Primitive Survival – 23 Top Tips

If you are a prepper, then you are likely ready for almost anything that can happen. However, what happens when things go worse than you have ever planned? You may find yourself thrown into a position where you need to call upon your primitive survival techniques.

One of the most unfortunate things about a scenario like this is that most people, even preppers, are not knowledgeable enough in primitive survival to last any length of time.

There may never be a time that you need to know about these things, and I hope not. However, the question is this: Should you be prepared for it? The answer has to be yes, you should. The whole idea of being a prepper is preparing for every eventuality, including having nothing left.

So, let’s imagine for a minute that you find yourself in the middle of nowhere after bugging out. You have been in the wilderness for a week or so, and you turn on your radio. It is still not safe to go home. So, you look in your bag, and you have nothing. No food, no water, nothing. Now, what do you do? You have to take influence from cavemen and women and get through the only way possible.

Primitive Survival

If you are going to succeed with primitive survival, then you are going to learn some necessary skills. However, the first thing taught to me in the military was to keep a positive mental attitude. Do not panic, and think about your steps very carefully. In this article, we are going to look at some of the essential survival skills that you can learn from the primitive people:

  • Making Tools and weapons.
  • Building Fires
  • Navigation
  • Finding food and water
  • First aid
  • Daylight
  • Making rope

So, we will go through each of those bullet points in a little more detail on each of them. We do have articles based around some of them, and I will link them in the sections.

Making Tools

Making tools is one of, if not the essential thing that you should learn how to do. There are going to be various tools that you can make, but we will try to focus on some of the more important. That is because, when you are in a situation that requires you to make them, it is not going to be the right time to create tools that you do not need yet.


First of all, you will need to find the materials. Luckily, in this day and age, you are going to see more materials than you would have in the days that primitive survival was a necessity. I have based this on the fact that you do not have a knife, just in case. However, use a knife where you see fit if you have one.

If you are in an area that you find a glass bottle, or maybe even lava rock (obsidian), or slate, then pick some up and keep it. For this example, we are going to presume that you have found a glass bottle. They are unfortunately common in woodlands and built-up areas.

  1. Find A blade material. – As I have just said, glass or obsidian is going to work well. The reason for that is because they break into very sharp edges. You may find some metal, but unless it is a blade, it is going to be challenging to get sharp quickly. And getting ready quickly is the aim of this guide.
  2. Find an anvil stone. – A large-ish, flat rock on the ground is going to be the best for this. Try to find one as flat as possible, but do not waste too much time doing it.
  3. Find another “striking” stone. – A smaller, handheld sized round stone will work perfectly for this. But, again, if you can’t find one, then anything you can lift will do.
  4. Keep the bottom of the bottle. – Break the bottle and keep the base. That is the thickest part of the glass and will stand up to more use.
  5. Break off just less than half of it. – Break the glass bottom on the anvil stone with the striking stone. Try to get a good-sized shard. It is likely to have a sharp edge already. If you have to, break off the rim so that you have two sharp edges and no lip.
  6. Make a handle. – Any hand-sized branch will be ok for this. Do not choose dead wood, though. Cut some off a tree if you can. However, if you are using the glass as a knife to cut the branch, wrap it in your clothes, so you don’t cut yourself.
  7. Split the handle. – Using the glass, carefully split the branch down the length of it about two inches. Try to keep the split as central as you can.
  8. Insert the glass. – Carefully push the glass into the split branch. If it is a sharp piece of glass, as it should be, remember to use something to stop you from hurting yourself. Gently push the stick onto the glass using the anvil stone if you need to. Do not push it too far down; you need just over half of the blade protruding.
  9. Tie the handle. – Use durable grass, string, or deer sinew if you can to wrap around the handle and tie it off. Make sure it is tight.

That’s it. You now have a knife that you can use for hunting.


primitive survival ax

You can make axes in much the same way to the knives. However, you will not want to use glass. If you can find an already sharp, ax shaped stone then great, use that. If not, then there are ways that you can chip away at the stone using a harder rock. That will take longer than a knife, and it will take some time to find the rocks. However, I suggest finding some similar shaped stones and hit them against each other. The one that breaks will be the one that you turn into an ax.


If you are hunting, then you may not want or be able to get close enough to your intended target to use a knife or spear. In that case, you will want to learn how to make a bow and arrow. If you’re going to learn about trees in the wilderness, we have another article here.

Using an ash tree branch and some twine or rope, you can make a pretty good bow. Then using the same method as a knife, but with a longer stick, you have a great bow and arrow.

Make a few arrows when you have time to do so. You will want as many as possible when hunting. Also, practice using it.


We make hammers and spears in the same way as the other three tools above. Use different sizes and shapes of rock, glass, and wood to get the desired results. However, I chose the knife and ax as examples as they are going to be the first things that you need in your quest for primitive survival.

Building Fires

While building fires played a massive part in primitive survival, we have already got many articles on them. How to build them, etc. So I will not go into that in this section. So, instead, look through these articles. Like I have said in other articles, it is worth printing any of these guides off so that you can keep them in your bug-out bag.

Harvesting Firewood – How To Do It Properly

Picking The Right Wood To Build A Fire In The Wild

The Basics Of Starting And Maintaining A Campfire

Making A Fire Against All Odds

Making A Proper Campfire In The Wild

Making The Right Fire Type In The Wild

As you can see, information is abundant about fires on this website.


Most of the time now, people use their phone for navigation. And why not? They are convenient and amazingly accurate. Even in an emergency, if you have a solar charger and a phone, I am pretty sure that the satellites and navigation would still work. However, what if they don’t? What if you do not have a solar charger, or you break your phone? Or don’t even have a compass? Or if you somehow get thrown into a primitive survival situation by some other means?

That is when you are going to have to rely on primitive survival techniques of navigation. Now we are going to take a quick look at what those methods are:

The Sun

Using the sun is one of the oldest primitive survival techniques for navigation. The basic principle is by knowing that the sun rises in the east and sets in the west. Therefore, if you have a watch, and you know that it is morning, then you know that the sun is roughly in the east of the sky. If it is the afternoon, then it is going to be in the west.

navigating with the sun

I suggest that you try to do this method a few times in the day so that when you get to midday, you will have a pretty good idea of your direction before it becomes pretty impossible for an hour or two.

  1. Find an open space with plenty of direct sunlight. – Try to find a flat area that will have direct sunlight for an hour or so. Grass is the best, as you will be able to put sticks into the ground and still see the shadow.
  2. Find a long stick. – You want to find a straight, long stick that can have at least three feet above the ground after you have stuck it in the field. Place it in the ground as vertically as you can. If you have a length of string, tie a stone onto one end and hold the other end in the air. That will give you a perfectly vertical line to place your stick. If you can only find an open space of concrete, then try using a stick stood in a bottle.
  3. Use markers. – Put a mark, preferably a stone or something else that won’t blow away, at the tip of the shadow. Wait for about half an hour and place another marker at the tip. Do this as many times as you can, depending on how much time you have.
  4. Mark a line. – Either mark a line or put another stick on all of the markers. That line is east and west. The first marker that you placed will be west, and the second is east. Do not forget that this method is only as good as the amount of marks that you have used, and the time that you have waited.

It is a lot more challenging to do this while you are in a shaded place, or if it is cloudy. Therefore, I suggest that any opportunity that you get, you do this and then incorporate it into the third method of using landmarks.

The Stars

Another primitive survival technique for navigation is using the stars. On a clear night, get in an area that doesn’t have much light pollution. And let’s be honest, in a time of emergency, you are not going to have a lot of light pollution. From there, use the following steps:

  1. Find the North Star. – Use the big dipper to find the north star. Use the image below to see which the north star is. But I will explain how to find it too. The big dipper is a saddle or saucepan shaped constellation of stars. There will be one side of them that looks like a handle. Once you have found that, look to the other side of the big dipper, and you will see two stars in a line. (Marked.) Draw a virtual line up from the bottom, through the second. Continue the track further up by a factor of 5 times the distance.
    The star that you get very close to is the north star.
    North star
  2. Find two sticks. – If you can’t find the north star, find two sticks and place them in the ground with a bright, obvious star in the middle of them. Try to put the rods so that the star is as close to the center as possible.
  3. Wait. – Wait for about half an hour again, longer if you have time.
  4. Check the position of the star. – From the same spot that you placed them, look at the star again. It will have moved in one or two of four directions. Use the trends to estimate which way you are facing, if the star moved in the direction shown below, then you are facing the way it says:
    1. Left. – North.
    2. Right. – South.
    3. Up. – East.
    4. Down. – West.

Likely, it will not have moved in only one of those directions, so you will have to estimate which way you are facing by the amount it moved in each direction. However, it is undoubtedly an excellent way to approximate that you are not going round in circles!

Using Landmarks

Using landmarks would have been one of the main primitive survival methods of navigation. We use it today without thinking much about it. If you are driving in an area that you have lived, worked, or visited many times, then you automatically know where you are going. That is because you know the buildings, the roads, the trees, etc.

When thrown into a world that you do not know, though, you have to take a lot more notice of your surroundings. There is seldom an area with nothing around for you to use as a landmark.

Take the image above as an example. It looks pretty barren. And that is because it is. However, even in situations like this, you can use the high points as a landmark to aim towards if you can’t see anything else.

So, here is a list of other landmarks that you can use to find your way, or to ensure you keep on in the same direction:


They never go back on themselves. If you follow the flow of water, you will not go in circles. However, it may be wise for you to learn the rivers by you, as I know myself, most rivers twist and turn a lot. That can make progress in a specific direction tedious and difficult.


Seeing lakes gives you a huge target to aim for when traveling. Not only that, but if you are at a high vantage point when you see it, try to take note of the shape of the lake so that you can try to work out where you are when you are walking around it.


Just Like rivers and streams, a creek will always flow downhill. Some slower than others, though. If you find yourself next to a creek that seems to be at a standstill, find a stick or leaf to put into the water to see which way it is running.


Trails are one of the best ways of navigation if you have no compass or phone. However, if you are on a path, there are likely many trails joining at many points. That is the time that you need to get a little bit creative. During my time in the military, I was taught to use flagging tape to mark things that required attention.

I have found it to be a good idea for marking intersections in trails etc. too. Use it to signal which way you go at intersections, and if you see it again, go the other way! However, that was not available in primitive survival times, so if you are stuck, then try sticking visible markers in the ground. Long sticks with

Mountains and Hills

As I pointed out earlier, seeing a high spot in your environment will give you a place to aim for and stay on track. However, you will need to take note of how it looks, i.e., tree lines or bushes, etc. Because if you take your eyes off it for a few minutes while you are walking, you may mistake a new hill that comes into view as the one you were looking at first. Then you are likely to get lost.

Manmade Objects

Of course, human-made objects are one of the easiest ways to navigate without a compass. That is where people now have the advantage over the primitive survival times. There were a lot less human-made objects to use for navigation in those days. Again, marking tape will help you ensure that you are not going round in circles.

Marking tape is a great way to keep yourself on track no matter where you are. You are not likely to have an abundance of it, but making small marks with it as you are traveling, and keeping them within sight as you place them will help you know that you are going in a straight line.

Finding Food And Water

Finding food and water is one of the most basic yet challenging primitive survival techniques that you will need to learn. Again, this is a section covered on PreppersWill in great detail, so I shall not cover it again here. However, I would highly suggest that you read all of the articles that you can on finding food and water.

As with other articles on our site, we also advise you to print as many off as you can, because you are unlikely to have the internet for very long when things go wrong. Here is a list of a couple of articles that you can look at:

There are many more articles on the site that teach you some excellent skills for finding food and water, and I would not be able to cover it all in one piece. Take some time and look through them. You never know when you will need it.

First Aid

Again, there are a lot of articles on PreppersWill about first aid in general. However, first aid for primitive survival often means a bit more of a challenge. Of course, you do not want to get yourself into the position that you have no first aid kit. Therefore, these techniques should only be used as last resorts if there is nothing else that you can do.

Stop Bleeding

Stopping bleeding in the field without any first aid kit is the most likely scenario that you are going to come across. The first thing that you need to do if there is a small bleeding cut is to clean the wound. Use the cleanest water available to you, as you do not want to risk infection.

Next, you need to apply pressure to stop the bleeding. If it is a severe cut, then rip some clothing if it is clean enough. You have to take it seriously. Keep pressure on it until the bleeding slows.

Next, you will want something absorbant on it. Cotton or tampons are the best options that you have, but we are looking at this article as primitive survival, and it is unlikely they had either of those. So, moss is a great alternative. Many types of moss are great for dressing wounds, as it is naturally sterile and absorbent.

Remember to change the moss each time you clean the wound. Wrapping something around it like a long, healthy leaf or vine will help to keep it in place. Please keep in mind that this is primitive survival, and if you have access to a real first aid kit, then do not do these.

Broken Bones

If you have a broken bone, and you cannot get any assistance, then you are going to have to try and stabilize it yourself. However, do not try to straighten it! Wrap it and splint it with sticks, vines, clothes, etc. until you can get proper medical assistance. If you decide to move the bone, you face the real risk of causing extra damage.


Shock is a real killer, especially if you have no way of getting to a medical center. Shock is pretty easy to treat for if you notice the signs of it. Here is a quick rundown on what to do:

  1. Call 911. – No ifs, no buts. When you can call them, do it.
  2. Lie the person down. – Raise the feet about 12 inches off the floor unless there are possibilities of head, neck or back injuries, or breaks in the legs or hips. Do not raise their head. Lie them on their side if they are vomiting or bleeding from the mouth.
  3. Begin CPR if necessary.
  4. Treat Obvious Injuries. – Now is the time to treat what you see. As I have said, shock is a killer. Do not get held up in minor cuts or broken bones if you suspect shock.
  5. Keep the person warm and comfortable. – Loosen restrictive clothes, cover them with warm blankets or clothing, and do not move them unless there is imminent danger. Do not give them food or water, even if they ask for it.

Again, there is a plethora of information covering a range of first aid on the website. Click here to see all articles related to first aid.

Predicting Daylight

Predicting daylight is a skill that primitive survivalists had to become very good at doing. There were no clocks or watches, and as daylight hours changes quite a lot, you could do with knowing how to estimate the amount of daylight you have left.

The amount of time that you have left could well be the deciding factor in either hunting for food or making shelter for the night. So, how can you do it? Well, remember that this is only an estimation based on what you have available to you, so you are best to test this out when you have a bit of spare time. However, here is the method:

  • Hold your hand out in front of you at arms length with your fingers horizontal.
  • Line up your little finger so that it is just “touching” the horizon. 
  • If the sun is higher than your hand, then put your other hand on top of it. The aim is to work out how many fingers off the ground the sun is.
  • Count how many fingers high the sun is. For each finger above the horizon, add fifteen minutes of daylight. So, if the sun is touching your index finger, you have about one hour of day left.

predicting daylight

Of course, this is subjective, and you will need to check it as there are a few variable factors, such as arm length, finger size, etc. However, once you have worked out how long it takes for the sun to travel one of your finger widths, you will be able to remember that and use it if you ever need to.

IT will become a little ineffective if you are traveling while you are doing this. That is because, if you are facing uphill and moving towards the top, you will gain more height and finger spaces when you reach the peak of the hill.

Making Rope

Making rope from the wilderness is something that you will have to practice and learn if you do not often carry it with you. There are a few ways in which to make rope from vines, plants, and bark, etc. For this article, I am going to give you a rough guide of how to do it. However, I do plan on making a complete guide on making rope in the wilderness, so keep an eye out.

  • Gather Fibers. – The fibers can come from plants such as the Dogbane or Milkweed, or even the inside of tree bark. Try to find some that are going to be long enough for your needs. However, if you have time, you can make a few lengths and then tie them together.
  • Twist or Plat Them. – Twist the fibers, or plat them into stronger, thicker strands.
  • Tie them together. – Tie the lengths together with other pieces of the fibers. If you do not have much time, then you can select points approximately every 6-12 inches and tie a strand or two around it.

making rope

That is it for the most basic type of rope that you may need in primitive survival. However, as I have said, I will be doing a more in-depth article about making rope in the future.

Here are a couple of other articles on our site that show how to make and use rope in the wilderness:

Making Cordage in the Wilderness

Using Natural Fibers For Survival Necessities

There is a lot of information in those articles, and I highly suggest that you take a look.


There are many primitive survival techniques that you can learn to help yourself if you ever get thrown into a situation where you need it. Take some of these skills and practice them until you become proficient in them well enough not to need this guide. However, as I have said before, printing these guides out and keeping them safe will stop you being in a position where you need them and can’t find them.

Recommended resources:

Knowledge to survive any medical crisis situation

Learn To Identify this Tree – All its parts are edible!

The vital self-sufficiency lessons our great grand-fathers left us

Leave a Comment

book cover e1586100880799

Subscribe To Our Newsletter and Get your FREE BOOK!

Join our ranks to receive the latest news, offers and updates from our team.

You have Successfully Subscribed!