Whether you’re a male or female (or somewhere in between)—survival skills are something essential to, well, survival. Younger generations (and I’m guilty of this) have gotten used to the conveniences that innovation has brought us and have lost touch with survival skills that our ancestors knew so well and thrived off of. The modern day system allows for the average American to have access to everything from public utilities such as water and electricity—to pretty much anything you can think of at the local grocery store to satisfy any food craving possible.

All those privileges are what make modern day so much easier, but it’s still important to know some basic survival skills just in case. The better connection someone has with the Earth, the better they’re going to treat it– so it’s important to continue to teach our children how to do things like grow and appreciate real food, create and mend clothing, and other tricks like navigational skills; so that they’re always prepared for whatever life throws at them.

You don’t have to go to the extreme like some celebrities do on NBC’s Running Wild with Bear Grylls and put yourself into extreme situations to learn a thing or two about survival, but knowing basic skills may come in handy one day. Hopefully you won’t be stuck in the middle of the forest or lost in the jungle like Ricky Megee who, in 2006, survived 71 days in the Australian outback by making basic shelter and eating frogs and snakes. But if you do ever find yourself in a compromising situation at least you’ll be glad you took the time to read this list and reconnect with some basic ways of survival.

There are many things on this list that our grandparents and great-grandparents knew how to do and used on a daily basis to provide for their families; some are important to the past, while others are still essential to today. All of these skills have one thing in common: they all provide a connection to our past that is important for all generations to remember.

20. Gardening


Gardening–and no I don’t mean the lawn service you over pay for every month–but real gardening. Harvesting food used to be an essential skill that everyone needed to know. During WWI and WWII, there was a shortage in farmers and thus less food so some countries like the U.S., Canada, United Kingdom, Australia, and Germany, campaigned for citizens to plant produce gardens in private residences. These gardens really helped with lightening up the circumstances of war by boosting morale and helping reduce pressure on the public food suppliers and banks. Could you successfully cultivate a garden healthy enough to harvest? It might be a good idea to learn considering the environmental crisis we are currently facing. Unfortunately, I can’t explain to you in a paragraph how to successfully garden, but I hope to at least boost your interest for further education on the matter, considering food is life.

19. Animal Husbandry

There are some countries that are better at farming animals than others, and at one point in time the every day person used to have some livestock that they raised themselves. Animal husbandry is the science of breeding and caring for farm animals, something many modern Americans no nothing about due to the switch to factory farming. It wasn’t uncommon for people to have horses, chickens, cows, and goats, but with city laws limiting the type of animals people can have, cities became essentially desolate of animals. It takes a lot of skill and knowledge to keep these types of animals alive and well, which is why the vet charges so much. The relationship between man and animal is one that should be treated with respect and care, and when you get to experience raising one, you value and see life in a different way.

18. Basic Carpentry

Believe it or not, basic carpentry skills were something very valuable to have because there wasn’t always a service to come save the day. Back in the day if the roof was leaking or the floorboards were busted, it would be up to YOU to fix it. It’s always helpful to have someone around who can fix something when it’s broken. If it ever comes down to it, building a shelter is a necessity in order to survive–just ask Megee. You don’t need to be in survival mode to learn carpentry skills; learning how to build a structure can help in home improvement projects for years to come. You can even learn how to make furniture, which can help you keep your home stylish and potentially open up a new business venture–the opportunities are endless.

17. Food Preservation

Food preservation used to be essential because what you ate had to be in season and if you wanted to safely store food, than you had to know how to preserve it or risk getting poisoned. Storing food for the Winter used to be a priority for everyone; food preservation methods can be traced back to ancient times and were commonly until your grandparents era. Food preservation methods that don’t include the modern day refrigerator and freezer are: canning, smoking, curing, salting, pickling, and drying. It might be a good thing that the common person doesn’t preserve food at home because popular methods like salting and smoking can actually hurt your health if consumed in large amounts. However, pickling and canning can easily be done at home and there are many how-to guides on the internet.

16. Blacksmithing

Blacksmiths create metal objects ranging from knives, gates, furniture, and even religious artifacts. The skill of blacksmithing used to be common and extremely helpful for the everyday person. There are still some people who continue the art of blacksmithing, but rather than making necessary tools for survival, they usually specialize in ornamental objects. Forging metal consists of hammering the yellow-orange super heated substance until it’s the desired shape. If you are lucky enough to know someone who can tell you the tips and tricks of blacksmithing, like your grandparents maybe–you should take the opportunity to learn a thing or two and keep the tradition going.

15. Hunting

Although I don’t personally eat meat or enjoy killing animals for my consumption, I would rather everyone who eats meat hunt their own instead of supporting the factory farming industry. The skill of hunting used to be more humane and for the purpose of survival only, a certain dance between hunter and hunted, predator and prey. The average hunter wouldn’t kill in mass numbers either, just enough to feed the family; and any respectable hunter would use every part of the animal, not letting anything go to waste. Unfortunately, we’ve lost that notion and have taken meat consumption to a whole new level—and it’s killing our planet. Fortunately, there’s good news—you can make a change by not supporting factory farming, consuming less meat in general, and not participate in killing for novelty.

14. Herbal Medicine

There used to be time when herbal medication was a practical and useful way to cure a variety of physical and mental aliments. Doctors didn’t always have the endless lists of pharmaceuticals to cure the family’s needs, and a doctor wasn’t always readily available. It wasn’t uncommon for mom or dad to know a natural, herbal, or medicinal cure. Sure, some may call natural treatments old ‘wives tales’, but there are some who still use and stand by herbal medicine. In this growing age of fix it pills, it may be a good idea to do some research on natural solutions to minor aliments such as headaches and rashes; and the medicine can include flowers, barks, herbs, roots, berries, and leaves.

13. Horseback Riding

Horseback riding in modern times is usually done for sport, leisurely pleasure, or competition. However, there used to be a time not so long ago when horseback was the main mode of transportation. It’s not as easy as it looks either; it takes some serious skills to know how to ride a horse properly without hurting yourself or the animal. More importantly, treating the animal humanly and properly meant building a bond and relationship between horse and rider that not everyone could achieve. Horseback riding has been around since 3500 BC and has been an essential survival skill until recent years. If you’re lucky enough to have a grandparent that knows how to work will horses you should at least have a conversation with them to get a sense of what it was like to have such a special bond.

12. Navigational Skills

Unlike today, our grandparents didn’t have the luxury of GPS when they were growing up so they had to learn to navigate without it. That means knowing how to read a topographic map and I mean KNOWING it. The map has different colors that indicate different types of terrain and lines that tell you the steepness of hills and elevation—it can get confusing if you don’t know what you’re looking for. The closer the lines are together the steeper the cliff will be, and the higher the elevation, the thicker the lines will appear. Not only was the map important, but so was knowing how to use a compass. Using a compass and a topographic map together was the easiest way to get anywhere quickly and efficiently.

11. Courting

Courting may not be necessary for survival at this point in life, but at one point it was! People didn’t have apps like Tinder or Bumble to get them a date either; they used to have to know the art of courting. In fact, courting used to be a family affair because the parents used to get a formal inquiry from the potential suitor and the whole family had to agree for the romance to evolve. Although it seems a little bit intense, there were some things that were beneficial about getting courted—like actually getting to know someone’s intentions before diving right in. It’s never too late to bring the ancient art of courting back into the modern day of dating.

10. Mending

Okay, I’m about to ask you an honest question; what do you do when your sock gets a hole in it? I’m guessing you just throw it away right? It’s okay if you do because we have all gotten in the habit of having throwaway clothing because the fashion industry has made the turn and burn outfit a trend. I’m not saying you have to stop shopping at places like forever 21 for things you just can’t resist, like the latest lace up top or choker—but it’s not such a bad idea to learn how to mend clothing to be able to get the most out of them. Basic sewing skills will allow you to sew on a missing button or patch up a hole in your favorite shirt—and best of all, you can save some money to start a savings account or to put towards a down payment on a home. Think of the possibilities.

9. Correspondence By Mail

Arichy –

Corresponding by mail used to be the only way you could communicate with each other! Your great grandparents probably used to the mail frequently to send letters, personal messages, and even documents. Back in the day you couldn’t just send something via-email and expect a quick response—you actually had to physically write it out on paper, fold it up, get a stamp on the addressed envelope and hope for the best. The worst part had to be the waiting—waiting weeks and checking the mail everyday waiting for a response. It’s a good thing we have cell phones and the Internet to make communicating easier and faster, but there is still something to be said for sending a letter. If you want to bring back the art of corresponding by mail try getting a pen pal; you can meet someone new and you might even find that writing is a way to relieve stress.

8. Tatting

I bet you’ve never heard of the word tatting, have you? Well don’t feel bad if you haven’t because the art of tatting hasn’t continued to be popular in recent generations. Tatting is the art of making lace—a form of knotting by hand. Tatting creates a rather sturdy type of lace used for tablecloths, clothing, and accessories such as doilies. There are different types of tatting that differ by the tools used such as needle, cro, and shuttle. Needle tatting uses a—you guessed it, needle—while cro-tatting combines crochet and tatting techniques. Shuttle tatting is the original way to create this type of lace, and it uses an oval shaped instrument that wraps the threat around it. It takes some serious skill to be able to create the beautiful lace doilies by hand like pictured above.

7. Lighting A Fire WITHOUT A Match

I can barely get a fire going with a match or a lighter, let alone without one! Well, knowing how to create a fire without a match or lighter used to be something that the average Joe would have known. Matches used to be less than perfect, sparking uncontrollable fires and emitting toxic and unpleasant fumes until the early 1900’s when a newer, safer version was invented–what we consider the modern match. Lighting a fire without a match requires some serious skill as it’s difficult to do but can be achieved through friction, fire plough, or flint and steel.

6. Diapering With Cloth

We all just need to take a minute to appreciate all of the women who came before us who had to use cloth diapers to raise their children. The diapers used to be cotton cloths cut to the right size and held together by safety pins. Can you imagine the clean up that would come along with reusable cloth diapers? It would mean that most of the day would be consumed by washing dirty diapers in order to keep everything clean and hygienic to avoid illness. Valarie Hunter Gordon was the inventor of the disposable diaper, which wasn’t developed until 1948. The mother of three couldn’t stand it anymore so she invented the disposable diaper to make life easier for all the hard working mothers out there.

5. Using A Fountain Pen

A fountain pen is what came after the feather dip pens we all love to see in period movies. The fountain pen was more convenient then the dip pen because you didn’t have to constantly re-up on ink, but you still had to refill it when the time came. For your great grandparents this type of pen will be something familiar to them, used on the daily at one point in time. Considering how much waste we have started creating, it may be a good idea to bring back the fountain pen—after all, there is nothing quite like writing with your favorite pen. This may not be a traditional survival skill per say, but if you wanted to communicate via letter than you HAD to know how to use one.

4. Tree Felling

Tree felling is something we don’t all know how to do anymore because there are companies that specialize in the task. Before the population was this large knocking and clearing trees was an essential skill to know in order to create land to build a home. It’s not as easy as it sounds because to do it safely and efficiently one must know how to get it to land in the proper direction so it doesn’t crush anything important on its way down. Worst of all, if it’s not done properly the wood can split and ruin the chance for large slabs for building.

3. Making Butter And Cheese

Preserving milk used to be a very important task because the family cow usually produced more than the family could consume, and something had to be done before it started to spoil. Out of this dilemma came cheese and butter. By churning the excess milk into butter and aging cheese, dairy products could be used for longer periods of time becoming a staple in the average American household. This was a serious skill to have because it benefited the family immensely, especially during harsh winter months. The ability to make butter and cheese also opened up a business opportunity for anyone who knew how because buying butter was expensive and could turn a profit if done right.

2. Creating Fabric

We have become so far detached from our clothing as consumerism has taken over; but at one point in time if you wanted new clothes you not only had to make them—you had to make the fabric before anything! Weaving, spinning, and plying are all techniques that had to be mastered if the fabric was to be durable and reusable. Before the industrial methods took over and companies started mass producing fabric there were two types of fibers used to create fabric by hand: animal and vegetable. Animal fibers include wool and silk, vegetable fibers include cotton and linen, and man-made fibers include polyester and nylon, which are now more popular than ever.

1. Foraging

Foraging was something that people used to do as a main source of food supply. Would you know how to find mushrooms, herbs, vegetables, and berries to eat? Or would you end up picking something poisonous? It’s a tough question to grapple with as most of us have lost these primitive foraging skills. As we have advanced, foraging has become less and less important as grocery stores became more popular; yet I can’t help but feel this type of basic knowledge should still be essential to know, you know—just in case.