Developing Survival Skills to Make a More Resilient You

By Brandon Martin

Survival Skills Gas Mask Map Grid iStock
Survival Skills Gas Mask Map Grid iStock
AmmoLand Gun News
AmmoLand Gun News

USA –  -( I believe that skills are paramount if one wishes to have any chance at life in an uncertain future, and should be at the center of anyone’s plans. Without them, one is incredibly vulnerable.

I fully understand the boldness of the statement that I have just made and it is only after much thought that I arrived at that conclusion.

All the prepping in the world will only potentially buy you time, whereas skills will not only make you more resilient but potentially a coveted asset when others are lacking those skills. Combining both the learning of skills (especially now when the cost of failure isn’t life or death) and reasonable preparation is the ideal solution in my opinion.

Normally when people meet me for the first time, the topic of hobbies inevitably comes up and I hear about the various things people are into. Which is usually anything from RC car racing to video games. When it’s my turn to answer, I’ll be honest and tell them something like: learning to identify wild edible and medicinal plants growing locally, or learning the ins and outs of marksmanship (I still have a long way to go in that category). The reactions I get from those statements are always amusing, ranging from “this is the guy I want with me in the apocalypse” said in a joking manner, to the rarer look of them trying to determine how just how strange I am.

While I’m not too bashful to reveal my eccentric hobbies, I do tend to usually keep the reason why I have chosen the hobbies that I have to myself. Unless specifically asked, the subject matter can be quite heavy. Coming to the stark realization that our current way of life is on the precipice of irrevocable severe change is a little too much for an initial conversation.

These conversations usually end in one of two ways, either I’m dismissed outright as a lunatic, or someone will ponder the things that I have to say and then push it out of their mind in a matter of minutes.

What’s so important about skills that trumps other means of preparedness in terms of importance?

The answer is, because skills will always be with you as long as you keep them sharp, and as long as you draw breath. I could potentially buy 30 years worth of preserved food and water, but that food and water is susceptible to thievery (that is from both from people and animals), environmental effects (earthquakes, floods, etc.), the limit of the preservation techniques themselves, and my supply eventually running out. On the other hand, if someone knows how to find food around them (which isn’t exactly the easiest thing to do, either, at first) he or she would be better able to withstand the aforementioned vulnerabilities that a stationary, finite, supply would face.

Handguns, Semi Auto, 9mm, ammo, ammunition
Reloading ammunition and gunsmithing will be a high demand skill in any long term survival situation.

Another issue people with large stores of food face is the problem of scaling. I am a firm believer that no man is an island unto himself, and that no extended crisis can be survived alone. There may be exceptions to that statement, but most are not in a position to weather an extended event, or series of events, all by their lonesome. When adding people to any group that relies on supplies alone, each person added will be a major drain on resources; however, someone who knows the intricacies of farming or foraging would be able scale to their practices to suit the size of their group. Obviously this has a limit and additional resources are required, but nothing like what it would require to feed someone from a finite supply.

The intent of the above statements are not to write off prepping as a whole, because it’s a very useful and critical thing to have, but I believe that one would be more resilient to use it as a hedge where other skills are lacking, as opposed to as a sole means of survival.

Why would I want to be more desirable to someone else? This is about me and/or my family’s survival we’re talking about here right?

My previous statement about no man being an island unto himself holds true here. In a protracted calamity people are going to band together to try and stand a better chance of seeing whatever happens through. It’s just what people do. People are going to want to have, what they consider the best people, those worthy of spending their resources on. If your survival depended on allying with a hypothetical group, what would you bring to the table? Being able to build a Microsoft SQL database from the ground up isn’t going to be as desirable as someone who knows how to hunt or forage for food. Having something to contribute that is critical to survival increases your odds for success and your resiliency to withstand unforeseen circumstances.

What skills do you think would be desirable in a collapse?

My personal belief to is to say ‘whatever floats your boat’, but I think that any skill undertaken needs to meet certain criteria.

  • The first, and arguably most important, of that criteria is for the skill(s) of your choice to be something that you are interested in. This sounds entirely obvious once said, but something I see often overlooked; if you don’t have an interest in what you are learning, then it becomes an arduous slog through the material where most of the knowledge becomes easily lost.
  • The second (and a close second at that) is for a skill to be useful. Knowing what plants are poisonous, medicinal, and edible in your area would be much more useful during a collapse than knowing how to create and maintain a database. The downside is unfortunately that knowing how to maintain a database is a lot more lucrative in today’s world than knowing about plants, which is the case for a lot (but not all) of collapse based skillsets.

The ideal choice in my opinion would be to learn something practical centering around food, water, shelter, medicine, security, or power.

Cost of entry.

Survival Skills Blacksmith iStock
Blacksmithing is example of one skill that would be in high demand in a TEOTWAWKI survival situation.

The second bullet point hinted at it, but it is difficult to both hone skills professionally, and have it be a good source of income, so a lot of skills have to be learned on one’s own time. The cost of entry into one of these skills should be a consideration to anyone. A prime example to that would be shooting. I was about 27-28 when I first decided that I wanted to learn.

The first thing I looked at was, procuring my first gun to develop said skill. My first, hard, lesson was that my version of inexpensive was not others’ version of inexpensive. A lot of skills to be proficient will require some kind of cost, whether it be tools or a singular(ish) implement.

Direct examples of skills that I feel would be desirable would be along the lines of: hunting, fishing, medicine (herbal and/or clinical), blacksmithing, foraging, small engine repair, food preservation techniques, leatherworking, reloading, water purification techniques, farming and/or homesteading or fermentation. All of these are, by no means, an exhaustive list, but should give most reading this something of a barometer of what they would want to learn.

A popular trap that a lot of people fall into (myself included) is to limit themselves by only seeking out how our forefathers did things like food preservation, hunting techniques, construction, etc. While there is tons of useful information that was common knowledge even a hundred years ago, that society has eschewed today, innovations of the current modern area can still be utilized by themselves or combined with time tested skills. An example of a standalone modern innovation would be medicine. If someone were to learn about different medicines to treat various ailments, they shouldn’t just focus on the herbals, but modern innovations like antibiotics too. A prime example of hybridization of an old skill with a modern day tools would be blacksmithing using a brake drum forge. The key is using what is around you and understanding how it works through and through.

Another trap that I see others fall into time and again is that of self imposed limitations. When one chooses a skill to learn, that doesn’t necessarily have to be the alpha and omega of their skillset. While it is wonderful to be an peerless expert at something, this is more about resiliency and it’s hard to be resilient with self imposed limitations. With all that said though, I wouldn’t overdo how many skills I take on either. Take something, become proficient enough that you would be able to teach someone else how to do it (at least that’s how I measure my proficiency in a skill) and then move on to the next one.

There is also the Chicken Little type that tries to learn everything at once because the sky is falling any day now so they will try to learn everything at once. While I do understand the urgency, and have felt it myself at times, one wants to make sure that they take the time to learn something right rather than something quick.

The name of the game is resiliency; what skill would make you, the reader, more resilient? What could you learn that would benefit you and potentially those around you? Where are your weaknesses, where are your strengths? All of these are questions you should ask yourself along the course of your development and toward the ever shifting goal of resiliency.

About Brandon Martin

Brandon Martin has been a follower of all things collapse related for well over a decade, an avid firearms enthusiast, a husband, a father of four, and Brandon can often be found in the warmer months in parks learning to identify wild edible and medicinal plants growing around him. Twitter: @BrandoTheNinja

Most Voted
Newest Oldest
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Norman Archer

As I live in the UK you can practice bushcraft skills when you can find accessable land just that you’re restricted due to private land and rules and regulations very frustrating and the thought of firearm’s laws and knife laws in my opinion it’s just to much (rant over) I the event of shtf I do have certain skill’s ie shelter building,water purification,fire, first aid . But not alot of knowledge of hunting and preparation of game , as for firearms and ammunition well that would be a problem for protection and security,I can make weapons out of natural resources… Read more »

Brandon Martin

There’s still a few avenues that you can pursue out in the UK when it comes to hunting, although having never been there myself I am unsure of the cost involved, but there are gun/hunting clubs out in the countryside that you could become a member of. I’ve heard a lot of them mainly focusing on small game (like rabbits) and fowl. Now if you’re looking for something more cost efficient then you may want to look into learning to identify wild growing plants in your area. The first thing I learned when I started studying plants myself was how… Read more »

Wild Bill

I really do not have any plumbing, carpenter, metal fabrication, electrician, or any other practical skills. Whatever shall I do if the electric grid goes down?

Brandon Martin

The good news is that the grid is still up, so there’s still time to learn something that appeals to you. You’re here on a firearms blog so I think it’s safe to assume that you probably know a thing or two about firearms, that’s something. Know anything about food preservation? There’s canning, dehydration, fermentation, using fat to make things like pemmican. How about hunting, would you know how to process an animal from beginning to end? Butcher it so that the meat isn’t wasted?

Wild Bill

@Brandon Marton, I think that my organizational skills may serve me better. After the SHTF day, I think that criminal types will band together and organize, so the rest of us better band together and organize first. It would be easy for a band of criminals to pounce on your house or farmstead and take all your canned, dehydrated, and fermented pemmican. Then as long as they were at your place they would use all your other assets, and maybe even field dress you as a source of food. I think that my skill for looking at an area and… Read more »

Brandon Martin

Remember not to limit yourself to one specific skill though. The more things you learn how to do, the more resilient you will be.

Wild Bill

@Brandon M, I think what you say is true. When there is no more resupply, a pound of gold will not buy a can of corn. People will eat the family dog. People in Detroit will eat other people in Detroit. So… a guy better think of some skills to trade.


Good advise !


good thing he fabricated the forge while the grid is still up.

Matt in Oklahoma

And seek out others with some of the same skills and opposite skills that compliment one another. Good article