Estimated reading time: 9 minutes
Every generation is skilled at using the technology of its era. For example, people today are very good at driving cars, using smartphones, setting up home entertainment systems, and so forth. The problem is, if the end of the world as we know it ever happens, all those skills will be useless. The skills of our forefathers, on the other hand, will never be useless.
Below, we’ll take a look at 30 survival skills from our past that have mostly been forgotten today. If you want to be able to survive in a world where relying on technology isn’t an option, these skills are certainly worth learning.
Note: For each skill, I included links to resources where you can learn how to develop that skill.
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1. Hand Washing Clothes
These days, almost everyone owns a washer and dryer, and those who don’t are able to rely on a visit to the laundromat. Washing clothes without these conveniences, though, is a forgotten skill.
Here is how to wash clothes by hand.
Being able to accurately fire a gun is a skill that takes dedication and practice. At one time, it was an essential skill for survival. Today, though, few people know their way around a firearm.
To get started, check out this guide to marksmanship.
3. Navigating Without a GPS
GPS’s have made navigation incredibly easy. But now that almost everyone has a powerful GPS in their pocket at all times, not many people know how to navigate without one.
Here is how to navigate without GPS.
4. Building a Fire
Building a fire isn’t as easy as they make it look in the movies. Even with the right tools and ideal conditions, getting a fire started can sometimes be a challenge – and it’s a skill that few people today have acquired.
Here is how to start a fire without matches.
Prey animals have spent their entire lives avoiding predators, and they are very talented at it – which makes hunting a real challenge. In an era where fresh meat is always a trip to the supermarket away, hunting has become a forgotten skill.
Here are the basics of hunting.
Fishing may be a slightly easier skill to acquire than hunting, but it still requires a lot of learning and practice. Without the right gear and strategy, fish can be very difficult to catch.
Here’s how to get started fishing, and here’s how to build a survival fishing kit.
7. Purifying Water
Constant access to clean, pure drinking water is a very modern convenience. In the past, though, knowing how to purify water was essential for survival.
Here are some of the many ways to purify water.
8. Preserving Food
Thanks to our abundant supply of food as well as the invention of freezers and refrigerators, knowing how to preserve food is no longer a necessity. Without these modern-day conveniences, though, food preservation is essential for survival.
Here is our beginner’s guide to emergency food storage.
9. Tying Knots
Everyone knows how to tie a knot in a string, but few people these days are able to tie a wide range of more-complicated knots.
Here are five of the most useful knots.
10. Raising Animals
Outside of farmers, few people raise their own animals these days. However, animal husbandry still remains a very useful skill to know.
Before you start raising animals, check out this list of the most popular animals to raise.
Sewing used to be a skill that almost all women and even many men were taught at an early age. Today, though, few people know even the simplest sewing methods.
Here is a brief introduction to sewing.
12. Cooking from Scratch
Putting together meals is now easier than it has ever been in the past, but this also means that most people have forgotten the skills necessary to cook at a tasty, healthy meal from scratch.
Sadly, cooking from scratch is becoming a lost art.
13. Predicting the Weather
Today, figuring out what the weather is going to be like is as easy as turning on the television or pulling up an app on your phone. In the past, though, being able to predict the weather without these modern conveniences was essential for survival.
Here are some old fashioned ways to predict the weather.
14. Self Defense
There was a time when it was common for fathers to teach their sons how to defend themselves. Today, self-defense is an important skill for men and women alike, but it is certainly less common for people to know.
Here are some basic self-defense tips, but you’re better off taking a martial arts class of some kind.
15. Butchering An Animal
Even if you know how to raise your own animals for meat, you’ll also need to know how to butcher them. This is a more complicated process than many people realize and it’s a skill that must be acquired.
Here are some tips for butchering at home.
16. Using Cloth Diapers
Before the days of disposable diapers, cloth diapers were all that was available. If the day comes when you can no longer purchase disposable diapers, learning how to use cloth diapers is going to be a necessity.
Here’s a beginner’s guide to cloth diapers.
Our abundance of food and the ease in which we are able to acquire it has eliminated the need for many skills, including gardening. As far as survival skills go, though, gardening is one of the most important.
Here is our beginner’s guide to urban survival gardening.
18. Keeping Yourself Entertained
We have so many sources of entertainment and distraction these days that not many people are comfortable entertaining themselves without outside stimulation. In a world without electronics, knowing how to keep yourself entertained is very useful.
To learn what it takes to keep yourself entertained without relying on technology, here are some ways to entertain yourself for free.
19. Mechanic Work
Though we are very reliant on mechanical things, not many people know how to work on them without the help of a professional. At one time, though, most everyone knew how to repair their own cars, motorcycles, and other mechanical products.
Here’s how you can learn to fix cars.
We aren’t used to having to barter for the things we buy today, but bartering used to be a way of life. It’s an important skill to know should we ever have to go back to purchasing things locally rather than buying them from a nationwide chain.
Here is how to effectively barter, and here’s a list of barter items.
21. First Aid
Thanks to the convenience of modern medicine, few people have to worry about treating their own wounds. Nevertheless, first aid remains one of the most valuable forgotten skills that a person can learn.
To learn the basics of first aid that may one day save your life, check out this Red Cross guide.
22. Keeping Warm
Not many people today have to worry about dying of hypothermia. But in the past, knowing how to keep warm – both inside and outside the home – was essential for survival.
Here are some ways to keep warm when it’s freezing outside.
23. Making Do With What You Have
We live in an era of excess. If we ever return to a time when life isn’t so full of plenty and abundance, many people will struggle to adapt.
Here are some tips on how to make the best of what you have.
24. Making Cleaning Products
People didn’t used to purchase pre-made cleaning products from the store. Instead, they made their own cleaning products with the raw materials that were available at the time.
Here is a list of homemade cleaning products and how to make them.
25. Home Maintenance
In the past, when something broke down in the home, people would fix it themselves. Today, however, the skills of home maintenance are only known by a select few.
Here is how to fix and prevent problems around the home.
26. Building a Shelter
Knowing how to build an effective shelter is key to wilderness survival. During the times where people would travel out into the woods without the convenience of a portable tent, knowing how to build a shelter was a vital skill.
Here are some designs for wilderness shelters.
27. Driving a Vehicle With a Manual Transmission
Automatic transmissions haven’t always been around, and there was a time when everyone drove a manual. Today, the ability to drive a vehicle with a manual transmission is becoming increasingly less common.
Here is how to drive a manual vehicle.
28. Locating a Campsite
Not every spot in the woods is suited for a campsite, and choosing the right spot to set up camp is a skill in and of itself.
Here is how to choose a good spot for a campsite.
29. Avoiding Panic
We live very comfortable lives compared to the lives of our ancestors, which means that most people today are a lot more likely to panic when things take a turn for the worse.
Here are some tips for staying calm during a disaster.
30. Repurposing Items
Throwing things away used to be unheard of. Instead, people would repurpose old items and find new ways to make use of them.
Here are several dozen repurposing ideas to try out.
Even mastering just a few of these skills will put you leagues ahead of the average person, thus giving you a much greater chance of survival after a disaster. Pick one that interests you the most and start practicing.
Once you get a little burnt out on it, move on to a different skill. Just be sure to get back to the first one later. With this list of survival skills, you’ll never be bored again!
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Elbert Jones says
Another lost skill is making soap. There are articles on prepper sites that can teach you how to do it. You can also learn it from Mother Earth news Magazine.
Kieran Roberts says
Some of these things I can already do, others not so much.
Animals I actually like.
Chickens are a good first start.
Those who are old enough will remember these things. Kids now days are soft and have been pampered for to long. When the SHTF they are in for a rude shock. Some will get their act together and learn some new and valuable skills, while others will be whining and moaning about it.
I’m guessing that the feminists and others will be whining about the power that they lost, and that women will go back to being women, and use what they already possess, and the men will have to grow a set and man up.
if anyone thinks they can effectively learn skills like hunting, fishing, gardening, raising livestock, food preservation, efficient shelter making as in building cabins or sod or adobe structures from scratch, making and cooking on fires while keeping your fires under 100% control all the times, obtaining and purifying water, and so much more in two weeks, then you are setting yourself up for failure. Stocking up on materials and supplies is a good idea, but two weeks of on-hand stock is nowhere near enough, you’ll need more like 6 – 12 months of supplies to even hope to survive long enough to really learn most of the skills you will need if you haven’t at least started learning long before you really need them. Are you the kind of person who waits until your house is on fire before you read the users manual that explains how to properly use the fire extinguishers you bought but never learned how to use so you don’t blow the fire all over and make things even worse? Or wait until someone gets seriously hurt and then decide to break out your “first-aid guide” to start learning what you need to do? I will not feel sorry for you if you fail from your own lack of preparation, but anyone else that is depending on you will also suffer because you did not want to prepare yourself in advance by learning, and becoming proficient enough, at using these basic skills before they will be needed for you, or those depending on you, to survive.
Dr. Kurt says
Wow there dz, thanks for that note of encouragement. The real key is starting one thing. Start. Then progress to the next one and the next. But do start! Eventually you too can become a grumpy old fart who can write discouraging replies to challenging articles. Start!!
Jane Pool says
Just curious ,#27 ,why will we need to drive a manual vehicle ?
One day you may come into a situation where you have to pull a vehicle out of a bad situation and it may not be an automatic. This happened to me a few years ago. I man got his 1974 Chevy Blazer stuck in the mud in the woods. When I noticed him he was still in the truck, it is because he had broke his leg (bad). I managed to get him out and into my truck (an automatic dually) and his was a 4 wheel drive Chevy…manual. I learned to drive a manual while in the military. The point I am trying to make, you might find yourself in a situation where you will need to know all. I hoped this helped.
Also, if there is a massive EMP and all the new fangled cars run with computers are on the fritz while there may still be some older cars which used a manual transmission, you may have to learn the hard way how to drive an older car with a manual transmission. Starting from a stop while heading up a hill is not the best way to learn I can tell you.
Dale Bullock says
Its not just being able to drive a manual transmission car or truck. If shtf, and things turn sour, vehicles will be abandoned. After a time, batteries will run down, and vehicles with automatic transmissions aren’t going to be able to be started. All you need to start a manual transmission vehicle, is a small hill, or a good push, just pop the clutch, and the motor works. That being said, I pretty much agree with DZ ……..find someone who already knows this stuff, and make plans to join up later…just in case. The stuff this article is about, is a skill-set, not something you will learn overnight during an emergency situation, by reading a book after the fact. Anyone who trys to tell you different, is blowing smoke up your backside.
I work at a historic site (1700s),and we do living history programs covering a lot of these. Look around your area and check out out your local pre electric state historic sites programming. They (we) can provide direct lessons. It also helps these sites with visitation and a outing for the family. Everything they do is forward applicable to grid down scenerios.
Bill T says
You may not have time to learn all these skllls. Deal with reality! Buy what you need to surive now for at least two weeks.then you will have time to learn new skills ( old skills) bug out is plan B..we will probly be stuck where we happen to be.
Gordon D. says
WOW!,Well ,cough,choke,gag,gasp,well kids back when I was wee lad I was doing this as a every day thing and still do it except some for changing diapers,And as for wasting food.WELL FORGET IT.IF YOU DID SO MUCH AS DID THAT,WELL YOU GOT YOUR WAPED SO HARD YOU FOR HOW TO SIT FOR A DAY,EVEN HURT TO WALK OR LAY DOWN.TEARS,FORGET IT THE MORE YOU CRIED THE MORE YOU GOT.ANS RESPECT YOU ‘NEVER’ DID FORGET TO RESPECT THE ELDERS CAUSE OUT COMES THE BELT,RED WILLOW, AND ANYTHING ELSE TO MAKE YOU REMEMBER.As for that now a days ,HOPELESS CAUSE,that would be classed as child abuse. STUFF THAT WAS NOT EVEN HEARD OF WHEN I WAS A KID.Now days you don’t want to holler at the kids or threaten to spank them or take away anything your charged with child abuse.
Yes those were the good old days
Im some states schools still spank your child children with your permission other states u can’t even raise your voice its sad how the world is and people are these days our children or at least mine and my grandchild are really screwed im only 33 but I fully believe that our children are thought to be big sissys to bow down to the government be lazy disrespectful ungrateful kids. I was tought I
To rescept ur elders. Show give and do to or for others as I shall want done given shown to me and as I was told to be respectful work hard take care of your family I earned everything I have and had working my ass off thats how life was and children were seen but not heard u did ur school work homework chores and did what u were told right when u were told and that was it if not u got ur ass whooped with a belt hand or whatever was near by and that’s what I tought my children all but whooping them. My children have gotten a smack on their butts with my hand yes not a real.spanking or whooping no but a smack open handed on their clothes butts yes (they think that’s a whopping believe me if thats a whopping then god only know our parents must of killed us then) but now days in Oregon the kids school have tought them to relay on electronics. Be lazy selfish ungrateful brats that their parents aren’t allowed to spank them tell at them or take shit away from them.. Im sorry nut we use to live off grid and my older 2 Girls were way different they got up with the sun we all did our chores gathered wood chopped wood washed our vlothea and hung them up to dry we all did what had to be done had fun went to bed when the sin was gone. No electricity so no tv no lights or anything and my kids were happier very respectful amd helpful now we live in the city they refuse to do chores school.work or home work they are very disrespectful always want to watch tv play on phone or tablets or hardly even want to go outside to play they don’t can’t even think for themselves any more its sad just sad what they have tought our children and teach them I cant believe it I wish we could go back to the olden days so much I know I will be out in the country again off grid living I think its a way bettet cleaner life style i hate how our country is being taken over by the big brother history is bond to repeat its self and all the people who are blind to it will soon find ojt how stupid they were and be in camps or being killed off