PLAN Your Skills for Survival

PLAN Your Skills for Survival

Using bushcraft skills as part of modern-day outdoor life. Lighthing a fire at a camp during a canoe trip in Ontario. Photo: Amanda Quaine.

In the past our forebears used bushcraft in a way that allowed them to live very close to the land, much closer than you or I do today.  These days many of us are heading to wild places equipped with a combination of bushcraft skills and modern equipment.  In this way, we use our bushcraft skills as part of our modern-day outdoor life.  Many of us also recognize that bushcraft skills would be very useful should a survival situation occur in a wilderness setting.

If you are serious about being able to employ your bushcraft skills efficiently in a survival situation, it’s necessary to think about your bushcraft skills in very objective and practical terms.  A suitable framework for your skills in this context is the way that military survival is often taught.

According to this doctrine, in a survival situation you should address your needs, which are protection, location, acquisition, navigation and medical.  This can be remembered using the acronym PLAN-M

Protection means protection from the environment by employing your clothing correctly, finding or building shelter, and lighting fire;

Location means being seen and being able to signal;

Acquisition means getting hold of sustenance – water and food – as well as other resources.  This may mean making tools or sourcing materials to fix your equipment;

Navigation by whatever means are available;

Medical treatment, using your first-aid knowledge in combination with available materials.

Using PLAN-M as a checklist of skills, you can easily conclude that for an environment you are preparing to travel to or through, you should be able to do the following:

– Understand the environmental hazards and how to dress correctly;

– Light a fire;

– Construct a shelter;

– Signal for help;

– Find and purify water;

– Find food (plant, fungi, animal); 

– Make tools;

– Navigate the terrain, by natural means as well as modern;

– Perform first aid, both general and for specifics of the environment;

In common with our ancestors, skill and knowledge are more important than equipment.  These can be carried with you wherever you go.  In a survival situation, you should treat any piece of equipment you have as a bonus. Be positive about what you have. 

A positive mental attitude and an unwillingness to give up are, above all else, the most important qualities of survivors. 

Some bushcraft skills can take many years to master, yet only a few hours of survival training have saved lives.  Hence, you shouldn’t concentrate on one area of bushcraft to the exclusion of others.  You should have a solid grounding in all the fundamental building blocks of the subject.  You will no doubt find having such a rounded knowledge rewarding in itself.  It also means you are less likely to have a weak link in your skill-set if you really do need to rely on your skills for survival. 

Remember PLAN-M.  Before heading out, get some first aid training and PLAN your skills for survival.

Related Articles on Paul Kirtley’s Blog:

STOP What you are Doing!

How to Build a Survival Kit on Bushcraft Principles

Essential Wilderness Equipment – 7 Items I Never Leave Home Without.

Creeping Death – Hypothermia and How to Avoid it

Recommended Books for Further Reading:


6 thoughts on “PLAN Your Skills for Survival

  1. I have to say that for the last few hours i have been hooked by the amazing articles on this blog. Keep up the great work.

  2. Thank You! some great Video’s n text!Has taught/reminded an old dog of a few new tricks!
    Do wish that pop up advertiing your 20 free videos.didnt pop up every time one changes
    screen!especially as I have already subscribed.
    Heading for the Forrests of Croatia,(Papuk Area)Hunting wild boar,an living the “good life”haha,on weds!
    Best wishes to you n yours for xmas.Michael

    1. Hi Michael,

      Thanks for your message and your kind words. Glad you’ve found some nuggets on my site 🙂

      Croatia sounds like an adventure. Enjoy!

      I’ll look into the pop-up settings…

      Warm regards,


      1. Michael… OK, I’ve looked into the pop-up settings.

        You should only be seeing the pop over on the articles every 10 days maximum.

        That said, if you do not have cookies enabled or are continually changing your IP address, this site will treat you like a new visitor (because as far as it knows you are one) and show you the pop-over.

        I hope this helps…

        Warm regards,


        1. Thanks Paul it seems to have sorted its self out.
          Best Wishes.Michael

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