Camping & Hiking

Survivalist Camping: How To Survive In The Wilderness

When you think about camping, you may conjure up scenes of serene surroundings, nice tents and cosy campfires.

Sure, that’s one way to camp but not all camping is like that. Survivalist camping, as the name implies, is much more adventurous. It is about pitting your wits against the great outdoors and surviving.

Imagine, being dropped off in the middle of nowhere with only the bare essentials and having to survive. It’s camping but not as you know it.

You’re about to learn everything you need to know about survivalist camping: what it is, how and where to do it and, most importantly, how to master it. If the idea gets your juices flowing, read on.


This is not a joke, survivalist camping is extreme and can oftentimes be extremely dangerous. That’s part of the thrill. It is not a game, it’s an adventure.

You should definitely not try survivalist camping if you haven’t had experience in the wilderness and some form of survival training that includes basic first aid.

You should always tell someone where you are going and give them details of your planned journey just in case you get into real serious trouble.

So, What Is Survivalist Camping?

Survivalist camping is an extreme form of outdoor adventure where you are dropped off in some remote wilderness with only minimal kit and your wits to survive.

No vehicles, no phones, and certainly no creature comforts. It is not for the faint-hearted.

Broadly speaking, there are two types of survivalist camping, base camp survival camping and walk-out survival camping.

The objective is pretty much the same with both: to survive the adventure. Let’s take a closer look at each of them.

Base Camp Survivalist Camping

With base camp survivalist camping your objective is to find an isolated location where you can set up camp and spend time there surviving in the wilderness.

Normally, you would be dropped off at the location and agree on a time and date to be picked up.

The idea is that you will have to rely on your survival skills to get through the experience which includes catching your own food and avoiding wild animals that see you as their next potential meal!

Walk-Out Survivalist Camping

Walk-out survivalist camping is as extreme as it gets. You are dropped off in the remote wilderness from where you will have to find your way back to civilization with very little in terms of equipment and supplies.

If you are traversing unknown territory the stakes are high. There is only so much water you will be able to carry with you and only so long you can survive without it.

Essential Survivalist Camping Gear

essential camping gear
© Can Stock Photo / Shakzu

Depending on how hardcore you are planning to go, this is some of the essential equipment and supplies that you may like to take with you:

  • Personal water filter
  • Flashlight
  • Compass
  • Hunting Knife
  • Multi-tool
  • Fire starter
  • Survival blankets
  • Emergency Tent
  • Waterproof footwear
  • Sleeping bag
  • First aid kit

How To Prepare For Your Adventure

Firstly, try to understand that preparation is essential and we’re talking serious preparation, not a simple checklist of things to stick in your backpack.

Part of your preparation is being honest with yourself about your skillset. Are you familiar with all the skills that you need to survive out there?

Nature seems lovely until you realize that she really doesn’t care for you the way you may care for her.

The only one you can count on in the wilderness is yourself so you need to make sure you know how to catch, kill and prepare food, make camp and navigate your way home if you are on a walk-out.

If you have never done any survival training, and that includes most of us, there are a number of courses you can take to learn how to survive out there in the wilderness.

Don’t rush gung-ho into this without equipping yourself with the necessary skills first or you may not live to regret it. Yes, it really is that serious, which begs the question:

Why Do People Go Survivalist Camping?

snowy mountain

Why would anyone willingly put themselves in such a dangerous, unforgiving environment for fun I hear you ask.

People go survivalist camping for pretty much the same reason people jump out of planes or climb mountains: for fun and adventure.

Life is a short adventure, it can either be boring and monotonous or fun and adventurous. You choose the life you live.

If you choose to go survivalist camping, you choose fun and adventure over boredom and monotony.

However, it’s not just all about the adrenaline rush. Survivalist camping helps you connect with nature, build self-reliance, and hone your survival skills.

The Opportunity To Connect With Nature

If you’re contemplating going on a survivalist camping trip then you probably agree that nature is splendid.

There is nothing like being in the great outdoors to humble you and remind you of just how impressive our planet actually is.

Survivalist camping will help you connect with nature and understand it in a way that is never possible through books and television alone.

The Opportunity To Build Your Self-Reliance

In a world of modern convenience, we often slip into dependency without even realizing it.

Sure, we all like to think of ourselves as tough and independent but we too often delegate and supervise and forget what it actually is to do.

Well, when it comes to survivalist camping, no one is going to do it for you out there in the wilderness.

If you want to survive, you’ll need to do things for yourself and, trust me, there is no greater feeling than being totally self-reliant and confident in your own abilities, which brings us to the third great opportunity survivalist camping gives you.

The Opportunity To Hone Your Survival Skills

As you start learning new survival skills, you’ll naturally start gaining more confidence in your own self-reliance.

Each trip or expedition is a chance to test the limits of your skill and ability to survive in a remote wilderness and hone those skills that little bit further.

Like any other skillset you try to develop, practice makes perfect. The more you put your survival skills to the test, the greater they will become.

You will journey into the wilderness with survivalist camping but it will also be a journey of self-discovery and personal development.

The discoveries you make about yourself and nature will help you see the world and your place in it more clearly. It will be humbling but it will be an experience that helps you connect on a deeper level with both nature and yourself.

What Basic Skills Do You Need For Survivalist Camping?

knife in wood

So, as you have probably realized by now, survivalist camping is very definitely not for the complete beginner.

If you have never done anything like this or even camped before then definitely don’t try to run before you can walk.

Go ordinary camping a few times, try setting up a camp instead of using a tent, try catching your own food a few times.

These are the basic skills you need before you even start thinking about more complex specialist survival skills. But what are some of the other more complex skills you’re going to need to master? Examples include:

Finding and Purifying Water

You can go several weeks without food if you really have to but not much more than a few days without water, hence being able to find and purify water is arguably the most essential of any survival skill.

Never just assume water is pure, even if it looks that way. Untreated water can be full of pathogens and bacteria that can literally kill you.

An old and easy way to filter water is to use an old container along with an improvised strainer, like an old T-shirt, and some rocks and sand. Follow the five steps below to filter your water supplies as and when you find them:

  1. Cover the top of the container with the T-shirt, pulling it very tight so that it is effectively making the T-shirt more porous by pulling the fabric apart just that little bit more.
  2. Collect up a handful of rocks and sand from somewhere nearby.
  3. Build the rocks and sand up around and over the container.
  4. Let the water slowly drip through the layers of rocks and sand and filter into the container through the T-shirt.
  5. Finally, boil the collected water before use to rid it of any remaining impurities.

Making A Fire

If you go ordinary camping it’s quite acceptable to light a fire using a match or a lighter. Heck, if you want to you can even add some accelerant to really get the fire going.

That’s not really what survivalist camping is all about though, so you’re going to need to learn how to make a fire the old fashioned way for an authentic experience.

Make no mistake, a fire will be essential to your survival. Not only will it give you the chance to cook food and keep warm as the night temperatures fall, but it will also help keep away wild animals who want to eat you.

Sitting there rubbing two sticks together may look good in the movies but you’ll probably die of hyperthermia before you even see a spark in the real world.

The basic and most primitive way to start a fire is using a simple drilling technique.

You will need:

  • A dry plant stalk about 2ft long
  • Some dead wood
  • Some tinder such as dead grass, moss, or even bits of dry bark.


  1. Make a little hole in the piece of wood, just big enough for the tip of your plant stalk.
  2. Put the plant stalk in the hole, hold it then and build up a pile of tinder on the dead wood around the bottom of the stalk.
  3. Next start spinning the plant stalk between your palms as though you are trying to drill down into the wood. Heat will quickly start building up and you’ll soon see smoke.
  4. Blow on the smoke until you see the flames come to life.
  5. Don’t pack too much on the fire too quickly or you will risk suffocating it and having to repeat the drilling process all over again. Instead, build the fire slowly using small bits of tinder and dead wood at first and then larger pieces as the fire takes hold.

Building A Shelter

So, you’ve found somewhere to camp, you found a water supply and made an impromptu filter and you’ve started a fire. The next most important thing is shelter. You need to protect yourself from the elements, particularly in the wilderness.

Building a shelter is quite easy but it is time-consuming and so you should definitely start before sundown if at all possible and before any nasty weather sets in.

The type of shelter you build will very much depend on what resources you have available at your location.

Some survivalist campers take a small tarp with them to use as emergency shelter if they are not able to find suitable resources to build a shelter.

Some hardcore survivalists argue that a tarp is not directly from nature which is true, of course, but then neither are your clothes!

Shelter is absolutely crucial to your survival and should always be a priority because you never know when the weather is going to turn or some wild animal is going to sneak up on you.

Securing Food

The final skill you absolutely must master before going on a survivalist camping trip is being able to find food.

You need to eat to stay strong and maintain a decent level of energy to actually complete your adventure. You have several options:

  • Fish
  • Catch
  • Forage

Now, these might sound like easy options but remember, you’re only taking minimal supplies and no real equipment like fishing rods and traps to make your task easier.

1. Fishing Without Rods

It’s easy to forget that rods are a fairly recent invention. People were catching fish long before rods and hooks came along.

One easy way is to create a trap in some shallow water. You basically build a v-shaped trap out of sticks and rocks to catch fish swimming downstream.

There are many other traps and techniques you can use to catch fish without rods and most survivalist camping courses will teach you these as part of your basic skills training.

2. Catching Food

So, assuming you are going on your trip unarmed, if you want to catch your food, small animals and birds for example, you are going to have to learn not only how to build traps but also how to bait them.

You will also need to know how to then prepare your quarry for eating. Again, these are essential skills for survivalist camping and you really need to master them before setting out.

Talking about catching and killing food is one thing, actually doing it is quite another. It takes a reasonably strong constitution and is not something everyone is comfortable with.

3. Foraging For Food

For the vegetarians and vegans among us and those who just can’t stomach the thought of catching and killing their own food, perhaps, there is always foraging.

The most important skill with foraging is being able to identify edible plants. Some are, some are not. Some simply won’t digest and some will literally kill you.

It is worth researching which plants and foliage grow locally in the region where you will be camping and which of those are edible before you go. Again, foraging is a skill that gets easier with practice.

Navigating Without A Smartphone

survival skills

One other skill you will need if you are going for a walk-out is navigation skills. In fact, even if you’re staying at a base camp you may still need navigation skills if you intend wandering any real distance from camp, just in case you get lost.

In modern times we take GPS for granted. Your smartphone will tell you exactly where you are in the world to within a few feet and give you completely accurate directions to anywhere you want to go.

Clearly, you’re not going to be taking your smartphone with you on a survivalist camping trip, and for anyone who was thinking they would, perhaps you’re not really getting what survivalist camping is really all about!

So how do you navigate without a smartphone, especially if you are trying to find your way back to civilization? Simple, you need a map and a compass.

They are deceptively simple items but often more fiendish to use than your smartphone. In fact, there are several Youtube videos showing how to use them properly.

Make sure you definitely know how to use them, especially if you are on a walk-out trip.

Stay Alert and Have Fun

Hopefully, this article has helped you see that survivalist camping can be an amazing and fun adventure.

You don’t have to be extreme about it, you can take certain equipment and supplies with you to make things that little bit easier. However, even with the best equipment available, survivalist camping is not recommended for complete beginners.

Get some skill and experience first, then jump in. You’ll have the time of your life!

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Nathan Barker

My wife and I are huge adventure seekers! We've traveled and explored over 40 countries and want to share what we have learned on our journey. We'll be talking about everything from hiking and camping, to guides, reviews and tips that we're sure will help any avid adventurer no matter what walk of life. So relax, grab a cup of coffee and we hope you enjoy the read!