Because someone will inevitably ask me for some tips on survival, I’ll go ahead and cover those. I’ve done a lot of research toward that end in order to give a well-informed opinion. The following recommendations are mainly good for weather disasters and temporary interruptions to utilities and the food supply. For a long term collapse situation, these and more would be necessary.
Basic needs in order of urgency: water, food, medical, energy/lighting, shelter/clothing, defense, and tools.
The simplest and cheapest anyone can do, is get couple cases of bottled water (not the opaque gallon jugs since they end up leaking), a first aid kit refill, low-cost LED headlamp with some extra batteries, some canned and ready-to-eat foods (granola bars, protein bars, canned meals like chili or pasta, canned fruit, beef jerky, cereal boxes and powdered milk, peanut butter, honey, crackers) and extra toiletries. That’s good enough for a week. You can get all these things in one day, put it away in your closet, and go on with your life. Having spare cash on hand is recommended: enough for food, gas, and motel covering 2-3 days of travel.
Doesn’t take much time or effort to get the basics. Occasionally check the clearance section at stores; good deals on useful items appear there sometimes. And if something jumps out at you, is on sale, and seems like a good idea, maybe that’s a hint. Years ago I had an intuitive nudge, and a synchronistic opportunity, to get some nice Walkie-Talkies with a 5-mile range. Later they became absolutely essential when my girlfriend and I evacuated Florida in separate cars during the 2004 hurricanes. Had I ignored my intuition and the opportunity, who knows what would have happened.
More specific suggestions and Amazon links:
Portable water filter (Sawyer Water Filtration System), cases of bottled water in clear containers, water purification tablets, collapsible water bags, 100 gallon water bag for bathtub. If there is only one item to get, it is a high quality portable water filter. I cannot stress this enough because water is the first and most important thing to go after any disaster, and portable filters are so compact yet good for hundreds to thousands of gallons. That Sawyer water filter uses new technology that makes it 5x more affordable than previous filters.
Granola bars, protein bars, peanut butter, bags of enriched rice, instant potatoes and oatmeal, canned beans, canned or jarred fruits and vegetables, canned/pouched meat, powdered eggs, powdered milk, salt and honey, pasta and jarred pasta sauces, sunflower/safflower/coconut oil, vitamins (especially Vitamin B and C, keep them fresh in the freezer if desired), or military meal packs. Or you can go all-out and get one of those 3/6/12 month supplies of freeze dried foods in cans. For cooking, either a Sterno or Esbit folding stove and fuel, biofuel stove, or a simple alcohol stove and a couple gallons of S-L-X denatured alcohol, and don’t forget the lighters. The alcohol stove is a convenient and effective setup for extended cooking at home or in between travel-by-car.
Extra prescription items, toiletries and personal hygiene essentials, and First Aid kit (REI kit or Adventure Medical, Comprehensive Kit). Or make your own kit: anti-bacterial ointment (most important), anti-fungal ointment, cortisone cream, anti-diarrheal, laxative, SAM splints for sprains and breaks, assorted band-aids, buffered aspirin, vaseline, rubbing alcohol, iodine liquid, medical tape, gauze rolls, elastic bandage wrap, wound dressing pads, butterfly sutures, superglue for cuts, burn gel or burn pad, moleskin for blisters, bandage scissors, tweezers, latex-free gloves, plastic syringe for wound washing, Bic lighter, sturdy drinking straws, Gold Bond medicated powder, scissors, digital thermometer. Additional anti-microbials: oregano oil and colloidal silver.
For dealing with deep gashes, stabbing wounds, or gunshot wounds, you will need a trauma kit. Celox for wound blood clotting, SOFTT Wide tourniquet, Israeli or OLAES compression bandage, trauma scissors, nasophyringial airways, chest decompression needle, HALO chest seals. Some of these require medical training to use and are mostly meant to stabilize someone long enough to get to a hospital.
20W solar panel with USB output, LED headlamp (essential for keeping hands free), rechargeable batteries and portable charger, good LED flashlight, 100W Solar Power Kit with AC inverter and 12V battery.
3M Respirator mask (also very important, for smoke, chemicals, fallout, dust storms, volcanic ash, mold, rotting, disease, etc.), Swiss Army Knife, pocket chain saw, mechanics gloves, Motorola 2-way radios (walkie talkies), AM/FM/Shortwave radio. And of course the common sense items like clothing, sunglasses, hats, socks, shoes etc.
I didn’t include shelter because preparing for on-foot / woods survival requires a different approach. Sleeping in cars or your own home is more likely. However, it can’t hurt to have a sleeping bag rated to 15F or colder and a self-inflating sleeping pad. Then you can sleep on otherwise cold hard floors in buildings too. Keep in mind that when a bag says 15F they’re exaggerating and it’s really only good down to 35F, and that two sleeping bags can be nested for colder conditions.
If you’re worried about self-defense, the most legal option (check your local laws) is pepper/bear spray and a baseball bat; anything beyond that is up to you.
If you’re dead set on a firearm, then the Glock 19 pistol is probably the best all-around option for its durability, portability, and commonality of spare parts and aftermarket accessories. Seriously, for any survival or collapse situations don’t bother with other handguns, which despite perhaps having better ergonomics or aesthetics will not be as durable or easy to repair. Use 124 grain hollow-point ammunition such as Federal HST or Remington Golden Saber. If you’re on a tight budget, have a look at the Walther PPX.
If a handgun is not permissible, other options include:
1) AR15 style rifles. Good: M&P15 Sport or Ruger AR556. Better: Colt 6920 Magpul Edition. Best: BCM complete upper with a PSA complete lower. Ammunition: Wolf Gold 223 for bulk storage and training, Fusion MSR 223 for defense. Advantages to the AR15 are precision, accuracy, range, maneuverability, and light weight. Downside is needing regular lubrication to remain functional. Have backup iron sights and a red dot optic such as the Mepro Tru Dot RDS, Aimpoint Micro, Primary Arms MD-ADS, or Trijicon MRO.
2) AK47 style rifles. Good: WASR-10. Better: DDI Stamped AK47. Best: Arsenal SLR-107. These are hard hitting, durable, reliable, low maintenance, low hassle, simple to operate, and can take a folding stock for compact storage. On the downside, compared to an AR15 they are cruder, clunkier, and heavier (by 1-2 lbs), have greater recoil, and are slightly less accurate. Ultimak Rail upgrade recommended for mounting a small red dot optic (Primary Arms MD-ADS or Aimpoint Micro) for faster and easier aiming.
3) Pistol caliber carbines. Fair: Hi-Point 995 or 4595. Better: Kel Tec Sub 2000 Gen 2, or Beretta CX4 Storm. Best: Sig MCX. These look like rifles but fire pistol ammunition. Compared to rifles they are lighter, handier, and not as loud or concussive. Thus they are ideal for home defense and smaller framed women. Downside is that their effective range is under 100 yards whereas rifles can typically reach 200-400 yards with ease.
These are all commonly recommended choices for their specified budget range and purpose. Keep in mind that ammo, upgrades, and accessories can together equal the cost of the firearm, so budget accordingly. Don’t forget hearing protection. And you can/should also install a weapon light, the specific type depending on the firearm’s mounting options. Streamlight and Surefire are the top brands.
You might also want to consider getting body armor. Soft armor (level IIIa) is lightweight and handles pistol threats but not rifle, while hard armor (level III+ or IV) is really heavy but stops AR and AK rounds (and pistol, of course). Soft armor panels (size 10×12) such as the Impac HT can be slipped inside the front and back pockets of carriers such as the First Spear Slick. Soft armor can be worn all day every day. Hard armor like the ceramic/poly ones come as front and back plates that slip inside a plate carrier vest like the Grey Ghost Gear Minimalist. Avoid hard armor plates weighing over 7lbs since they will drain your stamina and hurt your spine. Anything under 5lbs is fine. The nice thing about armor is that if you’re a pacifist you should have no moral qualms about owning and wearing it since it harms no one. The other nice thing is not dying when getting shot in the torso or back.
As for shotguns, they aren’t recommended here. They may be cheap but are just too long, heavy, lack range, only hold a few shells, have high recoil, are slow to reload, and the manual pump operated ones are difficult to run properly under stress. Nevertheless, if all you had were a shotgun, it would still be effective against one or two assailants at close range. Similarly, a revolver is also not recommended since it has low ammo capacity, is slower to reload, and not necessarily more reliable than a Glock.
Goes without saying that if you are at risk for theft, or have kids, or if kids ever so much as step a foot in your house, keep your firearms locked up in a safe place. Educate yourself on safety procedures and take courses or watch videos to train correctly on firearm use until it becomes automatic, because only automatic motions can be relied upon in high stress situations.
If you’re concerned about survival in the face of widespread violence and desperation, then study Max Velocity’s book Contact! A Tactical Manual for Post Collapse Survival. The book shows the reality of how dicey things could get if society collapsed, covering aspects that are far beyond the scope of bushcraft or disaster preparation books.
As far as survivalism goes, here are some things to keep in mind:
1) You can only prepare for a limited set of scenarios. A point comes in your attempt to prepare for everything, where you’ve just thrown away your life, your destiny, your mission if you have one, all for the sake of surviving. Then you would be surviving for the sake of existing, not for the sake of living. Life would be meaningless and you just defeated your very purpose for coming here. Therefore, no amount of preparation warrants throwing your life away and heading into the hills, shutting yourself off from the world until doomsday comes. All preparations should be done in parallel with your regular life and not infringe upon it. If your main life is Plan A (nothing happens) then keep that open while you simultaneously have Plan B (S.H.T.F. = shit hits the fan, meaning a condition of survival amidst social chaos and civil breakdown).
2) Do some basic physical preparations without becoming too obsessed, preoccupied, or emotionally invested in it. If you get some survival item, know how to use it and put it away until time for maintenance, practice, and use. Don’t dress up in ninja gear like you have some kind of survivalism fetish, don’t be turning over post-apocalyptic fantasies in your mind hours upon hours a day, and don’t keep gloating over your advantage over the other poor suckers who are asleep and unprepared. Reason being that holding onto an extreme survivalism mentality, beyond what’s needed to actually do it and be proficient at it, is highly detrimental to your spiritual balance. Have the knowledge and supplies, but be very cautious of aligning your heart and thought-train completely and exclusively with the mere idea of physical survivalism. Making it your life goal will kill your soul, and you need your soul and a spiritual connection to gain the synchronistic and intuitive protection needed to keep you safe in all scenarios, not just the ones you can physically prepare for.
3) To an extent, spiritual balance, good intuition (honed through past trial and error), and sharp awareness (observe and think several steps ahead) will get you farther than any physical survival dwelling or supplies. Why? Because then you can respond flexibly to whatever comes, as it comes. By spiritual balance I mean keeping a leash on your ego, your jealousies, contempt and hatred, desperate materialism, greed, and other base impulses… and instead, striving for equanimity, gratitude to the Creator, devotion to truth and beauty and fairness, and consideration for others. Then you acquire divine blessing that increases the luck factor in your life. In the midst of calamity you can get an intuitive or synchronistic helping hand.
Of course, spiritual versus physical preparation are not mutually exclusive; just avoid physical obsession that infringes on spiritual balance; that’s the most important thing I can say. Same goes for looking toward the future and getting apprehensive. Don’t lose hope or optimism, as you need these to carve out a pathway to heaven through times of hell.