34 Primitive Survival Skills All Survivalists Should Know

Primitive Survival Skills, Wilderness Skills, Survival Tips and Tricks

Maybe you’ve got a few tricks up your sleeve when it comes to outdoor survival, or perhaps you are searching for some? In any case, it goes without saying that as an earth-dweller, surviving outdoors is a matter of extreme importance. When it comes down to this, preparation is everything. How should you prepare?

By taking into account the variety of skills and information essential for staying alive and keeping safe in the wilderness.

There’s no need to panic if you’re lost in the wild without technology or a trusty map! “Old school” survival skills are just as efficient. All it takes is a combination of basic skills and a little common sense to get you through. Let’s take a look at some of these primitive survival skills:

1. Making Tools And Weapons

Who really wants to be out in the wilderness with nothing but their bare hands the entire time? Sooner or later you’d realise your journey would be made much simpler, or less strenuous if you had some tools handy. You might also realise that as intriguing as the wilderness may be, it tends to pose a number of threats to personal safety. Should you find yourself in a situation where you’re out in the wild without any tools or weapons, or maybe you need extra, it is quite possible to make your own! This will require the use of stone, wood, metal, and even bones.

2. Creating Shelter 

It looks like you won’t get to civilisation before the start of another day, what’s your best bet? I’d say it’s to set up camp in a prime location while daylight is still available (since we don’t have owl eyes!).

Creating shelter is essential as it will serve as protection from the earth’s elements (which can be pretty harsh). In warm weather where it may be likely to rain, a lean-to shelter can easily be made.

However, when it’s likely to be or get very cold, it would be more suitable creating a shelter that can insulate for warmth.

3. Build A Fire

No matches? How about a lighter? Flashlights no? If neither of those are at your disposal, there’s still no need to worry! As I’m sure you’ve seen on television, a fire can be started using nothing but sticks and a flat piece of wood. It is also possible to start a fire with near-sighted eyeglasses as well, so if you’d be in luck if you’re wearing a pair.

4. Identifying Animal Tracks

I’d sure love to know if I was roaming near Grizzly Bear territory! It would also be useful to know what other animals may be around or have been around. For instance, if you were to rely on hunting as a means of securing food, it will be useful to know what kinds of animals are nearby. Animal tracks are easiest to find in mud or soft dirt. Familiarize yourself with pictures of different animal paw prints to make identifying them in the wilderness much easier.

5. Navigating Without A Map Or Compass

No map, no compass, you’re stuck! Quite the contrary, actually. Should you find yourself lost without a technological medium of navigation, just look upwards! Not with worry, though. It’s the sky you should be looking at as it can serve as a natural navigational tool. Bear in mind that the sun sets in the East and sets in the West.

6. Finding Food And Water

There’s plenty you can do to settle that growling stomach of yours. An easy method would be to locate as many edible plants in your surroundings as you can. Another simple way would be finding edible insects as well. That’s right, edible insects! As repulsive of a thought this might be, edible insects are an excellent choice for survival food.

When it comes to finding water, there are a few things to keep in mind. Firstly, take note that grazing animals normally head towards water close to dawn and dusk. You can rely on them for

guidance to safe water. Also, still/stagnant waters are usually not safe for consumption even when boiled!

7. Making A Natural Bandage

A deep cut or a bad bruise can mean lots of trouble if you’re out in the wild with no bandages or a doctor in your company. It’s therefore important to know how to stop excessive bleeding until proper medical attention can be obtained.

It may prove as a useful skill given that the chances of getting cut by a broken branch or pricked by a tough thorn are pretty significant.

In the event that you need to stop a wound from bleeding, do your best to locate some Sphagnum Moss, which serves as an absorbent and antibacterial agent.

8. Avoiding Biting Insects

Avoid Biting Insects

I’m guessing you don’t want to be anywhere near annoying biting insects. I know for sure I’d want to be somewhere mosquitos can’t get to me. Needless to say, extended exposure to mosquitos will increase the risk of being infected with a disease. Apart from mosquitoes, other biting bugs will make for some very uncomfortable settings.

The best way to avoid these nuisances is to simply seek out windy locations. Additionally, it may help if you refrain from dark or wet clothing, as those are known to attract mosquitos. It can also help if you use flakes of birch bark to rub your skin and clothing.

9. Identifying Venomous Snakes

As a matter of fact, regardless of whether it is venomous or not, it’s probably best if you avoid all snakes! There are, however, non-venomous snakes that could be useful to be mindful of. That way, if you were to come across a snake that doesn’t look like the non-venomous types you know of, you’d be even more motivated to get as far from it as you possibly can!

10. Treating Frostbite

A skill especially useful for cold weather conditions. Treating frostbite can be a little tricky if you follow the wrong advice; “Massage the affected area” or applying dry heat. Taking these steps will only worsen the situation. Instead, it is a better idea to place the affected area in lukewarm water, or using hot, wet clothes to press against it until the blood flow returns to it.

11. Mending Fractures Or Dislocations

In a situation where you’re out in the forest and you or someone else suffers a dislocation, what do you do? Well, the sensible option would be to get the bone back in place, right?

A dislocated shoulder can be mended by either rolling on the ground, or hitting it against a hard surface to get the bone back in its rightful place.

A fracture can be mended by using sticks to create a splint, and shoelaces (or another stringy material) to hold the brace in place.

12. Treating Burns

Another useful skill when it comes to wilderness survival. A lack of mittens and other protective kitchen gear can mean increased chances of getting burnt, especially while preparing food with the fire you started (without matches or a lighter!).

In a case where you need to treat first or second degree burns, use lukewarm water to pour over the affected area. Using honey to coat the burn may be useful as well.

13. Estimating Daylight

Being aware of how much daylight is available can be particularly useful when deciding to create shelter and/or hunting.

If you don’t have a watch it may strike you as a difficult task. Not to worry, estimating daylight is actually not as complicated as you might think.

All you need to do is place four extended fingers between the sun and the horizon. Each one of your fingers symbolizes 15 minutes of daylight. If the sun is above your top finger, it means you have an hour of sunlight left. A fun, as well as useful skill!

14. Making Rope

Everyone knows how useful rope can be. It serves a variety of purposes and will do so for someone out in the wilderness.

Rope can be used to make a trap, climb, or aid in making a shelter while in the wild. It can be made by peeling the outer bark of a dead tree trunk until you’ve gathered enough strands of long, dry inner bark.

Once you have enough strands, you then need to tie them together to form a single rope.

15. Finding Edible Bugs

Open Mouth

As mentioned earlier, finding edible bugs is a great way to address your hunger when regular food is not available. Most edible bugs are very high in nutritional value and will provide essential diet requirements.

Earthworms are one of the easiest edible bugs you can find. All you need to do is dig up some dirt and cook them to decrease the risk of infections.

You will have to familiarize yourself with more of those bugs in order to easily identify them should you find yourself in a situation that requires you to.

16. Building Traps

How else do you plan on catching tomorrow morning’s breakfast, or tonight’s dinner? Perhaps you’re aiming to get that vermin stealing your leftover bugs. I’d say a safe bet is to build a good old-fashioned trap. A simple trap can be made using some sticks, a heavy rock, and bait.

17. Sharpening A Knife

There’s not much good a dull knife will do you? If you happen to have one while out in the wilderness. What would you do if your knife’s dull but you don’t have the tools you need to sharpen it?

A helpful solution would be to use a rock. Preferably, a stone that is flattened by a stream. Sliding the blade of the knife against the surface of the stone should do the trick!

18. Water Filtration

Yes, you need water. That doesn’t mean that you should immediately drink whatever you may find. Why? The water that you found may contain little indigestible matter in it.

You should filtrate the water first using a bottle and some pebbles and sand. If you are too lazy to watch the video, the idea is to filtrate the water through larger pebbles first then the smaller ones.

Additional tip, it may be a good idea to boil the filtrated water for 10 minutes or so afterwards too. This is described below!

19. Fishing Techniques

There are a number of different techniques for wilderness fishing. Of course, if you are able to find a large body of water, fish may be your primary thought when it comes to food. Here are a few ways you can catch them:

Hand Fishing

You’d better be quick! You’d better be sharp! You’d better patient. This method of fishing involves grabbing the fish from the water with your bare hands. Extremely primitive to say the least.

Fish Spear

With the right amount of strength and aim, this can prove as an effective method. All that is required is a sharp-end spear and the will to keep throwing it. If you are very lucky, you'll get it on the first try. If not, you will be like Ucles in the video.

Striking Iron

Better suited for catching large fish. This method involves stunning a big and slow-moving fish by striking it with a rod. Once stunned, the fish is then snatched from the water.

20. Solar Disinfection Or SODIS

If you read above, you would have some clear water. Due to the many contaminants and pathogens contained in the water, it would be a good idea to purify it too.

If you are unaware, Solar disinfection or SODIS is literally placing the water under the sun. This research shows that sunlight plays a significant part in reducing bacteria.

21. Tying A Knot

What’s the point of securing rope if you’re unable to tie a knot? There’s more than ten ways to tie a knot, each with a more suitable purpose. However, knowing how to tie just a simple knot can go a long way in regards to wilderness survival. Whether it’s to aid in securing shelter, or strapping a tool to yourself, it’s a skill you’ll be glad to have.

22. Sending Distress Signals

If you really feel like this is your only option, there are a few ways you can send out these types of signals. One way is to use a mirror (while the sun is out) to reflect the sunlight in the direction a passing helicopter to attract the flyer’s attention.

Another way is to build a large “X” using rocks and/or other items. Anyone flying above will recognise it as a distress symbol and hopefully send help your way.

23. Addressing Hygienic Needs

Primitive Toilet Paper

This may vary depending on the conditions you’re faced with. Your best bet, however, would be to keep areas of the body where skin touches skin as dry and aired out as possible. It’s unlikely that you will have soap with you, but if you find a running stream that is big enough, a fresh dip in the water should do you some good.

Leaves from plants such as mullein can serve as primitive toilet paper as well. Make sure that plant isn’t poison ivy!

24. Finding A Suitable Campsite

When looking for a suitable place to set up camp, you may want to keep a few things in mind. Firstly, it would be best if you stay away from valleys and paths where water may run your way.

Be sure that you are nowhere near natural hazards such as; insect nests or dead branches that may inconveniently break off. Try to set up camp near dry wood or large bodies of running water.

25. Keeping Warm

Whether it’s a result of natural winds or particularly cold weather, you’re going to want to warm yourself up. Along with suitable shelter and a burning fire, other ways to keep warm include cutting off fur from a carcass to wear over yourself (a bit extreme but helpful in desperate times).

26. Finding And Using Natural Medicine

Using plants for medicine is an ancient practice you should be familiar with as a survivalist. Some plant leaves can be crushed and applied topically to relieve pain from burns or bruises. Others can be ingested as tea for their soothing effects.

Being able to identify those plants is a vital skill and can be very beneficial in certain situations.

27. Predicting The Weather

Not at all an impossible task without technological aid. The clouds, plants and animals, amongst others, have been used as a means to predict weather patterns for centuries.

Observing the sky is one of the most reliable methods. A red sunset usually precedes a nice clear day, whereas, a red sunrise may indicate that a storm is approaching. We all know what low, grey clouds symbolize!

A circle around the moon means there will be soon be rain or snow. Be sure to get use to the different signals, as they will more than likely come in handy when you can’t watch a weather report.

28. Hunting

If you were to rely on hunting animals for food, you’d best be equipped with knowledge on how to do so. In a situation where you do not have a gun, you can use sticks. Of course, this method is more useful when targeting small animals, such as birds and/or rabbits.

29. Identifying Poisonous Plants And Trees

Being familiar with poisonous plants and trees is just as important as anything else. Coming into contact with the wrong plant or tree can cause serious harm.

Poison Ivy, poison oak, poison sumac, poison hemlock, and stinging nettle are all examples of hazardous plants. The best way to identify them is by becoming familiar with pictures and other intricate details about them.

30. Avoiding Or Removing Ticks

A small tip to get rid of these annoying bugs. Should you find that a tick or ticks have attached themselves to your skin, follow these steps for a safe and effective removal:

1. Get a pair of improvised fine-tipped forceps (two sticks)

2. With the forceps, grab the attached tick as far up its head as possible

3. Gently pull the tick out in the opposite direction to where its mouth parts have entered the skin. (Be careful not to jerk, twist or turn the forceps. Also, try not to apply too much pressure!)

31. Avoiding An Avalanche

Something a survivalist should be extremely wary of. Especially those who find themselves near mountains. To avoid an avalanche, firstly, do not hike up any mountains directly after a storm.

Most avalanches take place after heavy snowfall. Trees which have broken branches on their uphill sides are an indication that avalanches are a common occurrence.

32. Starting A Fire In Wet Conditions

It has just rained and you need to get your fire going. Cause for concern? Not really. When attempting to start a fire in wet conditions, firstly you’d have to separate the materials from the wet ground. You can do this by finding a dry piece of bark to use as a base, or building one with a couple of dry sticks. Once you’ve done that, you can now place your first layer of timber and start the process!

33. Crossing Rivers, Streams, and Rapids

Before crossing any rivers, streams, or rapids, it important to be mindful of potential hazards. These hazards include: ledges of rocks, submerged rocks, waterfalls, etc. If you have no other choice but to swim across a rapid, be sure to always swim along with the current and never against it.

34. You Can Do It!

Cliche I know but I think many things boils down to this! Whatever you do, don’t panic!

As OG wild puts it, keeping the right attitude is half the battle when it comes to surviving in the wild. The wrong frame of mind will impair your ability to make rational decisions. If you’re lost, stay as positive as you can and do your best to think, observe, and plan!


Time evolution has lead a majority of our population to become reliant on technology. This reliance may result in a level of dissociation with nature. Often times some of us tend to forget that there were periods where humans walked the earth and survived with nowhere near the amount of technological aid today’s world provides.

Although these advancements are of great assistance in plenty of instances, being equipped with primitive survival skills would make you an efficient all-rounder!

If you are intending to take some serious action and have a jumpstart; you can check out this. After all, you never know when a situation forcing you to utilize those skills may present itself. I think it’s safe to say that it is better to be prepared and nothing happens, than to be unprepared and something does!

About the author


Colin is a freelance writer and editor. A fan of The Walking Dead. It led him to think what if SHTF and what does it takes to survive. Colin hobbies includes gears, tech gadgets and rehearsing different "End Of The World" situations in his head.

Mark - May 6, 2017

Hi, good doc. Your knot tying video is the best one I’ve seen so far. Good pace and easy to understand (no, rabbit goes in the hole…).

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