Prepper and Survival Skills Checklist

Survival Skills We Need to Know – Become a better Prepper!- By Bugout Bob

Survival Skills We Need to Know - Become a better Prepper!The debate between skills vs. stuff is a big one. I know many articles have been written on it and I’ve been in many a forum debate about which to focus on. I write this as a fellow preparedness geek and a friend to all those out there who are working towards a secure future.

It is interesting to me how many preppers talk about getting off the grid and having self-sufficiency, but they end up just trusting their existence to yet another set of systems. You may have solar panels and well pumps but what if SHTF and a panel gets shattered by flying debris, or your well pump stops working as the bearings seize? There are a million what if scenarios and many are not that unlikely. You need something to fall back on; you need a final line of defense.

When you have skills that means you have applied knowledge and experience. If your water system fails survival skills and knowledge of water purification techniques can keep you alive. If your livestock dies suddenly from disease, trauma, or whatever else hunting skills can keep some food on the table. If all else fails and you have the skills to make fire from nothing but the materials around you, if you can hunt with traps and simple weapons created from the forest, these things are powerful. Stock up on supplies and establish self-sufficient systems but always have a backup plan.

But skills are not just a fall back, they can help in everything. Skills do two other things: They teach you how to use the things you have better and they open your eyes to alternatives. I hear a lot of talk about bugging out on bikes should things go downhill. As a former bike mechanic and avid mountain biker I can remember one instance after another of the customer who thought it was as simple as… The front derailleur has two set screws, an upper and lower limit and tension to adjust. The set screws rarely if ever have to be tweaked, but even with only a simple turn of a dial it is one of the most difficult skills to master. It seems easy on the surface but training employee after employee there is more than meets the eye. This is but one simple example, and you could continue this with weapons, food storage and prep, water procurement, infection control, first aid, etc.

Let me share another example. One supposed prepper argued adamantly that I was wasting my time focusing on developing skills. On fire starting he told me of his stock pile of several thousand matches he planned to use as his sole source of fire. How many of you out there have tried to start a fire with a match when the wind is high or the air is wet? I say to him good luck. I’ve been an avid outdoors man for years and can attest from firsthand experience that it is far from easy. I know there are windproof water proof matches on the market, but have you ever tried them?

They don’t work so well on good days much less under high wind or when wet. And strike anywhere means you better have a good striker strip nearby. I have matches, standard lighters, butane lighters, flint strikers, steel wool and batteries, and a magnifying glass. And with all that equipment, I have spent time developing the skills to effectively use them in various situations. Even the best equipment is useless unless you know the tricks of the trade. I’m not here to brag, instead I just want to say that for all the time you spend gathering essential stuff, take the time to research it, to learn about it, to try it out and even live off of it to discover any faults before you are in a situation where you have no other options.

Knife Skills

It may seem obvious on the surface but skills with a knife go far beyond knowing how to cut. Whittling, carving, and simply understanding correct usage goes a long way. One of the big concerns with lack of knife skills is injury and I have plenty of scars to prove it!


When most people think of firecraft they think of rubbing two sticks together. In reality even knowing how to start a fire with a match can be tough, especially in wet and high wind conditions. It takes knowledge and experience.


For survival fishing I recommend practice finding bait in the area around you, know the basic knots and know the equipment. Personally I would set multiple lines with bobbers and tie the line off to objects on shore. Set larger treble hooks on the floor to get the bigger bottom feeders, and use smelly bait. Set smaller J hooks mid level to get the trout, bass and panfish and use bugs, minnows or other live bait you can find. Add a bell to the line to let you know when something is biting, otherwise cross your fingers that the hook will set itself.


A great skill to have and one that can’t be learned overnight. You need to know how to use your weapon, tracking stalking and behavior of your game of choice.


Goes with hunting but also is useful for tracking people and getting a picture of what’s going on.


Knowing how to use a gun is the first step. You also should know the basics of how it functions, how to clean it, and repair. Marksmanship takes time and lots of ammo. The ability to shoot moving targets at range or engage multiple targets with a handgun could be a lifesaver.


This again goes back to hunting but could also be very useful against other threats. Stealth involves knowing how to move quietly and staying out of sight as well as the employment of camouflage.


Unlike bullets good arrows can be reused many times and bows are quiet, light and dependable. But all that is useless if you can’t hit a target with it.


Knowing a few basic knots can be a big help in many situations.

Morse Code

It allows you to communicate with a variety of methods and in today’s world most sheeple have no idea what it means.


Strength, endurance, and good cardio is all important. Living self-sufficiently takes a lot of work, and escaping from hordes of the less prepared that want you’re supplies takes even more. Get in the best shape of your life now!

Self Defense

Martial arts is a subject that takes years to be effective in, but basic self-defense skills can be learned over a period of several months. Focus on disarming and defending against opponents with weapons, but learn basic fighting skills. Your goal is to stop the threat as quickly and safely as possible.


Knowing how to build stuff could make all the difference. Know basic materials, fasteners and get experience with hand tools and power tools of all types.

Auto Repair

Understand basic maintenance like changing oil, adding fluids, replacing hoses and belts… More info is always better.

First Aid

Know how to “fix” yourself when you do something stupid or end up the product of a bad situation. I recommend taking a formal class. First Aid from the Red Cross is a great start, Wilderness first aid is better, and first responder is even better. Of course anything beyond that, EMT, Paramedic, Nurse is better yet. You may only need to use these skills once or twice, but when you need them you’ll be glad you spent the money and time to get good training.

Ham Radio

If all other communications go down Ham Radio will be the fall back. Knowledge is the power to make an informed decision. In an EOTWAWKI scenario the info obtained by talking to fellow hammers could mean the difference between life and death.


Know how to solder and have a basic working knowledge of electronics theory and design. Repairing basic electrical devices could be critical to survival.

Don’t feel bad if you don’t have even half of the skills/knowledge on this list complete, I still have a ways to go myself. There is definitely something to be said for having a group where different people specialize in certain areas, but be wary of relying on one person for a certain skill. Everyone should have a basic general skill set and always have a backup in case one member becomes incapacitated.

I know there are some things I am missing, but that is the beauty of community. We can learn from each other. So please, if you have a comment or addition take a minute and add it. It could just save someone’s life.

2 responses to Prepper and Survival Skills Checklist

  1. Bri August 26th, 2014 at 1:09 am

    Great advice. I have no skills 🙁 But fantasize about living off the grid none the less.
    Thanks Bugout Bob


  2. Ron Davis January 11th, 2015 at 11:50 pm

    Basic metal working is a very valuable skill. Heating, shaping, grinding, drilling, heat treating, and much more can be learned. It will not only make you more capable, but will give you very valuable bartering skills. Something as small as a trigger spring can be worth more than ever imagined if you are the only one around for miles with the skill to gather up some scrap metal or wire and make it. Half a dozen good fish hooks might net you and your family the next days worth of food.


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