Essential Survival Skills for Bugging Out in the Outdoors

Mental, physical, and practical preparedness are the Prepper’s first tasks. Sizing up situations and risks comes immediately after. Every scenario has its own features, and an emergency situation is constantly changing.

In a hypothetical SHTF scenario, you may consider the possibility of a transition to three different environments: urban, suburban, and off-grid.

Needless to say that each one of these environments requires specific planning in terms of:

  • risk analysis
  • resources
  • mindset and pragmatic approach to solving critical issues
  • skills
  • gear

In this article, we will focus on the essential survival skills you need to master when the necessity of bugging out in the outdoors comes.

Pros and cons of bugging out in the Outdoors

pros and cons of bugging out in the outdoors

Far from being a perfect answer to all the problems risen up in an urban scenario, bugging out in the outdoors has certain pros and cons.

First of all, being an outdoor enthusiast for all your life doesn’t make you an expert in wilderness living. In fact, there is a substantial difference in spending some weekends out camping, hiking, climbing, hunting, or whatever and mastering real skills which could literally save your life.

One thing is sure: the outdoors represents a valuable resource of different materials such as wood, water, food, etc.

The first critical issue consists of taking advantage of them without exploiting what surrounds you.

The second one is related to the true level of your skills.

Starting from the famous, wise words “Use it or lose it,” you cannot rekindle some abilities you gained during your Boy Scouts years and pretend you are still good at some – or even all of them.

Without constant, methodical practice, in fact, it is easy to forget some of these skills. Furthermore, tension, anguish, panic, fear could overcome your rational thinking leading to a total disaster. These variables could seriously compromise the positive application of your skills.

TLW 283x275The pros are all consistent with the inner natural dimension of being off-grid:

  • the abundance of timber to make fire, to build a shelter, and so on,
  • presence of game,
  • presence of water,
  • possibility to move and to live undetected,
  • lower risks to handle potential ill-intentioned people and, in general, a low chance of having to deal with high-risk situations caused by fellow humans.

The cons are mainly connected with:

  • scarcity of availability or total absence of modern devices you may need (GPS, mobile phones..),
  • a somehow certain impossibility to find vehicles,
  • the inconvenience of being off-grid due to the presence of predators, insects, suffering from the elements, and so on.

Just to mention the most evident disadvantages you may run across.

Bugging out in the outdoors could be the ideal solution only if you are 100% ready to accept both sides of the coin.

Indeed it may always have had a certain romantic flair, but.. are you fit for that life?

Be straightforward to yourself when asking this question, especially if your plan involves bugging out with your family.

Duties and responsibilities must take over the childish perspectives and illusions that have no real attribute.

A physical and mental preparation could be achieved by spending as much time as we can in the backwoods, experiencing different weather conditions, pushing ourselves to the limit, testing our attitude and skills.

Essential Survival Skills for Bugging Out in the Outdoors

At this point, it is right and proper to cluster the essential survival skills into macro groups.


navigation bos

Bugging out in an area you are familiar with is obviously the most reasonable option.

Having already scouted a specific place can actually help you in:

  • detecting the right place where setting your bug out location
  • identifying the existing resources
  • bringing some items to a specific location (caching)
  • starting to build a shelter

But what if you need to rush into an environment you have never seen before?

In this case, a good, detailed map of the area is mandatory. Besides the said map, you will be required to be proficient in using a compass and being accustomed to set reference points while you move on.

Natural navigation and orientation are the first skills you need to gain and master. 


shelter bos

Once you have identified an ideal place where to bug out, setting up a temporary or long-term shelter comes as the second necessity. There would be a lot to say on this topic, and you can find a lot of info on this website on how to plan and build a shelter in the wilderness.

Making a shelter requires practical skills, like handling a blade the proper way (knife, axe, saw, and so on) and the ability to make various knots in order to make a solid shelter, resistant and one that can cover all your needs related to safety, heating options and comfort.


a new attitude

When setting up a shelter, it becomes mandatory to plan a heating method long before you gather the building materials to protect yourself from hypothermia when bad weather becomes the norm.

Starting a fire involves gathering the proper tinder as well as the right wood to burn and to use as a deflector.

There are several methods to start a fire, from using a ferrod to using the hand drill or other friction methods. Each fire-starting method has its own issues related to resources, percentage of humidity, your physical and mental performance.

Knowing all of them is certainly good, but never underestimate the power of common sense: when you get tired, your skills and performance will suffer as well. A low level of calories, for example, will undermine any success. 


nutrition and wild foods

Gathering edible plants and berries isn’t as easy as it may appear. Just think about Christopher McCandless’s story. Running into mistakes is very, very likely.

Therefore, it is pretty reasonable to always have with you a manual of local edible plants containing good photos (not sketches!) of the flora of a specific area and do a toxicity test before eating any of them.

Collecting and making water drinkable is another challenging task. You cannot even think about staying one week alive without knowing how to properly do this.

Hunting and fishing require the proper and deep knowledge of the tool you use (rifle, bow, spear, and so on) and, additionally, all the practical actions related to skinning, processing meat, and conserving it.

Besides that, knowing how to track and how to approach game is an essential part of hunting. Without having such skills, any attempt to obtain some meat may end up being a total failure.

Therefore, tracking skills come into use to pursue your hunting goals and gather from the terrain all the information you need to live and move in the off-grid, leaving a minimum sign of your passage.


Living undetected 

Tracking skills are your best allies for reading the soil and understanding if any wild animal or human approached your bug out place.

Tracking works not only for predators but for humans too, since humans usually leave a more visible spore. By knowing how to read tracks, you will consequently gain the abilities necessary to leave minimum signs of your passage, avoiding giving away your position and movements.

In doing so, you will keep your bug-out location safe.


Safely handling a weapon, knowing how to use and maintain it in proper working conditions is often an underrated skill when bugging out.

Mishaps can be just around the corner, especially if you are in the middle of nowhere. Humans may very well be less of a threat in the wilderness, but predators such as bears, mountain lions, you name it, may become a constant annoyance.

Having a firearm and ammo and taking care of them is one of the things you must consider when you bug out.

How to learn essential survival skills 

how to learn essential survival skills 

Reading books, watching videos on YouTube are just good starting points, but you have to work on yourself, and, even better, you should attend classes and be shown the ropes by professionals.

There is plenty of good Survival Schools all over the US, offering focused courses that teach you how to start a fire, how to build a shelter, etc.

They will lead you on the right path, giving you all the tools you need to make you learn and fix your mistakes the proper way.

Be curious, ask questions, be eager to learn should be your credo.

Test your essential survival skills in the field

Once again, it is important to refresh your skills every time you have the chance to do so. Even more important, share your knowledge with the rest of your family is always a good practice.

Children always prove to be excellent learners as their mind is totally open to apprehend every new challenge they come in contact with.

Plan some testing weekend in the field, and try to simulate a bug-out situation: this will be of tremendous help when SHTF would strike.

This article has been written by Kyt Lyn Walken for Prepper’s Will.

Suggested resources for preppers:

The #1 food of Americans during the Great Depression

If you see this plant, don’t touch it!

How To Build The Invisible Root Cellar

10 Things Cowboys Carried With Them In The Wild West To Survive

Knowledge to survive any medical crisis situation

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