Surviving it All

In a short story this month, I’m trying to flesh out the character of a crazy post-apocalyptic survivor. I’ve read many different fictional approaches to end-of-the-world scenarios, as well as non-fiction survivalist literature. Some of my readers may have actually been through survival training.

Writing on this subject made me think: how competent would I be at surviving in a low-tech, hardscrabble world? Could I:

  1. Survive outdoors without tent or sleeping bag? Probably
  2. Survive outdoors in cold weather? Probably.
  3. Use a map & compass to navigate by foot on land? Yes.
  4. Navigate by the stars?
  5. Make rope? Yes.
  6. Blacksmith? Yes.
  7. Make a crossbow and bolts?
  8. Make and use a bow and arrows?
  9. Make and use a slingshot? Make, yes – use, don’t know.
  10. Trap birds or small animals? Probably.
  11. Hunt, shoot and dress big game?
  12. Raise breed and butcher livestock? Probably.
  13. Fish without gear?
  14. Sink a well?
  15. Build a weatherproof shelter? Probably.
  16. Build a latrine and a shower? Yes.
  17. Build a boat? Sail it the direction you want to go? Doubtful on building a seaworthy boat – but I can sail.
  18. Light a fire with flint & steel?
  19. Have a basic knowledge of your region’s botany — poisonous/non poisonous plants & berries?
  20. Plant and maintain a survival garden? Yes.
  21. Make distilled water, soap, or booze? Water & soap.
  22. Preserve food for long term storage without refrigeration? Smoked meat & dried fruit.
  23. Sew, knit, or weave? Yes, all three.
  24. Tan hide and work leather? Basic leatherworking.
  25. Make shoes or boots?
  26. Provide EMT support? Basic first aid & CPR, but nothing advanced.
  27. Have knowledge of herbal medicine or basic pharmaceutical compounding?

I’m not entirely sure I’d be a multi-faceted resource to my post-apocalyptic enclave.

Feel free to chime in with your own answers. Note: Jim, we already know that you can do all of this very capably. Blindfolded, underwater, and bleeding from a gunshot wound. You’re hereby elected community leader.

6 Responses to “Surviving it All”

  1. Hannah Says:

    Interesting list of skills – something to think about, that’s for sure!

    Thanks for the article.

    Hannah @

  2. Tania Says:

    These are the ones that I’m pretty sure I would really suck at.

    Make rope? My weaving sucks. Though I can spin.
    Make a crossbow and bolts? In theory yes. In reality, probably cause an injury.
    Build a boat? Sail it the direction you want to go?
    Light a fire with flint & steel?
    Sew, knit, or weave? I can sew. My knitting sucks, and I know the concepts of weaving, but have limited experience.
    Tan hide and work leather?
    In theory
    Make shoes or boots? If I had materials, maybe.
    Have knowledge of herbal medicine or basic pharmaceutical compounding? I know some, but just enough to keep you from getting poisoned.

    I love things like this. As a kid on the homestead I wanted to learn lots of these things because I’m a big romantic, sentimental sap at heart, you know?

  3. Ilya Says:

    I’ve got a single “Yes” (map/compass) and a handful of “Probably”s. I need to come up with a few reasons why it would be beneficial for others to care for me in a post-apocalyptic world.

  4. Eric Says:

    Well, see, I always figured I could look all that stuff up on the internet if I ever needed any of it.


  5. Bill Says:

    How much of civilization still exists? It’s one thing to blacksmith if you can lay your hands on steel, it’s another to find and smelt iron ore. The same holds true with many of the items on your list.

  6. mattw Says:

    I’ve got a few probablies on that list, but I don’t think there are any yes answers. I’m screwed.