That spirit of self-sufficiency runs through the history of American food culture. Lydia Maria Child’s 1829 manual The Frugal Housewife, one of the first American cookbooks ever published, instructed women to contribute to their family’s finances by making sure no scrap of food was wasted: “Nothing should be thrown away so long as it is possible to make any use of it, however trifling that use may be.” The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints* encourages members to keep a three-month food supply on hand at all times, and even sells dehydrated food products on its official website. This Mormon connection may be why Utah is such a freeze-dried food hub: Of 21 freeze-dried food companies I counted online, 16 were from the state, and Bedford told me she first learned about long-term food storage by reading blogs by Mormon women.
As discussed earlier in this guide, we face surprisingly high lifetime odds of becoming victims of burglary, assault, or other major crime. To deal with this danger, the guide promotes a handful of passive risk avoidance and loss minimization strategies, with the bulk of this advice found in section 3.5. But it would be dishonest to claim that such methods will always shield us from harm - so in this chapter, let's have a look at some of the tools that serve as the last line of defense when all other approaches fail.
When living in squalor conditions and running short on supplies, even seemingly prosaic medical conditions can become life-threatening. For example, in less developed countries, otherwise non-lethal diarrheal diseases cause almost 2.5 million deaths every year. The reason is simple: without proper care, the disease makes it easy for the victims to get terminally dehydrated or succumb to severe electrolyte imbalance.
The reëlection of Barack Obama was a boon for the prepping industry. Conservative devotees, who accused Obama of stoking racial tensions, restricting gun rights, and expanding the national debt, loaded up on the types of freeze-dried cottage cheese and beef stroganoff promoted by commentators like Glenn Beck and Sean Hannity. A network of “readiness” trade shows attracted conventioneers with classes on suturing (practiced on a pig trotter) and photo opportunities with survivalist stars from the TV show “Naked and Afraid.”
At least in theory, the recipe for surviving civilizational collapse is simple: you need to get away from other people and become self-sufficient. It's fairly clear that deprived of their industrial backbone, most of our cities and suburbs wouldn't be able to support even a tiny fraction of their current population densities - and would become horrid death traps. Living off the grid shields you from all but the worst doomsday events.
Many food products will market themselves around a 4 week / 30-32 day / 1 month timeline for one person. Which was fine for us, because we standardize against two weeks but assume that an average household is two people. So it’s easy to buy a “30-day supply for one person” — assuming the calories per day are appropriate — and use it as a two-week supply for two people.
I know how you feel when you get that urgent feeling that what you have is not enough. Shelly (the Survival Husband) and I were just talking about this last night. In my mind, I know that I have a lot but I keep purchasing more. Luckily, like you I am good at food rotation although I do have a lot of #10 tins and properly packaged buckets in deep storage as well. Those do not get rotated.
I have a Kindle loaded up with a bunch of K12 text books for just that reason, and with my solar panels and battery packs I’ll be able to keep it running for years assuming it doesn’t get smashed. And it’s a lot lighter than a bookcase full of books if I have to bug out. 😉 Right now I have over 1000 books loaded on that Kindle, everything from cookbooks to prepping to classic fiction to school books and lots in between. Almost all of them are freebies…gotta love the free book come-ons that happen from time to time to boost a book’s stats. I’m shameless about grabbing them when they’re free….
Folks without a car are at a marked disadvantage, but should still try to put together a 72-hour "bug out bag" - and ideally, keep it somewhere within a walking or biking distance of their home (say, at work or at a friend's place). It's best to keep it light; some cash, 2-4 quarts of water, a 3,600 kcal emergency ration, and a raincoat will be almost certainly more useful than a gun and a collection of throwing knives.
I see myself as a modern man (born in 1980) and novice prepper, but dammed if I know anyone who hasn’t got a manual can opener, also storing soda bottles of water behind baseboards in kitchen units is also fairly common amongst people i know. If you have meat in large cuts and steaks in a freezer even once they defrost they keep a lot longer if preserved by smoking or drying, even ground meats can be made into patties and smoked to last longer, vegetables and fruits stored in a freezer can also have their useful lives extended by preserving as pickles and jam’s.
Edible landscaping provides another potentially important supplement to your storage foods. Instead of planting ornamental trees, plant fruit trees. Instead of ordinary shrubs, plant blueberry bushes. Fruiting vines, blackberries, and things of this nature are great to have around in the best of times, they can be life savers in the worst of times.
Rope, look at AmSteel-Blue (it’s the diameter of paracord but much, much stronger 8.5 mm is rated at 1600 lbs) it’s light, easily packed and available in larger, stronger sizes too (maybe Gaye can link it on Amazon?). I ‘found’ it as I prefer hammocks in forested areas (the favourite of ultra-light hikers) as it’s used for Whoopie loops (I just bet you’ll have to google that).
Plastic Bottles: With a little bit of cellophane, you can turn a two liter bottle into a great way to store rice, beans, sugar, or other pourable items. You will just need to make sure it is clean and thoroughly dry. Wash out the inside with dish soap and hot water. Add a few drops of bleach and then rinse it out and set it out to dry. Check that it is truly PET plastic by checking for the small PET triangle on the bottom of the bottle. When you fill it, put in an oxygen absorber half way up to help improve the shelf life even further. Two liter bottles hold a fair amount of food and are not as heavy as a five gallon bucket, which can make them easier to handle.
Still, as I sat at my desk one afternoon, eyeing the colorful salads my coworkers were having for lunch, I realized the absurdity of my experiment: I live in a city with 24/7 access to fresh food and work a job that affords me the privilege of eating healthfully most of the time. Even quibbling over the nutritional content of these freeze-dried meals was something of a luxury, because I wasn’t in a position where I actually needed to eat them. Then again, you never know what’s going to happen.
There are quite a few pop culture myths surrounding the dangers of nuclear incidents, contributing to a defeatist attitude among even some of the most hardened preppers. But in reality, such events are a lot more survivable than portrayed in fiction - and perhaps more importantly, the world that awaits the survivors would not necessarily be all that bleak. A good way to explore this topic is a book titled "Nuclear War Survival Skills". It sounds goofy, but it's been written by the folks who worked on the Manhattan Project, and is as close to scientific truth as you can get; plus, it is not copyrighted and can be downloaded for free.
There are many other ways to get returns on your capital, but most are associated with limited liquidity or significant outlay costs. One well-known exception are publicly traded companies. Businesses usually go public because they want to expand their operations - say, build a new factory or hire more workers. Instead of getting an expensive loan, they put themselves up for sale, allowing people to purchase and trade fractional ownership in the company. The investors' willingness to pay for this privilege depends on two factors: the intrinsic value of the enterprise (its assets, debts, operating profits) and the "hype premium" - the faith in the company's long-term prospects and the health of the entire industry. For some companies, the intrinsic value is modest, and the premium is huge; their shares are usually subject to violent price swings on even seemingly minor macroeconomic news. For other, less exciting businesses, the situation may be the opposite.
He ushered me through, and, in the darkness, I could see the outline of a vast concrete dome, with a metal blast door partly ajar. I was greeted by Larry Hall, the C.E.O. of the Survival Condo Project, a fifteen-story luxury apartment complex built in an underground Atlas missile silo. The facility housed a nuclear warhead from 1961 to 1965, when it was decommissioned. At a site conceived for the Soviet nuclear threat, Hall has erected a defense against the fears of a new era. “It’s true relaxation for the ultra-wealthy,” he said. “They can come out here, they know there are armed guards outside. The kids can run around.”
Over the years, Huffman has become increasingly concerned about basic American political stability and the risk of large-scale unrest. He said, “Some sort of institutional collapse, then you just lose shipping—that sort of stuff.” (Prepper blogs call such a scenario W.R.O.L., “without rule of law.”) Huffman has come to believe that contemporary life rests on a fragile consensus. “I think, to some degree, we all collectively take it on faith that our country works, that our currency is valuable, the peaceful transfer of power—that all of these things that we hold dear work because we believe they work. While I do believe they’re quite resilient, and we’ve been through a lot, certainly we’re going to go through a lot more.”
Try to identify the aspects of your plan that are most likely to go wrong, and come up with viable alternatives. Take a hard look at any new problems you are creating, too: for example, if you want to store gas in your garage, it will probably help in an evacuation, but will also increase the odds of accidentally starting a serious fire. Or, consider a far more prosaic case: if you are planning to stockpile batteries or bottles of insect repellent, you should make sure they can't leak and spoil other, more vital supplies nearby.
To maintain sanity while trying to enumerate risks, I found that it's best to focus on broad outcomes instead of trying to track down every single way for things to go south. Say, it should not matter if you are laid off because of a downsizing, because your new boss hates you, or because they finally catch you stealing paperclips. The outcome is the same: you are out of a job and urgently need a way to pay your bills.
Bombs rain from the skies, alien ships descend with lasers ablaze, improbably proportioned, irradiated sea monsters tear through essential infrastructure. You'd think that running, screaming, and finding clean underwear would top the list of activities likely to improve your chances of living, followed closely by finding a sustainable food source and offering sexual favors to the person with the most impressive arsenal. Unless you were a prepper, in which case you'd be worrying more about the safety of your cigarette stockpile.
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Unfortunately, some outdoor enthusiasts find themselves being threatened by nefarious people or dangerous animals. This leads some to keep a weapon or self-defense tool in their survival kit, in order to be better prepared for a worst-case scenario. Your self-defense tool may take the form of a knife or gun, but be sure to consider less-than-lethal items too. This would include things like stun guns, pepper spray, and telescoping batons. Just be sure to follow all local laws and regulations before packing any type of weapon or self-defense tool in your survival kit.
I spent most of the $500 on these food storage items: brown rice, white rice, pasta noodles, pinto beans, black beans, potato flakes, popcorn, buckwheat hot cereal, oats, cornmeal, flour, salt, and sugar. The rest of the money I used on freeze-dried meat & veggies. I also used some of the money to buy 5-gallon buckets to store the food in and 5-gallon water containers.
A tarp. For actual survival, a generic blue tarp from Lowe’s isn’t going to cut it. I’m looking for something that is specially designed to help you survive in winter, like [the Xenon winter tarp, $140 and the Old Man Winter by Wilderness Logistics, $160]. They can be used as a tent, as ground cover, to catch rainwater, to patch holes, for a trap, and even to drag back heavy animals.
The No. 1 emergency that most people are going to face is a financial problem, and that isn’t necessarily gonna be the collapse of the American economy. It’s more likely that someone in your family will lose their job, or you’ll have a huge medical expense that you weren’t expecting and can’t pay for. I’m a single parent. About 10 years ago, I lost my job. The fact that my pantry had enough food for several months meant I was able to use my savings and my unemployment payment to keep my mortgage paid.
You can mitigate this to some degree by throwing some of these types of food into your everyday menus now. I know these things aren’t quite as healthy as the fresh foods we have the privilege to enjoy daily right now, but if you feel like you are truly going to need to rely on some of these items at some point, by sampling the foods, you can find your family’s favorites and stock up on those.
Plants with really good, healthy soil can fight off a lot of diseases and overcome leaf damage from pests without problems. However, even when we start with really good soil, certain practices mean we strip it out, stop the nutrient cycling, or otherwise break those systems. Rotation is one way we can prevent some of the stripping and reduce the disease load for our plants.
Others featured on Doomsday Preppers are more out there — literally. Robert and Debbie Earl, retired Florida chicken farmers, worry about the seas rising. So they are building a home constructed of old tires and sand-filled bottles near Alpine, Texas. Robert Earl describes himself as "Mad Max meets Rube Goldberg with a little bit of Al Gore thrown in."
A handful of OTC dietary supplements may be useful for treating some chronic conditions in situations where prescription drugs are not available - but if you want to learn more, be prepared to wade through a sea of low-quality research and outright quackery. Preliminary but somewhat plausible findings include the apparent antidepressant properties of saffron and fish oil, the beneficial effects of curcumin on some types of chronic pain, or the utility of berberine and salacia reticulata in managing type 2 diabetes. Again, tread carefully; examine.com is a good starting point for getting the data behind some of the claims.
But in 1961 John F. Kennedy encouraged “every citizen” to help build fallout shelters, saying, in a televised address, “I know you would not want to do less.” In 1976, tapping into fear of inflation and the Arab oil embargo, a far-right publisher named Kurt Saxon launched The Survivor, an influential newsletter that celebrated forgotten pioneer skills. (Saxon claimed to have coined the term “survivalist.”) The growing literature on decline and self-protection included “How to Prosper During the Coming Bad Years,” a 1979 best-seller, which advised collecting gold in the form of South African Krugerrands. The “doom boom,” as it became known, expanded under Ronald Reagan. The sociologist Richard G. Mitchell, Jr., a professor emeritus at Oregon State University, who spent twelve years studying survivalism, said, “During the Reagan era, we heard, for the first time in my life, and I’m seventy-four years old, from the highest authorities in the land that government has failed you, the collective institutional ways of solving problems and understanding society are no good. People said, ‘O.K., it’s flawed. What do I do now?’ ”
One last tip, don’t forget to store easy to prepare foods to help you get through on difficult days. Even though they may not be on your list of required food storage foods, you may want to reconsider puddings, juice boxes, instant packaged foods, coffee, candy, muffin mixes, cake mixes, Hershey’s chocolate syrup (lasts a long time without refrigeration), brownie mix and other specialty comfort foods.
In addition to assorted tools and hygiene supplies, your car kit should probably include a high-visibility vest ($7); if your vehicle gives up life, it's better to be visible when trying to revive it or walking to get help. I'm less convinced about the benefits of carrying flares or flare guns; while they can be useful in serious emergencies, they also pose some fire risk.
Although we are entering the realm of extremely unlikely events, if you genuinely worry about encountering an overturned chemical tanker while driving down the highway, 3M 5512 escape respirators ($16) offer decent short-term protection against many threats. In addition to low price, their major advantage is their small size; you could conceivably have one for every occupant, and just store that gear in the vehicle.
Military MREs. I don't find them particularly tasty, but they are popular among preppers. A bit on the heavy side (usually around 1,100 kcal per pound). Portable warm food with a ton of different menus available - although for the best price, you usually need to buy a variety box and can't cherry-pick. Moderately expensive (~150 kcal per dollar). Shelf life around 5-7 years, depending on the manufacturer and on storage conditions. A good source is TheEpicenter.com.
The value of such a step extends beyond the mere task of shielding you from glacial shifts in the job market: if a major disaster suddenly cripples the local economy, there may be no more jobs for insurance claims adjusters or account executives, but carpentry or metalworking skills could be in high demand for the coming year or two. You can never predict it exactly, but the more you can do, the better you can cope with whatever adventures come your way.
Semi-automatic pistols. Typically capable of firing somewhere around 6-17 rounds from a removable magazine; reloading is very fast, provided that you carry another magazine with you. Their user interface is relatively complex, and some knowledge is needed to deal with potential misfires, jams, or to avoid negligent discharges - although the probability of any such issues is generally very low. (It's wise to avoid discount ammo and magazines.)
During a catastrophe, there may be an extended period of time where you need to sustain yourself. For these situations, we offer 3-day personal survivor kits, as well as larger kits for families. Kits are ready to go when emergencies strike and are filled with the supplies you need for fire-starting, tending to medical situations, and ensuring you can get the nutrition you need when food or clean water is not accessible. Our prepacked emergency survival kits are perfect for storing in your car, basement, closet, or cabin to ensure you always have access to life-saving supplies.