Surprising Survival Skills Preppers Truly Need

The list of recommended skills for the budding prepper is rather extensive. Wilderness skills, such as shelter building, navigation, food procurement, and fire making are among the first usually stressed to be learned, though I call that practice into question, which is a topic for a later discussion. Homesteading skills, like food storage and rotation, gardening, and raising critters come a bit later, as the student moves from the “prepping for a natural disaster” to a more long-term self-sufficient focus. Mixed in are topics like first aid, self-defense, firearms, and all sorts of other goodies.

That’s all well and good but there are a few others that should be stressed right from the start. Things that are becoming frighteningly difficult to find among people in general but even more so lately in the prepper world. Trust me when I say that these skills will take you far in life, regardless of whether you’re prepping for short-term emergencies, long-term disasters, or just for whatever curve balls life decides to pitch your way.

Reading Comprehension

I have zero facts and figures to back this up but I firmly believe that people today read far more on a daily basis than any generation in the past. I’m not saying recreational reading has dramatically increased, it has probably dipped to depressingly low levels. But, we communicate with one another via text and social media posts far more than we do verbally. In general, we prefer to send a text or private message than calling someone. Hell, more often than not we get annoyed when our phone rings.

As a result, the vast majority of our communication is done via the written (or perhaps that should be typed) word. But, at the same time, it seems as though the reading comprehension ability of the average person has gone into the crapper. I don’t know why that is, either. I mean, you’d think that the more often you practice a skill, the better you’d get at it. I know that’s true of most things. I’m a far better cook today than I was at 15, that’s for sure. Repetition of a skill typically enhances ability over time.

I think part of the problem is overload. We are inundated with words all day long. Emails, blog posts, text messages, private messages via social media, it just never stops. We end up just scanning the material, hitting on a few keywords to decide whether it is worth our time to actually read the entire message or post. Most often, we move on and give no more thought to it. That’s bad enough but what’s worse is the tendency to take a few of those keywords and sort of guess or assume the rest of the message and then comment on it based on that extremely limited understanding. This ends up being comparable to a game of Telephone. We only read half of the message, guess at the rest, and comment on it. Someone reads part of the comment, doesn’t read the original post at all, and shares their thoughts. Doesn’t take long before the original poster is scratching their head and wondering, “I posted a funny story about my cat. How in the hell are they getting chemtrails are evil from that?”

Instead of reading for speed, read for understanding. Before you reply to a message, comment on a post, or share something on social media, take an extra couple of seconds to make sure you fully understand the words in front of you. Read the whole message. If there are parts of it you don’t understand, ask for clarification or look up the words in a dictionary.

Whatever you do, stop just sharing crap when you only have the vaguest sense of the meaning behind it. All it does is make you look foolish.

To put a preparedness spin on this, the ability to read and understand instructions can be life-saving. If you screw up the assembly or use of a water filter, for example, you could end up getting pretty sick. Mess up the instructions on a propane appliance and they might be picking pieces of you out of the trees for a week.


Reading comprehension is, of course, only one aspect of the larger topic of communication. Being able to effectively share your thoughts with another human being is important. How many times has someone gotten pissed at you because they misunderstood what you said? This happens all the time and often it is because we didn’t communicate our thoughts properly. We can point fingers at the other person all we want but the responsibility lies with ourselves to take the time and effort to ensure we’re properly understood.

The problem is that this requires effort and perhaps a little patience. All too often, we just type out a quick message and send it off without even looking at it. Then, we get a response asking us what “duck off and lie” is supposed to mean. I mean, I get it, we’re busy with life and we just don’t have the time to sit and proofread each message or post before we hit Send.

That said, if you aren’t going to take the time to double check your message, you can’t get pissed at someone for misinterpreting it. It goes both ways, y’know?

Tell you something else. If spell check can’t even figure out what you were trying to say, you best slow down and rethink your message. I’ve seen posts on social media that would have to work hard to just rise to the level of gibberish. If you don’t know how to spell the word, don’t use it. Not sure why that rule is so hard to follow.

In all seriousness, the inability to communicate effectively is one of the biggest problems with social media.


I don’t know if gullible is truly the right word, but it seems like far too many people today will just buy into anything that they read, see, or hear. I’m not just talking about mainstream media reports, either. I’ve seen people go to the mat on Facebook, fighting tooth and nail over the most ridiculous nonsense that just a few seconds of rational thought could have dispelled.

There’s a computer term called GIGO – Garbage In, Garbage Out. It refers to the idea that if the input is bad or faulty, so will be the output. To put it another way, incomplete or bad information will lead to faulty decisions.

Some information sources are faulty due to a rush to get information out to their audience, so they fail to vet it properly. Many media companies strive to be the first to break a bit of news, and if it turns out later that they’re wrong, so be it. Some sources embellish or exaggerate stories for the sake of bringing in more viewers. And a few sources intentionally spread knowingly false information in hopes of furthering their perspective on a given topic.

What can you do about all of this? Well, start by using your head for more than just a hat rack. Apply logic and common sense to the articles you read and the videos you watch. Do they pass the smell test? Watch out for confirmation bias. That’s a tendency for people to automatically believe information that seems to agree with or strengthen their point of view regarding a given subject. For example, let’s say there is an election coming up for Mayor in my town, and I really dislike one of the candidates. If I were to read something online that alleges that person flunked out of high school and thus might not be a great candidate, confirmation bias suggests that I’d be likely to believe that story without giving it much thought, even if there is exactly zero proof that it’s true.

I would encourage you to expand the number and variety of information sources you consult regularly. Explore everything from local TV and radio news stations to mainstream media to ham radio, as well as various online outlets.

As you explore these and other available sources, do what you can to vet them for reliability. Pay attention to how often you find the information provided to be correct. Disregard sources that prove to be unreliable. That’s the part many people forget. They get comfortable always turning to certain broadcasters, for instance, and conveniently overlook the number of times that the source got it wrong. Nobody is infallible, but if they’re wrong more often than they’re right, or if they consistently overlook key pieces of information, look elsewhere.

If the information you rely on is faulty, then your decision or plan of action could be sketchy. In a crisis, reliable information is crucial.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *