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21 Essential Survival Tips for the Great Outdoors

Whether you are planning a wilderness exploration, a camping trip in the wilds, or even a simple hike, knowledge is powerful and sustaining when it comes to being out in nature. Before you strike out on an adventure in the great outdoors, it’s important to know some survival tips to help keep yourself and others safe…and we’re here to help equip you with that knowledge.

Read on for 21 of the top essential survival tips you need to know.

Survival Tips

Planning and Preparing

1. Building a Survival Kit

One of the top survival tips you will ever hear is to be prepared for all scenarios. For this reason, a survival kit is essential to have on hand, no matter what kind of trek you plan to make in the great outdoors.

There are all kinds of ways you can build a survival kit, and often the necessities will differ depending on where you plan to use or store your survival kit the most.

However, some of the basic necessities we recommend are a water bottle, food, flashlight, first aid kit, and sleeping gear. You will likely always need these things and they can come in handy in all sorts of outdoor situations.

For more information on key survival items you should include, and how to build a truly useful survival kit, check out our article on 18 Essential Items for Building the Ultimate Survival Kit List.

2. Understanding the Weather and Natural Environment

One of the key survival tips to have a handle on is mindfulness of the weather and natural environment. Knowing the terrain and climate wherever you plan to go is a preparedness step you can’t afford to miss out on.

Whether you plan to take a hiking trip, a camping trip, or are planning ahead in case of a need for some outdoor survivalist scenarios, take time to research the area. Then, make sure you pack a survival kit and gear accordingly.

3. Awareness of Wildlife and Avoiding Dangerous Animals

As a key survival tip, you should always be sure you take the time to research the native species of animals that inhabit the area where you plan to hike, camp, or explore. Have a plan in mind and gear handy to use just in case you meet them.

Survival Tips Wildlife

This is another reason why a first aid kit is crucial. Even when we prepare ourselves, unpredictable wildlife encounters can still happen. Be sure you don’t rely only on research and mindfulness, but have the appropriate interventive gear on hand for any unavoidable encounters as well.

4. Dealing With Stress and Mental Health in a Survival Situation

Before you ever set foot out the door into a scenario where survival situations might be involved, it is incredibly important to prepare yourself mentally for the “what ifs”. Keeping your mind sharp and prepared to deal with rocky situations is one of the most important survival tips you will ever hear.

Survival preparedness, whether for a simple excursion or the possibility of a long-term survival scenario, is about more than having the tools and skills. It’s about being prepared to do what is necessary to survive.

Some things you might consider doing ahead of time are: taking time to mentally walk through scenarios, doing research, watching YouTube videos about survival, and even taking a wilderness survival class.

All of these can help get you in the readiness mindset so that stress will not overwhelm you in the event of a survival situation. You will have preparedness and training to act efficiently and to handle the mental load that often comes with action in a survival scenario.

Building and Crafting

5. Building a Shelter

One of the most useful survival tips you will ever learn is how to build a shelter. This can be useful not just if you find yourself having an expected–or unexpected–outdoor camping trip, but also during an unprecedented storm.

From rock shelters to wood shelters, there are lots of ways and means to use the world around you to maximize your shelter situation.

Survival Tips Shelter

One of the best ways to build a shelter in the woods is to use supple, bendable wood and bring it together to form a sort of woven teepee. If you have items like rope and tarp in your survival kit, you can also use these to reinforce a shelter, providing optimal protection from the elements.

For more information on how to build a survival shelter, both short term and long term, check out our article on How to Build A Survival Shelter: The 6 Best Shelters to Master.

6. Starting a Fire

Knowing how to start a fire is another crucial element of wilderness safety and survival. Fires can be used to signal for help, to keep warm, to deter predators, and to cook and prepare food and water.

If you have matches or a lighter in your survival kit, using these is a simple way to begin a fire. However, in a wilderness setting, you want to ensure your fire is not a threat to the environment.

Creating a stone circle or windbreak and clearing all flammable debris such as dry leaves, pine needles, branches, and the like from near your fire will help ensure there is no unwanted spread of flames.

For more survival tips on how to start a fire using all kinds of tools, kindling, and more, as well as survival kit items to have on hand for this task, check out our “Campfire and Survival Fire” section.

7. Navigating and Finding Your Way

It’s important to have the right skillset to navigate through the great outdoors based on the world around you.

Some key survival tips for navigating out in the wilds is to learn how to track the movement of the sun to tell which way is north. You can also follow water and use large landmarks to chart your location.

Some other top survival tips when it comes to navigating and finding your way are to remain calm at all times. You can also stop and listen for sounds you can follow to shelter, safety, and/or civilization, or retrace your steps if you are looking to find your way back to a certain location.

Survival Tips Compass

Having a compass in your survival kit will also help make it easier to navigate while out and about in the wilderness. For more survival tips on how to navigate in the great outdoors and the tools that help make this an easier process, check our our Navigation section.

8. Signaling for Help

There may come a time while out on a camping trip, wilderness hike, or simply enjoying nature where you may need to signal for help. There are many ways you can do this and several tools that you can pack in your survival kit to make signaling for help much more effective.

One of the best ways to signal for help is using a whistle, because it can be heard from great distances and poses little threat to the environment. Whistles are also easy to pack along in your gear, taking up little space.

You can also use things like signal fires, flares, and even gunshots to signal your distress. For more survival tips on how to effectively signal for help while in the great outdoors, check out our article on Signaling For Help.

9. Using Knots and Lashing for Various Purposes

Knowing how to tie proper knots and lash things together securely will help you in a number of ways. This can include laying snares, building tools and weapons, rigging a shelter or tarp for gathering water, and so much more.

For plenty of survival tips on the importance of knowing knots–and for a comprehensive list of the best knots and how to tie them–check out our Knots page.

Survival Tips Knots

10. Making Tools and Weapons

Tools and weapons can be made from all sorts of things when you are out in the great outdoors. They are how many of our ancestors survived and thrived in the wilderness, and we can do the same.

Some of the primary components you will want to consider are using sturdy materials such as stone and wood. A large, slightly flat rock, for example, can be used for things like digging relief holes or creating pools you can then line and catch rainwater in.

Weapons are often necessary in wilderness survival scenarios to keep you fed and safe from predators. For hunting, you can often forge a bow and make arrows from supple, sturdy types of wood.

It’s crucial to know how best to convert all sorts of wilderness items into weapons and tools to help keep you safe and thriving. For more survival tips on making stone tools and weapons, check out WIRED’S video on How to Make Stone Tools in a Survival Situation.

11. Building Traps and Snares

Unless you are quite adept at crafting long-range weapons, and using them properly, in a wilderness scenario, typically you will do the majority of your hunting for food via traps and snares instead. Laying traps and snares is also a useful skill as it allows you to divide your focus; your traps can do their work while you focus on other necessary tasks.

Survival Tips Snares

For survival tips on trapping and snaring, including demonstrations and insights on how to find game trails for snaring animals, check out bushcrafter Clay Hayes’ video on 5 Survival Traps and Snares that WORK!

12. Repairing and Maintaining Equipment

No matter what equipment you choose to bring along on an adventure into the great outdoors, it is so important that you take time to learn how to repair and maintain that equipment. From tents to tools to clothing, having even a basic understanding of how to keep your gear in good shape is an absolute must.

Be sure to look into how each piece of your survival gear functions and how to fix any issues with it. You should also consider learning basic maintenance work such as how to sew clothing in order to keep your attire weatherproof.

It’s also important to learn how to maintain and repair any damages to shelters and wilderness tools you craft. You can often find tips and tricks for this in our recommended survival tips pages for various shelters and more.

13. Making Fire Without Matches or a Lighter

Building a fire can become more complicated if you don’t have matches or a lighter in your survival kit. However, it’s by no means impossible.

Survival Tips Fire Starting

There are lots of other components you can use for fire starting. These include flint and steel, a pair of sunglasses, and more. Taking time to learn how to make a fire with at least one method besides a lighter and matches is a crucial survival skill.

You can learn all about various fire starting methods, including those without using a lighter or matches, on our Camp and Survival Fire page.

Food and Water

14. Finding and Purifying Water

Finding water is a crucial step in wilderness survival. The easiest way to find water is by listening. Flowing water–the preferred kind for consuming in the great outdoors–will often be audible even from miles away. Once you have detected flowing water, simply make your way there.

You can also often find bodies of water by studying the terrain. Water flows downhill, so if you find hills or mountains, chances are there will be water nearby them as well.

Once you have found water, you want to ensure it is drinkable. This will help you avoid some nasty stomach troubles. Boiling is a great way to purify some, but not all, types of water.

It’s also wise to have some water purifying tablets and other purifying resources for your survival kit. These can be purchased through many avenues. Some resources include the Potable Aqua Water Purification Tablets and the LifeStraw Purifying Straw, both available via Amazon.

However, it’s also important to know how to purify water without any available resources but what you can scrounge together in a wilderness setting. For more survival tips on how to purify water in the wilds, check out our article on How to Make a DIY Water Filter.

15. Fishing and Trapping

Fishing and trapping is another useful skill to have in a survival scenario. Fish are often among the easiest to catch and most readily available sources of food in the wild. You can pack along a collapsible fishing rod in a survival kit, or build one in the wilds if necessary.

Survival Fish Sticks

For survival tips on fishing and trapping, including how to fish in survival situations, what to include in a survival fishing kit, and some of the best knots for survival fishing, check out our Fishing page.

16. Collecting and Storing Rainwater

Collecting and storing rainwater is among the safest ways to gather water, as you will not run into stagnation concerns.

To collect rainwater, you can use any containers you may have on hand. If you have a poncho or tarp, you can string it up between trees with a rock in the center to guide the water into a collection area.

Once you have collected the rainwater, it is still wise, if possible, to purify it using tablets, a LifeStraw, or a DIY water filter. Then, store the rainwater in any containers you have on hand.

17. Foraging for Food and Identifying Edible Plants

Foraging for food is an ancestral habit that many of us have lost sight of in modern times. Safe foraging can keep you fed and energized while out in the wilds, but it is very important to take the time to learn which plants and types of food are safe and which can be dangerous.

For more survival tips on foraging, including how to do it safely, resources for more in depth learning, and more, check out our Beginner’s Guide to Foraging.

18. Proper Food Storage

For safety and health reasons, it’s very important to store your food properly. Our Food Preservation page will help give you some ideas on easy food to store in long term survival scenarios.

In the short term, such as while camping or out in the wilderness, you should always store your food in any tightly sealed containers you have handy, and store it some distance from your sleeping space. If possible, lock your stored food in your vehicle.

This will help deter and protect you from foraging animals.

Hygiene, Health, and Safety

19. Understanding and Dealing with Hypothermia and Other Environmental Hazards

Lots of health and safety hazards are out there in the wilds. It’s important to be prepared to face them. Having a well-stocked first aid kit, proper attire, and paying careful attention to your surroundings at all times will help prevent or address many of the hazardous scenarios you might run into.

Survival Tips First-Aid

For more survival tips on dealing with hypothermia, check out our article on How to Treat Hypothermia and Prevent it In The Wilderness. You can also learn about other environmental scenarios and how to stay safe during them on our Safety page.

20. Understanding Basic Wilderness Hygiene

Though it may seem low priority when other survival instincts kick in, keeping good hygiene in the wilderness can be absolutely essential for your physical and mental health. You should consider packing along a hygiene kit and some sanitary items in your survival gear.

For survival tips including how to build a survival hygiene kit, hygiene items to consider bringing on a wilderness adventure, and more, check out our Hygiene Sanitation page.

21. First Aid and Dealing with Injuries

Taking a basic first aid course can really make a difference in your preparedness for survival in the great outdoors. In addition to having the necessary tools to deal with injuries, you want to have the knowledge and calm headspace to address wounds quickly and efficiently.

For more survival tips regarding first aid, including how to treat common or catastrophic injuries, how to build a first aid kit or the best ones to purchase, and so much more, visit our First Aid page.

Wrapping Up 21 Essential Survival Tips For the Great Outdoors

Feeling well equipped with these 21 essential survival tips for the great outdoors? Don’t just rest on your laurels! It’s time to dive a little deeper by checking out our Every Day Items page – a great resource to help get you thinking about how everything, both big and small, can be useful in a survival scenario.