Survival SKILLS – More Than Just Food And Water


The prepper’s of today will vary in their range of risk tolerance – from the casual prepper (high risk tolerance) to the extreme prepper (very low risk tolerance). Their preparations and preparedness will also vary corresponding to their risk tolerance and/or recognition of risk… and the things that they do for their overall plan will range widely.

Some will be satisfied with storing back weeks or months of food and having some practical supplies, while others won’t feel comfortable until they’ve achieved a 1-year food storage along with a serious store of supplies.

The thing is though, there’s more to it than just storing food and water (and supplies)…

Logic tells us that most of the (dare I say, ‘typical’?) higher probability disasters will be less devastating over the long run, and will mostly be fairly short in duration (and localized) than other disasters which while less likely… may be more severe, wide-spread and much more impacting on one’s survival.

When it comes to survival itself, if you are unfortunate enough to be caught in the bulls-eye of a localized disaster, you will have the hope (and probability) that others will be able to help, since the disaster will be somewhat localized. However a wider ranging catastrophic disaster, although usually less probable, will affect far more people who will be caught in it when it occurs.

While everyone’s preparedness situation is unique with the constraints of risk tolerance, insight, and budget and time constraints, I do believe that a very good course of action (regardless of your risk tolerance) is to identify your existing skills and think about how your skills could be put to work in a post-disaster scenario.

Focus some of your survival preparedness plans to support your skill sets.

If you find that after self-examination your skills are not practical enough to deal with survival and life after a disaster (you will have to define your own disaster scenarios), then you really need to look into learning some skills which will assist you (and others) while supporting survival after TSHTF.

Apart from the very basic necessities to survive (shelter, fire, water, food, security), assuming one has enough supplies to make it through a number of months from basic storage, the real long term survival will come from ones skills and ability to contribute to providing what you need to survive. Perhaps contributions to a self sustaining community, and/or barter services for consumables that are needed.

This really is not much different from what we do today (we work for currency), except it will be work at a more basic level, and one where perhaps paper currency will be worthless.

For example, those who know how to successfully grow food, and those who know how to leverage the tools around them to build and repair things, and those who know the basic down-to-earth know-how skills of survival… ALL will be in high demand after TSHTF.

Think ahead about leveraging the skills and know-how that you already have, in order to place yourself in a better position.

Not many (hardly any) people will truly posses all of the skills necessary to live self-sufficient. It will take a group, a tribe, a community of people with a range of skills and abilities in order to stand a chance at survival.

Do not fall into the trap of believing that if you simply buy enough survival preparedness supplies, that you will be all set. While having these supplies will definitely be a plus, the fact is that it will only get you so far… If the disaster is short enough and things recover, then that will have been okay. On the other hand, if the disaster is truly a SHTF, then those supplies will run out, and you will only be left with your skills.

Please consider investing some of your time learning some basic practical hands-on skills. It really is a life insurance policy.


  1. i suspect, back in the time of the Great Depression, more folks had the skills and knowledge to survive, than now. i suspect that these days, the per cent of folks able to survive such a thing is much smaller. we (most folks) are too much reliant on “gov’t will do something”/grocery store/some magical hospital/etc..

    1. True. Many more knew how to grow food,cook with basic’s ( that was all they had ) hunt,fish,build without power tools ect.

  2. Depending upon how many unprepared folks die off in severe collapses, then dollars will have no initial value.

    As things calm down, and those with only supplies run out of supplies and their equipment breaks, then only those with more supplies and skills will make it.

    Those with the skills will be able to mostly (95% of the time) grow their own food needs and a tiny amount (5% of the time) forage for wild edibles or hunt/fish/trap them. Historically trapping produces the highest amount of nutrition. That all presumes one knows basic gardening, digging a well, water purification, drip irrigation, urine as fertilizer, has heirloom seeds, plant identification, trapping skills, hunting by ranged attacks, butchering ability (mostly to field dress game), food preservation (mostly dehydration), etc.

    This weeding out process of prepper wannabees will eliminate a lot of Americans. They don’t have those skills and most can’t make a fire to save their lives.

    However almost all of them could learn them if they had the inclination. Even illiterate folks understood how to do most of them throughout American history.

    Those who survive might just end up using those dollars. Let’s say that barter begins again. It’s highly likely that new leadership would encourage market days to facilitate trade again. Doing so will both relieve conflict in some ways as well as being a safer source of supplies and as ways of learning the skillsets of survivors.

    At first there will be straight trades, but those limit interactions. At some point currency might again be accepted. Wealthy folks, especially without skills and supplies, may make some initial trades in dollars, then items of worth, then useful items of trade, and certain unscrupulous folks might consolidate those items hoping to use that new wealth for future trades.

    Because of this, some preppers have intentionally thought of cheap trade items towards that purpose.

    YOU will be the doctor, trapper, hunter, fisherman, carpenter, engineer, farmer, electrician, mechanic, etc in a collapsed society. You won’t likely be able to afford any of those specialists to aid your familiy.

  3. I’m no hunter, carpenter, mechanic, electrician, farmer, or have knowledge of other useful trades. I have some knowledge but not enough to survive on my own. Besides storing prep items I have made it a habit of developing relationships with area farmers, carpenters, electricians. I buy from the farmers, employ the carpenter when I need work done outside my knowledge, and help with other needs as I can assist. In a grid down scenario I know that I can count on these same people to help me. If you can’t afford the preps, then at the very least develop relationships with trade people around you. If you are forced to do things that you never had to do before, then at the least these people will be a source of knowledge to answer your questions.

    1. What you’re discussing is the outgrowth of specialization from Henry Ford’s model that infected the USA and resulted in trained folks who could place a widget into the designated slot, and left someone else to do the next section.

      In a healthy community and without conflict, communal sharing of property and supplies, I guess that could work, but historically most people in history were generalists not specialists.

      Today you rely upon those specialists because of the exchange of money for their specialized services, or perhaps you’re underplaying your own responsibilities within that community.

      I’ve found to my surprise that most people can’t do all of those things, even though their ancestors would have been able to do them say three generations back.

      In a true collapse, unless you have an extremely valuable skill like being a physician and one with medicine one hand, then most of us without skills are not needed. That won’t even work for most physicians for they rely upon 21st Century medicine can can’t do basic things without medications…which makes many of them largely useless.

      I encourage you to learn a valuable trade of some kind, or else what could you possibly have to barter post-collapse? Let’s say one was unbelievably wealthy with gold pieces in tiny amounts to trade for goods. You approach a farmer seeking plant and animal products. Will he/she trade with you for that gold? I wouldn’t personally for gold won’t have value under those kinds of conditions, only preserve wealth until stability is restored…likely many generations in the future.

      If one doesn’t understand medicine and then needs to heal their family of a common illness, then they might die under collapse conditions, for there might be no physician/medicines/medical supplies/insurance/transportation to the medical center/nursing care. What would you possess that you could trade with them to assist you?

      Are you thinking that in a world where there is no ability to replicate those kinds of supplies, that people out of kindness will use them up on your family, and do so out of kindness because those specialists today are kind now?

      The tough love of prepping is to get folks ready to commit resources, money, and time to educate their tribal members. That’s why so many of us learn these skills and crosstrain in those skills. Otherwise even within the tribe, the loss of the medic would result in a severe hardship for the family.

      I hope you meditate upon this. Learning skills in a more intensive manner will save you money, is rewarding on its own, and increases your security.

      1. Let me give you a practical example so you understand that I am not criticizing you, but only trying to help you understand.

        I know a person who traveled to a foreign country, and committed time,resources,education, and money towards that endeavor. That person lived in a tiny rural village that had almost no technology and was largely tribal and secluded.

        That person provided no trade items, but rather had technical experience to benefit that community. The only way she could exist within that community was with the chief’s protection. That leader told everyone that the person was their to help them learn new methods, and that would ultimately make life better for all of them. That was her trade value.

        Everyone else provided either agricultural items in trade or provided services for those agricultural items. Some might provide artistic items, ethanol, travel for three days by horse to the nearest village, then onward for many days to the capitol. They might offer to purchase items for tribal members and transport them back and be paid for their efforts.

        This model would likely be a common model post-collapse. The only thing currency does is ease trade, but there’s no guarantee that money will have value, and even if it did, one can’t eat money, nor plant it, nor do anything else with it, unless trade networks exist.

      2. When you say “I encourage you to learn a valuable trade of some kind,” I’m not sure that it is worth is to learn such things as to be an electrician, as there may be no more electricity, or a mechanic as there may be no more fuel to run vehicles, and even a physician is just as useless without medicines and medical tools.

        If you go back and read my post, you will see that I did put “I have some knowledge but not enough to survive on my own”. My knowledge consists of food preservation including canning, drying, smoking, making jerky, beer, butter, cheese, yogurt, jelly, just to name a few. Knowledge on the identification and processing of wild nuts, wild herbs, and other wild edibles.

        Then I also have raised fish in a closed system using no mechanical filtration units, relying on plants as filtration. The fish provide the fertilizer for the plants, providing a complete self sustaining system.

        I also know how to knit, crochet, and sew. I have gardened (not very well, still learning). As you can, these are not trade skills in today’s world, but they are very valuable.

        Even in a small tribe, not everyone is a hunter. Each person may have a small niche to fill in that tribe. It is through the combined knowledge that the tribe survives and even thrives. The people I choose to develop relationships with are all with-in walking distance (if need be). I consider everyone in this area part of my village. Trading goods are important but trading knowledge is just as important.

        1. Your food preservation skills will be very valuable during a SHTF collapse. There are people who can grow a moderate garden, but there aren’t as many who know how to properly preserve foods by all of the methods you’ve listed. Your point is well noted regarding “It is through the combined knowledge that the tribe survives…”

  4. People should definitely use what they have for disaster as much as possible. Skills are the best thing we have.

  5. I want to clarify my statements so folks understand my philosophy on prepping.

    No single family on the prairie could easily stand up to raiders. They could easily be overwhelmed. Likewise, if the healer in a family got ill, then that person in a family could easily die.

    This is why tribes came to be, for their was strength in numbers and some division in labor. Still despite one being better at scraping/curing a hide, creating better pottery, decorating items with art, exceling at hunting, then all of the tribe members could do basic things. They were mostly generalists.

    Yes, you might think many skills would be superfluous in a collapse. From history we know that even when there are collapses, they didn’t stay that way, but eventually things got more secure.

    Even though there was a mini-Ice Age in North Europe and Scandanavia (beginning in 1350 and not ending completely until 1850 with severe periods in between), and even though is severely harmed harvests and firewood and technological growth, it didn’t stop these things.

    Yes, there will be no central electrical power, but anyone with minimal mechanical sense can use the alternator in a car to build a minor wind powered device to recharge the car battery. Then one can power direct current devices and if one has an inverter then run minor alternating current devices for brief periods and based upon low amperage.

    Yes, it’s true that there won’t be fuel, but one can convert generators to run on wood gassification and hence mechanical knowledge is still relevant. Many mechanical prinicples will still be needed to raise water, to build devices to haul water, to pump water, etc. Your mechanic may end up repairing bicycles. Your mechanic may demonstrate old ways of winching like the Kochanski flip-flop winch method.

    It’s both/and not either/or. The skills you learn aid the entire community IF you also possess leadership skills to organize the survivors and if you can make them into a cohesive force. This requires community activities to identify skills and then find ways that those with skills can perform specialized labor. A pastor in the community might not have other survival skills, likewise a mechanic may not have hunting skills.

    I foresee one of the most important tasks post-collapse is educating nonpreppers (who survive and have other essential skills). A teacher might be educating the children of survivors so that their parents might work in the fields or raise animals. Children will be taught wilderness skills. Parents will teach other parents.

    Science might take be placed on the back burner, but if you have someone with chemistry knowledge that can adapt, then all kinds of things can be made.

    This is really the only way to have continuity of civilization. A single family will never survive, for even if they do well on their own, their children will desire to find partners and marry and produce offspring. That takes a community.

    But please don’t think that you don’t need to learn well a trade that can be fitted into the community’s trade network, for that won’t work. In fact, it will take tremendous effort to get people to trust again and be willing to trade their services, for it might be that the person desiring their services won’t have trade items until harvest time. How long before the fat in your livestock is finally converted to rendered fat and then later soap and candles? A long time, I think.

    In the interim, there might not be any trades, and only the family members eeking out survival and based upon their supplies, seed, spirituality, and SKILLS.

  6. Just a little side note based upon the photo in this article. Hired pickers at a farm will sometimes be placed in a cart in which they can face the ground somewhat comfortably and place the produce in containers on the side of the cart. Otherwise you can easily pull the intrinsic back muscle which are the tiny pinky sized ones that get pulled from stooping over. That strain tears them and causes a lot of time off work.

    In a collapse, there won’t be machinery running for lack of fuel. There will be an intense need for laborers and to grow a lot of food in a small place, probably using biodynamic intensive gardening techniques (see Chadwick). Anyway, while you might think this a waste of resources, you won’t have very many go to herbs for pain and inflammation relief, so making a cart like that is very helpful.

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