Introduction: Survival Checkers

Whether you find yourself stranded on a deserted island or lost in the woods, you might find you wish to do something to take your mind off your situation. Now, of course, in a survival situation, there are a multitude of tasks that should be carried out that are more important than, and should be done before even thinking about fun and games. That being said, after a certain point in a survival situation, when people have secured what they need to survive, fun and games become important to improve morale, ward off hopelessness and, if stranded with other people, get to know them better and bond with them.

Now, I hope you don't ever fall under the category of being stranded somewhere. Supposing you do not, survival checkers is just a fun project to make and play when enjoying the great outdoors.

Step 1: Harvesting Materials

Materials needed:

Checker material

  • Stones- ideally checker sized and decently flat


  • Bark from a dead tree branch (I used maple, but other types of tree bark should work)
  • Leaves- ideally rather large ones- I used burdock leaves and wild grape leaves
  • Sweatshirt/jacket- useful as a clean, sort of flat surface to make the checkerboard on

Tools that would be useful:

  • Knife/Scissors
  • Ruler (optional)

Step 2: Sorting Checker Stones

Stones for checkers can be found in several areas. Firstly, if you are not stranded somewhere, consider taking a walk down a gravel road and selecting a few that seem suitable. Another option is taking a few stones meant for landscaping. Obviously, take them only if they are yours or you have the owner's permission. Lastly, whether you are in a survival situation or not, scouring a beach or river for stones may yield some good finds.

The type of stones to be sought after is approximately checker sized, flat stones that are one of two colors. Those colors are up to you of course, but what is available may well dictate the color of your checkers. Since blue and white stones of the right size seemed to be the most common finds for me, those are the two colors I settled on. You will need at least 12 of each color, but a higher number is even better as that allows you to use extras when a piece reaches the opposite side and becomes a king.

Step 3: Making the Checkerboard

I decided to shoot for a checkerboard about 8 inches X 8 inches (20.32 cm X 20.32 cm). This worked out so that I could cut the tiles approximately 1 inch X 1 inch (2.54 cm X 2.54 cm). Measuring is certainly not necessary, but is preferable if a measuring tool is available. If not, I suggest cutting out the first tile and then using that as a measurement for the rest.

I suggest beginning work on the board by cutting out the tiles of tree bark first. This bark is easiest to acquire by locating a dead branch and prying large sections of its bark off with either a knife or simply your fingers. Theoretically, the larger the branch the better because the larger it is, the more gradual of a curve its bark will have and, as such, the tiles will turn out flatter. Scissors are beneficial to have here, when cutting the bark into squares, but a knife will work too. If a knife is all that is available, I suggest using a piece of wood under the bark as a cutting board. 32 bark tiles are required, but the more you make, the more picky you can be about the ones you use.

The green leaves work as a lovely background to the bark. You could, I suppose, just layer leaves on your sweatshirt until there are no gaps and then put the bark tiles on top, but I chose to cut tiles of leaves and use those. I used burdock leaves and wild grape leaves, and the wild grape leaves seemed to work better. When choosing leaves, make sure you aren't choosing poison ivy or stinging nettles, or any other irritating plant in your area as that could destroy the fun of checker playing and everything else for the next few days. The leaves proved easier to cut into tiles as they were far less prone to break and required much less effort to slice. 32 of these tiles are required as well.

After all the tiles are completed, put them together in the form of an 8 X 8 grid, alternating the type of tile each time. If you don't have a clean, flat surface to make the board on, try spreading your sweatshirt or jacket on the ground zipper side down. After straightening the edges and switching out any inferior tiles, your checkerboard should be complete.

Step 4: Final Thoughts

After about a day, the burdock leaves I used as tiles wilted to the point of no longer being functional. The wild grape leaves changed color, but seemed to still be the same size and, as such, still be useable for days after I cut them. If a longer term checker board is what you want, I would suggest drying the leaves in a phonebook or something similar and then eventually, gluing all the tiles to a piece of cardboard or wood to preserve the functionality of the checkerboard. In a survival situation, if aesthetics matter to you, you might consider picking new leaves each day you want to use the checkerboard. If looks do not matter, the bark tiles should serve as a functional checkerboard on their own.

That being said, I wasn't looking to make something that would last forever and was very pleased with how the board and pieces turned out. Also, I think, if anything, it adds to the beauty of it, knowing it will fade away with time. This also certainly goes along with the whole natural theme of the project.

All in all, this was a fun, and rather simple project to make. I certainly plan on playing checkers like this again in the future. Thank you so much for reading this! I would love to know your thoughts, especially if you made this.

Outside Contest 2017

Participated in the
Outside Contest 2017