Most people would agree that being prepared is a good idea, and while knowledge is power, simply knowing that you should be prepared is not either a good idea or power. Inherent in the idea of being prepared is obtaining the knowledge for what you are preparing. Are you preparing to stay in your home during a natural disaster (short or long term), preparing to live off the land if necessary (alone or in a group), a radical change in life style (food, fuel, water, or other necessity shortage)? The list of possibilities is endless and limited only by our own imaginations.
If you are new to this, you may be wondering where to begin. If you have been at it awhile, you may have a good library of references but have holes in your knowledge base due to the method by which you came by it. One resource I would recommend for nearly everyone is The Boy Scout Handbook, for a number of reasons.
If, because of circumstances, interests, or other reasons, you did not participate in Boy Scouts, the hand book presumes no prior knowledge other than the ability to read and comprehend. You may begin with this book and learn the basics of camping from necessities to safety without the fear of looking foolish to those more experienced or being held in contempt by those you believe expect more from any reasonably intelligent person (usually more perception than fact).
Another reason is that it can be a great refresher. Unless you’re fresh out of Boy Scouts or a similar program, it’s likely that you have forgotten a few things. We all do, though some deny this. Sometimes all we need is a picture to bring the details rushing back, at other times we may need to read a little.
A third reason is that the book, because of its many revisions over the years, is well organized and packed with useful information that, due to its compact size, is very portable. The more experience you have, the more you are able to anticipate how you will interact with the environment and conversely, the less experience you have, the less you are able to anticipate how this interaction will play out. The Handbook is a great reference for the novice who may want to know if they just brushed up against a poisonous plant like poison oak, or if that snake they just saw was dangerous!
Outdoor living is more than just camping. But knowing what tools and equipment is needed for camping, how to take care of them and how to use them safely is essential to basic survival. The Boy Scout Handbook takes you logically through the progression of gaining skills to be a good camper and guardian of the environment. From what you need, you proceed on to what you need to do to make the experience enjoyable instead of a disaster. You learn how to build a fire, how to plan and prepare meals, how to provide safe drinking water, and how to correctly extinguish a fire. And you learn how to do all this in all kinds of weather.
No campsite is complete without rope. Rope can be one of the most versatile tools ever devised by man. That is, if you know how to use it and take care of it. The Boy Scout Handbook is an excellent reference guide to basic knots and the appropriate use of each including a section on lashing for building structures and tools, and a section on splicing rope.
Related to camping and included are aquatic and high country adventures and the navigation skills that go along with them, and nature references for identifying plants, animals, fish and birds. In conjunction with these are sections on administering first aid, building physical fitness and communicating with others over distance.
While The Boy Scout Handbook was composed for the purpose of transforming young boys into good responsible young men, it should be remembered that developing good young men is not the end. The knowledge and values instilled are reflected in their values and behavior throughout their lives. There is more to this handbook than what is covered here. But what is covered here, once considered the exclusive purview of men, is now the purview of everyone. I should emphasize that knowledge alone is limited in value. Skill comes from practice and understanding comes from application. Both of these are essential in building confidence and confidence is essential in living off the grid.
Remember: Be prepared is the Boy Scout motto.
And if you find you want to pursue some of these skills in greater detail, you might try some of the merit badge books. These books cover a variety of subjects, such as pioneering and fishing, for example.
There are several editions available, and of course the newer editions take into account newer technologies. However, if you want a book that requires more knowledge of basic skills, the reprint of the older version may be the one for you. Compare the information and decide which best suits your needs.