SHELTER

SHELTER is the survival technique by which you protect your body from excess exposure from the sun, cold, wind, rain or snow.  Anything that takes away or adds to your overall body temperature can be your enemy.  Clothing is the first line of shelter protection, have the right clothes for the right environment.  Always have a hat. Try and keep the layer closest to your body dry.   Layers trap air and are warmer than one thick garment.  Do not expend energy making a shelter if nature provides one.  Practice building a quick lean-to shelter in case you can not find your campsite, do not wait until you need to make one.  Use a SPACE BLANKET to prevent dampness or to insulate your shelter or to wrap yourself up in a sitting or squat position to concentrate your body core heat.

Basic Survival Skill 3: SIGNALING

SIGNALING is unique among survival techniques in that it gives you the means and ability to alert any and all potential rescuers that you are in need of HELP.  Fire, flashing light, bright color markers, flags, mirrors, whistles all will help you be found.  Three fires in a triangular form are a recognized distress signal.  Carefully bank your signal fires to prevent igniting surrounding area.  Use regular signal mirrors only when you can see a plane, or people in the distance.  Use EMERGENCY STROBE light at night to help attract attention from those that may be in the area.  Make smoky fire with organic material over the fire during the day to attract attention.  Lay out ground to air signal in open field, S.O.S. from rocks, logs or colored clothing, whatever will be seen against the background.  Most search and rescue parties use aircraft as a primary method of sighting.

Basic Survival Skill 4: FOOD/WATER

FOOD/WATER are vital towards your survival.  Ration your sweat not your water intake.  Try to drink only in the cool of the evening. You can live up to three days without water. DO NOT eat plants you do not know.  Never drink urine.  Always assume that you will need extra food and water when you plan your trip.  Pack energy bars and candy in your pockets at all time, just in case.  If possible boil all water 10 minutes plus one minute for every 1000 feet above sea level.  Strain water through your handkerchief to remove large particles.  Try to drink only in the cool of the evening.  Never wait until you are without water to collect it. Have some poly zip bags to collect and store water.  Never eat any wild berries that you are not sure of what they are.    You can catch rain water in your SPACE BLANKET by laying it out in a trench.

Basic Survival Skill 5: FIRST AID

FIRST AID as a survival technique is not just the basic medical needs, it is the primary way in which you act to survive. DO NOT PANIC, remain calm and do what you have to do to take care of YOU. STOP means Sit, Think, Observe, and Plan.  It is the most intelligent thing you can do when you realize you are lost or stranded.  The most important element is to keep your brain functioning rationally, this is basic first aid for survival. Analyze your needs before every trip, create a medical checklist and carry a small personal kit with you at all times.  Most survival situations require only dressing for small cuts, bruises and personal medication needs, make sure you know what you have with you and how to use it.  Do not over pack, pack what you feel you will need to carry with you at all times. Concentrate on being found, pack a picture of your family in with your gear to remind you of the reasons to remain calm and to survive.  Prevent hypothermia by insulating yourself in a SPACE BLANKET.

First published on Get Ready Industries. Article reprinted with permission. GetReady! Industries has lots of great ideas and products for being prepared for an emergency. We thank them for sharing this very “laymans” basic survival techniques guide.


  1. Joe

    Overall this was a good article however, you really dropped the ball on #4 FOOD/WATER. Boiling water for more than a few seconds, no matter what the elevation, is a major waste as all pathogens are already dead by the time the water reaches a boil. It is a waste of time, fuel, the energy it took to collect the fuel and in some cases, the most tragic waste, lost water. To promote this myth is unthinkable.
    I see that it is a reprint of an article written by “Get Ready Industries” but that is not adequate excuse to continue to promote a myth that could have disastrous affects in a true survival situation.

    • Just for the general education of all.
      Water boils at 212 degrees F. at sea level. At 10,000 feet above sea level water boils at 100 degrees F.
      When I was in hvac school, the instructor boiled water at room temperature by pulling a vacuum on the container.
      Atmosphereic pressure determines when water boilers. The lower the pressure, the lower the boiling point of water.
      If only a few seconds of high temperatures was all that is needed to kill all bacteria I would not have had to go through hiv screening after a colonoscopy because the instruments involved had not been sterilized for the recommended amount of time in an autoclave.
      Adding a cover to the container will decrease the amount of time required to reach the boiling point, conserve heat and water. Most anything would work for a cover, even a piece of bark.

  2. Tad

    According to the CDC, “Boiling can be used as a pathogen reduction method that should kill all pathogens. Water should be brought to a rolling boil for 1 minute. At altitudes greater than 6,562 feet (greater than 2000 meters), you should boil water for 3 minutes.”

  3. Greg

    IMO: Ten minutes is too long (I agree, water loss). Hinde site better safe than sorry. Three minutes is what i do, personally.
    My two cents: before boling drop a couple of small peices of the charcol from the fire in the water then strain and drink. Boiling dosen’t get rid of pesticides.

  4. Curt

    I think you had better go back to chemistry. Water does not boil at 100 degrees at 10,000 feet. It is about 206 degrees. With your resoning if you were in a plane at 30,000 feet water would be boiling all the time and we would spontainiously combust as we are like 70% water.

  5. Norman

    I have a Katadyn Vario water filter, do I need to boil water. I have never used one in-fact I haven’t had time to open the box.

  6. lloyd howell

    boiling water is a must iodine tablets work but let them sit in water for 20minutes then shake it upadd flavour crystals after 20minutes iodine has a bitter taste dont use iodine if you have a seafood allergy i was a navy seal thats how i know

  7. Armysfdiver

    Hi Norman, I would say no. I used the Katadyn while opening my security business in the Republic of South Sudan, and it worked like a champ for me. Unfortunely, the Katadyn filter was to filter about 200 gallons, because of the water from the White Nile, my filter only filtered about 50.. Thank God I brought spares during my 3 months there.

Share Your Thoughts