Man, his knife and nature: Survivalism crosses the Atlantic to France!

The survivalist movement began in the USA and became popular in the 1970s. This movement was brought to France in recent years. This movement’s aim is to re-center man’s relationship with nature, allowing him to be in total harmony with his environment. The French adaptation of this movement has guidelines that differ from those of the original movement, however the important role knives play is a key element in all branches of survivalism.

Man, his knife and nature: Survivalism crosses the Atlantic to France!

Survivalism is starting to become popular in France

Surviving under harsh conditions: An American concept

Kurt Saxon invented survivalism, which has recently gained in popularity in France. The first publications on the subject covered how to survive by creating a variety of weapons.

The concept of survivalism gained wide popularity in the United States during the 60s and 70s, enjoying a boom in popularity after the 1973 and 1979 oil crises. The survivalist movement was born in a time that was riddled with economic hardship (inflation, unemployment, energy crises), creating anxiety in a population that was afraid of the future. Due to this situation, groups of individuals formed, promoting the importance of autonomy and self-sufficiency.

Later on in 2008 the subprime mortgage crisis and other scandals shook the financial sector on a global level and in turn strengthened the survivalist movement.

In fact, the American branch of survivalism is based on a doctrine that summarises efficient survival tactics for a variety of different apocalyptic scenarios including: nuclear, economic and pandemic. Presently approximately 3 million Americans are preparing themselves for the worst-case scenario by stockpiling food and water or building underground fallout shelters. The main objective of survivalism is to be prepared for the breakdown of social structures or the collapse of civilization itself…

Man’s relationship with nature

Today the survivalist movement has become a multifaceted social phenomenon. The movement can no longer be defined as an activity or a particular way of life.

The survivalist movement in France has taken on a form of its own - with several nuances that differ greatly from the American branch. French survivalists are particularly concentrated on creating a way of life and returning to one’s roots and the earth while sometimes trying to maintain certain modern comforts.

Some French survivalists’ objective is to construct an autonomous and durable foundation. In France survivalism is seen as a way of life whose aim is to re-center man’s relationship to nature by returning to our fundamental values: hunting, fishing, cultivating… and a wide range of activities oriented towards sustainable development.

The French movement’s ideologies differ greatly from those of the American movement. The European or French survivalist movement is defined as man’s search for harmony and balance with the environment.

A return to our roots: man’s relationship with nature

Sociological imagination

Bertrand Vidal works at Paul Valéry University in Montpellier Montpellier and specializes in survivalism, studying the development of survivalism in France and its link between reality TV shows that explore the subject of this phenomenon: Koh-Lanta, Man vs Wild, The Island, etc.

This researcher describes an entire universe that has an influence on reality and the collective social desire for man to return to nature and flee civilization.

All of this is, of course, “just television” and if we dig deep into these contemporary TV series’ massage we are left with two of French survivalism’s key ideas: knowing how to find water (and store it) and knowing how to properly use a knife and sharpen it! Real life survival situations are obviously much more complex.

Survival schools in France

In the United States and certain European countries (such as France), introductory lessons in survivalism are available. There are countless options, from classes for beginners to advanced courses. In the past few years, diverse websites, forums and blogs have been created (the majority of which were created out of personal interest) and flourish on the Web. These sources offer people a chance to be fully immersed in nature according to predefined conditions.

The subjects that are taught cover vast areas of subject matter and vary from rudimentary survivalist tactics to more elaborate training. The following lists the different subject matters that are often offered:

Survivalism and the philosophy behind a way of life in nature

The key concepts behind this branch of survivalism are observation, anticipation, coping with stress, acquiring good mental reflexes and respecting the environment.

Knowledge about the biotope

Learning how to find and identify a region’s different fauna and flora, vegetation, geology, topography and hydrology.

Mastering fire building techniques

Learn different ways to make a fire (friction, impact, heat conduction) and different ways to use them.


Learn how to find natural shelters or build them under hostile conditions with materials or survival kits.


Learn how to find fresh water sources, how to tell if it is drinkable and different methods for transporting and storing it.


Learn how to determine if certain plants are poisonous or edible, how to store them. Learn to understand your own nutritional needs to avoid vitamin deficiencies.

Hunting and fishing

Learn various skill sets including the creation of weapons, blades (such as survival knives or pocketknives) and rules for properly handling these tools.

Hygiene rules and first aid

Learn how to evaluate certain symptoms and make a general diagnosis, create preventative and healing remedies with natural ingredients and basic first aid skills.


Learn how to make, use and maintain clothing and survival tools (pocketknives, folding knives).

Navigation and meteorology

Learn techniques that help you navigate, crossing natural barriers and identifying and anticipating extreme weather conditions (movement of air masses, heat, storms, snow, etc.)

Some of the survivalism schools or associations in France allow you to adapt and personalize your courses so that you can learn about the subjects that interest you most. You can choose different options: one-on-one lessons, group lessons or organized trips for companies and schools, etc.

The survivalist movement aimed at finding an alternative way of life that is in accord with our environment is growing rapidly in France. The media, sociologists and professors are becoming increasingly interested in this movement, which is far from being a subculture created out of irrational fear and which is not consistent with the negative clichés spread by disbelievers and those that are judgmental towards the movement. It is possible for man to live in harmony with nature in the 21st century! Especially if you are equipped with the proper materials and specific knives! What do you think about the subject? Feel free to leave us a comment on our Facebook page, letting us know what you think! Thanks and see you soon!