Top 10 Survival Skills for after the SHTF

Pinterest LinkedIn Tumblr +
Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Last Updated on November 25, 2020

If you have as one of your concerns a total collapse in society – regardless of the reason, there are people out there who will tell you that you need to have knowledge or survival skills you can sell. Why is this?

Let’s take the example scenario of an economic collapse? If there are no jobs as a customer service representative or a social media consultant; what will you do to make money? What will the people who traded stock on wall street do? What about people who sell cars?

If we ever live through a true economic collapse, the only people who can be logically expected to survive (better than others) are people who possess goods or services someone is willing to buy or barter for. Or in dire circumstances, those who have survival skills.

What are Survival Skills?

What do I mean by survival skills? Do I mean someone who can navigate by the stars? No. Do I mean someone who can make a fire with a bow saw? No, although that is a really great skill to have. I am talking about skills for a certain limited set of trades and more importantly the skills we have all long forgotten to a major degree.

In this post, I want to talk about my ideas for the best, most pertinent survival skills you need to consider if you are prepping your family for any event where we as a country or even our world can’t dig us out of with a tractor. When the real end of the world as we know it arrives, what will you need to give you the best chance of making it through?

What Survival Skills do you need to have?

That is a good question if you ask me because I have seen a lot of advice from people who on the surface seem to have a great idea or 20. The usual suspects are what might be considered our pioneering skills and I won’t discount those completely, but I will give you my thoughts and welcome all of the feedback you have in the comments below.

Knowing how to make and maintain a fire is an easy to learn survival skill.

From the perspective of a total economic collapse, war, biological outbreak, EMP attack we will be looking at such a seismic shift in our lives that even the very concept of commerce could be set back years maybe decades. Having goods or services people want is a nice idea, but what if nobody can afford it?

What if nobody knows you have these goods or services? You won’t be able to advertise in the Yellow pages anymore and your Etsy store might not be online anymore. Classifieds in the newspapers? Maybe your town will have a bulletin board where you can post an ad you make that highlights your services to the community.

Most of us simply don’t live in small towns with a main street and not much else anymore. You can’t hang your shingle out on the front porch and expect a lot of drive-through traffic so how will the word get out so that people come to your “store” to conduct business?

Our society has developed to a point where the old models of commerce have changed. Imagine a world with no cars or only a few of them for very rich or important government types. If we have an economic collapse that renders fuel out of reach of the hands of most people, you won’t be able to drive to the next town to get some work done. Everything is going to change.

Are you trying to make a living at this, or live because of this?

I think the perspective of most of these lists on Survival blogs is from the standpoint of what can you do to earn money if we go through an economic collapse. What will you do for a living if the company you are working for now suddenly closes?

If we have another stock market crash and hundreds or thousands of companies close because they can no longer purchase the raw materials they need to create products, or the products they do create aren’t sold anymore; what will you do for a living? How will you feed your family if you can’t afford the food in the grocery stores? What if there is no EBT system because our Government is broken? What if the computers are down?

The problem of an economy like ours that is more and more based on Services is that if people don’t have money for these services, you could be out of a job. Think of just two small examples of lawn services and maid services. These two industries exist primarily because people make enough money that their time is worth more to them than the cost of hiring someone else to do these two jobs. When you start seeing companies close and people are out of work, the two industries like lawn services and maids will disappear.

The skills I am considering aren’t necessarily going to earn you a living, but they could. From the standpoint of a total societal collapse, I am thinking about not what I can make a living from, but what skills are going to keep me living?

1 – Growing your own food

Top 10 Survival Skills for after the SHTF - The Prepper Journal
Feeding yourself is going to be job number one.

This is the number one skill I believe you can have. For starters, if there are no jobs, there most likely won’t be any grocery stores. Having a garden on land that you are living on is the surest way you can take the responsibility for feeding your family into your own hands.

Start a garden now because this isn’t a skill you can easily ramp up on after a collapse. It is one thing to add additional crops, but it is another thing entirely to face an empty patch of lawn with a bucket of seeds in December. Knowing how to save seeds is also important because if the collapse is bad enough, the local Wal-mart might not be open anymore.

2 – Obtaining and filtering a steady source of water

Water is more important in terms of living than food is, but growing food is harder for most people than finding water. After your garden is growing, start a project of collecting rain in rain barrels or digging a well. Just having a 50 gallon barrel in your basement isn’t going to be enough in a true collapse scenario. Once you have water, you will need to treat it unless it comes from a clean source underground.

3 – Securing your home and possessions

Top 10 Survival Skills for after the SHTF - The Prepper Journal

One of the major problems of any collapse is the other people you have to worry about. As we saw in just the last Doomsday Preppers episode, there are opportunistic scavengers out there who have no remorse when it comes to separating you from your supplies. You have to have the skills to defend your home and family from people like this.

Good training from someone who has actually lived through a war can be found at the SHTF School. The other side of this could be caring for your instruments that will assist you in securing your home. Basic tools and parts to maintain weapons are essential. If your expensive rifle with all of the sexy hardware on it breaks a firing pin, it becomes a club.

4 – Providing intermediate level medical care

Food and water will keep you alive, but at some point everyone gets hurt. The hope is that injuries are minor, but they could require additional first aid and possibly antibiotics to treat infection. At a minimum, a well stocked family sized first aid kit is essential. I have several just in case. Next up you need to know how to treat wounds like burns and cuts. Having a supply of fish antibiotics can be the one thing that keeps you alive when an otherwise minor cut could kill others in a post collapse world.

5 – Operating alternative power

One of my long term goals is to be completely self-sufficient from the electrical power grid. I do appreciate the irony in that statement seeing as how I run a blog, but the power we need to live off of in our daily routines could come primarily from the sun. An entire home solar system isn’t cheap at all, but you can start small. A couple of 100W photovoltaic panels, an inverter and several batteries or even a simple solar system could give you an advantage in a survival situation. Having the skills to help set these up for people could make you doubly valuable.

6 – Raising livestock for food/Hunting

A garden is a great way to stay alive and some of my vegetarian friends would say that’s all you need. However, meat is something our bodies naturally need and you can get this several ways. Preppers usually go for chickens, rabbits, sheep and pigs in terms of livestock because they are all relatively easy to raise and produce good meat.

Knowing how to catch fish is a great survival skill.

Hunting is another option and gives you a great survival skill set you can use in other situations. Knowing how to butcher and eat what you catch is very important also. Aquaponics is another method that not only gives you a great source of fish, but can also fertilize the garden as well. This is one of those skills that will take a little know how and preparation prior to the grid going down unless you live near a big PVC factory and a tilapia farm.

7 – Communications

Being able to know what is going on in your city, state, region or even country is important. A lot of people have shortwave capable radios that can receive broadcasts from stations overseas, but if you want the best of all prepper communication options, you need to get into Ham radio. The basic equipment to start with Ham is relatively cheap but is possibly your best bet in anything other than an EMP scenario of staying in contact with others and relaying information to your group. Of course, you can build Faraday cages to shield your electronics like this for extra protection.

8 – Jack of All trades

The jack of all trades lumps a lot of other skills together because I think you will be using these more for yourselves than selling this service to other people. Things like basic carpentry skills; welding, plumbing; electrical work and even animal husbandry come to mind. I don’t know that I can envision anyone starting their own plumbing company for a while after the grid goes down but it is possible. What I can see though is a pipe busting in your house and you not having any money to call a plumber. Other skills fall into this like making soap, sewing, leather-working or knitting and cooking. None of the realities of life go away in a collapse, how we deal with them changes.

9 – Forager

This I put lower on the list because I do agree it is a valid way to survive, but of all the items above, I would want to rely on this least. Knowing the local varieties of plants, fruits, leaves, roots and nuts are edible can certainly augment your diet and keep you from starving. I know that there are several books out there that go into this subject to a high level, but I personally would rather pick something out of my garden that I know what it is than rely on a picture or description of something that may kill me.

10 – Weatherman

No, you won’t have a job standing in front of a green screen holding a remote control showing the weather fronts moving across the plains, but knowing how to forecast the weather is definitely a skill that could save your life in a few ways. For instance, the recent tornadoes that struck Illinois and Indiana would have been more deadly if people hadn’t been warned by the news. What if there were no news crews watching super Doppler radar? You will need to know how to forecast weather the old fashioned way to protect your crops and animals if it is going to snow or freeze.

These are just the ones off the top of my head, but I am sure you all will have more. I’d love to hear your ideas for the best survival skills in the comments below.

0 0 votes
Article Rating

About Author

Freedom-loving American doing what I can to help prepare and inform others. Editor and creator of The Prepper Journal 2013-2017, 2020 -

Notify of
Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Gabor Lukacs

I am missing transportation from this list. Cars as personal transport is one of the most vulnerable items in our lives, they depend on so much of the economy being in good shape. One way of course is walking around on foot, but carrying items that way will be cumbersome. And we don’t have animals any more which can be helpful in transportation (no carts either to receive them) or even tilling. Lots can be accomplished with bicycles. There are limitations but you would be surprised how much can be carried by the appropriate bike. Another comment is – if… Read more »

Pat Henry

Very true Gabor, thanks for your comments!



ONE THING THAT IS NEVER COVERED. Get plenty of hand wash solutions and germ x and others including baby wipes and sanitizers. No matter how much people prepare you need to STAY CLEAN. Most people get sick from eating at tables and chairs. Clean all surfaces and things you touch. That stops many health issues. No matter how much your prep you need to stay clean and healthy at all times. This is just a personal thought as to prepping. MARKWW

Brandon T.

I do agree with you that we need to stay as clean as possible especially when antibiotics will be short on hand. However, there are many viruses, such as the Norovirus, that are immune to hand sanitizers. Norovirus causes stomach pain, diarrhea, vomiting, dehydration, and last for about 72 hours. If you are already low on water this can definetly be life threatening. Antibacterial soap and water for your hands and/bleach solution are the safest way to go.

Pat Henry

Great additions, thanks MechMan!


Basic blacksmithing is a good skill to have. Know how to make tools and how to melt down metals for doing so (as there will likely be scrap metal sources around). Pottery as well, which requires some knowledge of clays to use, but this could be useful as well. Also know basic machining and how to build machine tools. Machine tools do not need power to operate if they are basic. A good source is the series of books by David Gingery, “Build Your Own Metal Working Shop From Scrap.” Also a link to DIY machine tools from scrap parts:… Read more »


Good day! This post could not be written any better! Reading this post reminds me of my good old room mate! He always kept chatting about this. I will forward this write-up to him. Fairly certain he will have a good read. Many thanks for sharing it on !

Would love your thoughts, please comment.x