Estimated reading time: 8 minutes
One of the most overlooked survival skills is the ability to scavenge. This includes knowing which items to scavenge, where to look for them, and how to put together a scavenger tool kit to help aid you in your efforts.
When the grid goes down and society as we know it has collapsed, there will be food, water, and other necessities left over that will still be around… but not for long. Even after all the looters, raiders, and hoarders have left their mark, there will still be items of value left over that you need to know how to look for.
That being said, simply heading out into an abandoned town to scavenge with only the clothes on your back is a fool’s errand. You need to bring the right tools with you, and that’s what we’re going to discuss today.
In this guide, we’ll dive into how to put together a personal scavenger tool kit. We’ll also cover the primary differences between scavenging and looting and the types of items you should be scavenging for.
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Looting vs. Scavenging
It’s very important to note the difference between looting and scavenging. Contrary to what some may think, the two are not the same and mean completely different things.
Looting is the act of forcefully stealing items and goods in a without-rule-of-law situation. Raiding, plundering, and sacking are also terms that can be used in this regard.
Looting usually occurs either following a collapse in authority or when the authority refuses to act to keep the peace. We witnessed this happen in the United States in 2020 during the mass rioting that occurred in many large cities and urban areas. Numerous stores, supermarkets, and businesses were ruthlessly broken into by mobs of people who took whatever they pleased.
Scavenging is completely different. It’s the act of collecting usable items that have been abandoned or discarded, and that will literally be wasted if they are not found and used by someone.
Scavenging is something that people will do after society has permanently collapsed (or at least apparently so), and most home and car owners will never return. Think following an EMP attack, a large-scale natural disaster, or something even worse. There will be many useful items and materials abandoned that could make your survival efforts easier if you use them. The trick is scavenging those items before someone else does.
Overview of Scavenging: Where and What to Scavenge
There are three major points to scavenging: knowing which areas to scavenge, which items to look for, and putting together a scavenger tool kit that can make it easier. We’ll briefly go over the first two points before diving deep into the third.
In general, the following locations should provide you with your best options for scavenging:
- Fire Stations
- Gardening Stores
- Gas Stations
- General Stores
- Grocery Stores and Supermarkets
- Hardware Stores
- Liquor Stores
- Shopping Maps
- Sporting Goods Stores
- Warehouses and Factories
The best strategy is to use a map or GPS of your surrounding area, draw a circle of the general radius you want to operate in, and then pinpoint the above kinds of places within that radius. Those are the places you’ll hit.
Take note that scavenging is an ongoing, extensive effort. It’s not just something you do once or very briefly. A thorough scavenging expedition will take three to four hours at the absolute minimum (if not longer to get to the area and back). It also needs to be something that you schedule in advance and do repeatedly throughout the week.
With the above locations in mind, the following are the types of items that you’ll want to look for at them:
- Blankets and Sleeping Items
- Cooking Items
- Food (rice, canned foods, etc.)
- Medicine and First Aid Equipment
- Outdoor Equipment
- Water and Water Filters
- Yard Equipment
By no means is this a comprehensive list, and you’ll undoubtedly find different items that you’ll find use in that you’ll want to pick up. Just collect them while you still can.
Now that we’ve covered where to scavenge and some of the basic items to look for, let’s dive into how to put together a scavenger tool kit.
Building A Scavenger Tool Kit
Scavenging is an inherently risky endeavor. You may come across other hostile individuals (some of whom may want or need the same items you do). There’s also the difficulty of hauling everything you collect and getting into difficult-to-access areas.
This is why having a complete scavenger tool kit is so critical. The items within it are designed to make your scavenging efforts both safer and more productive. Here are the items you need to complete your scavenger tool kit, in alphabetical order:
First and foremost, have a high-quality backpack to store your items and to keep everything organized and in one place. Your backpack, however, should mostly be used for bringing along your own items. When it comes to storing the stuff you collect, you’ll want to use…
Think large stuff bags or laundry bags with drawstrings. The bags need to have a large capacity and fold down neatly. Duffle bags and backpacks are fine too, but they are bulkier and often don’t have the same volume or carrying capacity.
Use binoculars for scouting out the area. Get ones that can wrap around your neck for convenience.
Use bolt cutters for getting into difficult-to-access areas such as places that are sealed off with a fence.
Bump keys are keys that have been grinded down in a manner so they can be utilized for opening almost any kinds of locks. You can use a bump key to try to break into somewhere without making a serious mess like you would with a crowbar or a hatchet.
Always bring clean drinking water with you to stay hydrated. A simple canteen slung over your shoulder or secured to your belt should work just fine.
Bring a few plastic containers in your backpack for storing certain items. For example, you may need containers for storing water or certain kinds of foods.
Bring cordage, such as paracord, with you to help tie items together or lash things to the outside of your backpack.
While heavy, a crowbar is essentially for breaking your way through locked doors and windows.
Chances are very good that the power will be out while scavenging. Bring at least one flashlight and a spare set of batteries.
As long as you’re planning on collecting fuel on your scavenging endeavor, such as from abandoned vehicles, you’ll need a gas can to help collect it. A simple five gallon can should be more than sufficient; keep in mind that in the event of you fully filling it, it will become quite heavy.
Gas Siphon Pumps
Gas siphon pumps allow you to collect fuel directly from abandoned cars. This is a must have if you’re after more fuel.
Wear gloves to help protect your hands while gathering fuel, contaminated surfaces, or handling sharp objects.
Goggles can help protect your eyes when entering dusty areas. They can also help to shield your identity, if necessary.
A hacksaw is fully capable of cutting through plastic, wood, and many types of metals. It’s easy to see how it could come in handy.
For protection. Bring a concealable handgun (and consider an additional for a backup) with spare magazines or speed loaders. There’s likely no need to have a rifle or a shotgun, as your arms will be full gathering supplies anyway.
A hatchet is an excellent tool to use for more heavy duty applications than a knife can be used for, such as for chopping through or splitting wood. It can make for a great self-defense weapon as well.
An addition or alternative to a flashlight is to wear a headlamp. The advantage here is a headlamp can free up both of your hands.
Preferably bring two knives: a fixed blade knife with a full tang, and then a smaller tactical folding knife that you can keep clipped to the inside of your pocket.
If you need to get a fire going quickly, a lighter is the fastest and most convenient option. Bring a small container filled with cotton balls and Vaseline; this combination is highly flammable and an excellent choice for when you need to get a fire going quickly.
Buy a lockpick set and keep it stashed away in your scavenger tool backpack. Make sure you are trained in their use beforehand. Consider investing in a locksmithing class to help hone your skills.
Protein bars offer a portable option for food while you’re on the go. Stash two or three in your pocket.
A sillcock key is a device used to help open sillcocks and hose bibs that are tamper resistant. This is important for gathering water from buildings. Speaking of which…
Bring a small personal water filter and purification tablets so long as you plan on drinking water that you find while you’re on the go.
Scavenging for what items and goods you can find is something you’ll inevitably end up doing following an extended grid-down scenario. It’s very important that you put together a complete scavenger tool kit distinct from your survival kit or bug out bag. Bring this kit with you on each of your scavenging endeavors. It will make your efforts much easier and hopefully yield better results.
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