Sometimes the Best Tools are Your Hands
We've made it to 2023 and it's already off to a great start. Our fingers are crossed that there won't be any unforeseen disasters in your immediate future, but if one should arise, we hope you'll be equipped and prepared. However, if you find yourself alone in a survival situation with no real tools, there are always options. There are many timeless skills handed down by generations which could be very useful if the only tools you've got are your head and your hands.
Topography has been a skill since Ancient Greece which involves having a concept for the lay of the land, and to have an educated grasp on the terrain that surrounds you. This age-old ability also gives you info on areas that are sloping, with low laying spots that might have water, or to which areas are riddled with rough spots vs the paths with least resistance in your area & survival situation.
Of course, the more familiar you are with your surroundings the better, and that includes staying ahead of the weather and keeping any surprise climate changes in mind. Having important landmarks stored in a mental rolodex is incredibly helpful, as there have been numerous studies on the effectiveness of memorizing landmarks vs. street signs, for example. It's a very classic way to keep your bearings on your way to, or from an emergency.
The sky is has offered its tell-tale signs of time and by default the weather, and atmosphere that keeps life as we know it breathing and communicating. The sky has also been our reference for annual, monthly, or daily calendars and astrological guidance since the dawn of time. Stonehenge is a perfect example of one the most famous ancient time pieces.
Knowing the Sun sets in the West and rises in the East is a valuable start to having basic bearings for your standard Compass readings. You can also follow the Moon if it's visible, but there are rules. If the Moon rose before the Sunset then the light of the Moon faces West. Or, if the Moon rose after midnight - the lit side will be facing East, etc...
Of course, being without tools, you may find yourself without a compass. In that case - if you're lucky enough to have a paper-clip, safety pin, or needle, you can create a make-shift compass. Find a small body of water in a cup or puddle, and you can place a needle on a leaf to float. Just magnetize the metal, hopefully with a knife, if you indeed were lucky enough to have one on this trip!
Hunting in a survival situation is one scenario that hopefully won't come up too often, as it can be difficult without creature comforts or weapons that we're so accustomed to. Even the case of going one with nature, one still has to keep in mind the laws and legal ramifications of hunting without a license regardless of where you end up.
But, if you find yourself in a lonely quarrel or stuck between a rock and a tree you can always attempt to fashion a spear. And of course, if you're already getting rocks shaven down; then crafting a blade shape flint is a bonus. Rocks make for pretty effective hunting weapons for smashing, or throwing just the same, and can be used in sling shots, or a Bola, armed with multiple rocks and whatever cord-like material you can find.
Likely the most primitive and in very short supply of any tools, there are always the classic traps to be made. Traps like a Pitfall and a Deadfall, which is basically a sink-hole, and sometimes armed with sharp spikes at the bottom of the trap. It's like Rambo, but with Wild Rabbits...
When it comes to notion of fishing by using whatever means necessary, this is where the lines of reality vs utility starts to blur. Of course, as with hunting, if you decide to practice these ideas or even in a real survival situation, your area laws are still valid regardless of the situation.
That being said, fishing is essentially the same goal and you may have to think outside the tackle-box. So, basic elements of a hook can be used with a paper-clip, needle, or even fashioned from wood if you have a knife. Of course, if you have a knife, you're in good shape and you can fashion a spear as well.
You can fashion a makeshift fishing net by using your shirt, and there are several time honored methods where you stand in the nearest channel of activity, and with enough patience you can snag your dinner by using your bare hands.
Being able to craft a shelter with plenty of tools or camping equipment, but what happens if you're stuck with nothing but the forest and its own physical offerings available to use? Well, larger branches will clearly need to work as posts, and leaves of course as a covering or cushion to separate, or bury you a bit just under the surface of the ground.
If you aren't quite able to make tools or might be lacking in that moment - finding the right size and type of rocks could always help to attempt at crafting a flint or a makeshift blade. If you're out of paracord, or shoelaces; you can try to rip and tear plant fibers from certain trees, branches, leaves, etc. this can be used to make cordage, or to wrap or tie-down some much needed shelter and warmth.
If you're in a zone that's fairly nearby or local for you, some background knowledge with foraging is always useful, and here's another opportunity where Topography would cross over as well. Besides the obvious benefits of being able to find food but to know which plants are poisonous, but it also helps identify which species of plants that may be antiseptic, or hydrating, or having a myriad of risks as well.
With some wild edibles, you can eat certain parts of any given plant safely, while other parts of the very same plant are toxic. It's useful to have some knowledge of these biological blueprints to identify the anatomy of what you can and can't eat. And it is wise to keep a well documented journal as you learn the land in your area.
Depending on what kind of tools you're missing - fire can always be started with friction, by rubbing wood together with a Bow type method or the Hand-Drill method. There's always flint with rocks and hopefully you've got dry tinder to catch the spark, or if you have anything else flammable, like certain clothes, this would help too.
There's also the magnification method if indeed you find yourself with a magnifying lens - you can employ the "ant-burning" method to hopefully focus some sunlight into a fire!
No matter where you end up in a survival situation - finding water, or preparing the water so it's safe to drink are two things to keep in mind. Whether you find yourself in a battle for hydration in a dry or desert like setting, or a lush forest with running streams; there a few places to start on your search for water either way.
One typical method is the luck of getting rainwater and being able to capture it. If you end up finding some type of plastic cup, or container, it could come in handy for water down the road. If you do have streams, it's always best to find the least stagnant and running fresh waves upstream if possible.
Hopefully you have some means of fire to boil water, if you indeed do not have a straw filter, or filtered water bottle ahead of time.
In a real dry and heavy situation - this would be when you might look at digging an underground sill. This would be a pretty extreme maneuver, so it's something to look into and research on best practices and methods here. A sill is essentially a hole that you dig in a well lit area, and cover in a thin sheet of plastic or a tarp. The trick is to capture the heat from the sun, and the moisture and heat underneath creates condensation that you can collect and drink. Again, this would be an advanced move but something to look into!
Be Cool -
This one of course, is one of the most important. If you find yourself in isolation, with no tools but your intuition, motor skills and sensibilities - just remember how powerful of a tool the mind actually is. In a survival event, stay positive and stay calm, because your mind could be the thing that makes you or breaks you - so keep your head up!