Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Survival Minimalism

Serious long distance backpackers have always been concerned about the weight of their pack. In recent years high tech materials have slashed the weight in everything from tents to the backpack itself. Some hardcore hikers even forgo the use of a stove and mess kit. They eat all their meals cold.

They've got nothing on our ancestors. After the last ice age, hunters traveled the land with a pretty minimal kit. More often than not, they would make the tools they needed instead of carrying them everywhere. Archaeological records show how they'd dress a mastodon after killing it. Using a couple of big rocks, they'd break one of the leg bones a special way. It would make a saw like tool that they could use to skin and cut up the rest of the beast.

Indigenous Americans used canoes to travel everywhere. They could build them really fast and well. Sometimes, instead of carrying a canoe between bodies of water, they'd just build a new one as needed. Natives knew the value of having skills over things. They could build everything from hunting and fishing gear to clothes and shelter -all from local materials.

These days there are people who can survive using the junk that washes up a beach. I've seen video of people building solar water distillation equipment from empty soda bottles. When we think of living off the land, we think of using natural resources like stone and wood. In our polluted world it's sometimes easier to use plastic and aluminum cans.

While I've practiced bush craft skills, I certainly would not turn my nose up at anything found that makes survival easier.



  1. Adaptability is the key, and you certainly have it.

  2. True that, but if I was leaving for the last time, a metal pot would be somewhere on my person. A container to heat water for purifying water and cooking your meal is very valuable. A tarp or some visqueen sheeting for water-wind proofing - also a valuable item.

    But making firewood - sure. Break a branch - limb in a tree's crotch. Or burn in half and break off when required. Drive green sticks into earth to support your cooking vessel.

    1. Throw in a knife and you've really got something.

      Yes, I agree with you. A good pot and a waterproof tarp go along ways to making survival easier. Putting together a good waterproof shelter from natural materials is work, takes skill, and the right materials might be hard to come by. The tarp is quick and portable.

      Being able to quickly boil water is a good way to stay healthy. Also, during the winter time in the north, vitamin C can easily be had from spruce tea. Hard to make without a pot.

  3. I spent a night in the Appalachian mountains without anything but the clothes on my back, and had a very comfortable night. Woke up in the morning to see some deer standing near by with the sun coming up. Really nice experience.