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Top 6 Primitive Survival Skills

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In the event of a cataclysmic phenomenon in the form of a natural disaster or an unfortunate mishap, you may find yourself in dire need of some primitive survival skills. These skills may very well be the deciding point between survival or death!

I’m not trying to sound overly dramatic here but looking at how shitty (excuse my French!), 2020 has turned out to be, anything is certainly possible – and there’s still 4 months to go!

Who knows what will come next after the pandemic, torrential rains causing deadly floods, high magnitude earthquakes, crazy wildfire, or even a zombie apocalypse?!

Or maybe, none of this will happen, and finally, when everyone is permitted to roam around freely, you might take that opportunity to simply escape from the chaos and seclude yourself in the alluring serenity of the wilderness.

Whatever the eventuality, it’s a good idea to ensure you are well prepared, and for that, you need to learn some basic survival skills. Stay tuned for an exclusive Top 6 Primitive Survival Skills that will Help you Stay Alive!

1. Lighting a Fire

Why is it so important? Because fire will not only help you stay warm but also aid in cooking, boiling water, providing some light to see in the dark. Besides fire keeps you safe from wild animals.

All in all, lighting a fire is the most basic primitive skill of all and absolutely crucial for survival!


Here are some tips and tricks to help you start your personal bonfire!

  • Pick the right spot: The perfect spot should be dry, at the center of your camp, close enough to where you will sleep but far enough to ensure you don’t accidentally roll into the flames!
  • Dig: Clear your chosen spot of any debris and dig a small hole roughly around the size of the fire you intend to light.
    Top Tip: Surround your fire site with smooth stones to act as a neat boundary to contain the flames.
  • Collect wood: Look for pieces of dry bark, dead leaves, and twigs to use as kindling, and larger, thicker pieces of wood to sustain the fire. Make sure all the pieces you collect are bonedry.
    Top Tip: If it’s raining and you are finding it difficult to find dry wood, search under large shrubbery and boulders for areas that may have been shielded from the dampness. Read Starting Fire in the Rain to get more cool ideas & tips.
  • Use what you have: Besides wood, many other materials may be used to light a fire so use whatever you have. Things like paper, dead leaves, even tampons/sanitary napkins may do the trick!
  • Make a star: Set the larger pieces of wood in the shape of an inverted star, with the heads joined together at the center and the ends jutting apart. As the fire consumes the wood, you can easily push the logs inwards one at a time to keep it going.
  • Light it up! Now use matchsticks or a lighter to light the kindling and as soon as you see embers glowing and thin smoke coming out, cover it up with logs, fan it, and voila! You have a campfire!
    Top Tip: If you are out of matches or don’t have a lighter, go primitive and try rubbing stones or wood together at a fast pace over the kindling. The resulting friction will create sparks that you can gently coax into a fire.

2. Building a Shelter

It is imperative for you to protect yourself from heat/cold/wind/water when you are exposed to the elements. Plus, it’s a good idea to make a safe place to hide from the evil monsters that will come to suck your blood while you sleep! Just kidding!

Jokes aside, a good shelter should ideally provide you cover as well as security. Discovering a naturally-made shelter would be terrific, but if your luck is down, then you’ll need to build one.

  • Find a good spot: A good shelter should be on high ground, near a source of running water, should provide natural shade during the day, and shield you from wind and rain during the night.
  • Go foraging: Gather branches of different thicknesses. The base of the shelter should be strong; therefore, thick wood is needed. You can use large coconut leaves or palm leaves and break them into long strips which can be used to tie the wood together. These leaves can also be used to build your shelter’s roof, which will protect you from rain and sun as well.
    Top Tip: Here is our post to read up on 3 easy-to-build survival shelters and the tools you’ll need.
  • Cozy up! Now that you have protected yourself Robinson Crusoe style, you deserve a break! Use some soft shrubbery and foliage to fashion a makeshift bed. Make sure it is a good 6-inch thick minimum. Cover it with a cloth or preferably a space blanket and snuggle in!

3. Finding Water

Finding drinkable water is an essential component of primitive survival skills. Take note that you can last up to a week with no food, but you won’t last 3 days without water!

So one of the first things you will need to do is find a good source of drinkable water.

  • Collect it: Use whatever utensils you may have to collect at least a gallon of water. If you don’t have any, see if you have any ziplock bags, or can find bowl-shaped wood/clay. Worst case scenario, you can even use your cap/jacket/a large leaf to collect some water.
    Top Tip: If you cannot find a clean source of water, collect water when it rains with either a container (if you have any) or uses your jacket/blanket as a collector.
  • Boil it: No matter how fresh the water may seem, never ever make the mistake of drinking it directly! Always boil it over the fire you just built so that all microbes are killed and let it cool. Only then will it be fit for drinking.
    Top Tip: Read Purifying Water in the Wild to get some more ideas on how to quench your thirst in the wilderness without ending up sick!
  • Ration it: Limit your water intake and ration your use. Water is a hot commodity in the wilderness, so it must be spent wisely.
    Top Tip: Try to drink more in the evenings to avoid losing it all in sweat during the day.


4. Hunting for Food

Now, you might be thinking that why not merely forage for food? But we would strongly advise you otherwise. This is because unless you are a wilderness expert or a qualified botanist, it’s highly unlikely that you would be able to identify edible plants and non-poisonous berries!

So we urge you not to risk it and end up with food poisoning but instead go with the safer, albeit slightly more tricky option of hunting.

There are a number of beginner-friendly hunting methods, out of which we will discuss two here:

  • Traps/Snares

    Setting up pitfall traps by digging close-mouthed holes in strategic spots and concealing them up with leaves and foliage might catch you some small but delicious game, and is a classic primitive survival skill. Or, you can set up snares using a wire or cord and let it ambush some poor unsuspecting rabbit!

  • Fishing

    If you are lucky enough to be carrying modern fishing gear with you, then that’s brilliant! But if not, don’t shy away from going primitive like your ancestors and catching some fish the old-fashioned way! Here are a few tips which might help:

    • Use a net: See if you can find some netting (some backpacks have netting on one side which you can rip off or you can cut some mesh off a used parachute, if possible). You can then use it in a shallow stream to trap some fish.
      Pro Tip: You can even use a thin chiffon/muslin-type cloth (like the fabric on a lightweight skirt) to use as a net in a shallow stream to catch fish!
    • Spear it! If you are feeling particularly primitive, then you can fashion a spear out of a long sturdy branch and file its tip to a sharp point or attach a blade to one end. With your spear ready, wade kneedeep into a stream, pick a spot that’s riddled with fish, aim and plunge! It will take more than a few attempts to be successful, but don’t worry; you won’t end up hungry.
      Top Tip: When aiming, always plunge your spear much deeper than where you think the fish is. That’s because the refraction of light often distorts the actual position of your target, making you miss!
    • Stun it! This method may sound crude, but it truly works! Grab a thick piece of wood and sneak inside the water where you can find some fish lazily gliding about. Being super-stealthy, stay rock-still, and pick your target. Then, with a sudden, rapid motion, strike your ‘club’ on your target’s head! This won’t kill the fish but stun it. Now, make the most of the stunned and slowed state of the poor fish and scoop it out!
      Top Tip: Take plenty of time to aim and when you are ready to strike, do it with precision and force. Because once you do, It will scare the other fish and they will all scurry away leaving you behind, emptyhanded!

To find more cool hunting ideas, read our fan-favorite article on Primitive Hunting Techniques.

5. Navigation

If you are in need of primitive survival skills in the wilderness, it’s because of one of two likely possibilities:

A. You are on a camping/hunting trip
B. You are lost.

If it’s the second case, then a handy skill to possess is navigation.

  1. Use the Sun: If it’s morning, then from where the Sun would be rising would be the East, and from there, you can estimate the other three coordinates. If the day is drawing to a close, then where the Sun is setting would be West.
  2. Use the Stars: If it is nighttime, then try to spot the North Star and use it to get a general sense of your bearings.
  3. Use Landmarks: Try to follow landmarks like rivers/streams, mountains, or even natural pathways to guide you when navigating through the wilderness. This will prevent you from getting lost and running around in circles!
    Top Tip: If you’re worried you won’t find your way back to camp, use a sharp stone to mark trees with an ‘X’, and follow the marks to come back.

6. Treating Injury

Our forefathers knew tons of ways of fixing injuries. Some of their more farfetched experiments didn’t quite work (like using leeches to suck out the blood of an already anemic person).

Still, their methods of treating simple injuries were quite effective.

Therefore, learning how to treat common injuries is a standard primitive survival skill.

  • Cuts: Small cuts or lacerations should be immediately cleaned out with fresh, boiled water and covered with a sterilized bandage or a clean cloth. This will help prevent infection.
  • Bleeding: Bleeding from any site should be stopped ASAP by applying firm and constant pressure on it. Firmly holding a piece of clean cloth (or even your hand) over a bleeding site for 3-5 minutes will staunch the bleeding and help the wound clot. The use of a tourniquet in severe bleeding is debatable (limb vs life) and should not be attempted unless trained.
  • Broken Bones: Broken bones can also be dealt with a primitive way in two steps. One, hold the affected site in a neutral position. Two, Keep it immobilized by fashioning a cast around it using paper, cardboard, or flat pieces of wood and some rope/cord to secure it together.
    Top Tip: In case of injury, it is imperative for survival that you stay calm. Even out your breathing till your heartbeat goes back to normal. This will help slow down any bleeding or spread of toxins in your body, while also clearing out your mind to help you think better.

Summing up, these are our top 6 primitive survival skills which everybody should have basic knowledge about. Who knows, they may come in handy when the proverbial shit hits the fan!
We hope you found this series useful. For more survival-based content, visit
As always, stay safe!