Many people who are just getting into prepping, whether they’re a soccer mom putting back extra groceries or someone who has just become interested in a self reliant lifestyle. A lot of these people believe that all you need to make it is a locker full of guns and ammo and a basement full of food. This is nearly as dangerous as being totally unprepared!

Stuff will not save you. Not in a prolonged disaster. Maybe not in a short term emergency either.
Skills, knowledge, experience… These are the keys to survival. This is why we say
“Skills don’t break and knowledge weighs nothing”. Yes it’s catchy but more importantly, embracing it just might save your life.

Definition of skill (n)
skill[ skil ]
ability to do something well:the ability to do something well, usually gained through training or experience
something requiring training to do well:something that requires training and experience to do well, e.g. an art or trade
Synonyms: ability, talent, cleverness, dexterity, expertise, proficiency, skillfulness, handiness, knack, aptitude, competence, flair

Cooking, building, repairing, fabricating, crafting, smithing, sewing… These are the skills that not only last a lifetime but will prevail in hard times.

You have to believe that you will survive. You need the fortitude to continue when your body says “Quit”. You need the mettle to carry on when your mind says “Enough is enough”.

I honestly believe that my time spent as a Boy Scout set the stage for my love of our Nation, my moral character, preparedness mindset, and drive to succeed. I made some lifelong friendships. I learned how to be an individual and a part of a team. I found out that I could dig deep and push through hardship (50 mile pack trip was rough as a kid). I learned to pack light but be prepared. The things I learned in Boy Scouts are the same things that inspired me to write “Fully Prepped”.

Skills are as important, maybe more important, as gear! You need skills to survive. You need skills to use for barter. You need skills to be a vital part of a surviving community. Many skills can be learned easily and may prove to be beneficial to you beyond your dreams. Some can be learned by reading a book, watching a video, taking weekend seminars, others may be offered at a local community college.

Here is my short list of some of the most important skills in no particular order.

Learning to stick weld is not that hard. You just want to get proficient enough to be able to know which rods or amp setting to use. You’re not going to to build a bridge tomorrow. I hope…

Many community colleges offer classes on welding. Once you own a welder, you’ll find a million and one uses for it. Not to mention should you ever need some extra cash, you can barter or start your own small welding business.

The small Lincoln boxes are 220V welders that can be picked up pretty cheap in a pawn shop or on Craigslist. These are great for nearly any situation you’ll find yourself needing a welder in a survival situation. But they require a 220V power source. A better choice would be a portable generator/welder combo. This way you can take your welder with you plus have a self contained unit. Honda, Lincoln and Hobart make excellent combo units. Just stay away from the cheap units. You really do get what you pay for.

Being careful in the use of resources makes good sense. This applies not only to consumables but also to the use of time. Avoiding waste and eliminating expensive habits will result in a simpler life, but a life that is more likely to be productive. You will have finite resources. Use everything. Repurpose as much as possible. Think twice before throwing anything away.

Knowing how to repair your generator motor or other small engine could be crucial. You could either take it into town or call a repair guy. The only problem with this idea is that you may not be able to call anyone. You may not want to call anyone. Your local community college is here to save you. Many have classes on basic and advanced small engine repair. Remember, you may be limited in parts. So stock up on the most likely parts ahead of time. You don’t need to know everything, but a basic knowledge and ability will go a long way.

So the next time your butterfly sticks closed or you manage to “He-Man” the pull cord loose, you wont be left scratching your head…you’ll know how to fix it!

No, I’m not talking about grabbing a can of worms and heading off to a stream. I’m talking about throwing down a ton of fish in a hurry. If you live anywhere near a large body of water such as a lake, river or pond, you need to learn how to catch a lot of fish in as little time possible. Learn how to make fish traps, nets and trotlines. Then learn how to use them properly.

Many fish have seasonal spawns where they will congregate in schools and move in mass to spawning areas. Most everyone knows that Salmon do this, but fish that live in lakes and rivers do this as well. Stripers, Bass, and Crappie, as well as many others, spawn this way. You may want to pick the brain of a local fishing guide. He should know what you’ll need for your regional species. There are books on the market that will teach you these skills. Be warned, many of these techniques are illegal in a lot of States. Be sure to read the regulations for your area before trying any of these techniques out. Of course, in a survival or emergency situation, you’ll probably be more worried about eating than facing down Barney Fife the Fish and Game Warden.

It’s easy to assume that all self reliant families or know how to hunt. But that isn’t the case. Many don’t even have the skills to find and harvest squirrels , let alone a big buck. To be successful on a regular basis, these skills take some time. It’s not as easy as going out on your porch and shooting the squirrels your neighbor is feeding!

You can bet that when a prolonged disaster strikes, others will be out putting food on the table. Food that should be on your table!

Hunting isn’t really a YouTube kinda skill. You’re going to have to go old school on this one. Y our best bet is to find a friend who is successful and tag along. Have them show you what to look for and the signs left by the game in your region. Once you “get a feel” for the forest and how animals move and use the woods, you’ll be on the right track to being a good hunter.

Whether you simply grow some tomatoes and greens or plant a whole mini-farm on an acre or two, knowing how to grow your own food will allow you to supplement your pantry. Knowing how to harvest seeds from your garden for next season should be high on your list if priorities. Learn to work the land you have so that you can grow fruits and vegetables that will feed your family and possibly provide excess for bartering.

This will come in very handy for those of you who wish to raise your own livestock and to take advantage of your local critters. You may need to bribe a friend or neighbor who already knows how to do this and convince them to show you as well. Learning how to properly cut up an animal, whether it’s a deer, cow or rabbit, is a valuable skill that every person wanting to be self sufficient should learn.

Butchers in my area charge $ .75 cents to $1.00 per pound on the hoof to kill, butcher and package a steer. If you’ve got a 800 pound steer, that can add up to a lot of money. I’ve even heard some butchers charging $2 per pound or more to do this! If it is not your cow it can be a couple dollars up to $10 a pound for good grass fed grass finished beef.
Deer typically cost at least $100 and more to have processed. You can save yourself a ton money and learn to do it yourself!

Trapping gives the self sufficient person a whole other avenue for procuring fresh meat. Unlike hunting, traps that you set are working for you around the clock. You can also set a lot of traps in order to cover a wide area. You could even set traps in one area and hunt another. Its like having 2 or more people out getting your food! This increases your chance of catching something for the dinner table.

What’s more important is knowing what type of trap to use in order to catch your intended target. If you’re wanting to catch a Wolf, then you’ll be sorely disappointed if you use a trap or snare intended for a squirrel

Hey, Sasquatch, how often do you get your hair cut? Once a month? Every two months? When there is no salon or barbershop around the corner or worse, no money for a salon, the next best thing is a good set of shears and someone with a modicum of hair cutting knowledge. Being even moderately groomed will greatly improve morale in your group. Couple a good haircut with a warm solar shower and you might even feel human again.

To get started in home barbering and haircutting, you need some barber shears and a trimmer. I happen to use a Wahl. A portable trimmer will run off of solar power so the lack of electricity should not be a problem although there are plenty of battery operated models to choose from as well.
I do suggest, that you acquire some basic skills practicing on family and friends so that when the time comes, you can perform basic hair cutting for other members of your survival community. We are lucky enough to have a family member in the business.

If you’re living the self reliant lifestyle, then chances are good you own some firearms. Can you disassemble, clean, and reassemble them (and have them work properly)? Sadly, some believe they can, but their idea of cleaning is spraying a half can of Break-free into the action and calling it clean. Do you have ANY spare parts around for your guns (extra magazines don’t count) Probably not, but you should and you should learn how to fix a firearm if it breaks. Brownell’s has a huge library of Video’s and Books on Gunsmithing. YouTube probably has what you need also. In a grid down situation you’ll most likely be out of luck on the videos. So grab yourself some books that cover your type of guns and learn how to clean and repair them.

Can you frame a wall, build a barn, square a building or plumb a sink? If not, these skills are easily learned. Your local community college may come to your rescue again. If you’re the type that can learn from a book, then you can find many fine books on building and carpentry at your local hardware store.These skills are necessary should we face a long term crisis. Carpentry, Electrical and Plumbing skills will all be in demand and you could make a lot of friends quickly if you the one in your area who knows how to fix things. Remember, you probably won’t have power. Learn how to do all these thing WITHOUT all those fancy do-dads you use now. Forget the laser level… Learn how to use a plumb bob. You’ll also need HAND TOOLS not POWER TOOLS. Start hitting the yard sales and Estate sales now!

Back in the day most young ones were taught how to mend clothes, see on a patch or button and darn socks.
These domestic skills were not limited to just the girls. little boys were also taught to sew, iron, hem and darn.
In a world where new clothes and even bolts of fabric are precious, if available at all, sewing skills will be needed to create new garments out of old. Things like sanitary pads for the ladies will need to be made from scrap pieces of cloth and washable TP from old rags may be needed. But most of all, clothes will need to be repurposed and made usable again. For that, someone with sewing skills will be invaluable to the community.

You’ll need to learn basic maintenance and repair skills and obtain some advanced skills like possibly being able to rebuild an engine or transmission. If you have a newer computer controlled vehicle, you may be out of luck if parts are not available. Cars don’t share many parts these days. Older, non-computer controlled vehicles are much easier to work on than those built today. These older vehicles may also afford some protection from EMP attacks. With no sensitive electronics to be fried in case of an attack, they just may be the hot “new” item in the neighborhood.

Men and women should be able to change a tire, change out starters, alternators, water and fuel pups. If you can’t do these simple chores, you’d better have money or another vehicle to rely upon should one go down.

This tip comes from Gaye Levey.
“This skill is something I have rarely, if ever, seen mentioned in prepping circles. In a world where there are no movies, no TV, no video games and no mall, staying pleasantly occupied during leisure periods will be a challenge. The risk, if there is no entertainment, is that you will either work yourself to death because you are bored or you will become depressed due to the lack of imaginative stimulation.
Entertaining in a post SHTF world may include singing or playing the harmonica, guitar or accordion. It might also include teaching a group to dance, play charades or even to play a rousing round of canasta. Knowing how to entertain others and bring a bit of fun into their lives is a special trait that can be honed now and put into use over and over again, regardless of how bad things get.”

I have to confess. This is one skill I don’t have right now, but I’m certainly going to work on it very soon. In the case of a disaster, a HAM radio will allow you to communicate with the outside World to find out what’s going on.

There are plenty of books and courses on operating a HAM radio, all that is required is a little time and effort.
Learn to use a HAM radio. Get your license, find out what type of equipment you really need and get going!

When the pioneers traveled across this country in wagon trains, certain individuals were designated “Cookies”. These individuals were made famous by their ability to cobble together meals from whatever provisions were available.
Cooks, or “Cookies” will be pretty valuable in a post SHTF community. The reason being, there will be a lot to do in the community. Having someone who is capable of cooking for your group or community while the rest of you are gathering wood, maintaining security, fixing whatever broke last night, will be priceless.
People need to eat and anyone who has the skill to cook and especially to bake for a crowd will find a welcome place in the survival community.

Knowing advanced life saving first aid skills should be the goal of every person who is prepping for the worst. Common sense dictates that you should know these skills. I’m talking about skills that go above and beyond band-aids and ace bandages. It goes without saying that knowing how to administer first aid can save lives. Basic wound care, suturing skills and even a knowledge of herbal remedies could make a difference in whether your loved ones live or die. You should know how to treat major wounds, such as a sucking chest wound, until help can arrive. Could you set a broken bone? How about removing a bullet? It’s not like watching old episodes of ER. At some point during a crisis, first aid skills will be needed. If not you, then possibly by a family member or friend. You may be their only hope for surviving. Does your family or group have a designated medic? What happens if they don’t make it? Learn some advanced first aid yourself, your “medic” may need YOU!

People skills, social skills or communication skills. Iterpersonal skills will dictate your ability to work with others in a positive and productive way. Having strong people skills will be invaluable when it comes to bartering for goods or services or for controlling a potentially deadly situation with reason instead of force.

Perseverance is described as doing something despite difficulty. Hard times or not, this is the skill that will give you the will to keep on going. It will allow you to see the bright side and will also motivate those around you to keep plugging along. By choosing to break insurmountable tasks into manageable pieces you set yourself up for success when other might just give up before even trying. You must CHOOSE to persevere because the alternative is unthinkable to you.

Whether you choose a knife,a gun, or a club, get to know your defensive weapon well so that you can defend what is yours in a safe and sane manner. Train regularly. Your ability to protect yourself, your family, and your supplies will make all the difference when potentially faced with hungry and angry mobs.

Below, I’ve compiled a list of skills I think everyone should know. This is by no means a “complete” list because there is always room to learn more, and the more you know, the greater your chances of survival. But this will give you a solid foundation and a far broader skill set than most people. Having just a basic knowledge in these skills would be immensely valuable.

Everyone should know how to:

Build a garden
Drive a stick shift
Start a fire without matches or a lighter
Use herbal remedies
Produce beer/wine
Tan leather
Cure/smoke meat
Make soap
Moderate first aid skills
Construct animal/fish traps
Make activated charcoal
Properly load a backpack
Conduct basic repairs (auto, equipment, etc.)
Operate a ham radio
Defend yourself without a weapon
Identify surveillance
Build a rainwater collection system
Dehydrate food
Construct snowshoes
Avoid and survive hypothermia
Build a raft
Navigate using the stars
Right an overturned raft
Carpentry skills
Build with stone/brick (basic masonry)
Grow a garden from seeds
Cut down a tree with an ax
Forage for food
Sew and/or make clothing
Pilot a boat
Shoot a firearm accurately
Find water
Ammo reloading
Utilize camouflage
Construct a pond
Canning food
Snow Ski
Dig a latrine
Determine authenticity of gold and silver
Hunt with a Bow
Follow a trail/tracking
Use less-lethal weapons (baton, stun gun, pepper spray, etc.)
Metal working (blacksmith)
Lose a tail
Identify and treat for shock
Operate power tools
Construct a splint
Open a can without a can opener
Drive a motorcycle
Construct a net
Identify animals by tracks and scat
Patch a tire
Reload ammunition
Build a bow and arrow
Administer first aid
Identify venomous snakes
Accurately fire a slingshot
Make candles
Raise fish (for food)
Distill water/alcohol
Hot wire a car
Cook without a stove
Survive heat injuries
Raise livestock
Find tinder
Create fertile soil
Make charcloth
Properly store food
Survive a riot
Sharpen a knife
Butcher livestock
Travel without leaving a digital footprint
Purify water
Make leather products (sheathes, holsters, boots, etc.)
Hunt and fish
Cast bullets
Maintain a bee hive
Use hand tools
Tie several kinds of knots

Working on skills can provide a much needed break from the constant quest to acquire food, gear and supplies. Take the time to think through the personality traits that will help guarantee your survival. Doing so will help you realize your self worth. You are a talented individual with the stuff AND skills to survive. Keep in mind, though, that as with any list, this is only a start. With a little time invested, many more skills can be added to this list. How about you… What skills do you have that are in this list? What skills do you think are missing?

Skills, skills, skills… It is sort of like location, location, location. It really is EVERYTHING. Without skills we are doomed to fail. If you invite someone to be accepted into your home or community, it is going to require some tough scrutiny. Part of that scrutiny will be to evaluate whether they have a useful and needed skill to bring to the group. And by useful skill, I mean a skill that will enhance the lives and lessen the burden of the others that are already there. Goods and gear will have some value but they are finite and perishable. Skills make you a value to the group as a whole. The more skills you have the more valuable you will be. After all, if you need to bug out with simply your bug-out-bag and the clothes on your back, you may be the one knocking on a stranger’s door with nothing but your skills to offer.There are two schools of thought on this. In a short to medium term disaster, your skills can save you and your family. Maybe they will put some food on the table. In a long term disaster, your skills will still save your family but they will also be used to rebuild your neighborhood, your city, and our nation. We need to become a nation of “DOers” again. Our parents had some of that. Our grandparents had it oozing out of their pores. Their parents didn’t have a choice. You either “did it” or you didn’t survive. We live a disposable lifestyle. We have become dependent on replacing things instead of fixing them. We buy things that “do it” for us. We need to become a nation of “DOers” again. We won’t make it otherwise.


  1. I love this list. Every time I get one skill accomplished I come back here and look for another to master. As a family it takes us a while but, we’ll get there. Knots, as a winter project for the kids. And mom and dad need to learn soil prep. Next years garden will be huge. We can do a lot this fall and winter to help it succeed next year!
    Thanks for the info!!

  2. I just printed this list, I am going to start from the top and make sure i can do all of them properly. Thanks for the information !

  3. This is a fantastic list to go off. I think I’ll do what another fan mentioned, and print off a copy for reference. There are just as many that I haven’t done or can’t do yet, that I have done and do know how to do.


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