A list of ninety-three skills for surviving the apocalypse and societal collapse. By becoming as independent of the system as possible you will have a leg up when and if the United States suffers an economic collapse or the failure of our food system.
These skills are more valuable than gold for surviving independently from the system. I challenge you to get started, today, by picking a skill and learning it inside and out.
If you can grow food, store food in long-term storage, brew beer, build a cabin, and barter without getting knocked over the head you are ahead of what is coming.Scott, Ready Squirrel
You may be a natural when it comes to bartering: trading for possession of things by trading your things. No currency ever changes hands.
Bartering is a skill I have to make myself practice because it doesn’t come naturally.
We’ve all heard stories about someone buying something cheap at a garage sale and trading up on Craig’s list to buy a boat. That is a great skill to have in an SHTF environment because it allows you to get what you need to survive.
#2 Self Defense
Valuable SHTF skills include the practice of martial arts, basic firearms use, and other weapons training. In a WROL (without rule of law) scenario such as civil unrest or societal breakdown individuals and like-minded groups will have to provide for their own safety.
This is the self-defense scenario you may face in WROL. Imagine a breakdown that includes rioting, looting, and roving gangs of criminals where police and sheriffs have abandoned their post to take care of their own families. You make a call to emergency services and you get an automated message or a busy signal. This scenario was real life during and after Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans, LA.Scott Ready Squirrel
#3 Sailing and Basic Boatsmanship
Learning how to travel on a body of water is a specialty skill that applies if you are close to a large body of water you can rely on for escape or food. Learn knots, sailing, and small engine repair and become familiar with your local waters including hazards and areas you could set up camp if you need to bug out.
I purchased an old Hobie Cat 16 (catamaran sailboat) and I’m in the middle of doing fiberglass work and general repair. It’s a real hunk of junk but I plan on getting it up to speed.
This is a boat I can use to get closer to fishing grounds or to escape my present area. I intend to use it as a bug-out boat. I won’t travel long distances or go out into the open ocean. I will use it to scout and bug out to a campsite.
I live one block from the Gulf of Mexico and have access to the Intracoastal waterway and a very large bay protected from the Gulf of Mexico itself. If I had to I could drag my lightweight sailboat across the street and put the boat in just about anywhere.Scott, Ready Squirrel
#4 Basic Construction Skills
If you have construction skills you can set up just about anywhere you have access to logs or dimensional lumber. Barter skills like framing, log construction, and masonry for other items you need. Construction skills also allow you to build out your own off-grid or bug-out location for free or at a much lower cost than would otherwise be possible.
7 Natural Construction Skills:
- Rammed Earth
#5 Green Wood Carving
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. I found a lot of my tools in antique and secondhand stores.
#6 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. If you take up blacksmithing, you can make the cutting tools in your forge.
#7 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 or an earthen clay oven for baking bread and pizzas.
An excellent way to enjoy family and friends and learn useful skills.
#8 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.
#9 Small Engine Repair & Maintenance
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.
#10 Tool & Knife Repair
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 them 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
Fuel And Heat
#11 Produce 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.
#12 Solar Power Installation and Use
Learn about and harness solar energy for emergencies and non-emergencies.
#13 Wind Power Installation and Use
Get familiar with wind power and use it to generate electricity.
#14 Hydroelectric Installation and Use
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.
#15 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.
#16 Firewood Cultivation & Forestry 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
#17 Seed Harvesting
Collect and store seeds, learn about propagation, learn to test germination rates, and create landrace crops for your garden.
#18 Natural Gardening Methods
Natural gardening methods release you from using manmade pesticides and fertilizer by using companion planting and biomass (all of your prunings and waste) to create an awesome garden or food forest. Without question, this type of system is superior for a survival garden because it will continue to produce when the Big Box stores lock their doors.
Permaculture is a whole system practice used to design self-functioning off-grid locations with minimal outside input. Other survival gardening skills and techniques that can be used are Silvopasture which integrates animals, food trees, and perennials, and Food Forestry where a garden is planted to include fruit trees, perennial vegetables, vines, fruiting bushes, and flowers.
Permaculture: Permanent agriculture with a whole system approach. Includes shelter building, waste removal, water catchment, and animal husbandry as an integrated system.
#20 Food Forestry
Plant an edible forest with fruiting trees, bushes, and perennials that resembles ecosystems found in nature. Common terms are companion planting and planting fruit trees, nitrogen fixers, and perennial vegetables.
#21 Mushroom Cultivation
Grow mushrooms to eat or barter. Mushrooms are one of the easiest cash crops to grow in a small space. That’s not to say they are easy to grow. Growing shrooms is labor intensive and takes specialized equipment.
#22 Worm Farming
Worm farming is a valuable survival skill set to acquire especially in a post-apocalyptic environment where natural gardening and farming techniques are the norms. Manmade fertilizers may not be available and let’s face it who wouldn’t rather eat a big fat tomato that is naturally grown?
Improve your soil, barter worms, or worm castings (used as natural fertilizer).
#23 Heirloom Seed Gardening
Heirloom seeds are also called open-pollinated seeds. Plants that are grown with this type of seed pass on similar traits from the parent to the offspring.
Every year seeds are taken from the healthiest, most pest-resistant, best-tasting plants from the prior year’s seeds. Over time the heirloom vegetables and fruits are perfect for a specific climate and soil type because the gardener is selecting the best of the best seeds every year.
Learning to forage for native food plants is an invaluable survival skill, especially if you are on the move or bugging out. During a hiking trip on the AT we often ate wild raspberries and blueberries along the trail.
Learning to recognize edibles and poisonous plants growing in the wild is not easy and takes time.
Learn to grow food plants without soil, using sand, gravel, and water.
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. There are systems out there that run on little to no electricity.
#27 Vertical Gardening
Grow vertically by using 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.
Vertical growing is a survival skill because not all of us are blessed with a big yard to grow food. Growing vertically using natural gardening techniques can provide a bounty of food.
#28 Container Gardening
If you live in an urban area and are stuck with just a patio or balcony area learn to grow tomatoes, potatoes, and peppers in a grow bag or a pot.
#29 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.
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)
#31 Guerilla Gardening
Plant fruit trees or vegetables on vacant or abandoned land.
#32 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.
#33 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.
#34 Apple Orchardist
Before building a house colonists planted fruit trees and bushes because apple cider was an important part of early diets. Hard cider preserved fruit and was often cleaner than groundwater. Even children drank a watered-down version.
I had a small apple orchard and found it surprisingly complicated. One of the most important aspects of planting apple trees is picking the right type of apple(s) that are at least somewhat resistant to the bugs and diseases in your growing area and that will cross-pollinate each other.
Survival skill: Grow apple trees to make hard and soft cider, eat fresh, cook, and preserve.
#35 Stone Fruit Orchardist
Plant peaches and nectarines. Eat them fresh, baked, or preserved.
#36 Grape Grower
Grow grapes to make wine, grape juice, and vinegar.
#37 Cheese Making
Learn to use milk from sheep, goats, and cows to make cheese, butter, sour cream—ice cream, and yogurt.
If you are gardening an orchardist or both canning is one of the most important survival skills you can learn. Without the ability to preserve harvests they will go to waste. Canning also gets you through hard winters and low garden production.
#39 Fruit Preservation
Fruit preservation depression era style. Learn to make fruit spreads by mixing fruit, sugar, and pectin.
As a side note: Sugar lasts indefinitely, is excellent for barter, and has preservative qualities. Every Survival pantry should load up on sugar for fruit preservation but also because it is a commodity for trade when SHTF.
Store sugar in a clean food-grade bucket with a lid, in a cool dry location and it will last forever.
Learn to pickle vegetables and other foods in vinegar and salt brine to preserve huge harvests of cucumbers, peppers, or just about any other garden bounty.
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.
Farmers started making Kentucky Bourbon to conserve large corn harvests, and Russians made vodka from potato or turnip harvests. Distilled spirits have a lot of survival uses including first aid, as a cleaning solution, and of course to drink.
Whether you consume alcohol for pleasure or not, one thing is for sure, booze is an excellent barter item in SHTF.
This is another skill set that shines post SHTF. I have done some beer brewing but mostly I have made mead (honey wine)
Brewing with grains compliments baking because of the yeast involved. During colonial times bakers got their yeast from the beer brewer.
If you have the ability to grow grain like wheat you could become the post-apocalypse bread baker.
Build an outdoor, colonial-style clay oven and learn to bake with simple 17th-century ingredients you grow yourself.
If you are interested in bread making you might want to learn how to make your own yeast from flour and water. Check out the Ready Squirrel article, How do you make yeast: Survival Skill 101.
You’ve probably tried olive oil infused with garlic and spices. Infusion is a great way to use garden herbs. Infusion is used to flavor a liquid, like olive oil, home-brewed beer, mead (honey wine), or distilled spirits.
Infusing liquid with herbs and fruits is another way to create a more interesting diet and preserve harvests.
#46 Vinegar Distillation
Ferment vinegar from the ethanol alcohol in beer, cider, or wine and infuse the finished vinegar with herbs to enhance flavor.
Vinegar is a food preservative used in pickling and a flavor enhancer for salads from the survival garden. It can also be used as a cleaning agent.
If you have electricity use a dehydrator or the sun to make beef jerky, banana chips, dried apples, or any number of other food items—an excellent way to fortify your pantry. Other food preservation skills you can learn that are similar to dehydrating are smoking and salt-curing food.
Freeze-drying food requires an expensive unit that you can use before SHTF when you have electricity. I’m putting it here because it’s a great way to store hundreds or thousands of pounds of food with a 20 to 30-year shelf-life to get ready for a societal collapse.
A freeze-drying unit is on my bucket list but I don’t have one. The most popular units are made by Harvest Right.
#49 Smoking & Drying Meat
Smoke meat to preserve by drying it out in the smokehouse. Reducing moisture makes bacteria less likely to occur and allows you to keep meat from spoiling as quickly.
Commonly Smoked Foods: fish, beef, pork, chicken, vegetables, cheese, ham, pork roast, bacon, beef brisket, whole poultry, salmon, herring, and oysters.
#50 Food Fermentation
Learn to ferment food like a master to preserve everything from hot peppers to meat and dairy products. Fermentation is a natural process by which bacteria and yeast convert carbohydrates like starch and sugar to alcohol or acid thereby preserving certain foods.
Commonly fermented foods: sauerkraut, kimchi, yogurt, and my all-time favorite, hot sauce.
#51 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.
#52 Root Cellaring
Build a root cellar and learn how to store foods together and the methods of storage. Cellaring food preserves them by slowing the release of ethylene gas, stopping the growth of organisms that cause decomposition. Knowing what food items you can store together are an important aspect of keeping your cellared food tasty.
Cellaring preserves food by slowing the release of ethylene gas and stopping 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.
#53 Hard Cider Fermentation
Using mainly apples, you can create an alcoholic beverage that is a safe form of drinking water and will last for years if stored properly.
Cider was a staple in the colonial American diet it was so crucial to Colonists that they would plant the apple orchard before beginning construction on the house.
#54 Cooking With Solar
Solar energy cooks food without electricity a major thumbs up if the electric grid goes down. Solar heat cooks food when the suns heat is collected. I remember when I lived in Phoenix there was a news clip showing a guy cooking an egg on the hood of his car, this egg was cooked with the same principles as solar.
General Survival Skills
#55 Fletching Arrows
Learn to make fletches which are the stabilizers on the back of an arrow or crossbow bolt. This is a good method of ensuring you have a renewable means of making a weapon you can hunt with.
#56 Fly Tying
Learn to make flies for fly fishing or Lewers for regular fishing.
Make your flies by binding material to a hook with thread or glue. You can get pretty creative with the style and materials used to create flies.
#57 Fishing Lures
A skill to keep you in fish when SHTF. Make lures by using balsa wood and other materials to make artificial bait for catching more fish from natural water sources.
#58 Cobbler or Shoemaker
Learn to make or repair footwear like moccasins, shoes and boots.
This skill pairs well with hunting, tanning hides, or butchering and will be a sought after skillset if shoes are too expensive or become less available.
Raise bees to provide honey for mead and as a sweetener with an indefinite shelf life. Beekeeping also provides wax for candle making. So you could make candles or barter to a chandler for finished candles.
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.Scott, Ready Squirrel
#60 Basket Weaving
Learn to make baskets from grasses or willow to make containers for picked fruit and vegetables or as storage containers for your root cellar. Better yet, make baskets for your next farmers’ market or as a barter item.
#61 Chandler (Candlemaker)
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, make candles from tallow. (rendered fat)
Learn to cook food with dry heat and no direct flame or become the town baker and provide sustenance to your survival group or barter for needed items.
Baking 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 woodworking skills.
A complementary skill to learn to grow grain to mill for milling into flour and baking.
#63 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 a 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.
Learn to forge tools from iron. Blacksmiths commonly forge knives, chisels, shovels, and fittings like door handles, hinges nails, and fasteners.
Set up a backyard forge for blacksmithing at a minimal cost.
Use calligraphy (fancy lettering) to make signage and artwork to advertise post-apocalyptic skills, services, and products.
Learn the healing properties of plants and forage for them or grow them in your survival garden.
Herbalists beware, proper plant identification is critical to avoid choosing poisonous plants.
#67 Barber or Hairstylist
Cut hair out of your garage, and sell coffee, tea, or soda on the side. Also a great way of staying in touch with the local survival community by listening to conversations and the local gossip.
#68 Knit And Crochet
Learn to crochet or knit to pump out clothing like hats, scarves, and sweaters. Sheep husbandry is a good match for this skill set because you can make your own yarn.
Get good at sewing your own clothing, fixing old clothing, making fishing nets, and other useful items.
Raise sheep and then spin the fiber into yarn for use in your knitting, crocheting, or weaving.
#71 Leather Work
Tan skins from the butchering process to make useful items like belts, aprons for the blacksmith, or warm winter coats.
Create cloth on a loom using natural yarns barter you barter for or raise sheep and goats for weaving material.
Cheesemaking skills go well with weaving because you already have milk-producing animals.
Learn to make rope from natural and mandmade products. After society collapses rope will be used with pulleys and levers to move heavy loads.
Rope is used to build shelters, hunting, hanging stuff, tying things down, carrying items, lifting loads, tying up livestock, mooring boats, rigging, etc
#74 Animal Husbandry
Animal husbandry is knowing how to provide animals like chickens, pigs, cattle and horses with what they need to keep them healthy.
Raising chickens is going to be easier than raising large animals like cattle or horses. If you are in a post apocolyptic situation you’ll want to learn about treating illness and dealing with animals giving birth.
Animals provide food like eggs, dairy, wool, meat, fertilizer, tanned hides and fats for all types of products like candle making.
Animals can also be raised as beasts of burden to help build and maintain an off-grid location.
Animals for the post apocolypse: goats, chickens, rabbits, pigs, cows and horses.
#75 Fire Starting
Learn how to start a fire outdoors in any weather condition. It’s an essential skill set for outdoor living.
Learn about the fire triangle, heat, fuel, and oxygen.
Use fire to cook, stay warm, sterilize equipment, smoke meat and treat wood.
#76 Bushcraft Shelters
Learn how to build outdoor shelters in any situation, with any materials. the more survival skills you have for the field the less weight you need to carry in your pack.
Shelter Types: tarp shelters, lean-tos, Qunzhees, tepees, debris huts, or a small cabin.
#77 Knot Tying
Knot tying is a skill you need because it applies to so many survival situations including shelter building, sailing and boating, and rigging for building or moving heavy materials.
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.
What knots should I learn first? Start with the Square knot, Bowline and clove-hitch.
If you are interested in doing a specific survival activity do research on the typical knots used. For example, fisherman typically use the surgeon’s knot, the palomar knot and the uni knot. Sailers typically use the Bowline, Square knot and clove hitch and climbers use the Double-figure-of Eight Knot and Riggers use single bowlines.
Fishing techniques go beyond rod and reel. You can also learn how to throw a cast net typically used for catching bait fish but can be used to catch enough protein to make a fish soup or stew.
Learn to build fish traps from natural materials or take up spearfishing with a Hawaiian sling.
When you are out fishing don’t forget about invertebrates like shellfish, squid, octopus, crawdads, lobsters, crabs and oysters.
#79 Land Navigation
If you plan on bugging out there is no question you must learn how to use a compass. If you want to get serious learn to read topographical maps, learn about lattitude and longitude and how to use pace beads (ranger beads)
Test navigation skills by participating in a sport called geocaching.
Animal fats and proteins are essential in a survival situation, so learn how to hunt for small game, trap fish and forage for invertebrates.
Hunting is a big subject. What you can hunt depends on where you live. If you live in the Midwest you an go for pheasant, wild turkey and white-tail deer. If you live in the four corners you will want an elk tag.
Most locations in the United States have rabbits and squirrels that can be hunted with a .22.
Cleaning and cutting up livestock and wild game.
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 you can’t kill a screaming rabbit, that sounds like a baby crying you may want to barter for the service or raise chickens for eggs.
A valuable skill-set that has a wide range of injuries from basic first aid for minor cuts and scrapes to full blow trama like a gaping chest wound or a arterial bleed. First aid for serious injuries takes a lot of training, dedication and disire.
If you have a knack for this you could become a paramedic or join the military service.
I was in the Navy so I’m partial to the Navy Corpsman who travel with the Jar Heads and Seals.
Go out into the woods, build a shelter, and test all of your gear and bushcraft skills like fire starting, shelter building, and water purification.
Learn to shoot a bow that can be used for self-defense, to hunt and fish.
If you decide on a bow you have a choice to make. Will you go with a traditional recurve or a compound bow.
For societal collapse use a recurve and Learn to cut and fletch arrows and how to make a bowstring.
#85 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.
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.
#87 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.
#88 Ham Radio
Learn to use a ham radio, get licensed, and talk to people all over the world.
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. This is great training for learning land navigation.
Do the research and write about the things you want to learn and do.
Get prepared for what is coming. Turn off the T.V. and read or write.
#91 Chemistry and Physics
Learn how to make useful items and understand your environment.
Read anything you can get your hands on
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.
#93 Drone Pilot
Drones are an excellent tool for survival. You can track game, do recon and use them for security, among other things. If you are interested in drones Check out the Ready Squirrel article, 19 Uses for a Drone During SHTF.