top of page

Skills with no gear attached

So, we all have a bag full of our favourite gear, right? You know, the go-bag, bug-out bag, or get-home bag. But what if you lose it? What if it gets stolen or falls off a cliff and gets eaten by Carnivorous Canadian Penguins (yes, they exist!)? Scary, right? But fret not! You can always rely on your skills and brainpower. Here are a few skills that don't require fancy gear or tech.


1. Starting a fire without matches or a lighter.

This skill can be considered the most essential and one of the hardest ones to master. Once you have Fire you have light, warmth, and the ability to cook and make tools. This is why Fire was such a breakthrough for our ancestors.

There are almost too many ways to list how to start a fire without matches, a lighter, or a Ferro rod.

Image Courtesy of

 Most methods rely on friction. The bow drill is the most commonly documented. But if you have ever seen the movie "Castaway" with Tom Hanks, he uses the fire plow method. It all comes down to rubbing two sticks together.

If you are lucky enough to be in a region rich in minerals such as flint or quartz, then you can make a spark guessed it - Friction. But this time with rocks rather than sticks.

If you're fortunate enough to have reading glasses with you, focus the light from the sun on your tinder the same way to did on ants in the backyard (we've all been there). If your glasses are prescription rather than "over-the-counter cheaters" you may need to add a small pool of water on the inside of your lens to focus the sunlight properly.


2. Navigation techniques without a compass or GPS (in the Northern Hemisphere)

Image courtesy of Wix AI
Image courtesy of Wix AI

Compass broken? Is your GPS or cell phone battery dead? Could you find your way, or at least one bearing to get where you wanted to go?

Using the sun and the stars is one of the oldest ways to find your way.

The sun will generally rise in the east, reach its highest point at noon, and then set in the west.

Plant a stick in the ground to cast its shadow on the ground. Place a rock or draw in the dirt at the tip of the shadow. As the shadow moves, keep marking the end of the shadow. Soon you have a nice line running from West to East and the shortest shadow indicating North.

At night, the best way to find the big dipper, or Ursa Major, follow the line created by the two stars on the end of the "dipper" to find Polaris. ( no, not the snowmobile )

This will give you North very quickly compared to the other method.

The shadow method might take some time, and following the stars requires a clear night. so knowing more than one method is highly recommended.


3. Building a shelter using natural materials found in the environment.

Image designed with

In the heat of the summer, or the cold of the winter. Shelter will help you keep out of the sun, the rain, or the biting cold.

Your shelter does not need to be fancy or fashionable, it just has to keep you out of the elements. Once the danger of exposure has passed then you can work on something better.

One of the easiest and quickest shelters is the "Squirrel Nest" which is not much more than a big pile of dry leaves that you crawl into. And I mean you cannot reach outside with both arms stretched out. Also, Be sure to frame them in, or bind them down so they do not blow away on you.

In winter you can dig your way into a snowbank, or the snow well at the base of a tree to get out of the wind and cold.

But if you cannot dig a snow shelter and remain dry, you're better off not building a snow shelter in the first place.


7. Sources of water using natural methods.

First and foremost, boiling is the most effective method for making water safe for consumption. This requires Fire (see Skill #1), and a suitable container or vessel that can handle the heat.

Photo Made with AI in Microsoft Designer

You can build a makeshift water trough by using hot coals on the side of a log to hollow it out. Put some baseball-sized stones in the fire to warm up (carefully! Rocks can explode or crack if they contain residual moisture). As the rocks heat up, add your questionable water to your trough, then add hot rocks to your water to boil it.

Second in line is Evaporation and distillation. you can collect morning dew off grasses and vegetation using a small rag, or absorbent piece of clothing (preferably clean....well, clean-ish). Depending on the environment, climate, and weather, you can easily collect 1/2 a liter in about half an hour.

If you have the option to make a solar still, this is the slowest way to collect water but also is the ONLY way you should ever attempt to drink your urine (or any urine for that matter).


4. Creating primitive tools without the use of modern equipment.

Have you ever tried your hand at making cutting tools or cordage? are you able to create containers from birch bark or reeds?

These are 3 of the basics in the 5 C's of survival...Cutting, Cordage, and Containers...we already looked at cover (shelter) and combustion (fire) and without basic tools, those might be pretty difficult.

Cutting tools can be as simple as finding a sharp rock, or maybe you found a piece of metal from an old can. Getting into flint or stone napping would be a full chapter in itself

Cordage can be from reeds, bark, grass, or braided rags almost the same materials as your containers would be made from.


5. Identifying edible plants and foraging for food in the wild

When foraging for wild food, it's important to have specific knowledge of the plant life in the area. I would not search for Cat--Tails or Bull-Rush in the forest. Nor would I be looking for Pine or Birch in a Cedar Swamp.

I will also admit this is one area that I am still learning. I can confidently identify several species of edible and medicinal plants but lack knowledge of edible mushrooms.

When it comes to foraging wild plants you had best be sure that what you are harvesting is not dangerous, or poisonous.

There are several species of wild berries that I also know are safe, and others I am not certain of.

I have started taking photos of plants, mushrooms, and berries with my phone and doing Google image searches (once I'm back home) to identify and discover several species of local plants I don't recognize. Now, I can add Yarrow to my list of medicinal plants that I can identify easily.

When it comes to mushrooms or other plants that have several search results, or even look-a-likes that could be harmful, I'll wait till I can confirm with someone more familiar than I am.


6. Basic first aid skills for treating common outdoor injuries.

Providing emergency first aid courses is pretty standard for some workplaces. If, not you may have to look around to find if any are offered in your community.

Most courses will cover the basics for bleeding, splinting a broken limb, CPR and Artificial Respiration. This is a great start to cover most emergencies, but you may want to ask the instructor about other courses offered that could deal with things like

  • hypothermia

  • Heat Stroke

  • Dehydration

  • Frostbite

  • Allergic Reactions

It may also be worthwhile to inquire about fish hook removal or gunshot injuries for anglers and hunters.


It's important to remember that even if we have equipment, it can fail or even go missing. In those situations, having the knowledge and creativity to adapt and utilize local resources is essential. Skills such as starting a fire without modern tools, navigating using the stars, building shelters from the environment, finding water sources, creating basic tools, identifying edible plants, and providing basic first aid are crucial for thriving in the wilderness. Embrace these skills, practice them often, and never forget that the most important tools you can bring with you are your wisdom and abilities.

1 view0 comments

Recent Posts

See All


Rated 0 out of 5 stars.
No ratings yet

Add a rating
bottom of page