30 Survival Skills Everyone Had 100 Years Ago That Will Help You Today

As we get engulfed more and more by this modern world, I wanted to review 30 survival skills that might have been lost in the last 100 years and what they meant for survival. Only a few individuals are still holding onto such skills and passing them on becomes difficult.

Although we live in a digital era and there are a lot of books providing information about the survival skills of our grandparents, I feel we aren’t celebrating their legacy enough. Most of these survival skills provide us with warmth, comfort, food and the knowledge to use sustainable resources in an environment that allows us to be ourselves. And yet, kids no longer learn about the old ways of living. They are handed everything they need and the system doesn’t allow room for self-sufficiency or off-grid living.

I wish these survival skills would be passed on and I consider them as part of my own “bucket list” of survival skills. People should stop for a minute and look back at the old ways of doing things since this world we live in doesn’t provide us with opportunities to discover our real potential. If you’re spoon-fed continuously, you will never completely understand what you’re capable of and if you could survive when this modern society falls.

30 Survival Skills Everyone Had 50 Years Ago - Using Natural Cordage

30 survival kills everyone knew 100 years ago:

1. Light a fire with the bow drill technique.

This has to be the absolute skill of bushcraft and it requires a lot of practice to master it. You need to have the proper stance, the right materials and you have to learn how to read your powder. However, when you have mastered this skill, it is something that is immensely rewarding. So much so that you will want to use it whenever you can.

2. Building the right shelter for the appropriate environment.

People back then didn’t rely on Gore-Tex and all sorts of high-tech materials to stay warm. They had to use their knowledge and survival skills. Tents weren’t as complicated as they are today and few could afford them. You had to learn about the vast variety of shelters you could make for your environment during the different seasons. They experimented with various designs and their long-term shelters allowed them to cook, eat and sleep inside. Check out our shelter building guide for when you have no equipment here.

3. Start a fire under any conditions.

The wilderness environment has its own set of rules. Having the ability to start a fire when the odds are against you, meant the difference between life and death. Nature doesn’t play by your rules and it’s neutral to your sufferance or your survival skills. It may provide you with the resources to survive, but you need to carry emergency fire lighting equipment with you and know how to use it.

30 Survival Skills of our grandparents - Start a fire

4. Learning to use an ax.

If you spend a lot of time in the wilderness, an ax is one of the most satisfying tools to have and use. However, it is also a dangerous tool in the wrong hands and it can become lethal. Learning how to use an ax requires proper training and not only from books. Even more, you need to learn how to look after it as it may become your primary survival tool. Check out how to choose an axe and use it safe and effectively in this guide.

5. Calculate your position using the sun and stars.

You can calculate your longitude and latitude with a simple solar compass, the angle of the North Star and an equation of timetable.

6. Finding North without a compass.

You can find your sense of direction by learning the path of celestial objects, but also by paying attention to what’s on the ground. The shapes, shadows, sound and natural formation can all be used for various natural navigation techniques.

7. Navigate using a map and compass.

Long before the invention of the GPS, people were teaching their kids how to navigate by using a map and compass. This is the cornerstone of wilderness travel. Learning how to follow a compass bearing was one of the survival skills passed on from one generation to another. You can learn more on how to use a map properly here.

8. Provide food for yourself.

This should be on every survival skills list and it requires all your concentration. It brings together all your fieldcraft, tracking, hunting, and practical skills. It doesn’t matter if you hunt and fish for meat or if you forage for edible plants. This is one of the survival skills that is hard, both physically and emotionally. Failure is more present than success for this one and you should at least know the ten survival hunting essentials.

9. Make water safe to drink.

Drinking dirty water from an unknown environment can get you very sick. Back then Lifestraw filters were an unimaginable option and making water safe to drink was an essential survival skill. Boiling your water is one of the most common ways of making water ok to drink, but of course, you will have to filter the sediment out of it first! Thre are various ways to kill water contaminants in the field as you will see in this guide.

10. Build and understand the right type of fire.

Making the right type of fire is more than creating the essential heat source. You must consider the use, the duration and other various particularities of fire-making. When it comes to survival skills, you should master how to make more than one type of fire. This step by step guide will show you what type of fires you can make in the wilderness and all the uses for them.

11. Using a flint and steel.

Creating sparks with a flint and steel to start a fire may seem like a no-brainer for some, but things are never that simple. You must first make sure you have a good quality steel striker and a good sharp edge to your flint. You need a downward motion to shave off tiny shards of iron from your steel that combust and hopefully, will ignite your tinder.

12. Tracking

Our forefathers used many survival skills to subsist. Tracking or “reading sign” is one of the ancient skills they left us. Tracking requires a keen sense of observation and it involves looking for deviation in the way things are supposed to look in their natural environment. If you spot something that seems out of place, you should stop and examine it further. If you want to lern more about tracking, make sure to read this article.

30 Survival Skills of our grandparents - Tracking

13. Move silently.

Although we now live in an environment controlled by speed and noise, learning to move quietly to observe the world around you is one of the survival skills often overlooked. If you need to hunt or if you have to travel undetected, you should learn how to move without disturbing the environment around you and attract attention on yourself. Stalking is an art and mastering this skills will help you move undetected. For more information on stalking, check this source.

14. Make a snare.

This is one of the survival skills that our grandparents learned to master. It helped them catch small game, but also to get rid of rodents and other pests. Start with Youtube videos and practice every time you get the chance. Using snares for food and defense can make the difference between life and death for the keen survivalist. Trappers have known about snares for generations, but today’s technology has pulled the snare out of the dark ages and turned it into a finely tuned instrument. This article will teach you everything you need to know about snares.

15. How to prepare a mammal.

Every hunter knows that game preparation is an essential skill as you might not have the luxury of keeping your prey in proper condition. In the field, most mammal preparation is very similar; it’s mostly a matter of scale.

Self-feeding fire

16. Using animal tendons.

This is one of the survival skills left to us by the Native Americans. Using as much as possible of the animal was a way of showing respect to nature and the animal itself. Sinew makes a sturdy binding and it was used when cordage was not available.

17. Fishing.

When it comes to survival skills, fishing is seen mostly as a hobby due to all these modern fishing tools that make life easier for us. However, improvised fishing is another thing altogether. Once you struggle with improvising bait, setting up the line and playing the waiting game, you will indeed discover what survival fishing is all about.

When being prepared for the unexpected, you must assume that you won’t always have access to your facny fishing gear. You would need to use low-tech ways of catching a fish and once again, improvisation and primitive skills are the key. You can check this straight-forward guide to improvised fishing to learn more.

18. Using fish traps.

While visiting a friend in the UK, I had the pleasure of seeing him build some fish traps, following the know-how he acquired during a survival course. As he puts it, using fish traps is a labor-intensive method of obtaining fish. You need to build the trap, place it in the right spot and wait. But on the other hand, you can’t go wrong with this method if you traditional fishing is not for you. Here are some of the methods you can adopt to catch fish without a fishing pole in a survival scenario. It will help you supplement your meal of wild fruits and berries.

30 Survival Skills of our grandparents - Fish trap

19. How to prepare a fish.

Knowing how to fillet a fish and how to use the guts and all the other parts as bait or for other purposes is becoming a forgotten skill. If you catch your fish in the wilderness, you need to know how to prepare it and how to make the most of it. Cooking the fish you caught is also a pleasant experience, but there are a few things one needs to know before feasting. To be on the safe side, you should be able to remove pollution and contamination in the fish you catch. This guide will show you how to do it.

20. How to prepare a bird.

This is one of the survival skills that you need to master. You have much better chances of trapping or hunting birds rather than big game. The young generations fail to make the connection between a chicken and their KFC meal, but there are still some people out there who can remove the meat from a bird using just the hands.

21. Improvised cooking.

During wartime or a natural disaster, food shortages and lack of natural gas or electricity for cooking require a great deal of improvisation. You will have to rely on your survival skills and upon back-to-basics cooking techniques used by your forefathers in order to survive. You may be on the move without a vehicle or pack animals to carry heavy cooking vessels like cast iron skillets and dutch ovens. In certain cases you can get separated from your well-stocked rucksack.

There are all sorts of scenarios that will force you rely on improvised cooking. When that time comes, this guide will come in handy.

22. Make a variety of cordage.

This is another one of the survival skills we lost to history. Few people know that you can make string from stinging nettle or longer fibers. It’s not a complicated skill once you understand and master the learning curve. This article will teach you how easy it is to make rope from plants.

23. Learning different knots.

While there are entire books on how to make various knots, in order to have a good start on your survival skills, you should learn by making the clove hitch. Go further with a couple of tensioning knots for tarps, the figure eight, bowline, the timber hitch and prusik knot.

24. Identify the right tree for your needs.

When it comes to tree identification, you should start locally. Learn which trees are useful for your needs and which could be dangerous if not handled properly. Start by paying attention to the general shape of the tree, the leaf structure and growth pattern. The bark details will also help you remember trees easily and establish their uses. For a tree to serve its purpose as a survival tool, it needs to be common and widespread, but also useful. Some species have more uses than others while others occur more commonly in the environment you will explore. Here is an article covering the most worthwhile North American species to learn about.

25. Plant knowledge.

As with trees, being able to tell plants apart will provide you with both food and medicine in the wilderness. Foraging includes not only using the plant but also being ready to transplant it or protect it for future generations. Since the dawn of time, humans managed to survive with what nature had to offer.  You may not have the skills for catching animals and be a good hunter, but you can still be a successful gatherer. To make sure you won’t get poisoned or worse, I advise you to check this source for safe foraging during a survival scenario.

26. Making glues.

Making glue in the wilderness can be as simple as mixing pine resin with a bit of beeswax. This is another one of the survival skills that would have been lost to time if it wasn’t for survivalists and bushcraft enthusiasts keeping it alive.

27. Drill a hole without electricity.

The pump drill was often used to drill holes and this technique has been used for almost everything. Although it can be difficult to master by beginners, once you spend enough time with it, you will be able to use it when there is no electricity. The lack of electrical power is a big concern for most preppers. We simply cannoy imagine our lives without te appliances we were programed to use every day. Few people know what to do when there is no electricity and for them, it’s like a trip back in time, when things were much simpler.

When everything was done by hand in the past, people were able to enjoy the individual quality and gain satisfaction from goods produced by them. That feeling is long gone now and we are being handed everything we need by big chain stores and corporations. However, there are ways to handle your every day tasks without being dependent on electricty. Check this article for more info.

30 Survival Skills of our grandparents - Manual Drill

28. Wilderness first aid.

As long as you look after yourself in an unknown environment, you should be able to prevent accidents and medical emergencies from happening. However, the more you are out, the higher the chance of getting injured or ill. Having first aid training should be basic knowledge for today’s generations, but you can take things even further. If you want to become a real survivalist, you should attend to a wilderness first aid course. You will be able to learn how to treat various medical emergencies, but most importantly, you will learn how to improvise when resources are scarce.

Survival MD

29. Training yourself mentally and physically.

Our ancestors had the right type of fitness and a positive mental attitude that is hard to find these days. All because living and working outside makes it tough on you and teaches you to appreciate things more. Today’s life has made it easy to live comfortably. When you are in the wild, those comforts are not available. Therefore, you should take some time to learn how to cope with the mental and physical stress that you would have to face if the worst happens.

The current approach to survival training with a few notable exceptions is to focus on the physical skills and deal with the psychological aspects in a secondary manner. I wrote a guide on how to cope with stress in a survival situation.

30. Respect nature.

I’ve always heard people say that if the brown stuff hits the fan, they will hunt and fish or get anything they require from nature. While this is true for certain cases, the vast majority of people are trained only to consume. We are already destroying nature at a fast pace right now when we have all the things we could want. Imagine what would happen if people become desperate for food or wood to cook their food or heat their homes. Our grandparents learned that you couldn’t exploit nature without consequences, but what about us?


The survival skills listed here are more of a personal reflection of what the teachings of my grandparents offered me. We live in a world that changes at such a rapid pace; it is easy to see why most people forgot about the old ways of living. I honestly think we should take a step back and look at how people back then lived and see what’s left of their legacy. Maybe then we will start living life again.

Other Self-sufficiency and Preparedness solutions you may like:

US Water Revolution ( A DIY Project to Generate Clean Water Anywhere)

The LOST WAYS (The vital self-sufficiency lessons our great grand-fathers left us)

Bullet Proof Home (Learn how to Safeguard your Home)

Blackout USA (Video about EMP survival and preparedness guide)







6 thoughts on “30 Survival Skills Everyone Had 100 Years Ago That Will Help You Today”

  1. You have skills that are useful.Today A lot of people who grew up in the city or did not think survival skills would be something they would need will be in big trouble if they need to survive without modern technoligy,and their life will be in danger.I was fortunate,my family and neighbors were taught how to survive and live off the land if need be and they taught us.In those days you learned by just growing up in that time period.I did not realise it then but growing up was an education that in the end was the best you could get

  2. This is a great list of skills that are dying out. A great and useful tool would be links to other articles or videos, etc. for each skill to help people research and, later, reference these skills for practice. Still, thanks for the list, it definitely made me think

  3. We are in the days of plotting and plodding.(Learning things we need to probably know to survive.) Later, we will be plotting what we are learning now to get by, as we plod along again.
    We Americans are the poor and cast-offs, that are inventive and creative. Remember, we were the ones to start the National Park idea, and though dark days lay ahead, those who are prepared and that call upon the name of the
    Lord, as our forefathers, we will be saved.
    Soon it will be, see you on the other side!

  4. Are you Serious? I was 10 years old 50 years ago, and nobody other than my Scoutmaster knew ANY of those things . . . maybe you’re thinking of 100 years ago. But 1966 was just a sheltered as today, with nobody knowing crap about surviving. Really. It’s all good stuff to know. But this knowledge was lost a long time ago . . .

  5. The world is in such turmoil nowadays and it’s anybody’s guess what comes in2-6 months. Someone could offer survival offline classes at a retreat or camp for an affordable fee and yet gain some income.

    Addendum: Maybe in 1966 Scoutmasters were the ones with the data, but it was accessible and smart parents signed their kids up for scouts to learn some of these things. However, in 1966 people knew how to sew without a machine, how to cook and bake from scratch (now called being a chef, or gourmet or some other nonsense), how to repair things around their property themselves like plumbing, dryers, roofs, etc.

    People nowadays live in the fast food world. It’s really up to the adults to give the youngers a reason to excel in these type of craft. Since many of them play those online games – why not make it a game to get them to learn offline some of the things their player character does online – like start a campfire? Let’s get creative and not knock each other. Look at Syria, those folks have to fend for themselves – could you?

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