Valuable SHTF Skills to Learn

Although we like to focus on practical skills to keep you alive after an emergency, there are other skills that sortof fall in-between practical for survival and practical for barter with others. Although most think of barter as being reserved for a Mad Max style world, in truth any disaster that lasts for more than a few weeks will probably cause a moderate barter economy to spring up, and skills are among the best things to trade since you never really “lose” them even when they’re traded. Of course there are different skills that could be useful depending on the kind of disaster you find yourself in, but generally speaking there are certain skills that will almost always be in demand. We’re going to take a look at some of these today, so that you can see which ones might be worth spending some time to learn!

What Makes a Useful Disaster Skill?

Since I obviously can’t list them all, let’s look at a few criteria for a useful post-disaster skill:

  • It can be done without electricity. An obvious one, but don’t discount skills that toe the line in this regard either. Construction, for example, can be done 100% manually but that’s no reason not to learn how to use a power drill and a table saw as well.
  • It helps people survive. Most medical skills fall under this category, but so do welding, construction, and gardening skills. Anything that helps someone who is lacking in preparations beforehand get back on their feet rather than leeching off of community stores is a major benefit.
  • It makes people more comfortable. Being able to setup a gravity-fed shower with a few 2x4s and some PVC could be worth its weight in gold to someone who’s been unable to wash for a few days.
  • It’s flexible and inventive. Obviously medical knowledge is useful for almost any injury to at least see what the problem is, but many construction or gardening-type skills allow you to use garbage and waste products for valuable uses. Broken wood, bent metal, all can be used to help improve the lives of others for the right price!
  • It requires experience or time to learn it well. Things like using a firearm for security can actually take some time to learn, which means that in most short-term disasters even those skills may be in high demand.

Some Examples of Profitable Skills to Have After a Disaster

Construction and Home Repair

Whether it’s repairing a roof after a hurricane to keep the rain out or building a frame for a new house, construction skills will be sorely needed after most disasters. Your location may determine what kind of construction skills to focus on: In a suburb you may need to be able to repair houses complete with window replacement, roof repair, or even rebuilding a collapsing wall while the country may require you to build loafing sheds or animal pens.

shed building

Welding and Metalworking

After working with wood comes working with metal, and welding allows you to build and repair many useful things. If you have an interest in older-style things, you might even take up blacksmithing in order to build shovels or shoe local horses. Better still, sufficient skill might permit you to reuse scrap metal and turn it into something useful which maximizes your resources.

welding skill

Sewing and Textile-making

I can pretty much guarantee that most disasters will require the services of a competent sewer to repair clothes. Working all day wears out clothing designed for easy day wear, and not being able to wash them as frequently lets sweat work at destroying the fibers. Plus, much like a metalworker you would be able to use scrap cloth to make new quilts, socks, hats, pillowcases, and a variety of other needed clothing.

HAM Operating (Amateur Radio)

News is as valuable as food for keeping madness at bay, particularly for people like us who are used to 24/7 constant info streaming. Having a HAM stream to provide news might not provide you with actual goods, but it would certainly endear you to the community in a way even medical supplies and food might not. It may also be helpful in coordinating emergency response teams and other local towns, which can only be a benefit.

Brewing, Grinding, and Crushing Foodstuffs

It would probably surprise use to think of how many foods we eat require milling or grinding before they can be used. Whether you’re selling your services to crush hops for alcohol or grinding wheat for flour, I imagine you would always have a steady stream of customers looking to trade for this valuable service.

Listen to the following podcast on homebrewing. After a nice Ramones intro you will be set up with all the info you need to start brewing your own beers. This part is about Ale brewing. >> Podcast

Midwifery…for People and Animals

Obviously anyone pregnant during a turbulent time is already going to be worried when they’re not in a hospital and giving birth “the normal way”, so having a properly trained midwife on hand could make a real difference for mother and child. Animals won’t care so much, but a skilled hand to help difficult births is still very desirable and may help keep valuable livestock from dying at birth.

Local, Fertilizer Limited Gardening Advice

Although you may be fortunate enough to get some food in the ground and fertilize it for a season, if the disaster lasts any longer than that you’ll be stuck going organic whether you want to our not. Knowing how to compost properly without introducing disease-causing substances, how to plant seeds and when, and how to care for a variety of garden plants could help others get on their feet once their pantry goes empty.


Firefighting and/or Home Security

I listed these together because traditionally those are handled by “Services” of some kind, but in a disaster might be left up to the Average Joe. Although you might not be able to keep a store or home secure or save one from a fire by yourself, you could become a teacher and leader for a volunteer squad.

Medical Care for Wounds and Diseases

This is the realm of the nurse, the doctor, the surgeon, and the EMT. It requires some fortitude and a willingness to learn, but at the same time it can literally be a lifesaver and make you an incredible value to the community. If you have these skills already, try to learn how to teach others what you know so that you can spread your experience out a bit. In a disaster, this may be a way to reduce an overwhelming workload without dumping patients into the hands of people who don’t know what they’re doing.

Health Maintenance

These are your dentists, nutritional advisers, and physical therapists. Aside from dentist, some of these may seem a little much for subsistence life after a disaster but in truth they are quite useful as well. Although you may not have people trying to figure out how to lose weight or ease their aching back as much, the advice those professions give could prevent someone from going lame or cure someone suffering from malnutrition.

And these are just a few of the potential skills that could be useful in the event of a disaster. I recommend having at least a working knowledge of several of these, so that you will always have some needed skill that you can trade to others for goods and services.

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