Survival and Emergency Preparedness
History has shown that nothing lasts forever. Calm periods have always without exception been punctuated by natural upheavals and man-made disruptions that turn things upside down. Our medical, police, and utility services can only handle things as they are during normal times. When stretched by circumstances, they fall short.
Therefore, we must prep. We can’t help others from a position of weakness, so we must be strong and well-equipped. Prepping reduces suffering and prolongs our ability to do good in this world.
Preparedness spans the scale from quick and easy to hardcore and all-consuming. You take a gamble in what level to go with. Too little and you might painfully regret it one day. Too much and you will have spent time, money, and sacrificed spiritual harmony out of proportion to the risk. But something is better than nothing, which is why I advocate that everyone at least have the basics.
Everyone must be ready to survive bare minimum one week without power, internet, cell service, food, water, gasoline, medical, fire, or police service. One month is a more reasonable goal and would cover the most probable natural disasters. One year would take some serious investment. One decade would require a luxe bunker or well-defended homestead. The sweet spot is around 2-3 months. It all depends on the dangers unique to your region, so plan accordingly.
Thankfully, it doesn’t take much time or effort to get the bare basics, and no skill or training is required for that level of preparedness. The simplest and cheapest anyone can do for short term disruptions (wildfire, hurricane, storms, power outage):
- several cases of bottled water
- canned and ready-to-eat foods with decent shelf life
- cash in small bills, enough for food, gas, and motel covering 2-3 days of travel
- extra toiletries and hygiene supplies, meds, and everyday household items
- low-cost LED headlamp with some extra batteries
- N95 or better dust mask and eye protection
- Papers and valuables gathered and ready
That’s good enough for up to a week and light enough to quickly load into your vehicle if necessary. You can get all these things in one day, put it away in your closet, and go on with your life.
For longer situations (weeks to months) these and more would be necessary, not only in terms of supplies but also skill and fitness.
Regarding supplies, basic needs in order of urgency: water, food, medical, shelter, energy/lighting, defense, and tools. Some suggestions with links to Amazon:
Portable water filter like the Sawyer Squeeze Water Filtration System, cases of bottled water in clear containers, water purification tablets, collapsible water bags, 100 gallon water bag for bathtub or line your bathtub with a plastic drop cloth and fill if you know a disaster is about to happen.
If there is only one item to get, it is a high quality portable water filter (followed by a respirator mask, see below). While bottled water gets you through the initial phase, you simply can’t store or carry enough water to last you longer than that. Serious water storage, if one has the space, would involve 55 gallon drums or IBC totes.
Therefore, a water filter is essential regardless. I cannot stress this enough because water is the first and most essential 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, and you can even let gravity do the work by using two collapsible water bags (top for dirty water, bottom for clean) with an adapter. To collect rain water, you can use an angled tarp suspended by paracord to channel water into a large container, or get a rain barrel connected to a gutter spout.
Considering what people spend on car insurance, life insurance, health insurance, etc. it would be foolish to not have some emergency food stored.
Foods vary in shelf life. Short-life foods like energy bars, dried fruits and nuts, crackers and cereal require no preparation to eat and are quick and convenient, but only last 1-2 years. Medium shelf-life foods like canned and jarred products are better but heavy and still require rotating through them every 2-4 years. Long term foods like rice, pasta, beans, and freeze-dried foods are either bland or expensive but can last 10-30 years. Ideally, you would have a mix of all three. Here are some options:
Mountain House freeze dried meal pouches or cans for long term food storage. The most costly option, but best in terms of shelf life (up to 30 years), weight, and taste. Compared to throwing out canned foods every few years that you didn’t manage to rotate through, it may save money in the long term. In terms of preparedness, it’s a better investment than gold and silver.
Rice is the cheapest bulk calorie source and can augment other stored foods. Grab 10 or 20lb bags at the grocery store and seal them airtight. Dry beans, peas, pasta, and lentils are other bulk staple foods to consider adding. Asian grocery stores sell large bags of rice way cheaper than other places especially organic / health food stores. Just note that rice may contain weevil eggs that hatch in storage unless the rice is first frozen for 24 hours; put in zip lock bags and freeze for a day then let return to room temperature, make sure it’s dry, and store in sealed buckets or storage containers. Only instant and parboiled/converted rice doesn’t have this problem (since it’s pre-cooked before being dehydrated).
Bulk protein: cheapest/easiest is 5lb containers of whey protein. 2 year shelf life, so rotate through it as needed. Without enough protein your strength, immune system, and emotional well-being take a hit. Mountain House freeze-dried chicken and beef in #10 cans are also good if you can afford it. Powdered eggs likewise. Otherwise: canned meats like chicken, tuna, salmon, sardines, or peanut butter.
Rice and peanut butter are two bulk foods that can be supplemented by canned and jarred foods. Peanut butter from bulk discount outlet stores is one of the most affordable sources of calories, fat, and protein. Not the healthiest form of fat, and shelf life is about 3-5 years max, but for those on a budget prepping for emergencies coming within 3-5 years, it will keep you alive and has more to offer nutritionally than rice. You can also be in keto and survive off peanut butter for a while. (Vitamin C powder or a multivitamin would still be needed).
For short term (use within 1-2 years) : granola bars, protein bars, bags of enriched rice, instant potatoes, 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). Military meal packs (MREs) are fine but only have a 2-3 year shelf life and are not always sold fresh.
For cooking, most convenient for short term use: Esbit folding stove and fuel or Coleman propane stove. To use wood as fuel, which is great for long term if you’re on foot, a biofuel stove works but takes longer to light and smoke disallows indoor use.
For month+ emergency preparations, I generally recommend an alcohol stove and quart-sized canisters of denatured alcohol (found in the paint thinner section of hardware stores, and is also known as marine stove fuel) because you can stockpile gallons of fuel for months of smoke-free cooking; an ounce of alcohol boils 2 cups of water. The alcohol stove is an easy and cost-effective setup for home or in between travel-by-car. Propane canisters and stoves are fine too if you have the room for them.
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 would need a trauma kit. SOFTT Wide tourniquet, 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. Without a hospital, these will prolong life but not guarantee survival.
First aid and trauma kits cover two extremes. One is for minor issues, the other for catastrophic issues. If you want to be properly prepared, you’d also need to cover the realm between these two extremes, the realm of general medicine that’s familiar to doctors and nurses but not so much those outside the medical field. They understand the necessity and use of prescription-strength painkillers, antibiotics, IV fluids, and other specialized drugs and equipment. To get a basic grounding on that, including a list of what drugs to get (which can be bought online without a prescription if you look around), please read The Prepper’s Medical Handbook as it gives a more realistic picture of what’s required for general coverage than simple First Aid.
Energy / Lighting
For emergencies up to a week long, simply get a USB portable battery bank. The battery bank is charged via USB (hence solar panel, 12V car charger, computer, or home wall adapter) and can then provide power anywhere and anytime to recharge phones, tablets, radios, headlamps, batteries, etc. anything with a USB cord.
Premium LED headlamp with 18650 batteries. And/or low cost LED headlamp and packs of alkaline or lithium batteries. Headlamps keep your hands free and are superior to flashlights. Lithium batteries don’t leak and keep longer in storage.
A heavier duty portable setup would be a portable power station and 100W solar panel, for running small AC powered devices like laptops, radios, lamps, etc.
Whole-house solar panel systems, batteries and charge controllers are quite an investment and require professional installation. Beyond that, you’re looking at generators that run on gasoline, diesel, or propane. These are good for short term high power applications like running kitchen appliances or whole homes. But they are noisy, emit exhaust, and run out of fuel within days or weeks. Stored gasoline must have stabilizers added to last longer than six months (or a little longer if premium gasoline, which has lower water-absorbing ethanol in it). Diesel lasts longer and can simply be stored in 55 gallon drums. Propane fed from the gas line infrastructure will lose its pressure when the remote pump fails in a power outage, so must instead be stored in a large propane tanks on site.
Besides a water filter, a respirator is the next most important hardware item. Unlike a simple N95 mask, these are silicone and make a complete seal around mouth and nose. There are many situations when you would need one: smoke from wildfire and structure fires, chemical spills, mold after a flood, volcanic eruptions, viral and bacterial outbreaks, nuclear fallout, chemical and biological weapons, tear gas, dust storms, and rotting bodies/garbage.
3M Respirator mask with 6001 Filter for smoke, dust, biological and chemical fumes or the 7093 Filter for smoke, dust, and biological particles (easier to breathe through, but doesn’t protect against chemicals or vapors).
For more protection, especially against viruses and bacteria, you must also wear safety goggles or swim goggles that form a seal. Or a full face mask, whether a 3M full mask or a military surplus gas mask that takes 40mm threaded filters, like the Scott M95 or similar.
Glock Field Knife. Strongest cheapest multi-use knife for sawing, prying, shaving, splitting wood, use as a spear head, and defense.
Mechanix gloves. Safety from cuts and scrapes.
Repair gear like duck tape, hot glue sticks, epoxy putty, JB weld, plastic tarps or contractor trash bags, paracord/accessory cord, hand sewing needles and bonded nylon thread, sewing awl, zip ties small and large, ranger bands, tire repair kit, solder and electrical tape and hookup wire, hammer and nails long enough to board up a window.
Lock pick set and fence wire cutters. For getting into / out / through things. Picking locks isn’t as easy as in the movies, but you’ll get further with a quality set.
Bic Lighters. Easier to use than ferro rods. Good barter item too.
Common sense items like clothing, backpacks, sunglasses, hats, socks, shoes etc.
AM/FM/Shortwave radio with Single Sideband. Stay informed when there’s no internet or cell service. If the government drops off supplies just two blocks away, without a radio you might never know it (that happened after Hurricane Andrew and people suffered just a block or two away from pallets of food and water). A cheap AM/FM radio is sufficient for that. But with a shortwave radio you can listen to shortwave news stations from far away. And with single-sideband (SSB) ability, you can hear HAM radio operators from hundreds and sometime thousands of miles away in the 20m, 40m and 80m bands. SSB drives up the price of the radio but it’s important to have if you can afford it, as HAM operators can report local conditions around the country, which you might not hear about any other way. Here’s a larger better radio with shortwave and SSB.
GMRS Walkie Talkies. Cell phone networks will be down. These are only good for local / neighborhood communication. CB radios are also good for local comms but are best used from home or in vehicles due to antenna size.
If you want to communicate regionally or internationally, however, you’ll need a HAM radio transceiver system with HF capability (Yaesu, ICOM, and Kenwood brands) and stick to the 20m, 40m, and 80m bands — there’s a lot to that, and you need a license to transmit, but HAM radio is the only option for true grid-down long range communication. To be clear, a shortwave radio with SSB is receive-only, while a HAM transceiver is both send and receive but larger, heavier, and more expensive.
Note that there are little handheld HAM radios like the Baofengs, but these are for short range walkie-talkie type communication in the higher frequency bands (2m and 70cm) or else for communicating with a local repeater tower that forwards your signal to another one far away but these towers can’t be relied on when the grid is down. So again, for regional or international communications you’d need an HF transceiver with appropriate antenna for a given frequency band.
Shelter / Hiking
Bugging out on foot into the woods is a bit of a fantasy. You’re more likely to be sleeping in cars, buildings, or your own home than in the wilderness. Wilderness is a last resort. Preparing for on-foot or woods survival requires a different approach focusing on minimalism and lightweight. Since you can only take what you can carry, that limits how prepared you can be. Further, cold weather and questionable availability of food, not to mention running into hostile people, further reduce chances of survival in the wild.
Regardless, even if you don’t plan on bugging out on foot, it can’t hurt to have a sleeping bag appropriate to your climate since even at home or in cars, heat may not be available during utility or gas outages. Keep in mind that when a sleeping 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.
For warmer weather, a jungle blanket or jungle bag may be sufficient and is a good idea to have anyway. For intermediate or colder weather, the Carinthia Defence 1 or Defence 4 are excellent. These are also good for winter power outages when it gets into the 30s inside the home.
Another essential item for everyone is an inflatable sleeping pad, which will conserve body heat and let you sleep comfortably in more places including the floors of buildings, hard soil and gravel, and cots that lack padding. They have different R ratings (thermal insulation) which matters if you’re using them in cold environments as the ground will suck body heat away if you don’t use a pad or use one with a low R rating. So in colder weather you’ll need an insulated pad with an R rating above 4.
If on a tight budget, look into buying military surplus goods like sleeping bags on eBay as you can get products equivalent to high dollar commercial items at 1/3rd the cost. Get back some of your tax dollars that way.
For outdoor shelter, a lightweight tent or tarp and a military thermal casualty blanket as a ground sheet suffices. And carrying all this requires a good backpack, like a hiking backpack in the 45-100 liter range. Remember to keep the total weight under 30% of your healthy bodyweight or you won’t be walking far.
Research hiking, mountaineering, bushcraft, and orienteering to get accustomed with the types of variables involved in traversing the land. If your main aim is to travel while avoiding people and ambushes, and you have the cash, then investing in a portable infrared thermal scope can be of value since in open air (i.e. not through glass) it lets you detect body heat signatures from hundreds of yards away even at night.
Fitness, Knowledge, Teamwork
Gear aside, like in combat, physical fitness is of paramount importance when surviving on foot. The fitter you are, the longer and more swiftly you can move and thus evade danger. Such fitness would be centered around endurance and mobility under load, meaning resistance cardio, bodyweight exercises, and rucking moreso than aesthetic bodybuilding and heavy weight lifting. Physical fitness is also an asset toward disaster-related activities like clearing fallen trees, filling sandbags, boarding up windows, carrying food and water, and so on.
Further, the less you can depend on the conveniences of a stable society to shelter and protect you, the more skills and knowledge you would need to remain well. So for a week long power outage where you just sit tight until services are restored, not much is required beyond some extra supplies as mentioned at the beginning of this note. But surviving on foot, dealing with marauders, or making it through a drawn out economic collapse takes more than just gear. And beyond a certain point of direness, one would need a group of skilled individuals working as a team to do what one person alone cannot. The difficulty and cost of prepping goes up exponentially with the expected length of the grid-down situation.
Accept that you can’t prepare for every scenario. Draw the line where prudence becomes obsession.
The best defense is avoiding trouble in the first place. That means hiding, being inconspicuous, and avoiding danger areas. And for the home, securing and reinforcing your doors and windows can go a long way.
Martial arts skills are helpful but only get you so far. Weapons exist to buy you time and distance and are force multipliers. They level the playing field.
Otherwise you’ll have to depend on others for your physical safety, which puts their lives at risk and renders you incapable of defending someone under your care.
- gladius or machete
- pepper gel
- large, heavy, blinding flashlight
- baseball bat
- long screwdriver
- fire extinguisher
- bow, crossbow, or slingbow
- large wrench
- metal pipe
- padlock on a rope, belt, or chain
Obviously these differ in legality, visibility, deniability, range, and lethality so the best one(s) for you depends on your unique situation.
Firearms carry a legal risk and require safety, proficiency, and integrity to use responsibly and effectively; nevertheless they are tools that protect innocent life when when law enforcement cannot respond quickly enough or is absent during a societal breakdown situation. If you follow basic safety rules and aren’t suicidal, the risk of being killed by your own weapon is far lower than the risk of being killed by not having one.
There’s nothing wrong with owning a gun if you’re spiritual person. It’s all about mindset and philosophy of use. The Shaolin monks and chivalric knights were spiritual but trained for battle. In the hands of good people, guns use force to stop violence.
Here are some options:
1) Pistol in 9mm. Concealable: Glock 42 or M&P Shield 2.0. Budget: Canik TP9SF. Best: Glock 19 Gen 5 or Gen 3. Pistols a.k.a. handguns are portable, concealable, and can be kept on you at all times, within limits of the law or willing risk. Compared to rifles they are inaccurate, underpowered, and only good for short range. It also takes more training to wield a handgun proficiently; high tight grip and steady trigger squeeze are essential. But, they are handy and can always be kept at the ready. While there may be more ergonomic pistols out there, the Glock 19 beats everything in durability and commonality of spare parts and aftermarket accessories (the Sig P320c is the next best pistol in that regard). Buy a couple factory 33-round magazines for home defense to supplement the 15-round mags that come with the gun. Ideally use 124 grain hollow-point ammunition for defense such as Federal HST, but regular 115gr FMJ will do the job and penetrate a little deeper. To save ammo, you can get a laser training cartridge and practice drawing and dry firing (pulling the trigger without firing a live round) in your home.
2) AR15 style rifles. Budget: Springfield M&P 15 Sport II. Better: Springfield Saint, IWI Zion, Sig M400 Tread. Best: BCM RECCE-16 MCMR-LW, Sionics Patrol Rifle Three, Daniel Defense DDM4 V7, FN15, or Centurion Arms CM4. Other good brands include SOLGW and LMT. Since complete rifles are hard to find in stock nowadays, a cheaper and better option is to buy the upper and lower half separately. You can mix and match between brands. For example, BCM complete upper with a BCM or Aero complete lower. Stick with BCM for best value, quality, reliability, and availability especially for the upper. Advantages of the AR15 include precision, accuracy, range (out to 300-500 yards easily), ergonomics, maneuverability, modularity, and relative light weight. Downside is price of a complete system with optics, lights, sling, magazines, and ammo. Ammunition: Brass-cased and new (not remanufactured) 55gr or 62gr FMJ for bulk storage and training, 77gr for home defense, hunting, and distance shooting. Weapon light: Modlite, Cloud Defensive, and Surefire are the best, with Streamlight a distant runner up. Magazines, have at least a dozen Magpul Pmags and a chest rig to carry 3-6 of them, or perhaps a plate carrier and tactical belt outfitted with Esstac, Blue Force Gear, or HSGI mag pouches.
3) Pistol caliber carbines. Budget: Hi-Point 995 or Kel-Tec Sub 2000. Good: Ruger PC 9 or Beretta CX4 Storm. Best: CMMG Banshee 9mm or Sig MPX. These look like rifles but fire pistol ammunition. They are easier to shoot accurately versus handguns, and more powerful but nowhere near as much as rifles. And they are much easier to shoot accurately. Compared to rifles they are cheaper, lighter, handier, and not as loud or concussive. Thus they are ideal for indoor defense and use by smaller framed people. 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. Note that ammo, upgrades, and accessories can together equal the cost of the firearm, so budget accordingly.
You’ll need electronic hearing protection. Wear ear plugs underneath them at indoor ranges. Electronic hearing protection amplifies ambient sounds while reducing loudness of gunfire, giving you much better awareness of your surroundings and letting you communicate more effectively.
Get a quality weapon light to avoid misidentification at night. For pistol, Surefire X300 or Streamlight TLR-1. These work for rife as well, mounted upside down at the 12 o’clock position at the far end of the rail.
Otherwise for rifle you can get something tougher and lower profile like the Surefire M600. If your rifle has a slim M-lok rail system, get an Arisaka mount to keep the light tucked in close to the rail. A cheaper rifle light is the Streamlight Protac Rail Mount just don’t use the remote tape switch that comes with it due to reliability issues.
For carbines and rifles used within 100 yards (house-to-house and neighborhood distances) get a red dot optic like the Aimpoint Pro or Primary Arms Micro Dot. Red dots are point and click, very intuitive compared to factory iron sights (which are almost useless in dim lighting). However, if you have uncorrected astigmatism in your eye then the red dot will be blurry, and so a prism sight like the Primary Arms SLX-1x is better. Keep in mind that spotting someone poking out behind cover at 100 yards will be very difficult without magnification, so a red dot or 1x prism is ideal only out to about 100 yards.
A red dot optic is susceptible to battery or electronics failure and then you’d have no sighting system when the dot disappears. So if you want backup flip-up iron sights, the Magpul MBUS or MBUS Pro are ideal. Red dot failure is unlikely with a high quality red dot like an Aimpoint, but a budget red dot like the Primary Arms, Sig Romeo, or Holosun does need backups sights. If tight budget forces a choice, it’s better to forego the backup sights and spend that money on a higher quality and more reliable optic, like an Aimpoint Pro or the more expensive and compact Aimpoint Micro T2, which are duty/combat grade. If you want reliability in a cheaper package, go for a prism sight instead, especially the Primary Arms GLx 2X. Unlike a red dot, a prism sight or scope has a reticle that’s etched into glass and is therefore always present, glowing red or green if powered and remaining black if turned off.
For mid to long range defense (150+ yards) in open rural areas, or greater precision shooting in urban areas, more suitable would be a magnified optic (prism or low power variable scope) like the Trijicon 4x TA31 ACSS ACOG, Trijicon TR24, Steiner P4xi, or Primary Arms GLx 2X.
On ammo quantity, only money and space are the limits. Absolute minimum is 200 rounds per pistol and 500 rounds per rifle, and that means little to no training with it just defense, hunting, and zeroing. More reasonable is 2k pistol and 5k rifle. Dedicated preppers have 5k per pistol and 10k per rifle. Nowadays that’s a huge expense, but without ammo a gun is just an expensive hammer.
There’s a radical difference in ammo quantity needed for a home defense weapon that’s mostly kept in storage versus a war-fighting weapon that’s used in small unit tactics. The latter, requiring “fire and maneuver” techniques, goes through ammo like water to suppress the enemy, at least 200-300 rounds per engagement, whereas a home defense shooting could be over with just a handful of rounds.
So aim to have at least the minimum, understanding that a time may come when you can’t buy ammo ever again.
Avoid shotguns unless you’re duck hunting or breaching doors. They’ll do the job for defense but aren’t optimal. 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. That said, pump shotguns may be legal in places other firearms are not, so there are specific cases and places where they make sense.
Avoid revolvers. Again, they do the job but there are better options. They have low ammo capacity, are slow to reload, and are not necessarily more reliable than a Glock. They mainly make sense for untrained people who lack the hand strength to rack the slide on a semi-auto.
Avoid the AK47. While good ones (Arsenal SLR-107) are on par with good AR15s (BCM, DD) in terms of overall accuracy and reliability, they are clunky, crude, and ammo weighs more so you can’t carry as many rounds. They also have a negative stigma due to gang and Communist associations. The bigger problem is that nowadays imports are dwindling, prices are going up, Russian ammo availability in the future is questionable [Edit: correct, as of 8/21 Russian ammo is now banned from import] and American-made AKs suffer from quality problems. So for those living in America, a high quality AR15 is the superior choice for a self-defense rifle.
Safety and Training
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.
As far as courses go, pretty much any place within driving distance is fine for basic introductory skills. It’s when you go to intermediate and advanced skills that you have to be careful to avoid the deranged rambos with false credentials teaching you unrealistic and dangerous Hollywood techniques that don’t work in the real world. And if you can’t take courses, you’ll have to watch videos and choose wisely which ones to learn from. Either way, look for instructors with verified elite military backgrounds.
If you’re serious about defense, consider buying body armor. It’s a form of insurance and no different than wearing a helmet or seat belt. Even a pacifist should have no moral qualms about owning and wearing it since it harms no one. The only downsides to armor are cost, reduced mobility, and alarm or suspicion in public if too visible.
Soft armor (level IIIa) is lightweight and protects against pistol and shotgun but not rifle. Soft armor weighs around 5 lbs for a vest and offers greater coverage of the torso, is somewhat concealable, and can be worn all day every day aside from being a bit hot. Being shot while wearing soft armor feels like getting hit with a hammer, so it may still momentarily incapacitate you. If budget is not an issue, consider the Crye LVS instead.
Hard armor (level III+ or IV) is really heavy and thick but stops AR and AK rounds as well. Hard armor weighs 10-15 lbs for a system that covers your front and back torso. Stick with ceramic, polymer, composite plates around 5lbs and under that are rated to stop the M855 round. These are worn via a plate carrier vest sized appropriately to the plate size and shape. Plate carriers with mesh lining or pontoons allow for superior cooling. Plate width should approximate the distance between center of nipples, and should be worn high enough to reach the notch at the top of the sternum between the clavicles.
And if you’re thinking about getting night vision, know that these take time to put on your head so they’re not a reactive home-defense tool. They’re mainly an offensive tool if you’re attacking at night, or defensive if doing sentry duty at night, or a navigational tool if hiking at night (and driving too but that’s very risky). Being able to walk in near darkness, without a flashlight, lets you move at night when it’s safer.
For night vision, a PVS14 monocular with a Gen 3 or Gen 3+ (not Gen 2 or Gen 1) tube inside is what you’ll need. Keeping it on your face requires a tactical bump helmet from Ops Core or Team Wendy (or the lightweight and affordable Crye Night Cap with an aluminum shroud), a RHNO II mount or better, and optionally a counterweight.
To shoot a pistol under night vision use a TLR-VIR-II white/infrared laser weapon light. To shoot a rifle with night vision, cheapest quality option is an OTAL-C infrared laser with a Surefire M300V or M600V white/IR light.
You can get by without a laser by passively aiming through a quality red dot that has night vision setting, but you’ll need a high optic mount (1.57” or preferably higher) to make it work and it’s quite awkward overall.
Tactical night vision is a tricky subject that requires research to make the wisest decisions, and then you’ll need training and at least 20 hours doing things in the dark to get comfortable with it. Night vision is expensive enough that many preppers simply forego it and make do with a good white weapon light.
Books like the SAS Survival Handbook that focus on bushcraft and short term survival in the woods are useful but not adequate for emergency preparedness since we’re more likely to be in our homes, offices, or vehicles than lost in the forest or stranded on a desert island. For the more immediate and likely disruptions, you’re better off with the natural disaster preparation advice from sites like ready.gov.
Economic collapse without complete societal collapse is the more realistic scenario that warrants serious foresight and preparation, for which you can cautiously read FerFal’s book The Modern Survival Manual: Surviving the Economic Collapse.
And if you’re concerned about the more tactical aspects of 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 covers subjects far beyond the scope of bushcraft or disaster preparation books, but things would have to get pretty dire to ever reach that point. If nothing else, the purpose of reading this book is to demystify Hollywood-programmed expectations of how force and violence is conducted in the real world.
Studying and applying this stuff can take its mental and spiritual toll, so be careful and weigh the risk of that versus the risk of not being prepared.
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 not become obsessed, preoccupied, or emotionally lost in this. If you get some survival item, know how to use it and put it away until time for maintenance, training, and use. Don’t dress up in ninja gear like you have some kind of survivalism fetish, don’t be turning over heroic 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.