Estimated reading time: 12 minutes
This post is a little different from my usual posts. If you’re already a prepper, I don’t expect this article to teach you anything new. Rather, I expect it to serve as a reminder of why we prep. I also hope that it can serve as a warning to those who don’t prep.
For example, you might think it’s unlikely that your home will ever be damaged or destroyed, but you still buy homeowners insurance just in case. It’s the same with prepping. Maybe doomsday will never arrive, but you never know. (And besides, doomsday is just one of many reasons to prep.)
And it’s not like we’re preparing for something that has never happened before. Millions of people die in disasters every year, economies collapse all the time, and terrorism is an ever-present threat. Sure, you might luck out where you live and never face a serious disaster. But then again, you might not.
Unfortunately, most people in the Western World are unfamiliar with history and current events, so they have no idea how common disasters really are. They assume they will always have access to modern luxuries: electricity, air conditioning, fresh water, affordable food, and so forth. Consequently, humans are more helpless than ever before. It’s gotten so bad that there are even teenagers who don’t know how to use can openers.
But they won’t find out how helpless they are until the SHTF. When that happens, people with no survival skills or emergency supplies won’t last long. They’ll quickly realize that a few basic survival items can mean the difference between life and death. Here are 17 things people will wish they have and why (in alphabetical order).
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1. Barter Items
Hyperinflation is the main reason people stock up on barter items, but there are several other scenarios where they could become necessary. Most people don’t carry much cash anymore, so if the power is out or the Internet is down, they’ll have no way to purchase anything. That’s where barter comes in.
You probably won’t be able to barter at the grocery store, but you could at least barter with your neighbors. If you are desperate for food but you don’t have any barter items, they might take pity and help you anyway. Then again, they might point their guns at you. It’s definitely better if you have something to trade.
More Info: 200 Items You Can Barter After The Collapse
2. Bug Out Bags
For most people, everything they own in the world is in one place: their home. But what if your home is destroyed? Floods, hurricanes, earthquakes, house fires–all these things are guaranteed to happen again somewhere. What if your neighborhood is next?
Or what if there’s a pandemic, nuclear fallout, or an invading army on its way and you have to bug out quickly?
These are just a few reasons why you need a bug out bag. Even the most experienced survivalists would be pretty miserable trying to bug out without any supplies.
More Info: Top 100 Bug Out Bag Items
3. Cooking Gear
Imagine your stomach is growling as you stare at a pile of food you can’t eat because it has to be cooked. Although many modern foods can be eaten out of the box or can, foods like pasta, rice, and some frozen foods are inedible if they’re uncooked.
If the power goes out, it will only be a matter of time before the all the frozen meat thaws out and starts to rot. When that happens, you’ll be wishing you had a way to cook without power.
More Info: The Ultimate Guide to Cooking Without Power
In this day and age, most people never truly experience the cold. They just wrap themselves in a blanket and turn up the heater. But without power, you’ll need to build a fire if you want to stay warm.
This is more important than you might think. Every year thousands of people die from hypothermia, and that’s during good times! Also, don’t forget that many foods need to be heated up before you can eat them.
Speaking of fire, don’t forget fire extinguishers. After a long-term power outage, some of the people who’ve never cooked over a fire or used lots of candles are going to accidentally set their homes ablaze. And with no fire department to stop it, the fire will spread from home to home. Entire neighborhoods might burn down. If you don’t have a fire extinguisher, you may have to evacuate your home.
More Info: 15 Weirdest Ways to Start a Fire
5. First Aid Kits
Most people have no idea how fragile their bodies actually are. Millions of us would be dead right now if it weren’t for basic first aid supplies to keep wounds clean and prevent infections. And keep in mind that during disasters, injuries tend to skyrocket because of all the people climbing, doing manual labor, messing around with fire, and consuming contaminated food and water. If hospitals are overrun, people will have to help themselves with a first aid kit.
In addition, you should also have some extra medications and antibiotics. I, myself, would probably be dead right now if it weren’t for antibiotics.
More Info: How to Build an Emergency First Aid Kit From Scratch
When’s the last time you were truly hungry? I don’t mean you skipped breakfast and now your stomach is growling hungry. I’m talking about the kind of hunger where your arms and legs are shaking with weakness, your stomach is in knots, and all you can think about is food no matter how hard you try to concentrate.
Most people have never actually been this hungry, but they will be if the SHTF. Grocery stores only have about three days of food on hand, a week at most, so you need to keep plenty of survival food on hand.
More Info: The Beginner’s Guide to Emergency Food Storage
Gasoline is something we all tend to take for granted. We use it almost every day but rarely think about it (unless the price goes up a little), much less where it comes from. After the SHTF, gasoline will disappear very quickly. Just look at what happens to coastal cities when a hurricane is on the way.
Not only do you need gasoline for your bug out vehicle, you need it for your power generator.
But that is just one type of fuel. You’ll also want to stockpile firewood, propane, isopropyl alcohol, or any other type of fuel you might need to cook food and keep warm.
More Info: 15 Fuel Storage Safety Tips
8. Gardening Supplies
Gardening supplies are essential if during a long-term disaster scenario. For example, if the economy collapses like it recently did in Venezuela, you could have a situation where food shipments are few and far between, or quality food is simply too expensive. People who can grow their own food won’t be nearly as hungry.
In addition to supplies like rakes, spades, hoes, you’ll also want to get plenty of buckets so you can grow food indoors and keep fresh fruits and veggies on the table year round.
You should get some greenhouse supplies as well. A hoop house covered in plastic can significantly extend the growing season. There are countless DIY greenhouse plans out there. Most of them just take a little PVC and plastic sheeting, and they’re not that hard to assemble.
Heirloom seeds are another essential item. They need to be non-hybrid and open-pollinated. Why? Because if they aren’t, they don’t produce as much food or as many seeds, and they usually don’t taste as good (most seeds you buy in stores are hybrids). I recommend these survival garden heirloom seeds.
More Info: Urban Survival Gardening – A Guide for Beginners
9. Lights & Batteries
Imagine looking out the window at night and seeing only darkness. Even worse, imagine a pitch black home where you can’t find anything you need and can barely see the faces of your loved ones. Not only would that be unsettling, it could also make you an easy target for burglars. Don’t let that happen, especially when there are so many ways to light your home when the power goes out.
Also, don’t forget batteries. You will need them not only for your flashlights but for any other electronic devices you might need such as radios or medical equipment.
More Info: 11 Ways To Light Your Home After The Power Goes Out
Having no information of any kind from the outside world can be almost as frightening as not having lights. We are so used to having news delivered right to our phones, we forget how frustrating it is to be in the middle of a long power outage and have no idea what’s going on out there.
It’s even worse if we have no way to communicate with our loved ones. If there are people you care about in an area that’s been hit by an earthquake or hurricane, you will be overcome with worry until you’re able to get in touch with them. Don’t let that happen.
More Info: 3 Ways To Communicate Through The Apocalypse
11. Sanitary Supplies
Not only do you need to keep wounds clean, you need to keep your whole body clean. When the garbage trucks stop coming, trash will pile up in people’s yards which will attract bugs, rodents, and disease. And when the water stops flowing, people won’t be able to properly clean up after meals or bathe themselves.
Those who don’t know what to do with waste will keep using their toilets and stink up their houses. Eventually, once-clean neighborhoods will be as filthy as the streets of a third world country. In this environment, many people will get sick and die from infections and deadly diseases that could have easily been prevented with proper hygiene.
More Info: 27 Hygiene Products You’ll Need After The SHTF
12. Survival Books
Without the Internet, people will have a hard time figuring out how to do basic things. They’ll wish they’d bought some of those survival books they’ve seen online or at the bookstore.
I know some people who argue that a true prepper should commit survival knowledge to memory and practice survival skills on a regular basis so they don’t have to refer to books. I completely agree, but no one can learn everything. Even the most experienced preppers can keep learning new things.
And besides, what if you just started learning about survival a few months ago and the collapse happens tomorrow? Or what if after the collapse, you have friends and family with so many questions you don’t have time to answer them all? Wouldn’t it be nice if you could refer them to your survival library?
More Info: 100 Best Survival Books of All Time
13. Sewing Supplies
In a long-term disaster, it’s possible there won’t be any clothes left in the stores. More likely, however, is you simply won’t be able to afford them. This is what happens during economic depressions–many people live hand to mouth and can’t even gather enough money for new socks.
But back in the day, people didn’t throw away a sock just because it had a hole in it. They would actually repair their socks (it was called darning). They would probably scoff at the idea of throwing away a perfectly good sock with one little hole. After all, they’re not very difficult to repair.
If there’s another great depression, people will have to learn how to start sewing again so they can repair their torn clothes and even make new clothes out of sheets, curtains, and any other fabric they can find. And to do that, they will need sewing supplies.
This is more of a skill than a thing, but it’s a very important skill. If you have to bug out and you find yourself in the wilderness, one of your top priorities is to build a good shelter. That last thing you want to do is curl up under a tree while the cold air nips at your face and dampness from the ground seeps into your clothes. Do that, and you risk getting hypothermia.
Hopefully, you have a tarp and some paracord in your bug out bag, but it’s possible to build a shelter from scratch.
15. Tools & Home Repair Supplies
After a disaster such as a hurricane or an earthquake, you will probably need tools to repair things around your home. Hammers, screwdrivers, wrenches, shovels, saws, and so forth. Even if your home doesn’t get damaged, you still may want to lend tools to your neighbors, or you may want to board up windows to stop potential intruders, or you may simply need an ax for chopping firewood. You never know.
Tools are no good without home repair supplies. Don’t forget to stockpile nails, screws, lumber, plywood, caulking, wire ties, duct tape, plastic sheeting, etc.
More Info: 11 Powerless Tools You’ll Need After The SHTF
You will be shocked by how quickly thirst sets in once there’s nothing to drink. If the power is out for too long, the tap water will stop flowing. And unless you’re able to collect rainwater, you’ll die of thirst in just a few days.
Even if the water is still flowing, you could be facing a disaster where the water is contaminated. The last thing you want to do is drink water that makes you and your family sick, especially if the hospitals are overrun. So make sure you stock up on water and have at least two ways to purify water.
More Info: 8 Fastest Ways to Purify Water
Every time there’s a riot or a widespread disaster, some people take advantage of the situation and start looting. If the event lasts a long time and the authorities are unable to restore order, you can bet the looters will move from the commercial areas to the residential areas. Especially if they’re starving.
This is why you need to have a good weapon for self-defense, preferably a firearm. Don’t stand there helplessly as criminals kick in your door, attack your family, and steal the things you need to survive. If possible, prevent this from happening in the first place by putting some good home security measures in place.
More Info: 5 Best Guns for Home Defense
As I said in the intro, I don’t expect preppers to learn a whole lot from this article. But every now and then we need reminders like this to keep us motivated. And if you’re not a prepper, then hopefully this article will give you the push you need to get started. Here are a couple of articles you should read:
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Bemused Berserker says
This is a good list the author’s came up with, of items that will be in high demand if things go South on us. I agree, all of these items will be worth their weight in gold.When I first jumped into the Prepper mindset years ago, I bought a lot of things that, while OK, were not the better or best choice. For example, Life Straws. While they’re an adequate filter, they have many limitations, including use life. 1,000 gallons isn’t going to last that long, and Life Straws are not easy to adapt to filling a container. I bought a case of them, but now they are in what I call my Barter Supplies crates, simply because the Sawyer Mini is a much better and 10 times longer lasting filter. A lot of what’s in these crates are things I acquired, that I replaced just because I found something better or decided I didn’t need. Everything from knives and water filters to dollar store first aid kits, sewing kits, ammo for guns I no longer own and P38/51 can openers are in the crates. These crates are also the supplies I don’t keep hidden.
It’s all usable items that people will be looking for should SHTF, as then, they’ll be in short supply. At Walmart, in the Sporting Goods section, they have $1 LED Flashlights with batteries, so everytime I go, I pick up a couple to add to the barter goods. Look for those that still have the little plastic tab, that has to be removed before use, as it prevents the batteries from draining while in storage. When it was dirt cheap, I picked up several hundred rounds of Mil Surplus 7.62 X 39 ammo. I don’t own a weapon chambered in this caliber, but there are plenty of people who do as it’s a popular caliber, and it will be in high demand. I’ve a few boxes of other calibers for barter too.
Another thing, when things started looking really iffy a dozen years ago, I really got into the Bug Out planning, without really considering my physical limitations. I’m retired on disability due to Degenerative Joint Disease. I can barely walk around the block unlaiden, let alone carry a 50 – 75# backpack. It took a bit for me to realize and accept that bugging out is the last ditch option for me. So, I’ve turned to fortifying my home. Luckily, I live in a rural community, and it’s easier to do than it would be in an urban area. So an honest assessment of your physical capabilities is something I recommend you consider when you’re making your plans.
When it comes to cooking, propane and butane stoves are nice and I have a couple, but eventually, the gas supply will run out, so one should consider buying or making a stove that you can use combustibles to cook on. As with any non electric heat/cooking source, ventilation must be considered less carbon monoxide builds up. Heck, you can build a small wood fueled stove out of a soda can. You won’t be cooking 7 course meals, but it will heat up a can of soup.
If you’re not armed, I suggest you become armed as soon as possible, and learn how to use and maintain your gun safely. Even a .22 LR rifle or handgun, is better than no firearm at all. Not only for your personal protection, but as a way to hunt small game like rabbits and squirrels should the opportunity arise. .22 LR is easy too shoot, having very little recoil, and isn’t overly loud to use. I would recommend a rifle or carbine over a handgun, just because it takes more effort to become proficient to use a handgun accurately. .22 ammo is relatively inexpensive to buy in comparison to other calibers. .22 rifles and handguns are usually less expensive to purchase, as there are many models from manufacturers in the $100 to $200 range.
Quite literally there is so much information, advice and warnings about prepping, it would fill a small library. Sites like this one I like because the authors piece out things to consider in parcels, rather than overloading one with a whole lot of information all at once. For me, it makes it easier to plan and adapt my plans in stages.
Good luck and always keep prepping because no one really knows what situations will be coming down the pike.
Elbert Jones says
I saw a weird photo once. this gas station had been hit by a power black out. So the station owner hooked up a gas pump to a bicycle. Customers had to pedal the bike to fill up their gas tanks.
you need to find a group of people you can trust to share supplies with. Be sure to avoid people who believe that ” ALL _____ PEOPLE ARE ROBBERS AND RAPISTS”.
Elbert Jones says
People need to stop thinking” ALL_____ PEOPLE ARE ROBBERS AND RAPISTS”. By working together; we can overcome anything. Has anyone noticed that Covid–19 has NOT caused a economic collapse or rioting in the streets.
What happened on 1–6–2021 was caused by the cult followers of a very disillusioned man. I hope all the people who broke into the Capitol receive very long prison sentences in a REAL Federal prison (Leavenworth). Or preferably the Super maximum security one in Colorado.
You obviously weren’t around for summer of 2020 or 2021. There were plenty of riots and looting (sorry, peaceful protesting) going on with plenty of murders and nastiness. Talk about delusional.
John galt says
Most of the articles you link are corrupted and unreadable. Very frustrating!
The author make a good point about fire.
People who are not used to using fire to heat or cook with are liable to set their homes on fire.
Once that starts with no fire dept. to put it out many more homes will burn, probably entire subdivisions or parts of cities.
If you have been around a house fire, you would know that a fire extinguisher will not help you, once it is fully engaged, all you can do is evacuate. The same goes if your neighbors house goes up in flame.
Yours will probably be next. The heat generated is so horrific that you are likely to see spontaneous combustion and if you store gasoline for a generator or such, look out.
Extreme heat and gas do not mix well.
So consider carefully if you store gasoline, and if the neighbors house starts to burn during SHTF, you better move that gas away from your property, really fast.
Elbert Jones says
Have any of you heard of the GRAY MAN CONCEPT? If you do not wear flashy clothes; jewelry, or drive an expensive car no one will notice you.( How do you think illegal aliens have been able to live here for over 20 years?) The same goes for the house you live in.If you’re only clearing $40,000 a year; why do you want to own a $100,000 house? What is so wrong about living within their financial means?
I have blackout curtains stored and black paint. This way I can blackout some of the windows so the light won’t get out and I can still use my electricity. I did a test in my basement and it seemed to do ok
lights and battery section . the last thing you want to do is light up your house when everyones power is out. it will bring everyone to your house that can see it. then they get to take everything you have and thats the good part. the bad part is they will probably end up killing you
Not if you shoot first.
Toliet paper, paper towels, sugar, salt, toothpasre, soap, ammo etc are small things to keep for great value.
Linda Speights says
We were without power for 28 days after Hurricane Rita and we were without water for 5 days when the water line to our subdivision froze one winter. These two things have made every one in our families conscience of being prepared!! There was no apocalypse or enemy invading, just things that could happen to anyone. It sure pays to be prepared.
One more thing: don’t think your gas generator will get you thru. We were unable to buy gasoline without having to drive to someplace that had electricity every day. You can’t pump gas without electricity!
Bob Aisbett says
Hello Linda, I have 80 litres of gas in jerry cans that I only need to fill every few months, mainly for mowers but I do have a generator if needed. Buy some jerries and stockpile gas.
Cut a deal with the gas station.
Offer to power a pump with your generator (fuel at their expense) in exchange for a full tank of gas.
JerryJane Payne says
What do you suggest for a 74 year old wo,am who lives alone?
Find neighbors or family to get with. Maybe by supplies and share with those people in return for safety.
As a 64 year old woman who lives alone, I would recommend stockpiling what you can. I think people are basically nice, but if you don’t know your neighbors, they may not even think to ask you if you need help. There are many things you can stockpile that don’t take up a lot of room, especially for a single person. If you do have close friends and family nearby, you need to have a system where you can meet if the SHTF. You can help contribute to a stockpile at the bugout location. I know it can get expensive, but I also think if you really plan ahead, read articles, think about what you need to eat and drink per day, I know this probably didn’t help much, but you CAN do it. I know that I can, and I also prefer not to rely on anyone else. Be safe.
Join with other seniors as a group to live under one roof.
How about family helping out?