Knowledge: The Most Valuable Survival Tool

This is a guest post and entry in our non-fiction writing contest  by Brendan F

Preparedness has been debated and will be debated until the end of time is truly upon us. Everyone seems to have an opinion on how to prepare. Preparedness can be broken down into physical preparedness and mental preparedness. How to physically prepare to survive is discussed in-depth by many and is a subject of great debate. However, mental preparedness is not nearly as popular as it tends to be more difficult.


Many people begin their preparedness lifestyle by stockpiling food. How long will this food last? What is the shelf life? Bottom line is, food cannot be stockpiled forever. At some point, it will run out or spoil. Mentally preparing for an adequate food supply is a worthwhile investment.

First, can one garden? Gardening is not as simple as planting some weeds in the ground and watering them. It takes knowing what to plant, where to plant it and when to plant it. Some vegetables do well in cold weather, others die.

Now, when food is still available is the time to learn how to garden. Don’t wait until disaster has struck. Next, can one hunt for the purpose of gathering food? One may think that due to a four-year tour in the military and a marksmanship badge they are automatically a skilled hunter. Truth is, they aren’t. Marksmanship does play a role in hunting but so does tracking and stalking. Take it a step farther, the animal was tracked and a fatal shot was made.

Now, how does one properly skin,gut and dress the kill? Keep in mind that spilling the intestines spoils the meat. This makes the recent purchase of an AR-15 almost seem useless. It is critical the survivalist learn to garden and hunt or otherwise have a means to get food.


Hand operated water pumps and fancy filters are a great tool but only if they are present when a person needs water. A person needs to educate themselves on where to find water, how to collect it and make it safe to drink. Will a filter catch everything? How well does boiling work? What about bleach? These are questions that a person needs to be able to answer to consider themselves prepared. A person needs to know how to make a solar still and a way to collect rainwater. Knowledge is your friend.


After food and water, a roof over one’s head is a basic human need. Shelter keeps a person warm and provides protection from the elements. The survivalist must be able to find or build a shelter. Building an effective shelter is a learned skill. This is why house framers are paid $25/hr. A person needs to develop sheltering skills such as making a small lean-to or digging a snow shelter. This construction may seem easy in theory but in practice, it can be much more difficult. To go with shelter, a person must be able to build a fire to stay warm. Fire building is not easy especially in damp and windy conditions. The survivalist needs to know how to build a fire, not buy fancy flints and magnesium.

Self Defense

There is much discussion over what the best means of self-defense is. Some will argue martial arts, firearms or even a blade. However none of these will be of any use if a person doesn’t first seek out the knowledge and then practice.

A firearm is useless without the mental preparation to squeeze the trigger when needed. What good does the blade do when attacking another human being hasn’t been practiced? Martial arts require time and dedication to master but the knowledge will last forever. It is critical that one selects their means for self-defense and seeks out the best instruction one can get.


A common survival thread is asking what is the best handgun, rifle or shotgun. To be blunt, if a person feels the need to ask., they don’t need a firearm. A defensive firearm has a single purpose, and that is to stop an attacker before he can do harm. Before becoming a gun owner, one should take a basic firearms class in the operation of the above mentioned firearms.

Buying a competition 1911 or a .308 bolt-action sniper rifle will not make a person an expert marksman any more than a Louisville Slugger helps one hit a baseball. Marksmanship is a skill and a perishable one at that.

A person familiar with firearms is able to evaluate the pros and cons of each operating system and and caliber and make well-informed decision as to which firearm will work for his or her situation. Regardless of platform or caliber, how well a firearm works comes back to how accurately the shooter can use the firearm. Inaccurate rounds render the gun useless. The survivalist needs to seek out training to become proficient in the use of arms.


It is quite easy to go to the store and purchase a first aid kit or even order a trauma bag from the internet. Most people can easily do this. It is much more difficult to attend a four-month long EMT Basic course taught at the community college. The knowledge from the classroom will always be with you. The fancy first aid kit or trauma bag won’t. The basic principles taught will allow a belt to become a tourniquet to stop a life threatening bleed and turn sweatshirts into slings for dislocated shoulders. The survivalist needs to pursue basic first aid training at the minimum to consider themselves prepared.

The fanciest tools are useless if the user cannot use them. Rather than rushing out to buy survival items,one needs to seek survival knowledge. This can be found online or better yet, the local community. Look for ads in the paper for the skill sets one seeks to develop. See what is offered at the local community college. Seek knowledge without ceasing.

Ultimately, the best survival tool is a person’s mind and the knowledge within. In order to be ultimately prepared, a person must be prepared to be a student for life. That person must attempt to learn to secure food and water, build shelter, stay warm and be proficient in the use of arms. The brain has the potential to hold the sharpest edge one can imagine, just apply the sharpening stone of knowledge.

This is an entry in our non-fiction writing contest where you could win:

First Prize) Winner will receive a Nomad – 1 Person Standard Survival Package courtesy of Shepherd Survival Supply, a One Month Food Pack courtesy of Augason Farms, a $150 gift certificate for Remington Ammo courtesy of  and a EcoZoom’s Versa Stove courtesy of EcoZoom stoves. A total prize value of over $875.

Second Prize) Winner will receive two (2) Rothco Sure Paks With Heater courtesy of Camping Survival, a Wise Food Vegetable bucket courtesy of LPC Survival and a Wonder Junior hand grain mill courtesy of Kitchen Kneads. A total prize value of over $509.

Third Prize) Winner will receive 3 – 27 Variety of Non Hybrid, Heirloom Non GMO Survival Seeds, 2 – Fruit Pack of Non Hybrid, Heirloom Non GMO Survival Seeds and 2- First Aid Kit with Sutures in a Waterproof Resealable Bag courtesy of  Be Prepared Now. A total prize value of over $215.

Contest ends on March 30 2012.

About M.D. Creekmore

M.D. Creekmore is the owner and editor of He is the author of four prepper related books and is regarded as one of the nations top survival and emergency preparedness experts. Read more about him here.


  1. Good summary. ‘Stuff” won’t last, and can be destroyed or lost. What’s between your ears will stay with you. The more you study and read the more you will retain.

  2. SurvivorDan says:

    OK. The last paragraph sums it up.

    “Seek knowledge without ceasing.
    Ultimately, the best survival tool is a person’s mind and the knowledge within. In order to be ultimately prepared, a person must be prepared to be a student for life. That person must attempt to learn to secure food and water, build shelter, stay warm and be proficient in the use of arms. The brain has the potential to hold the sharpest edge one can imagine, just apply the sharpening stone of knowledge.”

    18-X s get it pounded into them that the most powerful weapon is their mind. So it follows that the most powerful survival tool is one’s mind.
    Isn’t that why most people are here? Do we sometimes focus on the latest and greatest thing rather than the most current techniques/training? Maybe so.

    So a little reminder by Brendan that it ain’t the fancy carbine or the super generator or the hi-tech solar panels or the whiz bang bomb shelter, etc but rather the survival knowledge within the survivor that counts the most.

  3. Good article. I was taught by my father to always evaluate a gun, knife, axe, first aid kit, cook set, etc. to find the best for the buck, not just what is hot and flocked to by the masses. The newest and best will never replace knowledge of how to properly use equipment. Always beware of the guy that only has one gun, knife, etc. He will surely be an expert with his one worn piece of equipment.

  4. This is one of the better articles I have read on MD’s blog. Thanks, Brendan F, great job! Knowledge IS power.

  5. Digital_Angel_316 says:

    “Over the years, Americans in particular have been all too willing to squander their hard-earned independence and freedom for the illusion of feeling safe under someone else’s authority. The concept of self-sufficiency has been undermined in value over a scant few generations. The vast majority of the population seems to look down their noses upon self-reliance as some quaint dusty relic, entertained only by the hyperparanoid or those hopelessly incapable of fitting into mainstream society.”
    ― Cody Lundin, When All Hell Breaks Loose: Stuff You Need to Survive When Disaster Strikes

    • Digital_Angel_316,
      I like Cody but I have to disagree with him on this point. People do tend toward a lifestyle that is more comfortable and less work, but I think a lot of the angst toward prepping isn’t just seeing self-reliance as some quaint dusty relic, but a deeper understanding that we are correct. The very fact that we exist is like seeing a police officer who on one hand makes you feel safe, but also makes you uncomfortable because his very presence reminds you that there are bad people in the world who would rob or hurt you if they could. Our presence reminds people that the local store has only 3 days of food, that when the power goes out you are cold in the dark, or a refugee to a local shelter, and you could be more prepared if you were willing to give up the trivia and pop culture and take on some hardships. Many people won’t even carry auto insurance for this same reason, which is why most states mandate it, and prepping, or lack of it falls into that same lifestyle of not wanting to be uncomfortable, inconvenienced, or give up the latest toy.

      • Digital_Angel_316 says:

        OhioPrep —
        I think you misread or misinterpreted the quote. I read it as a warning to or about America in general that they/we have dozed into complacency and tend to think that ‘being prepared’ is not needed because Uncle Sam and Daddy FEMA will take care of it all. Reread the quote and see if you agree.

        • Digital_Angel_316,
          I’ve read the quote and the book, and although there are a large number of people who have complacency about their lives and make assumptions that some entity will always be there to bail them out, I still think that there are also a lot of folks who understand that there are potential problems on the horizon, who simply don’t let it bother them, because they don’t want to be inconvenienced. I’ve been told many times by individuals over the years that the lifestyle I lead is one that they would like to have, but they don’t have that place in the country (because it’s too far to drive to work), or they don’t have the time to garden (but have it to golf), etc. I think our high technology and modern conveniences and the perception you must give them up is a bigger factor than government assistance, along with a definition of standard of living that makes someone think that his 60 inch flat screen gives him a better quality of life than someone with a mere 32 inch screen. A misperception of the quality of life and a certain laziness (maintaining a garden and raising chickens takes work after all) is IMO a larger factor than the thought that the government will take care of us.

  6. Knowledge is superior to ignorance, for sure.
    As you hint at, is also true that: Knowledge without Experience is ignorance.
    I think that is called Wisdom.
    To have all the knowledge in the world is worthless without the ability to put it to use.

    • JSW,
      Yes. Books = Information.
      Applied information = knowledge.
      Applied knowledge = skill.
      Unread books on the shelf are better than an empty shelf, but a far cry from being able to actually perform a skill.

  7. Overkill750 says:

    I was taught” Learn something new every day, because if you don’t, then you’ve wasted that day”.

  8. “This makes the recent purchase of an AR-15 almost seem useless. It is critical the survivalist learn to garden and hunt or otherwise have a means to get food.”

    The AR will take deer just fine if the proper round is used with a hit to the vitals. Even a 55gr FMJ will kill instantly with a head shot. I would even wager a FMJ wouldn’t let bambi run too far with a vitals shot. Plenty of youtube documentation to that fact.

  9. The .22 LR has the penetration power to kill almost all game in North America with a well placed brain shot. Look at what Bell did in Africa with the 6.5 or 275 Rigby. It was his favorite gun for culling elephant.

  10. Amazing how .22LR is capable of taking game of all description when hunting, but when talking self defense, it’s ineffective and will ensure your demise at the hands of a bad guy. I failed to realize how frail animals are.

    • Tim, it isn’t that “…it’s ineffective and will ensure your demise at the hands of a bad guy. ..” so much as it is “there are better tools for the job”. Of course, there are those who’ll say the .22 won’t kill anything larger than a rodent. And there are those who’ll say a 12 gauge won’t be a one-shot stopper, either (I’m saying that from experience, it won’t).
      As for animals being frail, some, such as rabbits, are worse than frail- makes you wonder how they’ve managed to survive so long as a species. Yet there are small animals, like squirrels, so tenacious of life you wonder why they aren’t the dominant species on the planet.
      So what it really boils down to is the right tool for the right job. If all you have is a .22, don’t hesitate to use it.

      • This argument will continue to rage on until the end of time. The 22 rimfire has been around since the 1880’s and this mere fact of survival over this period of time should convince a lot of people that it has had it’s uses over the years. I am a firm believer in marksmanship above all and the 22 is cheap enough to shoot to gain that necessary skill. Over the years I have found marksmanship giving you the ability to hit in the spot your desire for a quick kill and repeated shots in that area will bring down most anything. An old friend of mine from upstate new york who visited me one year and we went hunting told me of the days of his youth when they would actuallly bring down a moose with the 22’s. I suppose from what I have encountered over the years it is entirely possible, but I would hesitate to do it myself since I am acquainted with the behavior of a moose and my wife calls them just a pissed off bulldozer which in retrospect pretty well describes them. The Amish community I live around has be to come on occassion and put down the beef and pork they are gong to be butchering. I have never used more than one round to drop the biggest steer or hog. It is different of course, shooting from close range at a domesticated placid animal and hunting game animals but it can be done. A good part of the skill in hunting is being deceptive and sneaky and persuading the game to come to you at short range rather than trying for long distance shots on fleeing animals. In the original configuration, the 22 had a copper casing primed with corrosive primers and a waxed plain lead projectile. The newer ammos like the CCI minimag are so superior to the old stuff and that to me is proof positive that the 22 is here to stay. It will be the last weapon to leave my hands. Harold

  11. village idiot says:

    I’ve noticed a lot of people buying books, downloading stuff off the internet, ordering seeds, acquiring firearms, and doing any number of things trying to gain knowledge. But knowledge by itself ain’t worth spit. You have to have the skill. What’s the point of having all the garden seed in the world if you’ve never planted a garden? All the ammo you store for your fancy rifle won’t amount to much unless you learn how to shoot. If you’ve never hunted and you think you can make a head shot on a deer at 100 yds., you need to try hitting a tiny target like that on an animal that could move at any second. You ain’t gonna do it. And you think you can just learn to barter when you’ve never done it. You’re gonna get skinned. Skills can be learned, but you better start now instead of going on vacation to Colorado. Take a camping trip in the wilderness for your vacation, and I guarantee you’ll learn something valuable. You will see this stuff is not as easy as you think. Better hone those skills while you can.

  12. Brendan, this is so very true! Good article. My only problem is that there seems to be an overwhelming amount of stuff to read and learn about, let alone put it into practice. It’s never-ending! I keep plodding along and hope I learn enough to keep me safe.

    • Which makes it a very good thing that we can have ‘tribes’ and dispense the information among them rather than trying to be expert in evrything. We can all have some knowledge, while one with the most is in charge.

  13. good stuff guy

    I for one am adding to my medical bugout pak (yes it’s seperate from my bugout pack) I just got doen with a week long flu/cold combo. and i found out that when one person is sick them use up approx. ten cold pills a day,2 musinx,cough syrup couple of oz’s,nose spray and water about 1 gal. So i was dog sick for 7 days that’s 70 cold pill alone plus you do the math on the other stuff. Todays I will carry no less then500 tab bottles of asprin,cold pills,musinx etc plus adding couple of hundred gallons to my stock casue when your sick of you all are no one can draw the water.
    and one thing O saw on this page yes books are good and survival skills are better BUT if you can’t defend yourself neither will be of much use to you. IF you can’t or will not learn to fight then lower yourself to admit someone into your group that might not be smart enough to gather but is a Hunter.

  14. Guys (et. al.):
    I wanted you to let you know I just took delivery of “Surgical Knots and Suturing Techniques third edition [Spiral-bound]”. (amazon link:

    I think this is a great book for non-medical people to learn to easily stitch people and pets up. Lots of well drawn pictures and instructions. I put this off for quite a while do to the cost, now I’m going to get 2 more (1 for the M17 kit and 1 for the trailer/M3 kit).

    I pick up suture packs from “the book guy” at the gun shows, so that I would have them, possible for trade to a medical person for services performed. Now I may be able to do this stuff myself (I really hope I never have to find out).

    • Digital_Angel_316 says:

      Do you / does the book recommend a topical – local anesthetic?

      • Digital_Angel_316:
        No recommendations on anesthetic. There is some basic sterilization information, but this book focuses on knots.

        • Digital_Angel_316 says:

          OK, thanks for checking. There are some topical (and over the counter) anesthetics available, some of which are controversial in the medical community. Some tattoo houses or individuals seeking a tattoos or tattoo removal use them to numb the skin for a time. The medical community uses some combinations of topical treatments – again with some discussion if not controversy. Because they are topical the mechanism is absorption rather than injection (as with the case of a Novocaine shot one might get to deaden the pain) and there is a time lapse from application to activation.

          Of course as with all things (such as taking game in a survival scenario) any medical activity is discussing a survival situation and it is prudent to avoid the unauthorized practice of medicine and observe all applicable local, state and federal laws.

          • As a dialysis tech l see the use of 2% emla cream used to deaden the patients access prior to cannulation. The instructions on the cream say to apply an hour prior to treatment but in actuality it’s know by the patients to be two hours prior for best results. We use 16 to 14ga. needles that are one inch long!
            Although l have a number of tattoo’s, l have never used the 4% cream used by Tattoo/Removal studios, l do have one patient who has gone this route and swears by the stuff.

            l enjoyed the write up, we’ve only been prepping for just shy of a year, l have read much, shot some and have only camped with many of Mr Coleman’s conviences, it really hit home for me. Time to hit the range and work on those primitive skills!

  15. Great article Brendan! You’ve hit more than one nail on the head.


  16. It is recommended to have a 72 hour emergency kit for you and you’re loved ones no matter the emergency or disaster situation. To weather the storm of any disaster a safety kit is as crucial as having an emergency plan in place. Remember you most likely will be the first line of defense in an emergency situation.

  17. Encourager says:

    Good quote ~

    Start by doing what is necessary, then what is possible, and suddenly you are doing the impossible.
    – St. Francis of Assisi

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