Bug out Bag: Survival Skills

Inspired by my discussion about what I should pack in the bug out bag for protection, it was suggested a bow and arrow would be a great weapon for after civilisation has fallen around your ears. It was of course a great idea, but the key problem was where are you going to get your bow and a constant source of arrows from?

This set me thinking about what skills would be most useful in a survival / fall of civilisation, or even just any emergency where the bug out bag would be required. In this we post look at skills you could learn to help should those days come.

explosion-123690_1920There are many phases to an emergency situation. P1, the initial incident and the immediate survival of the first few days. P2, establishment of a bit of normality after a few weeks. P3, rebuilding of the world. These could apply to many reasons why you could need the bug out bag and the skills you have, or decide to learn in preparation, will and should have an effect on what you carry in the bag, be it tools or supplies etc.

We’re looking at skills here, although some of these are occupations, we’re talking about skills you can pick up which you don’t have, unless you decide to make the ultimate change and move profession. Most will have an impact on multiple phases, so we’ll score their impact in each phase from 1 to 3, with three being the most impact, then we’ll add the scores for each phase up at the end.

If the numbers bore you then just skip past the table and we’ll get back to the discussion.

Skill Category Usefulness in Each Survival Phase Total Score
The First Few Days (P1) Establishing Normality (P2) Rebuilding Civilisation (P3)
Hunting / Fishing Food High High High 9
Foraging Food High High Low 7
Combat Skills Safety High High Medium 8
Mechanics / Engineering Transport (P1-3) / Building (P2-3) High High High 9
Sailing Transport High High Medium 8
Leadership Motivation High High High 9
Navigation Location Medium Medium Low 5
Flying / Piloting Transport High High Medium 8
Climbing Safety High Medium Low 6
Running Transport High Low Low 5
Weapon Making Safety / Food Low High Medium 6
Construction Building Low Medium High 6
Food Preservation Food Medium High 5
Carpentry Building Low High High 7
Soap & Candle Making Comfort Low High 4
Cobbling Safety Low Low High 5
First Aid / Medical Safety High High High 9
Dentistry Comfort Low Medium High 6
Farming Food Low High 4
Distilling Comfort High 3
Potting Comfort High 3


So we have a good range of scores, with lots of high numbers too. Let’s take a closer look at those which scored eight or over, meaning they would be useful is each of the stages of an emergency situation. I propose the key considerations when looking to learning a new skills are:

  • Accessibility. Does it cost lost of money to learn and requires specialist resources
  • Times to learn. We’re talking part time study here, not about changing your occupation in preparation.
  • Other uses. Is it something which can benefit you in everyday life, or is it solely for the dedicated!
  • Bug Out Bag. How does the skill effect what you’re going to carry in the bug out bag. If you’re going to weigh yourself down then it’s a low score.

As with my previous analysis we’ll score each consideration from 1 to 5, with 5 being the best score in the category.

Hunting / Fishingbonding-1868513_1920

Killing game or catching fish. Some call it a sport.

  • Accessibility – In the UK fishing is very accessible with plenty of places to learn and to practice the skill. You’re going to need a lot of patience, but that’s part of the fun. Isn’t it? Hunting on the other hand is available in the UK, but nowhere to the level of countries like the US. The score in this case is based on fishing and we’ve dropped it from the top spot because the kit is a cash sink hole – 4/5
  • Time to Learn – A few trips and I’m sure you can learn the basics, improving each time – 5/5
  • Everyday Benefit – I guess if you like fish and enjoy the hobby it’s got its advantages – 5/5
  • Bug Out Bag – We already have a fishing line and hook, but it’s not going to cut the mustard for long. It’s a low score because the fishing kit it large and cumbersome. The same could be said for hunting.  – 1/5

Score = 15 / 20

Combat Skillskarate-852619_1920

We’re not talking about joining the military, maybe the reserves is an option if you have the time, but there’s plenty of opportunity to learn a martial art like Judo or Karate, or even boxing, if you want to be the mean MF when no one else is going to come to your rescue. In the US we’re talking here about getting a gun and learning how to use it.

  • Accessibility – Open to anyone who has the time and temperament – 5/5
  • Time to Learn – Sources show it would typically take two classes a week for five years to become a black belt in Karate. That’s some time commitment – 2/5
  • Everyday Benefit – A lot of people get great enjoyment out of martial arts and combat sports – 4/5
  • Bug Out Bag – You are the weapon – 5/5

Score = 16 / 20

Mechanics / Engineeringworkshop-2104225_1920

An all-round set of skills which give you the mindset and the mental tools to turn your hand to most problems. Fix cars, build shelters, bridge a deep fissure splitting the ground at your feet. Essential skills when it all goes wrong. I should know 🙂

  • Accessibility – Mechanical and engineering skills can be taught, but it’s also about having a mindset to want to understand how things work and then using your skills to explore. No matter your specific discipline, most engineers can turn their hands to most engineering problems – 4/5
  • Time to Learn – Four to five years of university or the same for an apprenticeship, depending on the discipline, plus there’s a lifetime of experience to gain. It’s not a quick one – 1/5
  • Everyday Benefit – Fix stuff and have a great job at the same time. There’s no downside, right? – 5/5
  • Bug Out Bag – A limited set of generic tools would be worth bringing along, but they’re heavy, however you’re already carrying the best item in the tool kit, your mind – 4/5

Score = 14 / 20


Jumping on a boat and getting the heck out of dodge does have a lot of advantages, or maybe you can ferry supplies from somewhere where the ground isn’t alight!

  • Accessibility – As an island nation, it’s pretty easy to find somewhere to learn how to sail and if you have pockets stuffed full of cash then you can keep your escape route in a secure boat shed just down the road. If not then it will take a could spend to get your skills up to par – 2/5
  • Time to Learn – You can learn the basics of sailing in a short course, but piloting a boat takes years of experience. You should start hanging around the coast in bars where the fishermen frequent and maybe they’ll let you take their livelihood out for a spin? – 2/5
  • Everyday Benefit – You get to sail a boat. Great for holidays, but unless you decide it’s a pirate’s life for you then it’s not going to be a great boon to your live – 1/5
  • Bug Out Bag – The boat won’t fit in the bag, maybe a life jacket, but I guess that should already be on the boat – 5/5

Score = 10 / 20


Why do you need the specialist skills to survive when you can just find other people and lead them to do it for you. People will be looking for someone to take charge. Are you up for the job? Can you inspire them to follow you? Can you make the decisions which could mean the difference between life and death?

  • Accessibility – Can you train to be a leader? I guess those guys who run leadership courses think so. The best route would be to do this through your job, tell the boss you want to be his boss eventually. Go on, give it a go – 3/5
  • Time to Learn – Again it’s experience which is going to be the key and it’ll take years to read the books, let alone to get the right tone to your voice – 2/5
  • Everyday Benefit – Get people to do what you want? Is that how it works? If it’s your job then being a great leader can give you a fast route to the top – 5/5
  • Bug Out Bag – Get someone else to carry the bag! – 6/5

Score = 16 / 20

Flying / Pilotinggirl-424918_1920

Like sailing, but with more cool. Slightly more difficult to find planes lying around, but you can get away quicker and further away, leaving the poor saps who can’t fly to deal with what you leave behind!

  • Accessibility – Like with sailing but much, much more expensive – 1/5
  • Time to Learn – Same again, but at least you get a licence if you can pass the test – 2/5
  • Everyday Benefit – Change jobs, or just get to places quicker than all your friends, plus you won’t be lying next time you use your usual chat up line – 3/5
  • Bug Out Bag – There’s always room for aviator glasses  – 5/5

Score = 11 / 20

First Aid / Medicalinjury-903342_1920

I know I’d want to be around someone who could save my life, who could squeeze the puss out of the infected spot. Wouldn’t you? Combine this with herbalism and you might have found you’ll be everyone’s new best friend.

  • Accessibility – First aid classes are easy to book, but for real usefulness we’re talking next level. More advanced skills are what we need, like those of a nurse, or a paramedic maybe, a GP would be the best. It all depends on how much time you want to put in. An excellent route for those not wanting to leave their job and go to university for the foreseeable future would be to join a volunteer ambulance service, like St John’s Ambulance Service here in the UK – 2/5
  • Time to Learn – Depending on the route you want to take, you can be up and running within a few months, but you won’t be performing open heart surgery for a good few years yet – 3/5
  • Everyday Benefit – You can save someone’s life before the world goes to the wall – 5/5
  • Bug Out Bag – You might need to bolster your first aid kit, but you’ll have to leave the defibrillator at home – 4/5

Score = 14 / 25


So the scores are in and summarised below:

  • Combat Skills – 16
  • Leadership – 16
  • Hunting / Fishing – 15
  • Mechanics / Engineering – 14
  • First Aid / Medical – 14
  • Flying / Piloting – 11
  • Sailing – 10

And the winning skill is….

With not much between the top five skills you’ve got a range to choose from and if you’re lucky enough to already have one or more of those skills then you need to decide if you want to rest on your laurels and sit back or learn another skill which will complement what you already have.

Combination Skillswoman-2209887_1920

As you can see the ability to use a bow and arrow wasn’t specifically addressed and that’s because it would take a combination of skills, three in fact, to make this a sustainable choice. You would need to first be able to make your own bows (becoming a bowyer), then make your own arrows, (a fletcher) and then acquire the ability to use those tools for hunting, or your own defence. However if you did, I’m pretty sure the combined skill would easily top the list.

There are many other of the skills we first discussed when combined together make potent combinations and I’m sure you can think of a few.

Thanks for taking the time to read and if you disagree with my conclusion or if I’ve missed an awesome skill then let me know in the comments.

In the End

What if you woke to find the electricity off, the internet down and the streets deserted? What if you were forced to run for your life, no longer top of the food chain? What if the government had no interest in keeping you alive, but you’d found a reason to struggle on, a new meaning to this life, those around every corner intent on hunting you down?

Could you survive the end of civilisation?

Meet Logan. That’s me. The first to believe the world had changed forever. The first to urge our friends to run. The first to kill, but not the first victim. I was the first to see for myself as nature bent before my eyes. With death surrounding, getting ever closer, they looked to me for answers.

This is my story.



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