Great Survival Quotes

Below are a few wilderness survival (or survival-like) quotes that resonate with me personally.  Please be aware that some quotes won’t mean much or could be misinterpreted without the surrounding context from the author.  Therefore, they are NOT intended to be survival advice, although I am sure you will find many you will like and apply.  Lastly, there is no rationale to the order of the quotes…  simply enjoy!


“The man who goes afoot, prepared to camp anywhere and in any weather, is the most independent fellow on earth.” – HORACE KEPHART, Camping and Woodcraft, 1917

“… without the context, it’s just arts and crafts.” – STEVE WATTS

Every sentence in the Introduction (and most) of Northern Bushcraft (now Bushcraft) by MORS L. KOCHANSKI is a worthy quote.  Here are some others from KOCHANSKI…

“The axe is the most important bush tool there is.  Outside of fire, nothing may contribute to your comfort and leisure than a well chosen axe.” – MORS KOCHANSKI, Basic Safe Travel and Boreal Survival Handbook

“Next to knowing how to dress well, fire is one of the most important bush skills there are, because it is one of the few means available to make up most great deficiencies.” – MORS KOCHANSKI, Basic Safe Travel and Boreal Survival Handbook

“Fire may be the simplest and sometimes the only recourse in protecting yourself from the discomfort of cold, counteracting the effects of hypothermia, or in making up for inadequate clothing, bedding, or shelter.”  – MORS KOCHANSKI, Basic Safe Travel and Boreal Survival Handbook

“In cold weather a good rule is to light your fire first before doing anything else.  It is always more sensible to keep yourself warm rather than trying to thaw yourself out later.”  – MORS KOCHANSKI, Basic Safe Travel and Boreal Survival Handbook

“Some Native people suggest that one should test how cold the hands are by touching the thumb to the little finger of the same hand.  As soon as you cannot carry out this exercise you are reaching a dangerous state of incapacity and you should immediately take steps to warm up.” – MORS KOCHANSKI, Basic Safe Travel and Boreal Survival Handbook

“A well trained person needs only a knife to survive.”  – MORS KOCHANSKI, Survival in the Boreal Forest

“Your clothing is the most important survival tool you have.  Dress properly and any emergency you may have to endure becomes more manageable.”  – MORS KOCHANSKI, Basic Safe Travel and Boreal Survival Handbook

“The bush is neutral.  It is neither for nor against me.  My comfort depends on what I can do for myself and how much I know about using the bush materials around me.  Becoming angry, depressed or unhappy does little to help me in my situation.  I will try to think positive thoughts and find ways to be thankful for what I have.  When I am not sure of what to do I will stop, relax, and think out the situation before I act.  I realize moving about when I do not know where I am or where I am going will make it more difficult for others to find me.  My concern at this moment is to make myself comfortable for tonight.  I shall shelter myself from wind, rain, or snow and build a fire to warm up.  I will not let fear or panic rule my mind as this only works against me.  The bush is inert.  It is incapable of doing me harm.”  – MORS KOCHANSKI, Credo from Pocket Handbooks.

“The more you know, the less you have to carry.  The less you know, the more you have to carry.”  – MORS KOCHANSKI

“The quality of a survival kit is determined how much it can help you when you need to sleep.  If you can sleep well at night, you have it made.  It should also assist you in meeting your water needs.”  – MORS KOCHANSKI, Survival Kit Ideas pocketbook

“Survival is 100% mental because the mind controls the body, its actions and reasoning.  Since it is so powerful, we must understand and recognize the conscious level dangers and even consider some of the unusual functions of the subconscious mind.
The Bible says, “As he thinketh in his heart, so is he.”  The truth in those few words is evident every day.  If a man says he feels lousy – he will.  If a man says he feels great – chances are he will – all day.  The same applies to any given task.  If you think it will fizzle, it will.  If you are convinced you can do it, more often than not you will succeed.”  – GENE FEARSurviving The Unexpected Wilderness Emergency

“As a general rule, adopt the style of clothing which is most generally worn in the particular locality where you intend going.” – ELMER H. KREPS, Woodcraft

“Surviving a near death experience doesn’t make you a survivor. It makes you damn lucky! – Peter Kummerfeldt, Surviving a Wilderness Emergency

“If it’s COLD outside
– Reduce heat loss: get out of the wind, off the ground, and remove wet clothing.
– Put on dry, insulated clothing and seek or make shelter. Pay special attention to protecting your head, neck, and torso.
– Build a fire if necessary. Gather extra wood for the night.
– Drink your water (hot if possible with a few dissolved hard candies or sugar). Clear urine means your body has enough water.
– Eat high-energy foods (carbs) throughout the day.
– Get familiar with your area and “make camp” early before it gets dark.
– Rest and conserve your energy unless you are performing vital tasks or exercising to keep warm.
– Maintain a calm, positive attitude.
– Be prepared to signal rescuers at all times.”
CODY LUNDIN, Cliffs Notes from 98.6 Degrees, The Art of Keeping Your Ass Alive

“It it’s HOT outside
– Reduce heat gain: get out of the sun and off the hot ground.
– Protect your body with light-colored, loose-fitting clothing. Pay special attention to the head and neck.
– Wet your clothing if water is abundant.
– Don’t move around during the heat of the day.
– Drink your water! If water is plentiful, force yourself to drink until your pee is “clear.” Clear urine means your body is fully hydrated.
– Get familiar with your area early and “make camp” before it gets dark, even if you plan on moving during the night when it’s cooler.
– Rest and conserve your energy.
– Maintain a calm, positive attitude.
– Be prepared to signal rescuers at all times.”
– CODY LUNDIN, Cliffs Notes from 98.6 Degrees, The Art of Keeping Your Ass Alive

“Outdoor survival is maintaining this delicate heat balance and conserving enough energy to continue to produce the heat to maintain this optimum temperature.  Your greatest enemy, as you stand alone against hostile weather elements, will be anything that takes away or adds to this temperature.  A few degrees either way in body temperature and you become incapable of thinking or acting rationally.  –GENE FEARSurviving The Unexpected Wilderness Emergency

“A knifeless man is a lifeless man.” – NORDIC PROVERB

“…Many contemporary writers perpetuate the problem.  Much of the rubbish that is published in the popular outdoor magazines would never be published if the writer (or the editor) first went out and tested the procedures they write about.  Instead, they go to their bookshelf, remove a survival or woods lore book written a hundred years ago, extract from it some procedure used by Jim Bridger to build a fire present it once again as if the procedure is still valid today.  Sometimes it is but most often it is not!”  – PETER KUMMERFELDT, Surviving a Wilderness Emergency

“NATURE’S PRIORITY:  Take care of the brain first.  Then it will take care of you.” – GENE FEAR, Surviving The Unexpected Wilderness Emergency

“There are no experts in outdoor survival.  There are only students…”  – DAVE GANCIThe Basic Essentials of Desert Survival

“Attitude influences outcome. How you respond to situations frames not only how you see the world, but also how the world sees you.”  TIM SMITH, Jack Mountain Bushcraft School Blog

“Modern technology has released today’s man from many of the daily responsibilities that the pioneer shouldered, especially in the areas of warmth, shelter, judgement and safety.”   – GENE FEARSurviving The Unexpected Wilderness Emergency

“Survival is tough, but it’s tougher when you’re stupid!”   – PETER KUMMERFELDTSurviving a Wilderness Emergency

“Do you want to know the secret that will enable you to truly live off the land?  Become proficient at using deadfalls and snares and you will never go hungry.” – TONY NESTER, The Modern Hunter-Gatherer; A Practical Guide To Living Off The Land

“The effects of exposure to heat or cold are so unpredictable that they often sneak up on the unweary outdoorsman, sapping his energy reserves slowly but persistently.  This can turn a pleasant outing into a misadventure that could have been avoided had he recognized and heeded nature’s warnings…
…Almost every unpleasant outing is the result of many small incidents whose results have combined over a period of time.”  – GENE FEARSurviving The Unexpected Wilderness Emergency

“I believe these three little words, “I am just,” get more people into trouble than any other three little words I can think of!”  – PETER KUMMERFELDTSurviving a Wilderness Emergency

“Talk about survival must be hypothetical because each situation will be different, and every person will react differently.  You will be forced to live one hour at a time, trying to stay alive.”  – GENE FEARSurviving The Unexpected Wilderness Emergency

“The man with the knapsack is never lost. No matter whither he may stray, his food and shelter are right with him, and home is wherever he may choose to stop.” –HORACE KEPHARTCamping and Woodcraft, 1917

“The Philosophy of a Caveman
It is asserted from time to time that true survival is measured by a person’s capacity to stay put and prepared with a super pack of hauled-in safe-gaurds; that learning edible plants and trapping and hunting skills are not necessary since most lost persons are rescued within seventy-two hours anyway.  Without negating the wisdom of preparation and safegaurd, I would say that philosphy behind this modern dependency is still a dangerous one.  Because of confidence and practice, when one learns to live off the land entirely, being lost is no longer life-threatening.  Any manufactured item, such as a good knife or sleeping bag, then becomes a useful and appreciated luxury, but not a dire necessity!”  LARRY DEAN OLSEN, Outdoor Survival Skills

“The learning and practice of aboriginal skills can help us all get in touch with our own roots, no matter what our particular heritage may be (Asian, Australian, Native American, European, African, etc.).  Here in North America, we look to the Indian Peoples and the ancestors of these people to teach us the skills that are ‘native’ to this place.  Yet if we go back far enough into our own pasts, we discover that we are all aboriginal peoples at some time in some place.  The ‘stone age’ is the great common denominator of humanness.  Primitive’ (‘first’) skills are our shared inheritance.” – STEVE WATTS, Practicing Primitive, A Handbook of Aboriginal Skills

“There is but one way to learn to do a thing and that is to do it.”  DANIEL CARTER BEARD, The Field and Forest Handy Book

“…In other words, determine a starting point both physically and psychologically for what has to be quick ADAPTATION to the natural environment (some might call it ‘survival’).” – DAVE GANCI, The Basic Essentials of Desert Survival

“Pain anywhere in the body is an indicator that something is wrong at that particular point…  Only you can recognize that your body has a problem.  Only you can act to solve that problem.”  – GENE FEARSurviving The Unexpected Wilderness Emergency

“…meat!”  – JOHN & GERI McPHERSON, Naked Into The Wilderness; Primitive Wilderness Living & Survival Skills

“Be prepared not scared.” – Peter Kummerfeldt, Surviving a Wilderness Emergency

“The more survival skills an individual has that have been practiced physically and otherwise, the better odds they have for those skills coming to the forefront during a stressful emergency.”  – CODY LUNDIN, 98.6 Degrees, The Art of Keeping Your Ass Alive

“A man is skillful at woodraft just in proportion as he approaches this balance.  Knowing the wilderness can be comfortable when a less experienced man would endure hardship.  Conversely, if a man endures hardships where a woodsman could be comfortable, it argues not his toughness, but his ignorance or foolishness, which is exactly the case with our blatant friend of the drawing-room reputation.” – STEWARD EDWARD WHITE,  Camp and Trail

“Holy smoke!  We lost our last match and there’s a storm coming!
Party On!
A flash flood swept away all our gear and we’re twenty miles from the trailhead!
Party On!
My femur bone’s sticking through my skin and I’ve gotta cross that river!
Party On!”
– CODY LUNDIN98.6 Degrees, The Art of Keeping Your Ass Alive

“Before there was medicine, there was ‘wilderness medicine’…”  – BUCK TILTON, Wilderness First Responder Training Manual

“…knowing how to feed yourself in the wilds is empowering since it is not dependent on “the system.”  Hunting and gathering is also your birthrite as a member of the human race.  Somewhere in your heritage, your forebearers tracked, hunted, foraged, and lived fulltime with the natural world.  It is deep in our being.”  – TONY NESTERThe Modern Hunter-Gatherer; A Practical Guide To Living Off The Land

“The instinct to survive will never change, neither will the human body’s amazing ability to endure.” – JOHN ‘LOFTY’ WISEMAN, SAS Survival Handbook

“If you can’t make a fire, then your body heat is your fire! Protect it!” – BRIAN EMDIN, Survival Secrets

From Gene Fear's Surviving the Unexpected Wilderness Emergency.

From Gene Fear’s Surviving the Unexpected Wilderness Emergency.

“Every SURVIVAL KIT should contain the following items.
A means of instant body protection from the elements.
A means of instant energy to help sustain the body.
A means of carrying and heating water for internal warmth.”
– GENE FEARSurviving The Unexpected Wilderness Emergency

“Survival – in its fullest sense – is our most basic instinct.  It is not merely a topic for a junior college adult education course.  It is a way of life, a way of thinking, a way of living that enhances everything you do, and prepares you for whatever uncertainties of life may bring.  True survival is not narrowly selfish, greedy, racist, or hateful.  Following this “counterfeit survival” is ultimately counterproductive to our individual and group survival.  Real survival is expansive, giving , inclusive, and loving…”  – CHRISTOPHER NYERGES, How To Survive Anywhere

“Whoever coined the saying “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” must have been thinking about survival.” – BRIAN EMDIN, Survival Secrets

“I do not believe there is any such sixth sense.  A man with a good sense of direction is, to me, quite simply an able pathfinder – a natural navigator – somebody who can find his way by the use of the five senses (sight, hearing, taste, smell and touch – the senses he was born with) developed by the blessing of experience and the use of intelligence.  All that pathfinder needs is his senses and knowledge of how to interpret nature’s signs.”  HAROLD GATTY, Finding Your Way Without Map or Compass

“Ask any seasoned woodsman what single piece of equipment he would rather have if his choice was limited to one, and without a moment’s hesitation he will say his ax.  Even the novice can appreciate the importance of an ax to his comfort and possible his safety.  With it one can make a bed, build a lean-to (even a cabin, if necessary), cut firewood and make snares or deadfalls to secure food.  In the timber country the ax is King but no matter where your trail leads it is the one item of equipment which always should go with you.”  – LUIS M. HENDERSON, Campers’ Guide to Woodcraft and Outdoor Life

“You are never lost!  Mom and Dad, the house, the car maybe lost, but you are right here!”  WILLY WHITEFEATHER, Outdoor Survival Handbook for Kids

“For a man who is lost, the three greatest dangers in order of importance, are Fear, Cold, and Hunger.  He may endure extreme hunger for a week, and extreme cold for a day, but extreme fear may undo him an hour.  There is no way of guarding against this greatest danger except by assuring him that he is fortified against the other two.” – ERNEST THOMPSON SETON, The Book of Woodcraft (keep in mind this was published in 1930)

“Making fire by friction and other means is not easy, but when the skill has been mastered, the person acquiring the skill acquires greater knowledge of himself and greater confidence in his ability to overcome obstacles, both valuable characteristics in all avenues of life.”  – RICHARD GRAVES, Bushcraft

“A well-prepared outdoor enthusiast will be clothed and equipped to meet any reasonable contingency. Survival emergencies have an annoying habit of occurring when people have insufficient equipment and are wearing inadequate clothing. Many situations would not be classified as survival if the individuals were adequately clothed and equipped.”  – BRIAN EMDIN, Survival Secrets

“Give me a canvas wall tent with an air-tight woodstove, some cast iron cook-wear, the soft glow of an oil lamp, good food and great company, and I’ll stay out for as long as my wife will let me. With that scene in mind, let me remind you about what I said about technology – when you accept the axemaker’s gift, you give up knowledge. With all the umbilical impedimenta of the backpacker, you don’t need to know anything about the outdoors. In fact with today’s ethic, you are merely a tourist who is welcome to look, but don’t you dare touch. On the other hand, to manage a cherry-red stove under a covering of flammable plant fiber fabric, you need to know a few things. To cook a meal fit for a king over unpredictable coals in a cast iron pot, compared to pouring hot water into a foil pack of glop, a thorough working knowledge of hearth management helps.”  – DAVID WESCOTT, An Interview with Rabbitstick Main Man Dave Wescott 

About Christian Noble

Chris Noble is the founder of and Woodsmoke Camping Company. A Master Naturalist, he holds a Bachelor of Science in Forestry and has worked as a Registered Forester and Certified Burn Manager in several states. Chris is also a Wilderness First Responder and since the late 90’s has been “practicing primitive” skills and taking lessons from numerous Master Woodsmen throughout North America. An advocate for Conservation, teacher of Wilderness Living Skills, and happily married, he enjoys passing what he has learned thus far to others, especially his 2 children, Emerson and Duncan.

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