5 Handy Survival Skills

5 Handy Survival Skills

Your lost in the woods, your phone has died and it’s getting dark fast! Mastering these 5 handy survival skills could save your life.

Whether your a seasoned traveller or a camping enthusiast, it is always better to be prepared for any scenario.


1. Building a shelter

Depending on your location and climate, this could be your top priority. Hypothermia is one of the biggest killers in cold weather. Building a simple shelter could be the difference between life of death, which is why we have included it in our list of 5 handy survival skills. There are many simple types of shelter you can make, if your in luck… the cavity by the roots of a fallen tree makes a perfect ready made shelter, however this may not be an option. Below we will tell you how to make two very simple and basic shelters.

Tripod Shelter

A very basic form of shelter, gather as many branches and sticks as possible and lean against a tree at an angle 3/4 of the way round the circumference of the trunk. Allow enough room to sit inside. Then cover the outside of the shelter with smaller sticks, leaves and debris to keep out the wind and rain.

With both variations of shelter, you should cover the floor in four to five inches of moss or leaves to provide insulation and stop your body from coming into direct contact with the cold ground.

Lean-To Shelter

Secure a large branch against a tree, or between two trees horizontally. Stack small branches along one side, close together at an angle leaning from the floor and resting against the horizontal branch to make a wall. Use leaves, moss and debris to cover the angled wall to protect yourself from the elements.

Check out this you tube tutorial by the Adventure Men

2. Building a fire

No matter what climate you happen to be in, fire is one of the key elements to survival. Being able to build a fire will provide you with warmth, allow you to cook, ward off wild animals, and use the smoke to signal for help and disclose your location. There are many ways to build a fire so we will explain a few. Of course, it is always recommended to carry a few lighters or a box of waterproof matches with you, we will however explain a few ways of creating fire without them.

Friction drill method

This method is important to our list of 5 handy survival skills as it you only need natural tools.

Firstly gather dry grass, bark fibres, dry moss and wood shavings to use as tinder. Fashion this material into a nest like clump, this is where we will transfer the burning ember too to ignite the flame. You will also need to gather as many small dry sticks as possible for kindling.

Find a flat (ish) piece of dry wood and carve a small notch into the middle to make a fire board. Add an extra notch to the side of the board as hot wood fibres need oxygen to build up.

Use a straight dry stick, sharpened at one end as your drill. Place the sharp end into the notch on your fireboard and place your hands either side of the drill. The rotation of the stick creates friction between the drill and board and will eventually produce a burning ember.

Quickly transfer the hot ember to your tinder and blow on it to ignite. Once the tinder is burning, use it to ignite the kindling and keep adding larger dry sticks to keep the fire lit.

Using a compact mirror to start a fire

This is not the easiest way of making a fire, but with the right conditions it will work. You will need to gather the same components to make your tinder pile and ensure it is bone dry.

Use the concave side of the mirror to shine a concentrated beam of sunlight onto your tinder, you will have to be patient as this could take a while. You will eventually see smoke coming from the tinder, continue to aim the beam onto the same spot until the tinder ignites into flame.

3. Finding and purifying drinking water

Staying hydrated is essential! You can only survive a few days without water so it is a priority on our 5 handy survival skills list.

If venturing out it is sensible to carry a supply of water with you, preferably in an aluminium or steel canteen which you can reuse and also use to boil water. You will not be able to carry enough water for multi day adventures, or you may get stranded unexpectedly so we will explain how to source and purify water along the way.

Your ideal water source will be clear flowing water, which has not come into contact with any contaminated or man made pollutants .. but this may not always be available. Melted snow or ice can also be used, although it is always recommended to boil any found water source if it is possible. Boiling water is the most effective way of removing bacteria and viruses. Another water source is the dew on plants and leaves, tie a clear plastic bag tightly over a leafy branch and wait for the water to condense on the inside of the bag ready to drink. You can also use a piece of cloth or material to soak up dew and ring it out into a container.

Making a simple water filter

You can make a simple water filter, which can make even the dirtiest stagnant water drinkable using just a few materials. The most popular type is a plastic bottle water filter demonstrated in the video below. If you do not have a plastic bottle or cannot find one anywhere.. you can filter out the majority of the sediment by using a sock or piece of material before boiling.

4. Identifying Edible plants

Of course, it depends on your location as to what edible vegetation will be available to you. If you are heading abroad and will be trekking through jungles, deserts or any other locations that are vastly different from your home country, do your research before you go!

Today we will be looking at a few edible woodland plants that can be found in many countries.


Dandelions contain vitamin C, protein, carbohydrate, fat, calcium, iron and vitamins A and B. The entire plant can be steamed or boiled although it can be eaten raw. The flower heads are the tastiest part raw, though try and avoid getting the bitter white sap into your mouth.



Wild Rose / Rosehip

Rosehips are not just edible, they are very good for you! A single rosehip contains more vitamin C than an orange. To eat Rosehips raw you MUST first remove the seeds. These seeds are covered in tiny hairs which can irritate the mouth and stomach. Rosehips taste better boiled into a tea, but in the case of a survival emergency .. just go for it!



Burdock is found across most continents. You can eat the leaves and the peeled stalks of the plant raw, although it has a very bitter taste so boiling will make it more palatable. You can also peel and boil the root of the plant .

Some other edible woodland plants include..

Asparagus, Clover, Chickweed, Field Pennycress, Kelp, and White Mustard.


5. Making a plastic water bottle fish trap

Every bit of food you can capture increases your chances of staying alive in a survival situation. If you are near a water source where you can catch fish, you can use this trap to either catch small fish to eat or to use as bait to catch bigger fish. In the video below you will see how to make a simple fish trap using just a 2 litre plastic bottle.


We hope you have enjoyed this post.. Don’t forget to check out the links below for more handy travel advice.

My Top 10 Travel Gadgets

How To Travel On A Budget

What To Pack


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