TUUSK: The Ultimate Urban Survival Kit


The Ultimate Urban Survival Kit (TUUSK) is a project that we undertook with the team at Ready To Go Survival. We set out to build a bug out bag that was optimized for urban survival.

The Ultimate Urban Survival Kit will enable you to:

  • Breach doors, windows, walls, containers, and other manmade or natural obstacles in your way
  • Protect your hands, eyes, ears, and lungs from debris and dust
  • Defend yourself against unfriendly survivors
  • Perform basic first aid
  • Purify and carry water
  • Start a fire for warmth, cooking, or signaling
  • Communicate with your bug out team
  • Receive radio updates on the evolving disaster
  • Shelter yourself from the elements
  • Have survival supplies for at least 72 hours
  • Stay mobile all day long, if need be, as it weighs under 15 pounds
  • And much, much more

Together, we tested dozens of items to see what would be best suited to help us survive an urban disaster. This testing was carried out in real world conditions in the heart of New York City and left no doubt in our mind that the final TUUSK loadout is ideally suited to keep you surviving and moving towards safety when time is critical.

With the TUUSK, you’ll never get caught unprepared.

Visit ReadyToGoSurvival.com to order the TUUSK

TUUSK Packing List

For The Ultimate Urban Survival Kit, we combined our survival experience to create a kit that’s worthy of being in every city dwellers home or apartment. Here’s a rundown of the components.

The Full TUUSK Loadout.

One of the biggest challenges when building a custom bug out bag is making sure the survival gear you are choosing is reliable and tough enough to bet your life on. This is one of the primary questions we focused on when developing the TUUSK.

The Backpack

The backpack we chose for the TUUSK is a Rothco Medium Transport Pack that is perfectly suited for carrying our survival gear plus personal items like spare clothes and important documents. It is MOLLE compatible for easy customization and has 4 compartments of varying sizes for simple organization of our gear.

Also, the Medium Transport Pack is durable and well-built making it perfect to endure the harsh urban survival landscape.

rothco medium transport pack

Breaching and Self-Defense

Breaching is an essential asset in an urban survival scenario. We may need to force open a door, break a building or car window, or open a container full of essential supplies.

The concentrated population of an urban center also increases the possibility of having to discourage unfriendly advances from other survivors. Having a self-defense tool at hand is important to tip this sort of situation in your favor.

To help us accomplish this, we are including two dual-purpose tools in the TUUSK:

  • Ontario SPAX Tool – The SPAX is a highly versatile breaching tool that is perfectly suited for the urban environment and can double as a self-defense weapon. The SPAX still held an edge after being used to break cinder blocks, pierce sheet metal, chop wood, and break glass.
  • Smith & Wesson Extreme Ops Knife – The Extreme Ops is capable of easily slicing through light to medium materials using either its main blade or seat belt cutter. The knife also integrates a glass breaker for escape or search and rescue purposes. It’s lightweight and compact yet tough enough to function as a full-sized knife.

The Ultimate Urban Survival Kit


To enable us to keep warm, generate light, signal for help, boil water, cook, and more we are including the following fire starting tools in TUUSK:

The lighters should provide enough fuel to last for months and are a great barter item as well. In our testing the UCO Stormproof Matches kept lit after having water poured directly on them and having me blow as hard as I can onto the lit match. Even the most inexperienced urban dweller should have no problem getting a fire going with these tools at hand.

urban survival kit fire

Food & Water

To stay hydrated and keep moving while bugging out it is recommended that you consume between 2-3 liters of water per day, depending on levels of fitness and exertion. To meet this requirement, we are including gear to both carry and purify water in the TUUSK:

urban survival kit food water

Environmental Protection

The urban environment can quickly become hazardous and toxic in the aftermath of a disaster. To protect ourselves from all manner of environmental threats we are including a set of safety equipment in TUUSK including:

This gear is lightweight, compact, and easy to use. In our testing, we were able to pull it all out of the bag and have every item deployed in about 10 seconds.

environmental protection gear


Although the urban environment provides ample shelter opportunities, we wanted to equip ourselves with enough basic shelter building gear that we would be able to build a shelter from found materials, repair a partial shelter, and keep dry in the unlikely event that shelter could not be found in time.

To meet these needs we tested and debated a variety of shelter building materials. Ultimately, we settled on the items below. We felt that this set would give the most bang for the buck, as well as for their efficient weight and size:

urban survival kit shelter


Communication is a vital part of any survival situation. Keeping up to date with changing events allows us to make the best decision possible when life is on the line.

We chose the Eton FRX2 Emergency Radio to make sure we would always be kept in the loop as it is American Red Cross certified, powered by solar or hand crank, and can even charge your USB devices such as an iPhone.

In addition to getting communication from external sources, we also want to be able to communicate with each other and be able to signal rescue parties and other people we may encounter from afar, and we found that the Storm Emergency Whistle was perfectly suited to this task.

urban survival kit communications gear

First Aid

A survival kit isn’t complete without First Aid supplies. So, along with a traditional First Aid kit, we’ve included two additional supplies that will expand the kit’s scope.

urban survival kit first aid

Personal Tools

In addition to all the purpose-specific gear listed above, we also chose to include some basic tools that can make life easier when on the move.

  • Nebo 220 Lumen Redline LED Flashlight – Flashlights are an essential item for any bug out bag. This flashlight is bright enough to be used for signaling or to temporarily blind an aggressive person. Additionally, the 5 usage modes (high, medium, low, SOS, strobe) give the Redline the flexibility to be useful in any survival or emergency situation.
  • Gerber Compact Multi-Plier – A multitool with nearly limitless applications. The Compact Multi-Plier has all the basic tools one would expect from this type of tool including one-handed opening pliers, screwdrivers, a small blade, scissors, and a can opener. Again, every bug out bag should have a multitool of this style.
  • Folding Eating Utensils – This is one of those comfort items that remind you that you are a human being after a day of hiking under grueling conditions. The urban landscape should be filled with scavenging opportunities, and utensils will help us consume what we find.
  • 6 AA and 6 AAA batteries – The AAAs can be used as replacements on the Redline flashlight. The AAs can be used to power other personal devices. Batteries are also immensely valuable bartering items. No one wants to waste time in the aftermath of a disaster foraging for batteries. Pack a few extra and reap the benefits.

urban survival kit tools

Video Walkthrough of the TUUSK

From the very inception of the TUUSK project, we committed to testing all the gear instead of relying on YouTube reviews or speculation. We field tested the equipment in a real-world urban environment.

And what could be a better place for urban survival than in the heart of New York City?

I traveled to NYC to meet with Roman and Fabian, the founders of Ready To Go Survival to put the TUUSK to the test.

We met at an abandoned factory in Queens, slipped through the fence, and got to work.

For some highlights of the TUUSK items in action, check out this video:

Why Not Build the TUUSK Yourself?

You definitely can. I have shared all the information you need to build your own TUUSK.

However, if you are interested in maximizing your urban preparedness faster while saving money, buying an assembled kit guarantees:

  • Every item has been price matched against Amazon – you cannot get all this gear from ANYWHERE cheaper than here
  • The assembled kit will arrive much faster than buying everything individually
  • The bag will come packed and ready to go
  • The convenience of a quick and effective solution for urban survival

Ordering Your TUUSK

The TUUSK is now available for order directly from our friends at Ready To Go Survival.

With the TUUSK, you’ll never get caught unprepared.

Visit ReadyToGoSurvival.com to order the TUUSK


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The Best Emergency Lighting for a Power Outage


Do you know the emergency situation you are most likely to encounter?

It’s a power outage.

While power outages are highly likely to occur, many people are left unprepared when they happen. In a blackout, most people find themselves rummaging through their junk drawer, hoping to find a flashlight and praying the batteries still have a charge.

Anyone can prepare themselves for a blackout, and there’s no reason not to be prepared as it’s a situation most of us will be in several times throughout our lifetime.

In this article, you will learn:

  • The 9 best emergency lighting options for a power outage
  • The advantages and disadvantages of each method and which is best for you
  • Helpful tips for thriving when the lights go out

Preparing For A Power Outage

To properly prepare your family in the case of a power outage, incorporate the following tips into your survival planning:

  • Keep a light by every bed in your home. For battery-powered lights, check the batteries every 6 months (set a recurring reminder on your phone to do this right now!) and replace those that are weak.
  • Talk to your family about what to do if there is a blackout. Choose a room for everyone to meet during a blackout and ensure each family member has a light source in their bedroom and can use it correctly.
  • Store 1 week’s worth of water and non-perishable food in case of a long-term emergency situation. For proper water storage, I recommend using the WaterBrick.
  • Have a wind-up emergency radio on-hand to stay informed during an emergency and be aware of any progress authorities are making in getting the grid back online. Of special note, an emergency radio also makes a great backup light source, making it a valuable multitool. For more info, learn how to pick the best emergency radio.
  • Always make sure to have at least one backup light source as even the best-laid plans can go wrong in an emergency.
  • For more help on getting your home ready for the next blackout, check out our comprehensive article on power grid failure.

Emergency Lighting Options for Your Home During a Blackout

There are a plethora of options to choose from for lighting your home during a power outage, but which ones are the best?

Read on to learn about the 9 different methods for lighting your house during a blackout and the relative advantages and disadvantages of each.

1. Luci Solar Air Lantern

What It Is

The Luci Solar Air Lantern is a small, compact, lightweight lantern that reaches its full size when inflated with air and recharges via a built-in solar panel. I use the Luci Solar Air Lantern in my blackout kit as well as in my car and camping gear. In my opinion, this is by far the best lantern to use in a power outage.


  • Charges within only a few hours and has no need for batteries
  • The Luci Solar Air Lantern can hold its charge for up to 3 years and provide 12 hours of light
  • Can be flattened to only 1 inch tall and weighs less than a deck of cards – perfect for storage or carrying
  • For its small, compact size, it provides a lot of light due to its round shape, which evenly shines over 150 square feet
  • Offers 100% waterproof capabilities so no need to panic if exposed to accidental dunking or rain
  • Has 2 brightness settings as well as an emergency SOS flash option to make it useful for nearly any emergency situation
  • Offers good quality at an inexpensive price
  • Can also be used for the following:
    • Camping – ideal for a weekend away. Makes it easy to cook, read, or play cards when it’s dark. I just leave it hanging up for the whole trip, it charges during the day, and I turn it on after the sun goes down.
    • Car – perfect for changing a tire or checking under the hood at night. Additionally, it can be set to SOS mode to alert other drivers to your presence.
    • Bug Out Bag – weighing as much as a deck of cards and collapsing down to 1 inch high, this is a perfect lightweight addition to a bug out bag or any other pack that may need to be carried over long distances.
    • Fishing/Boating – as it is 100% waterproof and able to float, it makes a great boating companion. If you happen to find yourself in trouble on the water, especially at night, the SOS setting can be a lifesaver.


  • Doesn’t provide the spotlight or throw distance of a flashlight; better suited for general illumination of a room or work area.

2. Flashlight

What It Is

A flashlight is a small, handheld light. Most people have a flashlight at home. When choosing a flashlight for a blackout kit, my recommendation is to find one that has an LED light source (instead of an old style light bulb), and that takes standard alkaline batteries (no fancy, expensive lithium batteries).

Why Choose An LED Light?

  • The efficiency is much greater than that of an old style light bulb, giving you better value for your money
  • Tougher than traditional bulbs, can be dropped without the worry of shattering
  • Offers a longer lifetime – modern LEDs are rated to last 10,000+ hours, several years of continuous use

Why Choose A Light That Takes Regular Batteries?

  • Economical
  • Easier to find or scavenge in a long-term survival situation


  • Fits easily into a pocket
  • The sheer volume of available options makes it easy to find one that perfectly fits your budget and needs
  • Good for spotlighting – shining on a specific target from far away


  • Not ideal for general lighting purposes as they throw a concentrated beam
  • Batteries can sometimes make them heavy
  • Needs batteries to function! Flashlights tend to sit in a drawer for a long time before use, resulting in the power draining from the batteries and rendering the flashlight useless when you most need it
  • Batteries are expensive, especially if you are going to stockpile them for a long-term bug-in or shelter-in-place situation. I recommend using a cheaper, reusable option.

We recommend the J5 Hyper V LED Tactical Flashlight.

3. Headlamp

What It Is

A headlamp is a small LED light that is worn on your head. It is favored by campers and outdoorsmen as it provides hands-free lighting that is well-suited for many tasks and finding your way in the dark.


  • Offers hands-free working – no more holding a flashlight in your teeth as you work
  • Most modern models come with multiple brightness options to save battery power


  • Not ideal for general lighting tasks such as lighting up a room during a blackout (similar to flashlights)
  • It is difficult to have a conversation with someone while wearing a headlamp as you will be shining the light in their eyes when facing them. This has happened to me more times than I can count, I hated headlamps for a long time before coming to terms with their usefulness.

Click here to learn how to choose the best headlamp for your needs.

4. Oil Lantern

What It Is

An oil lantern is an old style storm lantern that burns lamp oil stored in its base. This method has been used for thousands of years, so you know it’s a solid method for lighting your home.  My parents had some of these in the basement when I was growing up and walking by them always made me feel like I was in an old movie.


  • No batteries needed
  • Simple moving parts that can be easily fixed
  • Long lasting
  • Can burn olive or citronella oil as an alternative to lamp oil


  • Major fire hazard; basically becomes a molotov cocktail when knocked over
  • Frequently made of glass and is therefore quite fragile and is a potential fire hazard
  • Need to store enough oil to keep it going as well as spare wicks

5. Propane Lantern

A propane lantern is a lamp element that sits on top of a small propane tank, which acts as both the base of the lamp and the fuel source. The old style Coleman Propane Lantern was a standard item for the Boy Scout trips of my youth.


  • Generates a lot of light for a long time
  • Provides adjustable brightness
  • Easy to use


  • Have to have propane tanks on hand that fit the lantern (because these tanks are a particular size and type, they are harder to scavenge than something like an AA battery or lamp oil)
  • Pose a minor fire hazard (not as much as an oil lamp but you are burning propane, which has the potential to be a problem)
  • Get very hot during use (something to be aware of if you have pets or children around)
  • Have to replace the mantel of the lantern regularly (another item that would be difficult to scavenge)

6. Emergency Candles

Another light source that has been around for thousands of years, candles are a lighting source that keeps things simple. When I was a kid, we used candles to light the house during blackouts and always had a large stockpile downstairs.



  • They are a fire hazard, and while no one wants to have to call the fire department, during a blackout you might not even be able to!
  • You will need a large quantity to light a large room or entire house, which means a lot of storage space
  • You will need even more candles if you are looking to provide light for a long-term shelter-in-place scenario, no thanks!

7. Battery Powered Lantern

What It Is

A battery powered lantern is a modern electric lantern that runs on regular old batteries. In the last couple years, a huge number of new styles have come out that have LEDs in place of old-style light bulbs.


  • There are many varieties of this lighting method available, making it easy to find one that suits your budget and performs exactly as needed
  • They usually take standard batteries, which are easier to scavenge than some of the other fuel sources mentioned
  • Very easy to use
  • Good for lighting a room or work area


  • The main difference between a battery powered lantern and something like the Luci Solar Air Lantern that I use is that a battery powered lantern needs a constant supply of new batteries
  • Batteries can be expensive, especially if you choose to stockpile them, and are one more thing you will need to scavenge for in a long-term blackout or shelter-in-place scenario

8. Wind Up Lights

A wind-up light is a small flashlight powered by a hand-cranked dynamo. A crank or lever, usually on the outside of the flashlight, is wound or pumped to generate electricity.


  • No need to stock up on batteries, you are the energy source!
  • Simple to use


  • Not ideal for long-term use as they need to be turned off to charge (this can also be tiring)
  • Ineffective at lighting up rooms or work areas as they are not that bright
  • Tend to break from overuse as there are lots of moving parts

9. Glowsticks

Glowsticks are plastic tubes filled with chemicals that glow when a small capsule is broken inside them, usually by bending the glowstick. Glowsticks typically glow green but can be purchased in a variety of colors.


  • Inexpensive
  • Lightweight
  • Works well for lighting up small spaces or places such as wells or manholes where you may not want to stick something you don’t want to lose
  • There is no fire hazard as they do not generate heat and there’s no worry of shattering
  • Can last up to 12 hours


  • They do not provide a lot of light
  • Once they are on, they remain lit until they burn out
  • Once burnt out, that’s it – no refilling or recharging

What I Use In My Blackout Kit

For my home blackout kit, my primary light source is the Luci Solar Air Lantern. I love the fact that I can charge it up and know that charge will hold for 3 years.

Then, when a blackout occurs, I will have 12 hours of lighting on-hand and can charge it up the next day.

Never needing batteries is a big thing to me. In a long-term emergency situation, not needing batteries means I won’t have to leave my family alone at home while I scavenge for batteries!

My backup light source is a Fenix HP25 Headlamp. I use this if I have to do maintenance on the house in tight quarters or need to light the way while walking at night.

For extra lighting, for yourself or other family members, a J5 Hyper V LED Tactical Flashlight can come in handy as well.

Lastly, I have several sets of emergency candles as the last line of defense. When properly used, candles can double as a can double as a heat source, so I see this a smart, multipurpose item to include.

Your Thoughts?

What do you use to light your home during blackouts? Is there anything you would suggest staying away from? Let me know in the Comments Section below, thanks!

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herbal medicine chest

Primitive Skills: Herbal Medicine Foraging & Uses

herbal medicine chest

One of the most important things to stock in your home and pack in your bug out bag is your first aid kit. One way to keep your first aid kit full when bugging out is to learn herbal medicine foraging skills so you can identify and harvest useful natural remedies as you move.  A person’s health is, after all, essential to survival and should always be a top priority no matter what the situation is.

In this article we are going to teach you how to find and use 12 life saving herbs that can be used to treat illnesses, alleviate pain, and give you energy. The best part is that ALL of them can be grown at home of found in the wild at little to no cost!

Learning From Our Grandparents

Way before our reliance on pharmaceutical products to help improve our health, our ancestors relied on herbs and other natural products to alleviate their illnesses.

Many people are already starting to build and grow their herbal medicine chests to create an at-home pharmacy. In addition to making sure that only ‘organic and chemical-free’ elements enter your body, another advantage to creating an at-home herbal medicine chest is that it ensures a constant supply of alternative medicine during emergencies.

How do you start herbal medicine foraging?

It will take years for one to master the science of medicinal herbs, so the best thing that one can do is just figure out what the are the most needed items (check out our list below to see what you may need).

Once you have done this it is time to start putting that knowledge into action!  Go out and try and find some of the herbs you think you may need in the future.  It is never too early to start building up a stockpile.

12 Basic Medicinal Herbs

To help you get started, here is a list of the most basic medicinal herbs including what they are used for and where they are found:

  1. Echinacea – A popular herb, also called as the coneflower, is the best in the list when it comes to fighting colds. What is even better is that aside from being a great plant for boosting one’s immune system, it is also a beautiful plant that can prettify your garden. These flowers naturally grow in Eastern and central North America, in moist to dry prairies and open wooded areas.

    herbal medicine chest

    Echinacea, also known as Coneflower

  2. Astragalus – When it comes to the Echinacea’s best partner in boosting the immune system, the Astragalus is on top of the list. Also, the herb also comes with antimicrobial and antibacterial properties essential in getting back to good health. For conditions related to colds and flu, diabetes, heart diseases and even side effects of chemotherapy, the root of the Astragalus can be used. It grows in the wild along the edges of woodlands, in thickets, open woods and grasslands and is hardy enough to survive a North American Winter, should you decide to plant it in your garden.

    herbal medicine chest

    Astragalus can help boost the immune system

  3. Licorice – Although it is super sweet, chewing on licorice root is the best remedy for a sore throat. You can create a tincture or decoction for this, or you can keep licorice ‘sticks’ handy in your herbal medicine chest. Licorice grows best warm climates in deep, rich sandy soil near a stream in full sun.

    herbal medicine chest

    Licorice is great for a sore throat

  4. Chamomile – Chamomile is the go-to herb for those with belly aches. It is also best made into tea and drank in the evenings, along with honey, because of its calming effects. Chamomile grows along fence lines, roadsides, and in sunny fields from Southern Canada to Northern U.S., the plant does not tolerate hot, dry climates.

    herbal medicine chest

    My Mother used to make me Chamomile when I had a stomach ache and I still use it!

  5. Wood Betony – This plant belongs to the mint family and is best used against stress and headaches. It is also great for covering up wounds to relieve it from soreness and inflammation. As you start growing your wood betony, make sure to protect them from harsh conditions and the wind and transfer it only to a herb garden once it has been established. Wood Betony typically grows in woodlands and in copses of trees, although it can occasionally be found in more open areas.

    herbal medicine chest

    Wood Betony can be used to cover a wound or treat a headache

  6. Calendula – This pretty little flower can be eaten and mixed with muffins. Yum! But, aside from filling your tummies, the Calendula is also used to soothe one’s skin. They are used to help heal and soothe rashes. You can make a salve out of it so you can easily grab it to use regularly. Calendula is also very mild even for kids to use. It can be found growing in the wild in open fields and prairies.

    herbal medicine foraging

    Calendula can help make a rash go away

  7. Feverfew – Just like the wood betony, feverfew is also great for headaches and can help dilate the blood vessels. You can take this one as a tincture or tea. Feverfew is commonly found along roadsides and along the borders of wooded areas.

    herbal medicine foraging

    Feverfew is great for headaches

  8. Elecampane – As a member of the sunflower and ragweed family, the Elecampane can grow as tall as five feet. Aside from stimulating the digestive system, it is also used to relieve congestion. Elecampane grows abundantly in pastures and along roadsides, preferring wet, rocky ground.

    herbal medicine foraging

    Elecampane can help with indigestion

  9. Horehound – Although horehound is among the best herbs for coughs, they are extremely bitter and will require lots of sugar – or honey – to make it easier to one’s taste. Horehound is a hardy plant that thrives in full sun and needs little moisture, it usually grows along roadsides, in disturbed areas, and in fields.

    herbal medicine foraging

    Horehound tastes bitter but is great for treating coughs

  10. Valerian – The root of this herb may not smell its best, but it works very well in a tincture or decoction for relaxation due to its sedative properties. Valerian likes moist soil and its native habitat is marshes and river banks.

    herbal medicine foraging

    Valerian has been used as a sedative for thousands of years

  11. Marshmallow – Nope, this is not the sugary stuff that we all love to roast in the campfire. In fact, this herb works as a mucilage to coat both the throat and stomach. It is also used for its anti-inflammatory properties. Marshmallow plants grow in sunny but cool climates on the edges of marshland and on grassy banks along lakes and rivers.

    herbal medicine foraging

    Marshmallow can help with a sore throat or stomach

  12. Comfrey – This herb, which is also known as bone knit, is great only for external wounds. It should never be taken in as it can be toxic to the liver. Simply mash the leaves and soak them in hot water for a few minutes then wrap the soaked leaves around the wounded area.

    Aside from this, comfrey is also recommended to be planted around fruit trees as it aids in pulling up calcium and minerals from the soil. Comfrey most commonly grows in in damp, grassy places. Although it likes damp soil it’s root is hardy enough to survive a minor drought.

herbal medicine foraging

Comfrey is great for healing wounds but should NEVER be ingested

How are these herbal medicines used?

Any of the medicinal plants listed above can be used to cure ailments in different ways, except for comfrey which should only be applied externally.

Method 1: Making A Tea

Among the most popular ways to use herbal medicines is to make them into a tea. To do this, one simply needs to create an infusion by boiling water and adding the leaves into it. Steep it for about 10 minutes (but going longer is okay as well), strain the herbs and use it as your drink all throughout the day.

Method 2: Making A Decoction

As for the roots and bark, one can create a decoction by adding a handful of the dried or fresh herb into a pot of water. Let it simmer after boiling then strain the herbs out. The decoction can be kept for a day inside the fridge but is best used within the day.

Method 3: Making A Tincture

To create tinctures, you can use alcohol to get the oils out from the herbs and preserve them. It is recommended to use dried herbs and enough vodka or brandy to soak it to about a quarter inch. Shake it every day for one month to eight weeks then strain and bottle. The regular dose of a tincture is about 30 drops for three times each day.

Herbal Medicine Foraging Conclusion

Growing, creating and using medicinal herbs can be a lot to take in but it can get easier once you get used to it. In time, your garden will not only make your house beautiful but will keep your family healthy as well.

If you don’t have a garden try going out in the woods and identifying (or even harvesting!) some of these herbs.  Herbal medicine foraging is a skill that pays dividends for the rest of your life once you learn it!​

Further Reading

Your Thoughts?

Do you have a natural or herbal medicine that you use? Do you think this is a good skill to add to our survival knowledge?  Do you have a herbal medicine foraging tip to share?  Let us know in the Comments Section below, thanks!

Author Bio

Lisa Farland is a writer at Happy to Survive – a blog that will help you thrive and survive, and offers articles about preparedness, and off-the-grid, self-reliant living. Lisa is an avid minimalist camper, prepper and survivalist.

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how to carve a wooden spoon and bowl

Bushcraft Skills: How To Carve A Wooden Spoon and Bowl

how to carve a wooden spoon and bowl

In a long-term survival situation, you may need to fashion your own cooking and eating tools from whatever is available. This article will give you a step-by-step tutorial on how to make a spoon and bowl from wood that you can scavenge or find.

The wooden bowl and spoon are a good starting point for making tools as well as a useful introduction to wood carving. Carving them will teach you the primary skills you need to implement when creating other useful utensils. I suggest you start off with this basic project and then expand from there based on your personal needs.

This is a great skill for people of all ages. Kids find whittling fun and adults often find it relaxing so let’s get started!

The Humble Spoon And Bowl

Wooden spoons and bowls were some of the first tools carved by our ancient ancestors thousands of years ago. They were valued for their ability to help prepare, cook, and eat food. In modern times, we have the advantage of having metal tools and a seemingly endless supply of wood carving and whittling resources online that help us perfect our craft.

Essentials Tools And Materials

Project 1: How To Carve A Wooden Spoon

Choose Your Wood

It helps to choose a block where the fibers in the wood run straight and parallel. Basswood and other soft woods are common choices as they are easy to use and allow you to make precise cuts without needing to apply a lot of force.

Flatten The Wood

Begin by taking your axe/hatchet and evening out one side of the wood. You’ll need to refrain from striking the wood. Instead make precise and controlled cuts with the grain. Following this, use your knife and continue making controlled push cuts until the grain is even enough to draw the outline of a spoon on the flat side of the wood.

A push cut is a whittling technique where the carver holds the object being carved in their off hand and the knife in their dominant hand while making strokes away from themselves to remove the desired amount of wood shavings from the block. In our case, it would be to make one side of the wood flat.

Draw Your Outline

Once you have the side flat, draw a rough outline of a spoon. Visualize how small or big you would like the spoon to be and make a rough sketch of it on to the wood. It doesn’t need to be nice and pretty, just obvious enough to give you a visual barrier throughout the guide.

Safety Note!

Whatever knife you use, make sure it is SHARP! Dull knives become extremely susceptible to accidents when carving since they are more prone to slip and cause you to lose control. Take care of your tools and they will take care of you!

Shaping The Handle

After drawing your rough outline, you will want to position the wood vertically with the handle side pointed downwards. You are going to be carving with the grain so start removing material downwards with your knife.

The goal here is to remove wood shavings along the edge where the handle and the head of the spoon meet. Aim to remove small portions of wood instead of hacking off chunks. This will leave you with a larger margin of error should you slip.

Carving is all about maintaining control of the knife, this is necessary for the item being carved and for the safety of the carver.

Do not carve on the drawing or against the grain. If you go against the grain it could very well split the wood and ruin it. Leave just enough space, about a 1/2 inch, between the edge of the wood and the outline of the spoon.

Take care of your tools and they will take care of you!

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Shaping The Spoon

Flip the spoon over so that the head of the spoon is now pointed down. Use your knife to make push cuts and thumb push cuts around the top part where the spoon head is located. Leave about an inch of space between the edge of the wood and the outline of the spoon. We will be drawing a line outside our previous rough drawing to determine the thickness of the edge.

Be careful carving end grain, this is where people are most likely to cut themselves. Stay mindful of where your hands are and how much tension you apply when making cuts.

Scooping The Spoon’s Bowl Out

With a hook knife, make controlled downward scoop cuts while pushing the blunt part of the hook blade with your thumb. Think of it as if you’re scooping ice cream from a bucket, at first you’ll need leverage from your other hand to get the initial scoops, and the further into the wood you get with the hook knife the easier it gets.

Eventually, the head of the spoon starts taking the shape of the hook knife. Afterwards, take a carving knife and do thumb push cuts to shave off the side material so it is flush with the outline.


Even out one of the sides flat enough to draw the spoon’s profile. Once the side profile outline is complete, carve off the excess material to finalize the shape of your spoon.


The final and most time consuming part is sanding down the project, which is to help create a more detailed and aesthetic finish to the final result. When you reach this step, ideally, you’ll use a low grit sandpaper, a medium grit, then a high grit.

I use a 400 grit to help get rid of all the uneven cuts, then an 800 grit to shape the spoon/bowl, and finally the 1200 grit to finish it all out so that it looks nice and clean.

Project 2: Making A Wooden Bowl

The steps in making a wooden bowl are quite similar to the steps explained for making the spoon. The tools we will use will be slightly different while the size and thickness of the piece of wood will be larger.

Generally when making a wooden bowl, as with the spoon, you start by selecting your wood. We can carve our bowl in any size or style we like, so choose a block that will match what you are going for.

Select The Right Wood Block and Tools

With enough time and dedication it is possible to make a wooden bowl out of nothing more than a straight carving knife, but that also requires more experience. I suggest starting out with the following tools:

Make A Rough Outline

The outline will be a guide as you remove bulk pieces from the wood during the first stage of carving. Use a tape measure to mark the desired thickness of the edge of the bowl, this will help maintain consistency all the way around. Once you attain measurements, draw an outline that connects all the marks into two concentric outlines. If you want a large bowl, then the lines should be about an inch apart.

how to carve a wooden bowl and spoon

Some advanced woodworking tools

Shape the inside of your bowl

With the adze tool, make downward cutting motions similar to when using a hatchet for removing large portions of wood. Don’t constantly cut one way, you will need to cut from opposite angles in order to evenly cut your bowl to a desired depth.

As you progress deeper, the cuts will need to be more precise to prevent from cutting too far.

Once you are happy with the depth you have carved, even out the inside as much as you can with the adze tool or a straight carving knife. Either work fine, but I prefer to switch over to a carving knife since it is more accurate, which makes this process easier.

Cut and carve the outside

Ensure that the wood is secured to your work surface and then begin to remove the outside wood carefully. You will be working towards the outline you drew on the top and the base of the bowl.

This carving should be done using push cuts with the carving knife. You can start off a little bit aggressive but make sure you rein it is as the outside of the bowl quickly starts to take shape. Ensure that you frequently check the thickness of the bottom and sides to keep things even. Make sure you do not punch through the wall of the bowl!


Again, one of the most time consuming steps, but necessary to remove all the uneven edges. You may use the same assembly of grits to sand it down that was mentioned for the spoon, moving from roughest to finest grit as you progress. A nice touch to add is melting beeswax and mineral oil together then lathering it over the wood brings a classic color to the final product.


As you can see, carving a spoon or bowl is a relatively easy task that does not require a lot of time, material, or money. People of all ages can master this skill, you never know when it may come in handy! I encourage you to give it a try and let me know how it goes. Good luck whittling!

Further Reading

woodworking projects

Click on the image to get access to 16,000 woodworking projects complete with step by step tutorials!

Your Thoughts?

Have you ever carved a tool out of wood? What was it? Do you have any wood carving tips or tricks that you would like to share? Let us know in the Comments Section below, thanks!

About The Author

Nathan Dobson operates a wood carving website that provides highest rated top quality recommendations for all things wood carving related. Includes reviews, how-to’s, wood carving guides, and everything else to help beginners start and veterans learn new techniques. Go to our website to see our top picks http://www.bestwoodcarvingtools.com/

Nathan began wood carving 6 years ago with just a basic pocket knife while camping. He ended up thoroughly enjoying the craft and learned everything he could about it. He’s come to learn various methods to carving wood while discovering the best techniques to give to those looking to start and even veterans like himself.

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Urban Vs Wilderness Bug Out Bag: Choosing The Right Gear

If you were born in the 70’s or earlier you probably remember when the term Bug Out Bag was virtually unknown. Nowadays at least three out of four people you meet in a social context are likely to be familiar with the term. It’s a sign of the times in which we live.

However, we don’t hear a lot about the concept of varying the items in one’s BOB depending on whether it’s an urban or rural environment the person will be dealing with. I won’t spend time going over all of the items one should have in his/her pack as I suspect this is well covered ground for most reading this article (CLICK HERE to make your custom bug out bag list & have it sent straight to your inbox!).

Whether one is in the city, countryside, or deep in the wilderness, much of the pack contents should be the same. Much, but not all.

Choosing The Right Tools For The Job

I have read advice about the best items to select for a BOB as if the general environment where it will be used is irrelevant. In my view this is akin to having a handyman show up to your home with only a small tool box without telling him whether it’s a plumbing or an electrical problem he will be addressing!

urban bug out bag

Having the right tools to survive can mean the difference between life and death! Choose wisely…

As a cop working in the greater Los Angeles area for over two decades, I’ve spent some time observing the kinds of scenarios typically encountered when things go awry in urban and suburban environments. Some were accidents, while others involved intentional violence. The point is that all of these events are likely to occur during and following a major disaster, with two major differences:

  1. The effects of these incidents will be exponentially larger, and
  2. Any resources available to respond to same will be overwhelmed, and possibly unavailable altogether.

Worse yet, in my opinion there is likely to be a synergistic effect if the scope of the disaster is severe enough to severely impact the infrastructure (including police response). Those who live their lives as predators (i.e., gang members and others) will in all likelihood become aware of the lack of first responders far more quickly than the rest of society, and will take full advantage early on.

I would like to be proven wrong, and perhaps I will, but don’t count on it.

urban bug out bag

A disaster doesn’t tell you when it is coming

Disaster Planning: Know Your Environment

Making a Bug Out Plan that is specific to your locality is vitally important. You want to include the intricacies and potential dangers that are local to where you are going to be operating.

Urban Disaster Planning

If one should find himself/herself in an urban environment after a catastrophic incident that essentially collapses the infrastructure, the primary objective should be to get out of the heavily populated area ASAP. This is one of the major differences between bugging out through an urban area and doing so in a rural location. Time is a much bigger consideration in the former. With this in mind, one should prepare so that he/she can:

  1. Be equipped to determine alternate routes while on the move (or at least with little time to make route changes).
  2. Have the means to defeat the varied physical obstacles potentially to be encountered.
  3. Have the tools capable of extricating one’s self or others from confinement due to structural collapse, vehicle collisions, or other situations more common in urban disasters.
  4. Be equipped to create large holes in interior walls to facilitate escape from threats present inside the building.
  5. If escape/avoidance is not possible, have an effective means to defend against violent attack.

wilderness survival kit

A wild fire can move incredibly fast and destroy EVERYTHING in its path

Rural Disaster Planning

Contrast the above with the typical priorities for a short duration rural or wilderness survival scenario, such as:

  1. Capability to process wood for starting and maintaining fire.
  2. Means to put together basic (short term) shelter.
  3. Less important, but worth mentioning, is the means to fashion additional crude tools (e.g., hunting devices) to aid in survival conditions should the scenario turn into a longer term one.

Urban (and Suburban) Pack Items


A map of the city where one works (as well as where one lives if not the same city) is imperative. Unlike as is often the case when traveling through rural or even wilderness locations, urban travel after a disaster can present fluid situations chock full of potential extreme danger requiring sudden and unexpected route changes. No matter one’s skill and/or type of weapons he/she may have, avoidance of conflict at virtually all costs is going to be the better option. And in the process of changing direction (perhaps multiple times as part of evasion), even the best of us can find ourselves disoriented. Pack a map! And have at least one (preferably two) reliable light sources to study the map during darkness. I have found that unlike when navigating through wilderness, a small inexpensive compass will suffice for city map work.

Map Reading Skills

Click on the image to brush up on your map reading skills


Downplayed Appearance

Unlike when hiking through wilderness locations, having/wearing high quality state-of- the-art gear while walking through heavily populated areas when the infrastructure is down is a mistake. Wearing the latest “tacticool” pack can be an equally big mistake.

Since two-legged predators will be aware of the increased opportunities the conditions have created for them, the less attention one invites, the better. I know from experience that many street smart bad guys have a surprisingly keen eye for quality gear, even when it comes to items they know almost nothing about.

Don’t advertise your cool gear if you can possibly help it. Wearing a pack is likely to draw at least some extra attention no matter what—this is largely unavoidable. But donning a pack that appears to be very used, or even dirty, is a better option than a brand new pack. And a “plain Jane” civilian pack is more likely to ride under the radar than a tactical pack. Ditto all of the above when considering the clothes you will wear during these conditions—especially shoes! Learn and practice your Gray Man/Woman Skills now to fly under the radar when a disaster strikes (Click HERE to learn how).

gray man theory

Click on the image to learn how to be a Gray Man or Woman

Large Knife VS. Tomahawk

On many occasions I have watched other first responders use a variety of tools when handling emergencies. I have also used some of these tools personally to gain entry into semi-fortified homes during the course of police work. Other than issued weapons (police) and medical equipment (fire department/paramedics) the tools used most often were those designed to defeat barriers typically encountered in cities (everything from car doors and windows to steel home security doors).

Although you might convince yourself you would not stop to help another in need if it delayed your bugging out from a dangerous environment, you really never know until faced with that scenario. Moreover, you just might need the means to get yourself out of a jam.

bushcraft tools

Each has its place…

With the growing threat of terrorism and active shooter incidents, being equipped to create a travel path (breaking out a hole to crawl through) between a building’s interior rooms is a reasonable preparation. There are many scenarios that could prompt the need to bug out through an urban area—a massive terrorism incident is certainly one of them.

I am trying to make the case for not including a large knife in favor of a rugged tomahawk. Never mind that many “experts” insist on having a large hard use survival knife in any and all BOBs. A person is better off with an affordable tough tomahawk for urban scenarios any day of the week. And a suitable “hawk” can be had for about half the price of any survival knife capable of doing other than traditional knife chores!


Estwing’s Black Eagle Tomahawk fits this bill. It is not very attractive, and the workmanship shows only minimal attention to finish and fine symmetry, but I can personally attest to the tool’s capability. I have used the spike end to break car window glass, punch through heavy steel mesh and car trunks, as well as breaking a six-inch diameter hole in a cement cinder block (I encountered no steel rebar however). I have also used this “hawk” to pry apart two-by-fours fastened with 16D nails. After all of this, the business ends of the hawk’s blade are still not much worse for wear (cosmetic damage only). Does anyone think any of the better quality survival knives out there could perform these tasks without causing damage, or even breaking, the blade?


I once watched a fellow patrol officer show off his $250.00 tanto bladed knife by punching through the steel door of a typical gym locker. Worked fine. He repeated the feat an hour later to show off his new knife to another observer. This time it significantly damaged the blade’s tip. He was so angry we couldn’t talk to him for over an hour. Knives simply are not meant to be used to defeat steel, concrete, or even glass! Check out our article on Picking The Best Tomahawk For Your Bug Out Bag HERE.

Best Tomahawk Survival Tomahawk

Click on the image above to learn how to pick the best tomahawk


I have no financial interest in Estwing, and there may be other equally well-performing hawks out there for a similar price (about $35 HERE on Amazon), but I have not found them. I have discovered far more expensive hawks but never purchased or tried them. And I have tried a couple of the lighter hawks sporting plastic handles, but found their performance lacking—seriously so! The only real downside to the Estwing is its weight. At 27 ounces it is admittedly heavy. The Becker BK2, a popular hard use survival knife, weighs about 10 ounces less, but the capability of the Estwing hawk makes it well worth these extra ounces in an urban environment.


I would feel adequately equipped If my urban BOB cutlery items were limited to a robust hawk and my multi tool (a must for any BOB, regardless of setting, check out our Guide for Picking The Best Multi Tool HERE). The former could handle any rough cutting tasks, while the latter’s small blade could deal with finer cutting chores.

If someone absolutely insisted on carrying another knife for more traditional cutlery chores, a Mora Kniv would fill the bill for about twenty dollars. And it’s doubtful the Mora’s extra 4 ounces (including sheath) would be noticed.


Finally, a hawk can be used for protection against a violent attack when all else fails. As for whether a hawk or a good knife would serve this purpose better…well, that really depends on the individual as well as the circumstances. After all, neither is the best tool for self-defense, for more reasons than one (a topic for another article). Let’s just leave it with the idea that a hawk can be used as an effective self-defense tool in a pinch.


Lightweight Wire Cutters

Being able to cut through standard chain link fence could prove to be the difference between escaping a very bad scenario and falling victim to one. I can conjure up a half dozen scenarios where a person might need to escape a threatening situation, seek shelter, or simply shave off valuable travel time by cutting through a fence.

Chain link fencing is ubiquitous in virtually any urban area. Unfortunately, I have found multi tools fall short of being capable of cutting chain link in a reasonable manner of time and effort. Find the smallest/lightest tool capable of cutting chain link in one clipping action (Tekton makes a good pair, see them HERE). Bending or sawing through wire takes too long under most scenarios that would warrant cutting fencing in the first place.

Rural / Wilderness Pack Items

Knife vs Tomahawk vs Hatchet

You’re probably asking, “Didn’t he just cover this issue?” I did—for the urban setting. However, after spending a good deal of time in the wilderness (including several nights without a tent), both recreationally and as a search & rescue volunteer in the California Sierras, I prefer a good large knife in any environment other than an urban/suburban one.

wilderness survival kit

Surviving in the wilderness doesn’t have to be hard…IF you have the right tools and skills.

Hundreds of years ago, the tomahawk’s philosophy of use was multi-faceted. Only one of these intended functions involved the processing of wood for structure building or building fire. The hatchet (hand axe), on the other hand, was designed for one purpose only—processing wood. As one could predict, the hatchet proved to outperform the tomahawk for wood processing, while the hawks performed better as weapons. I have tried many a “woods hawk” over the years, but in the end I have found quality hatchets of similar weight simply do better with wood chores.

Given the points made in the “Disaster Planning” section of this article, the hatchet gets the nod over the tomahawk for a rural BOB.

All of the above notwithstanding, I prefer a large survival knife to a hatchet for my rural BOB. The hatchet will almost always out chop a knife of similar weight, but this isn’t the end of the story. When it comes to cutting wood a small lightweight folding saw offers a better choice than a tool that chops the wood to the desired length. But the primary element of fire wood preparation involves splitting the pieces for fire building.


A quality knife with a 7 to 9 inch blade can be used very effectively to split wood using the “batoning” technique. And in my opinion it is a safer means of splitting wood than swinging a hatchet to accomplish the task. When “batoning”, only the piece of wood used to strike the knife spine is being swung through the air. The odds of a catastrophic accident are greater when using the hatchet for the job. This can be ever more the case when working in cold climates outdoors. As for the argument that “batoning” to split wood constitutes abuse of the blade, I call B.S. I have split at least a cord of wood over the years with my Ontario SP50, and other than destroying the black blade coating, the knife is still in great working shape. Check out this video to see how batoning works:

I know there are many (far more than hawks that can compete with the Estwing) quality large survival knives that can also perform well when it comes to wood prep. I would, however, urge anyone selecting a fixed blade knife for his/her wilderness BOB to go with a seven inch blade or larger. This makes splitting wood of three inches or larger diameter much easier than using a shorter blade. To see our comprehensive guide on choosing a fixed blade CLICK HERE NOW.



When travelling through areas where there are no street signs, or even no streets, a higher quality compass becomes very important. Land navigation where there are no streets is a skill that demands time and effort to learn. Knowing how to navigate through these types of surroundings using a topographical map is not for the novice! If at all possible, stay on a road, or at least keep the road in sight. In any case, a rural BOB should always include a high quality compass.

Fire Starting Kit

This should be a “no brainer”. When bugging out through an urban setting under circumstances where you might have to spend some resting hours in the dark, it might or might not be advisable to make a fire. Fire attracts the urban predators, while it tends to repel the four legged type.

survival after bugging out

Furthermore, having a fire in a location where there is no man made shelter available is uniquely important. In addition to heat and minimal light, it is well documented that a small fire can provide a significant psychological boost for the solo survivor/traveler.

Having established the greater importance of being able to create fire in a rural setting, ensuring one has the ability to do so becomes paramount. Having multiple means to create fire is a must for the rural/wilderness pack:

everstryke pro review

Don’t forget to Include a few petroleum jelly soaked cotton balls as well. They will ignite with a decent spark (paper and many other tinders requires actual flame) and continue to burn for several minutes. If you want to learn 6 ways to start a fire WITHOUT matches, CLICK HERE.

Steel Water Bottle

Any BOB will include a container to carry water (I’m assuming this goes without saying), so why not have one that can also be used to heat or boil water? A single walled stainless steel water bottle like the Klean Kanteen (or similar design) products can be placed over open flame or coals to heat water.

Boiling water is a dependable way to kill any pathogens (chemical contamination is another issue). I once used a heated steel water bottle as an improvised hot water bottle to ward off hypothermia in a snow cave. Not sure if it was literally a lifesaver, but I was sure glad to have it. Make sure to remove the cap before heating water to avoid a pressure build-up and the subsequent likely explosion.


My experience has convinced me that for urban applications, escaping the locality as fast as possible should be the key objective in a SHTF scenario. Sheltering in place, even for a short time is likely to be catastrophic. In my view a robust tomahawk, coupled with a good multitool and small wire cutters, is close to the perfect set of BOB tools—but this could be surpassed with a new invention at any time.


For rural/wilderness environments, night travel is far less desirable and sheltering through the night(s) becomes a priority. Creating fire and crude shelter is paramount for the wilderness trekker under any circumstances. For this application, a large survival knife becomes the tool of choice, edging out both the tomahawk and hatchet in the versatility and safety categories.

The very fact that those reading this article have probably already put together a bug-out bag at all places them way ahead of most. Having a readily accessible BOB, even if not perfectly constituted, is 90 percent of the game in itself. However, it’s still a good idea to evaluate equipment choices every so often, keeping a philosophy of use mindset while doing so.

If you are ready to build your custom Bug out Bag List, click on the button above now.

Further Reading

For more info on this topic you can check out these articles:

Your Thoughts?

Do you have an item that is a “must have” for your urban or rural bug out bag? Can you think of any other big differences between what you would pack for these scenarios? Let us know in the Comments Section below, thanks!

About The Author

Frank LaFlamme spent almost a quarter century in law enforcement in the Los Angeles area serving for three local agencies as well as an assignment with the DEA Los Angeles office. His assignments included uniformed patrol in one of the most violent areas in California, narcotics investigation, gang enforcement, robbery and homicide investigation, high risk warrant service, and a terrorism liaison officer position. Upon retiring, Frank volunteered as a Search & Rescue “ground pounder” with a sheriff’s department in the Sierra Nevada Mountains near Yosemite National Park. Additionally, he started a small disaster preparedness consulting business called F& D Consulting. In 2014 he published a novel titled EMP Los Angeles (an Amazon best seller for a while, CLICK HERE to see it), a raw and gritty cautionary tale of a post EMP attack Los Angeles.

EMP Los Angeles

Click on the book to go check it out on Amazon!


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