Where do you learn survivability

19 top survival skills you need to know

The more you know, the more likely you are to survive an extreme situation.

Below we look at 19 survival skills that can save your life.

By the end of the article, you will feel more confident and stronger.

Let's start.

# 1: make a fire

Making a fire without matches or a lighter is one of the most difficult tasks there are.

I myself still have many lessons ahead of me with the fire drill.

But just because it's difficult doesn't mean it is impossible. So I'm also a fan of the Practicing techniques over and over again. Only then do you really feel safe.

My first recommendation is: always take three different types of lighting methods with you on your hikes. For example, matches, lighter and fire steel. Or a punch or a fire pump instead of the fire steel.

Practice making a fire using these methods. Yes, many people do not know how to build a fire even with matches. Feel your way up slowly.

And once you have mastered the lighting methods mentioned above, then face the challenge of fire drilling.

You should also familiarize yourself with the many different types of tinder. With the right tinder, you can start a fire in no time at all.

Here are my advice articles, with which you will gradually learn a lot.

# 2: Dealing with panic

Do you know what the first mistake people make when they get lost in the wild?

I tell you: you panic.

No question about it, that's understandable.

But helplessness and frustration make people as rigid as a concrete pillar.

It is therefore important that you clarify on a psychological level what an emergency situation means.

I tell you: you have taken half the challenge if you can deal with panic and fear.

Because with panic you don't think logically and sensibly.

So learn the basic idea: S.T.O.P.

STOP. stands for the English words STOP, THINK, OBSERVE and PLAN.

So in German:

  • S. TOP: Stop! Give yourself a moment of rest before you act.
  • T HINK: Think about what to do. Develop a strategy.
  • O BSERVE: Observe what is around you. What help you What are the risks?
  • P. LAN: Implement your strategy.

And then look at what you've done and learn from it.

Make this rule your principle. It even helps you in everyday life, at work or in your relationship with your partner.

You are making the best possible decision because you took the time to make the decision.

People who stay calm and composed simply get better results.

No. 3: Build a shelter

Let me put it this way: You MUST be able to build a shelter.

Weather, cold and animals are terrifying to you. Your own "four walls" also build up your morale and give you a feeling of security.

I recommend you to build a "Lean-To-Shelter". Any beginner can do that. A debris hat is even better if you don't have a fire.

Either both sides are closed or only one side is covered.


  • As you can see in the picture below, the first thing you do is lean a thick and long stick against a solid object. Like a stone or a tree.
  • Then you fill the gap with smaller sticks and branches.
    • When building the roof, it is important that you maintain a slope of at least 45 degrees (can be more).
    • The water can only drain off well with a sloping roof. Flatter roofs let rain through.
  • Finally, you cover everything with moss or leaves.
    • You put the cover material from bottom to top. The new top layer covers 1/3 of the underlying layer.
    • If your roof is to insulate, it must be at least 7 centimeters thick.

If built correctly, these shelters are actually incredibly sturdy.

Here are two more tips for shelter:

  1. Cover the ground with a layer of leaves, grass, leaves, pine needles, twigs or branches. The layer should be at least 10 centimeters high. This is how you protect yourself from the cold from below.
  2. In winter - when it's really cold - you'd better build one Snow cave.

I recommend these two detailed guides for your shelter:

# 4: build a trap

Food is important, so you should be able to build traps.

Traps have a terrific effect: they work for you in passive mode.

Unlike spear fishing or looking for insects, all you have to do is set the traps and devote your time to other important tasks.

I recommend you practice various manslaughter traps. A trigger crashes a stone onto the animal.

Similar to the fish spear, traps are easy to build and require little material.

Let's take a look at how to make one.

  • Find three sticks and a heavy stone
  • Cut notches in the sticks
  • Hold the stone up while you position the sticks

Once everything is correct, place a bait to lure an animal under the stone. For this you take z. B. intestines of fish, insects, worms or things with bright colors.

In my article “Survival trap building: how to build a simple manslaughter trap”, I show you exactly (picture by picture and in the video) how to make a trap.

# 5: build a spear to fish

Let's imagine that you are really in an emergency situation and you urgently need something to eat.

Catching larger animals will not work without a lot of effort or a rifle. But there are fish - mostly in all streams and lakes.

A fish is rich in protein, so full of power. You fry, roast or cook it.

You don't need a fishing rod either, because from today you will know how to build a spear. Sneak into a body of water and then wait for fish in one place.

Streams where a lot of water is swirled around are particularly good. Trout love that because the water contains a lot of oxygen.

But also quiet places on the bank, where the bottom hangs above the water, are excellent hiding places for fish (they rest there).

The method of building a spear is really ingenious, because you have it also built a weaponthat protects you against wild animals.

How to build a fish spear:

  • Find a long stick
  • Then use a knife to cut the end of the stick into four individual prongs
  • Split the four prongs with small pieces of wood

If you want to know how to build a spear for fishing picture by picture, I recommend my easy-to-understand e-book.

# 6: find edible insects

Just imagine: you are alone in the forest. What would you eat besides plants?

Hunting game is out of the question. By the time you catch a wild boar, it is more likely to have impaled you.

So you have no choice: you have to look for insects.

As disgusting as it sounds at first glance - in other countries this is completely normal. People there eat insects, just like we do bread every day in Germany. Even our ancestors ate the little animals regularly.

Eating insects is like biting into a power bar. Full of protein and fats - the pure energy, exactly when you need it urgently.

However, not all insects are edible, and there are tricks you can use to prepare them.

Let's look at what to consider.

Avoid insects:

  • that can sting
  • who are hairy
  • that have bright colors
  • which can transmit diseases (mosquitoes, ticks, flies, etc.)

These are the best insects in German forests and meadows:

  • Crickets / grasshoppers
  • Caterpillars
  • Ants
  • Beetle
  • Insect larvae
  • Honey bees

To prepare insects, I definitely recommend you Don't eat them raw. This will keep parasites at bay. Always cook, fry, or roast your insects.

Would you like to know more about the topic and receive further training? Then read my article "Survival Basics: Eating Insects (Preparation, Catching, Breeding)". There I'll show you how to catch insects and why you need to remove legs and wings before eating.

No. 7: Send an emergency signal

If you have been lost in the wild, two principles apply:

  • Stay alive as long as you can.
  • Make yourself noticeable, someone is sure to be looking for you.

You need to know how to generate a distress signal. Otherwise the seekers are unlikely to find you.

There are three main methods:

  • Build a large "SOS" or "X" out of stones or logs on the ground. This cannot be overlooked from above and is a general help sign.
  • Send a Morse signal with a flashlight, mirror, or whistle. The international SOS Morse code goes like this: · · · - - · · ·, three short, three long, three short.
    • Like every initial transmission or unanswered transmission, the call - here SOS - must be sent three times in a row (i.e. · · · - - - · · · · · - - - · · · · · · - - - · · ·)
  • Build a beacon and burn heavily sooty material. In other words, material that contains petroleum, such as plastic or rubber.
  • If you have a flare gun or a beacon, do not start it until you suspect other people are in the area (you usually only have one attempt).

No. 8: make a rope

I think that making a rope is essential. You need it for many purposes, such as building a shelter or constructing traps.

Unfortunately, many hikers pack all kinds of useless stuff in their rucksacks, but forget to take a rope or rope with them.

Making a rope is not difficult, our ancestors did it thousands of years ago.

The only thing you need is vegetable fiber.

What you need in terms of material:

  • Look for plants that are largely made up of easily peeled fibers (nettle, inner bark of dead trees).
  • In exceptional cases, you will use other materials such as strips of plastic bags, paper, or even toilet paper.

How to twist your rope:

  • The first twist is clockwise (the little two ropes).
  • The second turn must be counterclockwise (the two ropes are twisted together).
  • So, most importantly: Always turn alternately and keep the fibers / ropes under tension.

Here is a graphic that illustrates the technology:

In my article "How to make ropes yourself (picture instructions + video)" I explain exactly how to twist a rope. Make sure to check it out if you want to know more about making ropes.

# 9: thaw cold feet

A big problem, especially in winter: cold feet and limbs.

Your feet freeze if they are exposed to the icy ground for a long time. The skin freezes, then the tissue underneath.

At this point at the latest, you have to start warming up your feet again. If this does not happen, there will be damage to the skin.

Severe frostbite is noticeable as follows:

  • numbness develops in the affected area
  • white spots appear on the skin
  • if the frostbite is severe, the spots turn black
  • the affected area becomes hard

In the case of severe frostbite it is very likely that the foot will have to be amputated.

So do the following to keep your feet from freezing: Swing your leg back and forth like a pendulum. Little by little you will feel more again.

Then find first aid, shelter, and a fire. Don't run any further.

Never massage or rub frozen tissue. Also, do not thaw frozen limbs over fire or in hot water. Slightly warm water is fine, however.

Reading tip: "Survival in winter - these tips are important when it's cold".

No. 10: Measure the distance covered

It is advisable that you know how far you have run.

How far are you from civilization? How many kilometers did you run in one day?

Without a GPS device, map and compass, there is a wonderful way to measure the distance you have covered.

The only thing you need: a clock.

I recommend the following calculation to you, even if it is not accurate in every detail. The method is just one of many possibilities.

How to do it, method 1:

  • on average, a person runs around 3 to 5 kilometers per hour (5 km / h is already quite brisk)
  • So if you have run for 4 hours, you have covered exactly 16 kilometers at 4 km / h (without a break, flat terrain)
  • if the terrain is uneven or overgrown, you will run more slowly

Method 2, without a clock:

  • a step is usually between 71 and 75 centimeters long
  • So count your steps and calculate the distance covered
  • 2000 steps means 2000 × 0.75 meters: 1500 meters

No. 11: Determine cardinal points

If north is determined, you also determine all other directions.

If you know the cardinal points, you can navigate - for example to the next city.

This is incredibly useful when you have a map but not a compass.

With this method all you need is your analog watch:

  • Take your analog watch and keep it flat
  • Align the hour hand with the sun
  • South is in the middle between the hour hand and the 12
  • North is 180 degrees in the opposite direction

Now you are probably thinking: That’s inaccurate!

The method is not one hundred percent accurate, but it comes close.

I assure you that it is pretty accurate.

You do not believe me? Then try it out. Get out as soon as the sun shines and check the method.

This is one of the most important survival skills you need to be able to do.

Note: The measurement only works in this way in the northern hemisphere. Proceed as follows in the southern hemisphere:

  • Align 12 on the watch in the direction of the sun
  • North is here in the middle between 12 o'clock and the hour hand

P. S. During summer time you have to take 1 p.m. instead of 12 p.m. on the clock.

Here is my reading tip on the ingenious shadow stick method (more precisely): "How to determine the cardinal points with the shadow". And also take a look at my basic guide "11 Methods for Navigating and Orienting Without a Compass".

No. 12: Stop a bleeding

Imagine you are alone in the forest. You forgot your first aid kit today.

And then the dilemma: you cut yourself deep.

While hopefully you never have to use the technique, it will help you not to bleed to death.

Here's how you go about making a bandage from nature:

  • Find dried leaf moss as soon as possible. Deciduous moss, like peat moss, is soft and bushy.
  • If you don't find any deciduous moss (mostly only found in swamps and bogs), use any other dry moss.
  • Leaf moss absorbs and also has an antibacterial effect.
  • Then press the leaf moss firmly against the wound and wait until the wound stops bleeding.
  • Then see a doctor as soon as possible.

Did you know that the soldiers used this method during World War I?

No. 13: Escaping stings from insects

Do you know that in summer too? It's buzzing everywhere and a mosquito is constantly in front of your nose.

In midsummer you can't stand it in the forest at dusk for long.

Here in Germany this is still harmless. In other countries mosquitoes transmit diseases such as malaria.

Stings from some beetles are also painful and lead to infections.

The aim is to have as few insects bite you as possible.

This can help you:

  • Find a windy place - this will make it difficult for insects to bite you.
  • Cover your exposed skin with mud and slush - this way no proboscis can get through.
  • Avoid dark, wet, and sweaty clothes - this will attract mosquitos.
  • Use pieces of birch bark to protect against insects.

If you take birch bark straight from the tree and rub it in, the protection against insects is not very good.

But there is a wonderful way to make insect repellent that works properly.

For this you need birch tar oil, which is obtained from birch pitch. The silver birch is best suited for this.

How to drive away insects: Let 2 drops of birch tar oil evaporate in 1 tablespoon of water (e.g. in a fragrance lamp).

You can read more about birch bark here: "Birch bark: the survival miracle [application examples]".

No. 14: Splinting a broken arm

Have you ever broken an arm? Yes? Then you know how painful it is. And if not, then I never wish you that.

If you break an arm and go to the hospital right away, it's no big deal.

But if that happens to you in the wild, you are challenged.

Build your shelter with just one arm. Or light a fire with just one hand. This limits you significantly, so you will have to splint your arm.

You can do that: Do you have one Sleeping mat while doing so, wrap it around your arm. Then tie everything together tightly.

No sleeping mat with you? Take sticks, grab them on both sides of the arm and support it with them. But I assure you, even with a splint you won't jump around happily like in some action films.

Tip: Take pain medication right away. Best of all while in shock. When your adrenaline wears off, it will be very painful.

No. 15: Estimate the length of daylight

When it gets dark and night falls, you are stuck with no light.

It is therefore essential to know when the sun goes down.

Because at night you no longer light a fire, you no longer build a shelter and you cannot find any water.

Now you may not have a watch with you. Or you are in a time zone where you don't know the time of sunset.

So you have to estimate how long you have daylight left.

It works like this:

  1. Extend your arm directly towards the sun
  2. Place your index finger on the lower part of the sun
  3. Count your fingers from the sun to the horizon
  4. Each finger represents 15 minutes of daylight
  5. If there is still space to the horizon, use your other hand

Here is a graphic that illustrates the method:

# 16: Know your water needs

You didn't fall on your head, I know that. So you also know that water is vital.

Most people, unfortunately, die of thirst who get lost in the wild.

And finding water is far from easy, so you have to tackle it first.

What makes the situation so dangerous is that a lot of people don't know how much water they are using.

You lose water by:

How do you estimate your water needs now?

It's pretty easy in Germany. A normal person loses about 1.5 liters every 24 hours.

However, if you do physical exertion, if the day is particularly hot, or if you are even in the desert, you will lose a lot more water.

In extreme situations, you lose up to a liter per hour.

So take good care of your water needs and be prepared early to find some.

In my article "Survival: the ultimate water guide" you will learn everything about finding, collecting and filtering.

No. 17: Build a solar still

A solar still is a great invention. And I think everyone should be able to do that.

And I don't just mean bushcraft workers and survivalists, but also hikers and trekking enthusiasts.

Why? Because you never know when you will be in a survival situation.

As already written above, most people die because they have died of thirst.

The problem: You can't just drink from a stream, lake or pond. It is very likely that you will upset your stomach.

Collecting water is one of the most important items on your list for survival.

My tip: build a solar still.

That is how it goes:

  • Dig a hole about eight to eight inches deep
  • Place a container in the center of the hole
  • Put everything that is damp in the hole: plants, leaves, foliage - you can also pee in from me
  • Then stretch a plastic sheet over the hole (as airtight as possible)
  • Place a stone just above your container to create a depression

From now on, your water evaporates, it stays on the tarpaulin, cools down and drips into your container.

The water is absolutely drinkable. You don't need to worry about contamination.

This method is one of the most important survival skills when collecting water in the wild.

Here is an infographic about the solar still:

No. 18: Know Edible Plants

If your traps fail and you cannot find any bodies of water with fish, you only have one option: find edible plants.

If you know which plants are edible, you have an advantage.

There are green plants all over the world - except in deserts.

You can find edible herbs all year round. For example:

  • Goose thistle
  • dandelion
  • Wild leek
  • cress
  • Wood sorrel
  • Dead nettles

These plants provide you with important substances such as vitamins, minerals and trace elements that give you new energy.

If you cannot find green, you can also fall back on the buds of trees.

Recommendation: Read my article on the edibility test on plants. This is used to check whether a plant is edible.

No. 19: think positively!

Your attitude is the most important thing in my opinion. If you go about something in a bad mood, it is very likely to fail.

If I could choose a partner: I would take someone who is full of energy, thinks positively and is interested in finding a solution.

Do you know what kind of people are most likely to survive in the wild?

It's the "yes" sayers. It's the ones who never give up. You keep telling yourself "I can do it!"

And such an attitude will help you get ahead not only in the wild, but throughout life.

Here is another reading tip, in which I also write about the positive attitude: "How to deal with panic in emergency situations".

How to train these 19 survival skills

There are two things you need to do in order to be able to permanently use a skill (especially basic survival techniques).

  • Learning (understanding the theory)
  • Practice (put theory into practice)

That's it.

If you do both correctly, you will master all of the skills.

However, if you just study and don't practice, you can explain how someone survives - but you will fail when the going gets tough.

So grab my article and pick one thing out. Internalize the technique or read more articles on my blog on the subject.

And then get out into nature and practice.

I wish you much success.

What do you think of my choice? Would you include any other skills or techniques? Or leave it out?

Write to me in the comments.

How do you like the guide?

5.00 out of 5 points (9 reviews)

Comments (4)

Most read in the Survival category

About the author

Howdy, my name is Martin. On my blog you will learn the basics as well as numerous details about life in the wild. With the survival basic course you are well prepared for your next adventure. These are 7 lessons that will give you power for the wilderness.

7 lessons, 7 days
for more survival power

Become braver, more confident, and freer in the wild. Get my 7 basic lessons in your mailbox.

100% no spam. Cancellation possible at any time. Data protection.

You become part of mine exclusive email list. After that you will receive regular blog updates and every week I will send you tips that are only available in the e-mail camp.