25 Essential Survival Backpacking Skills You Need To Have

survival backpacking

Survival backpacking requires preparation, experience, and strategy. You need to make sure you’re prepared for anything and possessing this skill will be very valuable in a SHTF scenario. 

Practicing and mastering your backpacking skills will help you master primitive survival skills. Here are 25 essential tips that can save your life in case you are stuck in an emergency situation.

1. Stay Calm in an Emergency

By losing your nerve, you will make a stressful situation even worse. Quite simply, you will lose your ability to think clearly and rationally. 

While it’s easy to get panicked in a critical scenario, the best way is to step out of what you are doing and take a few deep breaths. This will help in calming down the mind. Next, think of what you can do to focus on the goal at hand.

2. Take Stock of Your Situation

Assess your situation to determine the immediate priorities. This can be finding shelter, water, or building a fire to stay warm. Now, assess the environment around you to ensure safety. If you or anyone else on the team has an injury, it’s time to take care of it.

In the next stage, you can plan out a survival strategy based on the wilderness survival tips and tricks that you know. If you are lost, use a compass or a GPS to identify your location. Also, identify landmarks or think of any last location you can remember.

3. Choose the Right Campsite

This is an important aspect that you need to consider before setting up the camp. Avoid valleys or river beds that are prone to flash flooding. If you see any signs of deteriorating weather, avoid high points and windy terrains.

Mountain or rock faces that are prone to rock falls or avalanches should also be avoided. If you are in bear territory, make sure that there are no signs of bears around.

4. Arranging Shelter

Setting up a shelter is most important when daylight is fading fast. A shelter will keep you protected from the elements and allow you to prepare for the night.

If you aren’t carrying a tent, you can look for caves, thickets, or overhangs. Other than that, you can also use a tarp or emergency blanket to set up a makeshift shelter.

5. Finding Drinking Water

One of the most important hiking survival tips is staying hydrated. You need to locate a source of drinking water near your shelter that’s safe to drink

Remember: you can die in the wild by drinking the wrong kind of water. 

Boiling is the easiest way to purify water. Other options include collecting rain, snow, or dew for drinking. Flowing water sources like a river or stream are better than stagnant ones.

6. Learn to Build a Fire

Needless to say, this is a lifesaving survival hiking skill that’s essential for all travelers. A fire will keep you warm, help you cook, and will also keep the predators away.

Carrying a fire-starting tool in your basic wilderness survival kit is a good option. But you should also know a few easy ways to create a spark without any gear. It’s best to practice a few of these skills in your backyard before heading for the outdoors.

7. Learn to Tie Knots

Tying the right knot is an extremely important backpacking survival skill that you need to know. From tying poles for supporting your shelter to securing your gear, a piece of paracord can be a lifesaver.

While there are a wide variety of knots, start with a few simple ones. A square knot, bowline, a figure of eight, and a clove hitch are some of the basic ones that you can learn. 

As always, practice will make you perfect.

8. First-aid

First aid is an important survival know-how that you need to learn. Quite simply, it can save your life and the lives of your team members. You can’t wait for the emergency services while being miles away from the nearest town.

Learning skills like treating wounds and abrasions, controlling bleeding, and stabilizing limbs are vital. Beyond that, you also need to know about administering CPR in an emergency scenario.

9. Gathering Food

Gathering food is another essential skill of backpacking survival that you need to learn. Two of the easiest ways are setting up snares and survival fishing. Since both these methods come with different variations, practicing a few techniques is a good choice

While practicing your skills, make sure that you do that without injuring the local wildlife.

10. Learn to Forage for Food

Another effective way is to identify the edible plants in the region. But eating the wrong plant in the wild can be disastrous. So make sure you do a proper study by using a field guide and memorizing these plants.

Some of the common plants you can use are common dandelion, chickweed, cattail, chicory, wood sorrels, etc.

11. Cook in the Right Manner

When you are capturing and cooking wild animals, it’s better to overcook them than to undercook them. That way, you will stay safe from any harmful pathogens in the meat. 

While long-term professionals can survive eating raw liver and the heart, it’s best that you stick to the flesh in the muscles. 

Always dispose of the guts of your prey to prevent any chance of an infection. When you are out in the wild diarrhea is one thing that you need to avoid.

12. Learn to Navigate

Look: you should not lose your bearings if your GPS in your pocket runs out of juice. 

One way is to carry a compass with you. Other than that, learn the techniques that allow you to find directions by looking at the sun. You can also use your analog watch as a compass by using it in the right manner with the sun. 

During the night, you can use the stars or a large constellation like the Big Dipper to find out directions.

Learning about the key landmarks in the region will also help you to estimate your position and direction in relation to them.

13.  Learn to Read a Map

Another important survival hiking skill that you need to learn is reading topographical maps. The best part is, a map doesn’t need a power source or a signal to point you in the right direction.

Learning the basics of map reading isn’t difficult and a few hours should be enough to help you grasp the basics. With a map of the area, it’s easier to identify your location by matching the physical landscape with the contour lines and features on the map. 

14. Sending Survival Signals

It may happen that you are injured and in no condition to move. Your best bet is to signal for help and hold on till a rescue team arrives.

The most effective method is to build a rescue fire and use green branches on top of it to generate thick smoke. The next effective method is to use a mirror signal. Light flashing from a mirror can be seen from miles away. There are other ways to send SOS signals too.

15. Identify Medicinal Plants

Do you know that the pulp from the prickly pear cactus can be effective in treating wounds and sunburn?

In the same way, there are many other plants in the wilderness that have medicinal properties. During a backpacking survival situation, such knowledge can be extremely useful.

16. Encountering Animals

What do you do when you encounter a grizzly in the wilderness? What about other creatures like a mountain lion or a snake? Learning to react in the right manner in these situations is a vital skill for survival backpacking.

It’s always best to back away and give space to a wild animal, especially if it’s a mother and a baby. However, in the case of animals like mountain lions, it’s important to make some noise to prevent them from considering you as prey.

You should also understand potential protein sources. We recommend survival fishing as the best method for acquiring protein in the wild. You should also have a portable survival fishing rod with you in any dangerous scenario because you never know what will happen.

17. Rationing Food

Let’s admit it. Food isn’t easy to find in the wild. It gets more difficult if you are not in a condition to go hunting or foraging. In such scenarios, rationing food becomes a necessity.

An effective hiking survival tip is to chew your food thoroughly before swallowing. This will help in extracting more nutrients from the same amount of food.

18. Learn to Preserve Meat

There is no guarantee of a steady supply of food when you are in the wild. So learning to preserve the food that you have is one of the important wilderness survival tips and tricks.

Preserving raw meat in the form of jerky is one of the best ways, but you need to do it right to reduce the chances of contamination. Ideally, it should be done in an oven. But for survival backpacking,  sliced meat pieces can be dried under the sun or near a smoky fire. 

To reduce the risks, toast jerky over a fire before consumption.

19. Identify Serious Conditions

There are some serious health conditions that can be tackled easily if detected early. But a late response from your end will allow the situation to escalate and move beyond control.

 A few such conditions are hypothermia, altitude sickness, dehydration, frostbite, etc. Identifying the signals at an early stage will help you to take the right steps before it’s too late.

20. Stay Positive

Uncertainty and worrying can affect your mental condition during an emergency scenario. Once all the necessary action is taken, it’s essential to stay positive.

Thinking negatively will not change your situation but it can shift your focus from the important tasks at hand. So it’s important to focus your thoughts on reason and not on emotions.

Remember: the “ never give up” attitude can make the difference between life and death.

21. Learn to Use Your Gear

Your survival gear is of little use to you when you don’t know how to use them. Before you pack your backpacking kit, check every gear to make sure that it works. Then ensure that you know how to use them effectively.

Packing a wide range of survival gear can lead to a false sense of security. But the right application of each of the items rests on your hands. Make sure to personalize your kit depending on your skills and survival know-how.

22. Dispose of Your Waste Correctly

Disposing of your food waste in a proper manner is an essential hiking survival tip for staying safe in the wilderness. Since wild animals like bears have an exceptional sense of smell, these food items can attract them to your shelter. 

Bury or burn all your garbage. If you ditch it, make sure it’s far away from your shelter. In case you are storing food, learn to store it at a height to keep it out of reach of animals.

23. Learn How to Stay Warm

When temperatures drop, you can’t depend solely on a limited stock of fuel to keep your body warm. Learn about the other ways of staying warm like moving around, eating, and layering on heavy clothes like bushcraft pants. At the same time, you need to reduce the chances of sweating and stay dry.

In the same way, you can learn a few tricks to stay cool on a hot day. Staying by a cool water source and wrapping a wet piece of clothing around the head are some options.

24. Learn to Use A Knife

While you don’t need to handle your knife like Rambo, using it in a safe manner is an important backpacking skill. A deep cut in your hands can be a big problem during survival hiking. Understand knife safety tips like cutting away from yourself and never rushing while using a knife.

Beyond that, you need to keep the knife sharp and ready to use. A dull knife can increase the chances of an injury. Also, keep the knife clean and store it properly in your vest when not in use.

25. Be Prepared

In survival backpacking, it’s always practical to stay prepared for the worst-case scenarios. That not only includes packing a basic wilderness survival kit and gear but also staying mentally prepared for any scenario. That way, you will be able to react in the right manner in the face of an emergency.

Is it possible to prepare for every contingency by learning backcountry skills? 

Not really. But definitely, you need to do your best to cover the basics.