Survival is key in a SHTF situation. Without certain tools, staying alive and safe are pretty much impossible. So what is the one thing that you absolutely could not live without in any given survival situation? A knife? Matches? Actually, neither of those alone will keep you alive. You may be surprised to learn what the most important survival tool actually is.
What’s in Your Bug-Out Bag?
Now, before we get started, I want you to take a second to think about the contents of your bug-out bag. Now that you’re thinking about that, what could you absolutely live without? Do you need that emergency tarp? It sure does come in handy, but it’s not absolutely necessary. How about that extra set of batteries for your tactical flashlight? Nah… you can just toss those — including the flashlight. Surely you need to keep your super cool survival knife, right? Nope, not at all.
“Patrick, you’re insane! You’re crazy! You’re downright dumb!”
Why? Because I said you don’t need any of that stuff? How about I break down the Top 5 Bug-Out Bag Necessities and show you how you could survive without them? Would that convince you?
Why You Don’t Need a Knife
Back before the invention of metal tools, people would use broken rocks as blades. Any time they found rocks broken, they would strap them to long and short handles to make axes and spear points. Then, people discovered they could control how to break rocks, thereby making the exact shapes they wanted, and thus, “flint knapping” was born. People began to make more precise shapes for their axes and spear tips, even getting so good that they could make intricately small arrow tips. Surely you’ve seen a Native American arrow head, haven’t you?
If you learn to flint knap, you’ll never be without a knife. Simply find some flint rock and make your own knife. You can even wrap the “handle” part with vines for more comfort (and less chance of slicing your hand open when using your new tool).
Primitive knives have also been made from animal bones, wood (particularly bamboo), and seashells. Anything you can hone down and sharpen to a thin edge will make a good knife. You don’t even have to use natural material. In today’s age, unfortunately you will find all kind of trash lying around pretty much anywhere you go. Glass, tin cans and other materials can be used to make an apocalyptic cutting tool — you’re only limited by what you find.
Making Fire During SHTF
Lighters run out of fluid. Matches get wet (unless you waterproof them). If you just don’t have a fire-making implement, then what?
Knowing multiple methods of making fire could literally save your life one day! If you have a knife (or some other form of steel) all you need is a flint rock. Strike the flint and steel to produce a spark into your tinder bundle. No flint or steel? Use your shoelace and a short, sturdy (but somewhat flexible) stick to make a fire bow. Wrap the shoelace around a second stick, press that stick into a flat piece of wood with a small notch cut out of the side, and move the bow back and forth. This will cause the stick to spin against the flat wood causing friction, and creating a small ember. You’ve just done the “fire bow drill” method of fire making. There are many other ways to make fire with no real fire-making tools.
Learn to Build Shelter Without a Tarp
While they come in extremely handy, a tarpaulin is just one more “important survival tool” you don’t necessarily need. Sure, they make shelter building extremely easy, but what would you do if you didn’t have one?
You can find natural cover in a number of places – you may find a partially-hollow tree, or if you’re super lucky, a cave. If you can’t find good shelter, build one out of your natural surroundings. Find all the branches lying around on the ground first so you’re not destroying living nature. Weave them together or tie them to other small trees with vines (or some other cordage). Use branches with foliage still on them to make walls (and a roof) that are somewhat “solid” to help protect against wind and rain. You can be as intricate and detailed or as basic and simple as you like. The more protection against the elements, the better your chances of survival will be (or at least make survival more comfortable).
My buddy Todd from Survival Sherpa wrote an article a while back about How to Make Lightweight Oilskin Tarps. While the method he uses is a little more modern (using oil lamp wicks and mineral spirits), the basic concept is exactly the same as the way our ancestors did it. Even still if you can’t find the materials in the wild to make oilcloth, you don’t need it anyway.
You Don’t Need a Container in Your Bug-Out Bag, Either
Many people say the best container to have in a survival situation would be some sort of stainless steel water bottle so you can not only gather and carry water, you can also purify it. This may be true, but they’re still not necessary.
If you’re in the wild, you can find all kinds of natural containers, or at the very least, make your own. You can use things like segments of bamboo or coconut shells as ready-made, natural containers. If that’s not an option, find a thick branch and use a rock (or a rock tied to another stick) to hollow out the inside of the branch to make a container. You could also weave together wide blades of grass or other (non-poisonous) foliage.
In fact, if you’ve ever watched “Fat Guys in the Woods“, you may have seen survival expert Creek Stewart make a container out of a chunk of log called a “burn bowl”. You use coals from a fire to burn a bowl shape in a piece of wood. From there, you can fill it up with water and drop in hot rocks from the fire to purify water.
What to Do If You Don’t Have Cordage
If you’re going to tie anything to anything else, you need some sort of cordage. If you are fresh out of rope, you can always make your own. You can braid vines, or you could make rope out of dead plants by twisting together plant fibers. If you have some spare clothes with you that you don’t need, you could always tear them into shreds and braid them together to make some cordage, as well.
So what’s the most important survival tool to have?
So there. I’ve proven that you don’t need any of the “big 5” to survive a SHTF scenario. They are all very handy, and if I could only pack 5 things, those would be the 5 I would choose.
So what IS the most important survival tool? Knowledge. Knowledge will get you through any situation, no matter how severe. Learn all you can. If there are classes given in your area (and I’m relatively sure there probably are), take some! They don’t have to necessarily be given by a survivalist. You can take sewing and cooking classes, learn to grow your own garden, and find classes on first aid and herbalism at most any community college. These are all great skills to learn. For some more hardcore survival classes, you may have to scour the internet a little deeper. If nothing else, look for videos of people showing you how to do what you want to learn, then go try it yourself (just use caution to avoid injury). The best thing about knowledge – it weighs nothing!