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10 SHTF Problems You Might Not Have Planned For

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No matter how much you prepare for disaster, there are going to be unexpected problems that throw a monkey wrench in your plans. While you can’t prepare for every possible scenario, you still want to do your best. The more scenarios you prepare for, the less unexpected problems there will be. To help you with this, here are 10 SHTF problems you might not have planned for.

1. You run out of toilet paper.

Even if you have a closet full of extra toilet paper, if the disaster is long enough you could still run out. There’s also the chance that your toilet paper will be destroyed in a fire, flood, tornado, etc. What would you do if any of those things happened?

Solution: Here are some alternatives…

  • Old, clean t-shirts are perfect. You can even wash and reuse them a la cloth diapers.
  • Socks that have too many holes to be repaired. You were going to throw them away anyway.
  • Newspaper that has been soaked in a tub of water. If it’s dry, it won’t be very comfortable.
  • A spray bottle filled with water. Not ideal, but it could work.
  • Here are some other substitutes for toilet paper.

2. Your glasses break.

You need to be able to see, so this is an important one. Personally, I am pretty much useless without my glasses or contacts. Trying to survive in a post-SHTF world while being half blind would be quite a challenge.

Solution: Have a couple backups, and keep them in different locations in case one is destroyed or you’re unable to get to it. Don’t be afraid to buy several pairs of glasses secondhand. You should also keep an eyeglass repair kit handy as well. Another option is to make some pinhole glasses. You can learn more about preparedness for people with glasses in this post.

3. There’s no water to flush the toilet.

Given that we all use the bathroom several times a day, it’s amazing how many people forget to prepare for this problem. If you have a pool or if there’s a body of water nearby, you can use that water when your toilet really needs to be flushed (yellow, let it mellow; brown, flush it down). But what if the only water you have needs to be saved for drinking and cleaning?

Solution: Learn other ways to dispose of waste. Get yourself some trash bags and a portable toilet. You could also try digging catholes or a latrine.


4. Your water filter is destroyed.

Since you can’t live 3 days without water, it should be a top priority. That’s why I’ve often told new preppers that one of the very first things they should do is get a good water filter. But what if your water filter breaks?

Solution: Here are some other options…

  • Have some backup filters. LifeStraws are small, affordable, and filter over 250 gallons.
  • Stock up on water purification tablets. Great for bug out bags.
  • Bring your water to a rapid boil for at least a minute.
  • Distill the water. This will take a while, but the distilled water will be safe to drink.
  • Make your own filter out of rocks, sand, charcoal, and grass. Here’s how.

5. Your compass breaks.

Although this site is geared toward people living in the city, there are many scenarios where you would be forced to bug out. What if you get lost and your compass isn’t working?

Solution: Learn some other ways to judge direction. There are several ways to do this…

  • If direct sunlight is available, push a 3-foot stick into a flat piece of ground. Place a rock at the tip of the shadow. Wait for a while, then place another rock at the tip of the shadow. The first rock is west, and the second rock is east.
  • Use an analog watch as a compass. Check out this article to learn how.
  • At night, look at the moon. If it’s a crescent, imagine a line going from the top tip to the bottom tip and all the way down to the horizon. If you’re in the Northern hemisphere, wherever the line touches the horizon is south.
  • If the moon isn’t a crescent, find Polaris (also known as the North Star). It’s directly above the big dipper and at the end of the little dipper’s handle. See here. If you face the north star and stretch your arms sideways, your left hand points west and your right hand points east. Note: This only works in the northern hemisphere.

These methods are by no means exact, but they can give you a good general direction.

6. Your fire starting materials are lost.

Fire is crucial. You need it to cook food, boil water, and possibly to stay warm. But what if you somehow lose your lighters, matches, or flint and steel?

Solution: Learn some other ways to start a fire. They’re a lot harder and require time, energy, and patience, but you might have no choice. There are several methods….

  • Make a fire plough. This is a fairly simple method that everyone should learn.
  • Learn some other primitive methods such as the hand drill and the bow drill. More info here.
  • Use a battery and steel wool or a gum wrapper. Both methods are explained in this video.
  • Use a full water bottle aimed at a tinder bundle with the sun reflecting through it.
  • I could go on and on. Here are some more creative ways to start a fire.

7. Cash becomes worthless.

Hyperinflation has happened dozens of times around the world. And with the way central banks keep pumping new money into their economies, there’s the possibility it could happen in your country next.

Solution: Have some barter items. Things that are both portable and useful, such as toilet paper, water, food, medical supplies, alcohol, lighters, and so forth. Bartering will be much more effective than cash if hyperinflation occurs. Also consider stocking up on pieces of jewelry and precious metals.

8. Your flashlight dies and you don’t have spare batteries.

You don’t want to be stuck in the dark every evening, especially if you have things to do. So what should you do if you run out of batteries?

Solution: Have some backup lighting options. This post has several suggestions other than flashlights. If you don’t have any backup lights, then make your own candle. There are many ways to do this…

  • Make a big candle out of a tub of Crisco or lard. Here’s how.
  • A stick of butter can be transformed into a candle by inserting a wick made of toilet paper into the center.
  • Use duct tape to wrap a few crayons together. Light the paper around the crayons and you have a quick candle.
  • Poke a hole into a can of tuna, push a thick string into the hole, then light it. You can eat the tuna afterwards.
  • Here are a few more ideas.

9. It’s snowing or raining and you don’t have any rain gear.

In cool temperatures, it is absolutely crucial you stay as dry as possible. Being wet will zap your body temperature and leave you vulnerable to hypothermia.

Solution: Cover your shoes with bread sacks, garbage bags or grocery bags. Use a garbage bag as a poncho if you don’t have one. You can also stuff newspaper between your clothing and your skin to keep the wet garments off your skin and to act as insulation. It’s not the most comfortable solution, but it’s a lot more comfortable than freezing.

10. You get bored.

It could happen. Depending on what type of disaster you’re facing, you might find yourself with a lot of free time. For example, if all you’re dealing with is an extended power outage, or if you’re snowed in during a blizzard, you’re going to have some long, boring evenings with nothing to do. Unless…

Solution: Stock up on forms of entertainment that don’t require power. For example: books, board games, a deck of cards, acoustic instruments, etc. If you have kids, get things like coloring books and crayons, jigsaw puzzles, and some non-battery operated toys. Cars and dolls are oldies but goodies, and can provide hours of entertainment.

What to read next: 10 Tips For Staying Clean After The SHTF

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  • Cassiejo Calahan

    About using a spray bottle in place of toilet paper: Using a small ‘nose rinsing’ bottle with the hole in the top works quite well. With this you can even add a LITTLE soap, fragrances, etc. After, you can use a towel to dry.

  • Cassiejo Calahan

    Also, in the past when we didn’t have enough water in the cistern and were trying to conserve water. Short showers are good, but I found that I could shower, wash my hair and rinse using only a quart or half gallon of water. An entire gallon would be more than doable. It worked that way for thousands of years. I discovered I could get just as clean as I did by standing in a running shower for 20 minutes!

  • Michael Mixon

    The best water in a crisis may be right in your own well, but you have no way to get it without power. Check out the Emergency Well Tube at http://www.emergencywelltube.com to see how this won’t be a problem for you any longer.

  • Rene

    If you’re ling in an apartment – then I advice you to get out of it and find a house that you can afford – even if it is a real hell hole and needs tons of work – if you can afford the monthly payments that are far lower than rent – you can slowly work on it and repair what needs attentions to make it more livable – while you prep and make the place your survival bug-in abode. Fixer uppers can easily be found and sellers are always ready to negotiate the price to get rid of it. Don’t take on too big of a project, because it’ll overwhelm you and eat up all of your money. Think small – say around 900 to 1,110 sq ft size home with enough of a lot that you can garden on. If the land at this home site is poor for cultivating, then think about container, green / hot house, and hydroponic gardening.

    Of course a home water well with a way to pump it without electricity is a dream come true!

    The ONE thing that every home owner should have installed as a backup water system, is RAIN BARRELS at every down spout. This water can be used to keep plants watered, and the lawn too, as well as flushing toilets. A great back up as toilet paper is the natural hide car chamois, that can be rinsed and washed over and over again. Of course, you’ll need to keep it wet, or it’ll dry out to a linoleum or tar paper like softness. NO BODY wants to wipe their fundament with tar paper!

    [ If there is space for it, consider an above ground cattle water supply tank that holds 500 to 1,500 gallons of water. ]

  • Patrick Burton

    none of thees things are a stretch of the mind. as a prepper i can tell you that most preppers have thought of these things already.

  • Brian Willis

    get you a 60 watt solar panel kit that comes with a charge controller. Hook that up to a deep cycle marine battery. They are good cuz they can be drained and recharged over and over again but the 60 watt panel can recharge it. and run a 1000 to 1500 watt inverter off of the battery. and buy you a 50 dollar dehumidifier. Hook that up to the inverter. its not too high of wattage that your solar panels cant keep your battery topped off. the dehumidifier makes water out of air and it collects in its built in container. You can drink this water. its about as pure as it gets other than dust particles. Have some coffee filters on hand too, to filter the water of any dust.

    I just gave you a great tip to getting water. The 60 watt kit i bought off ebay for $153 a 1500 watt inverter should be around 100 bux and a deep cycle battery is under 200. it costs money but this is a sure fire way to make sure you have water. the water does taste different than tap water. Theres no chlorine or chemicals in this water its pure H2o i also use a 3 dollar aquarium fliter that has activated carbon in it to improve the taste. heres the dehimidifier i bought and it works great


  • ericpinola

    Really cool idea – Thank you from Texas!

  • Brian Willis

    you’re welcome!

  • Mary Curry

    Use a handcrank flashlight and radio.

  • Mary Curry

    If you have your own well, consider building a wellhouse around it and installing a bypass to a regular hand pump. They worked for my grandparents and great-grands and should work still.

  • Mary Curry

    Also if you have a one-holer, keep a bucket of sand and throw in a couple handfuls after each use. Keeps odor down.

  • Lorenzo Poe

    Cat hole? Not on your own property or near a multiple night camp. Parasites can move through 4 feet of dirt so your latrine should be at least 6 feet deep and further from your water source. The stink in most latrines is from the imbalance of solids and liquids. Have your liquids go somewhere else and the smell will decrease.

  • something to consider

    a small folding solar panel can be kept for recharging small devices…like bateries for radios and flashlights

  • Sivie

    “Newspaper that has been soaked in a tub of water. If it’s dry, it won’t be very comfortable”
    There is absolutely NO reason so soak newspaper in water. Before the invention of toilet paper people would sit in the outhouse while they would do their business and work the page from the sears catalog between their hands in a circular motion. That would break the paper enough to soften it and make it more absorbent. Just thought you would want to know…..

  • Lilia Syarif Naga

    I quoted the number 5: If direct sunlight is available, push a 3-foot stick into a flat piece of ground. Place a rock at the tip of the shadow. Wait for a while, then place another rock at the tip of the
    shadow. The first rock is west, and the second rock is east.

    It must be decided after the shadow moved 90 degrees, right?