Top 3 Basic Survival Skills

We get asked this question every other week. “What are your top 3 basic survival skills you need to know out in the field?” Check out our list of these critical items you must know.


At some point you must find water and food in that order. You can live up to 3 days without water depending on the temperature and humidity. You can live longer without food. Walk downhill towards a low point to find a stream. If no stream you can sometimes dig into a dry stream bed and find water in the ground. Use a bandanna or T-shirt to strain out large particles.

You can use a tarp or space blanket to collect water. In most parts of the world you can find plastic bottles on the beach or in the woods. Use them to collect water and store. Never drink urine. If you can – get a good survival water purifier for your survival bug out bag. Always be prepared even on small trips by carrying snacks such as beef jerky or peanuts (they store easy and don’t melt in hot weather).

An easy tip that takes up a very small space is to carry ziplock bags as you can collect water in them. Boil all water if it comes from a stream. Never eat plants or berries that you are unsure about.


Whether you are in the cold forest, windy ocean, hot desert or rainy jungles you will need to find shelter in order to survive. Having a small tarp can go a long way to help protect you from the elements.

Stabilize and beef up the tarp with sticks, logs and rocks if you have them. Use your clothing to protect your neck and head from the strong sun.

I personally carry an emergency space blanket if I am on an overnight trip. This can mean the difference between life and death – or just staying warm enough to complete a task.


It is regarded by most all survival experts as the best thing to have in a bad situation. By building fire you can signal for help. With fire you can boil and purify water. You can have light to build your shelter and get your supplies in order. Fire will also give you warmth and heat.

Always carry one or more fire starter items with you like a lighter or matches. We also like to coat matches in wax and put them in a double ziploc bag with cotton balls or tissue paper (put your lighter in a bag also). You will want to get a small magnesium firestarter as they are very compact, low cost and you can start a fire using a small pocket knife to strike and create sparks. Practice with the magnesium strip before going out in the field. Use cotton balls as an accelerant.

If you are stranded or in need – You will need to know how to catch the eye of others who can help you. Easy quick methods can be waving a bright colored T-shirt or flapping your arms jumping up and down. If you can start a fire and throw on some damp material to create more smoke. Writing SOS in the sand of a beach or laying out branches of wood in that shape. The universal symbol for distress is a combination of 3. Blinking a flashlight 3 times or blowing a whistle is a great easy method.

Video – Survival fire signaling for help

Want to learn more tips on survival? Check out these tips from the SAS Survival Handbook, Revised Edition: For Any Climate, in Any Situation

Read through, take notes and get out in the woods and practice them and you will be able to survive in the long run.

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