Survival Skills 101: What They Are and Why You Need Them

This article has been contributed to by Carmela Tyrell from

If you have already been in a few short or long term life or death situations, then you may already know there is a huge difference between prepping, camping, homesteading, and going about your daily life.

Survival Skills 101

Survival Skills 101: What They Are and Why You Need Them

While many skills overlap, there is still a special core of abilities that must come together and function as a whole before you can truly be an efficient, capable, and resourceful prepper that will survive just about any situation.  This article covers 10 basic skill sets that you need to become an expert in and specific details about which elements within that skill set are most important.


Discussion and negotationFrom bartering for goods and services with other survivors to rebuilding a healthy social structure, negotiation and communication skills are always important.  This includes being able to communicate over long distances and with people that you may never have met before.  If you have already served in the military, law enforcement, or clinical medicine, then you already know just how important these skills are, and may also have some good insights about what approaches work and which ones don’t.

Did you know that in face-to-face communication, people pay more attention to your body language and facial expressions?  No matter how many languages you learn or how well you arrange your sentences, people still look at your eyes, hands, and posture to determine if you are telling the truth.  To make matters even more complicated, different cultures, even within the United States interpret body language cues differently.  If you are going to be an effective negotiator and communicator, you need both personal ability and any equipment that may be required to transfer your information.

Here are some basic skills to master and equipment to have on hand:

  • sign language alphabet – aside from being useful if you encounter someone that cannot hear, these simple visual signals can convey all kinds of complicated information to anyone that can see your hands.  It should be noted that sign language also includes signals for entire words and sentences, however, this can take years to learn.  Even if you just learn the English alphabet you will still be ahead of the game.
  • Morse code – while this is often overlooked in many places that used to teach it, Morse code remains a valuable way to communicate signals when visual contact is not possible.
  • Latin– believe it or not, this “dead” language serves as the underpinning for at least 5 languages, including Spanish, French, and Portuguese.  You won’t necessarily be able to understand every word spoken in these five other  languages, however, you can still get some ideas and use other methods of confirmation to ensure you got the right idea.
  • German, Russian, Arabic, Hindu, and Chinese – each of these languages can take time to master, however, a basic skill set can still help you if you encounter people that don’t speak English and find yourself needing to know what is being said.  This is critical, especially in light of the fact that UN troops and other foreign soldiers may, for one reason or another, be used to control the masses.
  • Basics of interpersonal and group communication.  The more you learn about how to get your point across to diverse people, the easier it will be to get what you want from them.  While these skills will not resolve every situation, they will go a long way towards helping you manage situations easily and efficiently.  As you go through the suggestions listed in these guides, do not hesitate to polish your skills on social media.  You can learn a lot about how people communicate and also give yourself time and room to think so that you gain better control of your thoughts and emotions.

Equipment: a compact mirror for signaling, smoke signal gear, a crystal radio, shielded radio, weather radio, two-way radio, parts for making  spark gap transmitter.


Food managementNo matter where you go or what you do in the world, you are going to need safe food and water on a daily basis.   Unfortunately, in just about every crisis situation, food and water are also going to become unavailable very quickly, and will also make you a target of others that are willing to steal from you.  As such, you should focus not just on the most obvious foods and water sources, but also on ones that will be difficult, if not impossible to spot.

Container gardens that can grow completely indoors in a room that has no windows so that the light from grow lights does not give away the presence of food bearing plants.

Which plants offer the highest nutrient density – even though some plants, like corn, are easy to grow, they don’t offer as much nutritional value as soybean, parsley, or other plants.  If you cannot hunt or do not have access to a place to fish, then be sure that you can get all your nutritional needs met through plants.

How to cultivate yeast 

how to grow and maintain a sustainable seed store for sprouts and micro plants – when it comes to nutrient dense foods, bean sprouts, and other newly germinated seedlings can pack well over 3 times the nutritional value as the fruits and other parts of a mature plant.  Sprouts are also very easy to grow and hide.

How to make your own fishing and hunting gear

how to make traps for fish, small, and large game

how to dress and cook game

how to hunt and fish

how to keep foods frozen or cold without refrigeration.

How to cook and preserve foods

how to grow food in the woods or other areas where it will be easily disguised

how to pull water from the air

how to purify water regardless of where it comes from

how to pump water and make a pump from natural materials

how to make a solar-powered water still and solar cooker

how to gather water from the environment


Heat controlIf you take a survey of your household energy uses, you will find that a good bit of energy goes towards heating up the home or cooling it down.  No doubt, you also have seasonal changes to your wardrobe so that you can avoid everything from heatstroke to hypothermia.  In times when electricity, oil, kerosene, propane, and other fuels may not be available, you will need to know how to improvise using less harnessed fuel sources.  Here are some things you can learn to do right now and some tools that you can keep on hand for a time of need:

How to choose, make, and maintain garments and shoes for all weather conditions

Know emergency treatments for frostbite and hypothermia.

Know emergency treatments for heat stroke and other high-temperature illnesses.

Be able to build a shelter no matter where you are and what the situation is.  Worst comes to worst, at least know how to dig a foxhole and shield yourself from extreme temperatures with emergency blankets.

How to start and maintain a fire

Passive heating and cooling methods for rooms and shelters

DIY air conditioners that can run on battery power

How to make and keep ice underground

How to maintain all heating and cooling systems in your home

How to provide energy for heating and cooling systems in time of need



First Aid SkillsIf you have already taken First Aid classes and know how to use a range of modern medical equipment, then you have made a good beginning.  That being said, in a crisis, some, if not all of the equipment and medications you may have learned about will not be available.  For example, if you need to manage a heart attack while on a forced evacuation and know how to use a defibrillator, what good will it do when none is available.  Part of emergency prepping in this area includes making sure that you can make equipment or medicine out of materials on hand.  Here are some valuable skills to learn insofar as emergency medicine:

Know how to make medicine syringes from natural resources

Know enough about electronics to create a safe, portable, and effective defibrillator.

How to treat wounds, stop bleeding, and restore breathing

take wilderness survival medicine courses that include retreats where you can practice your skills.

Long-term medicine is yet another area where people sort of assume that they will stumble across the right herbs or manage to keep enough medicines on hand to last until more become available.  Prepping for long-term medical needs can be complicated and take time, however it is well worth your effort.  Here are some important aspects to cover:

Find out how your current diet and exercise plans impact your health.  Choose a diet plan that addresses your body’s needs as opposed to what you must do to keep up with medicinal side effects.

Look at the list of medications you are on and make sure you know about all nutritional deficiencies, kidney, heart, and liver damage associated with these drugs.  Check up on class action lawsuits and join any that match your documented health history.

If possible, visit a licensed naturopath nutritionist that will help you get the right diet, and not the one that big pharma wants you to pursue.

Learn how to propagate, grow, store, and prepare herbal remedies.  Make sure that all seeds are heirloom, organic varieties.  Once you acquire seeds, make sure that you can grow them indoors, underground, in hydroponic systems, and in more conventional outdoor settings.

Learn all you can about wild herbs and how to use them.

To maintain good health:

  • Know how to maintain good hygiene,
  • How to make your own soap, makeup, and personal care products
  • Know how to manage sanitation issues.
  • How to avoid STDs and other communicable diseases


Getting informationIn a world where Jan Chipchase of Nokia claims “Three objects were considered essential across all participants, cultures and genders: keys, money and mobile phone.”, it may be difficult to see why gathering data would be hard in a crisis situation.  That being said, as nations around the world develop internet and cell phone kill switches, EMP devices that can knock out most forms of electronic communication, and attention spans run less than 5 minutes for adults, getting information and improvising during a crisis may not be as easy as you think.  Here are a few things you need to do in order to make sure you are in the best shape possible to get, use, and acquire important information:

Do not leave the condition of your mind and emotions to chance.  Use mind building exercises such as Sudoku, memory building tricks, and meditation to increase both your span of attention and ability to retain information. In a time of need when you cannot access the internet, files on a computer, or even a book, your memory and mental faculties may be all that stands between you and disaster.

Never assume that your current mental or emotional condition is the best or worst that it is going to be.  As you get older, perceptions, sense capacity, and memory skills all change.  If there is one thing to fight and fight with vigor, it is the effects of aging, bad diet, and environmental toxins on the mind and emotions.  The best thing you can do is keep your mind active, drill constantly on things you must remember, and take the time to practice as many skills as possible.  Remember, prepping isn’t just a “thing you do on weekends”, it is a way of life that should be incorporated into every area of your life without causing problematic disruptions.

If you don’t know something, know where and how to get the information.  This includes knowing how to communicate with people as well as how to evaluate information that you receive from them.  Learn about and develop critical thinking and discernment skills.
Gut instincts are wonderful things, and they may be all that you have in an emergency.  You still need to hone other important mental skills so that you have a complete picture of what you are doing and how to go about it.

Being able to improvise is also very important.  Start off by learning how to build conventional equipment with verified plans and materials.  Build your next models using natural materials, substitutes, and anything else that might be available during a crisis as opposed to what you started out using.


  • Teaching childrenThe real truth is very little of what we do as preppers is about us.  No one really wants to be the last person alive on Earth with no friends or family to share life with.  Our children are the reason why we fight for freedom, we seek to protect them, and we also aim to make sure they can take the best possible care of themselves. This is why being able to raise and educate children is a major skill that every prepper should know.Today, conservatives, liberals, and moderates alike, both rich and poor, complain about the condition of our schools and the way our society has “dumbed down”.  In many cases, you can put a stop to it in your own family by homeschooling and vigorously petitioning to remove Core Curriculum from the schools.  Go back to older textbooks that actually teach in a straightforward manner and truly challenge students to think and acquire mastery of each subject. Start from now to teach your children about true healthy social values (like the right to self-defense and unfettered access to guns, honorable dating, respect for self, respect for others, kindness, common decency, independence, and honesty.)


    Team workNo matter whether you prepping efforts involve family and friends, or you are planning to go it alone, eventually you are going to have to communicate and work with people from outside your immediate trusted circle. If you and the other party both have the same objectives, all your efforts may fail if you cannot form a solid team and promote leadership and a chain of command.  Now is the time to take leadership oriented communication classes so that you can:

    Determine when, where, and how to take charge of a situation or group

    Determine when you are better off leaving the group, and how to do so without creating other problems down the road.

    How to recognize when conflicts and other problems signal that team building and organizing efforts need to change, and in which direction you need to go.

    Recognize when you are too close to a situation to lead effectively, or situations where you have personal problems that prevent you from making the best possible judgments.  There should always be, within the group, a graceful, acceptable way to exit and enter leadership roles, and also a democratic way to vet and choose successors.


    Self defenseGun control, ongoing riots, terrorism, and a number of other situations that signal pending social collapse are enough to make every prepper think just a little bit more about defense of self and personal property.   Even though guns may be your first and last thought so far as protecting yourself and your family, some other skills are also needed. Here are some things you should get informed about so that you know what to do if faced with any given situation:

    Situation Awareness.  This doesn’t mean be hyper and call the police or brandish a firearm every time you see someone wearing a turban or a hijab.  Bear in mind that Islam is the fastest growing religion on Earth.  New converts, as well as those who have been radicalized, can easily come from all races – including white people – right along with those of Middle Eastern descent. Situation awareness does mean you keep your eyes and ears open, and that you report suspicious activity to the police and to the media.  Know the signs that someone may be wearing an IED vest, or that they may be casing a store or other location.

    Common Sense.  When it comes to gun free zones – just stay out of them. If you know people foolish enough to go into gun-free zones, give them the name of a good personal injury lawyer and remind them if they get hurt or loved ones get killed for want of a gun – they should sue the government and the business.

    Detect and Overcome Mental Manipulation – always be aware of what people are saying, where they are getting their information from, and what the agenda is of the people they got the information from.  Do not allow yourself to be dragged into other people’s agendas because of peer pressure.  Remember, just like the radical jihadists that send the suicide bombers on their merry way; you will get hurt, not the person sitting behind the scenes that encouraged you to take certain actions.  Know how to think for yourself and build appropriate boundaries.  When in doubt, or asked to do something based on any kind of rhetoric or a play on your beliefs, gently tell the person to go do it themselves and on their own.

    Know how to clean, maintain, and fire your gun.

    Make sure that you know your adrenaline responses and learn how to control them.  In a real life situation, no amount of “cluster sixes” at the range can prepare you for that adrenaline surge and what it will do to your timing and reflexes.

    Be able to build larger scale perimeter defense weapons and booby traps.

    Always have at least 5 escape routes and associated exit plans.

    Know how to make and build alternative weapons including ones that are far more lethal than guns.

    Get acquainted with electronic weapons that you can build yourself and keep completely off the radar.

    Always know what kind of armor your adversaries have and make sure that you have both the weapons and skill to get through it.


    Maps and navigationAside from general navigation skills without using electronic aids, you should also know how to navigate during an emergency.  Here are some basic things to have on hand, and how to prepare for a situation when roads may be closed or you cannot travel along safe or known paths:

    Know how to make and use a compass

    Know how to navigate by star, sun, and monument orientation

    Know how to read and use paper maps

    How to choose the best maps and keep them in good condition

    Obtain maps or study rain runoff systems or abandoned underground passages that can get you in and out of heavily populated areas

    How to get through territories where you are a stranger and might have a hard time blending

    Know how to assess areas you plan to travel through for safety and ease of access to vital goods such as food and water

    Develop and practice multiple versions of bug out plans and update them on a regular basis

    know how to communicate in case you are injured, trapped, or need help.


    Manage natureRight now, rain, snow, heat waves and other “normal” weather patterns may seem more like an inconvenience.  When you are dealing with gridlocked traffic, riots, invading soldiers, or a complete economic meltdown, the elements of nature can spread disease and expose you to many risks you hadn’t planned for.  Even if you are an avid camper, never forget that in a major crisis, there may be no “end of the vacation” and no “normal world’ to return to.  When it comes to managing the elements of nature, you should know the following:

    how to read the signs from animals in the local area.  Are the dogs disturbed, or birds flying erratically?  This can signal anything from a pending earthquake to severe weather ahead.

    Are the leaves on the trees upside down and are the ants building up dirt mounds around the entrance to their tunnels?  If so, you had a better plan on getting to shelter fast because a severe rain storm may be coming.

    Learn how to read the clouds for signs that a tornado may be possible.

    Know how to read snowflake patterns and fall activity so that you know how long the storm is likely to last.

    Know how to recognize and avoid flash flood areas. If you are unlucky enough to get caught in one, know how to survive it even if you are pulled into the current.

    What to put in your pocket EDC kit so that you can build a shelter, signal for help, or carry out other activities to protect yourself from bad weather or other natural disasters

    know to read rocks and slopes so that you avoid falling rock zones

    know ho to survive avalanches, swift currents, drowning, hurricanes, tornadoes, blizzards, and lightning strikes.


    If you went through this list and feel that you are fully prepared in every single area, consider yourself lucky.  Should you find that some areas are completely missing, or that you do not have sufficient background, there is no time like the present to learn. I’d love to hear from you about other skills that you feel are important.  How did you acquire your skills in these areas, and what methods do you recommend others use for acquiring these skills and tools?  Please feel free to send a note in the comment section below this article!

    History has shown us many times that it can all fly away in a split of a second.The biggest misstep that you can take now is to think that this can never happen in America or to you!Call me old fashioned; I don’t care…but I completely believe in America and what our ancestors stood for.They all had a part in turning this land into one of the most powerful countries in the world.Many died and suffered before a creative mind found an ingenious solution to maybe a century old problem. Believe it or not, our ancestors skills are all covered in American blood. This is why these must be fought for, protected, and handed on for them to do the same for our children and our children’s children.Our ancestors laid the bricks and built the world’s strongest foundation…that we are about to -irreversibly forget! I don’t want to see our forefathers’ knowledge disappear into the darkness of time…and if you care for your family…and what America stands for…then neither should you! Watch the video below and learn more:


    What to read next:



    The 3 Pioneer Survival Lessons We Should Learn

    The Most Effective Home Defense Strategies

    Old School Hacks for Off-Grid Living

    The Medical Emergency Crash Course

    The Smart, Easy Way to Food Independence

    How to Survive the Coming 100 Years Long Drought

    Carmela Tyrell is an experienced prepper that enjoys spending time working in her garden and exploring new ways to generate off-grid electricity and water for her family’s home. She prides herself in working hard to cut reliance on all things “municipal” and transition to a more self-sustainable living. She is also very knowledgeable about herbal remedies, surviving a nuclear disaster and bugging in. You can send her a message at [email protected]

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