It’s pretty common to find preppers looking toward intelligence personnel and other government agency operatives for inspiration on the survival skills that they should learn.
This is understandable; if your job description means going into harm’s way in the most extreme environments and situations, it makes sense considering they will be taught how to survive no matter what.
Maybe if we can learn what they learn, we too can survive when the situation looks hopeless.
While the logic is sound, it is, nonetheless, flawed. The skills of spies in particular comprise many things that will be of no use or next to no use for your average prepper.
That being said, there are some spy skillsets which will unquestioningly prove to be useful for everyone, no matter what you’re preparing for, no matter your personal situation, and no matter what you might be facing.
If you can ignore the mystique and allure of spies we can learn a few things from them.
In this article, we sort the wheat from the chaff, and cut through the fantasy to bring you six spy skillsets you should definitely add to your prepping repertoire.
Table of Contents
Ditching Fantasy for Reality
If you have been involved in prepping for any length of time or know someone who has, chances are you have had an opportunity to meet someone who, for lack of a better word, is maybe a little too enthusiastic about presenting themselves as some supremely dangerous and capable individual.
Whatever their background and fitness level, chances are this misguided person has self-styled themselves after a spy, assassin, or some other clandestine personality which has nothing to do with their own life. You can think of this as sort of a cosplay gone wrong.
These preppers will set about learning all kinds of skills that, while very useful for spies and even very fun, will probably never apply in a civilian survival situation: high-altitude parachuting.
Long-range sniping. Detecting and employing poisons. Infiltration skills. And, of course, how to make a really good martini. All joking aside, I have little doubt that some readers could come up with theoretical scenarios were any of those skills, or even all of them might be useful.
The problem is that they are theoretical; the time you spend mastering those very niche skills would be better spent working on and practicing skills you are likely, even assured of, using every day or in any kind of disaster.
It has been said before that everybody can teach you something, even if it is what not to do. In the case of a misguided wannabe, we definitely don’t want to waste our time and energies learning things for self-gratification or to impress the less educated among us.
But if we stopped to honestly consider the average spy or secret agent, they too can teach us something valuable, something useful.
I dare say that some spy skillsets are actually foundational to practical, everyday prepping. Don’t believe me? Read on.
Spy or Survivor, You Gotta Know These Survival Skillsets!
When you get past the mythos, the eye-rolling, the ribbing and the sneers of disbelief you will actually find there are some skills that are part and parcel of being a good spy, and just as useful to your average, everyday citizen trying to get themselves out of a jam.
This has nothing to do with pretending to be someone you aren’t, or doing something that you don’t really do as a profession. Some skills are just that fundamental to high-risk situations.
No, it might not be as cool as skydiving or as sinister as becoming a master poisoner, but it is really, really cool to be that guy or gal who knows what to do and can take care of business at a moment’s notice when lives are on the line.
Competency is always in style. Don’t dismiss the following skillsets as too basic or too pedestrian to worry about.
From surviving an everyday holdup to total societal collapse, the following skills will serve you just as well, and for the record they also serve spies of every stripe the world over.
6 Spy Skillsets for Preppers
Medical Skills for Misadventure and Mishap
Being a secret agent isn’t all about mingling with foreign attaches, and pulling the wool over the eyes of diplomats at swanky parties.
In life and in fiction, there always comes a point where the jig is up, the spy’s confronted, cornered and the fight is on. The knives come out and the bullets are flying. There might even be some explosions.
Needless to say, a multi thousand-dollar outfit will probably be ruined, and our dashing spy is in serious need of patching up before the end of the day.
In normal, civil times, or back at home, spies can just drop into a hospital or clinic to get a tune-up and leaking stopped.
As long as the lights are on and the gears of society are turning, we could do the same thing; stopping to see our doctor or heading straight to the hospital in an emergency.
But if you’re undercover in a hostile, foreign land or simply surviving a society-shattering event or disaster, you won’t be able to do that.
There might not even be doctors around! Spies have to be their own doctors and surgeons since they cannot depend on anyone else to help them without compromising their cover or mission. In an emergency, you should be able to do the same and become your own first responder.
Knowing how to treat major and minor injuries is not just a good idea for long-term preparation on the backside of some regional or national disaster.
No matter how good the medical technology is in your city and how confident and fast emergency services are, when injuries are severe from accident or attack, seconds count. Those paramedics and EMTs are still minutes away.
I can promise you that any spy will know how to treat everything from a sprained finger or twisted ankle all the way up to severe hemorrhaging resulting from gunshot and knife wounds. You should learn how to do the same thing.
As with anything, start small and with the basics: learn CPR, learn how to deal with dehydration and a host of common ailments and injuries. Going higher on the ladder of seriousness learn how to treat shock, penetrating injuries and wounds, and severe burns.
Learn how to manage head trauma. And, just as important as learning the skills, make sure you acquire and carry with you the tools of healing. Sure, you might be able to improvise a tourniquet from a belt and a stick, but nothing beats the real thing.
The skills are not just useful in case of violent attack, either. All kinds of daily accidents and mishaps will call for skilled medical practitioners, amateur and professional alike, to save lives and reduce harm.
Your test may come in the form of a car accident, a fall off a ladder, a residential fire or an accident on the shooting range.
It is a lot more fun to learn how to make holes and cause harm than to fix them and heal, but I can guarantee you you’ll have far more opportunity to fix people than break them. Make sure you’re up to the challenge.
Physical Security Skills to Make Yourself a Hard Target
A good spy will know how to make his enemies’ job as hard as possible. if their job is finding and detaining the spy, or outright killing him, making their job hard means making himself as hard to get to as possible.
We commonly see this in movies, but it definitely applies to real life: spies will use a variety of techniques to make themselves hard to pin down and also to physically make themselves hard to get to.
This skillset is a composite one, and usually revolves around being aware of the lay of the “land” and creating obstacles to hinder, slow and block the movements of one’s enemies.
You don’t need a lot of special training or education start assessing the terrain around you for suitability for both defense and escape. Anywhere you go in public, you should always be looking for an exit no matter what you were doing.
If you are seated while dining in a restaurant, do you know where the nearest emergency exit is? It might be important if someone rolls through the front door and starts shooting. Is it a marked exit you can see, or is it around the corner through the kitchen, perhaps?
When you are driving down the highway, are you aware of alternate pathways you might take that are off the marked road? Could you jump onto a sidewalk or just off onto the shoulder if you had to?
Is the emergency lane wide enough to permit driving down it for any great length? Are you aware of being boxed in my other vehicles leaving you no way to go but into the rear of vehicle ahead of you?
These skills are especially important for staying safe and secure when you bed down for the night, even in your own home. If someone wanted to break into your house, or just into your hotel room when you are traveling, do you know how to make that difficult for them?
You know how to light the area, or choose a room to maximize their exposure, and accordingly their unease? Do you know how to secure doors and windows in order to make them far harder to kick down or break?
Spies will make use of everything from wedges and broom handles to common rope or paracord to lock down doors either at the handles, or at the hinges and return mechanisms in a variety of ingenious ways.
Of course, employing the above assumes that the bad guys know where to find you at all. Spies will commonly take multiple, eccentric routes to and from his destination, leaving and returning an odd times and changing locations randomly to confound anyone who might be observing or following him.
While you can’t change houses on a whim as a civilian, you can take different routes to and from your home regularly to avoid falling into a pattern that criminals can easily exploit.
You might not be tasked with taking out a foreign head of state, but your mission is no less important: your mission is to keep yourself and your loved ones safe from the people who would harm them and you.
Info Security Skills to Stay Off the Radar
it doesn’t take a genius to figure out that spies want to give nothing away about themselves, the reason they are there and who they are dealing with, or why. Revealing some innocuous bit of information may lead to an enemy agent figuring out who the spy really is and what he is doing in-country, to the spy’s detriment.
It goes without saying that being a blabbermouth as to their real intentions is a certain death sentence. It follows that a good spy will always have a cover story they’ll have rehearsed, one that is socially acceptable and capable of surviving scrutiny in case they have to deflect someone who’s asking just a few too many questions…
Now, you might not have anything to hide, but that doesn’t mean but you shouldn’t hide what you know and what you’re up to from the world at large.
If you are a prepper, you are a person who is likely to be storing things in quantity that might be of interest to certain people, perhaps bad people, people who would take from you.
Sitting on a pile of food, a serious stockpile of arms and ammunition or other heaps of supplies and letting that leak out to the world may earn you a midnight visit from the bad guys.
The military calls this PERSEC, for “personal security”, meaning keeping secure your personal details and information. Unfortunately for us this is harder than ever in the Information Age.
Between social media and electronic data mining conducted by all kinds of malicious people, we can potentially give away the keys to the kingdom! Locking down your personal information and itinerary can be challenging, but it must be done!
The best advice I can give you is to not fall into the trap of oversharing. It is expected today to share details of your life- family, friends, plans, purchases, etc.- with anyone and everyone you know and a lot of people you don’t know.
If you’re a prepper, it should be glaringly obvious what a major mistake this is. Don’t let the societal “norms” of the day blind you to the greater problem here.
Everything you put online can be collected, assessed and analyzed by anyone for any reason and what’s worse, it is there forever. Just like a bullet from a gun, there is no calling it back once you post.
In essence, what you’re doing is raising your hand when a criminal asks “Who should I rob today?” how shocked and amazed people are when they get robbed after they’ve spent a month telling one and all they’re going away for a long vacation, or they just bought a new gun, a new TV or new whatever.
They returned from an errand or from their trip to find their home ransacked or their vehicle broken into and their belongings missing. Ray Charles could have seen that coming.
Even if you have zero online presence you are not exempt from the need to employ info security skills: that work buddy or acquaintance that you know might not have any evil intent or designs on taking what you have, but they might know someone who does.
Even if they aren’t collaborating with the villain, they may innocently reveal something that someone else could use against you. Word travels fast and a lot farther than you intend.
It is a good idea to sit down, take stock of your life, assess what is really important- specifically those things you don’t want other people to know- and stop talking about them!
Anyone that is outside your circle of trust should not be aware of what you have going on as far as travel, prepping and valuable purchases. No spy worth his salt would ever put up an obvious flag or tell that he was a spy or reveal what he in-country was doing. Why would you do the same thing?
Driving Skills for Accident- and Threat-Avoidance
Almost everyone will associate spies with high-speed chases and daring escapes via automobile. This doesn’t just happen in the movies; secret agents and intelligence operatives of all stripes often need to make use of motor vehicles and motorcycles to get away from enemy agents, or escape security forces that are closing in.
It is always thrilling to see them squeak through an opening barely bigger than the car itself without a scratch, or barrel through a roadblock leaving a constellation of wreckage in their wake.
While this is the stuff of media legend, it has a very real and important place in your everyday preps. Offensive and defensive driving skills, more succinctly termed performance driving skills, are essential considering how much time the average prepper will spend in their car.
Running errands, running the kids to sports practice, or just making that daily commute to work, a significant fraction of the average person’s life is spent behind the wheel of a vehicle. Most people sit down, buckle up, and tune out for the drive ahead. But that’s not what we’re about.
Tens of thousands of people die in car accidents every year. Single car, or multi-car, many of these accidents was preventable if only one party had the awareness and the skills to evade the impending collision or accident.
What’s more, plenty of violent crimes revolve around victims being in or around their vehicles. Carjacking is a plague in some American cities, and many foreign metropolises.
While rare in the U.S., criminals’ use of multiple vehicles to box-in a victim sitting in a target car is on the rise, either for carjacking or abduction.
Now more than ever, knowing how to handle your vehicle against a threat is just as important as knowing how to handle it to avoid an accident.
You should learn how to steer, brake and accelerate efficiently and swiftly if you want to avoid the majority of accidents you’ll be confronted with.
From jaywalkers to swerving cars, from jackknifing tractor trailers to ice-slick bridges there will never be a time where you’re on the road where you won’t be safer and better off knowing how to handle your vehicle at the extreme edges of its performance envelope.
Against more personal threats, knowing how to use your car to barge another car out of the way, bust through an obstacle or, in extreme circumstances, drive through a crowd of people might be essential if you want to survive.
Learning new skills means you’ll think differently while you’re behind the wheel. You’ll pay more attention to what lane you are in, what other cars are doing around you and where potential emergency exits are. You’ll instinctively understand where you’re most vulnerable to attack while you’re strapped inside your vehicle.
Most people do not consider their personal vehicle a tool for stopping an attack, but it surely can be, and is one that is far more powerful than any gun or knife. Combining that greater awareness with greater skill at using your vehicle to avoid danger on the roads means that your vehicle can become another safe haven for you.
Improvised Weapons for Turning the Tables on Attackers
Any prepper that can go armed should, and most of us do. That’s the right thing to do in an increasingly dangerous and uncertain world.
Many of us will choose to carry a gun, almost all of us will carry a knife of some kind, and a few of us will even carry pepper spray for dealing with lesser threats. It is seen as the height of laziness to go unarmed when one has the option to go “well-heeled.”
But sometimes, you cannot go armed. As a matter of law or circumstances, sometimes you’ll be denied the right to carry weapons, even something as simple as a pocket knife.
Spies will commonly face this restriction when operating in a foreign country, one that has very tight regulations on the carry of weapons among civilians, and even if it doesn’t, carrying a weapon is a good way to get unwanted attention.
For civilians, carrying a weapon illegally means you risk severe consequences, to include imprisonment and hefty fines or just major social repercussions that can affect your career prospects.
Regardless of any laws and regulations prohibiting the carry of weapons, evil still exists and will do what evil does anywhere it damn well pleases. This is a conundrum: what is a good citizen, and for that matter a spy, to do in such a situation?
The answer is to develop skills at employing improvised weaponry. Improvised weaponry can take many forms, but any improvised weapon is either one that you craft from ordinary materials or an ordinary item that you re-purpose as a vicious weapon, either on offense or defense.
This means that no matter where you go, you can gather the supplies you need to craft a surprisingly effective tool for mayhem and bloodletting, and any particular room will contain several items that can be put to use creatively for the infliction of pain and suffering.
Common rebar can be shaped and sharpened to a fine point and ergo into a vicious stabbing tool. Screwdrivers can be employed as spikes. A padlock on the end of a bike chain has all the effectiveness of a medieval flail.
A few nails and a roll of coins can be fashioned into a clever and devastating set of spiked knuckles. With a little vision and some hunting-and-gathering, any simple weapon you can think of can be created.
You can also employ common everyday items as they are. Boiling soup or broth can scald. Uncork a shaker of pepper to be used as blinding powder. Bricks and rocks are as effective when applied forcefully to skulls now as they first were thousands of years ago.
Any strong cord or wire can be used to strangle and entrap. The barroom brawl favorite for decades, the glass bottle or beer mug, inflicts a powerful wallop and grievous lacerations.
There’s almost no end to what can be employed as an improvised weapon to potentially deadly effect if you’re in a pinch.
Situational Awareness to See the Danger Coming
Typically, the only way a spy will survive any length of time in their chosen career field is by remaining hyper aware of all the variables. Who is around them, what dangers and limitations await in the surrounding environment, who is, or who may be, catching on to them, things like that.
You’ll notice that a spy or secret agent always has lightning reflexes when the time to act has arrived. This is no preternatural ability; they were simply already aware of what might transpire and had “pre-chambered” their response to it. Any good spy is extremely situationally aware.
More than any other single skill, we should aspire to achieve the same levels of heightened awareness.
Any prepper should know what is going on in the environment around them: what is the baseline of the environment you’re in? Is anyone acting strangely, or suspiciously? Where are the potential danger points, what are the things that can hurt you?
If you’re in a place that you visit regularly, is the “vibe” of the place normal or not normal? If you’re driving down the highway, is your attention fixed doggedly on the bumper of the car right ahead of you, or are you looking a couple hundred yards down the road and checking behind you for any trouble that may await or be catching up to you?
Developing this level of awareness is a lifestyle change, and it does take work, but once you get it it’s as easy as falling out of bed in the morning.
It will become your new normal, your brain will remain in a constant state of relaxed awareness, always sifting and filtering and looking for potential threats and alerting you when it detects something that might not be right.
You will begin to notice what is out of place developing your potential response far ahead of when the threat actually surfaces.
This is the height of proactive preparation: anticipating, recognizing and bracing yourself for threats before they are in your face and too close to avoid.
Learning and implementing what valuable prepping skills you can from spies and intelligence operatives does not make you a wannabe or pretender; it just makes you smart!
Just like real and fictional secret agents, as a concerned citizen you won’t have anyone backing you up, and that means you’ll have to be your own first responder. Study and implement the spy skillsets above to increase your own personal readiness.
Tom Marlowe grew up with a gun in his hand, and has held all kinds of jobs in the gun industry: range safety, sales, instruction and consulting, He has the experience in helping civilian shooters figure out what firearms work best for them.