Rule of 3 survival

5 Basic Survival Skills to Learn

In today’s ever-changing world, the importance of mastering basic survival skills cannot be overstated. 

Whether you are an avid outdoor enthusiast, a seasoned adventurer, or simply someone who wants to be prepared for unforeseen situations, having a solid understanding of these skills can be a lifesaver. 

We, at Tac-Skills, recognize the significance of being self-reliant and well-prepared, and we’re here to walk you through the 5 basic survival skills that can increase your survivability as well as where to find training to master those skills.

5 Basic Survival Skills to Learn
U.S. Air Force SERE student, Staff Sgt. Thomas Thorpe, is the first student to build a fire at the training site in the Colville National Forrest, Colville, Washington, Oct. 8, 2021. He was won the Fire Belt, a tribute to a fallen SERE specialist, Master Sgt. Christopher Sheaffer. (This photo has been cropped and color corrected to enhance the subject) (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman Jenna A. Bond)

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Why Are Basic Survival Skills Important?

Before getting into the specifics of these fundamental survival skills, let’s briefly discuss why they are crucial for everyone to learn and master. 

These skills are not just reserved for extreme survival situations; they can be applicable in various scenarios, such as camping trips, hiking adventures, or even urban emergencies. 

By learning these skills, you can enhance your self-confidence and ensure your safety and well-being in unexpected circumstances.

5 Basic Survival Skills

1. Survival Skill: Shelter Building

In any survival situation, shelter is one of the most immediate needs. Learning how to construct adequate shelter is paramount, as it provides protection from the elements and maintains body core temperature. 

We recommend starting with basic shelter types like lean-tos, debris huts, and tarp setups. Tarp setups are among the easiest due to the amount of configuration options you have. You’re only limited by your imagination.

Additionally, understanding the terrain and available resources in your environment is crucial for effective shelter construction.

2. Survival Skill: Fire Starting

In the wild, fire is more than just a source of warmth and comfort; it’s a lifeline, a beacon of hope, and a fundamental survival skill; also essential for cooking food, purifying water, and signaling for help. Mastering the art of fire starting is an essential ability that has been honed by humans throughout our evolutionary journey.

Whether you find yourself stranded in the wilderness, facing the elements on a camping trip, or simply wanting to connect with our ancient ancestors’ primal instincts, knowing how to ignite and maintain a fire is an indispensable skill.

Knowing various methods of fire starting, such as using fire starters, ferro rods, or even duct tape and steel wool, can make a significant difference in a survival scenario.

Practice and preparation are key to mastering this skill.

3. Survival Skill: Water Collection and Purification

Water is a fundamental necessity for human survival. Knowing how to find and purify water is vital in any situation. 

Learn to identify potential water sources in your surroundings, and understand various purification methods like boiling, chemical treatment, and filtration. 

If you don’t have the time to start a fire and boil water, you can always opt for something like the Grayl Geopress.

4. Survival Skill: Food Foraging and Hunting

While it’s essential to have some emergency rations on hand, knowing how to forage for edible plants and hunt for food is invaluable.

Familiarize yourself with the local vegetation, and learn basic hunting and trapping skills. Remember to check local regulations and laws regarding hunting and foraging.

5. Survival Skill: Navigation

In a survival scenario, knowing your way around is essential for finding safety, reaching civilization, or simply finding your vehicle to return home.

Learn how to use a map and compass, and practice navigation techniques such as orienteering. GPS devices can be helpful, but it’s crucial to have manual navigation skills as well.

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Rule of 3 Survival

In addition to the essential survival skills we’ve discussed, it’s crucial to understand and apply the Rule of 3 Survival concept. 

The Rule of 3 Survival is a simple yet powerful guideline that helps you prioritize your needs in a survival situation. By following this rule, you can make informed decisions that maximize your chances of survival.

5 Basic Survival Skills to Learn
U.S. Air Force SERE students chop down their own tree and build fires in the Colville National Forrest, Colville, Washington, Oct. 8, 2021. They were competing for the Fire Belt, a tribute to a fallen SERE specialist, Master Sgt. Christopher Sheaffer. (This photo has been cropped and color corrected to enhance the subject) (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman Jenna A. Bond)

3 Minutes without Air: In any survival situation, your first and most immediate need is air. You can only survive for approximately three minutes without oxygen. Ensure you have a constant supply of fresh air by staying in well-ventilated areas and avoiding situations where the air quality may be compromised.

3 Hours without Shelter: After securing a source of air, your next priority is shelter. Exposure to extreme weather conditions, whether it’s scorching heat or freezing cold, can lead to hypothermia or heatstroke within a matter of hours. Knowing how to build a shelter or having appropriate gear to protect yourself from the elements is vital.

3 Days without Water: Water is the next critical requirement for survival. You can survive for about three days without access to clean water. In a survival situation, prioritize finding and purifying water sources. Always carry a water purification method or tools with you, as clean drinking water is essential to stay hydrated and healthy.

3 Weeks without Food: While food is essential for long-term survival, it’s relatively less urgent than air, shelter, and water. You can survive for up to three weeks without food, provided you have sufficient water intake. In a survival scenario, focus on securing water and shelter before expending energy on food acquisition.

Applying the Rule of 3 Survival

Understanding the Rule of 3 Survival helps you make informed decisions when faced with the uncertainties of a survival situation. By addressing your needs in the order of priority – air, shelter, water, and food – you can ensure that you allocate your resources and energy effectively.

Additionally, remember that survival is not just about physical preparedness but also mental resilience. Maintaining a hopeful and determined attitude can be the key to overcoming adversity and increasing your chances of survival.

Whether you’re exploring the wilderness, facing a natural disaster, or dealing with unexpected emergencies, following this rule can make a significant difference in your survival outcomes.

How to learn Survival Skills

Mastering these basic survival skills requires not only knowledge but also practice. It’s not enough to read about them; you must put them into action. 

Consider taking survival courses or participating in outdoor excursions to hone your skills under controlled conditions. 

Familiarize yourself with the specific challenges of your region, as survival tactics can vary greatly depending on the environment.

5 Basic Survival Skills to Learn
Survival, Evasion, Resistance, and Escape (SERE) specialists instruct service members about the environment during their 7-level skill training at Long Lake, Washington, Sept 27, 2023. SERE is a training program that prepares U.S. military personnel, U.S. Department of Defense civilians, and private military contractors to survive and “return with honor” in survival scenarios. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sergeant David Phaff)

To find survival schools near you, check out our training map to locate and sign up for a course!


In conclusion, the 5 basic survival skills mentioned above are essential for anyone looking to be better prepared for life’s unexpected challenges. 

Whether you’re an outdoor enthusiast, an adventure seeker, or simply someone who values self-sufficiency, these skills are a valuable asset. Remember that preparation and practice are key to mastering these skills effectively.

By continually enhancing your knowledge and proficiency in shelter building, fire starting, water sourcing and purification, food foraging and hunting, and navigation, you can confidently face any survival situation that may arise. Equip yourself with the skills and knowledge necessary to thrive in the great outdoors and be ready for whatever life throws your way.

Stay tuned for our next blog where we will cover all the gear we recommend to pair with these survival skills!