Last updated on October 4th, 2022
15 Primitive Skills Every Survivalist Should Know
It’s no secret that compared to our ancestors, us modern day folk are living in luxury. But every prepper knows that their basic skills are the most essential, even nowadays, when it comes to survival situations. Keep reading to find out what primitive skills every survivalist should know, and how to master them if you’re not there yet.
1. How to Create a Shelter
The earliest Earth-dwellers weren’t watching TV on the couch while waiting for dinner to bake in the oven. Finding safe spaces could be a struggle back in the day! In survival situations, knowing how to create a shelter will be vital. Ideally, your emergency bag or travel pack should come equipped with a tarp for creating a quick, makeshift shelter overnight.
It’s always best to expect the unexpected, so if you find yourself without survival products like a tarp, we’ve got you covered. This can help with preparedness of flood. If you’re out in the woods looking for shelter, start by evaluating your area and seeking out a safe location.
Try to choose a spot that’s naturally protected from wind and be sure that water won’t flood or run through the area in the case that a storm hits. Next, you’ll need to insulate the ground. Start by building a rectangular frame out of logs.
Fill the frame with debris, such as dry leaves or branches. This debris will provide insulation, preventing the ground from drawing heat away from the body. Sustaining the most heat possible is extremely important, as most body heat is lost through ground transfer.
After making it nice and toasty, it’s time for framing.
To frame a preppers’ shelter, it’s important to first remember that you’re in an emergency; it’s meant to keep you safe, not uber comfy. Therefore, it should only be big enough to fit your body. The most efficient design for a quick shelter is an A frame.
Adjust sticks from each side of the shelter so they meet at the top. Continue to construct the frame by placing sticks back to back. During this phase, it’s essential to think outside the box since you might need to be creative about how the sticks will lock together.
Once your frame is constructed, you’re ready to add a thick covering of debris over the entire outside of the shelter. Warning: this is the most time-consuming part. Pile leaves, sticks, and branches over the entire frame.
This insulation should be four to eight inches thick, enough to hold back rain and keep the inside of the shelter dry. Just be prepared to be a bit damp and cool, but remember that being safe and uncomfortable is better than the alternative.
2. How to Fish
After building an excellent shelter, you’ll be working up an appetite! Your emergency bag should always have basic fishing equipment like a line and hooks, since fish are one of the most plentiful calorie sources. Survivalists toughing it out through winter would also benefit from knowing how to ice fish.
Not to mention, it’s super fun to practice. The first step to fishing is ensuring that you have the right bait. Consider what your desired fish may be eating, whether it be artificial bait or a natural alternative like worms, leeches, and minnows.
Then, set your hook and drag, and cast that hook! After you’ve cast the hook and have a fish on the line, it’s time to reel it in. Just relax. And let your rod do the work.
Keep your fishing rod up at about a 45 degree angle to the water, aim it towards the fish, and be ready to reel when the drag stops moving and buzzing. Without reeling the fish in, next lift the top of the rod like you’re pointing it toward the sky at about 90 degrees. A stronger, heavier fish will often put a major bend in your fishing rod, but this is completely normal.
Then, reel as you lower the rod tip down back to about 45 degrees, keep even pressure on the fish, and repeat. After you’ve got the fish caught and landed, it’s time to enjoy some fresh protein.
For those looking to ice fish, the first step is wearing proper clothing: lots of layers. You also need to have all the right gear, including ice spuds, shanties, a chisel, scoop, rod and reel, bait, and tackle box. Before whipping out the fishing tools, ensure the water is at least five inches thick.
Drill the fishing hole with an auger by turning it clockwise until the blade begins to cut into the surface. Keep turning until the chunk of ice releases and you see the water below. Once that hole is drilled, scrape away any excess ice.
Use your ice scoop to remove any ice that remains by placing it into the hole below the level of the ice. Then, simply place your bait on the lure, wait for a bite, and reel your fish in. Luckily for those who prefer not to eat marine life, fish isn’t the only protein source you can find in survival situations.
3. How to Hunt
Hunting is a skill that every survivalist should have, as meat is the best calorie and protein source in an emergency. Learning to hunt with a rifle, bow and arrow, spear, and knife are all ideal for uber preparedness. It’s incredible to take hunting classes now if that’s available to you, so you have all the best skills if a survival situation occurs.
Hunter’s ed teaches everything from safe firearm handling to ethical shot placement, your state’s regulations, and more. Before going out to catch your first game, make sure you have the proper hunting gear, meaning waterproof layers and boots. Some pro tips to keep in mind: scout more than you hunt, get sneaky, and be patient.
With some practice and guidance from a hunting mentor, you’ll be feeding the fam with your own catches in no time! When using the animal for its meat, be sure to gut it quickly after hunting. Gutting an animal requires a sharp knife, latex gloves, and the proper means to support your game.
Whether you’re gutting something big or small, take extreme care not to puncture the stomach contents, intestines, or bladder during the evisceration process or risk tainting the meat. Then, be sure to cool it down as quickly as possible and use quality food storage methods. Once it’s time to butcher, use the proper tools: a sharp knife, skinning knife, and a meat saw.
As you find your favorite butchering technique, just make sure your tools are of quality and the surface is clean.
4. How to Trap Animals
Perhaps your role in a survival situation isn’t animal butcherer (no shame if you were gagging at the last section). There are still ways to catch prey in a way that’s less hands-on and more time efficient. Learning basic techniques like the deadfall bird trap and fish trap can greatly increase how much you’re able to eat during survival.
When building a deadfall trap, you’ll need a hammer and string. The main support system, lever, toggle, and trigger can be made from twigs and sticks. Tie one end of the string to the toggle and the other end to the lever.
Next, set up the main support by digging a small hole and planting it in the ground. Finally, you’ll be ready to set the entire thing up and trap some much-needed meat for preparedness of disaster.
5. How to Preserve Meat
When preserved incorrectly, meat can go bad before you’ve even had the chance to taste it. This is even true when shopping at the grocery store! Preserving meat is a must in survival situations where refrigeration is non-existent.
There are two main ways to preserve meat: salt it or smoke it. For meat preservation with salt, start by cutting your meat into four-to-six-inch slabs. Generally, for every 12 pounds of meat, use ½ pound of pickling salt and ¼ cup of brown sugar.
Coat all your meat pieces in this salt mixture. Then, sterilize a two-gallon crock. Pack the meat tightly inside and cover tightly with cheese cloth.
If possible, keep it at around 36 degrees for at least a month. Wrap the meat in moisture-proof paper or plastic wrap and it will keep all winter. To smoke meat for preservation, you’ll need some wood chips, a smoker, and utensils to cut it to size.
Depending on your recipe and how long you’ll need to preserve the meat, you may also consider adding salt and spices to the list. Next, you’ll need to make a smoker: gas or water. A water smoker allows you to smoke meat for longer periods, with the water allowing for lower but more even air temperatures inside the smoker.
With gas smoking, it’s easy to use and cooks meat faster without having to constantly monitor the temp. However, they normally provide less flavor compared to traditional smoking. Whichever way you decide to smoke, you’ll know it’s ready once it cracks upon bending. After the meat is done, you’ll still have to store it in containers for long term food storage to prevent contamination.
6. How to Cook Outside
If survival situations require preserving meat without a fridge, it’s pretty clear we might need to craft some meals outdoors. Luckily, cooking outdoors is relatively simple and kills all pathogens that could turn a pleasant meal into a nightmare situation. For the most part, cooking over a fire and using fire to boil water are going to be the most basic culinary techniques every doomsday prepper needs to know.
There are several different ways to cook outside naturally. First, you can cook food over an open fire. We’re all pros at this; who’s never made a smore?
Cook any food over a direct flame or put a grate over the fire and char up some burgers or veggies. For food that needs less heat than a direct flame, you can utilize the hot coals from a fire in your survival kit. This is a wonderful method for using a cast iron Dutch oven for baking or simply keeping things warm.
The general idea is that you first put the Dutch oven on top of hot coals, then put more hot coals on top after. Those thinking about investing in a solar oven should absolutely do so. They’re great because they use the sun’s heat to cook up food.
It’s wonderful to keep one in your prepper pack as food for storage emergency.
7. How to Sew
Sewing is an important skill because in survival situations, you can’t really go out and buy a new jacket once yours rips. With a kit and some handy tricks, you’ll be able to get the most out of all your doomsday prepper supplies. There are plenty of tutorials on Youtube that are extremely helpful for learning to sew.
Plus, you might pick up a new hobby and make some clothes while practicing a survival skill.
8. How to Make Plant Medicine
Clothing isn’t the only thing you may have limited access to during an emergency. Making medicine from plants is another ancient skill that can come in tremendously handy during survival situations. There are plenty of ways to create herbal medicine.
It’s best to use freshly harvested plants for the process of making medicine. In all herbal medicine creation, the plant material must be finely chopped. This goes for leaves, bark, roots, and even some flowers.
In order to make the best quality medicine and allow the menstruum to easily pull the alkaloids and nutrients from a plant, it needs lots of open access. Fill jars with finely chopped plant material ¾ of the way up the jar. To strain spent plant material from the liquid remedy, use produce bags lining a large strainer.
Straining into measuring cups can also make for easy pouring into large containers or small treatment bottles or jars. So, what types of plant medicine can you create and how will it help? The chamomile flower is considered by some to be a cure-all, mostly used for wound healing, reducing inflammation or swelling, and relaxation.
A common leaf medicine is echinacea, which is used to treat or prevent colds, flu, and infections. Some studies also show that it may help with upper respiratory infections. Feverfew is a leaf used to treat, you guessed it, fevers.
Additionally, it’s commonly used for preventing migraines and treating arthritis. Lastly, in addition to its uber tasty qualities, garlic has cardioprotective, anticancer, and anti-in easy to do later.
9. How to Determine Edible Plants
While some plants are on this Earth to heal and provide for us, others can be our biggest enemy in survival situations. This is why determining plants’ edibility is absolutely crucial for emergencies. The best way to go about figuring out whether a plant is safe to eat is by actively identifying plants in the area on sight.
Start by separating the plant into various parts – roots, stems, leaves, buds, and flowers. Focus on only one piece of the plant at a time. Then, give it a good sniff.
A strong, unpleasant odor is a bad sign, as is a musty or rotting stench. Keep a special lookout for pear or almond-like scents as well, which can be evidence of cyanide. Test for contact by placing a piece of the plant on your inner elbow or wrist for eight hours.
If your skin burns, itches, or feels numb, or breaks out in a rash, wash off your skin and certainly don’t eat the plant. If the plant passes your skin test, prepare a small portion the way you plan to consume it (boiling is always a good bet). Before taking a bite, touch the plant to your lips to test for burning or itching.
If there’s no reaction after 15 minutes, take a small bite, chew it, and hold it in your mouth for 15 more. If it tastes soapy, spit it out and wash your mouth. Once the plant has passed the skin, lip, and mouth test with no reaction, swallow the bite and wait eight hours.
If there’s no ill-effect, you can assume that part of the plant is edible. Repeat this test for other parts of the plant: some plants have both edible and inedible parts. Ever starting to feel sick? That means it’s time to bring that food back up immediately.
10. How to Calculate Direction
It’s great to have some edible food down pat, but what if you’re lost? Knowing how to calculate direction is vital in survival situations. Luckily, calculating between north and south is fairly easy. In northern climates, moss always grows on the north side of trees, but not on the south side.
However, a compass is still an essential tool. As long as you have one and know how to read it, calculating direction will be simple. Quick tip: the red end of a compass will always point in the direction of north, and the white (or sometimes black) end will always point in the direction of the south.
Hold the compass steady and level the needle quickly, and you’ll have your location down in no time.
11. How to Purify Water
Water is always essential, but your hydro flask of crisp Brita water likely won’t be available in a survival situation. Your best bet is to be stocked up on water bottles, but of course this isn’t always a viable option. A great way to purify water is to boil it.
Since heat may not always be available to you, an emergency travel bag should be equipped with some sort of water purifier, whether it be chlorine or iodine. Practice for preparedness of a natural disaster by bringing that purifier on the next hike or camping trip!
12. How to Use Basic Tools
While most people should know how to use basic tools like a saw, screwdriver, and hammer, some people don’t have that experience (which is totally okay)! Anyone with minimal experience should pick up some projects around the house or start making furniture to get some practice. Saws can be essential for chopping wood in survival situations.
When using a saw, start by marking the wood with a square exactly where you’d like to make the cut. After that, make a notch, then pull the saw toward you on the line you marked. Then, cut! Push the saw down with light force on the wood and repeat as needed.
Another important tool for emergencies is a screwdriver. To use it, hold the tip with one hand as you turn its handle with the other. Grasp the handle with your dominant hand and the tip with your other as you close to the head of the screw as possible.
Apply enough force to turn the screwdriver clockwise to tighten the screw and the opposite direction to loosen it. Hammers are essential for building structures, fixing things, and everything in between. It’s best to use safety goggles or a face shield while hammering if possible.
Strike a hammer blow with the striking face parallel to the surface being struck. Always avoid squarely with your face being in the way of what you are hitting. Additionally, avoiding glancing blows over and under strikes is important.
13. How to Sharpen Tools and Knives
Mastering hand tools is a great survivalist skill, but they’re not the only gear you will need. Sharpening tools and knives are a vital part of survival in the wilderness, and any emergency bag should be equipped with a sharpening stone. If not equipped with a sharpening file or stone, use a stone or the bottom of a ceramic mug to sharpen blades.
Keep in mind that using dull ones can be unsafe as well as ineffective.
14. How to Build a Fire
If it’s not clear by now that knowing how to build a fire is crucial for survival, let that be your main takeaway from this article. This the single most important skill every prepper needs to know. One of the easiest ways to start a fire without a lighter is by using a flint and steel.
Flint and steel kits are relatively inexpensive and are easy to start a fire with if you have a tinder kit as well. A charcloth can make this process even simpler. If your fire building skills are lacking, practice at the next bonfire and blow everyone away with your skills.
15. How to Survive a Night in the Wilderness
Now that you have all the necessary skills to make nature your friend rather than an enemy, you’re ready to survive a night in the wilderness. This experience is something most people have never been through. Darkness combined with cold temperatures, stinging insects, and potential precipitation can make for a miserable experience.
Or get crazy and wander into the wilderness for a night under the stars, just not when tornado season is going on!
With plenty of new survival skills to master, your prepper game is about to level up. Keep working on building fires, using tools, and preserving foods, and you’ll be prepared for any emergency life could throw your way. Don’t forget to come back to Crow Survival for all things prep and survival training.