Survival and Emergency Preparedness
We live in a society of fragile interdependencies where medical, police, and utility services can only handle things as they are now during times of peace. They fall short when stretched by circumstances. History has shown that nothing lasts forever and periods of equilibrium have always without exception been punctuated by natural upheavals and man-made disruptions that turn things upside down.
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 at least 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. 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 is get several cases of bottled water, a first aid kit, low-cost LED headlamp with some extra batteries, battery-powered radio, extra toiletries and meds, N95 or better dust mask and eye protection, and some canned and ready-to-eat foods with decent shelf life. 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. Having spare cash on hand is recommended: enough for food, gas, and motel covering 2-3 days of travel. 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.
For longer term situations (weeks to months) these preparations 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, shelter, medical, 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). 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.
Considering what people spend on car insurance, life insurance, health insurance, etc. it would be foolish to not have some emergency food stored.
Mountain House freeze dried meal pouches or cans for long term food storage. These are the best in terms of shelf life (up to 30 years) and taste. Or you can go all-out and get one of their 3/6/12 month supplies of freeze dried foods in cans. Everyone should have at least one Mountain House 5 Day or 14-day box on hand.
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 or just get sealed buckets of rice. Dry beans, peas, and lentils are other bulk staple foods to consider adding.
Bulk protein: cheapest/easiest is 5lb containers of whey protein. 2 year shelf life, so rotate through it as needed. Keep in mind that 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.
For short term: granola bars, protein bars, peanut butter, 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), or military meal packs.
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.
Energy / Lighting
For emergencies up to a week long, get a small or large 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.
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.
Motorola 2-way radios (walkie talkies). Cell phone networks will be down.
AM/FM/Shortwave radio. Stay informed.
Bic Lighters. Easier to use than ferro rods. Good barter item too.
And of course the common sense items like clothing, backpacks, sunglasses, hats, socks, shoes etc.
Shelter / Hiking
You’re more likely to be sleeping in cars, buildings, or your own home than in the wilderness. 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. Therefore roughing it out in nature or wandering around as a hobo is ill advised.
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. 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. 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.
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, then investing in a portable infrared thermal scope can be of value since 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.
For those concerned about self-defense, martial arts skills are helpful but only get you so far. Weapons buy you time and distance and are force multipliers. The most legal option (check local laws) is pepper gel and a baseball bat; anything beyond that is up to you.
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 alternatives are unavailable, such as when law enforcement cannot respond quickly enough or is absent during a societal breakdown situation.
If you’re dead set on a firearm, here are some options:
1) Pistol in 9mm. Budget: Canik TP9SF. Best: Glock 19. 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. Mount a weapon light like the Streamlight TLR-1. Buy a couple factory 33-round magazines to supplement the others, and use 124 grain hollow-point ammunition for defense such as Federal HST or Remington Golden Saber.
2) AR15 style rifles. Budget: Aero Precision AC-15. Better: Colt LE6920 or AR6720. Best: BCM RECCE-16 MCMR-LW, Sionics Patrol Three-E, or Centurion Arms CM4. Other good brands include SOLGW, Daniel Defense, and LMT. Or get the upper and lower half separately to save some money. For example, BCM complete upper with a BCM or Aero complete lower. Stick with BCM for best quality and value, especially for the upper. Advantages of the AR15 include precision, accuracy, range, ergonomics, maneuverability, modularity, and light weight. Downside is needing regular lubrication to remain functional. Ammunition: Wolf Gold 55gr or Magtech 62gr for bulk storage and training, IMI or Magtech 77gr for home defense, hunting, and distance shooting. 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. These look like rifles but fire pistol ammunition. They are more powerful than handguns, but no where near as much as rifles. Compared to rifles they are cheaper, lighter, handier, and not as loud or concussive. Thus they are ideal for indoor defense and 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. Don’t forget hearing protection, wearing ear plugs alongside ear muffs at indoor ranges. And you can/should also install a weapon light to avoid misidentifications, the specific light type depending on the firearm’s mounting options. Top choices include Streamlight TLR-1, Protac RailMount 1, and Surefire M300.
For carbines and rifles, have backup iron sights like the MBUS or MBUS Pro and a red dot optic such as the Aimpoint Pro or Primary Arms Micro Dot. Keep in mind that spotting someone poking out behind cover at 100 yards will be very difficult without magnification, so a 1x red dot is ideal only out to about 100 yards.
For mid to long range defense (200+ yards) in open rural areas, or greater precision shooting in urban areas, more suitable would be a magnified optic like the Trijicon 4x TA31 ACSS ACOG, Trijicon TR24, Steiner P4xi, or Primary Arms 3x.
Avoid shotguns. 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 are relatively cheap and still legal in places other firearms are not, so there are specific cases and places where they make sense.
Avoid revolvers. 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, 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.
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 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. Hard armor (level III+ or IV) is really heavy and thick but stops AR and AK rounds as well. Hard armor weighs 10-20 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.
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.
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.