If you’re familiar with the world of prepping for natural disasters and other life-changing, cataclysmic events, you probably have some provisions. You’ve decided that having a bug out bag is a good idea; you’ve stocked up on nonperishable items; you have a plan for where to go and what to do when the SHTF.
But at some point in a survival scenario, there will be a big difference between those who can simply survive and those who can thrive. Skills that are more complicated than foraging for food or building a simple shelter will be highly sought after.
If you can develop a proficiency in any one of the following rare skills, you’ll not only be able to help yourself survive comfortably, you’ll also be able to trade your skills for other people’s resources.
Here are 15 skills you should consider learning while you still can, along with resources to get you started.
1. Animal Husbandry
Animals are more valuable when they produce more meat, more milk, or can be harnessed to help you get more work done. Those who are skilled at animal husbandry will have the knowledge to make these resources more productive.
This means people can do more with less and can breed strength into their animals and weakness out. It is also a skill worth paying for. If you love animals but won’t get too attached to the ones you raise for meat, here’s a great book you’ll want to get:
Beekeeping is one of the more underrated homesteading skills. While not the easiest to start (particularly with modern regulations and a fading bee population), a skilled beekeeper can have honey flowing at an extremely low cost.
It is relatively easy to study up on how to manage bees, but the education is definitely necessary to keep your bees alive and your person protected from bee stings. Here is a great introduction to beekeeping:
Blacksmithing is one of the most useful skills anyone could have for long-term survival. The ability to shape metal is what separates successful civilizations from stone-age ones. Not just anyone can smith well, however; there is quite a bit of science to learn and much trial and error for anyone to master the craft. If you’re experienced, you can expect the majority of your community to be needing your skills. If you’re curious about this particular skill, here are some blacksmithing basics you should know, and here is the book you need:
If you are one of the few people that can quickly and efficiently butcher an animal, consider yourself a shoo-in for every hunter’s favorite trading partner. Skillfully dividing an animal into edible proportions is harder than it looks, and it may be so valuable that you’ll never have to do any of your own hunting and could instead take a percentage of your customer’s kills. Bonus points if you can utilize the firs and skins of the animals as well.
If you want to learn how to butcher animals, I highly recommend this book:
Technically, these are two separate skills, but they both involve the manipulation of wood, something that will be an incredibly useful skill when the SHTF. Unfortunately, most people haven’t the slightest clue what to do beyond the basic shop class birdhouse. Anyone with any carpentry or woodworking skill, from framing houses to building furniture, will be extremely handy in a survival situation.
In addition, many survival locales involve wooded areas—places where carpenters can truly use their environment to their advantage. Here’s a carpentry book for beginners:
And here’s a woodworking book for beginners:
People forget how important it is to take good care of your teeth until they get a horrific toothache and call every dentist in town, hoping to get in the same day so they can stop the pain. Imagine how many people will have teeth problems when the grid is down or dentists close shop due to an economic depression.
If you can learn how to treat tooth pain off the grid with things like clove oil and temporary fillings, people will be so grateful, they will share their supplies (or you can charge them up front).
7. DIY Household Items
In a long-term disaster, basic household items like soap, candles, and cleaning supplies will be in high demand. If you know how to make these things from basic ingredients, you can trade them for supplies your family needs.
Here is a basic soap-making tutorial, here is how to make candles. You should also check out this book:
No, I don’t literally mean making dresses. Dressmaking is the term for making clothes of any kind. If the grid goes down, clothes won’t seem like a very high priority at first. But if it stays down, eventually clothes will become very valuable as people’s outfits tear, wear out, or don’t fit anymore. If you know how to sew and making clothes, not only can you dress your own family, you can sell your creations to others.
This is a great hobby even if the grid never goes down as it is relaxing and will save you money. Here’s what you should read:
As with any piece of machinery, firearms won’t operate forever without maintenance. The elements take their toll on guns, and in a long-term survival scenario, society will need people who know how to make, fix, and improve weapons and ammunition.
Gunsmiths are what will keep a post-apocalyptic group on the cutting edge of weapons technology, preventing the world from sliding back to smoothbore weapons and worse. Here is a great introduction:
10. Home Brewing
In a survival scenario, home brewing will no longer be an illegal moonshiner’s game. While dabbling in making your own alcohol is a good way to make yourself sick, skillfully brewing a vat of delicious spirits just might save your life.
Aside from the sanitation benefits of making your own alcohol, you can trade it for resources and ingratiate reluctant group members with it. And as long as you don’t abuse, alcohol is a great way to take the edge off in the stressful world post-collapse. Here’s what to read:
Masonry is a triple threat when combined with smithing and carpentry. Find a mason in a survival group and you will discover the best planned, best-built shelters and structures around.
Anyone can stack some rocks together for a temporary shelter, but a mason has the knowledge and experience to truly fortify any place they choose, and as such would be a valuable asset to any survival team. Start with this:
Any machine more complicated than a lever and pulley usually requires at least a little bit of expertise to repair. This will be even truer in a post-apocalyptic scenario, when good mechanics will be hard to find and wear-and-tear is expected to be more severe.
If you specialize in repairing any type of machine, you may be the only one you know who can do it after the SHTF. This is such a huge topic that it’s hard to recommend just one book, but this might be a good place to begin:
Plumbing may not sound glamorous, but it is one of the most essential needs of a healthy society. Sanitation is vital to community health, and a plumber specializes in making sure the unhealthy stays separated from the clean.
A fair amount of physics knowledge, mechanical ingenuity, and problem-solving is necessary for anyone to be proficient at plumbing. With this in mind, many plumbers can repair just about anything, from fixing pipes to fine-tuning complicated pressure systems. Here’s a detailed guide:
If your post-apocalyptic society has found a way to generate electricity, those who can weld will have job security for the rest of their lives. Welding will be needed for almost everyone, from farmers to mechanics to soldiers to homesteaders.
If you put the time and effort into learning how to weld, you’ll be a cut above most and in a key position for your community. Here’s where to start:
People with medical skills will be hard to come by after a worldwide disaster. Because of that, they will be extremely valuable in their communities. Doctors, surgeons, pharmacists, veterinarians–all of them will be in high demand.
Even people with knowledge of medicinal herbs and how to turn them into teas, salves, and tinctures for common ailments will do well for themselves because they can share their knowledge in exchange for supplies or services.
If you live in North America, you can find literally hundreds of useful herbs growing in the wild. There are medicinal herbs growing in parks, antibiotic weeds growing by driveways, and back-pain relief plants growing in backyard.
Bonus Skill: Off Grid Cooking
Obviously, cooking isn’t a rare skill. There are foodies and wanna-be chefs everywhere. What is rare is the ability to cook food without electric ovens and appliances, not to mention the knowledge of how to cook long-lasting survival foods.
After the SHTF, it won’t matter if you can make croissants, bearnaise sauce and creme brulee. The question is: Can you make a hearty, nutritious meal with emergency food and a camp stove?
Also, can you make foods like hardtack, bannock, and pemmican? If not, it’s time to learn. One of the best books for learning how to make survival food is The Lost Ways.