Skills vs stuff

In an emergency what will serve you better, skills or stuff?  Are you better off spending your time and money learning new skills and practicing them, or are you better served stockpiling food and tools. To me, the answer is both, but it depends on the emergency and the length of time the emergency lasts as to which will be more useful.  It also depends on if you’re able to stay in your home or location in which your preps are stored – if you can’t access the stuff you’ve prepped, what are you going to do to replace them?

If the emergency is a winter storm that has knocked the power out for a week, well, you’ll be very grateful for the woodstove you got, and having wood already stockpiled will be a great help.  But what if it’s longer than a week?  What if it’s months or years where you’re having to deal with no power?  Well, knowing how to safely cut more firewood will sure help in the second winter after the power goes out.  And knowing how to manage a woodlot will help you even more in the third, fourth, and continuing winters.

A lot of us preppers are somewhat like hoarders, just with very specific hoards.  We pile up food and tools that will get us through an initial or short-term crisis (which is a big plus – if you can’t get through the initial crisis, you certainly won’t be able to handle a long-term SHTF scenario).  But often we don’t think about the realities of long-term living in reduced or completely altered circumstances.

You also need to make some hard decisions about on what you want to stock up.  It does cost money to buy “extra” food, clothes, tools, and/or other supplies.  It can sometimes seem like a waste of money to buy things that you may not ever use (like the hand pump we got for our well) or to have extras of things that you have to cycle through instead of just buying what you need for a week.  There are lots of websites and companies dedicated to offering gadgets and gizmos for your preps, and a whole industry trying to get you to buy gold & silver.  (If a major disaster struck the country maybe in the first couple weeks people might accept gold or silver for food or goods, but let me tell you when they get hungry and cold who would trade good food or warm coats for lumps of metal?  Not I, that’s for certain.  But I digress.) Most of us also do not have unlimited storage space, so we have to decide on what to spend not only our money, but our space.

The nice thing about skills is that they don’t require storage space and usually the only cost to acquire them is time and patience.  You can get tools and accessories, but if I had to leave my whole knitting kit & caboodle – yarns, needles, fiber, etc. – I could find some in other locations.  I could even make a drop spindle if I were very desperate.  It might not be a very good spindle, but I bet I could get yarn out of it if I could find a source of fiber.  Or, I know enough about knitting that I could take an old sweater that was falling apart and reuse the yarn to make a new one in my size.  Neither relies on my having access to my current “stash”.

Then there’s the fact that stored food won’t last forever (not just shelf-life, but it doesn’t magically replace itself).  You might have a couple weeks’ or months’ or even years’ worth of food stashed away, but if the change is severe enough do you know how to grow food to replace what you’ve used?  Growing all your primary foodstuffs is way more complicated than plopping seeds in the ground and picking a tomato or a zucchini off the vine, if you even have seeds. What will you do if you can’t buy new seeds?  What will you do with the food you do grow?  Do you know how to can and preserve?  Do you have the tools (stuff) to do canning and preserving?  If you put up a year’s worth of wheat, but you don’t know how to turn it into flour, or how to bake a loaf of bread, what good is it?

There are so many skills that might come in handy.  Do you know how to repair clothing or shoes in case you can’t get or afford new ones?  Can you repair a car engine?  Can you provide first aid or even more complex medical care?  Do you have the knowledge to make yourself useful to those around you?

We can’t all learn everything and we certainly can’t store everything, so you have to pick and choose.  The criteria I would use to decide which skills to learn are: 1 – is it useful/practical? (I’d rather learn to darn first, then learn to embroider)  2 – is it something that would make me a more valuable member of a team or community?    3 – is it something I enjoy and will practice/use?  If we don’t practice our skills, we don’t really have them as they won’t come naturally to us in an emergency.

So what do you think is more important, skills or stuff?  Which skills/stuff do you think is most critical to prep?


The question of which prep is better, skills or stuff, reminds me of the questions in Leslie Fish’s song Better Than Who?  BTW, if you can find the album Firestorm is one of my favorites and is a must-listen for any prepper.  Black Powder and Alcohol, especially.

About WellieWitch

Wiccan prepper with a small hobby farm, a day job, & a bunch of animals. Blogging about prepping, homesteading, gardening, cooking, chickens, fiber arts, & more.

What do you think? Please leave a comment!