This post may contain affiliate links. If you make a purchase, I'll earn a small fee at no extra cost to you.*
If you could only learn five survival skills, which ones would you learn? That’s the question I’m going to answer in this article. It’s a tricky question, though, because it depends on the scenario. For example, surviving in the wilderness requires a different set of skills than surviving in an urban area after an EMP (although there is a lot of overlap).
The thing about survival scenarios, however, is that they happen unexpectedly. You never know what’s going to happen. Considering that, I picked five skills that I think would be useful in a very wide range of scenarios. If you’re new to survivalism and not sure which skills to practice first, this list is a good place to start.
1. Fire Building
Fire is essential to life in more ways than one, and being able to quickly build a fire on demand is an essential survival skill.
To start, fire provides vital warmth and light. In a world where electric and gas heating is no longer an option, fire will be the only way to keep warm and provide light. Without fire, some climates wouldn’t even be livable, especially in the winter.
Fire also increases the food and drink options you have available. Many foods can’t be eaten unless they’ve been cooked, and even those that are edible uncooked are much better when heated up. Depending on the quality of your water source, you may not even have access to clean drinking water if you don’t boil it first.
Lastly, there’s a quality of fire that isn’t so easily translated into words, and that’s its ability calm nerves, brighten spirits, and provide a sense of hope in harder times. At a point in time where the world has collapsed, the ability to gain some sense of peace and relaxation around a comforting fire cannot be overvalued.
Learn as many methods as you can and practice getting a fire going in less than ideal conditions to increase the odds that you’ll be able to successfully start a fire when it really counts.
2. Firearms Proficiency
Knowing your way around a firearm means that you will be able to put food on the table and defend yourself: two primary concerns in a disaster situation.
Of course, firearms proficiency isn’t the only thing that makes a good hunter, nor is it the only skill that makes a person capable of fending off an attacker. But in both cases, being able to actually hit what you are aiming at is a great place to start.
There’s a reason why people in the United States cling to their Second Amendment right so fiercely; if things ever got really bad, having a gun might be the only thing that gets them out alive.
Unlike readily available items you can use to start a fire, the chances of getting your hands on a firearm and ammunition after a disaster has struck are slim to none. Therefore, it’s important to prepare in advance by stowing away a few firearms and enough ammo to get you by.
There are plenty of books and articles on firearms, but if you’re a newbie, your best bet is to find a local instructor to get you started and regularly go to the range to practice.
If the grocery stores ever close down, the ability to grow your own food will become invaluable. Even if you have the mother of all food storage supplies, you can’t count on those supplies lasting forever. Most food items do eventually go bad, and the ones you eat cannot be replenished.
By knowing how to turn a few seeds into a steady food supply, though, you are able to ensure that you and your family will always have food, even if the world never returns to normal. Likewise, animal husbandry is an equally essential skill, providing you with meat, milk, transportation, and more.
Seeing as animals reproduce, they too represent a perpetual supply of food and other resources that never really has to be replenished. And if you learn how to properly store and preserve the food you grow, you should be able to make the bounties from harvest season last year-round.
As with all skills, gardening and animal husbandry take lots and lots of practice. But to help you along the way, pick up a copy of The Encyclopedia of Country Living or Mini Farming: Self-Sufficiency on 1/4 Acre.
Few survival skills are more important than agriculture. Remember, you only need a doctor when you’re sick, but you need a farmer three times a day.
4. First Aid
Before modern medicine, something as small as a cut or a fever often amounted to a death sentence. In a world where the SHTF, things we now consider minor inconveniences might become deathly dangerous once again.
It’s extremely important, therefore, to learn basic first aid skills should access to modern medicine ever disappear. Knowing how to disinfect and bandage a cut or treat someone who is in shock can be the difference between life and death.
With that said, learn all of the first aid skills you can and stock up on plenty of medical supplies. You never know when they might be needed.
5. Water Collection
There are a lot of conditions you can tough out, but a lack of water isn’t one of them. 48-72 hours without it will send even the toughest individuals to their grave.
Thankfully, water is abundant in most places as long as you know how to collect it. Depending on where you are, though, water collection may take a number of different forms.
If you live near a freshwater source such as a lake or a stream, water collection is as simple as being able to purify the water you collect. If salt water is the only natural source of water you have, desalination is a priceless skill. In areas that receive plenty of rainfall, rainwater collection can often keep you indefinitely supplied with fresh water.
For desert areas, though, you may have to resort to more obscure water collection methods such as collecting water from the ground or from cactuses and other plants.
However you access fresh water, the ability to do so is an irreplaceable survival skill.
There are other skills I could have listed, such as hunting or building shelter, but those really only apply to wilderness survival, and most people find themselves in urban areas when disaster strikes. Which five skills would you choose?