Shelter, Fire, Water and the Survival Gear that Makes the Difference

If you find yourself in a survival scenario there are three things that you need to concern yourself with immediately. This scenario could be the realization that you are lost in the woods, it could be an urban survival situation or even recovery from a serious natural disaster. The beauty of survival is that these three issues need to be your priority.

  •          Water
  •          Fire
  •          Shelter

The only thing that would supersede these three is immediate safety. If your live was at risk based on the people, creatures or environment in your immediate area you would, of course, deal with that first.

Now, having a decent base of woodsman and bush craft skills can make survival a lot easier but having the right survival gear can simplify these tasks exponentially.


Hypothermia kills more people in the wild than bears and wolves combined, by a large margin. You aren’t building a shelter to keep a bear out. You are building a shelter to keep the warmth in. That is the reality of shelter. Aside from being able to keep your warm and insulate your heat, shelter should also provide you with the best sleep possible.

Shelter can come from nature or from the gear on your back. It usually a combination of both. To me a great shelter must include things like a ground pad and a tarp. While creating a lean to from the forest around you is impressive and somewhat effective, the benefits of carrying a simple tarp or poncho are just too great in terms of making a dry shelter. You should also consider a cold weather tent that is built to keep the cold at bay

Outside of the above mentioned there are simple things that you can add to your pack to assure you quick and effective shelter.

  • Lightweight Sleeping Bag
  • Knot Tying Skills
  • Stakes
  • Cordage


                   Wood is now burning










Fire is everything in survival. You may think of fire as a means to warm you or a light source in the night. It is much more than that. In a true wilderness survival situation fire will make your water safe to drink, it will cook your food, it will deter animal threats and the right fire can even help signal for rescue.

When it comes to creating fire, you want a wide range of skills and gear that will help you get that fire started. The most efficient fire-starting tool is a lighter. Now that may sound too simple and not a noble enough effort to the survivalist. Well, you would be a fool not to have a skills and gear to start fire several ways. The more you have in your repertoire the better off you will be if you find yourself without a lighter.

Some of my favorite methods and most practiced are:

  • 9 Volt and Steel Wool
  • Flint and Steel
  • Magnifying Glass
  • Ferro Rod

These four methods of fire starting will get you a spark and an ember. From there you must manage that thing into a fire. Having the right kindling and plenty of firewood will help you with that. When it comes to wood there are two things to remember.

  1. High resin wood like pine will burn hot and fast
  2. Hardwood like oak will burn slow and steady

Start fire with pine and sustain it with oak or other hardwood.

The self-feeding fire is terrific way to keep a fire working while you are working on other things. If you are unfamiliar with the self-feeding fire, check out this video with Dave Canterbury


I know many people who have parked themselves under a tree and fell asleep against it on a warm spring or summer night. Covered up appropriately and in the right conditions you can sleep outside like this for a few days. You won’t get the rest you need but its possible.

What is impossible, is going three days without water. The conditions are irrelevant. If you don’t take clean water into your body within three days, you are going to die or become so affected that you will not be able to get out of the situation. Water is critical.

Finding a water source is only the beginning of getting that water into your body. To take full advantage of that water and to make it safe you will need to

  1. Filter that water
  2. Purify that water

The interesting thing about these two steps is that technology has really taken hold on them. There is pocket technology that can make water potable and offer you a hydration at almost any source. There are other effective water filtering technologies that are larger and work to filter more water.

You may not be surprised to find that my philosophy on water sourcing is the same as my philosophy on shelter and fire. I want to have access to some of the highest-level technology on the market. In my pack I have a powerful water filter by Katadyn. That said, I also have the skills and the tools to create a biofilter along with purifying tablets that will make sure the water is safe if my Katadyn is broken.

Its another version of the balance in survival gear and skills. If you can unite both you will have success in the wild.


With the right survival gear, you will be able to tackle most challenges in the wild. If you keep your focus on shelter, fire and water you will have a solid and life sustaining base. This base will free up your time for other things like finding food and getting rescued or finding your way out of an area.

You might wonder why food wasn’t mentioned in the big three. There are two truths about food that will sure that up. The first is that we can go a long time without food. We can be functional and effective for nearly a week without food. You should also get some foraging skills under your belt. The second truth is that food digestion uses up precious water reserves.


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