Seven Steps to Survival in the Wilderness

Being self-reliant in the outdoor environment is founded more in your sense of place and purpose than in knowing an assortment of survival “parlor tricks” or wielding the biggest survival knife. Tom Watson says that surviving has to do more with being a resourceful MacGyver than a macho Rambo.

Surviving by using your self-reliance skills should be approached by applying a series of defined processes, not random efforts. Commonly referred to as the “Seven Steps to Survival,” these procedures have been defined to be carried out in a specific sequence of processes. Each step helps you towards achieving your ultimate goal of being rescued. Those seven steps are:

  1. Realize and accept that you are in trouble. Kick your PMA into action!
  2. Assess your situation. Are you injured? Is there imminent danger? What kind of for resources are available?
  3. Create a shelter. You can always upgrade from a temporary shelter later.
  4. Create signals. Fire and/or smoke, in a series of three, or large letters/symbols in highly-visible-from-above locations.
  5. Find a safe water source. Know how to purify it before drinking.
  6. Eat. Food is fuel for both body and mind, but not essential for several days.
  7. Play. Yes, it’s important to relieve at least a little mental stress. Let your PMA downshift a bit, too, you’ll need it to be fresh and active to motivate you through your ordeal.


Survival methods are necessary knowledge for all outdoorsmen. To learn more check out the January issue of MidWest Outdoors magazine, available now at a newsstand near you, or by subscribing on our website.