A net is one of the most important items you can carry in your pack. I understand that some areas, water is scarce, so most in these areas do not consider worth the investment or weight to be carried. I have an “IMPs Net” from Brigade Quartermaster. This net is billed as a fishing net, improvised hammock, improvised pack, ghillie suit base, etc. It basically handles all of those functions very well and then some, but the hammock option would not be my first choice.
The net has been used by man for centuries, whether as a food gathering instrument, tool of war, or as a “carry all”. We will try and cover as many possibilities here to help you begin your journey of learning with one of man’s greatest tools for survival, sustenance, and work. Come on, let’s learn together.
Before we get started, please check your local laws and regulations pertaining to the use of nets. Some locales have outlawed their usage because of their effectiveness and their indiscriminate “targeting”. While this can be justified from a conservation standpoint, our usage is based on whether we live or die while operating during a crisis.
Whenever a person hears the word net, they automatically think of fishing. Large commercial boats use nets to harvest large amounts of aquatic species. They are super efficient when looked at from the amount of time and energy spent to the amount of food gathered. We do not need to enter a debate as to the morality or consequences of such commercial (or private) endeavors; the net is useful to us because when employed, our lives are in danger.
While casting nets are most common besides landing nets, their weight makes them an encumbrance and not practical to carry. The IMPs Net and the type of net I would recommend closer resembles a “gill net”. For me, the optimum size is about 10-12′ long and 5-6′ wide, with a mesh of 1/2-1″ “stretched” (or pulled taught). When we are in survival mode, there are many more smaller fish, than larger ones. Leave the trophy angling for recreation; if nothing else, the small fry make good bait for set lines.
The net can be stretched across a creek and the either left for the fish to swim into it of their own volition, or you can wade from as far away as possible to “scare or chase” the fish into the net. This system is best utilized with more than 1 person. Be sure to anchor the net securely with poles (great place for a hiking staff) to not only keep it in place but to also keep it stretched from the bed of the waterway to the top. I use clip on mesh bags employed by SCUBA divers to hold weight as my weight to keep the net from floating up. These are extremely light weight and can be filled with whatever is available; rocks, nuts, bolts, etc.
You can also improvise a dip net by forming a hoop out of pliable materials and fastening the net so that a large portion “hangs down” forming a “basket”. Cable ties, paracord, twine, etc can all be used to secure the net to the improvised hoop and to attach a handle.
Nets are also effective at catching birds and small game. They can be employed to catch larger game, but then you risk having hooves or claws tear holes in your net. They will however slow the game down to allow you to harvest it by other means.
I use my net to help secure material used to construct debris huts, especially in high wind situations where the wind tries blowing the leaves, grass, etc off my shelter, thereby lessening the insulating ability. If stretched tight, it can also serve as “cross members” if building materials are scarce. By using my net, I can maintain my tarp for a ground cloth if I only carry 1 tarp. The net is in no way water repellent, so weather, needs and personal preference will predicate usage.
A net can also be used in high temperatures to form a more “airy” shelter. You can weave fronds, grasses, etc into the net to provide shade but air is readily allowed to pass through to take advantage of any breeze available.
To add to the above section on Shelter construction, the net can be used to improvise a pack. This is handy if you need to pack large amounts of debris and do not wish to empty your primary pack to fit in the necessary amounts to warrant the walk. In survival situations, the less trips you make, the less energy spent which equals less calories needed.
A couple small carabineers can be used to easily form a secure carry system. By adding a couple paracord rifle slings from Tinderwolf, you will even have readymade shoulder straps that can also be an additional supply of cordage if needed. After placing the items onto the center of the net, you can fold the net over and use minimal carabineers to secure it closed.
This type of improvised pack is also effective when you are operating around in a maritime environment to keep your other gear and inside your pack as dry as possible. With some inspection and ingenuity, you may even use a net to secure harvested meat to the outside of your pack as well. Another reason I like the MOLLE system or at least multiple attachment points on the outside of my pack.
A net can be used to make a ghillie suit, actually more of a cover, for when those rare occasions present themselves and you need to hide instead of being found. By weaving natural debris and vegetation into the net and either lying under it or attaching it to yourself in some way (prior planning is best served here), you can use 1 of the best and most adaptable camouflage systems in existence. Remember that you will need to change vegetation often because it will die and change colors, thereby making it ineffective for concealment.