Survivalists prepare for many different things and prepare in many different ways. The two most popular subjects of prepping are food preps and security preps. Sometimes the subject of skills comes up. Often the skills discussed center around bugging out. Skills like bushcraft, shelter building, the ever-popular fire starting, and sometimes navigation but these are more for bugging out and temporary stays in some wilderness area. And those are valid skills that could certainly be useful.
This article is about both useless and useful skills for a long term SHTF situation, or maybe in a TEOTWAWKI situation. The useful skills could be broken down into survival skills or skills that could be used for bartering, with some overlap. Most of the survival skills, in this case, would be centered around food. Food gathering, food growing, food harvesting, and food storage.
Hunting would be one such skill. Only around ten percent of the population has hunting experience. The other ninety percent likely does not possess the skills needed for hunting. Hunting would be for your own survival for meat gathering or possibly used for bartering the butchered meat. I would count hunting as a useful skill. At the beginning of a SHTF situation hunting could be accomplished using mostly luck but after the dumb animals were dispatched then considerable hunting skill would be required.
Foraging for wild edibles would be a very good survival skill but would likely have limited value as a bartering skill. This skill could be expanded into home medicine and include the gathering and processing of wild medicinal plants. That could be an excellent survival and barterable skill.
Knowing how to grow a garden then knowing how to can or dry, or otherwise process the garden produce would just about be a required skill for everyone in a dire long-term situation. In that type of situation, food sourcing would take up a large portion of everyone’s time and labor. Food would tower above everything else for a long time before things settled down and food would start to be something that could be bought or bartered for to keep someone that did not have a green thumb alive.
Having the skill to build solar ovens and solar dehydrators would be very useful I would think and the finished products would likely be in demand and could be bartered away for other needed items.
If you had steady access to the raw materials then cheese making, bread making, jerking/smoking meats, making booze or beer/ale, making vinegar, and making maple syrup would all be skills that would produce valuable trade items.
Only after most people had the food situation well in hand would other skills become valuable. Often it is recommended to be skilled in blacksmithing but I wonder if this skill while handy would ever be barterable. Maybe eventually. But for a long time, all of the manufactured goods that we have now could be used or scavenged. Plus just like in the old days most farmers/ranchers did most of their own blacksmithing, mainly out of necessity. If you had an anvil and a hammer the forge could be made and wood could be used as the fuel. In a pinch, many things could be done just using a simple wood fire or a wood stove to heat the metal. Blacksmithing is not rocket science. Most people learn quickly after a few mistakes.
I could see soap making being a valuable skill but only if you knew how to make soap from available ingredients. Knowing how to make your lye and then use that lye to make usable soap. Many people now make their own soaps but usually they just start with basic soap and add ingredients to it. Soap would be vital for everyone in a bad long-term situation to prevent diseases and infections. So, yes, this would be a valuable skill.
Sewing–along with leatherworking and tanning–would be useful and maybe at some point barterable skills. Our clothes would wear out eventually though for some time clothes could be found and/or bartered for. [JWR’s Comment: Just as with other manufactured goods, the larger the population die-off in TEOTWAWKI, then the larger the pool of available goods. In an economic depression with minimal loss of life, there will be fewer manufactured goods available than if there were a severe grid-down economic collapse, with a subsequent 30% to 80% population die-off.]
Candle making is often talked about as a good skill for end times. But unless you had many beehives and could source your own beeswax I’m not sure how viable a skill candle making really would be for end times. Paraffin wax would not be something you could make yourself. You could use natural things like animal fats or tallow for candles. But overall I would count candle making as a rather useless skill.
Many often talk about flint knapping as a very good end times skill to possess. I really disagree with this opinion. In the end times, we will never run out of metal which almost anyone could shape into a viable arrowhead. The reason we now use steel arrowheads is that they are less fragile than knapped obsidian heads. So in my opinion flint knapping would be mostly a useless skill in TEOTWAWKI situation. Arrow making might possibly be a good skill but honestly guns are better. And in America there are hundreds of millions of guns and billions of rounds of ammunition. That would last a long time.
The skill of making black powder could be a useful and barterable skill. The black powder could be used for blasting and for use in many firearms. The ingredients for making black powder can be made at home. Usually, black powder has three ingredients but the sulfur can be left out of the mix and you still end up with useful powder.
Sometimes pottery making is listed as a great end times skill. I actually consider this to be a useless skill due to the fact that America is full of billions of factory-made containers of all sizes, shapes, and materials. Just think of all the food cans you are going to empty when you eat up all that food you have stored. Most houses are full of containers or you can just take a short walk down any highway or roadway and pick up many different containers from the roadside ditch. No, I think pottery will be the last thing people want during end times.
Gunsmithing is often touted as the perfect skill for end times. I am not so sure. Again I point to the fact there are hundreds of millions of guns in the United States now and after TEOTWAWKI there will be far fewer people to the point where there might be enough guns so every living man, woman, and child could own several. Without electricity, modern gunsmithing will suffer greatly. You can only do so much with a screwdriver and a couple of files. Though if someone had a lot of assorted gun parts [and bar stock, springs stock, screw blanks with heads, threaded stock] and some broken scavenged guns for additional parts, then you could repair some guns. I have made gun parts from scratch and I often used files for some final finishing. But first I used a metal lathe and/or sometimes a milling machine along with hand-held electric tools. I have often thought about making a small treadle-powered lathe like were used in times past. But so far that project is still on the back burner.
Medical and Dental Skills
Medical skills would valuable. Setting broken bones, stitching up cuts, delivering babies, and pulling teeth would always be needed by members of a community. Couple the medical skill with homegrown herbal medicines and you could have your own hospital or clinic.
Keep in mind if things ever did go really bad that every survivor would likely quickly learn many formerly unknown-to-them skills, or they would likely just die. Some skills would require special tools and equipment that would be way easier to acquire now during good times–rather than after things hit bottom. So learning skills now and buying (or making) the tools and equipment along with at least getting some of any needed raw materials now would be the wise approach.
A DIY World
For many things, everyone is going to have to do those things for themselves. There will be no more calling the plumber or hiring a builder. When something breaks then you will have to fix it. If you want to expand your chicken coop then you will have to build it. If your sewer drain quits draining then you will have to repair it. When the knees in your pants get holes in them then you will have to sew on the patches.
And so it will be with almost everything that happens at your place. And everyone will have to think-outside-the-box because available materials will be reduced to mostly what you have on hand. Or you will have to scavenge something from the surrounding area that you can make work to fix what needs fixing. In the Great Depression, people threw almost nothing away, because they re-used and re-purposed everything. Back then empty tin cans found many uses. Everything from sealing up mouse holes in the wall to patching a leak in the roof.
Even now one of those #10 cans that you have long term storage food in could be transformed into a rocket stove if you added a smaller can to the bottom on one side. Ta-da! An instant rocket stove. This is just one minor example of things that might have to be done during bad times.
With unlimited information at your fingertips, now is the time to investigate and learn countless valuable skills and acquire needed tools and at least some of the raw materials.
We are presently living in a time of plenty. But at some point in the future that will likely change. Prepare now!