Estimated reading time: 8 minutes
We’ve all seen videos that show how quickly a fast-moving wildfire or storm can wipe out a family home or even an entire neighborhood. A disaster – human-made or natural – can change life as we know it in mere moments.
We write a lot about the things you need in order to survive after the end of the world as we know it, but what is even more important are the skills you need to possess. Supplies can burn, be stolen, or get swept away by a storm. But the survival skills you learn will stay with you.
Here are 25 basic skills you need to master before it’s too late.
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1. Finding Water
Water is essential to life. After three to five days without water, your organs begin to shut down. Therefore, having access to water is critical to survival after a disaster.
2. Starting a Fire
Fire can keep you warm, boil your water, cook your food, and keep predators at bay. Knowing how to start a fire under different circumstances is an essential life skill. Fire requires oxygen, fuel, and heat.
Although we can survive longer without food than without water, finding food is near the top of any survival list. Finding and identifying edible plants, herbs, roots, and tubers can mean the difference between life and death in some survival scenarios.
This website is an excellent starting off point for the beginning forager.
4. Hunting, Fishing, and Trapping
These varied and essential life skills involve tracking animals, building traps, snares, nets, and learning how to clean and prepare wild food. This article is written for first-time adult hunters.
And here is a fishing guide for beginners.
5. Building Shelter
Keeping safe from the elements is a critical part of survival. You’ll want to learn how to find natural shelters as well as how to build your own with natural or human-made items.
This article describes 3 simple designs for outdoor shelters that used minimal supplies.
6. Finding Your Way
Navigation and orientation skills include learning how to read and use different types of maps, use a compass, estimate distances, and navigate using only the stars and the sun.
Check out this article as a way to get started on these crucial skills.
7. Telling Time
Knowing how to estimate time before sundown or before sunrise can help you stay safe. For example, you’ll know how long you have to build a shelter before it gets dark.
Here’s a hands-on (literally!) method to try.
8. Predicting The Weather
With a weather app at our fingertips all the time, many of us have lost the ability to recognize Mother Nature’s weather signals. However, knowing weather skills can save your life in the wilderness.
Here’s a beginner’s guide to some of the weather cues we can find in nature.
9. Tying Knots
Whether we’re fishing, climbing, or putting up a shelter, ropes can help in many survival scenarios. However, they won’t do us much good if we don’t know how to tie knots. You should learn and practice basic knot typing skills.
This article has links to videos that show you how to tie 10 different knots.
10. Using Basic Tools and Weapons
Do you know how to use a hatchet to split firewood, gut a fish with a knife, use a slingshot, handle a bow and arrow, or fire a gun? Take the time to learn and practice using these life-saving tools and weapons.
This video demonstrates how to create some ancient survival weapons in the wilderness.
11. Knowing First Aid
- How to perform CPR
- How to do the Heimlich Maneuver
- How to set a splint
- How to apply a tourniquet
- How to treat a burn
- How to spot a concussion
- How to treat hypothermia
- How to treat heat exhaustion
- How to recognize a stroke
12. Keeping Things Sanitary
Improper hygiene can lead to infection and illness after a disaster. Knowing the basics of sanitation can help keep you healthy during a time when germs are rampant.
This article has some hygiene information and links for keeping safe from germs after a disaster.
13. Learning Self-Defense
Take a self-defense class and practice these skills on a regular basis. Even better if you can find a friend or partner to practice with.
Here are some basic moves to get you started. Keep in mind that avoiding a dangerous situation is also an essential part of self-defense.
14. Knowing How To Use Camouflage
Another way to protect yourself in the wilderness from animals and humans is to use camouflage. You can hide from predators or shoot your dinner.
Here’s an interesting article that explains the science behind camouflage, also called cryptic coloration, and how to do it.
15. Hiking and Climbing
Building up your strength and stamina through hiking and climbing is an essential survival skill. Imagine trying to bug out and being too tired to carry your bug out bag any farther.
Here are some hiking and climbing skills from professional hikers and climbers.
Similarly, you should learn how to row a canoe, kayak, or rowboat. Contrary to what many people think, rowing doesn’t just use the force of your arms. You need to build up your legs as well.
Here’s a video that shows you how to develop this skill with rowing machines.
Swimming is another life skill you should learn and practice. Knowing how to stay calm and afloat in a water emergency can save your life.
Here’s a video that demonstrates how to float.
When the power is out, and the internet is down, you may need to find other ways to communicate after a disaster. Here are some of the skills to learn:
The previous skills we’ve listed focus mostly on wilderness knowledge, but if you’re staying in one place, you’ll also need to know and refine other basic life skills.
19. Growing Your Own Food
Do I really need to explain why the ability to grow your own food is so important? I didn’t think so.
This article covers the information beginning gardeners need to know to start a home vegetable garden.
20. Cooking Meals From Scratch
We’re so used to convenience foods and take-out and restaurant meals in our society that many people have lost the skill of cooking from scratch. But in a grid-down scenario, cooking from scratch may be your only option.
This article lists the basic ingredients you need to keep on hand.
21. Food Preservation and Storage
If you’re growing and cooking your own food, there’s a good chance you’ll have a surplus. So, the next skills you need to learn are is how to preserve and store your food.
22. Sewing, Weaving, Knitting, and Mending
You might not think about sewing as a survival skill, but it is. Clothing and outerwear help keep our bodies safe, warm, and dry. And being able to make or repair our clothing could a critical part of staying alive after a huge disaster.
Here are some sewing basics to learn.
23. Working With Wood
Knowing basic carpentry skills and how to use woodworking tools can come in very handy during or after a disaster. You should know how to build and repair simple structures and fences, for example.
This article discusses basic carpentry skills.
24. Raising Livestock
This book is a beginner’s guide to help get you started.
Finally, we would like to stress that you work on developing the mental and emotional skills needed to survive a disaster.
25. Developing Situational Awareness
This skill helps you to remain calm and clear-thinking during an emergency. Although some people come by this skill more naturally than others, situational awareness can be learned.
Situational awareness is based on the O.O.D.A. Loop, which was developed by U.S. Air Force Colonel John Boyd. The acronym stands for:
As we have made our way through this challenging past year, each of us has learned some tough lessons. In addition to the shut-downs and the many losses associated with COVID-19, many of us have experienced natural disasters or witnessed civil unrest in our communities.
Perhaps the most important lesson is that we now understand how life can radically change in just a short period of time. However, we also learned that we adapt to those changes when we set our minds to it.
What skills on this list do you need to learn? Which ones do your kids need to learn? The time to prepare for the next disaster is not after it has happened. It’s now.
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