When my friend and I came up with the idea for this article, we didn’t exactly have a goal in mind BUT we knew what we wouldn’t be able to do, and that’s to gather all the survival and preparedness knowledge in a single post.
That’s just impossible and all its aspects is simply huge. So, we had to settle for a less ambitious (yet still honorable) goal. To give you a huge collection of some of the most overlooked survival tips that would appeal to the novice as well as to the seasoned prepper.
Since this article will turn out to be pretty long, I’m going to stop here and leave you with the tips…
Table of Contents
General Survival Tips & Tricks
Don’t forget to prepare your pets and farm animals for all emergencies and SHTF scenarios: extreme heat, medical emergencies, bugging out and even your stockpiling efforts.
Avoid overloading your bug-out bag with useless gear as it’s going to be a pain to carry it on your back for miles on end. Every ounce counts. Tricks like:
- breaking off the handle of your toothbrush
- making holes in some of the containers inside your BOB
- using AAA batteries instead of AAs
- carrying freeze-dried foods instead of canned food
- replacing some of the gear with lighter alternatives (knives, cookware, emergency radio, multitool etc.)
- and removing non-essential items…
…are going to shed off many pounds.
Think twice before throwing anything away. Pencils, paper, used car parts, rags – anything can be useful post-disaster.
Use the PACE methodology when planning for various survival scenarios. PACE stands for Primary, Alternate, Contingency and Emergency. The primary plan is the one you’re counting on, such as bugging in. Alternate is your secondary plan, such as bugging out to your BOL.
The Contingency plan could be bugging out to the woods, while the emergency plan could be bugging out on a boat or crossing the border to Canada or Mexico.
Keep activity to a minimum in hot weather to reduce the need for water. This goes double when you’re in the wild, because you need every bit of energy you can spare to survive for as long as possible.
Put blankets on all your windows to avoid people seeing you have electricity post-collapse.
Test the quality of your black-out system by having one family member check from outside while you switch lights on and off to see if they can detect any change.
Every night check whether your blackout is total because people may move a blanket inadvertently, or it may move with wind, or cleaning activities.
Keep in mind you and your family may not be at home when SHTF. This is why having a get home bag is important, packed and available immediately wherever you are.
Not all survival advice you see on TV is good. Just because Bear Grylls tells you that “we need to cross this river”, that doesn’t mean you should. You shouldn’t try to face an obstacle head-on, it’s much safer and less energy consuming to go around it or find another route.
If possible, pack all your family’s bug-out bags in the same way. That way you’ll know where to quickly find something when you need it. (The U.S. Army uses this trick.)
If you’re taken prisoner and they’re trying to tie you in one way or another, contract your muscles as much as possible so the ties are, in fact, loose when you relax, allowing a possibility of escape.
If possible, sleep with the air conditioner off. This way you’ll reduce the spread of smoke in the event of a fire. This way you’ll reduce the spread of smoke in the event of a fire.
To make your own DIY air conditioner, use a fan and some ice cubes, make a Styrofoam ice chest DIY air conditioner, and use various other tricks/ to keep cool.
Avoid MREs (meals ready to eat). Although they have come a long way, they’re still expensive, high in sodium and may cause constipation.
Your first options should be canned food containing protein, beans, and rice. In addition, you can assemble your own MREs for a complete and balanced nutritional profile.
Consider allergies each of your family members may have before stockpiling, and avoid buying the foods that cause them. It is best to stick with the foods you and your loved ones already eat.
Use coupons to save a great deal of money on your preps.
White rice has a greater shelf-life (up to 20 years) than brown rice which lasts for around 6 months in the panty and 18 months in the freezer.
Even though brown rice is considered healthier due to the fact that is less processed and has more nutrients it is not a wise choice for extended storage.
Store wheat berries instead of flour. Wheat berries have a shelf life of 20 years, while flour only lasts for a few months.
The best way to store large quantities of water is in large 55-gallon barrels. Make sure they are food-grade and BPA free.
Unconventional places to hide your food and water include in fake air vents, inside trash cans, inside Pringle’s cans, in fake pipes, in PVC pipes buried underground, inside trees, inside barns, inside wells, in abandoned cars, inside pots and pans you don’t use, and in your garage. Ensure all the conditions to avoid food spoilage.
Use oxygen absorbers to improve the shelf life of your foods.
Don’t forget comfort foods, they can make a huge difference in your day. By comfort food we do not mean chocolate and biscuits but high calorie, high carb, simply prepared meals that may induce nostalgia – like gran’s Irish stew or mom’s apple crumble.
Avoid being followed. Never approach your food cache locations until you’re sure you’re not being watched.
You should store at least 1.5 gallons of water/person/day. 1 gallon is not enough as you need water for cooking and personal hygiene.
Only store water in glass, plastic and stainless-steel containers. Never use containers that used to hold milk or other beverages, as it will taint the taste of the water, no matter how much you rinsed it.
Store more than one type of food in each plastic bucket. This way, when you’re bugging out in a hurry and you can only grab one bucket of food to take with you, you’ll end up having a variety of foods instead of just one.
Bottled water is safe to stockpile and has unlimited shelf-life (until you open it). However, if you use one of those Zero Water or Brita filters to purify your water, keep in mind the water is only good for 24 hours.
This is probably because it’s chlorine free, so bacteria are likely to form pretty quickly. Another option would be to stockpile tap water because it’s cheaper.
Store water in dry places, away from ground, sunlight, and solvents.
Frozen food is great as long as you have enough space in your refrigerator or freezer, but it becomes a problem in a grid-down situation, unless you have a freezer that can run on electricity and gas.
Don’t forget to stockpile things to help you open, cook, and consume your food: can openers, cooking pots, stove, cutlery, etc.
Stockpile cleaning materials. In you run short, baking soda will help clean dishes, clothes, floors, and more. Make sure you have plenty as well as other cleaning materials like bleach, cleaning cloths and sponges as well as scrubbing brushes.
Label all your food with what’s in it, the date it was canned or bought, and the estimated expiration date. Color code it if you want to.
Well water has benign bacteria in it that will metabolize sulfate minerals once you store it. One way to inhibit sulfates that could lead to gastric upsets is to chlorinate your well water each year.
Use the first-in-first-out (FIFO) methodology to rotate your stockpile: the first can you put in is the first one you’re going to consume.
Home Defense Advice
Always keep your doors and windows locked, even when you’re home. Most burglaries happen because the thief sees an opportunity.
Don’t keep all your dogs outside at night. Keep one on the inside in case the burglars decide to poison, steal or neutralize the others.
Train dogs not to accept food from strangers – only family members with a command word. This can save them from being poisoned.
Male dogs should be neutered. A trick of burglars is to bring past a female on heat to lead dogs astray while they access the premises. They will have cased the property to establish what gender of dogs you have and whether they are neutered.
Prune large trees that would allow a thief to climb in through one of your windows. This will also reduce the of a house fire.
Make sure your house number is clearly visible from the street to allow the police to quickly find it in times of emergency.
Get motion sensors for your porch and back yard that turn on and off at intervals. This will make it seem like someone’s at home should an animal activate it, and they’re better than the ones that just stay on all night because you may be alerted should a prowler activate one.
Use double-cylinder deadbolts for your front door. One at kick height and one further up.
Don’t plant bushes near your doors and windows as they help burglars sneak in unseen. They also allow rodents and snakes access. Bare ground around the window areas allows you to see any strange footprints and will perhaps help police identify the footwear worn by burglars.
Make sure your doors’ hinges are on the inside so they can’t be screwed off by thieves, the same goes for the anchoring of burglar bars.
Make basement windows secure by replacing with plexiglass or polycarbonate, or install security bars that are anchored into the wall or screwed on from the inside..
Don’t put a sticker on your window that tells the burglar exactly which type of alarm system you have installed. This will only make it easier to disarm a specific system. Instead, put up a generic sticker that warns of the alarm but doesn’t say which one.
Replace hollow interior doors with solid ones, that are harder to break through.
Prevent people kicking in doors by anchoring 3 sets of brackets on the inside of the door frame or into the wall alongside at equal intervals and have a couple of metal or strong wooden bars that drop into place so a door cannot be kicked in.
These don’t take up much space and give you time to take evasive action, like exiting through a window or if this is not possible to prepare for aggression should someone persist on trying to enter a room.
They are also super quick to remove should you need to get out in a hurry in case of a fire or other emergency.
Install a wide-angle peep hole that’s at eye-level when you kneel. This will make you a smaller target if the person on the other side has a gun.
Urban Survival Tips
Cooking and burning trash could easily attract unwanted attention post-collapse. Eat canned food and find alternate ways to get rid of garbage.
Get all the water you can. Fast. Water is going to be a huge problem when SHTF. Rush to fill the bath with water and any empty containers as you will not have long before the water runs out.
If you’re stuck in a city when disaster strikes, lakes, ponds and other body of waters are the first places to look for food. Fish and waterfowl make a decent meal.
Live near your workplace. If right now you’re rentingyou’re renting, try to move as close to your workplace as possible. This will make it easier for you to get home when SHTF.
A sillcock key is a handy hing to have, as it will allow you to open a variety of taps (since clean water may be a huge issue when surviving in the city).
Wilderness Survival Tips
Improvised knife sharpener. Use the bottom of a ceramic mug or pot to sharpen a knife.
Leave meat to partially freeze to make it easier to cut.
Have sufficient good tinder when starting a fire: paper straws, vaseline-soaked cotton balls, saved dryer lint, even a deck of cards, can make good tinder.
Fill plastic bags with leaves to create a mattress or pillow for you to sleep on.
Cooking oil, grease, mud, and smoke act as pest repellents.
Paracord to make a ladder. You can use nothing but Paracord to make an improvised ladder. No wood necessary.
River sand makes a good pot scourer. Use a piece of cloth and a handful or river sand to clean pots and pans.
Reptiles are not good at indicating water sources. Birds and insects are.
No matches? Use your reading glasses to start a fire. You will need sunny weather to focus the rays of the sun for this though.
If your Bic lighter doesn’t spark anymore, make sure you salvage the flint to be used as a firestarter.
Try to build a fire just outside of your improvised shelter. The heat will radiate through the plastic and become trapped, increasing the interior temperature by up to 60 degrees. You have to be careful with this one, you don’t want to set your shelter on fire.
Tips for Bugging in or Out
Think about and practice bugging out at night. It may or may not be the best choice when disaster hits but it’s necessary to be ready and ok with the possibility, should flood waters rise, an earthquake destroys your home or terrorists force you to flee.
Have a comfortable pair of hiking boots attached to your bug out bag. Never bug out in shoes or sneakers, you will get tired sooner and develop blisters.
Assemble a blackout box, an emergency kit full of items that will help you survive when the power goes out. Don’t forget to include mil-spec chemlights as they don’t pose any fire hazards and are EMP-proof.
Have as many bug out locations as possible. This way you’ll have more options when things go south. Even empty land can make a good BOL, a place to make camp for a few hours or days until you figure out what to do next.
Consider buying a recreational vehicle (RV). It will allow you to take more things with you. It has its disadvantages, of course. Otherwise, a 4-wheel drive sports utility vehicle will provide shelter, the ability to traverse poor terrain and space to pack stuff.
Make sure your vehicle is fitted with a tow hitch. Other than towing a trailer or a boat it can be used for pulling a makeshift sled with firewood at your BOL, dragging trees closer to camp for firewood, hauling large animal carcases, etc.
Fill a strong plastic bag with air, secure it with duct tape and use it to cross a river. If you happen to slip, it will keep you afloat. Empty plastic containers also make good floats.
If you need to cross a river unseen a bundle of reeds will act as a screen, have a rope secured underneath so if you need to duck and hold yourself down for a minute to evade detection this can be done. Always have the bundle between yourself and any enemies.
Keep your guns hidden when on the move, and don’t hesitate to trade them for your life if necessary.
Battle-harden your bug out bag. Protect the items inside by making them waterproof, shockproof and punctureproof.
Avoid wearing camouflage clothes, brightly colored clothes, and perfume. In Vietnam, the Vietcong knew where the US soldiers were by the smell of their soap and deodorant.
Once they started smearing themselves with the fermented fish sauce so beloved in SE Asian cuisine they were not detected as easily as they smelt like the enemy.
Natural Disaster Tips
Never eat snow to hydrate. Melt it first, then filter it with a cloth, to remove any debris. Melting will reduce its temperature, otherwise you’ll force your stomach to warm it before it can use the water.
This not only means you’ll have to spend precious calories to warm it up, you also risk catching a cold, or worse.
The second you see a wildfire, you should start gathering water by all possible means. so should it come closer you can use it. Unless it’s life-threatening and you need to evacuate, of course.
If it’s a big fire make for the nearest body of water and take along a blanket or carpet. Wet the blanket or carpet so it doesn’t catch fire from flying embers and shelter in the water underneath it – make sure some air is trapped under it and you have some floats – it will be heavy!
The water doesn’t have to be deep, so you won’t be drowned by the weight of the blanket. This will save you from the smoke, the fire itself, and flying sparks.
To save your vehicles in case of fire drive them into the water just up to the axle. You should have assessed the current and the safety of the river bed days before – it pays to be prepared.
Don’t remain in the vehicle if sparks are flying – wait in deeper water a safe distance away, attached to a float until the fire has passed.
Cars, galvanized trash cans and microwaves are NOT good Faraday cages. If radio waves can get in, an EMP can get it.
Wrap your electronics in alternating layers of conductive and non-conductive material (heavy-duty aluminum and bubble wrap or cardboard), then place them in a real cage such as this one.
Avoid low-lying areas, river valleys, and keep all your body parts covered when running from a volcanic eruption.
Tips to Deal with Man-Made Disasters
Don’t try to escape a riot by going against it. Going with it isn’t a solution either. The trick is to move with it but at an angle until you’ve reached the outside of the mob.
Don’t use walkie-talkies when facing a riot. You will only attract attention and be labeled as a prepper.
Never-ever leave a fire unattended. Never build a fire near trees or bushes, and don’t build a fire too near your car and go off and forget about it. Basic but useful advice.
A continuous roar, whirling dust, and a low cloud or a torrential rain followed by complete calm, and bright flashes near the ground, these are all signs of a tornado.
To anticipate where a tornado is heading, pick a landmark like a tree or signpost really close to it (preferably right in front of) and notice where it’s heading relative to that landmark.
Be alert to and careful of flying debris caused by a tornado; it can kill you.
In case of a house fire, as you’re evacuating, close the doors to the rooms and the front doors behind you to slow down the speed with which it spreads.
Never hide near a heavy refrigerator during a tornado, earthquake, or hurricane; it can fall on you and kill you.
Survival Medicine and First Aid Tips
Never store your meds in bathroom cabinets. Keep them away from moisture at all costs.
We are told not to consume antibiotics past their expiration dates but if they’re not too far out of date they should still work. Of course, your medical professional would advise against this, but if you are in the middle of nowhere and those antibiotics may be the difference between life and death – well what can we say?
Stockpile sunscreens and moisturizer cream if you think you’re going to spend a lot of time in the sun when bugging out.
Coconut oil is used by people in SE Asia as a sunscreen – it has an SPF of 4, but if working in the rice fields they wear clothing that covers them and hats with protective cloth on the back and sides so the sun can’t burn them in the spaces between the collar and the hat.
Also learn what natural products in your area can be used for moisturizing and sun protection. In Africa, women smear their faces with mud so they simply can’t get burnt if they have to work outside all day.
Honey can be applied on wounds because it acts as an antibacterial. So does lemon juice.
Tooth care is going to be HUGE post-collapse. Become fastidious about keeping your teeth clean. Stock up on toothbrushes, floss, tooth paste and mouthwash.
If supplies run out use powdered charcoal or wood ash as a toothpaste, and thin pieces of grass can be used as floss. Chew parsley or cilantro for a fresh breath.
Never touch or get too close someone who’s experiencing an electrical shock. The current can travel through air and will get to you too. Either stop the electricity source or use a wooden stick to push the person away from the current.
Keep your first-aid supplies handy in the outside pockets of your BOB for quick access.
Use belts to stop bleeding (as tourniquets).
You can also rip pieces of clothing to make a tourniquet. Be careful to check the tourniquet is not too tight otherwise the blood flow will be cut off and the person may lose the limb. The idea is to slow the blood flow not stop it completely.
After sun soother. Mix vinegar with water, then apply on sun-burnt skin to relieve pain.
SHTF Communications Tips
Keep a cell phone plus extra batteries in your bug-out bag.
Use pre-paid cards to communicate.
HAM radios are great for communicating with people across the Globe but you may need a license to own one.
Break down tasks. Whenever you find yourself having to tackle a large and daunting task, break it down into smaller goals, and do them one by one.
Use visualization techniques to see yourself successfully surviving.
Confront fear. The only way to master fear is to understand that it exists and admit that it’s something you can’t fully eradicate.
Heroes claim that they did what they did in spite of their fear, not because they were fearless, although folk legends like to make out they jumped ‘fearlessly’ into situations. In fact, heroes weigh up the cost of inaction against action – and if it will save lives they act.
To deal with loneliness when surviving alone, find friends among even the smallest insects and birds. Of course, having a dog is a great companion that alleviates loneliness.
Focus on easy, mindless tasks such as polishing your shoes. Making music helps people deal with loneliness – if you don’t have a harmonica or guitar then make your own pan pipes from reeds or improvise other musical instruments
Careful with shotguns. They’re so powerful that the bullets travel through walls and could kill your neighbors. Use #6 birdshot – it should not penetrate through to the far side of the wall.
Always carry and know how to make from scratch alternative survival weapons such as boomerangs, bows, slings, spears, air guns, paintball guns, axes, machetes, swords, and bayonets.
Tips for Building Shelters
Avoid making a shelter in a ditch or culvert. While a ditch will protect you from the wind, in case of a flood it will get inundated.
The same goes for culverts under the road – they are so appealing as they are cool, dry, and solid – until it rains!
Thoroughly check out a cave before choosing it as shelter. Check for “residents”, roof cave-ins and the possibility of it getting flooded.
Bunkers are, in most cases, a not so good idea The people outside can either wait until you run out of food and water, or they can smoke you out if they discover where the ventilation system ends.
Always use the least amount of energy necessary to escape an attacker. Conserve your energy for further survival activities rather than expending it all on one person.
Whatever the attacker demands of you, say “no” and make it difficult for him to get it from you. It wears down his resolve, and may give you time to formulate an escape plan, or for backup to arrive.
When you attack someone in self-defence, always aim for the eye, ears, throat, and cheeks. Other sensitive areas are the knees, shins and the groin. Go in fast and hard, before the attacker gets a chance to hurt you.
A number of everyday items can be used as “part-time weapons” such as your car keys, a coffee mug, a pencil, a stapler, a comb, a bandanna, a scarf, a large vase, and even a lollipop.
Hold the lollipop stick protruding from between the first and second fingers, make a fist around the sweet part and jab for sensitive areas.
Keep a weapon near the door so you can use it when you answer the door and you find yourself face-to-face with someone who’s trying to rob you… or worse!
A walking stick with a concealed sword, an umbrella with a dagger point, even a heavy wooden club, baseball bat, hockey stick, or metal bar should be sufficient to persuade a would-be burglar not to engage.
If you have pepper spray in your car, make sure it never gets exposed to temperatures of over 120 degrees to avoid leakage and explosion.
Don’t use pepper spray if your assailant is less than 2-3 feet away from you. It will affect you as well. Always check which way the wind is blowing before using pepper spray.
Everyday Carry EDC Tips
Load your phone with information. From offline maps to articles and ebooks, you can have a wealth of survival knowledge at your fingertips.
Make sure it is saved so you can find it easily. In case of snakebite, for instance, you don’t have a lot of time to scroll through loads of information, so perhaps make your own summaries of the pertinent points, and commit as much as you can to memory.
Make sure you have some essential first aid items as part of your EDC, such as bandages moleskin, and aspirin.
Homesteading and Gardening Hacks
Beer is a great fertilizer for your plants – if you really want to spare it.
Make marigold spray to get rid of flies in your garden.
Ash is great not only to keep bugs away from your garden but also as a fertilizer if the pH of your soil is over 7.
Use extra salt to make cheese last longer.
You can use vinegar in a variety of ways in your garden: against weeds, fungus, pests and even some small animals. In addition, you can use it to clean your gardening tools.
Use baking soda to remove pantry odors.
Consider making your tractor an impenetrable bug out vehicle.
Kill cockroaches with a mixture of sugar and baking soda to kill roaches.
Overwinter certain hardy veggies such as carrots, horseradish, turnips, and cabbage. They can be left in the ground during winter, as long as you cover them with dry leaves or straw.
A great type of edible gardening for preppers is permaculture. The plants are hidden between bush and trees, so no one will know there’s food just a few feet away from them.
Make part of your edible garden portable. What I mean is, try to keep some of your herbs and veggies (potatoes, tomatoes) in buckets or pots.
In the event of bugging out, you can take them with you in your vehicle and keep harvesting at your BOL.
Make a watering can by drilling some holes into the base of a plastic container. You can use a thick sowing sewing needle that you heat up with a match, to make the piercing easier. Carry the container upside down until you are ready to water your plants
Use kitchen scraps such as egg shells, fruit peels, coffee and even tea bags to make DIY compost, and help your plants grow. Avoid potato peels as you may introduce nematodes into the soil and they are difficult to get rid of.
You can find more gardening hacks here.
Baking soda plus a little bit of water is a great replacement for toothpaste.
Use a mirror to check if someone’s breathing if they are unresponsive. Place it under the nose and see if any fog forms.
You can burn asphalt to keep warm and even cook on it!
Put chalk in your toolbox to prevent your tools from rusting.
Use condoms to carry water if you have nothing else. Condoms are also useful for protecting your cell phone from splashes when out on a boat; pull over the cell phone and tie tightly.
updated 01/30/2020 by Jeanie Beales