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Bamboo, The Survival Plant of the Survivalist

Last Updated: August 12, 2022
Thyrsostachys Siamensis — the best “cane” bamboo

Bamboo 101

Bamboo is one of the greatest plants known to humankind. Combined with its incredible growth rate and multiple uses for almost every purpose around the house, welcome to Bamboo 101.

Well-watered and well-lit, you can see new bamboo shoots on a regular basis and mutant growth. Indoor or outdoor, bamboo is very easy to grow in a container or in most climates. Simple to grow and care for, young bamboo plants can be found at most garden shops or sprout right from seeds.

Bamboo, The Plant

Bamboo species are originally native to Southeast Asia, South Asia, and East Asia. Over the years, they have been distributed in places as far away as South America, Africa, Europe, Australia, and other parts of the world.

A bamboo plant comprises a straight pole-like hollow stem without branches and palm – fronds like leaves found at the top of the plant. Bamboo plants keep growing and only flower towards the end of their lifespan which can be as long as 65 to 120 years.

Bamboo is classified as grass and like all grass species, it grows fast. Versatile and adaptive, the bamboo plant is a hardy plant.

Growth Rate

Some bamboo can grow 91 centimeters in 24 hours! At 4 inches per hour, you could literally watch a bamboo plant grow.

Planting and Caring for Bamboo

Bamboo prefers the full hot sun in moist climates, but just like the grass in your garden, bamboo can handle shade and thrive indoors. Bamboo likes good soil, but if you have clay soil, just add compost to the top and then plant your bamboo.

When you plant bamboo make sure you dig about 3 inches. If it’s a root, make sure the soil covers it, but the sprout is out of the ground. That way, the roots can grow deep and strong enough to support the eventual taller plant.

In a disaster situation with a fair amount of bamboo planted, you will have multiple advantages over the other preppers that didn’t.

Multiple Uses

You could have bamboo for your skin improvement, food, and a ladder. You can also make your cup, fork, and any cooking utensils out of bamboo. Not only those, but you have the option of a beautiful addition to your garden in the form of rapidly growing greenery.

With so many uses and tools, you can create with bamboo, planting it is not only practical but also improves the air around you!

For survival, every part of the bamboo plant can aid in self-defense & firing up dinner.

The Bamboo Kit for Sample Example Scenario

Let’s imagine a survival scenario where, suddenly, you’re left with only the clothes on your back and a knife on your belt.

You’re looking at a year’s worth of bamboo growth in front of you and your home is rumble behind you. There’s no power, no grocery shops, nor people.

It’s time to make your fishing spear, firebow, bamboo cup, bamboo water bottle, spits, chopsticks, stool, drying rack, basket, ladle, table, and bed.

All the while, you’re constructing your lean-to shelter & fence, all the while amassing kindling. You’re even planning for the gazebo later.

Armed with a bamboo bow, feathered arrows, and spikes for your tenting, you enjoy bamboo soup made with fresh green bamboo shoots.

A bamboo whistle hangs ’round your neck as you shower in your DIY shower behind your crudly painted, but finely made bamboo screen. 😄

“Always be Ready” Max

Bamboo for Survival

Of all the species of bamboo, they’re divided into two categories: bamboo you can eat and bamboo for building. For a more complete list of bamboo species’ names, origins, attributes, and edibility, jump to the links above.

Now it’s time to look at this plant in the four main ways bamboo is used in a survival scenario.

  • Fire
  • Items
  • Structures
  • Food

Bamboo for Fire

Fire is always a necessity in a survival scenario. As a way to prepare your food and warm yourself, fire is on the top five of your priorities when presented with the challenge of survival in the elements.

Every dry part of bamboo can be constructed into kindling or tinder upon splitting. Note that bamboo tends to be a bit more fire resistant than other woods, but if in a survival situation, use what you have.

Bamboo to Make Friction Fire: The Bamboo Fire Saw

Bamboo pieces and parts can be reconstructed into tinder, kindling, and fire saw. With access to oxygen, a contact point for bamboo-to-bamboo friction, and tinder nearby it all, you’re on your way to building a roaring fire.

Bamboo Items: Cup

Bamboo is a great tool to have when you need to boil, carry, or store water.

Bamboo grows in sections and if you cut above these sections, you will have a portion of bamboo that you can use to make a bamboo water “canteen”.

Indian leak-proof bamboo bottles

To make a bamboo cup, find one node of a live, green bamboo plant. This will be the bottom of the cup.

bamboo cup

Cut above the bamboo node to the height you want your cup.

Clean the outside of the bamboo cup and fill it with water. Boil for five minutes to kill any bacteria or parasites. Congratulations! You now have a nice, clean bamboo cup to use for drinking.

Bamboo Items: Cooking Pan

For a cooking pan, instead cut out a 12-inch section of bamboo. Split it in half at one end. Place one half atop the coals of your fire and heat for five minutes. Presto! You have a bamboo cooking pan.


Bamboo Items: Basket

In every situation outside, a dependable way to hold fish, firewood, or any other material is one of the first items a survivalist builds. Out in the wild, your priorities center around water, food, and shelter, making a basket a practical addition.

Note: splitting cane takes skills, knives, and tools. Weaving them together requires immense mastery and hand strength.

Bamboo Items: Survival Whistle

Many people enter the wilderness with no way of signaling* for help, thinking their phones will be enough. However, with a knife and some time to whittle and tweak, a bamboo survival whistle can be constructed very quickly.

Around the homestead, it becomes a great little novelty for your kids to play at staying in contact.


*Signaling for rescue is your main priority before, during, and after handling your water, food, and shelter for a survival day. Rescue is your best option in any situation where you or your group are stranded. Whether you’re off the camping trail or miles away from civilization, bear in mind that signaling may very well be your fastest way to safety.

$10 will get you a top-notch signaling setup, you can do-it-yourself.

When you can signal your rescuers with both sound and light, you dramatically increase your chances of rescue. Lastly, the most effective signaling measure without a bamboo whistle would be a portable signaling device, shooting high and far into the sky for your potential rescuers to pinpoint your location, visible for 10 nautical miles.

Bamboo Items: The $3 Bamboo Longbow


The longbow is one of the earliest weapons made by man. For around $3, you can experiment with your first handmade bow.

With a decent amount of pull, it’s adequate in hunting small to mid-sized game.

Theoretically, this whole bow could be made in a “Castaway” scenario, and not your first choice in hunting or defense.

At least you don’t have to worry about people stealing it in an SHTF situation.

Bamboo Structures: Hut

Building temporary, useful structures that end up weathering through years is just practical. In sustainability, if you’re able to grow your own building materials, you’ve covered one of your main concerns for the long term.

Bamboo is strong and lasts for years and years, thanks to its cylindrical and reinforced, notched makeup.

The same rules apply to making a shelter with bamboo or sticks. If you are looking for strength and rigidity, bamboo surpasses sticks in every category.

You can use bamboo to construct a semi-permanent or even a permanent shelter relatively easily.

Another great thing about bamboo is that it normally grows pretty tall and thick, and it is far easier to cut down a 9-ft bamboo stalk than a tall tree!

This saves a lot of calories if you were in a survival situation, making you less fatigued. You can save those much-needed calories by finding food and starting a fire or searching for a way out.

Or, you can settle in for the long haul.

Bamboo Structures: Fence

This Japanese method of using cane bamboo to create a simple fence makes for cost-effective barriers.


Bamboo Structures: Aquaponics

Expanding further on your bamboo structure options, a wide variety of bamboo species can be used at tubing for aquaponic systems.


Bamboo For Food: Bamboo Shoots

The bamboo plant produces a softened inner “meat”. This can be softened further by cooking it in a broth of soup, to enjoy a fibrous and nutritious survival food.

bamboo shoots


How you protect what’s inside your fences could become how you eat. You may, one day, be protecting and corralling livestock within a fence. It will be much easier and faster to build a fence of bamboo than it will be to cut a tree and turn it into planks.

Bamboo is just one of those things, like rope or duct tape, that can be adapted to create an infinite number of material items.

From survival gear to homesteader equipment, bamboo’s uses seem to only be limited by the imagination of the user.

Start your bamboo plants and experiment with the ways you integrate them into your prepping and survival needs, you never know what you’ll end up learning — and that’s half the battle.

“Always Be Ready” Max

Bamboo Wood-Working Tips from a Japanese Master Bamboo Artisan
Tips for working with bamboo from a Japanese Master Bamboo artisan
Bamboo for Building: 10 Bamboo Species
Bamboo for Food: 81 Species of Edible Bamboo
Acidosasa edulisChinaYields up to 20,000 kg/hectareDelicious
A. ChinensisSouthern China with 1 species in VietnamAre edible and used for papermaking and weavingEdible
Bambusa balcooaFemale bamboo native to Northeast IndiaAre edible and used as papermaking or wood chips.Good
B. bambosSoutheast AsiaIndian thorny bambooEdible
B. beecheyanaSouthern China to Indo-China and TaiwanLarge clump-forming bambooGood
B. blumeanaIndonesia and MalaysiaThorny bambooGood
B. gibboidesSoutheast Asia, ChinaEvergreen clumping bambooGood
B. polymorphaMyanmar, Thailand, and BangladeshSweet-tasting edible shootsGood
B. tuldaThe Indian subcontinent, Indo-china, Tibet, and YunnanMostly used as paper pulp in IndiaGood
B. tuldoidesAsia, China, Vietnam, Laos, Malaysia, and MyanmarErect, evergreen, clump-forming bamboosGood
B. VulgarisIndochina and Yunnan province of southern ChinaOpen clump type bamboo specieEdible
Chimonobambusa communisChina, Vietnam, Japan, Himalayas, and MyanmarRunning bamboo with a swollen nodeGood
C. pachystachysChina South-CentralLeaf all yearDelicious
C. puberulaAssam, China, East HimalayaMedium size spreading bambooDelicious
C. quadrangularisRounded square culmsDelicious
C. rigidulaChinaDistinctive bulging nodes and shaped canesDelicious
C. szechuanensisE. Asia – W. China, Sichuan.Mostly used for medicinal purposesDelicious
C. tumidissinodaChinaUsed for walking sticks in SichuanDelicious
D. brandisiiVelvet Leaf Bamboo, Teddy Bear Bamboo, or Sweet Dragon BambooGood
D. giganteusMyanmar (Burma), Bhutan, China, and ThailandGiant Bamboo or Dragon BambooGood
D. latiflorusSouthern China and TaiwanTaiwan Giant BambooGood
D. latiflorusSouthern China andTaiwan Giant BambooGood
D. membranaceusSoutheast AsiaWhite BambooEdible
D. strictusSoutheast Asia and IndiaMale Bamboo, Solid Bamboo, or Calcutta BambooEdible
Fargesia robustaClumping bamboo with shiny deep olive-green leavesEdible
Gigantochloa atterMalaysiaGiant Atter or Sweet Bamboo,Good
G. levisBorneo, China, MalaysiaEvergreen and sympodial bambooDelicious
G. ligulataMalaya, ThailandPerennial, evergreenGood
G. nigrociliataBlack hair giant bamboo, tropical bambooGood
G. pruriensNorth Sumatra, IndonesiaPerennial, evergreen, densely clump bambooGood
G. robustaSouth and South-East AsiaGiant clumping bamboosGood
G. thoiiSouthern China, Southeast AsiaGiant clumping bambooGood
Himalayacalamus falconeriGold canes with multiple green stripesGood
Nastus elatusDelicately arching foliageEdible
Oxytenanthera abyssinicaSub-Saharan AfricaDrought-resistant specieEdible
P. sulphureaEvergreen BambooGood
P. angustaStone bambooEdible
P. arcanaChinaCan grow up to 8 meters tallEdible
P. atrovaginataChina, Burma, and IndiaAmerican Bamboo: Have wax on the surfaceEdible
P. bambusoidesChina and JapanGiant or Japanese timber bambooBitter
P. bissetiiChinaDark gray-green canesEdible
P. decoraChinaBeautiful bambooEdible
P. DulcisMassachusetts, U.S.ASweet-shoot bamboo: Display cream-colored stripesDelicious
P. edulisChina and TaiwanMoso bamboo, or tortoise-shell bambooDelicious
P. elegansCulms are used as toolsDelicious
P. FimbriataMexico to northern ColombiaGreen bambooEdible
P. fimbriligulaHunan and Jiangsu of ChinaUpright growth habitDelicious
P. flexuosaSpring BeautyDelicious
P. glabrataChina (Fujian, Zhejiang)Woody culmsDelicious
P. glaucaHunan Province of ChinaRemarkable evergreen bambooGood
P. heterocladaWater BambooEdible
P. iridescensMiddle to eastern China and JapanThe fastest growing, and strongest bamboosDelicious
P. makinoiSoutheast ChinaUpright timber bambooEdible
P. meyeriHunan, ChinaEvergreen bambooEdible
P. nidulariaHunan Province of ChinaTall and erect straight bambooDelicious
P. nigellaMediterraneanCulm-sheath blade triangularDelicious
P. nigra f. henonisHunan Province of ChinaBlack bambooDelicious
P. nudaZhejiang in east ChinaGeat screening bambooDelicious
P. parvffoliaZhejiang Province of ChinaBamboo with thick culmsDelicious
P. pingyangensisForest organic sliced bamboo shootsEdible
P. platyglossaJiangsu, Zhejiang ChinaThin-walled bambooDelicious
P. praecoxRunning timber bamboo with yellow clumpsDelicious
P. praecox f. viridisulcataStriped green sulcusDelicious
P. prominensChinaGrow around 10 meters tallGood
P. propinquaStraight dark green culmsGood
P. purpurataAsiaSuper cold hardy bambooEdible
P. rivalisThe subtropical climate of southeast ChinaDelicious
P. robustirameaDistinctive grooves above pair of unequal branchesEdible
P. rubellaHawaiiEdible
P. rubromarginataCentral China (Guangxi and Guizhou)Red MarginEdible
P. sapidaAnhui, Gansu, JiangsuHerbarium specimens of bambooEdible
P. tianmuensisAnhui, Zhejiang (China)Swollen culm-nodesEdible
P. viridiglaucescensEast AsiaGreen glaucous bambooEdible
P. vivaxChinaChinese timber bambooDelicious
P. vivax ‘Huangwenzhu’ChinaYellow groove vivax and in Chinese called “Huang Wen Zhu”.Edible
Pleioblastus hindsiiJapan and East Asia CaliforniaHardiest bambooEdible
Sasa kurilensisKurile Islands in JapanNorthern-growing bambooGood
Sasaella masamuneanaJapanSam BambooEdible
Thamnocalamus aristatusHimalayasClumping Himalayan BambooEdible
Thyrsostachys siamensisChina, Myanmar, Laos, Vietnam, and ThailandMonastery Bamboo, Thai Bamboo, or Umbrella BambooGood
Yushania malingNepal & Assamgraceful open clumperGood

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