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Survival Skills 101: Essential Techniques Every Camper Should Know

Being outdoors, just you and nature–the very thing that makes camping so healthy and enjoyable is also what makes it potentially dangerous. Too many unprepared campers suffer from injuries and illness from their trips.

You deserve to get the best possible camping experience. Before going on your next trip, study and practice all the most important camping survival skills, which we’ll describe below.

Survival Skills

Campsite Setup

An effective emergency campsite should be designed to keep you safe from animals and extreme temperatures. Here’s what you must know how to do for such a campsite.

Create Natural Shelters

In case you get lost or your tent is damaged, you must be able to use the materials around you for shelter. Find dry leaves, branches, and pine needles, preferably in an elevated area several feet away from any water sources to avoid moisture and cold temperatures as much as possible. Try to set up your shelter like a tent or teepee, and make a bed at least eight inches off the ground. For more detailed advice, check out our article on various natural shelters and how to build them!

Tie Strong Knots

Whether you’re binding materials, anchoring your shelter, stringing a clothing line, building a fishing rod, or trying to keep all the campers close together in a storm, tying sturdy knots is a crucial survival skill. Practice at least three or four types of strong knots until they feel like second nature. Hitches, square knots, overhand knots, and manrope knots are common and reliable, but read about more in our article on knots that you should know for survival.

Build Fires

Starting a fire is easy enough with a firepit, lighter, and/or matches, but can you do it from scratch? Choose a spot of bare, dry soil, dig a pit if you can, and make a pile of dry branches, twigs, bark, and leaves. There are multiple possible ways to ignite them, such as heating them with sunlight and a magnifying glass, creating friction with a bow or hand drill, or making a spark with flint and steel or char cloth.

Be Comfortable With Local Wildlife

Since you won’t be the only living being outside, coexistence is an important survival skill. Study the types of wildlife that frequently inhabit the area where you’ll be camping. That way, you can learn how best to deter them from your campsite or defend yourself if they become aggressive.

For example, the “stink” of fabric softener sheets repels most animals, so hang them around the campsite. Also, ensure that you never leave food or uncleaned cookware out, as many animals find leftovers irresistible.

If an animal wants to attack you, try to make yourself seem bigger, louder, and scarier. Fight back only when necessary, and try to use rocks, sticks, or knives. Aim at the throat, chin, eyes, stomach, and/or the back of the head, an animal’s most vulnerable areas.

Survival Skills

Food and Drink

Nature is rich with things to eat and drink. Knowing how to find and prepare them is an indispensable survival skill, so make sure you handle the following tasks.

Purify Drinking Water

You should do your best to set up your campsite near a water source, but the water may still need purification before it’s safe to drink. The same could even be said of snow and rainwater. If you don’t have iodine or bleach tabs, boil it over an open fire, or put some water in a plastic or glass container and let it sit in the sun for a minimum of five hours. The heat or UV rays will kill most of the bacteria, viruses, and parasites.

Learn Plant Identification

Proper plant identification has always been an essential survival skill, as it determines whether you eat something nutritious or poisonous. Familiarize yourself with the plants in your area so that you know what to gather for a healthy meal.

A good rule of thumb is that any plant with three leaves is probably poisonous, and some will leave a rash on your skin just from contact. Consider bringing a book about local plant life just to be extra safe.

Hunt Without Guns

Hunting and self-defense are basic survival skills, so you need a few weapons in your campsite. You can fashion a slingshot out of a forked stick and piece of rubber. With a pocket knife, you could also sharpen the end of a longer stick to kill small animals. Also, if you don’t have a fishing rod, attach some string or a strip of cloth to another stick. Carve a hook out of bone or wood.

Make Cooking Tools

Your sharpened stick may be useful for skinning any animals you might catch. Other than that, look for larger sticks or branches that you could put together to build a spit for cooking meat. Alternatively, dig a pit and line it with heated stones to act as a makeshift oven.

Survival Skills

Injury Prevention and Treatment

Basic first aid is such a vital survival skill that there are classes for it, and we recommend taking them from certified experts. These are the techniques and habits you should definitely master.

Treat Bloody Wounds

In the event of a severe cut, scratch, or animal bite that draws blood, tie a cloth or some gauze on or near the wound. The pressure will stop the bleeding, and then you can more easily clean it with water, antibiotic cream, and disinfectant. Redress the wound every few hours or whenever the dressing is mostly soaked.

If there is animal venom involved, position the victim so that their heart is always above the bite, but do not apply ice or pressure. Just keep the injury site clean and sanitized. Also, help the victim stay calm and still while you wait for professional help.

Set Broken Bones

Broken bones often don’t heal properly without casts or surgery, but setting a broken bone is an important survival skill if you want to get to a hospital in the first place. While camping, the best way to do this is to tie wood planks or straight sticks as splints above and below the injured bone. Avoid pulling or pushing the bone back into place unless you’ve had training.

Use Sunscreen

Sunlight can dehydrate you and burn your skin all year round. The pain and discomfort would adversely affect your sleep and activities and could potentially cause fevers, inflammation, and permanent skin damage. Take sunscreen everywhere you go while camping, and apply it to your exposed skin every couple of hours.

Pack Lots of Clothes

Even if you’re packing light, bring at least one or two changes of clothes. That way, you can prevent hypothermia by having something dry to wear if you get wet. You could also rotate outfits, allowing you to wash dirty clothes with a water source. Keeping your body and campsite sanitary is just as important a survival skill as any other.

Carry Location Assistance Tools

Serious injuries require professional medical attention beyond first aid, but smartphones don’t always have working batteries or signals. Keep a whistlesatellite messenger, and/or personal locator beacon device so that a rescue team can find you after you’ve stabilized the injured party.

Survival Skills

Stay Safe While Camping!

Health and safety are key to creating great memories from every camping trip. Even if you never end up needing these techniques, mastering them will give you the confidence and peace of mind you need to fully enjoy yourself. This is just the beginning, though! Prepare yourself even more by checking out our other pointers on camping survival skills and strategies.