If in a survival situation, how can one preserve the hide of an animal with a minimum amount of tools and skill in order to make clothing or bedding?

I am not asking how to make things with the hides. I simply would like to know the most primitive way to preserve the skin of an animal for survival reasons.

  • 2
    a preliminary question would be: is hide the best material you can come up with in this situation? (as opposed to, e.g., plants fibers)
    – njzk2
    Feb 11, 2017 at 4:25
  • @njzk2 There aren't any plant fibres adequate for making clothing in the north, especially not in winter.
    – ShemSeger
    Feb 11, 2017 at 16:17

4 Answers 4


If it's below freezing, then you don't need to do much more to it apart from take it off of the animal. The Inuit in Northern Canada wear raw caribou hides, and keep them in the freezer over the summer months. So if you're in need of a warm coat to stave off the cold. You can just put it on raw and it'll suffice. To make it soft, you'll need to scrape off all the fat and other tissues, then chew it. In a true survival situation, you can wear a bloody stinking hide and it will be plenty adequate to keep you warm, and keep you alive.



If you have properly skinned the animal and scraped off all the bits of fat/flesh/... from the back side of the hide (see here for example) there is not really a need to further 'preserve' it except for drying it. This can be done using salt or, more likely in a survival situation, over a fire.


The real issue you'll have is with tanning the hide. A simple scraped/dried hide will be stiff as a board, nothing you could make clothes or a blanket from.

There are plenty of rather primitive natural ways to make a hide softer, one of the easier ones is

Basically you apply a solution to the hide (here made from water and the animals brain), whereupon you stretch, knead and work the hide while it is drying to avoid it going hard again.


To make a hide, you need to steam, smoke, and degrease it. I doubt any of this could be done in survival situations. Despite the website's dedication to wilderness survival, the link here suggests wilderness preparation, but not necessarily in survival situations:


If you used the hide from a killed animal, you have the issue of dealing with blood and other liquids, would be a disease risk to you. So you'd have to process it first, and, given the survival aspect of your question, I'm not sure this is feasible. If you can make a fire for steaming, it stands to reason you can use that fire for warmth.

Here are more "survival" methods:

Tanning Furs

Survival Skills: Brain Tanning Hides


In the end, I think your efforts are better focused on shelter, warmth, finding food and water, and getting found. I don't think a dead animal is going to help you, however useful it may seem, other than as food.


Remove hide. Scrape of all fat. Rub with animals brain, let set overnight. Cold smoke the hide over punk wood. { almost dry rotted wood} You need a cold smoke. This is what you call raw hide. Very stiff. pound with round rocks to soften. Chew with teeth next for extra soft.

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