Are Skills Better than Stuff?

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(Editor’s note: Today I am reposting (with permission) an excellent essay from Jim Cobb’s Survival Weekly Dispatch newsletter. Jim has written several best selling books, available on Amazon. For more of his posts, follow Jim at jimcobbsurvival)

Written by Jim Cobb

Spend more than about 8 seconds in any survival related forum and you’ll hear some variation on this phrase – Skills are better than Stuff. The basic premise at work here is that learning skills is a more valuable investment than buying stuff, which is generally true for several reasons:

–Skills don’t rot or fall apart (though they are perishable and will decline without practice)
–Skills don’t take up storage space at home
–Skills add no weight to the pack

All of that is absolutely correct and if you had to choose between learning a practical skill or buying a new toy, I mean gun-to-your-head can choose only one, then go with the skill every time. But, in the grand scheme of things, today, right now, at this moment, you have the freedom to choose both. There is no reason you can’t acquire stuff while at the same time learning new skills. It isn’t an either/or proposition.

The human race invented tools for a reason. Simply put, they make tasks easier to accomplish. We could hunt around for the appropriate materials to construct a bow drill, then grind out an ember for our fire. Or, we can pull a Bic from our pocket. When true survival is on the line and hypothermia is setting in, being able to a get a fire going quickly could mean life or death.

We could search for birch bark and make a container in which we can boil water to disinfect it for drinking. Or, we can carry a small water filter. Or a steel water bottle if we insist on boiling the water.

I am NOT suggesting there is no value in learning primitive skills. Far from it. That knowledge is tremendously powerful and I encourage all to seek out classes with true professionals who have earned great reputations. If you lose everything, you will have those skills to use.

That said, you might be setting yourself up for failure if you enter into the prepper/survival world with a mindset of eschewing “stuff” because skills are better. Yes, skills are damn important but investing in some “stuff” will make your life easier and will probably increase your chances of making it through a true survival situation.

Learn how to make and use a bow drill and other primitive means of starting a fire. But, still pack a disposable lighter, ferro rod, and other modern implements.

Learn when and how to use signal fires. But, still pack a good whistle, signal mirror, and an extra battery pack for your phone.

Learn how to use snares, deadfalls, and other traps for acquiring food. But, still pack a few granola bars, snacks, and such.

Don’t handicap yourself and instead look for any and all ways to increase your odds of success.

About Jim Cobb:

Jim Cobb has been a prepper since long before that term ever came into use. He’s been studying, practicing, and now teaching survival and preparedness for about 30 years. Jim has written several books on the subject, including Prepper’s Home Defense, Prepper’s Long-Term Survival Guide, and Prepper’s Financial Guide. He the Editor in Chief for both Prepper Survival Guide and Backwoods Survival Guide magazines.

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