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Skyrim Survival Mode Tips & Tricks: How to Survive

Fend for yourself in the harsh landscapes of Skyrim with Survival Mode enabled. And use these tips to stay alive.

Skyrim Survival Mode adds a new layer to Bethesda’s fantasy RPG by introducing mechanics like hunger and fatigue. Indeed, the cold wilds and dank labyrinths now impact your character in more ways. To help you, well, survive, here are some tips and tricks we use that you may find helpful. 

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Tips and Tricks for Surviving in Skyrim Survival Mode

How to Turn on Survival Mode in Skyrim

Similar to fishing, Survival Mode is included as part of the free Anniversary Edition patch, though there are some mods that are beneficial to have, like Camping and Adventurer’s Backpacks. These must be purchased separately if you haven’t yet picked up the Anniversary Edition upgrade.

Survival Mode can be activated as soon as you leave the tutorial area in Helgen. It makes the game more challenging by adding new elements and mechanics such as hunger, fatigue, and temperature.

After you leave Helgen, you’ll see a notification telling you about Survival Mode. This can be toggled on or off anytime in the Gameplay Settings panel.

Skyrim Survival Mode Mechanics Explained

Hunger  Over time, your character will grow hungry. This will decrease your total stamina. To alleviate this, you’ll need to eat cooked food. Simply eating raw food won’t be enough, and doing so can actually lead to diseases. Consider building something like the Fish Hatchery to create a steady source of food.

Since cooking and alchemy are so important in this mode, you’ll want to keep our alchemy recipes list handy for things like potions that cure diseases and various poisons. You’ll also want to keep an eye out for specific ingredients like Salt Piles and food items like Cheese Wheels. You can also cook Clam Meat now for warming Clam Chowder.

Fatigue  The Dragonborn just can’t keep going on one adventure after another as before. You’ll actually need to rest in Survival Mode. If not, fatigue will decrease your total magicka. Ideally, you’ll want to sleep in beds found indoors (i.e., inns, sanctuaries, or houses that you buy). Simply sleeping outside add the well-rested buff to your character.

Cold vs. Warmth  Climates and weather are probably the two most important factors to consider if you have Survival Mode enabled in Skyrim. Exploring out in the cold will decrease your total health, and swimming in frigid waters will exacerbate this effect. Eventually, your character will simply die.

To counter this, you’ll need to find sources of heat in Survival Mode. Examples include building a campfire in the wilderness (more on this below), eating hot soup, and wearing different types of clothing that increase warmth.

Other Key Factors  Here are a few other things to take note of if you’re playing Skyrim‘s Survival Mode:

  • Fast Travel  Direct teleportation by clicking on a location on the world map won’t work. However, it’s still possible to ride carriages or fly on a dragon.
  • Leveling Up  To level up, you need to sleep in a bed.
  • No Health Regeneration  Health doesn’t regenerate over time, so you’ll need to cast Restoration spells, drink potions, or eat food.

Camping, Fishing, and Adventurer’s Backpack Creations

From my experience, Skyrim Survival Mode can be brutal. The cold wilds can be unforgiving — and that’s not even considering the enemies and wildlife you’ll come across. After tinkering around in the mode for a few hours, I recommend having these Creation Club mods enabled to make the experience not only slightly easier but also a little more realistic.

  • Fishing  Fishing becomes a great source of food that you can cook. Moreover, you can build a Fish Hatchery to have a steady supply of fish.
  • Camping  This mod allows you to craft Camping Supplies (each one requires 1x Leather and 3x Firewood). For Firewood, you can easily use a Woodcutter’s Axe to chop logs. You can find some logs just outside of Belethor’s store in Whiterun. When you’re out in the wilderness in Survival Mode and you need a source of heat or a place to sleep, you can use Camping Supplies to create a campsite automatically.
  • Adventurer’s Backpack  These backpacks can be crafted, some of which increase carry weight.

Should I Play Skyrim Survival Mode or Other Mods?

What if you don’t want to try the default Survival Mode experience in Skyrim? Well, that’s totally up to you. You don’t need to enable it. If you do want other options, you can try the following mods instead:

  • Frostfall by Chesko  The mod is akin to Survival Mode, but there are plenty of options that you can tweak as opposed to a single on/off toggle for the entire feature. We consider this as one of the best mods for Skyrim.
  • Campfire by Chesko  Similar to the above mod, this mod is also ideal if you want the added immersion and challenge. It includes support for multiple followers, including the ability to gather wood and construct items. Backpacks are included herein. There’s even a separate skill tree that’s used to bolster your camping and survival abilities.
  • Fur Armor Set by Keung  This Survival Mode type mod adds several armor sets with varying themes. They are considered “Frostfall aware,” which means they add warmth for your character.

Who is Survival Mod For?

Skyrim Survival Mode is for experienced players who want to play the game again in a new way or are just up to an extremely difficult challenge. If you’ve played through the game a few times, you should try out this mode and put your skills to the test.

I wouldn’t necessarily recommend this mode for new or inexperienced players since you’ll need a good grasp on all the basic mechanics to really understand how to survive. However, if you’re brave enough, all the more power to you.

Pros:

  • Makes the game more challenging
  • Changes the entire experience
  • More traditional RPG experience
  • More immersive gameplay
  • You can fish

Cons

  • Slower gameplay
  • No fast travel
  • Hard and frustrating if you’re not experienced in the base game/not for beginners
  • Cold weather will kill you a lot

And those are the main things you need to know about Survival Mode in Skyrim. It adds a bit of challenge to the overall experience, and there are plenty of other mods that fulfill a similar or even better role whether you own the Anniversary Edition or not. For more Skyrim help, including walkthroughs, builds, and other tips, consider heading over to our main guide page for the game.


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Jason Rodriguez
Jason Rodriguez is a game reviewer and guides writer from the Philippines. With around 5,000 published articles, he's freelanced for numerous outlets, including GameSkinny, GameSpot, Polygon, IGN, PCGamesN, PC Invasion, and more.
Author
Antonio Samson
Antonio is a Writer at GameSkinny. He obtained his Bachelor's in History at the University of California, Santa Cruz. He's been a lifelong gamer and doesn't remember a time when his life didn't revolve around video games. As a lifelong Nintendo fan, he's spent countless hours playing all of their franchises, mostly Zelda and Xenoblade Chronicles. However, his love for RPGs stands above the rest.