5 Most Important Survival Skills, #1 is Protection

The 5 most important survival skills – Why is protection so important?

Protection is at the top of the PLWF flowchart and is the single most critical of the 5 most important survival skills that factor in your continued survival. Everything else is pointless if you end up dead within an hour due to the environment. When using the flowchart you have to continually refer to it from the start every time you complete a task, back to the start and reassess. Of the 5 most important survival skills, Protection will ensure you have life left in you to go onto Location, Water and finally Food.

Protection means a lot of things to different people, when I have asked students I have been told insect repellent to karate to condoms (WTF?!) The Oxford English dictionary says protection is

“A person or thing that prevents someone or something from suffering harm or injury”

So in simple terms protection in a survival sense means exactly what is said above and can include any or all of the following.

  • Shelter
  • Clothing
  • Weapons (generally not considered)
  • Knowledge
  • Training

The good thing about the protection side of survival is that it is something that you will obviously want to do anyway. Nobody likes being wet, cold, hot, sun burnt etc. Look at a 2 year old and they will do things naturally to stop discomfort from the elements; it is a natural instinct. The difficult part is actually achieving comfort, and I don’t mean sleeping in a king size bed with duck down duvet! Even modest comfort that just keeps you dry and warm (read, not freezing) is difficult to achieve without suitable equipment.

What Am I protecting myself from?

surviving a stormIn simple terms it is the weather primarily and depending where you are in world the wildlife. Lets look at the weather and what can kill you if you aren’t prepared.

  • Cold – Hypothermia
  • Heat – Hyperthermia
  • Wind – Wind chill
  • Rain/Snow – Wet
  • Sun – Sun burn and heat stroke
  • Exhaustion – heat, cold, lack of fluid and food.
  • Humidity – Hyperthermia

Apart from humidity, all of the potential killers can be combated by using some basic survival skills and knowledge. The easiest way to do this is dressing to survive and carrying appropriate clothing for the conditions you are likely to encounter (you did check the weather forecast, right?) It is no good attempting to walk across the Arctic Circle with board shorts, Bermuda shirt and flip-flops! If you do that then you will just prove Darwin right

The only good piece of kit is what is with you!

You may have the 5 most important survival skills firmly locked in your brain, however, that is only any good if you are prepared for the conditions. Have a look at what the weather is likely to do for the time you are going to be exposed to the weather and for an extra 24hrs (or greater depending how long you will be away) This way if you are prepared and should you break your leg, get navigationally embarrassed or are just enjoying the view too much and run out of daylight. I always make sure I pack something waterproof (beware of Gore-tex if it’s really cold as it’s not as effective), something warm enough to sleep in whilst exposed and ALWAYS let someone know where I am going and when I expect to get back. Remember, there is no point in having an arctic jacket and leaving it at home when you go for your walk to the Arctic! TAKE IT WITH YOU!


survival prepper kit

So what can I do to achieve some protection if I am caught out?

The most obvious answer is constructing a shelter in order to get you out of the elements. This can be as complicated as building a lean-to so the wind and rain cant get to you or as simple as sitting under a tree to hide from the sun. One piece of kit that is fantastic, cheap and weighs nothing is a bothy bag; I never leave home without one when I am out in the wild.

Yeah that’s great, but a shelter isn’t going to keep me warm in the Arctic Circle!

This is partly true, as a shelter will keep you warmer, but you most definitely do not want to be sitting in your underwear. Most shelters will only lessen the underlying conditions . For example a snow hole will keep the ambient temperature just above freezing; outside however it will be 20 degrees cooler.

The best form of protection from the cold and to keep you dry is fire. I don’t know about you but I LOVE fire, much to my parents frustration as I was always playing with fire. I nearly destroyed around 1,000 acres of dry crops by lighting fires, but that another story for another day. If you learn one survival skill that will do you more good than anything else, LEARN TO MAKE FIRE! As a great philosopher once said “what I desire is man’s red fire, I am tired of monkeying around.” That is pretty good advice, quit messing around and learn to light fire without matches, lighters or using chemicals. It is the very first Pass/fail part of the UK SERE Instructor course.

What is so great about fire?

survival fire

  • I will keep you warm = You don’t die!
  • It helps people find you = You don’t die!
  • You can boil water = You don’t die!
  • You can cook food = You don’t die!

I think you can see where I am going with this. For the sharp ones amongst you, the list of what fire can do has just addressed the first 4 of the 5 basic survival principles. Hopefully you realise now why fire lighting has to be one of the essential tools in your arsenal. I will be doing some posts soon on fire lighting and how you can do it with just natural objects you would find outside.

As my basic training instructor always shouted at me, “Train hard, fight easy!”

It is no good reading this post and then thinking, “screw him, I got this!” You have to practice these skills whether that is building a shelter, making fire or even packing your rucksack. It has to be something that is second nature; when you are injured, tired, cold, wet and stuck in the middle of nowhere it’s not the time to practice.

The key points to take away

  • The 5 most important survival skills must be learnt, understood and utilised.
  • Protection is the most important priority to address.
  • Continually reassess your situation and start at the top of the flowchart.
  • Pack the right kit for the weather you expect +24hrs extra.
  • Learn to make fire.
  • Train hard, fight easy!

Have you checked out my other articles yet? If not, why not? Please have a look around and if you would be so kind, leave a comment below.



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  • John the bear

    Thanks man seems good advice

  • Your website is so awesome. Thanks for all the cool tips. Looking forward to reading more from you. I’m a nature girl!!

    • No problem Crystal, glad you like it and I promise there is more to come. If you like my stuff then please share far and wide and add me to your social networks using the icons at the top of the page. That way you wont miss anything.

      If you have any ideas then please do let me know.


  • James

    Think maybe I did something wrong. Had to copy my comment and am reposting. If I’m double posting, sorry in advance.

    Great focus on the fire. I’ve always told my kids that if they had to learn just one survival skills – learn how to make fire. It gives you warmth, protects you from animals (did you have this one?), cooks your food, and cleans water.

    In addition, it’s a great skill to have when camping. You’ll be the most valuable and “cool” person to be able to make a roaring fire in a snap. Nothing like watching someone struggling to make a fire with pitiful results.

    Making fire was how I got started getting into the whole survival thing. Never even knew it was a thing. lol

    Ended up trying to learn how to really survive in the wild. So cool to know what plants are edible and how to make stuff with things you find in the forest, etc…

    • I will shortly be teaching my son how to make fire! I cant wait as you are absolutely right, it is a life skill and should be taught to more people, especially kids…. In the right context of course 🙂

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