Types of Survival

Defining Survival

“Clarity equals power”

I don’t know who said it first, but I love that phrase. It often comes to me at times when I feel overwhelmed by too many choices. Or when I don’t know how to move forward with a decision.

And in the world of survival, there’s a lot of muddiness about what means what.

There’s urban survival, emergency preparedness, wilderness survival, bushcraft, prepping, outdoor survival, primitive living skills, and the most general: survival skills.

In this article, I will give my best attempt at defining these different types of survival.

Wilderness Survival (synonym – Outdoor Survival)

A short-term survival situation in which you are trying to get out of the wilderness. The focus is on basic skills with the emphasis on using any manmade items you bring or find. The time frame is usually 72 hours or less.

The most important skills are maintaining your core body temperature and staying hydrated (Shelter, Water). Other skills that are likely important are Navigation, Signaling for rescue, and knowing how to make and use Fire. Food is lowest on the basic priority list for a short-term survival situation.

Wilderness survival is best accomplished through carrying a wilderness survival kit – and knowing how to use the contents.

Primitive Survival

This has the same goal as wilderness survival: to get out of the wilderness alive. But instead of using modern gear, the focus is on using only what you find in the wild.

Examples include:

Shelter: Double Lean-to made of sticks and leaves (aka Debris Hut)

Fire: Friction fire: bow drill, hand drill, fire plow

Water: Heating rocks in a fire, placing them into a handmade container, and purifying water by boiling

Navigation: aidless navigation (without map and compass)

Knife: using stone tools instead of metal

Bushcraft (synonym: Primitive Living Skills)

Bushcraft and primitive living involve longer-term survival skills. Instead of trying to get out of the wilderness, these skills are designed to keep you in the wild. They are also practiced recreationally at home or during “Gatherings”.

The biggest difference between the two would be the use of metal. Bushcraft has a more modern focus, while primitive living is often pre-metal. Both sets of skills involve longer-term shelters, friction fire (rubbing two sticks together), cordage (making rope out of natural fibers), containers, making a bow and arrow, tanning hides, making clothing, hunting, trapping, fishing, and many others.

True primitive living skills rely on stone tools to accomplish the above, while bushcraft often involves the use of knives, hatchets, saws and multi-tools. These skills are about connection to nature and people as well as “surviving”.


Prepping is as much of a lifestyle as a skill set. It involves looking at every scenario in life that could turn into a survival situation.

Survivalism has a wide approach survival. It explores all of the theoretical ways that the “end-of-the-world” can occur? It can range from carrying survival gear in your home and car, to building an off-the-grid home in a private, undisclosed location.

Prepping typically involves self-defense, including the use of guns. It often involves storing large quantities of food, water, and supplies at home (Bugging In) or in another location (Bugging Out).

A person who practices these things are preppers or survivalists.

Urban Survival

Refers to surviving an emergency in a city. This could be a weather event, a longer-term power outage, or a terrorist attack. Urban survival overlaps with emergency preparedness and prepping. It could involve Every Day Carry (EDC), a Get Home Bag (GHB), an emergency plan, or, in a worst-case scenario, a Bug Out Bag (BOB).

An EDC is a simple set of gear that you can carry with you at all times. You never know when a disaster could happen. This gear covers similar needs to a wilderness survival kit, but adapted for an urban environment (Ex: carrying a multi-tool instead of a fixed blade knife).

A Bug Out Bag is a set of gear that is designed to keep you and your loved ones safe in an extended survival situation. This is useful when your home is no longer providing your needs. I think of it as what I would carry in my backpacking gear with some added essentials.

An emergency plan is important to develop with your friends and family. Where will you meet? How will your family get home? What gear do you need?

The Wrap Up

As you can see, there are many types of survival. And there is overlap between these different types of survival. A Prepper or a Primitive Skills Enthusiast could both be interested in making a bow and arrow and learning to hunt with it.

With each type of survival there is a combination of gear, knowledge, and skills. At their core, each type of survival involves securing the basics: maintaining core body temperature, staying hydrated and fed, keeping yourself and your loved ones safe, and making the most out of any situation.

They all require awareness of self and adaptation to the environment.

Personally, I focus my time on Wilderness Survival, Primitive Survival, and Bushcraft. I spend as much time as I can in the wilderness. I’ve spent the last 15 years practicing these skills and there is no shortage of things to learn. And if you live long enough, every scenario will eventually lead to the wilderness.

While I like to be prepared for any survival situation, I also attempt to live my life looking at the positive side of things. I do my best to live without fear as motivation behind my actions.

Regardless of what type of survival you practice, there is only one way to learn: practice. Reading an article or watching a YouTube video is a great start. Information is power – if you put it to the test.

What other types of survival are out there? What are you interested in learning? Leave a comment below and let us know!

in Bushcraft, Wilderness Survival


Survival Shelter

How to Build a Survival Shelter

Out of all the physical survival skills, knowing how to build a survival shelter is top of the list.

If you’re familiar with the Rule of 3’s, then you know that maintaining core body temperature is second only to breathing. In extreme cold or heat, you can become hypothermic (too cold) or hyperthermic (too hot) in a few hours or less.

Before looking at building a survival shelter, I’d like to expand our definition of what shelter means.

5 definitions of shelter


  • a place giving temporary protection from bad weather or danger
  • a shielded or safe condition


  • to find refuge or take cover
  • to prevent someone from having to do or face something difficult or unpleasant
  • to protect

What’s the opposite of protection? Exposure.

Exposure is the general term for how people die when they can’t maintain their core body temperature.

Now that we know the main danger that we are facing, let’s look at how to deal with it.

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in Wilderness Survival


9 Keys to Wilderness Survival

Wilderness Survival

I remember the first time I got lost.

And I’m not talking about in the grocery store when I was 3 years old.

I’m talking about not knowing where you are, when your next meal will be, or whether you’ll make it through the night.

Being lost is a terryifying experience. Your normal life of structure and control is suddenly thrown into chaos.

And how it happened is the worst part.

Here’s the scene:

It was a sunny, Fall day. I just got off work and decided to squeeze in a hike. It was a short hike, only 5 miles, so I didn’t need a lot of stuff (Mistake #1). At the time, I was getting into ultralight backpacking. To me, that meant taking only what I needed for the shortest amount of time I would be in the wilderness.

This is all I had:

Cotton T-shirt, Quick-dry shorts, Wool socks, Lightweight hiking boots, 1L of water in plastic Nalgene bottle, and a small ziploc full of trail mix

That’s it. No map and compass. No wilderness survival kit. No first aid kit. No extra layers.

I summited the mountain and made my way home. Daylight was fading quicker than expected; I was used to long summer days (Mistake #2).

Approaching a fork in the trail, I became disoriented. This spot looked different than I remembered. Do I turn left or right?

As the sun was setting, I chose the fork that went to the right. It turned out to be wrong…

[click to continue…]

in Wilderness Survival


How to Use an Axe (with Gransfors Bruks axe review)

There are few items more versatile for survival than an axe. A sharp axe can do most things that a knife can, and so much more.

But when you look to purchase an axe, it can be overwhelming. There are literally hundreds of axes with a variety of subtle differences and wide ranging price tags.

What are the things you should pay attention to when buying an axe?

And how do you use an axe properly? What are the limits of what an axe can do?

I answer these questions and many more in this video. You’ll find links to my 2 favorite axes below.

My favorite axe-maker is Gransfors Bruk: www.gransforsbruk.com/en/

Here are my two favorite axes by Gransfors Bruk:

For portability and exclusive outdoor use: Small Forest Axe

For outdoor use and woodworking: Carpenter’s Axe

While they are not inexpensive (in the range of $145), they will last you a lifetime when properly maintained. You won’t regret having one on your next wilderness adventure.

What’s your favorite use of an axe? Leave any questions in the comment section below. 

in Bushcraft, Survival Gear


Wilderness Survival vs Bushcraft

Wilderness Survival

You probably want to learn survival for different reasons. Maybe it’s to gain practical skills that will save you and your loved ones in a wilderness survival emergency.

Or you might yearn to learn the long-term survival skills of our ancestors: how to make a bow and arrow, hunting and trapping game, tanning hides, and flintknapping.

You could desire to be prepared for any theoretical survival situation that can occur in daily life.

The problem is that we lump this all into one general term: survival.

In this article, lets define two major survival genre’s: wilderness survival and bushcraft.

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in Bushcraft, Wilderness Survival


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