close up view of rope

There seems to be a tool or innovative new gadget for everything coming out every few days. And while we admit, modern technology has made some pretty fantastic gear over the years—relying solely on modern tech in a survival situation might not be the best choice. Long before the cell phone and GPS, stone age man was surviving and battling the elements with nothing but the tools found around them and made by hand.

For example, say you get turned around on a deer trail, and your phone's battery is dead. The afternoon has already changed to evening, and you don't have much light left. While the day was warm enough, you can already feel the temperature dropping and know that you won't make it back to your camp or vehicle in time before night truly falls. What do you do?

Most of us not trained or prepared for this would panic. In colder climates or the middle of the winter, they might freeze, dehydrate, or starve. Meanwhile, primitive humans could take items from their natural surroundings and make the tools and tech they needed to survive—so can you!


Creating fire by friction is one of the most ancient techniques. Most methods involve a drill—or a stick, being spun back and forth on a flat piece of wood. It can also be done with a sawing motion. Whichever way you choose to start a fire with friction, there are a few constants to keep in mind that will help guarantee better success.

The wood you select is critical. Softer wood species for the friction components are best for friction sets. A few examples of softwood: pine, cottonwood, alder, sycamore, redwood, larch, willow, aspen, fir, or cedar. If you can't tell—the wood should be soft enough that you can use your fingernail to make an indentation in the wood with little effort.

  • Choose wood that is as straight as possible.
  • Additionally, the wood should be completely dead and extremely dry.
  • Any signs of bark falling off and fungi sprouting are typical signs the wood is too rotten or wet to create a fire. Also, a piece of wood with too much pitch will lubricate the wood, negating the friction.
  • Lastly, and most importantly—learning to make the kit correctly is also crucial. Practice is essential, and you should consider learning how to make a bow friction set and how to use it before a situation arises, so you are prepared.
Natural Rope

Being able to tie a secure knot is another excellent skill. However, it's impossible to predict where or when, or what you'll be carrying when disaster strikes. Tying a knot is all well and good, but if you have no rope, how will you connect anything? A rope is also a much-needed survival tool that can help create a longer-lasting shelter, handmade fishing line, hang a tarp, and many other beneficial things during a survival situation. The simplest cordage doesn't need to be braided, twisted, sliced, or dried. Certain types of natural cordage can be used as is, which is fantastic in an emergency scenario.

  • Wisteria vines
  • Spruce roots
  • Grass
  • Stinging nettle
  • Yucca
  • Milkweed
  • Dogbane
  • Western Red Cedar
  • Inner bark – not the first layer, but the stringy fibers known as the bast or phloem of the tree. Red cedar is primarily known to have very long fibers perfect for stripping from the tree and used as a rope.

Using natural components as is, you'll note that they aren't as flexible. For instance, you probably won't be able to tie a complex knot in a fresh vine, but a simple knot will work when you don't have time and need to use something like a rope ASAP.

Suppose you have the time to try and create makeshift rope, buff the fibers before using them by rolling them back and forth in your hands. This softens the fiber, so they are more flexible and removes any woody bark. The fibers should begin to look thinner and fluffy, which is what you want. The thinner and fluffier the fiber, the easier it is to twist together to give the rope more strength if you need to.

Stone Knife

If you know them, different stone working techniques can be used to create a razor-sharp blade from a typical rock found all around the globe. For a quick example, striking a thin edge on a piece of flint or quartz with a small stone cobble can drive off an extremely sharp stone flake. That flake can be used for many survival tasks like cutting food, slicing through rope, and anything else you might find a survival knife can do. And unlike your survival knife, these flakes are disposable. So if you do manage to have a survival knife on you, you probably don't want to use it to butcher an entire animal you caught, for example. You can gut, skin, and butcher whole deer with just sharp quartz flakes, and when finished, toss the flake.

Rock Boiling

Once the fire is set and the shelter is built, the next crucial step is drinking water. And while groundwater nearby may look crystal clear and fit for drinking, there are all sorts of different organisms found in raw water that we are vulnerable to. Anything from bacteria to viruses to amoeba and parasitic worms that cannot be seen with the naked eye can be in surface water.

The easiest means to boil water is by using an ancient method of using heated rocks to boil your water. If you're lucky enough to have some sort of flame-proof container with you to place over the fire, then you're fortunate and can boil water in that. If you aren't so lucky, it's as easy as creating makeshift tongs from very wet, green wood sticks or branches, setting rocks in your fire for 30-40 minutes, and putting them one at a time in the water until it boils.

The container you can drop them in can be made out of hollowed-out wood to make a bowl or trough, or even a cavity in a large rock or boulder nearby.

And this list is just the basics of primitive tech in survival situations. Other skills that you should learn that could make your chances even better are learning to make traps, learning how to forage, learning to track animals, learning how to make your own fishing line and hooks, learning how to navigate without any modern equipment or maps, and how to properly skin and butcher an animal too.

The primitive man managed to survive through the worst conditions, and that resilience is still with us today. It's worthwhile and life-saving to learn how to survive in emergencies when our modern tools are lost. We hope you'll stay learning, stay safe!