A Tribal’s Survival Guide to The Tundra in Rimworld

January 4, 2023 by Solar Cross

What follows is a valuable strategy guide to one of the most challenging of biomes in the Rimworld, the tundra. It is particularly geared for the Lost Tribe start but will have some relevance for other scenarios in this biome.

For a more general guide to the Lost Tribe scenario see this article here.

Problems for Tribals in Tundra

The tundra biome is harsh. The long winters of sub-zero temperatures make for a very short growing season, just the summer really. Random cold snaps can kill your crops even then. The biting cold will also kill forage, like berries, so there is no forage for animals either. Penned animals will need to be fed kibble or hay in winter or be culled.

Wildlife is sparse. Trees are sparse, grow slowly and can die of the cold too. Your colonists risk hypothermia and frostbite, if the starvation does not get them first.

Tribal Technology

These problems are even worse for a tribal start. Tribals start without many of the key technologies that could mitigate these problems. No electricity, means no sunlamps for indoors farming for example.

Tribals also start without the Complex Clothing tech which allows the crafting of warm winter clothing, the parka.

The shortage of wood can make for some hard choices on how to use it: light, heat, cooking or building materials. This is made worse for tribals because they start without the Stonecutting tech, so using stone as an alternative building material to wood is barely possible (some stone blocks can be had by deconstructing some ruins).

The only advantage in the biome for a Lost Tribe start is that the sub-zero temperatures allow for refrigeration without electricity, if only in winter. Ordinarily, tribals can only really do long term food storage by turning it into pemmican. Pemmican being one technology with which they do start.

Solutions for Tribals in Tundra

The following solutions are made with baseline humans and a less than impactful ideology in mind. Alternative xenotypes and ideologies can make surviving the Tundra much easier.

For instance there is a cold resistant gene, and an ideology that supports cannibalism can help with winter food shortages without tanking mood penalties.

Initial Build and Steam Geysers

Given the energy poverty of being a tribal in tundra, not much wood and no electricity, then exploiting the free heat of steam geysers is not just valuable, it is mandatory.

All habitable structures should be built around them. The equivalent of temperature control can be created using a system of doors built around the geyser. By toggling the doors between “forced open” and “allow to close”, you can vent the heat around the structure to where you need it.

One particularly cold winter, the geysers heat is vented into just the barracks to the right.

An optimal arrangement is to build four spacious rooms around a geyser so that each room has its own set of doors to the geyser. Initially you can just build one room and put all your bedding and cooking in it.

Later, as you build out the remaining rooms, you can make one room a dedicated kitchen and dining room with the rest as bedrooms.

Later still, you can move the kitchen to a more peripheral room from the geyser since, to an extent, the kitchen generates some heat itself, as a by product of cooking.


Storage sites do not really need to be heated, just enclosed from the outside, so these can be built away from the geyser. Indeed your food store wants to be able to take advantage of the cold outside temperatures to work as a passive freezer in the long winter.

A typical solution for a tribal food store is to cut it out of a mountain and stick in a passive cooler. However in the tundra the temperatures are so cold that you can build it anywhere (except around a geyser) and it will hardly need a passive cooler and not at all in winter.

In winter your food store will become a freezer just from ambient temperatures alone.

Frugal Wood

We have already seen how steam geysers help us get valuable free heat without burning up precious wood. We will still need some wood for cooking though, for tribals there is no alternative.

Fortunately tribals do start with the tree planting tech, so planting some extra trees around the homestead may help some. You still have that short growing season though, while having so much else like cotton and healroot to also grow and harvest within that narrow window of above zero temperatures.

You could also grow fibrecorn for cooking fuel. Fibrecorn has quite low light requirements so there is the possibility of growing it indoors, lit by torches and warmed by geysers even during the winter.

Building Materials

For building materials, tribals really must start with wood to get an initial shelter up. However it is possible to switch to steel and stone quite early depending on nearby resources. Look out for compacted machinery to mine, which yields steel. You can also deconstruct ruins for both stone blocks and steel.

Once you have some structures in stone and steel you can then deconstruct your initial wood build for firewood.

You may want a passive cooler for your food store in summer but for the long winter the environmental temperatures will do better by freezing everything. Since the passive cooler eats wood to work you can save wood by turning it off when it is made redundant by the weather.

Alternative Light Sources

As we will see later, nutrifungus is the one crop that, with some shenanigans, we can grow year round. Besides being a source of food, albeit one with a mood penalty for most, nutrifungus can also be used to craft darklight torches.

Although the light is weaker than regular torches it is better than nothing and can save some wood for cooking. A strategic use for darklight torches might be to use them in low activity areas like bedrooms, corridors and storage sites to save the full strength torches for crafting areas.

Fungus Farms

A fungus farm built around a geyser for year round harvest.

One way to lengthen the growing season in tundra is to grow your crop indoors, around a geyser for warmth. However crops do not just need to be kept above freezing, they also need light, lots of it. To harness geyser heat you need to trap it in walls and under a roof, but that cuts out the light.

More technological people can do indoors farming by building sun lamps. This is not available to tribals, or not for a long time, but they can use geysers to create year round crops by growing nutrifungus which do not need light. Simply build a largish room around a geyser to trap the heat and sow your fungus inside.

Most ideologies disdain fungus food, so optimally we should only put manhours into sowing and harvesting fungus in the winter. This also means, for the first year, you can delay building your fungus shed until the fall.

Nutrifungus can serve as the vegetarian component to both pemmican and kibble. Another use for fungus is in crafting darklight torches. These torches are quite dim but some light is better than nothing and it can save some wood. We can grow fungus year round, but not wood.

Summer Strategy

In summer, tribals in tundra can grow crops but do not have a way to freeze it for consumption in winter. Making pemmican and kibble are the only ways of storing long term food at this time of year. To make the most of the growing season, to save food for winter, then we should aim to turn most of our crop into pemmican and kibble.

Both kibble and pemmican require a meat component to make. So we will have to run some hunting and slaughter alongside the drive for crops. Since we want to be maximising plant crops now, we should switch our daily diet to vegetarian meals to save the meat for making pemmican.

The short growing season and the risk of a cold snap means we should prefer fast growing crops, such as rice and strawberries. If our numbers are great then supplement with potatoes to get larger fields over poorer lands. Avoid corn, for all its advantages the long growing time is too risky in the tundra.

Unless our ideology is okay with fungus food we should not spend our pawn’s time on the fungus farm in summer. Save work on that until winter when it is only thing that will grow.

Winter Strategy

In winter all plants will die, including wild forage like healroot and berries. Only a geyser warmed fungus farm can keep going. On the plus side, our food stores will freeze over, taking the pressure off of pemmican production.

Animals in pens will begin starving unless you can keep them fed with stored hay and kibble. Once your food stores are reliably frozen it is best to cull at least the old from the herd and let the meat freeze.

Tundra biomes occasionally get animal migration events and these are a valuable opportunity to gain extra meat for the freezer. These animals in migration tend to be in big gangs so take precautions against animal rage by giving your hunters armed back up.

With plant production impossible and a freezer full of culled meat, your colonists can switch to a carnivore diet, supplemented with stored pemmican.

You want to make sure you have eaten all the meat before summer though. Your passive freezer only works in winter and a great stock of meat will quickly spoil when the weather warms.

A fungus farm can help with turning surplus meat into pemmican.

The Tribal Skillset for Tundra

What follows is overview of the skills you will want as tribals to survive the tundra.

The Cook is King

At least one really good cook is important. You will want the ability to switch between pure vegetarian meals in summer and pure carnivore meals in winter. For that, a cooking skill of at least 6 is required.

A good cook will help with reducing food waste too. This will save not just precious food but also precious wood since we must use wood to cook.

Also the occasional cooking of lavish meals can help offset the mood penalties from eating fungus, wearing tainted parkas and cabin fever.

Keep your best cook out of harms way wherever possible, just as you would your best doctor.


In winter your best planter can look after the fungus farm on his or her own. However to make the most of the short growing season for other important crops, it is helpful if every one of your pawns has at least a little skill in plants.

That way, during the short growing season every manhour can be spent sowing, foraging and harvesting wood, berries, healroot and other crops.

It is not strictly necessary to have anyone with a very high plants skill. This will be wanted for planting Healroot mainly, but Healroot is quite common forage in the tundra. It will not be available in winter, but it stores well if you can forage enough of it in summer.


Meat from hunting is potentially available all year round so you will want at least one decent hunter with good shooting and the animals skill.

Taming is viable in spring, but you will probably have to slaughter most of your herd once winter starts to hit.

The Long Indoors

With all the forage destroyed in winter, most of your herd culled and no crops to grow, winter can leave your pawns with not much to do even if plenty of food is stored.

Your cook will have work, but everyone else will be twiddling their thumbs trapped indoors. Some crafting, artistic or research skill can keep them productively occupied indoors during the long winter.

They need not be great specialists, but anyone that would otherwise be planting or hunting will be well served with a modest second talent in something indoorsy for when winter comes.

Trade and Social

Converting prisoners is of debatable value in the tundra, as we will see below, so that is one use for a strong social skill we do not really prize.

However the long winter indoors can potentially yield some excess and tradable craft goods for selling in the spring. A strong social specialist would give us a better price for them.

The tundra is especially dangerous for caravans in any season except summer, because of the lack of forage. Also visiting trade caravans will be rare in the colder climates and will not hang about when they do visit.

It is also relatively expensive to keep pack animals alive through the winter.

Overall then, a particularly high social skill may not be all that useful.

Shooting versus Melee

The best uses for melee is for stunning rather than killing raiders outright and for engaging enemies on ground with heavy cover. Neither of which is very useful in the tundra. Prisoners are better eaten than converted, and the lack of trees means open fire lanes for shooters.

Shooting is also important for hunting. In the tundra, ranching is less valuable over hunting because of the expense of feeding penned animals in winter.

Prefer shooting skill over melee.

Micro Optimisations and Gambits

What follows is a grab bag of handy tips and gambits that do not quite fit in the above categories.

Managing the Mood of Tainted Parkas

Without the benefit of the Complex Clothing tech the most likely source of parkas will be from looting the bodies of raiders. Almost always they will die in that clothing and so those precious parkas will also carry the mood penalty of being tainted.

The penalty is small and worth bearing for the protective power of parkas. However often enough you will have pawns that are not going out in the cold for some reason. They might be confined to prison following a mental break, confined to bed for medical reasons or something else.

During these periods of extended indoors time, there is really no need to endure the mood penalty for wearing tainted parkas. Make them take them off.

Likewise, do not wear tainted parkas when the outdoor temperatures are tolerable without a parka, such as in summer.

Dark Vision Quarters and Fungus Farms

Steam geysers are a valuable source of heat but there will only be so many on a map. If your colony is successful enough to grow large then these sources of heat can be in short supply.

One steam geyser you will want for warming a fungus farm, which must be unlit or else the fungus will die. This makes it awkward to combine colony quarters with a fungus farm. Most pawns will want lit quarters, especially for working.

Not so for any of your pawns with the Dark Vision gene. If you have any colonists with this gene you can combine their quarters with the fungus farm. They will get the benefit of the geyser heat without risking the crop to light exposure.


In many biomes taking the time to recruit prisoners is a fair way to grow. Sure, it takes a lot of food and manhours to eventually train them into a productive member of your society but the return on investment can be worth it.

This is very much less true in the tundra. When it comes to it, captured raiders will probably be best served by being served up as dinner.

Even if you have not opted to make cannabalism more palatable through ideological choices, it can be worth storing prisoners in winter as frozen corpses just in case other food sources fail. A mood penalty for eating human flesh is the lesser evil compared with starvation.

If you have not eaten your prisoners by the time spring thaws them out, you can bury them then.

Just try to strip them of their parkas before you kill them. It will save some taint.

Final Thoughts

There we go, a fairly comprehensive guide to surviving the dreaded tundra with a Lost Tribe start. Was it helpful? How long did your tundra colony survive?

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