Whether you are lost in the wild or trying to escape a natural calamity, many things could go wrong. In such situations, you want to stay calm and think through the chaos. Besides avoiding panic, possessing basic emergency survival skills could help get you and your distressed mates out of trouble. The good news is that the most vital of these skills are easy to learn. Here are seven top survival skills that every prepper should know.

Finding Food

Even the most elite preppers cannot carry an indefinite food supply with them into the wild. If you find yourself stranded for over three days, you will probably have to catch or fetch your next meal from your surroundings. The wilderness has plenty of edible plants and animals. However, you must know how to trap, fish, forage, and hunt to get enough food to see you through your survival scenario.

Foraging requires finding safe and nutrient-dense greens, berries, fungi, and nuts in your environment. Since you may not know all the plants in that habitat, the following basic rules will help you avoid accidental poisoning:

  • Avoid fungi if you do not know the edible kinds of mushrooms. Most are poisonous and may cause fatal organ damage.
  • Rub plants on your skin to test for edibility. Typically, plants that irritate the skin are unpalatable or unfit for consumption.
  • Don’t eat a plant that is not familiar to you.

Trapping consumes little energy but requires patience and knowledge of animal behavior. Fishing and hunting, especially if you have experience, could quickly get you a lot of food. If you use these methods, a utility knife may be necessary to skin and gut your catch. Regardless of the method you choose, finding food is essential to your survival in any emergency. Your body can only go for so long without food.

Finding and Purifying Water 

Just like food, you need water to stay alive. An average person may not be able to last more than three days without food and water, and that time shrinks with the more calories you burn building a shelter or getting to safety. Therefore, you must know how to get drinking water in a survival situation. If you’re searching for clean water in the wild, go for flowing sources like streams and creeks. Stagnant water often contains more bacteria.

Even after locating a flowing source of water that looks clean, you must still ensure that the water is safe for consumption. The traditional way of doing so is boiling it over a fire. However, since boiling may not be practical without metal containers, you can use purifying tablets. That’s why it’s always a great idea to pack purifying tablets before stepping into the wild.

Building a Shelter

If you get lost in the woods, you need shelter to avoid the cold and rain. There are many types of shelter you can put up in the wild. Knowing how to set up these different survival shelters will keep you safe in any environment. If you’re out in the snow, you can make a snow shelter. If you’re in the woods, a simple lean-on shelter would do. Learn basic shelter-building concepts because you never know what materials you’ll have to use.

Starting a Fire

Fire allows you to boil your water and cook your food. It also keeps you warm and deters predators. You only need a lighter or matchbox to start a fire in a typical setting. However, in a survival situation, you may not have those. Fortunately, you can use many other ancient ways to get a flame. Below are some common ones you should practice:

  • Using a magnifying glass or lens to focus sun rays on a burnable material. This method is suitable on sunny days.
  • Using a flint and steel to generate sparks from friction. This approach works even in rainy conditions.
  • Using the bow and drill approach. For this, you require a bow made from a cord and flexible branch, a spindle, and a flat chunk of wood.

Whatever method you adopt, ensure the pieces of wood you select are dry.

First Aid

Basic knowledge of first aid could save your life in emergencies. It’s easy to get hurt in the woods. If you’re lost, there’s no way to know when you’ll be able to get to a hospital. A good first aid kit will help you stop the bleeding and disinfect your wound. That’ll buy you time until help arrives. Other first aid skills that may help in survival are knowing how to handle burns, poisoning, anaphylaxis, and choking.


Poor navigation could be the reason you got stranded in the first place. It’s also the skill that could help you trace your way back to safety. A map and compass are essential tools every prepper needs while stepping into the wild.

Knowing how to read a compass and different map types can offer lifesaving information. From the maps, you’ll see streams from where to fetch water and major highways to head to for help. With a compass, you’ll see your direction vis-a-vis the cardinal directions. Since nearly every map displays the North, a compass will help you visualize your environment and know which way to move. That’ll help you retrace your steps faster.

Tying Knots

Although this might not seem as essential as the other skills on this list, knowing how to tie knots has numerous advantages in survival scenarios. For example, you must know how to tie a bowline knot to make a sturdy shelter. You also require knot-tying knowledge to properly secure bandages over wounds, improvise cords, and rescue people from the water, among other things. Practice tying different knots to improve your chances of surviving various emergencies.


You can probably think of several other survival skills that could help you through difficult situations. If you have the time and resources, please learn all those. However, be sure to practice our top seven picks above, as these will be useful in virtually any survival situation.

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