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!

Best Survival Schools in the US

As the saying goes, “Proper planning and preparation prevent piss-poor performance.” 

Whether you’re intentionally venturing into remote regions with minimal gear or finding yourself disoriented in familiar terrain, survival knowledge and skills become your lifeline. 

While certifications like Emergency Medical Technician or Wilderness First Responder are valuable, the ability to rely less on gear is paramount when faced with adversity.

Best Survival Schools in the US
A U.S. Air Force Airman Survival, Evasion, Resistance, Escape specialist shows a SERE candidate how to carve a wooden spoon at Camp Bullis, Texas, Aug. 17, 2015. SERE specialists continue to give advice, training, and encouragement while conducting a care and use inspection of the SERE candidate’s tools. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Chad Chisholm/Released)

In this article, we’ll introduce you to some of the best survival schools in the United States, offering experience-based courses to sharpen your bushcraft, survival skills, and urban preparedness.

Even if you’re confident you’ll never be stranded alone, stripped of resources, and armed only with a knife in a remote jungle, the practicality of these skills, the mental and physical resilience they instill, and the problem-solving abilities they foster will undoubtedly enhance many facets of your life.

With numerous survival courses available, it’s essential to choose one led by qualified instructors who truly understand the art of survival. So, if you’ve ever wondered which classes can truly prepare you for the wild, keep reading!

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Best Survival Schools in the US

Randall’s Adventure & Training

Randall’s Adventure & Training, located just outside Birmingham in Gallant, Alabama, has provided survival training for over two decades. 

They offer a wide range of courses suitable for both regular folks and professionals.

Whether you’re keen on surviving in the Peruvian jungle for a full week, starting with the basics, or honing advanced bushcraft skills, Randall’s Adventure & Training has a course to match your needs, and their prices are quite affordable. 

For instance, you can get started with a day-long intro to survival course for as little as $100. If you’re gearing up for a 72-hour survival challenge, consider enrolling in their Field Survival course

Pathfinder School

Led by the internationally acclaimed wilderness expert, Dave Canterbury, the Pathfinder School is a premier institution for survival training with locations in both Ohio and Georgia. Their diverse curriculum covers a wide spectrum of skills, catering to everyone from beginners to seasoned hunters and outdoorsmen.

Whether you’re looking to get your journey started in learning the basics of wilderness survival, master the art of trapping, and cold weather survival, or even attain your Red Cross Remote and Wilderness First Aid certification, Pathfinder School has a class tailored to your interests.

With an array of courses designed to equip you with invaluable wilderness skills and knowledge, this school provides a unique opportunity to learn from one of the world’s foremost experts in wilderness survival.

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Coalcracker Bushcraft

Nestled in the heart of the picturesque Appalachian Mountains of Pennsylvania, Coalcracker Bushcraft boasts a robust training facility located in Ringtown, Pennsylvania, where they conduct their immersive courses.

Course offerings cater to a wide range of outdoor enthusiasts, from those seeking to learn the fundamental skills of wilderness survival to those eager to get into advanced bushcraft techniques. 

Their Basic Survival course provides the essential knowledge and hands-on experience needed to thrive in the wild. For those looking to deepen their understanding and capabilities, the Advanced Bushcraft course offers a more comprehensive exploration of outdoor survival skills.

Moreover, they offer a course teaching the art of blacksmithing, where students can immerse themselves in the ancient craft of forging metal. This course provides hands-on training in this time-honored skill, allowing participants to create their own unique pieces.

Mountain Scout Survival School

In an era where our social structure and reliance on technology have distanced us from our innate connection with the natural world, Mountain Scout Survival School aims to bridge that gap and help you rediscover your primal roots.

Their course offerings cover a spectrum of survival expertise, including wilderness survival, where you’ll master the art of thriving in the untamed outdoors. 

For those intrigued by the art of tracking, they offer courses that dive into the ancient skill of tracing the movements of wildlife and even human beings. 

Additionally, their urban survival course equips you with the knowledge and skills needed to navigate and thrive in modern urban environments, ensuring you’re prepared for a wide range of scenarios.

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Direct Action Resource Center TUSC course

In an era characterized by unprecedented political, social, and economic uncertainty, the need for urban survival skills has never been more pressing. The Tactical Urban Sustainment Course (TUSC) offered by DARC (Direct Action Resource Center) is designed to equip individuals with the knowledge and abilities necessary to not only secure their assets but also thrive amidst the tumultuous backdrop of societal collapse.

Why Urban Survival Skills Matter

In a world where the very fabric of society can unravel swiftly, the ability to navigate and survive within urban environments is paramount. The TUSC program recognizes the importance of urban survival skills as a response to the following critical factors:

  • Political and Social Instability: The TUSC course acknowledges that in times of political and social upheaval, urban areas often become focal points of unrest and civil discord. TUSC provides essential strategies for individuals and small, cohesive groups to adapt and endure when conventional governance structures falter.
  • Economic Uncertainty: Economic instability can lead to resource scarcity and increased competition for essential goods and services. TUSC equips participants with the tools to manage limited resources effectively and make informed decisions in a financially precarious environment.
  • Localized Recurrent Violence: In a world where localized violence can erupt unexpectedly, understanding tactics for self-defense and conflict resolution within urban landscapes is vital. TUSC teaches participants to minimize risks and protect themselves and their loved ones.
  • Absence of the Rule of Law: When the rule of law is absent or virtually nonexistent, urban environments can descend into chaos. TUSC emphasizes the importance of ethical and lawful behavior while also teaching strategies to navigate situations where legal authority is diminished.

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The pursuit of survival skills goes deeper than mere adventure; it embodies a commitment to self-reliance and resilience in the face of adversity. 

As our world grows more complex and uncertain, the knowledge and capabilities offered by survival schools become increasingly valuable.

From the vast wilderness to the heart of urban jungles, the United States offers a diverse array of survival schools, each with its own unique approach to equipping individuals with vital skills. 

Randall’s Adventure & Training, Pathfinder School, Coalcracker Bushcraft, Mountain Scout Survival School, and the Tactical Urban Sustainment Course (TUSC) by DARC all stand as leaders of survival education, catering to a wide range of interests and expertise levels.

These courses empower individuals to thrive in challenging environments and situations. Whether it’s mastering the art of wilderness survival or navigating the complexities of an urban landscape during turbulent times, these schools provide the knowledge and confidence needed to confront the unpredictable.

Let TacSkills guide you to the perfect training opportunity in proximity to your locale. Commit to your professional growth today, and ensure you are learning from the best in the field.