When it comes to prepping, it’s good to have a stockpile of food, a bug-out bag ready to go, and a vehicle that can get you over, around or through any obstacle. But more important than the things we physically own are the skills we have. True survival isn’t based on what you have, but what you can do with it… and if you have nothing, your skills are the only thing you have. Knowledge doesn’t weigh an ounce.
So with all of that said, what are the top skills every prepper should know? Many debates have been had on that very subject. Lots of people think you should know auto mechanics… some think you should know carpentry and construction… others still think knowing how to drive a tank is important. The simple fact is, all of those skills would be handy in certain situations.
But what BASIC skills should you know, and why?
This skill is much more than just knowing how to set something up over your head. It’s knowing where to best set up a shelter and what to watch for when you do. If you read my article on The 5 W’s of Shelter Building, you’ll understand that there are certain things you need to be aware of when setting up your “camp” including your location to a water source. The style of shelter will of course be determined by your surroundings. It could be anything from a tent to a small hut.
Water Procurement & Purification
Remember, you can only live for 3 days without water. After that, you run the risk of dehydration, and that can kill you faster than you realize. But just finding water isn’t enough. You need to have a way to filter it and purify it to make it safe for drinking. Water distillation is also a good skill to know.
Food Procurement & Preparation
Hunting, fishing, and trapping are great skills to have! But along with those skills, you’ll need to know how to field dress and skin an animal. Not a pretty sight for the weak stomached person, but a necessary skill to survive. Foraging, gardening and plant identification are great for vegetarians and vegans as well as people who just want a few veggies every now and then. Man cannot live on bread alone… nor can he live on meat alone. Ok, maybe he can, but veggies are good for you, right?
If you don’t have any first aid skills, every step you take in a survival situation is detrimental. Basic first aid is a must, and any advanced training you can learn is a bonus! Keep in mind, the farther you are from the nearest city, the longer it would take you to actually get to a hospital in a time of need. Likewise, it would take quite a while for paramedics to get to you. Learn all you can, then learn some more. If you’re married or have other adults in the house with you, you should all learn basic first aid, then it would be a super bonus if you each learned a “specialty” or two. For example, if someone knows how to identify medicinal plants and how to use them, it could come in very handy!
Sewing is a great skill to have and will come in handy when you have ripped clothes, if your tent tears, or even to sew up a wound. You need a good sewing kit in your preps, but I have even heard of people in survival situations using shards of bone as makeshift needles.
Lighters, matches, multiflame tools… all good fire starting devices… but what if you don’t have any of those? The skill to start a fire from nothing is more important! If you’re in the middle of nowhere without any equipment, you should still be able to start a fire using the hand drill or fire plough method.
This is a very important skill if you’re going to be with a group or for when you encounter a group (as, surely, you will). Being able to calm people in hostile situations is almost a mandatory thing for everybody. Knowing how to barter is in this skill-set, too. If someone has something you want, you can offer a trade for something you have.
If your interpersonal skills break down, or if you encounter someone without interpersonal skills (like this marauder), self-defense is your last hope. You don’t have to know every form of martial arts there is to know, just basic defense skills. Common sense and reflex play huge roles here, too.
The Bottom Line
The bottom line is that it doesn’t matter how many cans of food or guns you have, if you don’t have basic survival skills, your preps mean nothing. You can’t always take your preps with you, and the things you can take with you, you need to know precisely how to use. My suggestion? Practice! Just recently, my sons and I were discussing a “survival weekend” where we will take very little gear, “get lost” in the backwoods somewhere, and just survive! That’s where you hone your skills!
Can you name more skills every prepper should know?
If you have more ideas about skills preppers should have, please leave me a comment below and let me know!