Skip to content

10 Survival Skills Every Prepper Should Learn Before SHTF

The skills every prepper should learn before SHTF break down into primary and secondary skills. Suffice it to say there are many things you should know how to do. For the purposes of this post, we’re going to focus on the prepper skills that require the largest investment on your part when it comes to time, effort, and sometimes money. These are also the survival skills that will contribute the most to your ability to survive.

The skills we’ll talk about are the SHTF skills that’ll require training, practice to master, and real-world experience before you’re comfortable with them. You won’t be able to acquire these skills by reading a book in one afternoon after a natural disaster hits or an economic collapse shuts everything down.

Basic Homesteading Skills

Homesteading is more accurately a discipline made up of multiple survival skills. Homesteading takes practice…

Putting this knowledge together with the tools is key to achieving self-sufficiency. Homesteading skills range from food preservation to self-defense, from gardening to having basic knowledge of secondary skills like soap making and tying knots. But for now, let’s discuss starting a prepper garden.

How To Grow a Survival Garden

Growing a prepper garden is a rewarding survival skill. Select a suitable location and prepare the soil using compost and natural fertilizers. Choose easy-to-grow crops like tomatoes, beans, and potatoes. Plant a variety of crops for a diverse harvest. Regular watering, pest control, and crop rotation are key aspects to master and may frustrate you when you start. Raised garden beds will make it easier to tend to your plants.

Sustainable Gardening Techniques

Composting, crop rotation, and companion planting will promote a sustainable garden. Learn to create and use organic pesticides and herbicides. Use drip irrigation and rain barrels to conserve water.

Companion Planting

Planting different crops together helps improve growth and protection from pests. You’ll need to understand the relationships between different plants, and which ones complement each other. Popular examples of companion plants include basil with tomatoes and marigolds with beans. Companion planting can help reduce the need for pesticides and fertilizers, making it a more sustainable option for gardening.

Stockpile Heirloom Survival Seeds

Stockpiling heirloom survival seeds is important to long-term self-sufficiency. Heirloom seeds are genetically diverse and adapted to various growing conditions, making them ideal for sustainable agriculture. When choosing seeds, consider their shelf life, and germination rate, along with your location’s climate and soil conditions. Proper storage is imperative for maintaining seed viability. Stockpile a variety of heirloom seeds to sustain you and your family.

Navigation and Map Reading

When it comes to survival skills, being able to navigate and read maps is an essential survival skill. Understanding a topographic map, landmarks, and cardinal directions are just some of the basic skills you need to have. Mastering navigation and map reading skills might be required if you need to bug out.

Navigation Without GPS

If SHTF happens, it’s very possible that you’re not going to be able to google for directions. No electricity means no internet…

Navigation without GPS is an essential survival skill in bad situations. You can use natural elements such as the sun and stars to navigate, or even use a compass and map in combination with topographical features to guide your way. Practice different navigation techniques before an emergency occurs to become confident and prepared.

Using a Compass and Map

Using a compass and map is a crucial skill for navigating through unknown terrain. Use the compass to determine direction and follow the map’s contours to find the best route. Constantly check your bearings and adjust accordingly. Practice these skills beforehand and carry a reliable compass and detailed map in your bug-out bag.

Land Navigation Techniques (Topography)

When navigating by topography, you need to understand the terrain and how to read a map. Look for physical features like hills, valleys, and rivers, and compare them to your map. Understand that contour lines indicate elevation changes, and closer lines mean steeper terrain.

Auto Mechanics

In an SHTF situation, while you’re bugging out, you may not want to google “mechanic near me”…

Auto mechanics is a crucial skill in survival, especially when your bug-out vehicle is your only means of transportation. You’re not going to be able to call for a tow truck. You need to be able to diagnose and repair common problems.

Diagnosing Issues With Your Bug Out Vehicle

The first part of diagnosing car problems starts with always paying attention to how the vehicle sounds and feels. When you have a problem, start by observing the symptoms, like noises or warning lights. For newer vehicles, diagnostic tools like a code scanner will read error codes and pinpoint problems. For older vehicles, diagnostics is a hands-on learned skill.

Basic Car Maintenance and Repair

It’s important to regularly check and maintain fluid levels to keep your car running smoothly. Learn to monitor your tire air pressure and wear. Changing the oil and air filters is important to keep the engine running well. Learn how to replace parts like brake pads, rotors, water pumps, hoses, spark plugs, and batteries.

Carpentry Skills

Carpentry skills are essential for prepping because they give you the ability to build and repair structures. The ability to work with wood will also allow you to build storage and fortifications.

Building and Repairing Structures

Building and repairing structures is an important skill for preppers, because it enables them to create and strengthen shelters, build chicken coups, and even build a solar distiller. A prepper needs to know how to use tools like hammers, saws, and drills, and be able to work with different types of wood and other materials needed for building. Basic carpentry skills are also important for repairing any damage to existing structures.

Maintaining Your Handtools

Preppers need to keep their hand tools in good condition because if the power is out, their power tools won’t work. Keep your hand tools clean and dry to prevent rust and other damage. Regularly inspect hand tools for wear and damage, and replace any worn or broken parts. Sharpen knives, axes, and saws to keep them ready to use. Lubricate moving parts to prevent rust and keep tools functioning properly.

Marksmanship and Firearm Safety

Marksmanship and firearm safety are critical SHTF survival skills for preppers. In order to effectively defend yourself, you need to be knowledgeable about firearms and how to use them. Good marksmanship skills are developed through regular practice and training. After an SHTF situation happens it’ll be virtually impossible to get training.

Basic firearms training

Basic firearms training includes understanding firearm safety rules, loading and unloading, proper grip, and aiming techniques. Knowing how to clear a jam and perform basic maintenance on your firearm is also important. Training in marksmanship will improve your accuracy and proficiency. Practice regularly and get comfortable with your firearm. Seek out training courses or a qualified instructor to get properly trained and confident in your abilities.

Tactical Firearms Training

Tactical firearms training simulates high-stress situations and develops advanced shooting techniques. This type of training is essential for those preparing for emergency scenarios where quick thinking and precise shooting are critical.

Tactical firearms training includes advanced tactics like close-quarters combat (some call it CQB) and defensive shooting. Participants learn how to quickly assess situations and make split-second decisions to neutralize threats. This training emphasizes safety, accuracy, and speed. It requires a high level of physical fitness and mental discipline to train participants to be ready to handle any situation.

Basic Gunsmithing

Basic gunsmithing skills will help you maintain your firearms. You need to be able to disassemble, clean, and reassemble your firearms properly, as well as diagnose and fix common problems.

Your armorer’s kit should include some basic tools: vice blocks, armorer’s wrench, torque wrench, punches, files, and pliers. We also suggest a set of assembly diagrams for your firearms. You should become familiar with basic gun parts and their functions, and understand how to adjust sights and trigger pulls. The ability to make minor repairs and adjustments can be the difference between a functional firearm and a useless one in a survival situation.

Water Management

Water management might be the most important prepping skill. In a grid-down situation, the municipal water pumps may not work. Harvesting rainwater, distilling scavenged water, and rationing water are each individually important knowledge points every prepper should learn.

Water Purification Methods

There are several water purification methods to get your mind around: boiling, distilling, filtration, chemical treatment, and UV sterilization. Boiling water for at least 5 minutes kills most pathogens. Filtration removes impurities, but not all microbes. Chemical treatments, like iodine or chlorine, kill bacteria and viruses, but not parasites. UV sterilization kills all types of pathogens. A combination of methods provides the best protection. Learn the advantages and limitations of each method and have the necessary equipment and supplies on hand.

Rainwater Harvesting

Rainwater harvesting from rooftops and storing it in tanks or barrels makes a lot of sense. This method is low-cost and easy to set up, making it an ideal option for preppers to secure their water supply. Harvested water needs to be made safe to drink by properly filtering and treating it. Know your local climate and rainfall patterns when planning for rainwater harvesting.

Finding and Storing Water

Finding and storing water is a skill you should learn before SHTF. You can collect rainwater, filter water from natural sources, and even dig your own well. Water should be stored in food-grade containers, away from sunlight and chemicals. Rotate your water supply regularly and have multiple ways to purify water in case one fails. A good rule of thumb is to store at least one gallon of water per person per day of your SHTF plan.

Grey Man Theory

The Grey Man Theory is a concept used by preppers to blend in with their surroundings and avoid drawing attention to themselves. The theory emphasizes the importance of being inconspicuous and not standing out in any way that could make you a target.

As you begin to develop your prepping skills, think about how unprepared people might behave in an SHTF situation and work to add that to your prepper skills list.

Concealing Your Preps Before, During, and After SHTF

“Loose lips sink ships.” You’ll have a limited amount of preps and no real idea how long they’ll need to last. Other people don’t need to know that you’re okay, lest you become a target. There are many ways to conceal your preps, like simple tarps, using false walls or floors, and hiding your supplies in plain sight. Avoid drawing attention to yourself or your preps before and after a disaster. Always keep a low profile and don’t discuss your preps with others, even close friends and family members.

Blending in With Your Surroundings After SHTF

Blending in with your surroundings after SHTF is a critical part of the grey man theory. To achieve this, you must be able to adapt to your environment. Dressing appropriately, and avoiding conspicuous behavior is paramount for blending in. Practice being aware of your body language and the way you interact with others to avoid drawing attention to yourself. In a post-SHTF scenario, you can be visible, but you don’t want to be memorable.

Avoiding Attention During a Crisis

During a crisis, it’s important to avoid drawing attention to yourself and your preps. You can blend in with your surroundings by wearing clothing or accessories like those around you. Practice being aware of your body language and the way you interact with others to avoid drawing attention to yourself.

Minimize light sources at night and take care not to emit any smoke or strong odors; others may not have electricity or food… Keeping a low profile can greatly increase your chances of survival during a disaster.

Hunting and Fishing & Trapping

Your preps may not last forever; you’ll need to find food and resupply. Hunting, fishing, and trapping is a valuable prepper survival skill. It’s important to learn about the local wildlife and their habits, as well as the best methods for catching and processing them. These skills can be useful in a survival situation where other food sources may be scarce.

Basic Hunting and Fishing Skills

Basic hunting and fishing skills are essential in a survival situation. Knowing how to identify game and fish, set traps and snares, and properly use fishing gear can mean the difference between life and death. Practice your skills regularly and always be prepared with the necessary tools and equipment.

Trapping and Snaring Techniques

Trapping and snaring techniques are valuable skills for preppers to learn. A variety of traps and snares can be constructed using natural materials. Deadfalls, snares, and pit traps are effective methods for catching small game. Knowledge of animal behavior, tracking, and habitat selection is important for successful trapping.

Field Dressing and Processing Game

Field dressing and processing game is essential knowledge for any prepper. Preppers should have the necessary tools, including knives, gloves, and a clean surface, to perform this task safely and efficiently. The meat should be carefully handled to avoid spoilage. Knowing how to field dress and process game will provide a valuable source of protein in a crisis situation.

Basic First Aid and Emergency Medical

In a survival situation, having emergency medical skills can be critical. Understanding how to properly clean and dress a wound, control bleeding, and recognize signs of shock may be the difference between life and death. Being able to improvise medical tools and use natural remedies can be helpful. Having a properly stocked first aid kit and basic medical supplies can also make a big difference in emergency situations.

Basic First-aid Skills

Basic first aid skills are essential in any emergency situation. Preppers should have knowledge of wound care, splinting, and basic CPR. It’s important to have a well-stocked first aid kit and to know how to use all of the supplies in it. Be prepared to handle minor injuries as well as more serious ones, and know when to seek professional medical attention.

CPR Training

CPR is a life-saving skill that can be learned through training courses. In a survival situation, knowing how to perform CPR can make all the difference. Take a course in CPR to learn how to perform this important skill in an emergency.

Stocking a First Aid Kit

When it comes to prepping, every prepper needs a well-stocked first aid kit. Include items like bandages, antiseptic wipes, gauze, adhesive tape, and tweezers. Other useful items include pain relievers, cold and allergy medication, and a thermometer. Make sure to regularly check and replace expired items and customize your kit to fit your specific needs and potential emergencies.

Home Security & Self Defense

For most, you’ll have to bug in. Home security and self-defense will be important skills in any prepper’s SHTF plan. It’s important to secure your home by reinforcing doors and windows, installing an alarm system, and having a plan for emergency situations. Self-defense training is also crucial for protecting yourself and your family. Both of these will take time to acquire.

Securing Your Home

As part of your emergency preparedness, securing your home is a main focus. Reinforce doors and windows, install sturdy locks, and motion sensor lights. Consider creating a safe room and stockpiling essential supplies. Establishing a communication plan and neighborhood watch program can help ensure the safety of your home and community.

Defensive Strategies

Defensive strategies are important prepping survival skills. Having a plan and the proper equipment can make all the difference. Some key strategies include creating barriers, keeping a low profile, and having a designated safe room. It’s also important to develop a communication plan and know how to defend yourself if necessary.

Self Defense

Self-defense in an SHTF scenario is a must-have basic skill. It’s essential to have basic knowledge and training in a couple self-defense techniques starting with hand-to-hand and weapons handling. Improving physical fitness and mental preparedness need to be improved to execute self-defense capabilities. Develop your situational awareness and be able to quickly assess and react to potential threats.

Radio Communication

In a disaster scenario, communication is key. Radio communication is a reliable and long-range way to stay in touch; and a great way to listen. Understanding radio jargon and having a good radio setup can make all the difference. Preppers should consider including a radio set-up in their emergency kit.

HAM Radio Basics

HAM radio, or amateur radio, can be a valuable tool for preppers in emergency situations. A HAM radio license is required to operate, but once obtained, HAM radio can provide long-range communication and access to emergency frequencies. HAM radio operators can communicate via voice, digital modes, or Morse code.

Building an Emergency Communication Network

When building an emergency communication network, consider the needs of your group and the resources available. Start by identifying a primary point of contact and establish clear communication protocols. HAM radios will provide long-range communication, while walkie-talkies are good for short-range. Test your equipment and practice using it regularly to ensure it’s functioning properly. Also, establish a backup power source to keep your communication devices charged.

Generating Electricity

Generating electricity is a really good skill to have in the prepping world. Solar panels and wind turbines are popular renewable energy sources that can generate electricity off the grid making it extremely important for preppers to learn how to use. You’ll need to understand battery storage and inverters to optimize energy usage. Having reliable power will allow you to stay connected, power medical devices, and refrigerate food during extended periods without access to the grid.

Solar Power

Solar power is an excellent option for generating electricity for prepping purposes. Solar energy can be stored in batteries for later use and provide reliable power even in remote locations.

Wind Power

You can build a wind turbine with basic materials and generate power even on cloudy days. Wind power is a great complement to solar power because it has the potential to operate on stormy days and when the sun is down. A well-designed system can provide a reliable source of energy for your prepping needs.

Storing Electrical Power

Once you’ve generated all that electricity, you’ll need a plan for storing electrical power. For this, you’ll need to understand inverters and how to do the math that comes with these sorts of systems. Additionally, you need to learn proper storage and maintenance of your power system to be confident it’s ready when you need them most.


Most skills take time and effort to develop. Think through what you know how to do and what your knowledge gaps are and create a plan you can work. If you find yourself in an SHTF situation you’re probably not going to be able to surf prepper videos to figure out how to survive.