Learning Survival Skills + 45 Skills to Get Started On Today

In today’s world it is all too easy to get caught up with a lot of fancy gear and neglect learning skills that can get you by in a variety of situations. Survival skills are something that everyone can learn on some level. You don’t have to be one of the buff and tough types from the prepper reality shows to have a lot to offer a group or family. 

During an SHTF scenario people get by using whatever they have to their advantage. It may surprise some to learn how many things have actual value during a long emergency. Just knowing how to play an instrument or cook basic meals can be extremely valuable during a crisis. Remember that it is easy to consider things basic and take them for granted during good times. In a real long emergency, anything that soothes, comforts, or provides a sense of normalcy will have some value. 

Ways To Learn Survival Skills

There was a time when people just had books or teachers to show them the way when they wanted to learn a new skill. Still further in the past, apprenticeships were common for learning lifelong career skills. Here is a brief list of methods you can utilize to gain a lot of skills that will serve you well in an SHTF scenario.

Take a class at a community college 

I cannot speak for every community college out there but in my area they offer a lot of classes that would be useful in a survival situation. You can learn carpentry, weaving and fiber arts, and a variety of other skills. We even have a great blacksmithing program. 

It is worth it to check out the offerings in your area. There are often discounts for seniors or veterans. In some cases I imagine some classes could cost you little or nothing if you qualify for some financial aid programs.


There are a lot of skilled people on Youtube that deserve every dime they get from a video.  You have easy access to a lot of experts. For premium content the fee is very low. You can learn a ton of stuff and if you don’t quite get some aspect, you can pause the video or rewatch it with ease until you master what you need to know.

For those that are nervous about taking part in a real classroom setting, Youtube can be a great place to start and also discover what types of skills are most interesting to you before you take more advanced classes or take on projects that go above and beyond the basics.

Youtube also allows those that are housebound or providing childcare to learn skills as they have the time. 

Volunteer opportunities are plentiful!

There are plenty of people that would not mind a little extra help sometimes. In exchange for your help you may be able to learn some amazing things from those that have mastered a particular skill set.

Farms and non-profit organizations are good places to learn some things.

Connect with your local community garden program to learn how to grow food in your area.

Community garden programs abound throughout the country. These programs usually welcome those that want to learn how to be more self sufficient by growing some of their own food. This is also a great way to meet others in your community and work together towards something that everyone benefits from. Community gardens make communities closer knit, provide beauty, and adds to the food security. A lot of gardens produce excess that is donated. Some may choose to sell some to help support the garden program or put towards some other community project.

Check out online books and classes available via your local library.

Our small county library system added a lot of free online classes to everyone that holds a card. It is a fantastic resource and you can complete classes at your own pace. A lot of people do not realize the more advanced digital services that libraries now offer to anyone with a card and an internet connection. 

45 Good Skills To Learn

This is by no means a complete list of useful survival skills to have. It is merely a start! I wanted to make a list in the hopes it will inspire you to pick out a few and become a more prepared person. I hope the list also shows that survival is more than just being able to make a fire and find food and water. A lot of people have valuable skills but don’t actually realize they do. Consider this list and then set reasonable goals for achieving proficiency. 

Some skills take longer than others to master so you might want to pick out an easier one and a harder one to work on rather than taking on two intense ones all at once. As you gain skills and experience you will gain the confidence needed to take on learning some of the skills that seem incredibly challenging to even think about now.

  1. Cooking under less than ideal conditions
  2. Curing Meat
  3. Butchering
  4. Sewing and repairing clothing
  5. First-aid
  6. CPR
  7. Advanced Medical Skills
  8. Fire craft
  9. Tracking
  10. Hunting
  11. Fishing
  12. Foraging
  13. Soapmaking
  14. Hiking with a pack 
  15. General concealment and camouflage
  16. Cloud reading and weather prediction
  17. Navigation
  18. Hide Tanning 
  19. Leatherwork
  20. Knitting
  21. Quilting
  22. Homeopathic medicine and local medicinal plant knowledge
  23. Setting up a sick room
  24. Overnight camping
  25. Wilderness shelter construction
  26. Signaling
  27. Finding water in your climate and the climates you visit the most
  28. Knot work for on land and at sea.
  29. Learn to make caches of supplies
  30. Gather up leaves and other debris for insulation to stay warm. Experiment with this in the winter time in your climate to see what works best for you.
  31. Make fire starter boxes and add tinder you make or gather.
  32. Learn to make a slingshot
  33. Master the art of distilling  water with a tarp and boiling water
  34. Take a smooth rock and sharpen a knife with it
  35. Learn how hang a bear bag for camping in bear country
  36. Practice tying a tourniquet
  37. Learn an entertaining skill like storytelling or playing a musical instrument.
  38. Learn to shoot a gun and improve your accuracy.
  39. Whittling and carving useful objects
  40. Fortifying your perimeter against intruders and wildlife
  41. Hand to hand combat
  42. Learning to eat what you have on hand is an important skill. People can get grouchy when they don’t have favorite foods or they have to make do with the basics.
  43. Bartering and negotiating
  44. General household repairs
  45. Boating and sailing

Get Outside Your Comfort Zone

It is easy to just rely on skills we are comfortable with or practice skills under ideal conditions. While any practice is good, it is important to put yourself under stress to see how you will perform. There are people that seem to be experts that do not perform well when put under stress. Remember that a lot of the skills discussed in this article are going to be performed under less than ideal circumstances during a long emergency or SHTF situation. 
Instead of building a fire in your backyard under ideal circumstances, how about trying to do it when it just rained, and you are tired from working a full day and cooking dinner too? 
Putting on a pack and walking 3 miles when you are rested and have a full stomach is one thing but have you tried carrying 30-40 lbs when you only got 4 hours sleep the night before? Can you walk that three miles after eating just a granola bar?
Can you remember how to signal if you are tired? If not then the only way to get better is practice.

If you are going to rely on gear for any purpose, test it out and practice with it.

You do not want to be in a bad situation when you try out your gear for the first time. If you want to survive, you need to learn how to use things during good times, not when you are facing the unknown or injured. If is also worth considering if your gear is any good and if you need to upgrade. I don’t care what you paid for the latest and greatest survival gear; it is worthless if it doesn’t work or you don’t know how to use it efficiently in a survival situation. 

Believe me I know all about the cheap gear and gimmicks in the survival niche. Everyone is trying to make a buck and cheap manufacturers figure that chances are you will never really use the gear in a true survival situation thus it is worth the risk to produce poor quality at a low-to-moderate price and make a lot of money in the process. 

Healthy Body= Better Survival

Learning skills is one thing but I cannot stress enough how important it is for everyone to strive to have a good level of physical fitness based on age, disability, etc. Just moving around a bit during the day can help improve the physical fitness level of those that are housebound. My Dad is an amputee, and he does daily stretches and exercises to help maintain muscle tone. If he doesn’t go outside, he still drives his cat around on his walker because his cat loves it so much. 

Some of you already know my story about getting into better shape through homesteading and prepping. I was 30 lbs heavier at 24 than I am at 36. It took time. I couldn’t even walk up the hill to get to my property without being out of breath. The average American diet and sedentary lifestyle makes it easy to get this way even at a young age. Don’t fall into the trap of discouragement because you don’t lose 10 lbs in a month. A slow and steady pace is better than just not doing anything at all.

A lot of the common health issues in the United States can be eliminated with a change in diet and exercise. With half of adults qualifying as obese and not just overweight, it is clear that there is a problem. It is not about shaming or how good someone looks; it is about health and the ability to do what you have to do to survive. If you can reduce your reliance on pharmaceuticals you will be better off in the long term.

Work on a survival mindset and encourage your family to do the same.

After more than 2 years of writing for Backdoor Survival, I am on the opinion that one area that the vast majority of us need to work on is our survival mindset. 

I hope you have never had to go through a lot of hard times but I have to say that in a survival situation that may not be to your benefit. It may be a little harder for you in the beginning of any survival situation unless you are unaware enough to not realize how dire your circumstances are. That may sound harsh but we are all products of our upbringing and surroundings and face different challenges. 

I never realized how sparse my upbringing was compared to a lot of kids in the 80s/90s until I was an adult. You just don’t know the other side of the coin sometimes. It doesn’t make someone less or more; it is just life. When I was dealing with fellow students at the private college I was lucky to attend, it could be hard to be patient with them. 

I had a hard time wrapping my head around why they acted a certain way until I realized just how different our backgrounds were. My college didn’t tell me that the average student’s parents had six-figure incomes and that some students had allowances larger than the salary of a lot of staff and professors. I had to figure out how to be patient and not blow my top when someone lacked work skills at a work college. At least they were there trying and a lot of them got to be extremely skilled at tasks that were not typical for someone of their economic class to learn.

You have to realize your situation and work to improve your skills no matter what your background. Everyone has to start somewhere. This is also important to file away in your head for times when you are teaching others or if you are in a survival situation with people from vastly different backgrounds. People see things differently but that doesn’t mean they cannot learn the same things over time. 

So next time someone asks to be shown something that you think is really basic, instead of rolling your eyes or looking at them with incredulity, roll up your sleeves, smile, and be the best teacher you can be. Contempt and disgust doesn’t create positive changes but positive actions do. 

Samantha Biggers can be reached at [email protected]



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One Response to “Learning Survival Skills + 45 Skills to Get Started On Today”

  1. Great stuff!
    Our community centers often offer classes on yoga, self defense, karate etc as well. The local votech has good classes as well. They offer sewing, sign language (think hand communications in combat), vehicle maintenance in the form of tire changing etc. and lawn and garden repair


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