Call it what you will. Preppers call it everything from the end of the world as we know it (TEOTWAWKI) to when SHTF (sh*t hits the fan). Call it what you will, but when the next disaster happens, you’ll want to be ready.
One of the problems with being ready for the next big disaster is that you don’t know exactly what’s going to happen. In this guide, you’ll find everything you need to know to survive in any SHTF scenario. Whether TEOTWAWKI comes by plague, natural disaster, nuclear fallout, or some other phenomenon, you’ll find yourself prepared.
A lot of people prepare for the end of times incorrectly. They might stockpile some water or canned goods or have things like medical supplies, flashlights, and other useful tools handy, but this isn’t enough. There’s no guarantee you’ll be able to stay with your stockpile and things like clean water and canned goods are too heavy to lug around. Being prepared for when SHTF means doing some thinking. It means thinking practically about the things that you need and how portable they are going to be.
Fortunately, whether you consider yourself a prepper or not, this handy guide will get you prepared for TEOTWAWKI. You’ll learn what you need for your survival kit and why. We have thought of everything so you don’t have to and by following this handy survival guide, you’ll find yourself ready for anything.
The Bug-Out-Bag: Where You Need Essential Gear
Part of being ready for when SHTF is being prepared for anything. Even if you have a stockpile of food, water, and other supplies at your house, there’s no guarantee that’s where you’ll end up. You need something that’s ready to throw over your shoulder and go at a moment’s notice. This is going to contain your most essential gear.
There are a few things you’ll want to look for in a bug-out bag. You need something durable and ready to withstand the elements. Staying organized is important, so you’ll also want something with a lot of pockets. Finally, be sure that the straps are comfortable and adjustable. Bug-out bags can be heavy and you’ll want to be comfortable as long as possible.
Emergency Survival Kit
You could be out anywhere when SHTF. If you’re not going to carry your bug-out bag everywhere, you’ll want an emergency survival kit. It’s a good idea to have one of these in the home and in your vehicle. It wouldn’t be a bad idea to be sure every member of your family has access to one.
Some of the things you’ll want in this kit include flashlights (and batteries), a well-stocked first aid kit, emergency food and water, medications, and tools that might help with jobs. Paracord and fishing line might also be useful. A whistle could help them signal for help. If you have more than one kit, it ensures everyone in your family can be prepared even when you’re not all together.
It’s also a good idea to get a waterproof and fireproof safe. You’ll want to put important documents like birth certificates or deeds and any family photos you don’t want to lose inside.
Water and Hydration
Did you know that most people can’t survive more than 3-5 days without water? Water is essential to keep the brain and other essential organs working. Drinking contaminated water can be even worse. When SHTF, it’s likely to affect the integrity of drinking water.
Even though you can easily store extra cases of bottled water in your basement, it’s not practical to carry this around if you have to move. This section will break down everything you need to stay hydrated on the go.
Stainless Steel Water Bottle
Any time you have to travel from location to location, you’ll want at least some fresh water with you. This is especially true if you aren’t sure how long it’ll be until you can find more water.
The major benefit of a stainless steel bottle or canteen is that it’s not going to melt if you put boiled (sterilized) water in it. You can put boiled water in it and let it cool before you drink it. Additionally, it’s going to keep contaminants out. Be sure that you do choose stainless steel- this will resist corrosion from having water stored in it over time.
Portable Water Purification Filter
While it’s easy enough to boil water, this is dependent on you a) being able to build a fire b) having the time to sit down and wait for water to boil and c) having a container to boil water in. A water purification straw is small and portable, so it won’t add too much weight to your pack. You can easily bring along one for every member of your family.
When choosing a water purification straw, you’ll need one that filters out dirt and soot, as well as harmful bacteria. Bacteria can be more detrimental to your health than dirt. Our top choice is the LifeStraw but you can see some of the other best survival water filters here.
Water Purification Tablets
This is another compact option that makes it easier for you to purify water than taking the time to boil. Something to note is that not all water purification tablets are created equally. Some may leave a bad aftertaste or do not eliminate odors. Sometimes, people like to have water purification tablets handy to use along with their purification filter. This provides maximum protection against viruses and microorganisms that can make you sick.
The major benefit of water purification tablets is that they are one of the least bulky methods of cleaning water, being even smaller than water filter straws. To choose the best, you’ll want to look at water purification tablet reviews to see which tablets work while making drinking water taste pleasantly.
Food and Food Supply
People often turn to canned goods as their go-to emergency supply. Unfortunately, canned goods are often bulky and difficult to carry around if you have to leave home base. They’re a good place to start, but you’ll also want something lightweight.
Stocking up on a large food supply isn’t necessarily practical if you cannot carry it. You can store some canned goods or additional food wherever you’d consider your home base, however, they aren’t the best choice for carrying around with you. In addition to the ready-to-eat, lightweight foods mentioned, you’ll want to have items for gathering and supplying yourself with food.If you don’t look at the world around you, you’ll be missing out on a major potential source of food.
Something to note is that it’s good to have several types of emergency food on hand. This is especially true because each has its advantages and disadvantages. We’ve also compiled a list of the best survival foods here.
Canned and Shelf-Stable Goods
While you won’t want canned and shelf-stable goods as your only source of food, they are a good option for when SHTF. Not all emergencies are going to require you to leave your home. If you’re snowed in or trapped by some other disaster, then any canned goods will come in handy.
As a general rule, it’s a good idea to have about two weeks of ready-to-eat canned goods. One thing you’ll want to pay attention to is sodium content. While some sodium is good for keeping electrolytes up and staying hydrated, too much sodium is hard on the body. It can cause uncomfortable swelling and bloating, make it harder for your kidneys to filter your blood, and increase the risk of heart disease, stroke, and other conditions. You’ll want to be in your best possible shape for TEOTWAWKI, so be wary of too much salt.
If you do choose to stock up on a lot of canned goods and bottled water, keep in mind you’ll want some kind of bunker or area to store them in. This area should be harder for someone who doesn’t know where it is to access such as a crawl space in your basement or an underground shelter outside your home.
MREs (Meals, Ready to Eat)
MREs are known for their use in the military, with many people referring to them as military meals. MREs come with a heater that you fill with water before propping the entree inside. Then, you give it a few minutes and it’s warm and ready to eat.
The major disadvantages of MREs is that they also contain a lot of sodium. While they might not be the best choice for every meal, having at least a few of these for each family member is a good idea. One thing you will want to keep in mind is that many MREs cannot withstand extreme temperatures, so you’ll want to keep them in a cool place for storage.
Freeze-dried meals are especially a good choice if you have a small pot you can attach to the outside of your bug-out bag for boiling water. To use the freeze-fried meals, all you have to do is add boiling water to the pouch and wait. These take a few minutes to prepare, so you’ll want to wait until you can stop somewhere safe to eat.
The biggest disadvantage of freeze-dried meals is that they are expensive. If you do have the money, however, they are a great investment. Some freeze-dried meals even have a shelf life of 25 years.
High-Calorie Food Bars
Calorie content is one of the most important things to consider in a survival situation. Your body uses calories as energy for even the most basic functions. Calorie-dense food bars are packed with calories and are incredibly lightweight, making them great if you don’t want to add a lot of weight to your pack. Many food bars have upwards of 2,000 calories. Our most recommended ration bar by SOS Food Labs comes with a 3-day supply providing 3,600 calories. It is also resistant to heat and cold and has a shelf-life of 5 years.
Eating Utensils and Dishes
Many people overlook something like eating utensils and dishes when they are in a survival situation. Something to remember is that you more than likely can’t readily wash your hands when the end of the world comes. You won’t want dirty, grimy fingers all over your food. You might also find eating utensils and dishes come in handy for other foods as well.
The biggest thing with eating utensils and dishes is that you want them to be functional, but not to take up too much space. A multi-tool that serves as a fork and knife might be a good choice. You can also find collapsible bowls that don’t take up a lot of space. Be sure you’re keeping durability in mind as well. You’ll want something that can withstand being packed in your bag. You should also be able to clean your multi-tool without worrying about rust, so you may want to choose something made of stainless steel.
When SHTF, your food sources are going to be limited. Even if you have a good store of sustainable foods, a lot of your food supply is focused on providing energy with macronutrients like protein, carbohydrates, and calories. To keep your immune system functioning and prevent everything from minor complaints to health complications, it’s also important to keep your micronutrient levels up. For example, electrolytes like potassium help your body retain water and stay hydrated, while B vitamins are important for iron absorption. Every vitamin and mineral plays an important role in the body and it can cause problems if you don’t have enough.
Another benefit of having daily multivitamins is that they are an often overlooked source of nutrition during a survival situation. People are going to want things like vitamins, medication, and other things they forgot to stock up on. You might find it comes in handy as a trading tool if you need other resources.
Being prepared for anything in a survival situation means making use of the resources at hand when you can. Ideally, you’ll want a small fishing pole that isn’t going to take up too much space. There are pocket or collapsible poles that make an excellent choice. If you can, bring along your portable pole on your next fishing trip to get familiar with it. While you won’t be able to land 20-pounders, you can easily bring in fish that will sustain you and your family.
While fish are a great source of protein, they might not be the best choice if they come from a contaminated area or if there has been a radioactive incident. Learn more about your area and find out where some of the best fishing areas are, so you have plenty of options when SHTF.
To use a fishing pole, you’ll also need a fishing line. Fishing line has the major benefit of being a good substitute for rope when you need to tie something up as well. Braided fishing line is the best choice. It isn’t much heavier than a traditional line and it doesn’t take up a lot of space. However, it is a lot more durable so you won’t have to worry about the line breaking. You’ll need to decide which lbs test line will work best for yourself and what is in your area.
Yo-Yo Fishing Reels
Yo yo fishing reels are great for saving time. If you spend hours on the water without catching anything, it’s a day wasted that could’ve been better spent doing other tasks. Yo yo fishing lines work with an anchor. While they’re great for jug fishing, you can easily attach them to docks, limbs, or other anchors above the water to. When something grabs your hook, the fishing reel sets the hook so the fish is waiting when you come back later.
If you’re going to invest in one of these, do research about the different kind of fish in your area. Certain fish swim at different depths. Once you learn which fish are common at which depths, you can increase your odds of catching something if you’re fishing in the right area.
Portable Lightweight Stove or Fuel Source
Building a fire may not always be an option when SHTF. This is especially true if you’re hiding somewhere indoors or you don’t want to give away your location. Additionally, building a fire means having access to some type of firewood that might not be easy to transport or find in a survival situation.
While a lightweight stove is not necessary, it is a good option for cooking food and boiling water in a hurry. A bioLite stove uses technology that provides you with heat and power in an emergency. You put dry sticks and leaves inside. As they burn, the energy made is converted into energy that can power electronic devices and fire that can be used to generate heat and cook food.
Another good option is a sun oven, which heats food making use of the sun’s rays. This is a little bulkier and takes a little longer, but it is still lightweight. You can also boil water with it if you aren’t in a hurry and you don’t have to rely on a fuel source to make it work.
While the actual slingshot was created a little less than 200 years ago, the technology has been around since the Stone Age. Slingshots are useful tools for hunting and combat. Unlike a gun, you don’t need a whole lot of ammo. You can carry a small leather pouch full of ammo and reload as needed. Lead and aluminum projectiles are a great choice but you can also find rocks, pebbles, nails, and other small objects on the ground.
To be effective with a slingshot, you’ll need to know how to aim. Take the time to do target practice before you pack this away in your kit. If you don’t want to carry around a slingshot, it is also possible to make one from the resources around you. However, this requires access to certain materials you may or may not be able to find. We recommend these best survival slingshots.
Bow and Arrows
A takedown bow or crossbow make great survival tools. Though many preppers are stereotyped as stocking up on guns and ammunition, investing in a survival bow and arrows is likely the better choice. You can choose a recurve bow that is easy to repair or a takedown bow or small crossbow that folds down into a smaller size. As the size of a bow doesn’t affect how powerful it is, it’s easy to choose something small that can take down both small and large game.
Bows also have the advantage of being more stealthy. You can shoot prey without worrying about scaring off other potential food or alerting any other survivors around you. They also work as effectively as a gun for protection and defense.
Broadheads come in several shapes and materials. They are designed lightweight and small, being more compact to carry around than an arrow. These can be used for creating basic spears that can be used for fishing, hunting, or even self-defense.
Food Safety Knowledge
Regardless of which food sources you choose during an emergency, you’ll need to know basic food storage and cooking guidelines. If you don’t properly store and prepare your food, it can cause gastrointestinal illness. Mild cases might include symptoms like diarrhea, upset stomach, and vomiting, while severe cases can cause dehydration, severe illness, and even death.
When storing food for a disaster, it’s important to rotate the supply. If you buy more, eat the older stuff first. Pay attention to expiration dates and replenish your supply as needed. Additionally, you’ll want to be sure all food is in an airtight container. This keeps germs out that cause spoiling and bacterial growth.
When preparing food, it’s important that you cook meat all the way through. Wash produce items you find and remember that not all berries, mushrooms, and foliage you find are safe to eat. If you’re unsure, it’s best not to take the risk.
Being able to access fire has several uses in a survival situation. You can boil water to make it safe for drinking, use fire to heat water for freeze-dried foods or MREs, use it to cook fish, and use it for warmth just to name a few things.
Of course, it would be incredibly useful to teach yourself how to start a fire with just sticks. You don’t know how long it will take for things to return to normal (if they ever do) after SHTF and you may eventually run low on supplies. On the plus side, many of these tools will last for several fires. You’ll want to have a few of them in your pack.
A Ferro rod is made from ferrocerium, a compound that burns at thousands of degrees. This is a lot hotter than most other common fire-starting materials, including flint and steel and bowdrill. Since it burns so hot, the Ferro rod works even in wet conditions. All you need is a small bundle of dry tinder and a little practice and you’ll have a fire going in no time. It also sparks at a lower temperature than other materials, so less force is needed to get a spark.
An electrical lighter is ideal for survival situations because it doesn’t require fuel. If you have a solar-powered device to provide electricity, you can easily charge one. These are wind-proof and water-proof, so they’re a good choice when you don’t know what to expect with the weather. Additionally, since it doesn’t require fuel, you won’t need to stock up on butane or other lighter fluid.
Waterproof Survival Matches
While matches are a great way to get a fire started if you have some dry kindling, it can be hard to keep them ready to use. Typical matches may never light if they become wet or damp, making them completely useless. Survival matches are designed waterproof- they can be used even after they’ve been dunked in water.
If you don’t want to invest in waterproof matches, you’ll at least want to invest in a sturdy waterproof container to house your matches and other supplies you don’t want getting wet.
There are many things that can be used for tinder. The biggest factor that you’ll want to look for is something dry. Unfortunately, when SHTF, there’s no guarantee you’ll be able to find dry tinder. This makes it a good investment to pack some fire starter or dry tinder to bring along with you.
If you check out the outdoor/camping section of your local store, you’ll likely find many options for starting fires easily. Some people also make their own fire starter by dipping cotton balls in petroleum jelly and storing them in a waterproof container until they need them. Any of these options is going to burn slower and give you enough time to get a fire to catch.
You’ll want to invest in a high-quality waterproof container for your firestarting needs. Anything can happen in a survival situation. If you have to swim across water or a river, you don’t want the risk of damaging your fire starting goods. Otherwise, you may not be able to get dry when you reach the other side. Ideally, your waterproof container should be sealed with an o-ring. This ensures water won’t be able to leak inside.
Have you ever seen kids sit by an ant hill with a magnifying glass and try to catch the ants on fire? Even though this is something you see in the movies, it can work in real life. When you hold the magnifying glass up to the sun, you can magnify and direct it’s rays. This is enough energy to start a fire, especially if you are trying to light something that will catch easily.
Shelter and Sleeping Supplies
Shelter is important in a survival situation. Having shelter helps keep you warmer and protects from rain and wind. A good shelter also keeps you hidden from bugs, animals, and other things you might want to avoid. This is especially important at night when you can’t keep a watchful eye over everything. Survival tents are a good option, but there are plenty of other options as well. Let’s take a look at some supplies you should consider for shelter and sleep.
Survival tents are compact, durable, and provide the shelter you need in a survival situation. Instead of being designed for comfort like standard tents, these are made with survival in mind. They are designed lightweight and compact so they’re easy to carry with you whether you’re hiking up a mountain or running through a city.
A tarp is a good choice if you don’t want to carry around the extra weight of tent poles. An effective tarp shelter is going to consist of a large tarp (that can be folded to make it more compact) and tie-down grommets or another type of tie down. It will provide protection from wind and rain. If you’re in the woods and have the right color tarp, it can also effectively shield you from people or predators.
A bivy shelter or bivouac shelter is an emergency shelter. It’s really compact and lightweight, so it’s perfect if you don’t have a lot of room in your pack. They’re commonly used by everyone from hikers to the military. This type of shelter is more like a sleep sack than a tent, however, it gets the job done. Bivvy shelters are commonly waterproof and will protect you from the elements while adding a layer of warmth at night. They’re also a good choice if you might need to pack up in a hurry since a bivvy shelter takes less time to fold up than a tent.
Having a tactical sleeping bag can provide warmth overnight, something that can be critical when the temperature drops. Some sleeping bags are even designed for the military and NASA for keeping soldiers and astronauts warm in sub-zero conditions. These are compact in size and perfect for keeping you warm in harsh climates.
Even though sleeping bags aren’t too heavy, some of them can be bulky. If you do choose a bulkier bag, you’ll want to have some kind of system for attaching it to the outside of your pack.
Sleeping pads are less about adding comfort and more about adding insulation. It’ll add an extra layer of protection between you and the ground and keep you warmer at night. Of course, you may not want to carry around a sleeping pad if you are trying to cut back on weight. You can also make a sleeping ‘pad’ from wilderness debris like leaves and pine straw in a survival situation.
A survival hammock is another excellent choice for getting you off the ground and keeping you safe while you sleep. The only thing you need to secure a hammock is a couple of strong trees and the included paracord. You can also choose a survival hammock that has a mosquito net. The mosquito net keeps bugs off you while you sleep.
One of the advantages of a survival hammock is that it can help you avoid detection while sleeping. You may want to choose forest-friendly colors in case you need to hide.
Zip ties are incredibly useful for survival (and everyday life). They are strong, flexible, and often an incredible hold. When building a shelter, you can easily use zip ties to secure branches together as you build. They’ll also be useful for holding pants up, making repairs tents, or even as a tourniquet after a serious injury.
Paracord is another one of those items that has plenty of use in a survival situation. It also doesn’t have to take up any space in your pack. Consider investing in a paracord grenade or paracord bracelet. The paracord grenade is a bundle of paracord with a clip that lets you easily attach it to the outside of your bug out bag. You can use it for securing a hammock to a tree, building a shelter, making a tourniquet, and any other number of survival situations.
Clothing and Warmth
Even the warmest climates can have bone-chilling nights and when SHTF, you can’t be sure if the climate will be affected. You do not want to be prepared for almost anything and end up with hypothermia because you didn’t dress properly or take steps to keep yourself warm. Having the proper clothing and footwear will go a long way in helping you prepare for whatever is to come. This section will break down how to dress for a disaster and how to keep yourself warm.
Of course, while you want to be prepared for everything, you also don’t want your clothing choice taking up too much space or weighing you down. Instead, choose one piece of outerwear and bring spare undergarments (socks, underwear, and a shirt). You will be able to wash these to remain hygienic.
Outer Wear- Tactical Pants and a Flannel
For the EOTWAWKI, you’re going to want a sturdy pair of tactical pants. Of course, not all tactical pants are created equally. You need something that is going to be made of lightweight materials so it doesn’t wear you down. You’ll also want the materials to be abrasion-resistant and durable, so they don’t get snagged or torn easily. When choosing your survival pants, it’s better to have ones that fit a little roomy instead of something that will become too tight. If they are loose, you can at least tie them or secure them using a tactical belt (which we’ll talk about a little more in the tools section). You’ll also want to shop for men’s tactical pants and women’s tactical pants separately, since having something that fits your body shape is best.
Well-designed tactical pants will also protect you from weather elements. They’ll work whether you are facing harsh winds and torrential downpours or lots of exposure from the sun. As an added benefit, the right pair is going to have plenty of pockets which lets you choose items to have readily available when you’re out searching for food or traveling to a new location.
Flannels are thick, durable, and a good choice for your upper body. Additionally, they’ll provide a little bit of warmth without suffocating in hot environments. Choosing a long-sleeve one has the added advantage of more warmth and protecting your skin from the sun.
Socks and Undergarments
Ideally, you’ll want to sets each of socks, underwear, and an undershirt. You can wear one and wash the other for a change of clothes as needed. When choosing an undershirt and underwear, you’ll want something that is quick drying so you can wash and let dry. With hiking socks, you’ll want something thick, soft, and warm. Even though something like wool socks are going to be hotter if it’s warm outside, they’ll still keep your feet cushioned and prevent blisters from your boots. Otherwise, get a thick pair of socks with moisture-wicking capabilities.
Even though things like tactical pants and flannels are durable, that doesn’t mean their impervious to damage. You don’t know how long you’ll be using them once SHTF. Having a sewing kit is a lot more compact than carrying around extra sets in clothing. Sewing isn’t too hard, it’s just something that requires a little bit of practice. In no time, you’ll be able to repair any tears in your clothes.
You’ll want to be sure there are a few durable safety pins in your sewing kit as well. Safety pins will come in handy if you have any tears on your clothing while you’re on the go. You can make a quick and temporary patch until you can get somewhere to sew up the damage.
A good pair of tactical boots will last for years, in or out of an emergency situation. Boots are important for trekking over things like rubble, the forest floor, or slippery surfaces without having to slow down. Additionally, a good pair of boots is going to prevent rolled ankles, blisters, cuts, and other injuries that will slow you down.
You’ll want something lightweight and durable for your feet. Choosing something waterproof or spraying with a waterproof coating can also improve the longevity of your footwear.
Once you’ve chosen some durable tactical boots, take the time to wear them in a little before a disaster situation. Even the best new boots can be a little stiff. By wearing them in, you’ll be sure they are comfortable when disaster strikes. Comfort is going to be important when you are moving around constantly.
Hat and Gloves
If you’re dealing with freezing temperatures, you’ll want warm-weather gear. Keeping your head warm will help keep your body warmer overall. A stocking cap or a hat with a face shield may also be a good idea for arctic temperatures. Another thing to consider is camouflage. There are a lot of reasons you may want to go undetected in a survival situation. Consider something camouflaged for moving through the woods or gray for traveling through the city.
When choosing gloves, you’ll want to keep your hands warm without sacrificing flexibility of your fingers. Not only will they protect you from the cold, they’ll protect you from cuts, splinters, and other hassles you may deal with in survival situations. Choose quality gloves with dexterity and grip. This way, you’ll be able to use your survival knife and other gear without removing them. You may want to have a couple pairs of these since there’s no guarantee you’ll be able to get more later.
Hooded Rain Poncho
Hiking in wet, soggy clothes is one of the worst ways to spend your day. Not only is it uncomfortable, but those wet clothes physically weigh you down. You’ll want the hooded rain poncho durable, but not bulky. It’ll keep you dry in heat or cold. This is especially important in colder environments where it can be very dangerous to get wet.
Body warmers are commonly used for fishing, hunting, and professions where people have to be outdoors in the cold for long periods of time. Even if you bundle up, it’s easy for your hands and feets to get cold and stay cold. Body warmers are great in a survival situation because they’re a compact way to get warm fast. Since you have a limited supply, you’ll want to wait to use them until you’re risking frostbite from being in the cold.
A bandana is another of those multi-purpose items. Since it doesn’t take up much space and is incredibly lightweight, you can have a few in your pack. Bandanas can be used to wipe sweat away or help you stay clean. In the extreme heat, you can wet it and put it around your neck to help you cool down. You can also wrap it around your face for some sun protection, especially if you choose a cloth face covering that offers SPF protection. Bandanas can be used as dust masks, too.
Personal Hygiene Items
TEOTWAWKI doesn’t necessarily mean that you have to stop trying to maintain a good sense of hygiene. Odds are, staying clean or showering regularly like you’re used to is going to be impractical. Regardless, you will want a few items that you can use to keep yourself clean and well-groomed. Your personal hygiene does affect how you feel about yourself. Staying clean also makes it easier to wash before eating and keep cuts and other wounds clean. You might also find it’s easier to think clearly and maintain a brighter outlook when you’re clean, which is important in an emergency. While you will have to lower your standards a little when it comes to personal hygiene, here are a few things that are easy to carry that will help you stay clean.
Trimming your nails might be the last thing you think about in an emergency. However, you’ll appreciate nail clippers because it makes it less likely that your nails will split or rip off. Additionally, you can grow them out evenly so they’re useful for untying knots and things instead of being in the way.
Maintaining your dental hygiene after SHTF is important. It prevents cavities and other oral health problems. This is especially critical since it’s likely you won’t be able to set up an appointment with your dentist. Travel-sized toothbrushes don’t take up too much space. You’ll want a few for each member of the family so you can switch them out as needed.
Mini Toothpaste Tubes
Some mini toothbrushes come with toothpaste built in. However, this doesn’t last long and you’ll need more toothpaste to keep your mouth fresh. You don’t want to pack too much toothpaste because it takes up space in your pack. Try to choose just a little each day and ration as needed until you can get more. You can also use hydrogen peroxide as an oral rinse in between toothpaste cleanings to sanitize your mouth.
According to research, only around 30% of the US population flosses daily. However, it’s incredibly important for cleaning hard-to-reach areas and keeping gums healthy. You’ll want healthy gums as a foundation for healthy teeth and to prevent problems like bacteria build-up, mouth odor, and gingivitis. Additionally, dental floss is incredibly strong and lightweight and can be used in place of fishing line or for tying things in survival situations.
Many people overlook tampons in their kit when SHTF. In addition to being important for feminine hygiene, tampons are incredibly useful in a survival situation. They can be used to pack wounds, as a candle or fire starter, for a water filter, as a bottle cork, to create insulation, and more. You can also pick up some compact tampons to save on space.
Baby wipes or shower wipes are the on-the-go alternative to a shower. They don’t take up too much space and it’s easy enough to wipe yourself down. It won’t be as refreshing as a shower, however, it will get you clean. Swimming in a lake is another great idea for getting clean (as long as the water is safe for swimming).
You’ll want to save your hand sanitizer for those days when you’ve been out in the wilderness or city for long hours. Use it after long excursions before you eat anything, especially food that you’ll be handling with your hands. Avoiding bacteria is important for preventing illness. While you’ll want a travel-sized hand sanitizer, you can pick up a few and keep extras in any survival caches along the way.
Sportsman soap is often made of biodegradable ingredients so it doesn’t harm an ecosystem if you can get in the water and take a bath. Something to keep in mind is that soap is heavy. You’ll want to ration this carefully because it can get bulky and hard to carry if you have a lot of it.
First-Aid and Medical Supplies
Being prepared for anything means knowing what to do when things inevitably go wrong. Even if you are careful, you might deal with injury when SHTF. This can include everything from a rolled ankle to cuts, insect bites, or gastrointestinal illness.
One thing you’ll find is that being able to properly care for yourself or a family member following illness or injury. Without access to a hospital, it’s important to treat wounds before they get critical. Something as simple as cleaning a wound and putting a bandaid over it can go along way out in the wilderness, especially since dirty wounds can easily become infected. Below, we’ll discuss some of the first-aid and medical supplies you’ll need in your bug out bag.
One of the easiest ways to prepare your first-aid kit is to choose one that’s already ready to go. There are a lot of survival first aid kits and starting with one of these gives you all the basics you’ll need. Not only can you be sure you won’t forget any of the basics, but it is also usually more cost-effective to buy all these items together instead of individually.
Keep in mind that there are a lot of medical supplies you’ll want to keep from getting wet. Be sure these are in a waterproof container or that your first-aid kit offers protection for items like gauze and band-aids that you’ll want to stay dry and sterile.
Finally, remember that not all first-aid kits are created equally. The number of supplies is going to determine how prepared you are. The first-aid kit serves as a great base, however, you’ll likely want to add some equipment. Below, we’ll talk about some of the things you’ll want to be sure your first-aid kit includes and some other things you may want to add.
Human medicine has come a long way in managing ailments and conditions. It’s a good idea to stock up on at least a six month supply for personal use. You don’t know when you’ll have access to those medications, especially since they typically require a prescription. While you might get lucky and find some at a pharmacy, there’s no guarantee. Something to keep in mind is that personal medication can also be used in trade, so you may want extra for that.
Band-Aids and Moleskin
There are probably a lot of small cuts or scratches you wouldn’t necessarily cover if you were at home. When SHTF, however, being able to keep a wound clean may be a challenge. This is especially true if you don’t cover it. You’ll want to have a decent supply of band-aids for these scrapes and scratches so you can keep them clean.
You’ll want moleskin for blisters you might develop while walking. If you’ve ever tried to keep a band-aid on your foot or ankle while your shoe continues to rub against this, you know it’s almost impossible to do. Instead, use moleskin for blisters.
Gauze is great for dressing a wide variety of wounds. It can be cut and shaped as needed to be used for a covering. This makes it a little more flexible than band-aids. It can also cover awkward wounds (like those on elbows and joints that bend a lot and are hard to bandage) and can be used to pack deep wounds.
Surgical tape is used to secure gauze, bandages, or other medical dressings. It is sturdier and more flexible than band-aids. This makes it better for securing wounds when you’re on the go in a survival situation. You’ll want to look for latex-free surgical tape, since latex can cause an allergic reaction in some people.
If you ever have a deep cut, you can use super glue in place of stitches to minimize scars and seal wounds. There are several other survival uses for super glue, too. It can be used in addition to or in place of duct tape, to secure features or spearheads to the ends of a rod to make an arrow, for repair of water bottles or shoes, and more.
Blood Clotting Sponge
Blood clotting sponges are useful for wounds that won’t stop bleeding. It won’t do good to super glue a wound until you can get the bleeding to slow down enough for the super glue to have time to stick the skin together. Blood clotting sponges are used to apply pressure to deep wounds. As you apply pressure, it slows down blood flow and gives your body time to clot and stop the bleeding.
Antibiotic cream or ointment like Neosporin or Triple Antibiotic Ointment reduces the risk of infection, which is especially important since it might be hard to keep a wound clean.
You should pour hydrogen peroxide over wounds to clean them. This will help prevent infection. It can also be used for cleaning fruits and vegetables before you eat them and other sterilization purposes.
Alcohol swabs burn a little more than peroxide, however, they clean wounds well. Alcohol swabs can also be used to disinfect surfaces (including your hands) in a pinch.
Vaseline is a good choice for keeping skin soft and preventing irritation from windburn or chapped lips. It can also provide a protective layer over wounds, especially if you don’t have them covered by a band-aid. You’ll want to be sure to clean the wound first before you apply vaseline.
In addition to treating pain from headache, injury, or infection, pain killers can help with fever and inflammation. They can help minor aches and pains subside, making it easy for you to keep pushing forward. Painkillers also will help with severe injuries until you can get more help. Finally, other people may need painkillers too, so there’s a good chance you’ll be able to trade these.
Antibiotics typically require a prescription from a doctor, so they’re hard to stock up on. When SHTF, it can be useful to have bird or fish antibiotics on hand. Go to your local pet store and stock up so you’re ready in an emergency. You’ll want to find antibiotics in capsule form. Some fish antibiotics come in 500mg capsule dosages of medicines like amoxicillin and penicillin.
A pair of tweezers makes it easy to remove splinters, glass, and debris that has become lodged in your skin. You might also find them useful when fashioning communication devices or making repairs to smaller things.
Cotton swabs (or Q-tips) are useful for several reasons. Having clean ears is important for preventing wax build-up (which keeps your hearing sharp) and avoiding infection. Additionally, the ends of cotton swabs can be used for starting fires and they can be used for applying salves or ointments. This is useful for precision and cleanliness. As they are small, lightweight, and have several purposes, you may want several hundred cotton swabs in your kit.
Insect repellent is most useful against mosquitos. You’ll want to prevent mosquito bites because not only are they itchy and annoying, but they also may carry disease. The active ingredient in mosquito repellent is DEET, so you’ll want a brand that has a high concentration so you don’t have to use as much. They also make bug-repellent wristbands that might make a good investment.
While you won’t be able to pack a lot of sunscreen, you will want this for emergencies and when you can’t find shelter from the sun. Ideally, you should wear a light, long-sleeve flannel and hat to keep the sun off you whenever possible. When choosing sunscreen, it isn’t necessary to choose the amount with a higher SPF. Even something like SPF 30 will work as well as SPF 50 and it is usually more affordable, too.
At TEOTWAWKI, odds are people will be panicking. Those who have not prepared are likely to fight for resources. Additionally, there is risk of predatory animals that may require you to defend yourself or your family. When it comes to self-defense, it’s best to be prepared. In addition to the bow and arrow and slingshot mentioned in the food section above, here are some other tools you can use for self-defense. Even though you shouldn’t start fights, these tools will prepare you if you have to end them.
A high-quality pepper spray is going to leave an attacker blinded long enough for you to attack or get away from the area. Many come on keychains or are small and lightweight. This is useful for day-to-day self-defense, as many people carry them on their person while jogging or walking around alone at night.
When choosing pepper spray, you’ll want to consider the Scoville units and how long the spray can be used before it’s empty. The Scoville units are how hot the pepper spray is and how much damage it is going to inflict. When it comes to self-defense, higher numbers are better.
A taser is another non-lethal, lightweight tool that will render an attacker helpless. It’s also easy to find a taser that you can carry on your survival belt so it’s easily accessible. As an added benefit, while an attacker might expect you to have a gun or knife, they might not expect you to have a taser. It can effectively render a person or animal helpless while you make your escape.
While it might seem like a rifle or other big gun is a good choice for when SHTF, you’ll want to think practically. You need a firearm that can be broken down and carried easily. You’ll also want something that can take a little abuse, especially if you’ll be carrying it in your pack. If you do have to narrow down to a single gun, a rifle is going to be the best for taking down big game or for shooting long-distance. Considering the weight of ammunition, a .22LR is going to be best. Buying a sound suppressor is also a good investment. It will stop you from drawing unwanted attention to yourself after you’ve fired your rifle.
A survival firearm is useless without ammunition. Something to remember is that ammunition can get hard to carry around because of its weight. It is a good idea to have several survival caches buried where you can store excess ammunition and other heavier tools. This will let you access ammunition as you need it along your route. You’ll want to hide your survival caches well to keep them from being picked through by other survivors.
There is a good chance that traditional communication will become impossible when SHTF. Even if cell towers don’t stop working right away, many people are going to be trying to reach their loved ones and it might be possible for the lines to get jammed up. Calls to 9-1-1 in a serious situation are unlikely to be useful, especially because countless others will likely be trying to call in, too.
These communication methods work well for keeping you in touch with members of your group if you have to split up for any reason. Some can also be used to signal for help if you find yourself in an emergency situation.
Keep in mind that communicating is critical for adapting to a survival situation. With information, you can plan. It’s important for communicating weather hazards or potential threats. Therefore, it’s critical to attempt to scan the radio and communicate with other members of your group regularly. These tools will help you do that.
You may not be able to use your smartphone when SHTF. It will depend on the conditions at the time. Even so, it can be used to take photos and videos and record your journey. It’ll be especially useful if you have some way to recharge it.
A smartphone is not reliable as your only means of communication. However, having one can’t hurt. If you do want your phone to last, you’ll want it secured in a high-quality phone case that will protect it from water or damages. Once it’s broken, it’s unlikely you’ll be able to repair it.
Two-Way Walkie Talkies
In times of survival, it might be necessary to separate from your group. For example, some might stay at camp while others go look for resources or someone might go out hunting or fishing. When you do separate, two-way walkie talkies help you stay in touch. This will be critical for communicating information or if you need help.
Notepad and Pencil
A notepad and pencil are lightweight and easy to keep on hand. If you want to leave notes for other survivors, you’ll be able to do it the old-fashioned way. You can even buy waterproof notebook paper so you don’t have to worry as much about the elements when leaving notes. This might also be helpful if a member of your group gets separated since you can leave information for them. However, you’ll want to be careful about leaving behind information that could fall into the wrong hands.
Hand Crank Radio
A hand-crank radio doesn’t require solar energy or a battery to run. When news stations, authorities, or survivors are trying to reach out, they’ll likely try a radio source. The radio is also a good way to broadcast across a large area. Since you don’t have to worry about power consumption, you’ll be able to regularly check-in.
Some hand-crank radios also have ports for charging small devices. This can be useful as a source of power if you don’t have one of the other alternatives.
Having a survival whistle in your pack can be especially useful if you find yourself in a dangerous situation and need help. A high-quality whistle is a lot louder than your voice and it will carry farther. You can wear it around your neck so it’s easily accessible and it doesn’t take up space in your pack. Learning Morse code can also be helpful if you need to communicate across long distances.
A small signalling mirror won’t take up much space and it can be used to alert other members of your group to your location. You can also use Morse code to communicate specific messages across long distances.
Illumination is important in an emergency. If you can’t see what is happening or what’s around you, you’ll be seriously disadvantaged. Flashlights (and extra batteries) make some of the best sources of illumination (you can find out why you need a flashlight in your survival kit here). Below, you’ll find some other sources of illumination you can use in an emergency.
A bright, lightweight flashlight is a good starter for illumination. Unlike a headlamp, it doesn’t require you to turn your head at all to see. These typically also have smaller bulbs, so the batteries will last longer. You’ll want an LED light for better brightness and energy conservation. A wrist strap is also a nice feature since it will prevent you from dropping it.
Sometimes, you need both your hands free. This is especially true in an emergency, like if you were searching for someone in building rubble. You’d want your hands free to move rocks and debris, but you’d also need light to see what you’re doing. Ideally, you’d want an LED headlamp that has lots of different modes. Flashing could be used for signalling and this would give you the option to choose brightness based on how much you need to see.
Hand Crank Flashlight
Even though you can carry several extra batteries and rechargeables, it’s good to have a hand crank flashlight in your pack. With these, you wind it up several times and it converts the energy into light. You’ll want to invest in a quality model- otherwise you’ll end up cranking with little light output.
Back-Up Light Sources
Back-up light sources like solar lanterns, emergency candles, and chemical light sticks are also a good idea to have in your pack. Solar lanterns and emergency candles produce light without relying on an electrical source. Chemical light sticks are brighter than glow sticks and also make it easier for rescuers to find you.
Even though batteries can be used for several survival tools, you’re most likely to use them for lighting purposes. The best battery option is going to be rechargeables. They stop you from carrying around several extra packs of batteries, which is useful. Of course, to charge the batteries, you’ll need access to a power source and a battery charger. You’ll want a bio stove or solar charger (both mentioned in this article) to do this without relying on electricity.
Glowsticks are another multi-purpose item, though they’re one you might not think of when packing an emergency survival kit. Glowsticks are not especially bright, however, they can be used to mark trip or water hazards when you set up camp. If you are traveling at night, you can use glowsticks to mark a path or to have members of your party wear so you don’t get lost. If you are traveling with kids, glowsticks can be used to help them calm down. You can also have them wear the glowsticks as a bracelet or necklace so you can see them more easily at night. This is especially useful for younger kids that might wander off.
Multi-Purpose Tools and Other Useful Items for Your Bug Out Bag
We’ve already covered all the major categories you’ll want to include as you prep for TEOTWAWKI; water and hydration, food and food supply, fire-starting tools, shelter and sleeping supplies, clothing and warmth, self-defense, communication devices, and illumination tools. Some of the best supplies are going to be multipurpose (like fire-starting tools, paracord, and others). Below, you’ll find a few extra items you might want to include. If you really want to be prepared for anything, these are definitely some things you’ll want on your list.
A good survival belt is going to do a lot more than just hold up your pants. It can be used as a tow line to pull someone up in an emergency, for medical treatment as a tourniquet or for securing injured limbs, and as a strap for carrying useful tools and survival gear you want easily accessible. As an added benefit, since you’ll be wearing it, the belt doesn’t take up any room in your pack.
Rugged Solar Charger
There’s a lot of tools that run on energy. Even though you might not have access to traditional communications networks (like cell phone and WiFi) when SHTF, you still might want to invest in rechargeable batteries, a GPS, or other tools that require electricity to use. If you do, the most reliable way to charge them is with a rugged solar charger. The rugged design is important because you want something durable and reliable. You’ll also want it to be fairly lightweight and portable since it’ll be taking up space in your pack.
Having a compass (and knowing how to use it) is critical for preventing yourself from getting lost in a survival situation. Even though the world might change after SHTF, it’s still a good idea to generally know where you are going. You’ll want to invest in a high-quality compass that will work anywhere. Having a map of your area can also be useful. This is especially important because you don’t know if GPS devices are going to be reliable at TEOTWAWKI.
Your survival knife is a multi-purpose tool. Even though something like a compact keychain knife might seem nice, it’s not going to provide the same abilities as a higher quality knife. Your knife can be used for cutting rope or small branches, skinning animals or cleaning fish, self-defense, and more.
When it comes to survival knives, there are plenty of options. This includes neck knives, folding knives, Bowie knives, fixed blade knives, and more. You can find out what to look for in a survival knife here.
The major benefit of having a survival hatchet instead of just a knife is that it makes cutting wood (and even trees) a lot faster than it would be using a knife. Additionally, using a hatchet for these otherwise tedious tasks prevents dulling your blade on your survival knife. Ideally, you’ll want to choose a lightweight hatchet for your bug out bag. You could also choose one with a sheath that can attach to your survival belt.
Multi-tools are handy because they help you have the right tools for any situation. Pliers are one of the few tools capable of doing things that a survival knife cannot. Additionally, they might have features like a screwdriver, wrench, can opener, bottle opener, and countless others.
As you choose multi-tool pliers, the thing that matters most is quality. Choose something durable that will be reliable in a survival situation. You’ll also want to look at all the functions. While all multi-tools have multiple functions, some have more than others. Those with more functions are going to be the most useful when you don’t know what to expect.
Shovels are useful any time you might need to dig. It’s not uncommon for experienced survivalists to make more than one bug out bag and bury it for later. You can also do this with some supplies, especially those that are heavier or bulkier in size. These are called survival caches.
Many of the best survival shovels are foldable. Once unfolded, they should lock open so you can easily use them to dig. In addition to digging things up, shovels can be used to make a rain trench to divert rain water away from your tent, to create a bathroom area, and more. Some survival shovels are also multi-purpose, which is especially beneficial in a survival situation.
Local Topographical Map
When you’re familiar with the area you’re in, you can think more clearly in a survival situation. A topographical map is going to show you water areas, elevation, and other important information. For example, if there’s flooding, you’ll know you need to get somewhere with a higher altitude. Odds are you’ll be near your home when SHTF so you’ll want a map of that area. Be sure to choose one that is waterproof to stop it from getting damaged.
Wilderness Identification Book
When it comes to food sources and medicine, being able to identify plants, mushrooms, and wildlife can be extremely helpful. Having a wilderness identification book can help you make the best use of your resources. If you choose one for your specific area, it can help you practically look for things to eat or use for medicine in the wilderness. When using these books, it’s best to err on the side of caution. If you aren’t 100% sure about the identification of something, you should avoid ingesting it.
Carabiners will be especially useful if you have a bug out bag with a MOLLE system. You can attach any number of items to the outside of your pack. While this will help with space, it won’t reduce the amount of weight you are carrying so you’ll still want to be careful not to over-do it. If you spend extra on high-quality carabiners, they can also be used for lifting heavy items or climbing.
Having a gas mask will come in handy if you are dealing with contagious disease or nuclear fallout. It filters contaminated air and reduces your risk of side effects. As you’re looking at gas masks, you’ll want to be sure to buy one that fits all the way around your face. Additionally, be sure to buy several filters for the style of gas mask you choose.
An anti-shock trekking pole is going to reduce strain on your knees and legs if you’re traveling into mountains or anywhere with elevation changes. While it’s not a necessary item, anything that reduces strain on your body and makes it easier to get to your next location is a worthwhile investment.
Duct tape is another multi-purpose tool that you’ll want in your bug out bag. It can be used to repair almost anything and comes in handy in any number of situations. You can use it to make arrow fletching, patch a hole in a canoe, create butterfly band-aid strips or a sling, and so much more.
Electrical tape is a little stretchier than duct tape and fits better into some crevices. It is also a little more heat-resistant. You can use it for several survival purposes, including waterproofing containers, creating grips on flashlights, or wrapping around the handle of a pot so you can grab it without burning yourself. It doesn’t take up much space, so it’s worth including in your pack.
Tactical watches often recharge using solar power. In addition to telling time, the best have several useful functions. When buying a tactical watch, you’ll want one that is water- and shock-resistant.
Something to note is that tactical watches rarely have an effective compass and many that do aren’t worth the investment. Instead, look for watches that have a built-in altimeter, barometer, and temperature sensors. An altimeter sensor tells you your altitude, while the barometer lets you measure changes in atmospheric pressure and predict weather changes.
Mosquito Head Net
A mosquito head net is going to protect the most exposed area of your body from pesky mosquitoes, which is important for presenting disease. This is also a lighter and less bulky option than carrying around cans of bug spray. This is especially true since your bug spray stock will eventually run out.
Camo Face Sticks
When SHTF, it may be every man (or woman) for themselves. Camo face sticks are good if you’re hiding in or traveling through the woods and need to avoid detection. Of course, you’ll want to wipe this off before you go back into the city. In there, face paint can draw unwanted attention.
Corrective Lenses or Contacts
People with vision problems will be significantly disadvantaged if something happens to their glasses. If you have poor vision, you’ll want at least one spare pair of glasses or several pairs of contacts in your bug out bag. Seeing properly and knowing your surroundings is critical in a survival situation.
Sunglasses are something else that you don’t necessarily think of first for your bug out bag. However, sunglasses provide much needed protection in extreme light from the sun. Not only will a good pair of UV-protective sunglasses prevent sun blindness and snow blindness, but they will also stop UV damage. They’ll also be nice for navigating, since it’s important to be able to see clearly to do this.
Personal Identification Documents
Having personal identification documents will help you prove your identity to others. You’ll want your ID or driver’s license, passport, birth certificates, and any other identifying documents for each family member. If your child is under 18 and doesn’t have an identification, you may want to get them one.
Cash, Coins, and Valuable Items
Having cash, coins, and other valuable items is important for bartering. Even if cash is not useful, you can try stocking up on a few extra valuable supplies (like antibiotics and medicine).
You may also want to hang on to your debit cards when SHTF. While it may not be necessary now, you’ll want to be able to access your money if civilization does ever return to normal.
Family photos have sentimental value and are great for reminiscing about people we miss. If you are trying to find a family member, however, a picture is likely to jar someone’s memory more than a description of the person. You should have a photo of every person in your immediate family, as well as pictures of nearby relatives that you may want to locate after SHTF.
Playing Cards and Dice
Entertainment is something else often overlooked when you’re planning for the end of civilization. Something like playing cards or dice is small and offers plenty of opportunities for game play. In addition to passing the time, playing games can help keep people’s spirits up in an otherwise stressful situation.
Being prepared for TEOTWAWKI requires more than just stocking up on supplies. You need to be practical about what you can carry and what you cannot. If you can stock up on extra supplies in a bunker, do that. If not, try to find a crawl space in your basement or an underground shelter outside your house to store survival gear in. The idea is to have somewhere that will be a little more hidden from other survivors so you can return to your stash as needed.
You’ll also want to spend time practicing skills mentioned. For example, a good exercise might be practicing building a shelter in the woods. You’ll also want to get practice using different tools and weapons like slingshots, fishing gear, fire-starting gear, and more. By mastering these skills before you actually have to use them, you’ll be confident in your abilities and more likely to stay calm when SHTF. The ability to stay calm and think rationally is what will set you apart from people who haven’t taken the time to prepare.
Hopefully, this guide has helped you narrow down some of the most important items you’ll need in a survival situation.
Best of luck!