Use a Coconut Tree to Survive

In the fall of 1964 a group of tourists were shipwrecked on an island in the south Pacific. When they realized that no rescue was coming, they worked toward surviving on this small remote island.

What was supposed to a short 3-hour tour turned into a dire survival situation!

One passenger on the ship, who had been a professor, was able to use coconuts and bamboo to create many tools and resources to help the group survive. In fact, he even used coconuts to create a radio and a car!

OK, while making a radio or car out of coconuts might only happen on Gilligan’s Island, you can still use the helpful resources that the coconut tree provides to survive if you’re in a real emergency situation.

Coconut trees are very plentiful and grow in many parts of the world. A typical coconut tree produces about 50 coconuts each year and can be used for cooking, hunting, transportation and more. Check out these ideas on how you can use a coconut tree to survive in the wild because you never know when your tropical vacation could turn into a survival situation.

coconut treeSmall Hunting Spears
The center spine of the coconut tree leaf is very stiff and can be very useful for hunting. Strip the leafy parts of the spine. You may need to cut a more refined edge onto the coconut spine. The spine will be stiff enough to stab fish or other small wild game however it probably won’t be stiff enough to pierce a shell or exoskeleton.

Coconut tree lumber is unique in that the densest part of the tree is on the outside and the wood’s high silica content gives the tree elasticity. Because of that coconut timber can be used to make structures that are durable in the face of weather.

Sterile Water
As you’re probably well aware, coconuts often contain water (aka coconut milk) that can keep your pallet wet. Inside an immature coconut is a liquid that is slightly sweet and contains a lot of nutrients. According to Union County College, the water inside a coconut is so sterile that it was sometimes used as a replacement for glucose in IV solutions for wounded soldiers in WWII.

Back in the day coconut leaves and trunks were often used as firewood due to their dry substance and fiber content. In fact, in some parts of Asia, people still use charcoal made from coconut made from coconut shells.

Ladles and Cups
The coconut shell can be used as a dish. Simply cut the coconut in two and use either side as a dish. It should hold a good amount of food or water. If you cut a hole in the bottom of one of the sides, it will also make a great funnel.

Bags and Mats
The leaves of the coconut tree grow to about 17 feet long and are extremely versatile. They can be used to create woven baskets, bags, hats or mats. You’ll want to find the leaves when they are pretty green because dried leaves will become stiff and won’t be able to weave very well.

The hard outer shell of the coconut is a natural fiber material and is great for composting. Strip and break the material as much as possible. The more you break down the material the faster it will decompose and become great compost material for gardening.

Trunk Raft
The trunk of the coconut tree also makes a great sea-bearing raft. Pacific Islanders have used the tree for thousands of years to create simple water vessels. Try and find the straightest tree possible and chop it down. Hollow out the center and balance out the raft by attaching another floating trunk to the side of the vessel.

What Ideas Do You Have?
Have you used coconuts for another purpose? Comment below to tell us what you have used coconuts for and help others learn too!

22 thoughts on “Use a Coconut Tree to Survive”

  • jeanne

    Gilligan's Island!

  • Jeff

    "You put the lime in the coconut" is a verse from an old song that suggests a recipe that when a little rum is added to the mix makes for a great tropical drink. It will help you relax as you wait to be rescued from the deserted island or you may not even care if you are ever rescued. Just a thought.

  • Sean

    How do you cut open a coconut?

  • Scott

    Seriously? A survival situation and you don't mention that coconut oil is a natural antibiotic (except it doesn't hurt good bacteria) & a natural anti fungal. This would prove useful in any survival situation, especially in a humid climate where skin rot may occur. Young coconut water is high in electrolytes, again useful, but can lead to diahrrea if too much is consumed at once. Coconut oil is also a natural sunblock, again useful on that 'three hour tour'.

  • judy finch

    assuming one can climb or have resources to hack off whats needed- oh, wait thats what cute island guys are for.

  • Melody Mic

    how do I keep a coconut tree alive in wash state? I may have to move to an island

  • Wendy

    Everything I know about survival in a tropical climate I learned from reading, "The Swiss Family Robinson." Many pragmatic, creative uses for coconuts were utilized by the characters in this story.
    Believe it or not, Florida survival living is similiar to the deserted island depicted in the book.

  • John

    We were on a South Sea Island in French Polynesia,our meals were served on coconut leaves. In the Cook Islands as we came ashore, we each were given coconuts with straws in them in place of water. These are two additional uses for coconuts.

  • Geraldina Howell

    In Indonesia we used the fiberous bark as scrubbers for our pots and pans. It made them sparkling clean. The oil I suppose.

    Another use, shredded coconut is great for cleaning tile floors. Sprinke some on, let stand then sweep clean.

  • Bob in Guam

    The coconut shell is one of the main sources of activated charcoal. When the shell is used as a heat source, it's fire is white hot so it can be used for melting metal if you have a crucible for your metal then you can take the spent coconut charcoal and break it into small pieces and wrap it in a cheese cloth and lay it in a funnel and pour water through it and there you have filtered, drinkable water that eliminates all the toxic chemicals etc and after you boil it to make sure it's sterile and you have your pure drinking water!

  • Mitchel

    The leaves can be useful for shelter from sun and wind.

  • grambern

    all "nuts" aside, I need a good home remedy for misquitos!! I have a husband who is very sensitive to any chemical form of deterent so "OFF" is out!! anyone have a sure fired way to keep the pests at bay? Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated!!

  • Auntie Em

    grambern, if your husband is just sitting around outside or grilling, take a WHITE paper plate, put a few drops of Joy dishwashing liquid on it and about a tablespoon or so of water. Then just set it near your husband and the mosquitoes will leave him alone. This worked for my husband in AR when he was grilling (we were traveling in our camper) and the mosquitoes were big enough to carry him off. He set it on the step next to the grill........worked like a charm!!!!!!

  • grambern

    Thanx auntie Em!! Will try that one!!

  • RP

    Better have a good knife, hatchet or something that can break those suckers open. They are tough! I saw guys break them over an object, I think a pointed piece of wood if I remember, but it would have to be some really hard wood. I'm not sure if it was wood though, they slammed the coconut down onto the pointed object. Of course, even with that you would have to carve it. Lacking that I suppose you could use a piece of rock to break them open if your island had rocks. Or if it had really really large shells. Hmmm. I think I'm starting to drift with this.

  • japheaux

    I was in the military serving in Guam a few years back and a local civilian lady I worked with explained the coffee cans hanging under the leaves near the top of the trunk of the tree. The were collecting the sap/juice to make 'tuba,' the Guam version of home-brewed redneck cider. I am not sure what it entailed, but she provided me some a couple days later and it was good for the quick 10-minute buzz. Very creative.

  • jerry

    to the lady in washington: the shortest mature coconut tree (malaysian dwarf, If i remember correctly) is 25 to 30 feet tall and will not survive temperatures of less than 50 degrees for more than an hour or so. but it is possible to sprout coconuts you get from the grocery store and you could keep them indoors during cooler weather until they grow too tall. then you could donate it to a university ag program or perhaps a business space with a tall ceiling, like a mall or something. In the meantime you have a coconut palm. there are videos on youtube explaining how to sprout them.

  • crocodile_dondii
    crocodile_dondii July 24, 2013 at 4:32 pm

    Extracting the oil from coconut flesh in a survival scenario is not easy, and not quick. Also, you need DOZENS of coconuts to get a cup of oil.

    First you have to dry the coconut completely to get ALL the moisture out, then you have to press or squash the copra to extract & collect the oil. The forces and equipment needed to do this are not readily available to you in a survival situation.

  • Raymond M.

    I made snare traps from stripping the fronds.
    Also carved tiki"s to keep away bad spirits and thank the gods for all that coconut meat. The milk We mixed into our fruit drink with some rum. Thanking the gods all night.
    Great times on the islands of Florida back in the day.
    Had a large coconut tree on a sand key we used for our playful beachy outings...ahhh memories...SRQ.

  • Keith Frazier

    Your statement needs to be corrected "coconuts often contain water (aka coconut milk)" Coconut water and coconut milk are not the same.

    Coconut Water

    Coconut water is actually coconut juice, the liquid sloshing around in the interior of the young fatty nut. A delicious drink, coconut water is sweet, clear and full of electrolytes, enzymes, vitamins, minerals and phyto-nutrients. Young coconuts are harvested at about five to seven months of age. These tender, still green coconuts produce the finest coconut water.

    Coconut water is recognized as a potent treatment for diarrhea, as the water's electrolytes and minerals work to quickly re-hydrate patients. If you're prone to bladder or kidney infections, coconut water can flush out these organs, detoxifying and purifying the entire urinary system. Coconut water contains the same lauric acid as mother's milk, providing a powerful boost to your immune system. Lauric acid is known to be antibacterial, antiviral and antifungal. Coconut water is the lowest in fat of the other coconut products; it is also low in carbs and sugars.

    Coconut Milk

    Coconut milk is produced by mixing coconut water and fresh coconut meat, which is then pressed to expel the milk. Rich in vitamins and minerals, coconut milk also contains medium chain fatty acids, the fatty acid type most easily recognized and used by your body. Coconut milk has saturated fat, but this fat is in the form your body loves and needs.

  • wayne earl evans
    wayne earl evans August 7, 2014 at 4:06 am

    Water your coconut tree with your excess water. That water you collect before washing/rinsing dishes, waiting for water to get hot befire you shower or wash your face or any other times you need hot water from the tap. I grew 200 heirloom tomatoes last year with water I collected in this fashion.

    Note: Water is H2o. Hydrogen peroxide is H2o2. So what is H2o4?

    For drinking, showering, cookie, brushing your teeth. Smiling.

  • octavius

    coconuts. first, the husk, when dried out, is a good source of kindling for fire. the shell can be used for storing water,firewood(fireshells?),or cut into utensils. inside is sweet coconut meat you can eat. the milk is very nutritious, rich in calories and glucose can be used as IV substitute. you can also make this into wine. you can also extract coconut oil, which can be used for many purposes (cooking, cleansing,shampoo,etc). the fronds can be used for shelter, clothing, woven into baskets, firewood, or even wound dressing (binder).the ribs can be used for skwering stuff, can be woven into nets or baskets, made into fish traps,made into brooms, toothpicks, or woven like a rope(takes some skill though). the stem of the fronds can be used for firewood when dried out, parts of shelters, weapon handles(or weapons even).the trunk has many purposes like firewood,kindling,the insides are edible (stem), can be used for lumber. the roots too have many purposes, but in survival scenarios i dont think you have time to excavate them.

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