Critical Wilderness Survival Skills to Master

As a parent, you want to instill confidence in your kids while also creating a closer bond with nature. One of the best ways to do that is to teach them wilderness survival skills.

Not only will wilderness survival improve their self-confidence, but it also builds self-reliance and even helps on the homestead. Of course, they also give you, the parent, considerable peace of mind about your child’s abilities to take care of themselves and others even when disaster strikes.

What Wilderness Survival Skills Matter?

Surviving in the wilderness could require hundreds of different skills depending on location, duration, time of year, and dozens of other factors. But when you distill everything, there’s a handful of core skills that everyone should know and that it makes the most sense to teach your child. These include:

  1. How to build a shelter
  2. Making fire
  3. Finding water
  4. How to purify water
  5. Performing basic first aid
  6. Cooking outdoors
  7. Navigation
  8. How to find food

How to Make a Shelter

Creating a shelter is one of the most important wilderness survival skills. Even a basic shelter can protect against the elements, retain warmth, and make survival that much more likely. They’re also surprisingly easy to build, although finding a ready-made shelter, such as a cave, is even better.

The simplest shelter to build is a basic lean-to. You’ll need something to act as the support for the one wall, such as a large boulder or even a large, fallen tree. Then find limbs and lean them against the support to create an angled wall. You can then pack dirt, moss, or even leaves between those limbs. Enclose one end with more limbs to create a back wall.

How to Make Fire

Fire will be essential to survival. It keeps you warm, helps you boil water, and allows you to cook game caught in the wilderness. Learning how to make fire can be quite challenging. You’ll find many ways, including the bow drill and hand drill methods. Others include using a magnesium fire starter, steel wool and a 9-volt battery, or even a Fresnel lens (which isn’t particularly helpful without sunlight), and more.

There’s no single fire-starting method that’s best. Mastering a combination of different methods and then carrying the right gear at all times will be better than focusing on a single method.

How to Find Water

You can go for weeks without food, but only a couple of days without water. Unfortunately, it can be very challenging to find water when lost in the wilderness. Here are a few simple ways:

  • Look in valleys for small streams.
  • Look for retained water in rock crevices.
  • Harvest rainfall using a poncho, tarp, or another container.
  • Create a solar still using a tarp, a container, and a hole in the ground.

How to Purify Water

We tend to think of water in the wilderness as pure. However, that’s often not the case. Parasites, toxins from decaying animals, chemicals flowing down from facilities upstream, and many other threats exist. Purification will ensure easy access to life-sustaining water while protecting against many (but not all) threats.

The simplest way to purify water is to boil it for at least five minutes. This will kill parasites, bacteria, and viruses. Once boiled, let it cool and then filter it if possible. Note that boiling will not remove chemicals from the water.

How to Perform Basic First Aid

Everyone should know basic first aid. It should not be thought of as a wilderness survival skill. It’s an important skill for everyday life, anywhere you might be. First aid steps vary depending on whether you’re treating yourself or someone else. Some of the most important first-aid skills to master include:

  • How to stop bleeding
  • Treating a burn
  • Splinting a broken bone
  • Performing the Heimlich maneuver
  • How to manage a head or spinal injury
  • Performing CPR

How to Cook Outdoors

Cooking in the wilderness may seem impossible without pots and pans, but it’s not. If you have water and fire, you can boil almost anything. If you have a fire but nothing to hold water, you can cook many foods on a spit or sharpened stick placed over the fire.

Thicker cuts of meat and many veggies can also be cooked simply by placing them on hot coals or a large, flat rock in the center of glowing coals (use coals, not flames for this type of cooking).

How to Navigate

Wilderness navigation is essential for survival and finding a way out. Many different skills come into play here, including:

  • How to navigate by landmarks
  • Using a compass
  • Finding the North Star
  • How to read physical maps
  • How to orient yourself

A map and compass are essential navigational tools that everyone should have with them as part of their everyday carry (EDC) gear.

How to Find Food

Food might not be as important as water for short-term survival, but it will become more critical the longer the situation goes on. For most people, the simplest solution is to learn what fruits, vegetables, and plants can be foraged in the area at any given time of year. Some of the most commonly found foraged foods include:

  • Dandelion
  • Blackberries
  • Blueberries
  • Acorns
  • Cattails
  • Stinging nettle
  • Wild garlic (ramsons)

Depending on your location, you may also have access to fresh mushrooms. Many species are toxic or can cause stomach upset and other unpleasant symptoms. If you’re unsure if a particular mushroom is edible, skip it for safety.

Mastering Wilderness Survival Skills

Giving your child the best chance of surviving if lost in the wilderness is critical. Whether they’re camping, hiking, spending time with the Boy or Girl Scouts, or just getting lost after a vehicle breakdown, these skills will help ensure their survival.

Our Fall Break Camp – Wilderness Survival Skills course begins October 9th and runs through the 13th. It’s open for kids ages 8 to 14 and will teach them how to use survival tools, purify water, start a fire, build shelter, and forage for food. Enroll them now to make sure they have the skills they’ll need!