It’s interesting that many of the activities we consider hobbies these days were crucial survival skills in days of old. Once upon a time, if you didn’t hunt, trap, raise animals, garden, preserve food, or cook from scratch, you didn’t eat. Fortunately, these are all activities that can become hobbies and add to our survival skill set, even if our lives don’t depend on them (right now.)
How to use this list of hobbies to improve your survival skills
As I write this article, COVID is still very much a reality. Not to worry! Many items on this list are covid-safe activities or lend themselves well to quarantine. Enjoy them alone, if you wish, or in a group; there’s something for every activity level, age level, and social distancing level. Just choose one that fits your needs!
- Learn archery. Clubs for kids and adults are available or set up a target in your backyard.
- Thrifting at yard and estate sales requires patience and persistence, but it can yield quality gems as well as great deals on camping gear, tools, and more. This printable checklist is a gold mine of all the survival and prepping supplies you might find at yard sales. Where else will you find the egg beaters that grandma used to whirl up some frothy golden goodness or the neglected vintage cast iron that you love back into non-stick silky smoothness?
- Learn to play a musical instrument. Besides adding music to your life, there are a lot of other benefits.
- Astronomy was once instrumental for knowing when to hunt game, and plant and harvest food. Learn how to track the passage of time with the phases of the moon, and determine solstices and equinoxes. Trick question: How did the harvest and hunter’s moons get their names?
- Attend or participate in historical reenactments.
- Food foraging is simply gathering wild food, which I suppose is what I was doing when I picked and ate blackberries from the brambles edging our pastures growing up. Nowadays, I’d want to be sure any blackberries I picked from roadside bushes hadn’t been sprayed with a pesticide or herbicide. Suffice it to say, be sure what you forage is safe to eat.
- Make candles.
- Other than feeling like an uber-cool, super-secret James Bond spy-type, picking locks smashes the illusion of security that locks give us and reinforces the reasons why layers of home security are so important. Here’s a Lock Pick Set with instructions, something to keep you busy, and a sure-to-please gift for any kid or teen!
- Learn to hunt and trap, and also proper field dressing.
- When everyone else has bartered or drunk their way through their alcohol stash, home brewing beer might just make you the most popular person around. That could be could or not so good, depending on your perspective.
- Team sports build teamwork and leadership.
- Gardening is possible whether you have a window sill or acreage, room for a few raised beds in the backyard, or a few containers on your back patio. Start with these tips from a Master Gardener here to grow herbs, fruits, and vegetables. Gardening is rewarding for kids, too!
- Fabricate weapons and learn knapping.
- Knitting and crocheting are hobbies that use different tools and techniques but can make the same types of items. Learn about crocheting here, and this article talks about knitting (and also crocheting, sewing, and quilting!) Find out about budget-friendly methods to acquire yarn, or learn to spin your own. Darning might also be good to practice.
- Acquire skills in carpentry, woodworking, and whittling.
- Quilting is a hobby that keeps you and your family warm and is also a great way to recycle fabrics.
- My Barbies and I sported matching outfits through my toddler years courtesy of my Mom’s sewing skills; sadly, I never learned how to sew. If, like me, you preferred woodshop to home economics, get sewing basics here. If you’re ambitious, try homemade sewing patterns. And don’t forget mending, which will help your clothes last longer.
- Entomology can help you learn which insects are safe to eat and which are best left alone.
- Learn how to cook from scratch and when you can’t get to the store to buy that jar of gravy, you won’t break a sweat. Sauces, dips, and dressings are an easy way to start. Old cookbooks are a great place for from-scratch recipes.
- Learn to use a sewing awl to create and repair goods made from heavy-duty materials like leather and canvas.
- Shooting and marksmanship are good survival skills even if you don’t want to hunt for food right now. Some places offer women’s only firearms classes. And everyone should know gun safety.
- Learn to fish, and also how to clean and cook your catch; otherwise, it’s just a stinky, slimy paperweight.
- Beekeeping is one of those hobbies that keeps on giving. In addition to honey for eating and medicinal purposes, keeping bees provides pollinators for your garden, and beeswax for candles, deodorant, and a base for medicinal ointments.
- Reloading ammunition can potentially save you money or help you keep a stock of older, hard-to-find cartridges.
- Geocaching and its low-tech predecessor, letterboxing, are great family activities that teach navigation skills in the great outdoors. While older kids and adults will appreciate the tech of geocaching, young children will enjoy the creative give and take the comes with letterboxing.
- Hygiene is critical to health, which means soapmaking is a critical skill to possess. Here’s the dirt on how to make basic soap.
- Knot tying as a survival skill is hugely practical for more than just tying shoelaces. Begin with a few of the more versatile ones like the bowline, the hitch, and the double sheet bend, and learn how and when to use them, and then add to your repertoire.
- Orienteering is navigation with a competitive edge. Our family loves participating in these events.
- Hiking and backpacking are great for testing bug-out-bags and 72-hour kits, as well as practicing with equipment. Each trek is an opportunity to refine and improve.
- Learn how to shoot a slingshot.
- Food preservation is how you’ll make sure all that yummy, delicious food you hunt, trap, grow, forage, and acquire at the grocery store is stocked and ready for you and your family when it’s needed. If this is new to you, then check out Survival Mom’s class, Introduction to Food Preservation & Canning, for simple, foundational information to help you get started.
- Make your own paper.
- Signaling is all about how to communicate when typical modes of communication are either not available or not safe to use. Consider mirrors or fresnel lenses, or morse code with blinking or tapping. Kids love this “secret code” type of thing!
- Learn blacksmithing and become the town smithy.
- Off-roading can be a fun, family adventure if you’re prepared for what could go wrong, which is also why it makes it onto this list.
- Learning to safely and legally operate a drone could provide important intel in potentially sketchy situations.
- Practice campfire and dutch oven cooking.
- Train as a weather spotter and when your favorite weather app is unavailable, you’ll still have a pretty good idea of what Mother Nature is planning.
- Add herbal medicine to your first aid repertoire. Here are instructions for three herbal medicine kits.
- Learning about meteorology goes beyond weather spotting. Make or buy a backyard weather station and become an amateur meteorologist.
- Learn how to perform basic vehicle maintenance and repairs.
- Camping is not only a great way to create family memories, but it’s also an ideal circumstance for teaching, practicing, and improving survival skills. Read this to learn more.
- Raise chickens, rabbits, goats, or whatever animals your acreage and zoning allow.
- Get kids involved in 4H and FFA; they’re about a lot more than agriculture.
- Rebuild an engine.
- Throw “hawks” and knives. Tomahawk and knife throwing can be for fun or competitive, and yes, if properly supervised, kids can participate.
- Beef up your handyman prowess so you can tackle basic home repairs.
- Baking and breadmaking are separate skills from cooking and also important to learn to do from scratch.
- If you can’t outrun the zombies, it’s time to add strength and fitness training to your hobbies with a prepper’s plan for getting in shape.
- Read about prepping and survival skills and build a library of reference materials accessible even if technology is not.
- Paintball and airsoft are separate from team sports because they provide a unique combination of skills that meld well with survival scenarios. Yes, they provide opportunities for teamwork but also strategic tactical thinking, camouflage, cover and concealment, shooting skills, and physical conditioning.
- HAM radio, generally regarded as one of the best communication devices for when the SHTF, is relatively easy to get started with.
- Self-defense arts build confidence and peace of mind but require professional training to perform properly.
- Bushcraft and wilderness skills are great hobbies for those wanting to challenge themselves with primitive survivalist tasks.
What else can improve your survival skills?
But you knew I was going to say that, right?
Because even if our lives don’t depend on these hobbies as their alter ego survival skills (right now), practice is the only way we’ll be ready to use them when they do.