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Here Are The Prepper Supplies You Need to Survive a Long-Term Disaster.
Anyone preparing to survive the effects of a long-term disaster has to deal with a constant balancing act: What do I need, how much do I need, and do I really need it? Much of the dilemma is driven by cost and common sense.
Most people can’t afford to buy everything for every possible disaster, and even if they could, where would they store it? And is any or all of it portable in the event of an evacuation?
Is a Complete, Long-Term Disaster List Realistic?
The surprising answer is: Probably not. Disasters vary and so do the needs of anyone affected by it in addition to location, duration, and other factors that simply can’t be anticipated.
For those reasons, we’re going to filter decisions about any item that shows up on a prepper supply list with some basic questions. It could help with decision-making about various items and ensure that you assemble the supplies you genuinely would need rather than fill a basement full of random stuff.
As a result, we’ll list numerous possibilities, but then it will be up to you to prioritize based on your location, family size, level of concern, what you can afford, what you can store, and what you can potentially transport. Those priorities will not only guide decisions about what to buy but also the amounts to buy as well.
One category we won’t cover is emergency food. That is an extensive subject that goes well beyond equipment and supplies. Now let’s get on with it…
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Table of Contents
- Acquisition 101
- Disaster Defined
- Common Sense Considerations
- Supplies to Consider
- Have We Missed Anything?
- You don’t have to buy everything new.
- Once you have your final list, do an audit or maybe a good cleanout to figure out what you already have on hand. We sometimes lose track of things from the past.
- If a family member or neighbor has something on your list that looks unused or neglected like a rusty blacksmith’s anvil or a box of antique tools collecting dust in the garage, make them an offer.
- Garage sales, estate sales, and flea markets are worth a look from time to time. Especially for tools and equipment.
- Resale shops, dollar stores, and warehouse retailers are worth a good look. In an emergency, you don’t need the most expensive and well-known brands; you need something that works and will do the job.
- Check eBay, Craigslist and other online sources for items both new and used.
- Shop the Internet from Amazon to everyday retailers. Shop around and compare prices and look for bulk discounts.
- Shop the sales. Assembling all of these items may take time, so take the time to find the best price.
- Do it yourself. It’s good practice for skills you will need in the future, and it’s always cheaper when you make it yourself.
- Specialized retailers. There are some items that are unique and hard to find that offer surprising degrees of sustainability. Homesteading tools and equipment are one example, and a source like Lehmans—which is a traditional supplier to the Amish community—just might have that unique piece of equipment you can’t find anywhere else.
- And don’t forget that antique stores often have unique, hard-to-find pioneer tools for sale that aren’t even manufactured anymore.
It may be worth taking a moment to understand and define disasters both short-term and long term. According to the International Federation of Red Cross:
A disaster is a sudden, calamitous event that seriously disrupts the functioning of a community or society and causes human, material, and economic or environmental losses that exceed the community’s or society’s ability to cope using its own resources. Though often caused by nature, disasters can have human origins.”
Examples of Natural Disasters:
- Volcanic eruptions
Examples of Manmade Disasters:
- Economic collapse
- Transport accidents
- Industrial accidents
- Human stampedes
- Terrorist attacks
- Oil spills
- Civil unrest
- Civil war
- War between nations
- Nuclear explosions
There are other disasters that fall into extremes such as an asteroid strike or gamma-ray burst, but they are statistically improbable and no amount of preparedness would probably make a difference anyway. If it’s the end of the world as we know it, running out of toilet paper will be the least of our problems.
What’s important to remember is that while different disasters have different effects, there are some common challenges that emerge from any disaster. Those are the areas to really think about when preparing and stockpiling, and we’ll cover them one by one.
Short-Term versus Long-Term
This is where preparedness always gets complicated. FEMA’s standard recommendation is that everyone should have a 72-hour kit. That’s not hard to do and you can either buy one pre-packed or put together your own.
The 72-hour or 3-day recommendation is based on facts. The average duration requiring survival tactics after a disaster averages about three days. After that period of time, relief efforts show up and life begins to return to normal. Sometimes.
Another recommendation that often shows up is a 2-week time-frame for supplies and survival equipment. There is no official recommendation from any agency or government for this two-week period, but some disasters like Hurricane Katrina and the Indonesian Tsunami affected local areas for months.
And that’s where things get really complicated because it starts to get into a long-term duration.
Unfortunately, there appears to be no clear definition of the duration of a long-term disaster. FEMA stops at 72-hours and afterward the experts proclaim that every disaster is unique with recommendations more in the category of long-term community plans rather than individual preparedness and planning.
As result, you may have to choose the duration you are planning for or worried about. Maybe the biggest thing to worry about is a duration that lasts for years. It’s estimated that a massive power grid failure would take 10 years to fully repair in the U.S. and other devastating disasters like an EMP burst or supervolcano eruption could have effects that go on for a generation or more.
Common Sense Considerations
The simple fact is that you really can’t prepare for everything. However, most disasters present some common challenges that are worth taking into account. Many disasters result in power outages, an increase in crime, shortages of everyday items, and medical emergencies. If you step back and look at the trends that accompany most disasters, it’s easier to narrow the range of supplies you should have on hand.
With that in mind, here are some considerations to guide any checklist for disaster preparedness:
What Could Happen?
It’s worth thinking about the statistical probability of any disaster occurring that would affect you and your family, but this will vary depending on your location. Some areas are more subject to weather-related disasters like hurricanes, tornadoes, and flooding. Other areas are threatened by earthquakes, wildfires, and even tsunamis. Some parts of the world are enduring civil war and few parts of the world are unaffected by the Coronavirus pandemic.
In the general category of disasters, natural disasters are statistically more common and with rare exceptions like a global pandemic, they are usually localized. What that means is that resources are often still available, although not so much on a local level. The current pandemic is a good example. While there have been shortages of some items on a local level like toilet paper and hand sanitizer, you can still buy most anything from outside sources.
It’s the manmade disasters that seem to present the greatest challenge to long term survival. Civil wars go on for years and the looming threat of cyber attacks as a form of terrorism could cripple the power grid and the communications grid serving the Internet and cell phone technology. The cascade of events following those types of failures would extend to manufacturing and distribution and a failure of the supply of just about anything.
Take the time to think about what you can’t live without.
Who is Your Priority?
Historically, families pull together in times of emergency or disaster. What that means is you have more to think about than just yourself. It’s about your spouse, your kids, your grandparents and grandkids, and possibly brothers and sisters, nieces and nephews, and of course, your pets. As a result, you’re going to need more of some items just to have enough to go around. A tent may sleep six, but how many can realistically fit into one sleeping bag?
Stop and think about the quantity of items you should store and which individual items will suffice for the group.
Where Are You?
Are you living in an apartment in the city? A house in the suburbs? A homestead in a rural location? What you’ll need and can realistically use in different living environments will vary. A broad ax and log splitting maul might be a great idea if you live in a wooded area in the wilderness, but does anyone really need them when they’re living in a city in an apartment? It’s possible but not likely.
Your location is not only important when it comes to evaluating potential disasters, but it also affects your living style and the supplies you need to sustain yourself in that environment. Strive to be realistic. Think twice about anything you think you need. If you bog yourself down with imaginary “what-if” scenarios that rationalize a need for everything, then you’re not prepping—you’re just hoarding.
Ask yourself: Is it a usable and viable item for your short and long-term needs or just another random thing that showed up on a list that you might need “someday?”
How Long Will You Be On Your Own?
It’s impossible to evaluate duration, but the prepper’s mantra is prepare for the worst and hope for the best. The worst-case scenario is a permanent change to the lifestyle we were accustomed to. If that’s your fear, you might consider a cabin in the woods or a homestead in the country. In those environments, you can live off the land to some degree with a high degree of self-reliance.
Most people don’t have the wherewithal or the inclination to make such a radical change in the course of preparing for disaster. But there’s still a significant survival concept to keep in mind when it comes to long-term disaster planning: sustainability.
Have you assembled equipment and supplies that are sustainable for the long term? A chain saw may make short work of cutting up wood… until you run out of gas, or oil, or the chain breaks. That might make you wonder why you didn’t buy that lumberman’s crosscut saw.
Stop and ask yourself if an item empowers your self-reliance in a sustainable way or is limited by the potential lack of another resource?
The best way to establish priorities is to simply ask yourself what you can’t live without. If you or a family member is diabetic, two things come to mind: insulin and syringes. That’s an extreme example, but a fact of life for many. Before you bury yourself in long lists and fussy decision-making about stuff, aim straight for the priorities. Those should top your list, and from there you can expand your thinking.
Supplies to Consider
All supplies for survival and self-reliance fall into categories that satisfy fundamental needs. Thinking about needs makes it a lot easier to balance options from a supply standpoint. And there are many options offering varying levels of solutions, so you need to pick what’s best for you, your group, your location, and your budget. A windmill for emergency electric power doesn’t make a lot of sense for someone living in a second-story apartment, but if the apartment has a southern exposure, solar panels could be a perfect solution.
With that in mind, here are the needs and possible supplies that could solve many of the challenges of a long-term disaster.
Following most major disasters around the world are reports of power outages that last from hours to weeks and even months. Life without electricity becomes rapidly challenging and potentially dangerous.
Here are some options to consider:
- Gas generator sized to electric demands and needs
- Gas cans
- Motor oil
- Solar panels
- Solar panel frames
- Solar panel cables
- Solar/wind charge control system and monitors
- Windmill for electric power generation
- Solar/wind 12-volt batteries for power storage
- AC inverters
You don’t need all of them, but it’s worth thinking about how you can produce electric power on your own if the power grid is down.
There are two priorities for communication after a disaster: Communication with immediate family and friends to know how they’re doing, and communication with the rest of the world to understand what’s going on.
It’s possible the Internet or cellphone service may be disrupted or severely compromised, so think about how you could communicate without those services. There’s also the possibility that TV won’t function depending on how the service is provided. It might be time to have a backup TV antenna that will at least allow you to receive locally broadcast TV signals. And don’t forget: old landline phones always seem to work even when the power was out.
Here are some communication options to consider:
- HAM radio
- CB radio
- Walkie talkies
- Traditional landline phone
- Solar/hand crank rechargeable AM/FM/NOAA radio
- Solar panel recharger for phones and computers
- UHF/VHF TV antenna
If you’re depending on a radio for communication with family and friends, they’ll need to have their own equipment as well. And don’t forget, most cars come with a radio conveniently installed.
Heat will always be an issue in any area with cold winters. The challenge comes from the fact that most furnaces require some level of electricity to operate, even furnaces connected to natural gas. Solutions are limited based on the availability of any electric power and, in the case of woodstoves, firewood.
Here are some things to consider, although any woodstove would require installation.
- Space heater
- Wood-fired Box stove
- Chimney kit for woodstove installation
- Cast iron trivet fans to circulate woodstove heat
Most people have a sufficient supply of pots, pans, and other utensils for cooking and eating. However, most of that cooking equipment assumes a source of heat, and while it’s possible that a gas stove may still work when the power is out, there’s no guarantee. It’s time to think like a camper in your own backyard or apartment patio. How will you cook food?
Here are some options:
- Propane gas camp stove
- Extra propane cylinders
- Dual-fuel multi-burner camp stove (white gas or regular gas)
- Gas cans for white or regular gas
- Open fire cooking grate
- Open fire tripod
- Kettle grill
- Barrel grill and smoker
- Folding camp stove (Hobo stove)
- Dutch oven
- Camp cookware
- Aluminum foil
- Campfire utensils for cooking
- Dish soap, scrub pads, and pot scrubbing brush
Sustainability continues to be a lingering question, so don’t assume a propane stove and a couple of extra cylinders will get you through. Have a backup plan. Even if you’re ultimately left with burning scrap wood in a hobo stove, you have a viable option for cooking if the power stays out and you’re out of gas.
Most of us already have what we need in terms of clothing, but think about what’s missing. It’s possible we’ll be spending more time outdoors than usual even in inclement weather. Do we have the clothes we need to function when it’s below zero? Does everyone have rain gear for a day and night in the rain?
Think in terms of durability too. If you’re due for a new pair of boots, buy the best. It may be a while before you get to that next, new pair. Also, think about clothes that take a beating. Socks come to mind, so don’t skimp on the socks. And then there’s that sustainability issue. Make sure you have the necessary tools and supplies to repair clothing.
Here are some possibilities for frequently needed clothing, and don’t forget the needs of your entire family or group:
There’s more to clothing than what’s listed here, but the assumption is that you already have the basics covered in your closets and dresser drawers.
- Complete sewing kit
- Leather crafting and sewing kit
- Leather scraps
- Shoe repair kit
- Buttons, zippers, snaps, belt buckles, and rivets
- Elastic fabric strips
- Knitting and crochet needles
This may seem like an unnecessary consideration and most homes are sufficiently supplied for bedding and sleeping arrangements, but disasters often create a new challenge when it comes to sleeping arrangements. Past precedent indicates that many family members relocate to another family member’s home while recovering from a long term disaster.
Are you equipped to accommodate unexpected guests for the long term with regards to bedding and sleeping arrangements?
Living in the dark during a power outage adds to the stress and complications of recovering from any disaster. There are many options, and you might want to consider purchasing them as backups or alternatives depending on need. One thing to maybe skip are conventional batteries for flashlights. They just don’t last long. Think sustainability.
- Pillar candles
- Tea candles
- Candle lanterns
- Solar lights
- Hand crank flashlights
- Rechargeable batteries in various sizes
- Solar-powered battery recharger
- LED flashlights
- LED headlamps
- 12-volt DC lamps
- Zippo lighters with sufficient fuel, wicks, and flints
- Rechargeable electronic lighter
- Strike anywhere matches
We may not be covering food in this article, but water is more critical. We can go quite some time without food, but none of us will last 3 days without water. The challenge after any disaster is finding water that’s safe to drink. When the power is out, the well pumps don’t work and even gravity-fed water from a water tower will eventually run out.
The critical equipment and supplies related to water have to do with collection, filtration, purification, and storage. You could always boil water (for at least 3 minutes), but given how vital water is to survival, you should seriously invest in supplies related to water.
- Hand water pump
- Ceramic water purification filter
- Filter replacement cartridges
- Water treatment tablets
- 5-gallon buckets with lids for water collection and storage
- 5-gallon water bottle standing dispenser
- 5-gallon water bottles
- Large stockpot for boiling water
- Large capacity (55 gallons) water storage drums
- Water preserver for high capacity storage
Beyond that, it’s really a question of your experience with rifles and handguns and the potential risk at your location. Ammunition is an obvious consideration and how much you store is also up to you, although it will undoubtedly become a very rare and valuable commodity in the midst of a catastrophic disaster.
Medical Treatment and First Aid
Do yourself a favor and buy an expedition-level first aid kit. You can try assembling all of the first aid equipment and supplies yourself, but it will probably end up costing you as much if not more, and you just might miss something. After a disaster injuries can get serious, so you should have a serious first aid kit on hand to treat a range of injuries.
As far as prescription medicines go, you could always ask your doctor for a 90-day supply. Your insurance may not cover a 90-day option, so you may have to pay for the extra doses.
You could also discuss your concerns with your doctor and they might write you a prescription for purchasing larger amounts as long as they are not in an opioid or other narcotic/dangerous category. Some people have started ordering prescriptions from Canada using their doctor’s prescription and are sometimes able to order quantities up to 180 doses.
- Expedition level first aid kit
- Burn kit
- Activated charcoal for poisoning
- Suture kit
- Wound care including assorted bandages, gauze, tape, and antibiotic ointments
- Eye first aid kit
- Snake and insect bite kit
- Hydrogen peroxide
- Rubbing alcohol
- Assorted OTC medicines for pain relief, sore throat, coughs, congestion, intestinal distress
Tools and Hardware
If there’s one area where you should make a significant investment, it’s tools. The reason tools are so critical goes beyond do-it-yourself projects you might improvise after a disaster. They’re also important because of the significant level of repairs you may have to do if your home has been damaged.
The good news is that most tools are relatively cheap, although some obscure tools like a drawshave or adze could be a bit pricey simply because there is not a high demand for what are considered “pioneer” tools. But if you think about it, pioneer tools are exactly what you’ll need if there’s a power outage or shortage of basic commodities like gasoline or oil. Curiously, antique stores often have many pioneer tools for sale at very low prices.
Another possibility is battery-powered tools using a rechargeable battery that you recharge either with solar panels or some other self-generated power. There are many videos on the Internet of people building entire cabins in remote areas using nothing but solar recharged battery-powered tools.
Just as important as tools are various types of hardware including nails, screws, nuts, bolts and washers, hinges, hasps, baling wire, and any other hardware you might need to repair, rebuild, or construct anything. But think ahead.
If you had to build or repair something without power or a convenient hardware store, what would you need?
- Wood saw
- Timber saw
- Hacksaw and blades
- Coping saw and blades
- Saw sharpening tools
- Assorted hammers
- Posthole digger
- Assorted gardening tools
- Log splitting maul
- Log splitting wedges
- Shake/shingle splitter (Froe)
- Large hand drill
- Small hand drill
- Drill bits
- Hand timber drills
- Hand planes
- Assorted wrenches
- Assorted ratchets
- Assorted screwdrivers
- Safety goggles
- Assorted pliers
- Crescent wrenches
- Vise grips
- Assorted files
- Sandpaper assortment
- Channel locks
- Assorted monkey wrenches
- Assorted scissors
- Assorted wood nails
- Roofing nails
- Assorted wood screws
- Assorted nuts, bolts, and washers
- Assorted hooks
- Snap links (carabiners)
- Assorted angle braces
- Heavy-duty rope
- Light duty rope
- Nylon twine
- Baling wire
- Tie-down straps
Sanitation and Hygiene
This covers a wide range of considerations from toilet paper to cleaning supplies. It’s a category that has shown direct evidence of the effect that shortages can have as a result of a disaster like a global pandemic.
Do you have everything you need to keep everything clean?
- Toilet paper
- Paper towels
- Hand sanitizer
- Disinfectant floor cleaner
- Hand soap
- Dental hygiene kit(s)
- Foot care kit(s)
- Dish soap
- Laundry soap
- Personal care kit(s)
- Feminine hygiene kit(s)
- Haircut and beard trimming kit
It’s one thing to assemble and store a nice collection of disaster supplies, but it’s another thing if you have to pack and evacuate. It’s the primary design of the 72-hour kits or grab-and-go bags as they’re sometimes called. How successfully you evacuate has a lot to do with what you can take with you.
One recommendation that shows up often is to evacuate on foot to avoid the traffic jams of a massive evacuation. That might work for one or two adults, but a family with children or elderly parents or someone with a physical handicap may have to either bug in or make the best of it in a vehicle.
Regardless of how you evacuate, it helps to take time to stop and think about what you would take from an extensive collection of supplies. One way to do this is to compartmentalize items so you can quickly grab pre-assembled kits. It’s the first aid kit concept scaled up and out to other items to make them easier to find and pack and easier to use when needed.
You’ll also need some supplies to pack your gear:
The Barter Consideration
There’s a possibility that commerce will be radically altered by a long-term disaster. Conventional sales and the use of credit cards and even cash may be compromised. In a barter economy, there are certain barter items that hold more value than others. The standard assumption is bullets and gold coins but in some instances, tampons and children’s Tylenol may have more value.
That may be the only rational argument for hoarding. If you see something that you believe will have increased value that doesn’t cost a lot, buy a lot of it. Even if you don’t use it “someday” you may find it’s quite valuable to someone else.
Books fall clearly in the category of supplies. They’re portable knowledge banks telling you how to best use all of the stuff you’ve assembled. That’s especially true if the Internet is down or you find yourself on the road for an evacuation.
The following books do a good job of identifying supplies you need and introducing skills you should learn.
- Solar Power Installation
- Wind Power Installation
- Emergency Communication
- Woodstove basics
- Survival Cooking
- Leather crafting
- Candle making
- Water purification
- First aid
- Rustic Furniture making
- Home Repair
- Pottery making
- Woodstove installation
- Solar power installation
- Shoe cobbling
- Log construction
- Timber frame construction
- Auto repair
- Soap making
- Hair cutting
- Bugging out
Have We Missed Anything?
Definitely. There are so many fluid scenarios that surround any disaster that it’s almost impossible to anticipate every possibility. The things that are often missed are either items that are suddenly needed in a bug-out situation or in a constantly evolving situation that presents an unexpected set of new challenges. If you think of something that should be on this list, please share it in the comments section below.
Focus on Sustainability
The longer you have to endure a disaster, the sooner you’ll run out of the things you need. Look at every item and ask yourself if you need to stock more; determine a suitable replacement, or start acquiring obscure skills like making soap out of wood ashes.
Better Yet… Plan Ahead
The only way to ensure you have what you’ll need to survive a long-term disaster is to calmly evaluate what could potentially happen in your location, do some research to evaluate the challenges that would emerge, and methodically obtain, organize, and store what you think you and your family might need to maintain survival in the short-term, and especially to sustain it for the long-term.
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