10 Essential Skills Necessary for Survival

Although it is important to be prepared for disasters by having the right supplies, many preppers overlook the importance of having the right skills. They are not adequately trained to handle the disaster situations in which they find themselves. Having the proper skills and training will provide an individual with a well diversified knowledge base to help them survive during and after a disaster.

Not all Skills Are Created Equal

It is important to emphasize that some skills are more important than others. Therefore, prioritize your basic needs. That is, what keeps you alive: air, water, food, clothing, shelter. If you have these basic needs, then you can live. For an emergency, ensure that you have a way to treat water, have shelf stable food stored, seasonal clothing and shoes stored and an emergency shelter. Once you have these basic needs covered, then you can move on to other areas of expertise.

The following are pertinent skill sets that can help you survive a long-term emergency. Although there are many skills one can learn, these can save a life.

Outdoor Survival Courses

Most preppers and survivalists are planning to “re-connect” with nature.  Learning the necessary outdoor skills will provide a person with fundamental knowledge on how to better survive. The Boy Scouts offer adult classes as well as some community colleges.  Get creative and search around the internet. There are some survival courses offered online (some are free courses) that allow a person can learn from the comfort of their home. There are some survival courses offered online (some are free courses) that allow people to learn from the comfort of their home. There are also wilderness courses offered at a variety of facilities such as local colleges, the YMCA, community park and recreation facilities, etc. Additionally, finding books, and e-books on survival skills is another way to gather information on this topic. Better yet – practice going out into nature and living in rugged conditions to get an idea of the supplies required and how to better maintain your basic needs.


In a survival situation, medical training is going to be a big one. Due to the increased use of saws, axes and knives, there will be more medical emergencies involving deep lacerated cuts. Knowing how to properly clean wounds, stitch wounds, as well as knowing how to treat infected wounds will be extremely important. Additionally, there will be an increase in burns from being in closer contact to fires. Burns can get infected very quickly, and knowing how to decipher the degree of the burn and how to treat it will be a concern amongst survivalists and preppers. Online courses are offered for basic CPR/First Aid, however, those courses will not give a person the fundamental hands-on training they need. Finding a local Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) class that is offered for paramedics and first responders to accidents will better equip a person to handle emergency medical situations.

Hunting Skills
As many are planning to hunt wild game for a food source, they will need skills on how to gut the carcass, skin the fur and properly cut the meat. The “hunter-in-training” will also have to have a proficient knowledge on the different types of hunting tools used to prepare animal carcasses (and these tools come in different sizes based on the animal). The National Hunting Association is a portal that can take a person to their local area hunting association in order to get more information for their specific area. Also, this website offers the hunting guides for all of the states within the USA.

Disaster Training

Disaster training is typically offered by FEMA, the American Red Cross and other disaster organizations. A person who is equipped with knowledge on how to plan for a disaster, how to properly prepare for a disaster, and how to mentally handle the after effects of a disaster will be able to better adapt to the situation more quickly compared to those that are not. The American Red Cross offers extensive courses in disaster safety and training as well as basic First Aid/CPR courses.

Gardening Skills

In a long term survival situation, seeds will mean the difference between life and death. The only problem is, many have lost the necessary skill of gardening because there is a grocery store on every corner of the streets these days. It’s time to get your hands dirty and get back in touch with nature. Learning necessary gardening skills such as companion plants, crop rotations, beneficial insects, natural ways to replenish soil, and knowledge on proper gardening tools will be beneficial. Another relevant knowledge source is understanding the medicinal value of plants and herbs. It is amazing how many uses there are for plants besides spicing up our cooked entrees. Knowledge of natural medicines is another necessity in a survival situation, especially if a family member has a pre-existing condition.

Firearm Certification and Training

There are dozens of firearms courses offered through the National Rifle Association. In a situation where a person needs to defend themselves, 99% of them would want a gun. And, the more a person practices, the better their aim gets. This is one survival skill that a person should be as proficient as possible. Also, practicing gun safety, and educating others about gun safety, especially around children,  is essential when a firearm is around.

Canning and Food Preparation

Knowing how to can and preserve foods to eat during the long winter months is vital. Just think of all the delicious jarred goods a person can store up for when their food supply dwindles in the winter. The canning jars can be a bit of an investment. However, canning jars can often be found on www.craigslist.com, at garage sales and even at second hand stores. Canning jars and lids would also make an excellent bartering item.

Amateur Radio Classes

Having a radio is encouraged by many disaster relief organizations.  Having knowledge on how to operate a HAMM radio will provide a person with an emergency communication source during a time when most communication is down. The National Association of Amateur Radio provides information based on a person’s location and course information on their website.

Sewing Classes

Typically if there is a fabric store, there are sewing classes and sewing events that are offered at the store. Everyone has heard of how their great grandmothers would sew quilts out of material from damaged or worn clothing, but not many of us have this skill anymore. Sewing classes will not only teach a necessary skill, but it will also get the survival mindset in place: make something new out of what you have available. This skill will also steady your hand if you have to give stitches in an emergency.

Candle/Soap making Conventions

Soap and candle making are a lost art form in my opinion.  Having a background knowledge of these skills would also be a great bartering skill.  Search the Internet and community publications to find these classes.


The Prepper's Blueprint

Tess Pennington is the author of The Prepper’s Blueprint, a comprehensive guide that uses real-life scenarios to help you prepare for any disaster. Because a crisis rarely stops with a triggering event the aftermath can spiral, having the capacity to cripple our normal ways of life. The well-rounded, multi-layered approach outlined in the Blueprint helps you make sense of a wide array of preparedness concepts through easily digestible action items and supply lists.

Tess is also the author of the highly rated Prepper’s Cookbook, which helps you to create a plan for stocking, organizing and maintaining a proper emergency food supply and includes over 300 recipes for nutritious, delicious, life-saving meals. 

Visit her web site at ReadyNutrition.com for an extensive compilation of free information on preparedness, homesteading, and healthy living.

This information has been made available by Ready Nutrition

Originally published September 6th, 2013
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24 Responses to 10 Essential Skills Necessary for Survival

  1. WorthyChief says:

    Outdoor survival skills?  That’s ok if you live in a rural area but for the 300 million that don’t it’s pointless.  How long do you think the trees in Central Park would last if everyone in NYC decided to build a fire to keep warm?  Hunting?  What, cats and dogs?  If you want to survive it makes more sense to pull you head out of the sand and get involved politically on a local level.  We will survive when we stop using Government to get money out of the pockets of Countrymen we don’t know.  The 2% or 5% that happen to live some what rural would be over run if 300 million have to turn to the woods to survive.

    • marcus says:

      Respectfully, I don’t think urban survival skills were listed because its (in a large scale emergency) an oxymoron.  In a city-wide crisis that would affect food and water for more than two weeks, I wouldnt want wo be within 100 miles of NYC.  Hunting cats and dogs? Yes.  and rats. and whatever else you can find.  The only long term urban survival skill is relocation.

    • dogshawred says:

      Fighting now is needed and everyone must stand up and fight for is good for the American people. BUT, when it happens (SHTF) you will need to take you family and what you can carry and get out of dodge immediately.  If not within 7 days you will be over run by mob rule and will be forced into a situation you will probably not survive. 

  2. Merry says:

    List seems to have omitted basic animal and childcare skills. I know you probably think everyone who survived their own childhood knows how to care for kids but I have seen enough bone-headed mistakes to believe you are wrong. And I dare you to ask any animal shelter worker or Veterinarian if everyone knows how to care for animals.

  3. Jared Cisney says:

    Awesome info over again. Thank you.

  4. jim says:

    I live in rural area. Have gun collection and lifetime supply of ammo. Don’t think anyone is going to “overrun” my place!!
    If you live in urban area, there are sites for urban survival. Haven’t checked ’em out. You might want to. If you can afford, it is great time to invest in a rural home on acreage, either individually or in a group. Set up a commune. Get back to nature. Learn how to live in the woods cut-off and alone–stuff I learned growing up where I did and pursuing hobbies of wilderness hiking, camping, surviving. Many, including me, “good ole boys” will help you if you ask.
    Hope you get out of city soon…
    My best to all,

    • Mr RAYMOND L. AKE says:

      WE have pretty much the same as you,,I am from the South,farm raised,life long hunter,camper,so we where taught how to live off the land,can,plant,store food for long term use,as all farmer’s do.better safe than sorry.. RAY

    • Wiiliam says:

      No place will be “safe”. Homes will be the first left abandund or destroyed. One well placed shoulder rocket and all the ammo in the world isn’t going to help. One M1 Abrahms tank and your home is dust. One armed Drone and your home is dust. My point being: it is important to be where the enemy isn’t, unless you are confronting the enemy. Stealth and spies will be important to learn your enemy’s plans and location. My advice is to be where they are not and try to ride out the storm.

    • dabbobean says:

      “Good ol’boys” will probably become “bad ol”boys” when they run through what little supplies they might have on hand ….i live in the most rural of areas and people are just not prepred for any event that might last more than a few days.
      And hunting is not the answer, the state has drastically reduced big game numbers over the last 10 years, right now probably only 10% of hunters are successful during any given deer season about half being lucky and half being good…. and 1 or 2 years or unregulated hunting will put that romantic notion of living off the land mountain man style to rest.

      Connect with trusted family or friends, be well armed, pool your resources, have a plan, take a stand, defend what is yours, help people when you can, and fight like a mad dog if you get backed into a corner……God speed.

  5. Eric says:

    Sorry folks, but Jim is right. Lots of talk about urban/suburban survival, but it may be like living in a war zone if the SHTF. Personally I think every year we are further out on that limb. And it is gonna break sooner or later, but I’m betting on sooner. Been prepping for about a year since we sold our house in the burbs and bought an old farm. Met a lot of people here in the country who know something’s coming and are getting ready. Any class on homesteading, survival skills, etc is full to overflowing. My advice: prep quietly, a year’s supply at least, hide what you can, don’t forget barter items. Get to know your neighbors/town’s people, who can you trust/call for help, who should you not turn your back on. Learn at least 2 hands-on skills that will be useful to your family and town. Educate yourself, build a library of useful books, get in shape. And lastly, live your life well. Now that I’m feeling more prepared for what may come, I’ve never felt more relaxed, more healthy, or more connected to my fellow town’s people. Moving to the country was the best decision we’ve ever made.


    • Wiiliam says:

      Good advice Eric.

    • dogshawred says:

       what you did is the opposite to what has occured of the last 6 decades and has been the down fall of this great nation.  Too many families moved to the city away from the country to live a better life.  Had this migration not taken place I believe our nation would today be in a better place and better prepared to defend itself from what is coming.  Kudos to you for taking this step to insure the future of you and your family.  God Bless.

  6. Al says:

    Another overlooked skill is fishing. Fish offers a great source of protein if a lake is available. Being able to hook a fish out of a lake, stream, or from beneath the ice in the dead of winter could be beneficial to a family’s dietary needs. Fishing is simple, doesnt require ammunition or noise of any kind, and can be accomplished in several ways (lines, nets, spearing, etc) 
    I realize not everyone lives near a lake or stream, but you never know when you may need this skill in order to eat. 

  7. Harold says:

    What most people overlook and/or do not want to admit is this very simple fact, if SHTF many million Americans are going to die. Large urban areas will become wastelands. Even medium size urban areas will be worse than Afghanistan. Those who have prepared and are WILLING and ABLE to defend themselves will survive. Those who are waiting on the government to take care of them or hope their neighbors and friends will do so or who plan on taking what they need from the rest of us are in a boatload of trouble.

  8. Tyent says:

    I hear what people are saying about defending themselves, but ultimately you have very little chance if the army decide they want to ‘deal with you’. I guess it will take the collective action of the people to stop the rot and not only will an individual need to be armed, he will need to team up with his neighbours.

    • dabbobean says:

      If the military comes they will come by night……how many people are prepared for that scenario?…… Almost none.

  9. Sandy Brown says:

    Another important thing would be reliance on God.  I’m hoping to be taken into the army of the Lord before this day comes.  If not, I’m relying on the brains and common sense he gave me and getting back to the natural way God intended us to be.

    Blessed is the man that trusteth in the Lord, and whose hope the Lord is. For he shall be as a tree planted by the waters, and that spreadeth out her roots by the river, and shall not see when heat cometh, but her leaf shall be green; and shall not be careful in the year of drought, neither shall cease from yielding fruit. Jeremiah 17:7-8 KJV

    • spiritsplice says:

      Sandy, you mean the same god who said, “kill the children and babies.”? 1 Sam 15:2-3. Don’t think Mr. Genocide will be much help. 

      • Sandy Brown says:

        Yes, the same merciful and JUST God.  The reason is told in 1 Sam 15:2.  “I remember that which Amalek did to Israel, how he laid wait for him in the way, when he came up from Egypt.”  It is also explained in 1 Sam chapter 12 that He will do away with wickedness.   I certainly have had my fair share of trials that sometimes make me yell at God and ask WHY???, including a child with brain tumors.  Yet at the same time I wouldn’t want to live without the HOPE that comes from my faith, sometimes it is the ONLY thing that gets me by.    My comment wasn’t meant to offend you, but to share the means in which I find peace in these MOST troubling times.

      • RonW says:

        “I remember that which Amalek did to Israel, how he laid wait for him in the way, when he came up from Egypt.” – sounds like this ‘god’ holds grudges as well as being genocidal… 🙂

    • dabbobean says:

      I’m with you Sandy…..trust in The Lord but be wise and bring along some extra oil for your lamp because you don’t know at what hour he will arrive.
      And What’s that quote from mark Twain…”never argue with stupid people, first they’ll drag you down to their level and then beat you with experience”.

  10. Gottalovechickens! says:

    The list is good, but I would like to address a few of them.
    Sewing Classes. Of all the skills mentioned, the one that has saved me the most money is my sewing skills. During the years of cheap imported clothing, we have lost the value of clothing/cloth repair. Will we be making clothes when times get tough? Maybe not, but saving what we own is priceless. 
    Hunting skills/fishing skills. During the 29-39 depression, there was a decrease in wild animals as they were hunted for food. Today, wild animals, especially deer, are a problem. There are many laws and regulations for killing them. Unless a person is living way out in the country, those hunting skills better be something like snaring–unfortunately, illegal. The same thing applies to fishing. It would be a better idea to consider raising food in the home/apartment to eat. Cuy anyone? Aquaponics? Window gardens? 
    What wasn’t mentioned from the list: Resourcefulness skills. Read a lot, take lessons, and think out of the box. It is going to be really inconvenient and time consuming among other aspects.

  11. Amy Fagg says:

    In the UK guns aren’t an option and for people like me prepping isn’t an option either. Can barely make it finacially through the week. Looks like I’m dead then.

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