If you’ve made it far enough in life to be reading this, then you’re already aware that you can’t simply make it through life by existing. Not so long as you want to squeeze some real value out of the world around you or contribute in any kind of meaningful way. That being said, nobody is an expert on all things – even if they act like it. So long as you walk this Earth, there is always something to be learned.
But rather than fumbling around trying to figure out what’s of value and what isn’t in regards to educational prospects, you can focus on a few indispensable competencies that we believe every red-blooded male should have in their arsenal. From basic survival; to buying, dressing, and mending clothing; to catching, preparing, and cooking your own food; and everything in-between – these are the 50 skills that every single man should know. So, man up and get schooled.
1. Basic Carpentry
Carpentry is one of humanity’s oldest skills. In fact, it’s one of the reasons civilization even exists as we know it. And it has survived thousands of years to still be in use today. Now, we’re not suggesting that every man should be able to build a house from the ground up, but some general practices are definitely worth stashing away in your bank of skills. For example, knowing how to saw wood and use power tools, soundly nail or screw furniture together, and build something – even as basic as a single shelf – can come in handy if you ever want to be creative or helpful around the house.
2. Basic First Aid
Apart from perhaps finding water, basic first aid is probably the most important survival skill to have in anyone’s repertoire. Now, it’s not something you’re going to need every day – or even every other day – but it can mean certain death if you don’t have a grasp on how to clean and dress a wound when you need to. Just remember, knowing first aid also means knowing your limits. If you’re not a doctor, you probably shouldn’t try to set a broken bone. Because you might end up breaking it more or, in the worst case, sever blood vessels with the broken bone and increase the risk of death tenfold.
3. Build A Campfire
Being able to build a proper campfire is an excellent skill to have whether you’re in a survival situation or you just like to go camping now and again. The trick to building a good campfire is realizing that oxygen is an important part of fueling a flame. You can’t simply light a stack of wood on fire. You need to give the fire room to breathe. You also need to know what kinds of wood to use (for instance, freshly cut branches will likely be too wet to burn) and that building a fire is sometimes a slow process when done right. You don’t just spray a bunch of lighter fluid onto a stack of logs and toss a match – you coax the fire to life and feed it slowly to get the most out of it.
4. Build A Shelter
Hopefully you never find yourself in a situation where you need to sleep in the wilderness unexpectedly. But, if you do, you’ll probably need to know how to put together a survival shelter. Not only will a simple structure help protect you from the elements – it’ll also help ward off and/or keep you safe from wandering animals. Just remember: you’re not just pitching a tent – you also need to pay attention to the area you’re building in, because river beds, watering holes, and migration trails can all increase the area’s danger.
5. Buy A Suit
You’d think that something like buying a suit would be as easy as walking into your local shop and asking for help. But, you’d be wrong. Buying a good suit is a lot more like buying a car than it is like purchasing casual apparel. Not only do you need to be able to differentiate styles based on for what you need it, but you also have to be able to discern between good deals and rip-offs. Furthermore, you’ll want to get yourself sized by a reputable tailor beforehand and get the suit you choose trimmed to fit your body perfectly. That way, you can go to that interview, wedding, or whatever other formal event in style.
6. Catch A Fish
So the saying goes, “Give a man a fish and he eats for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.” It’s sort of a cheesy cliche, but it’s true. Fishing is an indispensable means by which to gather lean protein whether you’re at the river, stuck on a desert island, or you just enjoy eating sushi. It’s also a great way to kick back and relax during the nicer days of the year. There are also several means by which to catch a fish, so – if you can – see if you can pick up on a few of them and you’ll be better off for it.
7. Change A Tire
Statistically speaking, you’re going to end up with at least one flat tire in your lifetime if you drive a car daily. It’s pretty much an inevitability. That’s why many motor vehicles include a spare tire in the trunk or mounted to the back. In the case that you do get a flat, you should know how to swap out the flat for the spare. It’ll save you time waiting for someone else to come and help you – that is, if there’s anyone coming at all. You see, if you get a flat out in the middle of nowhere, you’ll probably be on your own. And you don’t want to have to walk the rest of the way, do you?
8. Change Your Oil
Obviously not as pressing as changing a tire, changing your oil is arguably more important. You can get a new tire for relatively cheap if you get a flat. If you don’t regularly change your oil, your entire engine might break and it will be way more expensive to change. Pro tip: learning to change your own oil, while a bit more time consuming, is far cheaper than having a shop do it. Sure, you might not want to do it yourself all the time, but you can save some scratch and learn something valuable in the process if you take the time to do it yourself.
9. Compose A Photograph
Point and shoot, right? Well, not exactly. Taking a good photo requires a lot more consideration than just aiming your camera and clicking. If you want to take the best shots, you have to consider everything from the position of the subject relative to the background, to depth of field, to lighting, and more. Even if you’re just snapping photos for a family album, a well-shot photo can make the difference between something worth putting on your coffee table and something you want to hide away forever.
As an extension of basic first aid, CPR is on the more complicated side. Part of that is because it requires you to take the life of another into your hands. But it’s also an ever-evolving practice. CPR from 20 years ago is vastly different to the methods they teach now because of research and practice. It’s also a skill that people forget, as they don’t have to use it often. Even if you once learned CPR, it’s probably time for a refresher. Remember, it can mean the difference between life and death.
11. Craft A Cocktail
Whiskey and coke doesn’t count as a real cocktail. Sorry, but its true. A real alcoholic libation requires a bit more effort and balance, both in the ingredients and in the amounts used. We are firm believers that if you want to get the most out of your drinking experience – especially if you have dreams of owning a killer home bar – you need to know how to make at least a few really good cocktails. You can start small, like with old fashioneds and sazeracs, but we’d like to suggest you build an entire recipe book worth. The company you invite over will appreciate it; trust us.
12. Critical Thinking/Situational Awareness
This is one of those things that’s easier said than done. It’s also very hard to teach. Still, if you take a little extra time to pay attention to the world that surrounds you and you focus on repeating this behavior, you can better master both your own life and learn how to manage your environment to better suit you. This is also one of those skills that will make you more adept at literally all of the others on this list.
Neither bobbing your head nor going full Elaine Benes counts as dancing. And, though you might not think so, dancing comes up more in our society than some of us would like to believe. Especially at special occasions – like weddings. Don’t be a stick in the mud; learn at least one partner dance and you can take your best gal out for a night on the town without embarrassing both her and yourself.
14. Deal And Play Cards
We suggest that everyone take a trip to Las Vegas at least once in their lifetime. And a big part of that is because you can gamble on card games. Even if you don’t ever make it out to Sin City, it’s still nice to be able to play a few hands with friends. There are a lot of games out there to be learned, but you can bet that you’ll at least run into the Texas Hold’em and 5- or 7-Card Stud variations on Poker and Blackjack. And don’t ever underestimate how fun a good game of Gin Rummy can be.
15. Dress For The Occasion
Don’t wear denim to a black-tie event. Don’t wear a penguin tuxedo to a garden party. Don’t wear your favorite band’s tour t-shirt to a job interview. Sure, these seem like they go without saying, but they’re extreme examples. Dressing properly for the occasion is a fine art and can sometimes require some guess and check, but it goes a long way to at least seem like you’ve got the right idea.
16. Drive In Bad Weather
Every single part of the world that has roads experiences some version of bad weather – whether that’s torrential rain, blizzards, or even windstorms. Defensive driving doesn’t just apply to the other drivers on the road, it also means knowing how to drive in whatever conditions you find yourself in. Some of the tips are simple – like, don’t slam on your brakes when you hydroplane or be wary of overcorrecting in high-winds – but they’re harder in practice because bad weather can be a bit scary. Be ready and you can save yourself and your car from damage.
17. Drive Stick Shift
With the way things are headed, you’d think that stick shift was dying off. But, you’d be wrong. In fact, it doesn’t look like its going anywhere – thanks, in part, to hardcore car enthusiasts. If you’ve never driven stick shift, let us be the first to tell you that it is a far more rewarding experience than automatic can or ever will be. You feel more connected to your vehicle and, by proxy, more in-tune with the road – or race track. Plus, it helps you stay off your cell phone, since you shouldn’t be texting while driving anyway.
18. Drive With A Trailer
Maybe you need to move a few things from your home to a storage unit. Maybe you want to take a cross-country trip with an Airstream hitched to your pickup truck. Either way, you should know that driving with a trailer is very different from driving just a car or truck alone. And by different, we mean more difficult. Familiarize yourself with the practice and you can avoid both embarrassment and accidents.
19. Fell A Tree
To cut down a tree, you just hack away at the trunk with an axe until it begins to tip and yell “timber!” right? Wrong. Cutting down a tree is a bit more scientific than that. With proper technique, not only can you ensure that the task is easier, but you can actually choose the direction in which the tree falls. And that makes it both safer and more convenient.
20. Find And Purify Water
Inarguably the most important survival skill any person can develop is this one. Because, when lost in the wilderness, you can potentially live for weeks without food, but die in mere minutes without hydration. Learn the signs that can help point you to water and it can save your life. If you develop this skill, you will also be aware of where and when to avoid water. Why? Well, for starters, stagnant water can be rife with disease. And, if it makes you throw up, you’ll be more dehydrated than before.
21. Fix A Leak
The leaky faucet is a pretty popular television and movie trope. And that’s probably because it’s very relatable. A leak in your pipes can be annoying. But, more than that, it’s wasteful and potentially damaging to your place of residence. Calling a plumber, however, can be costly. Save yourself the time and frustration by picking up this skill yourself. And maybe get a set of tools while you’re at it.
This might sound odd, but – historically speaking – gardening was a man’s game. If you trace back the practice to the origins of humanity, most of the first agriculturally inclined individuals were men. And that’s probably got something to do with the fact that growing a garden can be more than just pretty flowers. It can be a self-sustaining means of survival. That’s right, gardening also means cultivating food.
Especially in the warmer months, backyard, beach, and park barbecues are some of our absolute favorite activities. Because they combine two of our favorite things: eating and the outdoors. But, you’ll be hard-pressed to manage that on your own if you don’t know how to operate a grill. Familiarize yourself both with propane and charcoal grilling and you’ll be able to make killer steaks and burgers whenever the mood strikes.
We live in a digital world. That’s just a fact. But you should let that keep you from practicing your handwriting. Believe it or not, but writing things down – rather than typing them – is more closely tied to memory. It can also be quicker and more convenient given the circumstances. Whatever the case, you’ll be glad you’ve held onto the skill should technology ever fail you. And maybe carry with you an EDC pocket notebook, too.
25. Hang Artwork
You can’t simply hammer a nail into a wall and hang something up. That is to say, you can’t so long as you want to make sure that it is hanging straight and securely against the wall. It might seem simple, but hanging artwork is something that requires a bit more consideration. For instance, you wouldn’t want to hang something heavy on the wall unless you do so anchored to a stud. Don’t know what a stud is or how to find it? Then this is a skill you need to look into.
26. The Heimlich Maneuver
God forbid you ever have to try to save someone from choking, but it does happen. Having something lodged in your throat is one of those emergencies that requires immediate action, because waiting for the paramedics will most certainly end badly. After all, the human body can only go so long without oxygen – maybe a few minutes maximum in a panicked situation such as this. Take the time to familiarize yourself with this simple method for dislodging something from a person’s airwaves and you could end up saving a life.
This is one of those skills that is fairly polarizing. So, let us begin by saying this: for some people, hunting is an enjoyable way to spend some time amongst friends doing something they all love. For others, it is solely a survivalist skill to be used only when absolutely necessary. Whichever side of the spectrum you fall on, it’s still most certainly a valuable competency to develop. Either you make a hobby out of it, or it can end up saving your life. Maybe both.
28. Iron Clothing
If you’re ever looking for a surefire way to let people know that you’re extremely unprofessional, show up to an interview or a meeting in wrinkly clothing. Honestly, you can take the exact same formal outfit on the exact same person only one is wrinkled and the other isn’t and the non-wrinkled version will come out on top 100% of the time. Ironing is far more valuable than it is difficult; and if you don’t already know how to do it, you should absolutely take the time to learn.
29. Jump Start A Car
Unless you drive around in an all-electric or a hybrid, it can be difficult to know when your car battery needs changing. Most of the time, it seems like people find out one day when they go to turn their engine over and nothing happens. Well, unless you keep a store of car batteries in your house, you’ll probably want to know how to jump start your car so you can get it to a shop or auto parts store. Here’s a tip: most of the time, the two contact points on your battery are color coded to match the jumper cables. Red goes to red and black to black.
30. Make Fire Without Matches
Let’s say you get to your campground only to find that you’ve completely forgotten to pack your matches and/or lighter. Guess you’re not having a fire at all, right? Well, if you develop the ability to make fire without matches, you’ll have no problem coaxing a flame. There are several ways you can do it, which include flint and steel, focusing the rays of the sun, and even combining chemical compounds. Pick up on a few of these methods, just in case you ever need them.
No, we don’t mean download Goodle Maps to your phone. Navigation without electronics, while seemingly complicated, can become like second nature for a practiced student. There’s more than one way to do it, as well. For instance, you can use cues from your surrounding environment – including flora and fauna, geographical layout, and the position of the sun. It’s also very handy to know how to read a compass and/or a topographical map. This is especially helpful if you ever want to take an extended off-the-grid hiking trip.
Perhaps the most clear and common need for a bartering and negotiating skill set is buying a car. Here’s a tip: you never actually have to pay the full sticker price for a vehicle you want so long as you know how to talk the salesman down a bit. You see, they’re in it for the money and, while they can be pushy, it’s also possible to push back. This skill also helps with business negotiations, such as asking for a raise. Pair the ability to barter with some critical thinking and you’ll find it much easier to get things your way.
33. Pick A Lock
For reference, picking a lock is only illegal if the lock you are picking doesn’t belong to you. And while we certainly don’t condone any criminal behavior, this skill might come in handy if you ever accidentally lock yourself out of your home or office. It can also function as a perhaps unusual hobby that’s much like a more elevated version of playing puzzle games. Because that’s what locking mechanisms are at their core: complex mechanical puzzles. If you like brain teasers, but are looking for a bit more of a challenge, this one’s for you.
34. Pilot A Boat
Let’s say, hypothetically, that the stuff hits the fan and society crumbles and perhaps a zombie outbreak occurs. Well, in that case, water travel might actually be one of the safest ways to stay mobile. And, even if that doesn’t happen, knowing how to pilot a water vessel – even if that means just rowing a small wooden rowboat – can be an extremely enjoyable, healthy, and serene experience. Give it a shot sometime.
35. Play An Instrument
There’s a direct scientific correlation between music and happiness, as well as musicianship and mental fortitude. And anything that can both make your life easier and more enjoyable is a worthy endeavor. Luckily, there are hundreds of different kinds of instruments that suit just about every walk of life. Whether you want a classic – like a 6-string guitar – or something a little more obscure – theremin, anyone? – everyone should have at least a basic understanding of playing music.
36. Play Bar Games
There are few things as frustrating as going out to the bar with some friends only to find out that they don’t actually know how to play billiards or score a game of darts. Bar games give you something to focus on other than just drinking. They’re social activities and can bring people together, as well. Learn the classics at your favorite pub while enjoying a beer and, just maybe, try out some more obscure ones, like shuffleboard.
37. Prepare Food
This skill extends in both directions along the locale spectrum. That means you should be both adept with a chef knife in the finest of kitchens and out in the wilderness. For starters, cooking your own food can be rewarding, cheaper, and healthier than eating every meal out somewhere. It can also impress a date. But, being able to find and prepare food in the wild can serve to save you from coming down with food-borne illnesses. And that can mean survival in the face of certain death.
38. Properly Lift Weights
If you’re hoping to get in amazing shape, but you’ve never picked up a dumbbell in your life – listen up. Lifting weights can be extremely hazardous to your health and safety if you do it wrong. Not only can you cause yourself serious injury, but you can start yourself down the road to long-term damage. Take the time to learn good practices before you ever pick up a bar and you’ll be doing yourself a huge favor.
39. Public Speaking
You might never have to give a speech to a large crowd, but that doesn’t mean learning public speaking isn’t a valuable skill. It even helps build confidence and competence when in smaller groups or even person to person. And, if you’re versed in it, it also helps you to read a crowd. That way, you can judge the direction you’re headed in and alter the course of a speech or conversation to better suit the attitude of your intended recipients.
40. Ride A Bike
It’s as easy as riding a bike – that’s what people always say, right? Well, let us be the first to tell you that learning how to ride a bike only seems easy because you probably did it when you were a kid. Nonetheless, it’s a valuable skill for exercise, more environmentally friendly commuter transport, and weekend leisure. If you didn’t learn when you were younger, we suggest you take it up now. But, be prepared to get a few scrapes along the way.
It’s hard for some men to get past the fact that sewing seems like a traditionally feminine skill. That’s a bad way to look at it, however. Sewing is incredibly valuable for anyone to learn, as it can allow you to create, modify, or even repair clothing. That comes in very handy if you need to patch up something you’re wearing on a long-form expedition or hiking trip. It’s also an incredibly useful skill to have for first aid applications, because without access to medical attention, you can use it to stitch up a wound.
Guns are dangerous. There, we said it. But they’re also a marvel of human ingenuity and, in the proper hand and with the proper training, can be both rewarding and fun. They also serve as a great home-defense option to protect your house and your family from invaders, should such a terrible occasion arise. But, you’re not going to be much use with one if you don’t know how to properly fire one. And that extends to safety training for before and after pulling the trigger. If you want to own a gun, learn how to safely use it. Alternatively, if you’re looking exclusively for a hobby or hunting method, archery is wonderful.
43. Split Firewood
Most folks nowadays can just run down to the local market and buy pre-cut firewood. Still, we think it’s a good idea to know how to chop wood yourself. That way, if you’re ever caught alone in the wilderness, but you have a camping axe, you can cut proper lengths of wood for a fire to keep you and whomever you’re with warm. It’s also a pretty good strength training exercise, if you’re into mountain man-style athletics.
We’d all like to think that we’ll never be stuck on a sinking ship or caught in a flood. And there’s a decent chance that we won’t be. Still, knowing how to swim can turn that from a deadly situation into one that’s perhaps more of an unfortunate inconvenience. What’s even better is that swimming is one of the best forms of full-body exercise you can do. Whether you’re keeping in shape or trying to stay alive, learning how to swim is a good means to an end. And now they even offer waterproof headphones to accompany you.
45. Throw A Ball
Let’s say that you, like so many others, hope to have children someday. Wouldn’t it be nice to go out into the yard or tailgate before a game and toss the ball around with your kid? Well, that’s going to be hard to do if you don’t actually know how to throw a ball properly. And we don’t just mean baseballs. You’ll want to probably learn how to throw a proper spiral with a football, as well. Again, this is one of those skills that may seem obvious and easy, but if you do it wrong, you could end up looking foolish and potentially hurting yourself.
46. Throw A Punch
We hope you don’t find yourself in a situation where it’s necessary to use self-defense martial arts. But, if you do need to defend yourself, it’s better to know than not. Throwing a bad punch will not only be ineffective, it can actually serve to injure the person throwing it. Do yourself a favor and take the time to figure out how to punch properly. Maybe you won’t need it. Then again, you might.
47. Tie A Knot
Whether you like to go camping, spend time sailing the ocean, or even just want to rig up some backyard games for your next barbecue, tying a proper knot is going to make everything more sturdy, secure, and reliable. And if you think that wrapping some rope in a series of random loops counts as knowing how to tie a knot, you’re wrong. All good usable knots have names and applications, so if you’re making it up as you go, you’re probably doing it wrong.
48. Tie A Tie
Business interviews, weddings, formal dinners, and awards ceremonies all call for wearing a suit. And an integral part of a suit is a tie. Unless you’re a Texas oil tycoon who only wears bolos, that means you’re going to need to know how to tie some traditional tie knots. You should also learn how to tie a bowtie, should you ever be interested in changing up your style and standing out a bit. This skill is a must for just about every man.
49. Wet Shave
There are plenty of ways to get a decent shave without much effort. But nothing compares to the closeness of a wet shave with either a straight razor or safety razor. Electric is easier, sure, but it’ll always leave a bit of stubble. Disposables are quick and cheap, but they’re tremendously bad for the environment. Learn how to shave your own face, neck, and/or head with a old-school razor and you might never settle for less again.
50. Write A Letter/Email
Unfortunately, the ability to write anything longer than a text seems to be a dying art. Make yourself stand out from the crowd both in the professional and personal world by taking the time to properly compose your sentences – grammar and all. It might not seem that important in a world so encumbered by short, quick phrases and acronyms. But it can mean the difference between impressing and disappointing an important party in your life.
Survival Skills Every Man Should Know
Amongst the most important skills on this list are those related to survival. So, if you’re only looking to learn the absolute necessities, check out our in-depth guide to the survival skills every man should know.