Survival Tactics Top 5 Essential Skills To Master

Survival Tactics Top 5 Essential Skills To Master

In a survival situation, there are a handful of survival tactics you need to know to ensure you make it through the event.

Survival tactics for starting a fire

Starting a fire may seem like something you should do after you take care of some of your other needs are met.  survival tactics fireWhile we can agree that making a shelter is very, very important, so is food and water.  And to ensure your safety, having the ability to cook fish or game and boil water to purify it of impurities is imperative.  That’s why we put making fire at the top of our list.  Please note, though, this list is not in any specific order and should not be taken as such.  Use your own judgment in a bad situation and prioritize food, water, shelter, fire, and protection as you see fit.

Matches or Lighters

Wouldn’t it be nice if, in a disaster situation, you were able to conjure fire at will?  Having a stockpile of waterproof matches or lighters packed away is a definite advantage.  If you are building a disaster preparation kit, matches or a lighter absolutely must be included.  But you have to weigh the weight of such add-on items, as well as the space they take, with their long term usability.  If you pack your bug out bag with a ton of matchboxes or lighters, you’re taking up valuable room for other survival necessities that might benefit you more in the long term.  Here are the top picks based on reviews.

Flint and Steel

survival tactics tinderIf and when the matches burn up and the lighter fuel is exhausted, having a flint and steel is another fantastic way to ensure your fire needs are met.  A flint and steel can help you generate a spark to set tinder ablaze.  The go-to fire starter for most, a flint and steel is durable, compact, and efficient.  To create a spark, you simply scrape or strike the flint with the steel.  A good flint and steel can be a lifesaver.  Another benefit to this method of fire starting is that even if wet, you can quickly dry off the water by rubbing the flint on your pants or shirt sleeve and it will be ready to generate sparks again.  If you want to learn about a similar tool to a flint and steel, I’ll cover something called a ferro rod down below.

Friction fires

survival tactics fireIn long term survival tactics situations, or in cases where you weren’t able to prepare ahead of time, friction fire skills are a necessity.  In order to create a fire using this method, you need very few things; a spindle, a hearth board, and a bow (yes, like a bow and arrow bow).  As you’ve probably seen in television and movies, the idea is to spin a long stick (spindle) fast enough on a board (the hearth board) that the friction generates heat, which generates a tiny ember.

While trying to spin the spindle by hand can and does work, it is labor intensive, takes a long time, and is just flat out not a very efficient use of your calories.  This is why using a simple bow with this process is a good idea.  To create the bow, look for a slightly curved stick around the length of your arm or a little shorter.  While you can use a smaller stick, you’ll get less spindle revolutions per stroke with a shorter stick, which again is not an efficient use of your energy.  Once you’ve found the ideal bow, simply tie a string to each end leaving a small amount of slack, because the string will need to wrap once around the spindle.


As for the spindle, you’re going to want a long, straight stick with a uniform diameter as you can get.  The reason for this is that as you work the bow back and forth if the spindle is not the same width, your bowstring will creep up or down towards the skinner part of the spindle.  While this isn’t a huge deal, when you are trying to start a fire, you don’t want to have to constantly adjust the bowstring and spindle to get it back to the ideal working position.  survival tactics hearth board

Hearth Board

The final key is the hearth board.  What is important about this is that towards the edge of the board, you cut out a notch for air flow.  Here’s a rather crude drawing of what your notched hearth board should look like.  This is a top view looking down.  First, you’ll cut a notch out of the edge of the board in a triangle shape.  The circle represents where the spindle will go, with the colors of the circle getting darker the further down inside the board you go.

You may also want to find a stone or a stick or log that has an indentation in it.  You can use this with one hand holding the top of the spindle.  The indentation of the stone will allow the top of the spindle to spin inside of it without rubbing up against your hand.  Place the spindle in the hearth notch, put some tinder under or very near the notch, and wrap the bow string once around the spindle.  Then, using a sawing motion, move the bow back and forth to quickly turn the spindle inside the hearth board notch.  With enough speed and downward pressure from the holder stone I’ve mentioned, you should be able to generate a tiny ember that you can flake off or place into the center of your tinder pile/ball.  Then carefully blow the ember until the tinder catches on fire.

You are going to need a good knife to cut out the notch and for many other reasons in a survival situation.  Whether it for protection, processing food, building a shelter, or starting a fire, a knife is a must.  Here are some of the best rated survival knives we’ve found.  And since these are on Amazon, you know you can trust the reviews.


Making tinder

survival tactics make tinder

One of the survival tactics you’ll need to master is the making of tinder.  Regardless of your fire-making method, chances are that you’ll need tinder to help start a fire.  Tinder is defined as “dry, flammable material, such as wood or paper, used for lighting a fire.”  There are many ways to make tinder or find it.  One of the easiest methods is to use a knife, an ax blade, or even a sharp rock to scrape thin layers of wood into strips.  Think flattened toothpick.  You can also use some tree barks as natural tinder, or strip the inner lining off of bark to create thread-like strands that easily and quickly dry out.

No Cloth, No Problem

You can also search for small, dry twigs and sticks or if you are lucky, clumps of dry and dead grasses or leaves.  The idea is to use something as your tinder that is small and easy to burn and offers a lot of airflow to “catch” on fire.  You would not want to use a large, flattened pile of dry leaves as your tinder when it would be much more effective to bunch them up into an air-filled ball.  The bunching up of the leaves allows more air flow between the leaves and other tinder pieces.  And as we all know, fire requires oxygen to burn so air flow is important.

You can also add things to your tinder to help enhance the length of it’s burn as well as how easily it catches on fire.  An example is sap from pine trees.  Adding pine sap can help tinder burn longer, enabling you more time to add additional wood to the fire.  While it may not help to catch the tinder easier, having some added to your tinder will make it burn longer.  You can also puncture the bark of a fir tree with a sharp stick or rock by looking for bark blisters and use the resin as an addition to the tinder fibers.  Aspen fibers make great tinder and adding some dried resin pieces will also help to extend the length of burn you’ll get from your tinder pile or ball.

Making char cloth

If you find a or can repurpose a small tin that can close well, you can make char cloth, which is a fantastic fire starter.  The process is rather simple.  Place small strips of cloth in the tin and close the top tightly.  Puncture a small hole, maybe about the size of a nail or screw in diameter, in the top and bottom of the tin.  This is needed to allow a small amount of oxygen in and the burning gasses out.  You’ll need to make sure that the cloth you use is natural…something like a piece of linen or a strip from a cotton t-shirt works well.  As an alternative to cloth, you may also be able to use thick bits of tree bark or plant material instead.  Next, place the small tin near an already existing fire or coal.

You want it close enough to “cook” the cloth inside the tin.  Some people put the tin directly in the fire or on coals but you may need to experiment with that to determine if it will work for you.  What we’ve found works best is to place the tin on coals but not directly in flames.  And not to push the tin down inside the extreme heat, but instead, let the tin rest on top.  After a while, you can pull the tin away, let it cool, and then open it up.

What you should see is black, almost like charcoal, strips of very dry cloth.  This “char cloth” is now ready to be used as tinder for a future fire.  It should catch extremely easy when you hit it with a slight spark from a flint or spark up quickly with a tiny friction fire ember.  It might be a good idea to make char cloth ahead of time and add it as part of your survival pack.

Other Fire Starting Items

There are other survival tactics products you can buy in advance to prepare for your fire making needs.  One example is magnesium in a sort of shredded or pellet form.  Magnesium catches on fire very easily when a spark from a flint is applied to it.  You may also want to look into a ferro rod.  Ferro Rods are similar to a flint, though the sparks they produce are much hotter.  You’re also able to generate a lot more spark from a single ferro rod spark.

Some people swear by them, while others think that the long term durability of a trusty flint and steel outweigh the benefits of the ferro rod, which degrade over time and break easier.  You might also just go the simple way and get your hands on a nice fire starting kit that easily fits in your survival or bug-out bag.  Here are some of the highest rated examples we’ve found in our research right from the trusted Amazon.com source.

Survival tactics for finding or making shelter

survival tactics shelterShelter from the elements, be it heat or cold, is essential in a survival situation.  Depending on how prepared you are and your surroundings, your situation may make one shelter style an easier choice than another.  We’ll cover some of the basic concepts here so you’ll have an idea of what to do in any situation.  Knowing the alternative survival tactics for shelter could be the most important knowledge you take into a situation.

Log and Debris shelter

Find a downed tree or a wall or hill with a steep angle.  Next, find some thick branches and place them at an angle so they form one side of a pyramid if you will.  Ensure you can fit inside the shelter area and once confirmed, you can then begin to place branches perpendicular to the support branches you’ve already leaned against the log or wall.  Finally, cover the perpendicular branches with additional branches and debris from the area.  The debris could be leaves, thatch, even fern branches will work.  The point is to create a barrier from the elements between the outside and you, on the inside.  While this sort of shelter is not ideal for a long-term survival situation, it can save your skin in the short term.

An A-Frame shelter

An A-Frame shelter gets its name from a capitalized letter A.  You can make an A-frame shelter relatively quickly, provided you have the right material around.  What you can do to start an A-frame shelter is find yourself a tree, something 1-2 times the diameter of your upper leg should work fine.  Next, you’ll need to find two downed branches or logs.  You could use something about the diameter of your arm for both sides and the length of each should be at least a few feet taller than you are (for comfort).  Next, angle these two branches at an angle and lean them against the first tree.  Again, think the sides of a pyramid, though the goal is to form more of a prism shape, a “triangle tube” if you will.

If you have string, rope, paracord, or can make some sort of fastening cord, you can then tie the top of the two logs together and then to the tree itself.  You can then repeat this for the tail end, though you may not have a large tree in the proper position to help hold up the other end of the A-Frame.  If you can manage it, then add an additional thinner log stretching from the top of the back “A” to the top of the front “A”.  From there, lay more branches to form the walls and add additional debris on the side to help block the elements.

A-Frame Alternative

If you are unable to manage the back-end of the A-Frame as described above, you can use the same survival tactics concept but instead of survival tactics cordputting a second “A” at the back, you can simply use a long branch, lay one end in the top of your front “A’ and then just rest the bottom on the ground.  This will give you sort of a squished prism A-Frame, with the front having a lot more room the back, but this method is easier to set up.

If you are in a pinch and can’t find yourself large logs used in the above methods, you can create a smaller tent style A-frame shelter big enough for you to lay down in.  The advantage of this is that it is quicker and easier to set up, and the required material may be easier to find (smaller branches) than larger ones.  Also, due to the smaller size, it should be faster and more simple to add additional debris and branches to the side walls for protection from the elements.


While we’re discussing this, it’s a great time to remind you to add some paracord or string to your emergency prep kit.  Paracord is a lifesaver in survival situations.  Here are some of the top-rated paracord products from Amazon for your bug-out and emergency kit.

Lean-To Shelters

survival tactics shelter 2The log and debris shelter we described earlier is one type of lean-to shelter.  As the name implies, a lean-to shelter is created by leaning logs or branches against something and creating a slanted wall.  That wall can then be covered with additional branches and debris to protect you from rain, hail, and light winds.  Depending on your location and situation, a simple lean-to can save you from the elements.  Due to their restricted size, they can often be ideal for cold weather situations.  The small size makes it easier to heat up with your own body heat.

Caves or abandoned buildings

You might luck out and find yourself with access to an abandoned home or shed and you won’t have to rely heavily on your learned survival tactics.  Or, there might be a cliff that you can hunker down under, or perhaps a cave you can go into.  Make sure the dwelling is indeed abandoned before going in and if you are trying to seek shelter in a cave, have a good look around for evidence of large animals.  Bears can and will use caves as their home so look for animal droppings or remains of things they have eaten.  If you see this sort of evidence around a found cave, be extremely careful…to the point where you might be safer avoiding your find completely.

Cave Warning

Once you do find a safe cave, you can use some of the above tactics such as a lean-to to create a sort of doorway to protect you from the elements.  Please note, though, that cave-ins absolutely do happen.  So if you find a cave, please be extremely careful, try not to go into the cave too deep, and ensure you are quiet, as loud reverberating noises can cause vibrations that can cause cave-ins.

Survival tactics for finding water and how to make it safe to drink

Water is so important, that you need to find water faster than you’ll need to find food.  The body can only go 3 days without water, while it is closer to 3 weeks without food.  You are going to want to find a source of water as soon as possible.  One of the best things you can do to ensure your found water is drinkable is to boil it.  This, quite frankly, is why we chose to talk about building fire before we discussed any of the other survival tactics on this site.survival tactics water

With a fire created, you can now boil water.  If you don’t have access to pots and pans, boiling water an be a bit difficult.  If you are able to find indentations in rocks or stones, you can drop stones heated up in your fire into the small depressions and quickly boil the water that has been caught there.

Natural Water Sources

Lakes, rivers, streams, creeks, even waterfalls can all be lifesavers.  But, don’t think that just because you’ve found “running water”, that it is safe to drink right out of the stream.  Water born illnesses are deadly, and even if you don’t die from drinking water contaminated with microscopic nasty critters, vomiting, diarrhea and extreme stomach pains are not a fun thing to have to deal with when you’re in a survival situation.

Collecting Rain Water

Rainwater collected in clean containers using things like tarps or plastic sheets, or just a container put in the open during a rainstorm is a fantastic water source.  Rainwater should not contain any of the biological contaminants that rivers and lakes do.  After all, the evaporation process takes just the water into the air, leaving behind it the nasty critters water can be contaminated with.

Water Cleaning Products

There are a variety of products available for you to pack in your emergency kit that can help to purify water.  Having some of these items on hand are great ways to make sure that regardless of where you are and what your water sources are, you’ll be able to create clean, drinkable, and safe water at will.

Survival tactics – Food

Survival tactics of Fishing

I don’t know about you, but I grew up fishing on a lake.  All day, every summer, from the time I was a little guy until high school.  Now, I take my own kids fishing in lakes around our home town.  Fishing has always been something that I just thought everyone knew how to do so I took it for granted.  Now, though, I realize that there are plenty of people who are not only grossed out by the thought of baiting a hook, but they wouldn’t know what to do if they did land a largemouth bass or crappie.

In a survival situation, you might not be lucky enough to have a fully loaded tackle box and rod and reel at your disposal.  So it is important, at a bare minimum, to pack some fishing line and a variety of hook sizes in your survival bag just in case.  I’d suggest a higher test line, because if your fishing line is strong enough, you can also use it for making traps or even helping secure your structure.  With a simple line and hook, you can rig up a cane pole, a basic stick with your line tied to the top, and can easily pull in fish using things such as berries as bait.  You can even use things like beetles, bugs, and small feathers as bait on your hook.survival tactics fishing

Throw Lines

Along with fishing via a pole, you can also set out a throw line.  Usually, a throw line goes a bit further from the shore and a bit deeper in the water.  You may need to rig up a simple stone weight to ensure your bait gets taken to the bottom of the lake or stream you’ve found.  After tossing your baited throw line and weight out into the water source, you can tie the other end to a stick that you’ve secured in the shoreline.  Also, you may just tie it to a tree close to shore, provided the tree is strong enough to not snap under the weight of an angrily caught fish.

Here are some inexpensive and highly rated fishing kits that are not only compact but complete.  Having one of these kits in your emergency kit or bug-out bag is not only smart, but it’s the responsible thing to do for you and your family.

Along with line and hook options we’ve already covered, there are a variety off nets that you can compactly roll up and pack in your survival bag.  It is important to note, though, that some types of nets are not legal to use for recreational fishing.  While in a live or die, SHTF type of situation, I doubt the legality of your fishing net is going to cross your mind, but it is important to at least know that there are everyday use restrictions to certain types of equipment.


Gill Nets are an example of this type of equipment.  Some states outlaw their use entirely, while others have a regulated season for gill net fishing.  Gill nets work very well, though, and can be used in both standing water, like a lake, or in a stream or river, provided they are secured properly.  The idea is that the net is vertical in the water, and as a fish swims close, they’ll get trapped in the net and will not be able to escape.

While some gill nets have a rather tight nit pattern, we have found that the gill nets that are a little larger tend to catch the larger fish.  Here are some of the best rated Amazon Gill nets for you to take a look at.  Notice the difference in the diamond patterns and determine what you’re likely to need based on the types of fish you’ve got in your area.

Another type of net that can come in handy is called a cast net.  If you imagine a large circular net with weights around the diameter, you’ve got yourself a cast net.  The idea behind this type of net is that you cast it out, allowing it to open up into a large circle, and the weighted edges will drag the net downwards, trapping fish inside.

Other Nets

Drive-in nets are another type that can come in handy.  They care called this because of the way they are structured.  The fish “drive in” an opening on one end and can’t get out the other end.  Imagine a long soda can open on just one end and that’s what they look like.  These nets can be useful in a flowing water situation, such as a river or stream, because the direction of the waterflow can make it harder for the fish to back out of the net.  They would be swimming against the current to escape.

A Fyke net is a similar concept, except there is a small opening on both sides and the outer net is usually the shape of a square.  For this, imagine a shoebox with two holes on the short sides, half way up.  As fish swim into the small holes, they’re then trapped in the large rectangle net, the shoe box itself in this example, and unless they can navigate back up to the small hole they came into, they are trapped.  Here are a few examples of those types of nets.


Traping survival tactics

Trapping birds or small game can be a lifesaver when protein is in short supply.  If your location doesn’t offer fishing as an option, you may need to rely on natures furrier and feathered critters as a food source.  Knowing how to make and set several types of traps can help ensure you survive when there’s no grocery store around.  The variety of traps one can make is rather incredible and there are some ingenious ideas.  From simple snares to more elaborate types like weighted “drowning” traps, your situation may call for one, or several different types.  We would suggest getting yourself a small pocket guide to pack in your emergency kit, which you can then rely on in a survival situation.  You may want to invest in these top-rated guides from Amazon that you can rely on when it’s time to catch small game for survival.

Survival Tactics: Knowing Plants

survival tactics mushroomsThe amount of edible plants you can find in the wild varies depending on the part of the planet you are trying to survive in.  For that reason, we highly encourage you to pick up a nice book or two for your survival kit.  Did you think that one of the survival tacts we’d talk about would be eating dandelions?  Did you know some berries are toxic?  Have you heard that if you eat a specific type of mushroom, you’ll trip as though you have dropped acid?  There are plenty of safe edible plants to scavenge in a survival situation.  But at the same time, there are just as many that are dangerous or deadly.

Knowing the difference between what is safe and unsafe is just as important of a survival tactic as knowing how to make fire.  You’ll want a book on edible plants, roots, berries, and also mushrooms.  Having knowledge about a variety of types of edible plants will help to ensure your options are wide open.  It will also help make sure that you can get all types of vitamins your body needs to survive.  Here are some great books we’ve found that you should look into investing in.

Survival tactics for protection from animals


survival tactics animals

Protecting yourself in the wild from large animals is a scary thought.  You do not want to be confronted by a bear, cougar, mountain lion, or pack of wolves.  While we can’t stress enough that having a firearm handy is a superior choice to any of the tips we will provide, we understand that you might find yourself in a survival situation where no firearm is available or whatever you had is damaged or out of ammunition.  When that is the case, there are some natural alternatives you can take advantage of to give yourself a little piece of mind.


survival tactics stonesIt’s kind of funny to think that in the modern era, we use stones to decorate our gardens or we river rock the front of our houses so they look nice.  But a stone is one of the most primitive weapons available and they are plentiful.  Having several handfuls of stones around for you to throw at an intruder or predator, or to use to scare them off if they are approaching, is a simple and logical step.  Having larger stones can help solidify the “don’t mess with me” stance you’ll be taking to protect yourself in the wild, but don’t overdo it.  There’s no need to lift a 100-pound boulder over your head to scare off a wild fox.  In fact, that’s rather dangerous and you are likely to hurt yourself, especially if you are in a depleted calorie situation.  So hand-sized stones are probably good enough.


If you have a long, straight, and sharpened stick can put some distance between you and a predator.  A beast at the business end of your point is one of those no brainer survival tactics.  Spears like this may not be advantageous in close range, but they can sure help keep a predator at a distance if properly used.  Having several sharpened, either by knive, axe, or rubbing on stone, spears at your disposal is always a good idea to keep some distance between you and something nasty.


Animals are not stupid.  They know fire is dangerous and usually do what they can to avoid fire.  If you have prepared well using the above techniques, you should have a fire at your disposal.  Crafting yourself a make-shift torch using an arm-length branch wrapped in tinder.  Add long-burning sap or resin so it can be wielded like you’d picture torches of the old days.  Moving with careful yet deliberate motions back and forth.  This can intimidate wolves, bears, and large wild cats and may be enough to make them turn and run.


survival tactics avoidanceIn a survival situation, it’s probably best to just flat out avoid, if at all possible, wildlife unless you are actively hunting or trapping.  Staying away from areas where animals frequent is a good idea.  Keep an eye out for heavily trafficked paths in the brush.  Perhaps don’t build your shelter right next to the only water source in a dangerous area.  Bears need a drink now and then, too.  If you see dead animals, bones, or animal scat, in an area, think about seeking shelter away from that area instead of right in the center of it.  Just use the best survival tactics you have… your brain, eyes, and ears and avoid dangerous animals if at all possible.

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