What Survival Skills Does A Prepper Need?

bushcraft skills for survival

Top 15 Essential Prepper Skills to Learn Now!

Any person who sets out to acquire a set of survival skills must start with a brutally honest self-assessment. If you don’t make a truthful appraisal of where you are in terms of your survival skills and knowledge, you have no reliable means of getting to where you want to be.

Do an inventory. In what areas are you most skilled? Where are you definitely lacking? Are you well versed in firearms but lack knowledge about water purification? Have you amassed an impressive food pantry but have no way to protect that food should the need arise?

Do you have a stocked first aid kit but don’t know how to use it? Just as a business that fails to take regular inventory cannot succeed, neither can a survivor who doesn’t tabulate his resources. You need a starting point, and today’s assignment is to take an inventory of your essential survival skills. As you read through the following list, check off those skills you have mastered so you can focus on those skills on which you need to improve.

1. Food processing

Many survival planners overlook food processing in favor of more exciting elements of preparedness. This is a mistake. Learning how to prepare basic survival foods is one of the most important elements of long-term disaster preparedness.

2. Bulk food storage

Without adequate quantities of stored foods, your demise is virtually guaranteed after a major catastrophe. Storing and rotating basic grains, beans, and other foodstuffs isn’t difficult; anyone can learn how to do it properly in an hour or two.

You will find everything you need to know here and here.

3. Emergency medical care

Every survivalist should have sufficient medical training. A good start is taking a basic cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) and first aid class; check with your local Red Cross for scheduling. If time and finances allow, taking EMT classes is an excellent idea.

Don’t overlook herbal medicine, which may be all you will have to work with after a disaster.

Please read my article Prepper’s First Aid and Medical Checklist to find out about getting medical training, alternative medicine, kits, and even birth control methods.

4. Gardening

Because of space and finances, most of us cannot cache enough food to last the rest of our lives. We’ll need to replace our stored foods with fresh supplies.

Gardening is an excellent way to do this and can be easily learned with instruction and practice. It is amazing the amount of food that can be grown in a small space under proper conditions.

5. Preserving food

Food preservation is an important survival skill, as most fresh foods spoil fairly quickly, resulting in a loss of quality, edibility, and nutritional value. You should learn how to can, dry, freeze, cure (salt or sugar), smoke, pickle, bury, vacuum-pack, jelly, and/or pot food.

6. Hunting

Contrary to popular belief, all wild game will not disappear after a collapse, natural or manmade. Most people would rather stand in a food line waiting for a handout than scour the backwoods for wild game.

And let’s not forget that the extent of most people’s hunting skills doesn’t go beyond the latest hunting themed video game.

7. Trapping

Trapping is more practical under survival conditions than hunting. By setting a trap, you can be other places doing other things while the trap does the hunting for you. Learn to build and set snares, deadfalls, box traps, fish traps, and steel traps.

Becoming a proficient trapper is not difficult—all you need to do is get off the couch and learn by doing.

8. Firearms repair

Basic firearms repair (replacement of broken parts) isn’t difficult if you have the parts needed when something breaks. You don’t need to learn how to repair every make and model of firearm in existence. You do need to have an in-depth understanding of your firearms: how they work and how to maintain and repair them.

9. Self-defense skills

The most effective self-defense techniques are also the easiest to master. Striking vulnerable points, biting, and eye gouging are simple and effective techniques that can be learned quickly and, when applied with aggression and precision, can bring down the most determined attacker.

10. Firearms proficiency

If you’re new to firearms, a basic safety course is highly recommended before learning defensive skills. Concealed-carry permit classes are held in most areas, as are hunter education programs. I suggest you participate in both.

The National Rifle Association (NRA) offers a number of classes that are most helpful.

11. Water purification

Another simple skill often overlooked is water acquisition and purification.

12. Using tools

You should have a survival toolbox of basic tools, including hammers, saws, drills, screwdrivers, winches, vise grips, wire cutters, and files. Your toolbox should also include the skills needed to put these tools to good use.

13. Raising small livestock

Raising livestock for food goes hand-in-hand with gardening, hunting, and trapping to ensure sustenance during hard times. I highly recommend Barnyard in Your Backyard by Gail Damerow and Secret Livestock of Survival which covers everything you need to know about making livestock part of your survival food plan.

14. Home power

While it may be possible to survive with no electrical power at all, having some source of electrical current will make life much easier. My solar setup cost me under $600, including the batteries, and the price of building my homemade electrical generator amounted to just under $100.

15. Investing

After getting your survival necessities in order (e.g., food, water, medical supplies, shelter, defense), you need to start thinking about investing in barter goods, such as .22-caliber ammo, pocketknives, and “junk” silver coins. Just be sure not to make the mistake of going into debt while investing in these metals.

And don’t overlook learning how to barter – here is a list of the ten top barter items.

Check your skills (be honest!) against the list above. If there are areas in which you are lacking (and there will be if you’re being honest), then get to work filling in the gaps. What skills do you have now? What skills do you need to learn or build upon?

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  1. I have sent a link to this article to my beautiful bride. I have asked her to do an assessment of how well she thinks we measure up. Because we live in the Philippines and we live in the area she was raised, I think she will offer ideas on where we are lacking for the long haul based on her life experience. It is easy for me to see all the water resources we have and understand how badly purification methods are needed because so little is fit for consumption. We are good for water procurement and treatment, even teaching our mini-people the techniques they will need in emergencies. I take comfort in our growing medical supplies combined with my wife’s nursing skills. All good. What is important is to uncover the weak areas that perhaps I do not perceive and make improvements where we fall short. Thank you, MD, for the reminder to take a break and take stock of just where we are in our preparedness.

  2. I think many people only focus on stocking up on stuff, but have no idea what to do with it. This stuff will eventually be gone. Do they have any idea of how to be truly self-sufficient? I don’t think so. This is an excellent article on our most important prep: knowledge.

  3. Good article M.D. I noticed a couple of thin spots in my preparations when I read through this. Probably the biggest holdup to getting totally prepared for me is I work full time and it is sometimes difficult to get the time to do all the things I want to do in life. That is not a complaint, just an observation. The other things I do (besides prepare) are have fun with my family, enjoy good things such as church activities, schooling to help me on the job, etc. Ah well, that is life. Keep up the good work M.D., I really appreciate what you do.

    • Greg M, Quoting you “The other things I do (besides prepare) are have fun with my family, enjoy good things such as church activities, schooling to help me on the job, etc. ” We agree wholeheartedly. One technique that works for us is to integrate “have fun with the family” and practising our skills and use of gear. My beautiful bride brought three great kids to our marriage. Our gang are 12, 10 and the little guy just turned 6. We used a power outage as a teaching session. The kids had so much fun cooking meals with the same gear that is in their school EDC-get home bags, they forgot we had no power, no YouTube etc. The two boys especially love learning how to hang their new hammocks and tarps. Even an afternoon at the park inside our subdivision practising is a special time for the family. The three all like collecting small bits of wood for the collapsable wood gasifier. We have a blast as a family as the little ones learn and build their skills. For those on a tight budget, it really does not cost much to have this time together once you get past the cost of basic supplies. Also, older items with expiry dates get rotated out of the kid’s kits as they practice and new items replace the old.

      • I like your ideas Jack. Good stuff to practice and teach the kids and have fun all at the same time. Thanks for some good tips.

  4. Hello to all .

    Pretty much the topics covered here are what is in my 1938 , 1954 and 1968 BOY SCOUT HANDBOOKS . Firearms , Animal Husbandry and 2 others ? , are merit badges …… or were . I have always recommended folks to own a copy – Pre 1972 – because now it appears the Boy Scouts are being taught and learning …….. how shall I word this ….. other things .

    My troop was run by crazy WW l l vets and I swear my Army basic training was easier than what they put us through for 7 years .

    Many folks , I have read about in numerous prep / survival sites , state they have their bible in the BOB . God told me to take my Boy Scout Handbook .