104 Skills For Survival

The more self-reliant you are, the better off you will be. 104 skills and practices that will make your life easier in an emergency preparedness situation. Some of these skills are pretty cool.

Pursue just 1 of these 104 hobbies, and you can become more active and healthy by improving your state of mind or your physical conditioning. Worst case scenario, you’re more self-reliant, and life is a little richer.

#1 Bartering

You may be a natural when it comes to bartering: trading things without using money. I’m not. Bartering is a skill I have to make myself do because it doesn’t come naturally. We’ve all heard stories about someone buying something cheap at a garage sale and trading up to buy a boat. That is a great skill.

Trading things without the use of money.  It may not seem like it, but this can be a hobby or skill that you can hone. 

Let’s say you like to rebuild small engines. Try bartering with an old mower you brought back from the dead just to see what you can get. 

This section is first because bartering really encompasses any and everything. Have a skill, make something, fix something, then barter for something.     

Start bartering soon, and you will build a list of contacts, becoming the go-to guy for your specialties.  

Physical Activities: For Hobby Or Emergency Preparedness 

#2 Walking

Walking is a low-impact way to improve your overall health and state of mind. It improves digestion, mindfulness, energy levels, & brain function. It is an excellent gateway exercise for more strenuous physical activity.

#3 Yoga

Yoga is a way of stretching that combines breath control, simple meditation, and specific body postures. I was physically fit most of my life, and then my back started going out on me.

The combination of Yoga, deep breathing and walking allowed me to start doing more strenuous exercises again. It took me six months before I could do the more strenuous activities.

Yoga is excellent for strengthening core muscles and getting in touch with your body. Often, weak core and hip flexor muscles are why your back hurts.

Man hiking by a lake

#4 Hiking

Hiking is an excellent way to get a good cardio workout. It’s also a unique opportunity to test gear and learn bushcraft.

A couple of years ago, I did the Vermont leg of the Appalachian Trail in 13 days, averaging about 12 miles per day.

The biggest lessons I learned were the proper pack weight and how to depend on purified water.

I thought I was in good shape when I started. I wasn’t. I couldn’t drink enough water on the hike, so I continually purified at every stream or beaver pond.

My pack was way too heavy. The second day I got rid of everything in my kit that wasn’t necessary.

It was an excellent experience, but it was grueling. Hiking is a perfect opportunity to stretch yourself beyond your comfort zone, use your gear, and learn firsthand.

#5 Biking

Great for exercise and transportation. Modify useful tools and gadgets around your home to run on pedal power. 

#6 Swimming

If you have access to water or a pool, swimming is an excellent exercise. If you don’t know how to swim, you should learn how.

#7 Canoeing

If you are by a body of water, try canoeing.

Not only is it excellent exercise, but you can also fish from a canoe, and it is useful as a form of transportation to get from place to place or even down a river.

The cool thing about canoes is you don’t need fuel because you use paddle power. Superior to kayaks if you have multiple family members,

Canoes carry more gear than a kayak.    

Man Kayaking Rough Water

#8 Kayaking

I have two kayaks, and I use them every chance I get.

You can use kayaks for fishing (they make Kayaks specifically for fishing), you can exercise, and you can use them to travel on water.

When solo, I prefer a kayak to a canoe because they float in shallower water, and you have a double-sided paddle; this makes them more agile than a canoe.

Kayaks have water-proof compartments.

#9 Dancing

Popular during colonial times as a form of entertainment, proper exercise, and a great way to spend an evening with a loved one or your family. 

Who am I kidding? My wife can never get me to dance in public.

#10 Self Defense  

Get into personal contact sports.

Martial arts are more a way of life than a hobby. For some, there is a philosophical or spiritual element. 

Self-defense techniques:

  • Kickboxing
  • Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu
  • Muay Thai
  • Krav Maga
  • Taekwondo
  • Karate
  • Boxing 
Main sailing a small sailboat

#11 Sailing and Basic Boatsmanship

Learn how to use a boat for fishing or exploring.

Skills you’ll learn,

  • Knot tying
  • Nautical rules of the road
  • Boat repair
  • Small engine repair
  • Navigation

Construction Skills: For Hobby or Emergency Preparedness

#12 Basic Construction Skills 

7 Valuable Construction Skills You Could Learn:

  1. Framing
  2. Plumbing
  3. Electrical
  4. Masonry
  5. Painting
  6. Drywall.
  7. Welding

7 Natural Construction Techniques You Could Learn:

  1. Straw
  2. Cob
  3. Adobe
  4. Earthbag
  5. Straw-bale
  6. Cordwood
  7. Rammed Earth

#13 Green Wood-working

Learn to carve everything from toy soldiers to tool handles using only hand tools.

Green woodworking uses old tools, so it’s less expensive than modern woodworking techniques, and it doesn’t require electricity.

#14 Spring Pole lathe

The Vikings used pole lathes to turn unseasoned greenwood into things like bowls and cups.

A pole lathe runs on a bent branch and a foot treadle. You can make the lathe with hand tools, and if you take up blacksmithing, you can make the cutting tools in your forge. 

#16 Outdoor Cookery

Make an outdoor kitchen for cooking and processing meat and garden produce.

Outdoor cookery includes cooking in a fire pit in your backyard to an earthen clay oven for baking bread and pizzas.

An excellent way to enjoy family and friends and learn useful skills.

Mechanics Shop

#17 Vehicle Repair

The ability to fix a car is like gold, it saves you money on repairs, and it is a solid skill-set to barter.

Specialize in cars, trucks, and tractors, boats, or motorcycles.

Imagine purchasing two of the same model car. Both are headed for the scrap yard.  One has a burnt transmission, and the other has a blown motor.  Take these two junkers and make one functional car and sell it for a profit.   

#18 Small engines

 Learn repair and maintenance.

Buy old chainsaws, outboard motors, motorcycles, or lawnmowers, fix them up, and sell or barter them for other things you need. 

Sharpening knife with stone

#19 Repairing Tools and Knives 

Learn to sharpen tools and knives with wet stones.  Bring old and abused knives back from the dead and sell or trade them. 

Learn how to maintain and sharpen garden tools like secateurs, shovels, and hoes. 

Bring tools back from the dead by using your green wood-working skills to fashion handles from hardwood and then professionally sharpen to sell  

#20 Equipment Repair

Choose to be good at a few skills, but learn to do a little of everything so you can keep your gear in top shape.

Fuel and Power: For Hobby or Emergency Preparedness 

#21 Biodiesel

 Learn about and use waste vegetable oil to make fuel that will run in most diesel vehicles.

Ask local fast food restaurants if you can collect their old oil. 

#22 Solar Power 

Learn about and harness solar energy for emergencies and non-emergencies.

wind power generator

#23 Wind Power 

Get familiar with wind power and use it to generate electricity.  

#24 Hydroelectric

 If you have running water on your land like a stream, creek, or river,  harness the potential energy of moving water and convert it to mechanical energy.

#25 Methane Production

Do some small-scale Methane Generation with waste products like animal manure, food waste, and compost to make Methane. 

Start small and use kitchen scraps to create methane for your outdoor kitchen or pizza oven.  

#26 Firewood/ Forest Management 

Learn about keeping your forest healthy. Use trees you cut down to sell or use as firewood.

Cutting trees down isn’t something to take lightly.  Don’t cut down trees without some safety training on your saw and felling trees.

Cutting trees down, bucking, splitting, and processing firewood can be lucrative but know what you are doing. 

Gardening For Hobby Or Emergency Preparedness

#27 Seed Saving 

Collect and store seeds, learn about propagation, learn to test germination rates, and create landrace crops for your garden.

Girl Gardening

#28 Natural Gardening Methods

Learn techniques like organic or biodynamic gardening 

#29 Permaculture 

Known as permanent agriculture, a whole system process, and a plan for gardening, building your shelter, waste removal, water catchment, and animal husbandry  

#30 Food Forestry 

Plant an edible forest with fruiting trees, bushes, and perennials

#31 Mushroom Cultivation 

Grow mushrooms to eat or to sell 

#32 Worm Farming

improve your soil, sell worms or worm castings to other gardeners.

#33 Heirloom Gardening

Seeds you can save and plant the next year with the same results. Heirloom seeds are also called open-pollinated seeds (plants that pass on similar traits from the parent to the offspring)  

#34 Foraging

Learn to identify and collect herbs, fruits, and mushrooms from natural locations like the forest or desert.

#35 Hydroponics

Learn to grow plants without soil, using sand, gravel, and water.

#36 Aquaponics 

Farm fish and use the waste to supply nutrients to plants grown in water (hydroponically).

This type of system purifies the water; you can eat the fish and the plants.

#37 Vertical Gardening 

Use support systems like a trellis to grow up (vertically) versus out (horizontally.) This is a great way to produce more food in a limited space.

#38 Container Gardening 

Learn to grow plants in a vessel like a grow bag or a planting pot. 

Another viable method for limited space.

#39 Straw Bale Gardening 

Use straw bales as natural pots for your plants.

This gardening method cuts down on weeding, retains water, and is useful in areas with poor soil.

#40 Pruning 

Prune fruit trees and bushes for increased fruit production and quality. Pruning is an art as much as it is a skill. 

Try the espalier technique by training fruit trees, vines, and bushes to grow on a wall or trellis. (pruning and vertical growing techniques used together)

#41 Guerilla Gardening

 Plant fruit trees or vegetables on vacant or abandoned land.

#42 Olive Orchardist 

Grow olive trees.

Cure olives to eat and cook or press olive oil. You need the right climate and a minimum of four to six trees for pollination.

#43 Nut Orchardist 

Plant nut trees and learn how to care for them.

Nuts are a superfood packed with nutrition and a multitude of uses.  Eat nuts fresh, roast, or grind into baking flour.      

#44 Apple Orchardist 

Grow apple trees to make hard and soft cider, eat fresh, cook, and preserve.  

#45 Stone Fruit Orchardist 

Plant peaches and nectarines. Eat them fresh, baked, or preserved.  

#46 Grape Grower 

Grow grapes to make wine, grape juice, vinegar, eat fresh, and preserve.  

Foodcraft For Hobby and Preparedness 

#47 Cheese Maker

Use milk from sheep, goats, and cows to make your cheese, butter, sour cream—ice cream and yogurt.  

#48 Canning

Can and store your garden surplus by preserving it from spoilage.

Learn to can a method of preserving in containers; hermetically sealed, with lids and heat.

A lot of work but a great way to fill your emergency pantry and cut down on waste.

#49 Preserves

Learn to make fruit spreads by mixing fruit, sugar, and pectin.

Use as toppings for homemade bread and desserts.

#50 Pickling 

Pickling is soaking food in an acidic liquid like vinegar to preserve it.

You can pickle just about any vegetables for preservation, including pickles. 

#51 Beekeeping  

Keep bees for honey, wax, and pollination.

Beekeeping compliments gardening, orchardists, cooking, and preservation techniques.

You can make mead like a Viking, slather it on toast or use it as a sweetener in your coffee or tea. 

Interestingly, 3000-year-old honey was recently found in an Egyptian tomb, and it is still edible. 

#52 Distilling 

Create ethyl alcohol for first aid,  as a cleaning solution, to drink, and to barter.

#53 Brewing 

Beer is a good ingredient to cook with, barter, or drink.

#54 Bread and Pastry Baking 

Build an outdoor, colonial-style clay oven and learn to bake with simple 17th-century ingredients you grow yourself.

#55 Infusing 

Infusing an ingredient’s flavor into a liquid, like olive oil.

Infuse: water, oil, vinegar, syrup, or wine to kick the taste up a notch

#56 Vinegar Distiller 

Make vinegar by fermenting ethanol alcohol. You can use beer, cider, or wine to make vinegar. Then infuse vinegar with herbs.

#57 Dehydrating 

Purchase a dehydrator or use the sun to make beef jerky, banana chips, dried apples, or any number of other food items—an excellent way to fortify your pantry.

#58 Freeze-drying

Purchase a home-freeze drying unit and make your own survival food

#59 Food-smoking 

Surround fish, beef, pork, chicken, or vegetables with smoke, and low heat, to impart flavor, cook, and preserve.  

#60 Food Fermention

An ancient technique for preserving food. Common fermented foods: sauerkraut, kimchi, yogurt, and my all-time favorite, hot sauce.

#62 Salt Curing

A traditional means of food preservation, salting draws moisture away from food, keeping bacteria from growing and spoiling food.

Some examples of salted foods are salt cod, bacon, cabbage, and runner beans.

#63 Root Cellaring 

Used to store and preserve root vegetables and fruits. A root cellar must hold a constant temperature of 32 to 40 degrees F and maintain a constant humidity between 85% and 95%.

Cellaring food slows the release of ethylene gas and stops the growth of organisms that cause decomposition. Knowing what food items you can store together and how to store each vegetable or fruit is an art.

#64 Hard Cider Fermention

Using mainly apples, you can create an alcoholic beverage that is a safe form of drinking water.

Cider was a staple in the colonial American diet. Cider was so crucial to Colonists they would plant the apple orchard before beginning construction on the house.  

#65 Cooking With Solar 

Converts the sun’s energy into cooking heat.  

#66 Fletching Arrows

 Learn to make fletches which are the stabilizers on the back of an arrow or crossbow bolt.

Learn to fletch and cut arrows for your archery kit.

#67 Fly Tying

 Flies are fishing Lewers for fly fishers.

Make your flies by binding material to a hook with thread or glue.  You can get pretty creative with the style and the materials you use to create flies.

#68 Fishing-Lewer Making

A creative hobby using balsa wood and other materials to make artificial bait.

Enjoy expressing your artistic side while creating fishing lures that work for your specific location. 

#69 Cobbler or Shoemaker

  Make or repair your own footwear.

This skill pairs well with hunting, tanning hides, or butchering.

#70 Beekeeping 

Raise bees to provide honey, beeswax, and royal jelly

I’m a fan of honey. I even use it in my coffee and as an all-around sweetener. Once you get used to honey, you won’t go back to granulated sugar.

#71 Basket Weaving 

Plant or forage for varieties of willow used for basket making.

You can make containers to hold picked fruit and vegetables or storage for your root cellars. Better yet, make baskets for your next farmers’ market.  

#72 Candle-making  

Candle-making or Chandlery goes back to 500 B.C. when the Romans made candles from the tallow.

If you are a beekeeper, candle-making would be a good side project.

Beeswax is one of the best natural waxes for candles. If you are raising beef or sheep, you could make candles from tallow.

#73 Baking 

Cook food with dry heat and no direct flame.

This can be done outdoors with a colonial-style earthen oven that you can build in a day. Incorporate an outdoor kitchen you make with your wood-working skills.

Grow grain in your garden and mill it for baking.

#74 Wood Carving 

Along the lines of Swedish carving traditions, make useful items from green/unseasoned wood. Carve spoons, bowls, tent pegs, toys, tool handles, etc.

Greenwood is much easier to work with than dry wood.

Softwood like pine is much easier to carve than hardwood like oak.

Learn to keep your tools sharp. Learn the different grips and cutting methods that improve your carving and keep you safe.

Some people make a living with green wood carving. Barn the spoon out of London, England, teaches spoon making, and sells spoons out of his shop in London.  

#75 Blacksmithing  

Make tools like knives, chisels, and shovels, and fittings like door handles and hinges. You can even make your nails.  

You can set up a forge for blacksmithing at a minimal cost.

#76 Calligraphy 

Fancy handwritten lettering.

This skill could be used for relaxation, but it could also be used to make simple but effective signage.

Make a new sign for your farmer’s market stand or a booth at the Christmas fair. Calligraphy goes well with woodworking.  

#77 Herbalist 

Learn the healing properties of plants in nature.

When you are out foraging for morel mushrooms, you might come across healing herbs.

Plant identification is central to both of these skill-sets. 

#78 Barber or Hairstylist 

Female hairstylist

Cut hair out of your garage, sell coffee, tea, or soda on the side.

Fiber Arts For Hobby or Emergency Preparedness 

#79 Knitting And Crochet 

If you want a way to pump out clothing like hats, scarves, and sweaters, then knitting and crocheting should be on the list.  

#80 Sewing

Sew your own clothing, fix old clothing, make fishing nets, and other useful items.

#81 Spinning

 Raise sheep and then spin the fiber into yarn for use in your knitting, crocheting, or weaving. 

#82 Leather Work 

Save and tan pelts from trapping and skins from the butchering process.

#83 Weaving

Create cloth on a loom using natural yarns.

#84 Rope and Twine

 Learn to make rope from natural materials. Also, don’t overlook the art of knot tying, a valuable skill when building and moving loads with manual labor.

The line can be used to build shelters, thang stuff, tie things down, etc

#85 Animal And Critter Husbandry 

Learn to raise and maintain animals for milk, fur, wool, or meat.

Some suggested animals/: goats, chickens, rabbits, cows, alpacas, tilapia.

You could also specialize in worms for gardening or bugs for pest control or pollination.  

Bushcraft and Outdoor Life: Hobby or Emergency Preparedness

#86 Fire Starting

Learn how to start a fire outdoors in any weather condition. It’s an essential skill set for outdoor living.  

Discover the fire triangle, heat, fuel, and oxygen.

Cook, stay warm, sterilize equipment, smoke meat.

#87 Bushcraft Shelters

Learn how to build outdoor shelters in any situation, with any materials.

Shelters, you could build tarp shelters, lean-tos, Qunzhees, tepees, debris huts, or a small cabin.

Identify natural shelters.

#88 Knot Tying 

Tie rope or twine to secure, fasten, or create beautiful works of art. 

If you want to know how useful a knot can be, learn to tie the Trucker’s Hitch used for tieing down cargo on a trailer.

#89 Fishing 

Different fishing techniques go beyond rod and reel.

Learn noodling where you pull a catfish out of its whole bare-handed. Learn how to throw a cast net or build fish traps from natural materials.

Take up spearfishing with a Hawaiian sling, or make your own fishnet.

Don’t forget about invertebrates like shellfish, squid, octopus, crawdads, lobsters, and oysters. 

Kayaking and canoeing are skills that go well with fishing. 

#90 Land Navigation 

Increase your skills with a compass, learn to read terrain and water flow, find landmarks, and get to where you are going.

Test navigation with a sport called Geocaching.  

#91 Hunting

For some, hunting for the food they eat is a lifestyle that is almost spiritual in nature.

Hunting is an ancient practice and a great way to supplement a garden or your own animal husbandry.

Animal fats and proteins are essential in a survival situation, so learn how to hunt for small game, trap fish and forage for invertebrates. All meat must be well cooked to kill microorganisms and parasites.

#92 Butchering

Killing and cutting up livestock

I’m a wimp, and I admit it. When it comes to raising an animal to eat, I have a tough time butchering it. Many people feel this way if you don’t have a problem cutting up a large mammal by hand. That is a valuable skill.

If I was super hungry or if my kids were hungry, I would change my attitude.

If you can’t kill a screaming rabbit, you may want to barter for the service. 

#93 First-Aid

Provide care to a person(s) who are injured or ill. 

#94 Camping

Go out into the woods, build a shelter, test all of your gear and bushcraft skills like fire starting, shelter building, and water purification.

#95 Archery 

Use a bow to shoot arrows for fun or as a valuable bush skill. 

Use a traditional or compound bow to practice with targets and then go after small game.

Learn to cut and fletch arrows and how to make a bowstring.

Entertainment For Hobby Or Emergency Preparedness

#96 Historical Reenactment 

Get involved in Reenactments and practice skills like fire starting, simple meal making, outdoor cooking, and shelter building.  Our ancestors survived off-grid and lived like real-life preppers.

#97 Draw 

Make your own pictures or diagrams with a pencil.

Draw pictures of things you want to create around camp, items you want to build, plant and animal identification, or just for fun

#98 Paint and Dye

Learn to make natural paints and dies. 

Decorate your handmade clothing or woodwork.  

Many herbs are useful for dyeing cloth and yarn.  I can think of two plants that I have experience with, black walnuts and pokeweed berries.  Both of these stained my hands for over a week.  

#99 Ham Radio 

Learn the skill, get licensed, and you can talk to people all over the world.  

#100 Geocaching

Treasure hunting with Global Positioning System (GPS) devices. 

For Geocaching, you are given a set of GPS coordinates, and then you try to find what has been hidden at that location.

#101 Writing 

Do the research and write about the things you want to learn.

Writing is a great hobby to practice all the time. Turn off the T.V. and read or write.

#102 Chemistry and Physics

Learn how to make useful items and understand your environment.

#103 Reading 

Fiction and nonfiction books enrich your life and teach you essential life skills.

If you want to be a good writer, you’ve got to read.  

I had an English professor that told her students to “read,” she didn’t care what we read as long as we were reading something.

#104 Drone Pilot

Drones are an excellent tool for survival. You can track games, do recon and use them for security, among other things. Check out this comprehensive Ready Squirrel article, “19 Uses for a Drone During SHTF.”