by Todd Walker
Which word in the title lured you to this article? That’s a rhetorical question really.
Whatever the reason, thanks for reading!
We’re not analyzing all the different labels related to preparedness. That’s a waste of time. If you believe your label (bushcraft, prepper, homesteader, survivalist, etc.) is superior to all others, stop reading now. Other venues are available which encourage you to crawl onto a pedestal of superiority.
Tess Pennington, author of The Prepper’s Blueprint, addresses the preparedness community’s cubical mindset in the intro of her book:
“Once again, we have compartmentalized ourselves. Well, I hate to break it to you all, but we are all one in the same. That’s right folks, same group; different names. Potato, potahto. There are however, varying degrees of preparedness and this is where the difference lies. Preppers range from people who have a first-aid kit in the car to those who have an underground bunker. That said, it’s about time that we start embracing one another as a preparedness community and be more positive and uplifting towards one another’s endeavors.”
With that out of the way, let’s get started with…
Primal (First) Skills
If you started your journey to self-reliance as a prepper, why should you be interested in mating primitive skills with prepping?
My philosophy of preparedness is in a constant state of evolution. Reliance on gear and tools has always been a key component. Humans have always been tool junkies. We’re really no different from our Stone Age ancestors. The difference is that their survival depended upon their ability to make said tools.
For instance, imagine your popularity if you were the first human to make fire by friction repeatable. Now your tribe’s mobility isn’t tied to carrying smoldering embers nestled in dry animal dung and plant fibers. The game changed. Grok can now make fire from materials found on the landscape. No previous fire required. This new technology expanded his survivability in a big way!
There in lies the conundrum with new discoveries and technologies…
For most of us, we’ve forgotten our roots. Domestication occurred. We’ve grown dependent upon modern tools and gadgets. Nothing wrong with modern stuff. I’ve got Bic lighters scattered throughout all my kits. The challenge is to practice primitive while carrying 21st century gear. To do so…
“We need to see ourselves in prehistory.”
– Scott Jones in A View to the Past
I’m I saying replace your carbon steel cutting tools and synthetic cordage and stainless steel water bottle for flint knives, nettle cordage, and deer stomach containers? Nope! Not even close. But you’ve gotta admit, owning the skills to do so would give you options. And options make us Anti-Fragile.
Here’s a truth Dave Canterbury drills into our self-reliant mindset. The 5 C’s of Survivability are the most difficult to reproduce in nature. To do so, you need knowledge, skills, and resources – which may not be readily available. These five; cutting tool, combustion device, cover, cordage, and container, most directly affect our number one priority in wilderness survival – core temperature control. So don’t hit the wildness without them.
But what if… you dump your canoe or lose all your stuff? Your belt knife is still attached but that’s about all. Will you be able to reproduce the missing 5 C’s from the landscape… even your cutting tool?
Primitive Skills Reduce Survival Stressors
Mors Kochanski’s bushcraft motto is, “The more you know, the less you carry.” Caught without modern gear in a survival situation can add lethal stress.
Knowing how to deal with the stress of having no cordage to lash a shelter together can be reduced if you know how to make cordage from plant and tree fibers. More time and calories are required to make natural cordage, but owning this skill gives you one less thing to worry about.
Learning primitive skills can be done at two speeds… incrementally or total emersion. I’ve chosen the incremental approach. Most moderns will.
Bill of Instinct Survivalist, another new buddy, Kevin, and I spent last Saturday at a local (Georgia) primitive skills workshop taught by Scott Jones. The class focused on fire, cordage, and sharp stuff (stone cutting tools) – 3 of the 5 C’s of Survivability.
This is a small fraction of the knowledge and skills our ancestors passed down for outdoor self-reliance and wilderness living. With that said, it’s a good place to start.
Primitive Skills Every Prepper Should Know
1.) Natural Cordage
Primitive skills take practice. Learn to identify, harvest, and process the local resources nature provides. Scott’s board (pictured above) revels a sample of 18 natural fibers suitable for cordage.
From L to R:
- Red Cedar
- Bald Cypress
- Atlantic White Cedar
- Red Mulberry
- Black Locust
- Yellow (Tulip) Poplar
- Winged Elm
- Paw Paw
- False Nettle
- Blue Star
- Evening Primrose
- Spanish Moss
- Button Snakeroot
We made 2-ply cordage from Yucca, Tulip Poplar, Okra, and Dogbane. Yup. Don’t compost all those okra stalks in the fall.
I filmed a video on making cordage with Dogbane Sunday. The fibers were too small to add much instructional value. I’ll use a larger material next time. Until then, you may find Dave Canterbury’s cordage video as helpful I did…
2.) Fire by Friction
I’ve made fires using a bow drill many times. However, Scott ruined my previously held belief that resinous woods like pine are not suitable for bow drills. That theory went down the drain as every student created glowing embers with a pine hearth board and pine spindle. Here’s a quick video of the fun…
3.) Stone Cutting Tools
The simplest way to create a sharp edge comes from bipolar flaking. All you need is an anvil (large base stone), hammer stone, and a smaller rock (chicken egg size) to crack like you would a nut. Place the egg sized stone upright (pole to pole, hence the term bipolar) on the anvil and strike it with your hammer stone. If you miss hit, expect blood, swearing, and possible tears. Wear eye protection.
This crude technique takes little skill and provides sharp tools like scrapers, sharp flakes, and small stone drill points. You could make and use these simple tools even with no flintknapping knowledge.
Practicing primitive skills develops a Possum Mentality. You’ll become keenly aware of raw resources, especially other people’s trash. For instance, bottoms of glass bottles can be made into arrowheads and cutting tools.
Pictured below are a few products of my Possum Mentality over the years:
Be True to Your Nature
We preppers and self-reliance technicians love gear. But all gear and tools eventually fail. Having the knowledge and skills to use available resources to make stuff from the landscape is essential for both short-term and long-term survivability.
What happens when prepping and primitive skills have sex?
The offspring of this union breeds a self-reliance trait found only in prehistory which expresses our true nature. To tap into your true nature, I recommend Scott Jones’ book, A View to the Past: Experience and Experiment in Primitive Technology.
Keep Doing the Stuff of Self-Reliance,
P.P.S – If you find value in our blog, Dirt Road Girl and I would appreciate your vote on Top Prepper Sites! You can vote daily by clicking here or on the image below. Check out all the other value-adding sites while you’re there…
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