4 Campsite Tools for Self Defense

The last thing you want to worry about if the grid goes down is an intruder looking to rob or hurt you. Unfortunately, if things get really tough, this can become a reality.

Weapons are sometimes overlooked as an essential survival item, and there are plenty of options. Of course, a primary source of personal protection is firearms. Whether you’re firing warning shots to keep possible looters from ransacking your goods or using your ammo for hunting game for food in rural areas, rifles, pistols and plenty of ammo are indispensable.

But, as time passes and your bullet count dwindles, you’ll need other options for personal defense. Explore the options below and decide what fits your needs, then “arm” up.




The walking stick is an extremely valuable aid for traveling on uneven terrain. It can assist with your balance and stability when you become fatigued from walking long distances. It can also provide you with great stand-off defense against a single enemy with a weapon, multiple attackers or even wild animals that you may encounter near your camp.

Ranging from 4.5 to 6.5 feet long, a hardwood staff can be used to strike an attacker’s head with quick follow-up strikes to his groin, ribs and weapon hand. It is especially useful when attacking low on your assailant’s body, enabling you to “destroy his foundation” and take him down hard. An accurate strike to his sciatic nerve (a very large and sensitive nerve running downward from the waist line to the ankle) on the outer side of his thigh will cause his leg to become numb and unable to support his own weight.

Always try to utilize both ends of the staff when in a confrontation: Think of the staff as having no distinct “handle” or “tip.” Both ends are made for striking, as well as using the “butt” to ram into your enemy’s face or belly.



The machete is one of the most useful tools to help clear dangling vines and brush as you walk through areas of thick vegetation. Measuring in at nearly two feet of sharpened steel, the machete can slice cleanly through most debris, making it a formidable and intimidating mid-range weapon.

During training, avoid making large overhead or wide-arcing strikes. This will leave your body—or, more specifically, your vital areas—exposed to an assailant’s attack, which could result in stab or blunt-force wounds to your neck, abdomen or facial area. Instead, keep your strong arm (holding the machete, of course) in front of your body at all times, and make short, quick slashes at your opponent’s nearest extremities. This will keep a barrier between you and your attacker at all times and allow you more precise and directed hits.

Your free hand should always stay close to your face/upper-chest area to deflect any strike from your enemy that may get through your defense.




Whether you have a stocky hatchet or a slightly lighter and more balanced tomahawk hanging from your backpack, either one will be extremely useful in close-quarter combat situations.

Though variations do exist, the head on most models will have one bladed side as well as a blunt or flat side, the exception being hatchets that have pointed spikes, double blades or even others with a hammer-shaped head. This weapon is used when your attacker bypasses your long- and mid-range weapons and comes in for a kill or knockout blow. The severity of the situation will determine how you attack with your tomahawk—is it a life-or-death situation or do you just have to slow down or incapacitate the person attacking you? A quick roll of the handle in your hand can change the attack from maim to kill within a fraction of a second. It is up to you to decide what needs to be done.

Follow the same philosophy, as mentioned earlier, and always keep the weapon in front of you. Drawing your arm back will expose yourself to possible injury from a counter attack. Then, use precise hits and slashes, if need be, to weaken and overcome your attacker. You can also use the hook-like shape of the tomahawk to capture an enemy’s arm or neck and apply an immobilization lock to end the fight quickly.



If the tomahawk is considered a close-range weapon, then I would put the knife in a category called “last resort.” The knife would act as your last line of defense if all other choices failed to stop your attacker. If he were able to breach your barriers and come in for a finish, the knife would be there to stop him.

It is important to have it attached to your body in the most easily accessible location, within arm’s reach, at all times. The strap or locking mechanism that holds the knife in its sheath must be simple to detach with only a few fingers to avoid complications that may be vital to your survival. The knife itself should be made from one solid piece of sharpened metal with a full tang that extends through the handle (no separate handle that can detach or break away from the blade). Flip knives, sliders or any other knife in which the blade must be extended and locked into place should not be used to avoid the risk of malfunction and loss of precious time when the situation is critical.

When an attacker is in close proximity to you, technical knife self-defense techniques aren’t usually possible. It’s a do-or-die situation, so just make any slashing or stabbing movements that you can to make him back off.


  • Your knife can easily be attached to the end of your walking stick (with duct tape or cord, which are musts for every bug-out bag) to create a spear or long-range slashing weapon. This will give you an additional choice for personal protection if and when your ammo supply runs dry.
  • When researching martial art dojos, avoid competition/sport-based schools and focus on only those that teach realistic self-defense techniques. Try Japanese Jiu-Jitsu, Krav Maga or Jeet Kune Do.
  • When choosing a staff, there are two schools of thought. Some people prefer heavier, stronger oak or hickory staffs, while others choose rattan or white wax wood, which are lighter and more flexible, providing whipping or snapping strikes. Handle a few before you buy, and choose what fits your own personal needs.


Editor’s note: A version of this article first appeared in the Spring 2014 print issue of American Survival Guide.