Conserving resources is always a good idea but it is especially important in a survival situation. When you enter into survival mode, you recognize (or should) that what you have with you at the time is all you have available for equipment. Therefore, you want to be able to stretch those perhaps meager supplies for as long as possible, just in case what you hope will be just a single night out in the wild turns into several days or more.
Many of us have rather elaborate fire kits, don’t we? In particular, we carry several different types of ready-to-light tinder, such as Wet Fire, Instafire, or perhaps our own homemade concoctions. These are all resources that should be saved until they are truly needed. Instead of reaching for one of your egg carton tinder packages, use plant fluff, chaga fungus, or some other natural material you’ve scavenged. Only turn to the manmade stuff in your kit when you have no other option.
When you’re out on the trail, keep an eye out for good sources of natural tinder. Grab some here and there and place it into a plastic bag (you do keep some empty Ziploc bags in your kit, right?). This way, you’re not expending extra energy just searching for tinder, plus you’re conserving your manmade stuff for another time.
By the same token, while I certainly carry a supply of strike anywhere matches with me, I also have a butane lighter as well as a ferro rod. The matches are strictly for backup. I tend to use the ferro rod more often than any other method of fire lighting, including the butane lighter.
Much like fire making, rely on natural fuels rather than manmade ones when cooking the evening meal. Granted, in a true survival situation you might not be doing much cooking to begin with but it can be a morale boost to sit down and have a hot meal at the end of a stressful day. In any event, rather than lighting up your JetBoil, use the coals from a small campfire. Conserve your fuel for times when you’re unable to get a fire going for some reason.
A good knife is a necessity in any survival kit. We all know this, right? However, be judicious, even perhaps outright stingy, with its use. Why? Every time you cut, carve, or whittle with the knife, you dull the blade a bit. If it is a good quality knife, it will take some time before that dulling will become noticeable, but it still happens. While a pocket sharpener is a great addition to a kit, you should still limit your use of the knife and other tools to occasions when they are truly necessary. For example, rather than chopping through a branch to make it smaller for the fire, wedge it between two standing trees and push or pull to snap it. Or, just lay it on the fire and let it burn through. Refrain from snapping it over your knee, though, to avoid the possibility of injury.
Remember, a dull blade is far more dangerous than a sharp one. Keep yours as sharp as possible for as long as possible.
At the least, many of us have things like hard candy, roasted nuts, dried fruit, and the like in our pockets or our kits when we hit the trail. Being able to positively identify at least a few wild edibles can extend that small food supply quite a bit. I would not suggest you plan on subsisting completely on wild foods, of course, as one never knows exactly how the situation might unfold. I look at it like this – just because you know how to start a fire with a bow drill doesn’t mean you really want to rely on just that one method for lighting all of your fires, right? Same here. Just because you know how to obtain food in the wild doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have some vittles with you when you start your trip. That said, knowing a few plants that are nutritious and filling will allow your one day supply of trail mix to extend well beyond.
This isn’t difficult stuff, you just need to get into the right frame of mind. These are habits you’d do well to adopt in your routine excursions outdoors so that they are second-nature should you end up entering survival mode for a time.