It’s easy to get caught up in a detailed discussion of constructing the just right list of supplies, gear and other preps to have for a given disaster. There is a shoe for every foot and a list for every kind of SHTF scenario, you might say. That’s fine, and optimization will indeed save the day if you tailor your prepping accordingly.
The problem is you have no way to predict exactly what you’ll be facing when the time comes. Even the likeliest, most probable disasters, brew-ups and other events are only a chance, not a certainty. The only thing certain is death and taxes, not disasters. When you think of it that way, it is easy to see how you might want to adopt a certain amount of flexibility, or generalization.
Some preps are mandatory, no matter what you are facing. If you were to base all your preps around an immutable core of useful, vital gear and provision you’d go a long way toward being ready for just about anything.
In another article on Survival Sullivan, we showed you 10 mandatory preps you should have no matter what kind of disaster you were anticipating or facing. In this article we are bringing you ten more that are just as valuable, and together they are sure to increase your chances of surviving just about anything.
What is most Important
Before we get to the list itself, I want to emphasize that it is not presented in an order of most important to least important or anything like that. Any appearance to the contrary is purely coincidental. I have done this on purpose so that you will have to think more carefully about how a given prep will fit into your specific survival plan.
Even though all the items on this list are undeniably important, how important they are will vary person to person depending on all kinds of variables: where you live, what has occurred, luck, etc.
For folks who live near a freshwater lake, have a spring on their property or a good well, the idea of water being the key absolute to their survival and stocking it accordingly may seem absurd. The opposite is true for someone living in dry, arid desert or tundra.
So don’t write off anything on this list, and don’t overemphasize the importance of anything based on its order in the lineup. They all have their place in your inventory, but some may be more important or less important to you.
Ultimately the most important thing you will need for survival during any major disaster is your brain, and that cannot be taken from you. Well, it can, but if that happens you won’t need to worry anymore!
#1. Scouting and Advance Work
I remember hearing something about the best laid plans of mice and men often going awry. You can bet that’ll take on an entirely new and terrible significance when the excrement has well and truly hit the ventilator. It is great that you have plans A through E for escape, evasion and evacuation, but when was the last time you actually, you know, traveled the routes?
If you planned to hike our over a knob and through the forest via old trail or logging road, have you actually been down it since forever ago? Really? When?
That same trail could be washed out, worn away or totally overgrown today. That gentle brook you plan on wading may be a raging river in certain seasons, or it might be bone dry, either giving you cause to alter your route.
The same thing can happen if you are planning a city evac. Have you been through the route assessing the possibility of traffic jams or clogs of people? What threats might lie along the way? If you plan to pass through smaller towns and settlements on the way to your BOL, have you been through them recently to take the temperature of the town and its inhabitants?
There are some places I would not want to get caught after sundown today. I sure as heck wouldn’t want to go through them when the rule of law is out the window and the freaks and creeps roam the earth.
You cannot just declare your plan and expect the universe to conform to your whim like a cosmic edict. You have to make sure they remain viable.
Don’t believe the fallacy of the one man or one woman survivalist. That is a true worst case scenario if there ever was one. While a romanticized vision of pure survival, your margin for error, mishap and injury will be shaved down to a hair’s breadth. If anything goes badly wrong for you in the middle of a SHTF situation and you don’t have anyone to back you up, you are probably facing the end.
Many hands make light work, and you’ll also need people to watch your back, help you carry, fight, build and heal. More people at your side presents a much stronger defense against marauders and criminal elements; no matter how good you think you are, weight of numbers is often a huge deciding factor in any conflict.
Sure, more people, more mouths to feed, but laying in provisions to support a group, or everyone furnishing their own supplies is a far more easily surmountable undertaking than the harrowing prospect of true survival completely alone.
To prevent that latter occurrence, you must actively be networking with like-minded people who share your values and want to cooperate in case something drastic does happen.
This can be your family, friends or other people in your immediate social circles, or it can be a ready-made group you can join, like a mutual assistance group or some other survival collective. It will be too late to do so reliably after a disaster has already struck.
No matter who you wind up putting your lot in with, make sure they have good attitudes, work hard and contribute, else you’ll be facing down resentment and freeloaders.
#3. Document/Credentials Backup
We all like to plan and prep like there will be literally no tomorrow when the “Big One” strikes, but the reality is the lights are more likely to still be on elsewhere, or will come back on after a time.
When that happens, you better believe some folks and sectors of government will be very keen on getting back to business as usual as soon as possible. It is in your best interest to be able to prove who you are and what is yours when that happens.
Considering that plenty of disasters can result in massive, even total devastation to inhabited areas, and online networks and other infrastructure responsible for maintaining them is highly vulnerable to loss or damage in precisely those circumstances, it makes sense to plan ahead so you can prove that you are who you say you are. A packet, physical or digital, with copies of all of your most vital papers is a good idea.
Include things like your DL, passport, titles, deeds, birth certificates, social security card, etc. If a paper file, you might want to copy them at ¾ scale to fit more on one page. Waterproofing or laminating will be essential.
If electronic, scan and download them onto a flash drive and encrypt it so it will be less likely to be accessed if stolen or lost. Now, this is pretty much the Holy Grail of info bundles for identity thieves and other scoundrels, so protect both accordingly.
Despite the risk, you’ll be glad to have it if you need to prove your identity to access aid, get back into a restricted area or withdraw funds provisionally.
The rigors of survival will take a terrible toll on mind and body. Stress, exertion, lack of sleep and even reduced food and water intake will all serve to slow you down, impair your thinking and invite injury or worse.
You can buffer all of those ill effects by keeping physically fit and eating a decent diet. Don’t think for one second that all the gear in the world can outrun the burden imposed by being obese or weak.
Strength and athleticism also means you can move faster, farther and for longer while carrying heavier loads. You’ll be harder to kill in a fight. You’ll be more resistant to being injured, getting sick and becoming incapacitated. Your mental efficacy is closely tied to your fitness level; fit, healthy people think faster, more clearly and perform better mentally and emotionally under stress.
The problem is too many people lack the discipline or the perseverance to stick with it. If you are serious about survival you must take care of the first tool: your body. Approach fitness with the dedication and seriousness of any other prepping-related task and you’ll be making enormous strides in capability (not to mention improving your overall wellness) in no time.
Put the junk food down, get moving and get your heart rate up. At its core it is that simple. Any SHTF event will, by its very nature, be survival of the fittest.
#5. Maps and Navigation
If you want to get anywhere, you need to know where you are and how to get there. We all navigate, all the time, but most of us mistake navigation for just “knowing the way.” What we are actually doing is navigating by rote memorization or visual landmarks.
Take those away or go another route and that’s when things will start to get shaky without intricate and comprehensive knowledge of an area, the ways in and the ways out.
What about a situation where you need to travel or flee in a direction or to a place you had neither planned for nor anticipated? Remember what I said above about the universe not caring one iota for your best laid plans…
Since most of us don’t have truly comprehensive knowledge of all potential routes we may have to use depending on the circumstances, it makes good sense to have equipment to help you cope with that. Namely a few good maps and a compass.
A map together with a compass will let you find your way and maintain your heading as you move toward it, at the least. Used with a little skill, you can follow a route precisely even going cross-country.
You should strive to acquire a handful of good maps: one of your town or city and the immediate area around it. A topographical map or two of your local region and a quality road atlas. All have their place and will be useful at different times.
A compass should be of lensatic or field type for best accuracy and results, though making the most of either will require some training and practice. Both will, though, allow you to establish direction and facing at a glance.
You may also opt for a super small “button” compass. Not good for much more than basic direction and heading, but sometimes that is all you need if you are navigating between large, permanent landmarks.
#6. Power Supply
Unless you are planning to go non-electric for every single prep and every part of your plan, you’ll need power for all of those handy, wonderful gadgets. Batteries are an obvious solution for devices that use them, but for items with built-in, fixed power sources or rechargeable you will need a way to create electricity to fuel them.
Or you can just do without. With the prevalence, efficiency and usefulness of these later generation rechargeables, I don’t recommend it.
One of the most common and popular ways to fuel those hungry gadgets is through use of portable, packable solar cells. Able to be carried easily and setup anywhere, these nifty arrays can harvest the inexhaustible rays of the sun whenever they are shining down to store in an onboard battery bank or recharge a device directly. These units have limitations but are a great, flexible option for most preppers.
Other workable solutions are thermoelectric stoves that convert heat energy to electric power, compact, stowable windmills and even hydroelectric or hand-crank dynamo generators.
Don’t assume that just because a device is electronic that it is a liability or will be rendered non-functional as soon as disaster strikes. Have a plan to keep those useful tools running despite surviving under grid-down conditions.
#7. Tool Kit
I am talking about a proper tool kit: hammer, saw, pliers, drivers, ratchets, sockets, fasteners, cutters, clamps, glues, crowbars, you name it. Surviving, especially surviving in place after a physically destructive event may mean making the most of a damaged structure or erecting a simple new one from found material and debris. The right tools will let you do so, or just shore up damage to your home.
A roof with a hole in it does not have to be a show stopper if you have the tools and can provide the elbow grease. I will always vote for manual tools for this purpose since electric ones are truly power hungry and a pipe dream unless you have a functional generator. If your plan is bug-in centered, you might consider just that so you can make hay quickly, but this is not strictly necessary.
Aside from your tools, it does not hurt to keep construction basics on hand: lumber, plywood, heavy gauge plastic sheeting, pipe, caulk and similar. You might have need to reinforce your dwelling against entry, not just repair it. Constructing durable hasty barricades and other improvised defenses will be much faster and easier with the right tools and materials.
Not for nothing, many of these same materials can be themselves used to fashion weapons and traps for hunting or self-defense if push comes to shove. Nails, screws, glue and lengths of board or pipe can be crafted into all sorts of medieval but effective implements.
#8. Hygiene Supplies
Far from just a nice luxury of the modern world, hygiene is every bit as important as beans, bullets and bandages for prepping. This is another element in taking care of your most important resource- you!
Without regular cleaning and maintenance, your body will begin to succumb to the ravages of bacteria and other germs, leading to all kinds of nasty things. Skin conditions, infections and more await the unclean, to say nothing of the toll your rancid BO will take on yourself and anyone forced to endure in close proximity to you.
Aside from running the risk of going down with a nasty infection, your germs can be spread to others via contact. So sharing tools or food is more likely to lead to cooties making the rounds, and you probably don’t need any instruction on just how badly diseases tear up groups with poor sanitation and hygiene in close quarters.
To prevent yourself and others from coming down with gribblies and nasty ailments, you should stock up on few bathroom essentials: toothbrush, toothpaste, soap, body powder, hand sanitizer, baby wipes and deodorant for starters. Q-tips are not a bad idea and have many other useful functions. Lastly, make sure you have plenty of feminine products if you or someone in your group requires them.
An impromptu scrub down with baby wipes will go a long way toward staving off the need for a proper bath or shower, and you can follow that up with a swipe of deodorant and powder to keep wetness and BO down to tolerable, if not pleasant, levels.
Caching is simply the practice of assembling a small or medium sized bundle of supplies, whatever they are, and typically hiding them in anticipation of accessing and making use of them when your primary supply is spent, compromised or just inaccessible. Think of a cache as the most fundamental of prepping insurance policies after you have firmly established your primary stash.
Caches take many forms and are stored in all kinds of ingenious ways, but they all have in common the element of sturdy, weatherproof storage. This weatherproof storage can take the form of a storm case, water impermeable pipe or even mega-grade sealing plastic bag. Caches can be specialized or general, stored inside or out, near or far from your residence.
A cache could take the form of a buried pipe or box containing a small but well-rounded load of all your typical BOB items, or it might be a supply of a consumable hidden where no one will find it, pre-emplaced in anticipation of travelling along a certain route.
You can even emplace a cache at a friend’s or family member’s house if you get caught far from home and need something to increase your chances. So long as they are good with what you are keeping there and your trust them not to get rid of it or move it unnecessarily you are good.
You never know when you might need it.
Assuming you have someone you are counting on to survive the apocalypse with (or just a blizzard) you should make it a priority to engage in team-building exercises with them.
Family, friend or just partner, by sharing and practicing essential skills together you will each sharpen and improve the other, working out the quirks and kinks you might encounter before hand as you would in a rehearsal for a play.
So many skills that rely on cooperation for success are great for team-building: tactical firearms, overland movement, shelter construction, emergency medicine and more.
After you both attain basic competency, you can step up the difficulty by working through various scenarios and “what-ifs” together versus doing so by yourself. No matter how critical and clever you are, another thinking human being will almost always find flaws and glitches in your plan that you overlooked yourself.
If you have multiple people who are “on your level” you can increase difficulty and complexity of the exercises until you are all working together as a single, well-oiled machine.
Don’t assume that just because you have known someone a long time or like them that you will miraculously work well together. Ensure that all participants are taking the practice seriously. Don’t let it degenerate into horseplay or smoking and joking.
Until you have sweated together in training you will never know their true measure. It takes work to be able to move in tandem with someone like fingers on the same hand, and nowhere will this quality be more important than in the middle of a SHTF scenario.
No matter what kind of disaster you are preparing for, there are some preps that really are a universally good idea. Before you start running down the possibilities for a far-out apocalyptic scenario, make sure all of your bases are as covered as they can be by implementing these mandatory preps.