By James Ballou
Preppers, as a general rule, tend to be people with initiative. We take it upon ourselves to prepare for the uncertain future. This is a pro-active attitude that aims to leave as little up to chance as possible regardless of circumstances.
I think most of us would agree that our skills and our education in survival-related subjects is at least as important, if not even more important than the survival gear and supplies we stockpile. Having a healthy cache of food could certainly buy us time in a post-apocalypse world and I don’t want to downplay the importance of having a stockpile of food reserves and other provisions, but having the knowledge and ability to harvest a variety of foods from different sources is even more beneficial to us in the long run, because all supplies eventually run out.
Likewise, having the best tools and weapons our money can buy can certainly make our survival easier and possibly more secure (for as long as they last, anyway), but having the knowledge and ability to build, repair, and maintain the needed tools and weapons would be even more important because it makes us less dependent upon “things”, and more reliant upon ourselves. We could eventually exhaust our supplies. Our gear will eventually wear out. But we will never exhaust the valuable practical knowledge we acquire, which we can ultimately use to re-outfit ourselves and survive.
So, lately this has become my biggest priority in my own survival preparations; expanding and reinforcing the knowledge I believe will be most useful to me, not only in a post-collapse world but also to some extent in our present time. And for me the topics for study tend to consist of the more practical and useful ones that I’ve come up with after lengthy contemplation, although they’re not necessarily always the most obvious ones that some preppers think of first, nor will they necessarily be ideally suited for others’ unique situations. Every prepper will want to create his/her own list according to his/her specific needs and anticipated circumstances.
I’m sure all of us would agree that how-to books and magazine articles can be very helpful tools for this and I certainly collect them and read them to expand my own knowledge, but we also have the advantage nowadays of being able to watch instructive videos – an almost endless variety of YouTube videos on pretty much every conceivable topic we could conceive of on the Internet for free! This would have been almost unimaginable even two decades ago. I can’t speak for others, but for me watching a task being executed tends to be vastly more instructive than merely reading about how to do it. I like to see how it’s done.
This is not to suggest that merely watching a video is equal to actual experience and hands on practice, because I’m well aware that it isn’t quite the same thing. But I see it as definitely the next best thing, and I know that watching numerous instructive videos has definitely been eye opening for me.
What I have taken the initiative to do then for my own education is to create a list of practical survival-related tasks. Making a list always helps me keep track of whatever I’m trying to do. I’ll seek out the videos on the Internet demonstrating all of these things in order to study the processes. In many cases I’ll find several different videos that address the same skill, and I’ll watch them all for a more comprehensive understanding of the topic. Every time I view a video on each task I make a small checkmark next to it, so that after a period of time I can add them up and determine which subjects I’ve reviewed extensively, and which ones I might need more exposure to.
Also, my own list includes some skills that I consider myself fairly familiar with already but which comprise certain details that tend to get foggy over time without regular hands-on practice. The majority of them, however, were skills I’ve always had in the back of my mind to study but for various reasons never got around to it.
Watching a lot of videos will consume a considerable amount of time, but most of us shouldn’t have too much trouble fitting a couple short educational videos into our daily routines, and after a while we can really gain a lot of knowledge by doing this. I think most preppers actually do this already to some extent – learning survival skills from watching YouTube videos, though probably not quite as diligently as I’m talking about doing here.
So let’s consider some examples of the kinds of tasks/skills that a prepper may want to select for his viewing list. For starters: How to build a bow-drill friction fire set from natural materials and how to use it to create fire; How to brain-tan animal hides; How to tie useful knots for fishing and other purposes; How to twist natural fibers into usable cordage; How to harvest sinew from a deer; How to escape from handcuffs; How to pick locks; How to use a stitching awl; How to knap flint or glass into functional cutting tools and arrow points; How to identify and use edible wild plants; How to defeat thermal imaging systems; How to safely fell a tree with ax or saw; How to make gunpowder; How to make glue; How to weld with car batteries; How to treat various kinds of injuries; How to weave a basket; How to use a watch to determine direction; How to grow a vegetable garden; How to disassemble and re-assemble (substitute whatever firearms you own here); How to change a tire or the sparkplugs in your car; How to build survival shelters; How to build a forge and shape hot iron and steel; How to build effective animal traps and snares, etc. Your list could go on endlessly, but this just gives you some food for thought.
*James Ballou is the author of five survival-related books: Long-Term Survival in the Coming Dark Age, Makeshift Workshop Skills for Survival and Self-Reliance, MORE Makeshift Workshop Skills, Arming for the Apocalypse, and The Poor Man’s Wilderness Survival Kit.
All five titles were previously published by Paladin Press, but as of January 2018 by Prepper Press (PrepperPress.com)