Should you ever find yourself in a tropical jungle, there is one indispensable natural material you can use—bamboo. Even in North America, you may be surprised to know that bamboo (or a cousin of it) can be found in the southeastern states. South America and countries with less temperate climes likewise are home to hardier species of bamboo. In fact, this tenacious grass (yes, it’s classified as a grass) can even be found as high as the Appalachian hills. Given its hardy nature and relative abundance, it’s worth knowing some survival applications for this versatile plant.
1. Bamboo Canteen
When in a survival situation with no means to carry water, you’ll need a makeshift water container. As a plant that’s impervious to water, bamboo is perfect for this.
Here’s how to make a bamboo canteen:
- Find the largest bamboo shoot you can, and cut a section of it; make sure that it’s not already split open, has holes or cracks of any kind.
- Make sure you cut beyond the horizontal “rings” or “nodes” – these are lines clearly defined on the outside of the bamboo sections.
- Using your survival knife, bore a small hole on the top.
- If the bamboo is dry and brown, the insides may have loose bits of membrane. Place 3 pebbles inside and shake the bamboo to remove dislodge the loose membrane. Fill the bamboo with water then drain it out.
- To make a “plug” for the hole; cut a small branch or stick just wide enough to fit.
- Get some rope, spruce roots or paracord and make a sling to make it easier to carry your bamboo canteen.
2. Bamboo Spear
Need a spear for hunting or self-defense? You can quickly make one out of bamboo in a pinch.
Just follow these simple steps:
- Cut out a long length of bamboo, at least 7 feet; its thickness should be such that it’s easy for you to grip. Bamboo with a diameter of 1½ inches should suffice.
- On one end, cut the tip at a 45-degree angle.
- Sharpen the edge as necessary.
While crude, bamboo spears are effective such that they were used by Indonesian resistance fighters against the Japanese imperial army in World War II, and are revered symbols of the country’s fight for independence.
3. Bamboo Stove
Thanks to its natural “compartments”, bamboo can supply you with an easy way to cook meat or fish, steam vegetables and root crops, and even cook rice. Using bamboo as a stove or rice cooker is still done in many Asian countries.
To cook or boil food, here’s how:
Cooking meat and other foodstuffs
- Cut out a length or just a segment of bamboo, one that comprises a “compartment”.
- Laying the bamboo horizontally, cut out a section in the middle. You can keep the bamboo you cut out as a cover, if you need to keep the heat in.
- Carefully scrape out the membrane.
- Place your raw meat, root crops, vegetables or other food items in the “bowl” you’ve hollowed out. If you can find or have any peppers or spices, add them to the food.
- Take a few large rocks and place them on the sides of a campfire.
- Position the bamboo over the campfire, lining it up such that the food cooks right over the flames. Watch the food so it doesn’t get burned to a crisp.
- As above, cut out a “bowl” from a section of bamboo.
- Fill it with water.
- Place the eggs on the bowl.
- Place the bamboo over a campfire, lining up the bowl with the flames.
- Remove the bamboo about 3 minutes after you see the water boil.
- On one end of a tube of bamboo, cut a hole onto the membrane.
- Fill the bamboo about ¾ of the way with rice.
- Fill the remaining space with clean water.
- Stand the bamboo tube close to a fire or surrounded by hot coals; wait 5-8 minutes before removing the bamboo from the fire.
4. Bamboo cups
By simply cutting a bamboo tube 5-6 inches from the node and hollowing it out a bit, you can have a multipurpose cup / bowl / coffee mug. As an added advantage, your bamboo cup is lighter and makes less noise than the equivalent ceramic or tin cup.
5. Bamboo Utensils
A single bamboo tube can yield several chopsticks. By simply splitting a bamboo tube, you can whittle yourself as many pairs as you need. If you aren’t adept at using them, you can make a spoon or spork instead.
- Split a bamboo tube.
- Carve and cut out a pair of 6-inch sticks. Ensure that one end of both sticks is thick enough to grip comfortably and withstand repeated use.
- From a split bamboo tube, “etch” out the shape of a spoon with your knife.
- Carve out the spoon; the bamboo’s curve provides a convenient concave face for the spoon’s “bowl”.
- If you want to combine two utensils in one, create a spork by cutting notches onto the leading edge of the spoon to save time and effort.
if you’re in a survival situation where it’s abundant, bamboo has many practical uses. More than just material for making a shelter, bamboo can be turned into cookware and dinnerware and even weapons. Best of all, it’s natural, sturdy, and nothing goes to waste; even the shavings make excellent tinder. Even if SHTF, you’ll do fine with your bushcraft knife, some hardy bamboo and the knowledge of what you can do with them.