Part of being prepared means having the right supplies, tools, and equipment to face whatever disaster befalls you head-on. While it is true that the more you know, the less you need, having the right stuff close at hand sure helps!
The less you have to fashion, build, scavenge or improvise in a crisis, the better. You might say that being forced to improvise is a symptom of a lack of preparation, but I digress.
No matter how carefully you lay in supplies and how religiously you pour over your list, some things will typically fall through the cracks.
Items big and small that are crucially important in all kinds of situations may be forgotten or ignored because you did not anticipate a need for them or just because you plain forgot them.
No matter what reason they were omitted, you need to correct this deficiency and grab them pronto!
In today’s article, I’ll list the top 10 preps I see otherwise diligent preppers overlooking, and tell you why they are important.
Consider Your Situation
We don’t even have to get to the list proper and I can already hear keyboards just a clattering ready to rebuke me over my selections.
I’m sure that a significant fraction of the population, actually will not, ever, ever, even conceivably need some of these items.
That much must be true. But for the 98% of us who aren’t planning to escape into the wild with our knife, axe, and precious little else to survive wild in free, they will, every time, make a difference.
That all being said, your personal survival context will dictate if these items are “d’oh!” level oversights or purely optional nice-to-haves.
You should never take any advice you hear or read as gospel, even from such a trusty source as Survival Sullivan. But you should think critically and hard about the why or the why not: don’t let preference, bias, or presumptions blind you to lurking threats.
You may have your personal survival, escape and bug-out plan wired A-to-Z, but all it takes is one major curveball to completely flip the script.
Suddenly, your perfect plan is turned on its head, or trashed entirely, and you might be sorely lacking supplies or equipment that is critical.
No, you cannot truly plan and prepare for every permutation of every possible disaster, and one might argue that even preparing for a true one-in-a-million chance is a waste of resources, time, and manpower, but you’d do well to expect the unexpected.
The Top 10 Overlooked Preps
Below you’ll find the preps that I have found time and time again to be undervalued or omitted entirely from prepper’s, er, preparations.
Note that some folks, including perhaps yourself, might actually have some of these items in your goody stash. You aren’t necessarily off the hook yet! I’ll wager, by my estimation, that you probably don’t have enough.
Sometimes preppers make the mistake of overestimating how far supplies can take them (or the inverse, how long a SHTF situation might last) and their meager supply will not carry them through to better, safer days and a good outcome.
If this turns out to be the case, remember the old prepper maxim: “Buy it cheap and stack it deep!”
10 – Antibiotics
You’ll rarely encounter a prepper who lacks medical equipment and supplies like gauze, bandages, medical, tape, tourniquets, and more along with a little training, at least, to put them to lifesaving use.
What is rare, though, is the prepper who stocks and rotates a supply of antibiotics among their other medical preps.
Antibiotics are, rightly, one of the single greatest discoveries ever in human history, rendering once fatal diseases survivable or even trivial, and preventing almost entirely the risk of death from wounds becoming infected with nasty germs.
Antibiotics are not foolproof, but they are the first and best defense against a battery of microbial threats.
So why don’t most preppers stock antibiotics? This one is easy: it is a pain in the ass! Antibiotics require a prescription and the cooperation of your doctor. They can be expensive, typically have short shelf lives, and require frequent rotation and replenishment.
Unlike the can of Spam and green beans that is nearing its expiration date that you can pull and prepare in a meal, recouping your investment in calories at least, you cannot nom your antibiotics unless the situation calls for it.
The aggravation, expense, and hassle of keeping antibiotics on hand and in prime effective condition means many preppers don’t bother, trusting to homeopathic methods to fight infection or homebrew techniques like the use of fish antibiotics.
Now, I am not any kind of expert on fish antibiotics, but I can tell you this: they are for fish, not people!
While they may do no harm and have at least some positive effect, you can bet your butt they don’t hold a candle to moxifloxacin and other “high-caliber” antibiotics.
Don’t let infection spell certain death: keep antibiotics on hand and fresh!
9 – Fuel
Yes, most preppers keep fuel on hand in a handy gas can or two, but only a few take pains to keep a substantial fuel supply ready to gas up and go.
You might not think you need to keep a big supply of gas on hand, especially if you are planning to bug out to a safer place far from your well-stocked abode, but reality might have other plans when the Big Day arrives.
What if, however it happens, you wind up trapped more or less in your local area, unable to make the long-distance journey to your BOL?
If all you kept handy was a couple of jerry cans full of gas, and now that becomes your “long haul” supply, you’ll be very miserly with your vehicle and any gasoline (or diesel, etc.) powered tools you might have.
A goodly supply of even a single 55-gallon drum, half-drum, or several large man-portable cans will allow you to use your labor-saving and potentially life-saving gas-guzzlers more liberally and frequently.
Sound farfetched? Well, how about the notion that, even staying put on purpose, you can use an inverter to make your vehicle an ad-hoc generator to power your other electrical devices, or provide cool AC in blazing temperatures and a dozen other handy functions?
An abundant gas supply is also a boon for friends, family, neighbors, and down-on-their-luck strangers who could use a hand. An important concept for building goodwill and bartering.
Do remember that fuels break down over time, and so stabilization, rotation, and proper storage will be required for this prep.
8 – Building Supplies
You might have the tools, but they will do you no good without the raw materials to put them to use.
For general preparedness but especially if bugging-in is a keystone in your plans you must have some construction materials to repair damage, create barricades and defenses or other utility structures as the situation dictates.
You don’t need to go crazy here, but a good supply of common lumber and plywood sizes along with PVC pipes, wire, screws, nails, tape, and heavy plastic sheeting will allow you to repair damage to your dwelling and make it weatherproof or at least more weather-resistant.
And before you jump to conclusions and think you’ll simply gather building materials from other wrecked and ruined houses around yours, consider the fact that it looks an awful lot like looting (and more than a little like a scavenger picking at a corpse); not the best light for your former or current neighbors to see you in.
7 – Siphons
Gathering liquid will no longer be as easy as turning on a tap when the SHTF, at least in most situations.
Contamination, power outages, and other unfortunate events will see taps, hoses, pumps, spigots, and hydrants fail, leaving you to invent some ingenious way to painstakingly and laboriously transfer the target liquid from one source to another without losing or ruining it.
At least, that’s what will happen if you don’t have siphons and hand pumps. For nabbing water and fuel from low-lying, enclosed, or hard-to-reach places these contraptions are the best buy.
Sure, yeah, you could siphon it by mouth and risk injury, infection or a mouthful of nastiness, or you could bust out your siphon and get it done efficiently, quickly, and safely. Siphons and hand pumps make short work of what is otherwise a tricky proposition.
It should not have to be said, but I’m gonna: remember to get two types of siphon, one for fuel and one for water. Ensure they are marked, don’t mix them up, and never, ever use one for the other.
No matter how it happens you’ll wind up with contamination and potentially not be able to trust your siphon again for the job you bought it for.
Siphons! Get some, and learn how to use and maintain them.
6 – Fume Mask
Fires are an extremely common occurrence all over the world, and all it takes is a minor mishap to spark a small fire that will grow into a raging conflagration in no time flat.
Fires also occur naturally in the form of wildfires and as concurrent events caused by all kinds of natural and man-made disasters.
While the prospect of burning up is terrifying and you are right to fear it, statistically it is smoke inhalation and subsequent asphyxiation that will be the most likely to incapacitate and kill you.
Prevent this likely occurrence by investing in lightweight fume masks that cover the head and provide filtration for smoke-borne particulates. Proper, full-size gas masks can work, but are bulky and not as quick to put on.
If you already have gas masks, simply ensure they are rated for smoke and utilize the appropriate cartridges as necessary. Otherwise, nab some fume masks from any fire safety and prevention store.
A good unit will be quick to don, easy to adjust and see through, and provide an ample seal around the neck and face. A fume mask that does not prevent smoke from slipping past the filter intake is less than no good!
This is a cheap and drastically underrated prep that I do not see many preppers investing in. With all the chaos that has been caused by riots and wildfires in recent months (not to mention more wildfires on the horizon if scientists can be trusted) it is painfully obvious how needed these are.
Get them, learn to use them, no exceptions!
5 – Personal Documents Backup
It is easy to forget how important your personal records are when you are planning to simply keep your ass alive and above room temperature.
Understandable, but you should know that, statistically, you will reach safety and working civilization again, or the lights will come back on and things will get back to normal even if you have been displaced from your home.
Wherever you have civilization you have bureaucracy, and that means you need to provide your bonafides. That is just the way it is, no matter how much you might prefer the Mad Max life. I am kidding, but only a little.
Paper or digital copies of IDs, social security cards, birth certificates, diplomas, credit cards, bank accounts, and more should all be made and kept with your emergency supplies or nearby.
Now, this requires some careful thought on your part as any person who gets a hold of this file has, literally, the keys to the city if they want to steal your identity and ruin your life.
Any digital copies kept on flash drives or memory cards should be encrypted and authenticated securely by a tech-savvy person before you trust them.
Paper copies must be very well hidden or the data somehow concealed as to avoid all but the most thorough search. Sewn into an article of clothing or bag lining, perhaps?
4 –Manual Washing Machine
Talk about going old school! In any but the shortest of disaster situations, you’ll eventually have need to wash your clothing.
Yes, you can pack or keep extra to forestall laundry day (laundry doomsday?) but eventually, you’ll have to tackle that stinky, dirty pile of clothes.
While many methods for accomplishing this exist, from ancient washboards to beating your clothes against river rocks, all of these methods will affect your clothes’ fibers and stitching.
A better way, and one that uses little water and effort in the bargain, is a small, manually operated washing machine, designed to use liquid soap or normal detergent.
These crank- or foot pedal-powered dynamos can get a small load of wash remarkably clean in a short time with comparatively little effort, and do it all quietly and in a small space.
A quick wash, hand rinse, spin, and then some time in the sun and you’ll be smelling and feeling as fresh as a daisy with properly cleaned clothes!
3 – Pepper Spray
You’ll never need to mention self-defense to most preppers; they are already dying to tell you about their latest gun, crossbow, battle axe, or whatever.
Sad to say but it is of course true that our fellow man and former neighbors might be the biggest threat we encounter during a serious SHTF situation. Fear, lack, and desperation will make people go mad and turn on their fellows with little warning and terrible repercussions.
Even in the midst of such awful times, you should have a defensive option that is better than your fists but not as final and as lethal as a gun or knife. For my money, pepper spray is the only thing that fits the bill.
Pepper spray gives you the range, effectiveness and follow-up capability in a small package that is unbeatable for the money. No other less-lethal tool does what pepper spray can.
And I mean pepper spray! Not bug spray, wasp spray, or anything else. None of those hasty or improvised sprays even come close to doing what pepper spray will, which is to knock the starch right out of someone’s will to fight. And on the chance that they do carry on, it is always easier to beat someone who can barely see or breathe.
Get a small canister for carry in your pocket or pouches and a mega-sized riot canister for at-home or in-the-car hijinks.
2 – Reference Manuals
Go ahead and plan on Google, Bing, Wikipedia, YouTube and, yes, even Survival Sullivan being DOA when the merde hits the oscillator.
Anything, any info you do not know by heart or have written down means you won’t have access to it unless someone teaches you or you can read it somewhere. Read it…
Hey! There’s an idea! Why not keep a whole bunch of reference materials handy in book format, be it ink or old-fashioned paper binding so you can access potential need-to-know info in a pinch?
From first aid to car repair, gardening to animal rearing, there are guidebooks, manuals, technical documents and so much more that you can add to your survival library just in case.
Especially with the rise and prevalence of e-readers and phones, you can carry around a literal entire library’s worth of books in a slim, sturdy device that weighs only a hair more than your average paperback novel.
While it won’t replace experience and true expertise, a good how-to book is a hell of a lot better than wearing a dumb look on your face or finding an answer the “fun” way; by trial and error, errors you might not be able to afford…
If you just have to have paper, consider any of the excellent survival field manuals and prepper bibles as excellent starting points. Many of these tomes are available in a reduced-size format for easy inclusion in BOBs.
1 – Bleach
Chlorine bleach is nothing short of a survival godsend, able to sterilize and sanitize everything from surfaces to tools to your skin and most vitally even your water supply
Plain, regular, unscented bleach can be added to questionable or known contaminated water sources to kill any lurking microbes inside that might make you sick or kill you.
Yeah, it will have a pool water taste and smell, but it will be far safer to drink! Just make sure you get the splashless, plain, no-added-nothing bleach for this purpose.
For cleaning up the aftermath of blood or other bodily product spills, bleach is also the king of over-the-counter agents, making short work of germs on smooth surfaces like floors, counters, and tools.
A strong mixture of bleach in distilled water is more than up to the task when left to sit for a short time on the surface before being washed away.
Do take care that you rotate your bleach! Yes, bleach loses its bleachiness over time. The general rule is when it loses that sharp tang, it is losing efficacy.
The good news is bleach is a common household agent and will always be useful, so as long as you adopt a first-in, first-out policy when it is time to scrub the bathroom you can be assured your freshest stock is always on hand in case of disaster.
The bad news is, that bleach is 6 months at the most, so you want to rotate it / use it often.
Take the time to learn your ratios for using bleach properly and safely, as anything except strict adherence to the “recipe” might injure you or ruin your water, and mixing bleach with a number of other chemicals can produce dangerous byproducts and potentially deadly gasses. Give this powerhouse staple the respect it deserves and stock up!
You Need to Get These Right Now
Some preps are crucially important and chronically overlooked. Take the time to review the list above and make sure you aren’t shooting yourself in the foot by omitting any of them.
Even if you cannot foresee yourself needing them, chances are with just a twist of fate they could become vital. Don’t make things harder by omitting them without a good reason!
Tom Marlowe practically grew up with a gun in his hand, and has held all kinds of jobs in the gun industry: range safety, sales, instruction and consulting, Tom has the experience to help civilian shooters figure out what will work best for them.