If the world all went to hell in a hand basket today, you would probably be stuck with what you have now in your possession and what you know or the skills you have learned already. Assuming your city or home didn’t get destroyed and along with it all of your prepper supplies, you could either be pretty well off for some time or in a serious world of hurt almost immediately. Most of us reading this have made some attempts at becoming prepared. Even if you are new to prepping, you may have taken steps already to ensure you have stocked up some water and food for an emergency. Others have years’ worth of survival items stored up just in case.

For all of us, whether we have a ton of preps already stored or are just starting out; the concept of Barter eventually enters the conversation. Bartering is what people routinely used to do before there was the nearly universal concept of money that we have now. Bartering was a way of trading something you had for something you wanted and was widely used as the main form of commerce.

If you had been raising livestock, you could trade a chicken or some eggs to your neighbor for helping you put up some fence. If you were traveling through an area, you might trade a day’s work for room and board for the night. The details of the trade  was up to you and the person who had the good or service you wanted.

Many prepping blogs offer information about bartering after SHTF as the replacement potential for commerce if we ever find ourselves on the other end of some crisis that destroys the financial system. The concept sounds valid as in a SHTF world, you could expect to not have any money or a job and your entire existence would be simply trying to get by as best you could. To this end, many preppers recommend stocking up on supplies for barter after SHTF so that you would have a built-in supply of items to trade. These stored items would be one form of new currency in a grid-down world.

What are bad bartering items?

Like many of you, I read these articles and look at the comments on prepping and survival blogs to learn as much as I can, but in some cases, I think that the people stocking up extras are deluding themselves. It comes down to a couple of things, but you have to look at what you are planning to trade and what value those items are going to have to someone else.

Frequently, I hear people suggesting to stock up on toiletry items, toothbrushes, combs, notebooks, chap stick, scissors, buttons, coloring books and small knick-knacks like that. I don’t believe that too many people would ever trade for anything like that in the type of end of the world I am imagining that would destroy all modern forms of commerce. Could you find a use for them? Of course, but what would their real value be in contrast to the world you are envisioning?

Take this example: the world has turned so bad that you have no money, no home possibly, no food or shoes. Do you really think you would trade anything you had for a toothbrush? If you are so destitute and the world has devolved so completely that no stores are open anymore, do you really think anyone is going to find value with a pair of scissors?

OK, I can make the case that maybe well after the expected die off from this hypothetical disaster has ended – years down the road you might find someone who is willing to trade you a few eggs for those scissors. Maybe they want to start a new career as the town barber? But after the initial disaster, would those really be the most important items you can think of to trade? What would you give if the shoe was on the other foot in trade for those buttons or coloring books? Would you trade eggs that could feed your family? Would you work all day to give your kids a coloring book? Would you give away a clean shirt you have? Maybe, but I think that is a long shot.

I think that relying on anything that can be viewed as a “nice to have” would make a bad bartering item. Buttons would be lying all over the place on the bodies of dead people or in homes that are vacant. Scissors and paper would too for that matter most likely. Your bartering items are not going to replace the dollar store. You have to remember the viewpoint of anyone in a TEOTWAWKI scenario and think of what they are going to be looking for potentially.

What are good bartering items?

The flip side of this topic, would be obviously what are some good items for barter? This is easier to answer, but the problem with coming up with lists like this would be one of resources. If you have something that is valuable enough to trade, would you really want to part with it? It would depend on what the trade was in the end. I can see situations in dire cases where some women and possibly men will trade their bodies because they have nothing else of value. Food, ammo, weapons, tools, fuel. All of these make great bartering items, but would you want to part with them? What would be worth more than your food?

Anything you have after the grid goes down that will make survival possible will be a good barter item. If you have canned food, that will be valuable if there are no stores open any longer. If you have a surplus of .22 ammo or several other calibers, that would be valuable. Liquor and cigarettes would find a home I am sure as these are vices, not necessities. I can easily see people wanting to trade you for a small bottle of whiskey either because they simply want a drink or are having a small celebration. How about small bags of rice and beans?

Other bartering items to consider:

Water filtration kits – You can get Sawyer Mini water filtration in packs of 4 for about $75. Can you imagine the value of having clean, disease free water would be in a post-collapse world? Even if you didn’t trade for it, you could give these to family and save a life.

A good knife – Many people won’t have their own rugged survival knife on hand so if you have several extra you could trade, these would seem to make great bartering items. Morakniv makes a very reasonably priced fixed-blade knife that comes with it’s own sheath for under $15. I gave one of these to each of my family last Christmas. The would never carry something like this now, but if the grid goes down I have something that will cut and slice for each of them.

Coffee and Tea – This is from the same type of list as whiskey. It isn’t necessary, but it sure makes life better for someone coming out of caffeine withdrawals. I can’t see someone trading food for coffee, but you never know. Maybe they have a year worth of freeze dried foods stocked up but neglected to remember the coffee or their favorite camomile tea.

Spare batteries – We have moved to rechargeable eneloop batteries now, with a backup solar charger, but for people who didn’t have anything, small 4-packs of batteries would be very valuable.

Reading glasses – You have to be able to see and if the local optometrist is out of commission, just having a few pairs of cheap reading glasses could come in handy. Replacing broken glasses could be very important to some people. You can buy 6 packs of regular reading glasses for less than $20. It might not be the perfect prescription, but I could see value in these.

Condoms – Need I say anything more?

Seeds – Stocking up on seeds now is a smart plan for the future. I think you should already have a working garden, but having extra heirloom seeds for the people who haven’t thought as far ahead of you could be a relatively cheap barter item that would be very valuable in a post-collapse scenario.

What are risks of bartering?

Bartering in my mind will be first done among your neighbors unlike some who envision a town market where people show up with everything they want to trade. I just can’t see that happening for a very long time and I can’t envision something like Bartertown out of the Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome movie happening for a very long time. Maybe the bartering expo is a local event and you just have to walk one street over and set up a table or blanket in Mary’s front yard. That I can see, but you would be trading with people you knew or who lived very near you.

After SHTF, you may have to be more careful when you are conducting business.

Trading with people you don’t know is where the danger comes in and this is even truer in a post disaster world. If we are looking at a world without rule of law (WROL), I can see double-cross being used by many unscrupulous people who care nothing for right and wrong, only what they can get.  You wouldn’t want to be conducting a transaction with a stranger without taking a few precautions. First, I would never trade unless I had someone watching my back. I think this will hold true for almost any situation where you are out in the open. Second I wouldn’t trade for anything sight unseen. The old excuse, “It’s just around this corner over here” would be a huge red flag. Do not go around that corner!!! I would be yelling at the TV right now.

The risks are that you could have what you are trading for stolen right from you or that, knowing you have items of value, the strangers – maybe even your neighbors would follow you back home in search of other items. All of these possible scenarios make me think that bartering would not see the light of day in an organized fashion without many hard lessons being learned first.

How to negotiate a trade

OK, assuming everything else is alright. You are in a safe situation and you are sure you won’t be taken advantage of criminally at least you next have to negotiate the deal in a way that doesn’t leave you on the short end of the stick.

1 – Figure out what you want and what you are willing to trade – Have this firmly in your mind before you ever speak to the person. Knowing an amount you would be willing to part with will help you know how much to initially offer and more importantly, what to walk away from. Don’t offer something you aren’t willing to give.

2- Remember, you do not have to agree to the trade if you don’t like it – Thinking back to point number one. If you don’t think the trade is worth it, walk away. This may actually work to your favor if the person trading really wants to deal. Being able to walk away puts you in control of the trade.

3- Spell out the details – If you have ever read any children’s stories, they are full of situations where the young hero agrees to something without getting all the facts. Yes, I will let you marry my daughter, but I didn’t say which one. And poof you are stuck with the ugly step daughter for a wife… If you are trading one good for another, be specific. If it is a good or service write down the details and have both parties sign. Of course this is only as good as the person’s word you are agreeing with, but it could clarify the deal in a way that saves your bacon. Oh, and it assumes you have paper, which I said was basically worthless as barter….

4-Trust your gut – If something doesn’t seem right, walk away. Trust your intuition and if the person or the details of the trade make your spidey senses start tingling, it is better to hold off.

Barter can be done right now without having any devastation. If you believe that bartering is in our future, you can go practice right now while there is so much less risk. Go out to flea markets or try yard sales. You won’t necessarily be bartering for goods you have, but practice negotiating. Find something you want and go through the process of the transaction to see how it feels. It may help you learn some things about yourself that could help you down the road.

So, now it’s your turn. Are you stocking supplies to barter? What do you have to trade?

If the world all went to hell in a hand basket today, you would probably be stuck with what you have now in your possession and what you know or

 

Preparedness means different things to different people. Some may be comfortable with just an emergency kit in their cars, while others stockpile ammo, food and toilet paper in a secret underground fortified bunker. Prepping will always run the gamut.

My husband and I are somewhat new to the idea of prepping, and have taken only a few measures ourselves at this point in time. But in our many discussions, we decided we don’t just want to survive if the SHTF, we want to thrive—live well, prosper, flourish. It is our goal to position ourselves well for a good life in bad times, especially if life as we now know it in the USA comes crashing down.

Skill building may just be the most important prep of all, but it is not something that everyone immediately considers ahead of stockpiling and other preps. Your skills go with you no matter where you are, for one thing, so you’ll have them if you need to bug out. And the better developed any particular skill is, the more it can be of service to you. A simple illustration of this is shooting a gun; target practice will help you be more accurate if you need to hunt for food or defend yourself.

But skill building is important for more than an emergent situation or immediate crisis. Knowing how to do some of the things we take for granted in this consumer-product-driven society can make daily life better in a protracted survival situation. And certainly, when you have skills, you are better able to put yourself in a position to barter for items you lack; you can trade goods and you can also trade services.

How skill building could help you if SHTF

As a natural part of my personality, I have always liked to learn to do things hands-on. But when I stop to think about it, much of what I have learned from others or taught myself has been driven by having that nagging feeling of uncertainty from time to time which all preppers are familiar with to varying degrees. The more self-sufficient we are, the better, right?

Take gardening. When we were deep in the great recession, I applied for and received a USDA grant to assist with putting up a very large high tunnel greenhouse. I didn’t know it at the time, but I was becoming a prepper. We are self-employed, and the drop in our income was significant during the recession. While we made it through mostly unscathed, at the time I was eager to get the high tunnel to be able to grow more of our own food in case things got worse. The high tunnel allows us to start plants earlier and keep them going later into the fall. In winter survival conditions, we could grow cool weather crops like carrots and salad greens in the high tunnel under floating row covers, which effectively drops the zone we are in from a Wisconsin zone 5 to more like a Georgia zone 7.

We also do traditional summer gardening outdoors, and dabble in hydroponics and straw bale gardening. All of these techniques require very different management for success, and learning them has made us more adaptable and prolific food growers.

I also have learned to keep bees, which helps the garden and gives us wonderful no-expiration barterable products: honey and beeswax. Another shelf-stable item I have learned to make that we could trade is maple syrup we make, thanks to the handful of very large old maple trees planted by my husband’s ancestors. I think the old-timers planted them for more than just shade—they were a small insurance policy against the possibility of tough times.

No easy way out

Is it work to do these things? Yes. I have a garden every year, and it is far from pristinely weeded. I don’t make maple syrup every year and there have been times I’ve been too busy to deal with honey so it sits in the frames and waits for me to process it. I’ve resigned myself to my imperfection and the fact that I can’t clone myself. But knowing I have the skills and equipment on standby is comforting in and of itself.

What do I do with all of the fruits of my labor? Sell some and preserve a lot. Thanks to the “buy local” movement, I sell a several hundred pounds of produce each year to the local grocery store and some of the small farm markets—which is very helpful since there are times everything seems like it is coming in at once! I registered as a farm as part of the grant process for the high tunnel. Since I am selling produce, I can also legitimately deduct some of my farming costs on my taxes, like seeds and seed-starting supplies (always helpful.) Will we get rich doing this? No, but we do save some money, which can be put toward other preps. I think of it this way: I am turning my tomatoes into ammo.

Preserving is kind of therapeutic for me as I imagine other sorts of stockpiling are to other people. Seeing all of the jars lined up with good things in them is satisfying and makes the labor and time spent worthwhile. Not being afraid to experiment with new techniques and recipes has expanded my knowledge, and increased the variety in my pantry. One of the essential components of thriving, in my mind, will be to have variety. It’s not only better for the body in terms of getting enough of the necessary nutrients and calories, but in a prolonged survival situation food takes on a greater psychological value in terms of boosting morale. Imagine living on spaghetti for dinner for thirty days versus having thirty days of spaghetti, beef stew, and navy bean soup. Without variety, you’re surviving but not necessarily thriving.

Speaking of variety, I have a ton of cookbooks, many of which pertain to fermenting and preserving. Although they take up a lot of space, I think they’re important to keep around, especially since our family hasn’t yet taken the step of getting a solar or wind energy system. There’s always the possibility that a smart phone might be useless for looking up ways of pressure canning everything in my freezer that is suddenly thawing due to a catastrophic grid failure. (Keeping a couple of cases of empty jars and lids on hand also takes up space, but could be very useful in such an event.)

The Art of Fermentation: An In-Depth Exploration of Essential Concepts and Processes from around the World

Items most people purchase rather than make that I have learned to produce successfully at home include sourdough bread, handmade pasta, wine and beer (including mead from our honey), wine vinegar, sauerkraut, and mustard. If you think about these products in particular, they are easy to make, and you could get by without refrigerating or canning them. Added to shelf stable items in my pantry (and what’s in the garden depending on the time of year) we will be eating like kings if things go south. Is it necessary as a part of prepping to make all of these things and keep them on hand? I don’t think so. But having some fermentation equipment available for when you need it is not a bad idea (you can ferment so many things as a preservation method) as is keeping things like yeast and flour in good supply.

Another skill I picked up over the years is knitting and crocheting. It was something I was always sort of interested in, and I finally just buckled down to learn it in my thirties. I would consider myself only an intermediate skill level, but I think if I were in a survival situation I could do things like make or repair simple garments or even make something useful in capturing food, such as a net or a rope.

One of the women in my knitting circle was a homesteader who raised meat animals for sale. As her daughter went off to college, she and her husband were short a worker for processing turkeys at Thanksgiving. I offered to help, and she let me, although I think she had her suspicions I would be grossed out. I found it to be a little rough at first, but then a natural rhythm set in and the gross factor dropped away. That experience led me to raising our own chickens, including meat birds. It was great to eat the eggs (and sell a lot of them!) and eat the meat knowing the birds were treated humanely. I now know what to do with a dead animal if we ever need to hunt for food, or if raising our own livestock becomes a necessity. Once again, skill building, even if it is not in your comfort zone, can truly benefit your quality of life in a survival situation. My garden is still benefiting from the chicken manure although we are taking a break from raising birds!

Soap-making is one of my more recent interests, which I am slowly turning into a small body-care business, with lotions and other products. This came about because I bought a beef quarter from the aforementioned farmer to fill my freezer, and the butcher asked me if I wanted the suet when I was telling him what cuts I wanted. At the time I thought I would make suet cakes for the wild birds, but little did I know how much I was going to get! I rendered it, poured it into plastic containers and froze it, and eventually decided to try my hand at soap. It is so much better than store-bought soap, I love the “kitchen chemistry” of it, and it is such fun to unmold it the next day and see how it turned out. In a survival situation, soap is one of those things that could be traded for something you don’t have, given how fast humans get to smelling bad!

Again, we are not “advanced” preppers yet, although we’ve always had some prepper tendencies. I must admit I am not super-skilled in the down and dirty survival stuff. But I have upped my game in two major areas in the last year: firearms and power tools. Those have been my husband’s domain until recently. I took a gun safety course last fall, and I learned to be more comfortable using a number of scary power tools last summer. I discovered in both cases, these potentially dangerous things are not that big of a deal as long as you pay attention and think about what you are about to do.

I would encourage anyone to step outside their comfort zone and at the very least get familiar with firearms. Even if you cannot envision ever using a gun to defend yourself, try to imagine that you could be in a situation someday where you have to pick a gun up and unload it just to neutralize it. Knowing how to check if a gun is loaded, empty it, and be sure it is empty is an important skill to have.

Knowing how to use common tools can make you more of an asset in an emergency or in a prolonged survival situation. If two people instead of one can operate a circular saw, for example, one can be cutting plywood while the stronger person nails the cuts up over the windows. If everyone in the group bugging out has fire-starting skills, one person can get the blaze started while the rest gather enough fuel for the night. Basically, extra working hands, not just helping hands, can make all the difference.

When you consider how this great nation was settled, both men and women had to have a number of skills to be able to build a homestead, make it through a harsh winter, or protect themselves and their property. There was more of a crossover between what was considered “men’s work” or “women’s work.” For example, in our family, my husband’s great uncle was an island lighthouse keeper in the late 19th/early 20th century, and knit all of the socks and mittens for the family.

Back in the day, people knew how to preserve more than just vegetables, and used every part of an animal from “nose to tail” because it served a purpose in daily life or for the future, not because of personal ethics, environmental purposes, et cetera. Prepping was part of life, because in the wilds of America, the S could hit the F on any given day and there would be no neighbors, and no government entity to help you out.

Those with no skills died, those with basic skills survived, and those with lots of different skills thrived. Those that thrived were able to settle the land, build wealth, and have strong, healthy heirs. Although I’m short-cutting the telling of history, our thriving forefathers and mothers passed on their legacies to subsequent generations, and thus America was built into the greatest nation on earth.

Renogy 400 Watt 12 Volt Monocrystalline Solar Starter Kit will help you thrive if the power goes out.

I hesitate to use the word “Darwinian” to describe what I am getting at, but when you think about, it is evident that smart people with well-developed skill-sets who work hard applying their skills do better in life, and in turn they tend to pass on their genetics and knowledge to the next generation. (And here is why government handouts don’t actually help people at the low-end of the economic spectrum lift themselves out of poverty; handouts do not teach them anything they can use, and therefore they don’t learn to improve their own positions and pass that on to their children. But that’s another discussion altogether.)

What are my next skill building preps? One will be spending more time at the firing range getting comfortable with shooting. Also, my fermentation obsession is going to expand very soon into kombucha and lacto-fermented pickles of all sorts, especially since probiotics have been found to be extremely important for a healthy gut, and may help prevent any number of diseases. Good health is important to thriving, after all!

As a fellow prepper, I encourage everyone to pick up new skills or expand upon existing ones, and break out of gender molds. If you’re a man, although it might seem like “women’s work,” you may be surprised at how rewarding it is hearing your sourdough bread’s crust “sing” when you take it from the oven, or at how much your friends appreciate getting your homemade soap (future customers when the SHTF.) If you’re a woman, and power tools frighten you, find someone willing to show you how and try a beginner’s project, like a birdhouse or a Leopold bench. Soon you’ll be amazed to find yourself with the confidence to take care of things on that “honey do list” instead of nagging the old man!

Fair warning to both sexes: you might just get hooked, and new skills could become lifelong hobbies or obsessions. Since you have the prepping gene, it’s highly likely! But if the SHTF, you can rest assured by expanding your base, you and yours will not be living in mere survival mode. You will enjoy a better quality of life and have more creature comforts than your neighbors because you can do things yourself and/or barter to meet your needs—in other words, you’ll thrive!

  Preparedness means different things to different people. Some may be comfortable with just an emergency kit in their cars, while others stockpile ammo, food and toilet paper in a secret

When planning for disaster, we run through scenarios in our mind and those scenarios give us a visual baseline for which we make plans. As preppers we talk a lot about the steps you can take right now to get prepared so that you will have a plan, supplies and options for when that disaster may strike. Often preparedness deals with the immediate effects of disaster like having a vehicle to bug out or having plenty of food and water to deal with shortages. The next logical step from that is a longer term plan, but those long term prepping plans usually revolve around extensions of those same basic needs: Food, Water, Shelter and Security.

Take any crisis with a timeline much longer than we associate with “typical” natural disasters and you need to consider different items as part of your planning. For a “typical” emergency, the chaos is relatively short lived. Even though the rebuilding and recovery process may take years, the process can start as soon as the dust has settled, the earth has stopped shaking, and wind no longer howls, the fires are extinguished, the rains have stopped or the water has receded. We shed tears and hopefully hug all of our loved ones and start to pick up the pieces.

But what about a scenario that just doesn’t stop? What if you are visited by the potential threats of a new fresh hell every day? We hopefully plan for food that we can eat off of and grow for future needs. We can band together with others in our neighborhood for security or devise alternative energy schemes to keep the lights on. We rarely talk about the stress, anguish and for some, crippling fear that could be a part of life in the worst apocalyptic view of the future. You have plans for everything else, but do you have a plan for coping with stress after disaster?

First world problems

It’s interesting to try and research stress from the standpoint of some end of the world as we know it perspective. So much of our current world is about as far away from disaster as you can be. In the U.S. currently, we lead very comfortable lives when compared with large parts of the rest of the world. Don’t get me wrong, I am not apologizing for that at all, but it does change how you view stress.

We have a running joke in my family and I am sure we aren’t alone in this of whenever one of us encounters something that irritates us or “stresses us out” we jokingly, but accurately label that as a “first world problem.” If I can’t find any good movies out of the thousands available to me via the internet piped into my living room, that is a first world problem. If my computer is not running as fast as I want as I sit in an air-conditioned home or I have to wait 3 minutes for it to reboot due to a free OS upgrade, that is a first world problem. If I have to leave the security of my bathroom to walk two feet to a closet with dozens of rolls of soft toilet paper… you get the point. We don’t have anywhere near the stress in our lives now that some people do and we frequently take that for granted. I don’t expect anyone to sit and feel ashamed for our lifestyle, but what will you do if that is all gone?

Imagine the father who has walked hundreds of miles with his family across a desert to avoid ethnic cleansing or the mother who is alone with three small children living in a refugee camp. The same camp with hundreds of thousands of other displaced people where she is lucky to have a small meal of watery rice a couple times a day. Oh, did I mention that she has to walk almost a mile to stand in line for that rice and she goes back to a tent to live in with 15 other families. I won’t even mention the people who are still running for their lives from groups bent on their complete destruction who kill men, women and children with machetes. We don’t know real stress in the US right now.

We don’t know stress in the US like some people.

You can find lots of information about the “stress” we do have in our lives and plenty of advice for dealing with stress. In a disaster, getting fresh air or exercise probably won’t cut it but that does say something about what we do all day. I think in a crisis like many of us are expecting in our worst nightmares, our very definition of stress will be radically rewritten. Even if nothing that bad happens, stress and I mean real stress is something we should plan for.

What are some symptoms of stress?

  • Frequent headaches, jaw clenching or pain
  • Gritting, grinding teeth
  • Stuttering or stammering
  • Tremors, trembling of lips, hands
  • Neck ache, back pain, muscle spasms
  • Mood-swings and easy bouts of crying.
  • Overwhelming guilt and self-doubt.
  • Difficulty sleeping.
  • Low threshold of frustration.

As preppers reading this article I have to assume that you will be leaders to the people in your group. Recognizing stress will be important for a couple of reasons. First you want to be able to identify situations where someone needs a little extra care, assistance or rest. Stressed out individuals can make mistakes that could get people hurt or killed. I am not talking about the kind of stress caused by not having enough space on your smart phone to take a one hour video of your daughter’s birthday party at Chuck-E-Cheese either.

When you are living with loss, possibly death, great uncertainty or dangers to your safety, people can deal with stress in a number of ways. I think at some point stress will become a part of life and you will have peaks and valleys depending on the relative safety and security you are living in at any moment but when your entire life has been thrown into a blender and dumped on the ground, stress might take it’s toll for a while.

How can you deal with stress?

Each person deals with stress in their own way and in a disaster it would be perfectly normal to have feelings of sadness or loss and uncertainty. You as a leader will be living with stress just like anyone you come in contact with most likely and if you know how to deal with your own stress you will be better prepared to help others like a spouse, children or parent deal with their own stress.

Stress frequently brings dark feelings and doubt to the surface. It is very normal to want to lash out when you are stressed, to hit back at the situation that has impacted your life. Sometimes this may work to your benefit, but for most times I think you want to reserve anger like that. What can you do?

Focus on what you can control – We can easily dwell on the problems we can’t fix right now and worry about how that will change. There are so many things to consider when we are in a stressful environment and that is one additional reason to prepare now so that all of the basics of life and security will be checked off the list.

Admit you are stressed out and talk about that with someone – When I am stressed, I tend to focus on all of the things I am worried about. I rush through my day trying to knock things off my list or thinking about them until I reach some level of satisfaction about where I am. I don’t normally go to my wife to discuss things I am stressed out about but she seems to know when I am stressed and engages me to talk about it. Even though the things I am worried about don’t disappear, it helps to talk. Sometimes she does help me with ideas or just a different perspective. I would never want to be without her counsel.

Don’t blame yourself for bad things – I know that personally, I prepare because in the back of my mind I feel responsible for my family and I don’t want to let them down in an emergency. Its one thing if Dad forgets to stop at the store and get ice cream for dessert (first world problem) but another thing entirely if a storm knocks out power for two weeks and I can’t keep them warm and fed. There will be things you can’t control and dwelling on what you should have done is useless. Focus on what you can do, make things happen and move on.

Sleep, eat and drink – Our bodies are amazing creations and so many problems can be remedied themselves with the simple basics our bodies need to function properly. Making sure you get enough sleep is an important stress reducer. You also need to make sure that applies to everyone in your group. That is another reason why a group of people is better than lower numbers of people so that you have more people to work, stand guard and help. Food and Water is the fuel our bodies need to function at peak capacity. So that should be one of the first things you check off on your prepper to do list. See a theme here?

Rely on your higher power – The saying goes that there are no atheists in foxholes and that simply means that when you are worried about dying, you start to believe/hope for an afterlife and a loving God to watch over you and keep you safe. Many of us already have a spiritual component in our lives and we should be embracing this daily. You can certainly lean heavily on your own higher power for strength and peace in a time of high stress. Sometimes a simple prayer is all it takes to calm me down and I know that if I ever was in a real “stress” inducing situation I would be praying much more often than I do now.

How do children react to stress?

Adults are one thing and you might think we can do what they did in old movies. Just slap the person going hysterical and yell at them to “Snap out of it”! That may work, actually it might feel pretty good depending on the person on the receiving end of the slapping. Just kidding… sort of.

Children are different though so understanding the stress from their eyes will help you deal with them in ways that make them feel better. Children all deal with stress differently at different ages. This is a breakdown from FEMA:

Birth through 2 years. When children are pre-verbal and experience a trauma, they do not have the words to describe the event or their feelings. However, they can retain memories of particular sights, sounds, or smells. Infants may react to trauma by being irritable, crying more than usual, or wanting to be held and cuddled. The biggest influence on children of this age is how their parents cope. As children get older, their play may involve acting out elements of the traumatic event that occurred several years in the past and was seemingly forgotten.

Preschool – 3 through 6 years. Preschool children often feel helpless and powerless in the face of an overwhelming event. Because of their age and small size, they lack the ability to protect themselves or others. As a result, they feel intense fear and insecurity about being separated from caregivers. Preschoolers cannot grasp the concept of permanent loss. They can see consequences as being reversible or permanent. In the weeks following a traumatic event, preschoolers’ play activities may reenact the incident or the disaster over and over again.

School age – 7 through 10 years. The school-age child has the ability to understand the permanence of loss. Some children become intensely preoccupied with the details of a traumatic event and want to talk about it continually. This preoccupation can interfere with the child’s concentration at school and academic performance may decline. At school, children may hear inaccurate information from peers. They may display a wide range of reactions — sadness, generalized fear, or specific fears of the disaster happening again, guilt over action or inaction during the disaster, anger that the event was not prevented, or fantasies of playing rescuer.

Pre-adolescence to adolescence – 11 through 18 years. As children grow older, they develop a more sophisticated understanding of the disaster event. Their responses are more similar to adults. Teenagers may become involved in dangerous, risk-taking behaviors, such as reckless driving, or alcohol or drug use. Others can become fearful of leaving home and avoid previous levels of activities. Much of adolescence is focused on moving out into the world. After a trauma, the view of the world can seem more dangerous and unsafe. A teenager may feel overwhelmed by intense emotions and yet feel unable to discuss them with others.

Coping with stress may not be the first thing we consider when we are prepping, but it is a natural by-product of the events we are planning for. Your job as leader won’t end simply at gathering supplies. You will also have to provide strength and compassion and understanding as appropriate to help others around you. I don’t expect to turn into a touchy feeling – hug it out kind of guy when we are trying to survive and cannibals are munching on your legs. That is just not in my nature and I will be focusing on other things I assume. I do think it’s important to be able to realize how each person is dealing with the stresses in their lives. You can use this to help people by guiding them in certain directions or collaborating with others to provide assistance while you focus on slaying the metaphorical dragon.

Call it prepping for the emotional component of your group under duress. It is something that we all should spend a little time thinking about. You could be the person who brings someone through their stress and helps them survive. Helping others cope might even help you in the end.

When planning for disaster, we run through scenarios in our mind and those scenarios give us a visual baseline for which we make plans. As preppers we talk a lot

If you have ever bounced around backpacker sites, watched YouTube videos or researched hiking the Pacific Coast trail, you may have heard the phrase “cotton kills”. This stems from the fact that when wet, cotton is very poor insulator. This is usually only an issue when you are trying to stay warm though. To be effective at keeping you warm, clothing should keep a layer of air between your skin and the cloth to keep heat in. When it is wet, rather than keep the moisture off your skin, it clings to the skin as water molecules fill the fibers of the cotton. When this happens, the moisture pulls the heat out of your body as opposed to trapping it in. When this happens, it can quickly reduce your body temperature. There are other fabrics recommended for cold weather for just this reason because when wet, the last thing you want to be is cold. Hypothermia is a bad way to die. But, does cotton really deserve such a bad rap? Could it really kill you and should preppers do our best to avoid it at all costs?

When I started getting into prepping a natural progression as I was conducting research was backpacking. For me, backpacking was a logical companion to having a bug out bag. For starters, I think some backpackers think more about what goes into their packs than preppers. Hiking gear is normally designed to be tough and lite. Prepper gear is frequently military surplus or picked up at Walmart from the camping section which might be tough, but is seldom light. My experiences backpacking taught me a lot of things about living in the woods which went right along with Bugging Out. If you have any doubt about that, just watch some videos about through-hikers who spend months literally living out of their bag in the woods with resupply points along the way who carry less than 35 pounds. Along with the knowledge of what to pack in my bug out bag and how to live in the woods for several days another aspect I learned was what to wear.

Does Cotton Kill?

I had read about the importance of choosing the appropriate clothing you wear for years and the fact that cotton isn’t as efficient an insulator as say Wool. That is true, but I still had a problem with saying all cotton was bad as soon as you stepped out your door in all cases. This sounded like anyone who was wearing cotton when it was cold was doomed to a horrible death complete with snot sickles hanging off your nose. Most of my clothing in the military was cotton and actually the latest models of ACU’s are still 50% cotton. I had wool socks of course, but my uniforms at the time were cotton. Was the military out of the loop on the whole cotton kills idea? We still had the issues of sweating in the Army when I was in believe it or not, but if that was a problem, we simply removed layers as needed in the winter to offset that issue. Cotton has been around for a long time and there haven’t been any benefit concerts I know of to raise money to wipe out the threat of cotton. Anyone who is talking about cotton killing you or robbing your body of heat is basing this on:

  1. Being outdoors in cooler weather conditions and
  2. Getting your clothes wet AND
  3. not being able to change your clothes into something dry

If you aren’t hiking into the woods do you have to be dressed in Nylon gear from Patagonia? What if you are camping in the summer time? What if you live in South Texas? What if you aren’t sweating? What if you can’t afford a new wardrobe simply for bugging out or that magical package from Amazon hasn’t arrived yet and you have to leave with what you have on your back?

Getting back to the hiking correlation, you almost always are away from civilization and in a bug out scenario we mainly talk about being away from shelter. Avoiding cotton in this case could save your life if you become wet from sweat, weather or water obstacles and are unable to change clothes or dry out AND the weather is cool/cold. Backpackers don’t pack several changes of clothes, usually only 2 of anything for even long trips so if your pants get wet and you don’t have any others what will you do?

When I go hiking I never pack a spare pair of pants even though we hike mainly in the fall/winter months. The pants I do hike in are Nylon. I do occasionally have two shirts, but in most cases for 2-3 day hikes I just have two base layer shirts which are t-shirts depending on the temperature and one shirt I wear over the t-shirt. I have other layers too obviously, but those are the basics. I leave a clean shirt in the car for when I walk out of the woods so that when we visit some restaurant I can mask the smell slightly and not offend the waitress. The point is there isn’t a lot of redundancy when I am hiking because it is really easy to dry out your nylon layers. Actually, you can just leave them on in most cases and they will dry out themselves.

Cotton on the other hand needs to be removed. I have had to hang shirts up by the fire on more than one occasion that became wet. These were usually one of my children’s shirts because they don’t get the camping gear I do. They wouldn’t wear these clothes any other time so why spend the money on clothes they will have outgrown by the time we go backpacking again.

Nylon isn’t perfect either

Cotton, unlike nylon can be hung by the fire to dry without too much concern and it will dry out, but cotton takes a long time to dry absent some source of heat. Nylon can melt easily so you wouldn’t want to hang your clothes too close to the fire. I have several pairs of hiking pants that have small holes in various places where they were burnt by embers flying off the fire. Nylon also holds odors in a little more than cotton and is nowhere near as soft. Does this matter in the big picture when it comes to living or dying? No, of course not but it is something of a tradeoff. Having nylon clothing doesn’t mean you will sweat any less or get any less wet. Actually, I think I sweat more when I am wearing nylon, but that could be my imagination. Its just the act of pulling the moisture away that keeps you warmer.

Do you need to completely change your wardrobe to have nothing but clothes made from nylon and fleece in order to live in the cold? Absolutely not, but it is something to consider for your bug out bag. One of the posts I wrote last year was about keeping the weight in your bug out bag as low as possible while still maintaining the supplies you need to live for 72 hours. If you are looking for which clothes to pack in your bug out bag, I would look to hiking clothes (nylon) before I throw an old pair of blue jeans in there. They may not kill you, but you will be able to dry out faster and depending on the situation, this could save your life.

If you have ever bounced around backpacker sites, watched YouTube videos or researched hiking the Pacific Coast trail, you may have heard the phrase “cotton kills”. This stems from the

This post might get some push-back from my military service friends but I welcome the comments. I have been meaning to write about various holster options for a while and what I believe based upon my experiences with holsters I own and my perceptions of various factors in a grid down situation. I decided to pull out three holsters I own and give my ideas behind their strengths and weaknesses as well as where I see them most likely being used in a grid down situation. This might help you select the right holster for your prepping needs.

A Tale of 3 Holsters

My first holster is the Raven Phantom Modular Holster. This is my concealed holster during the fall and winter months. When it is cooler outside I can easily and consistently cover up with a light jacket to reduce printing. My current weapons are either a Glock 17 or Glock 22 which also works out great because both weapons fit this same holster.

Phantom Modular Holster

The Phantom Modular fits nice and snug against my back and feels great when I am walking or moving around. Sitting in the car is another story and that is another reason why I am looking to downsize my concealed carry to a Glock 30S. The belt in the photo is the 5.11 tactical TDU Belt 1.75” wide and it holds the weapon and holster perfectly fine. The Knife is my Kershaw Leek. There are usually some other EDC items hanging off the other side of my belt also. The 5.11 belt has no metal parts so it is airport naked body scanner friendly. I always opt-out so I have to remove my belt anyway.

The Phantom Modular costs $85 and is great both when nothing is wrong as in the S hasn’t hit the fan yet and you want a great concealment holster. It is also perfect if you are trying to carry concealed when the grid goes down. At the start of any societal unrest I believe it will be better to keep a low profile so walking out the front door looking too militaristic could be bad.

I like this holster because it is dirt simple and tough. You can’t hurt it unless you run over it with a truck. Magazine storage has to come in the form of other options not included, but for simply holding your weapon securely and allowing for a nice smooth draw, the Phantom is great.


The second holster is a drop-leg holster and I purchased this so long ago I can’t even remember the company that I bought it from, but there are millions like this and you can find them for around $30. I found one that is very similar on Combat Sport Supply.

Simple and cheap drop-leg holster.

This drop leg platform was what I thought would be perfect and I am sure that is in no small part due to TV and the movies. Drop leg holsters seem so practical and it makes you look like a modern-day gunslinger, right? This holster has a velcro strap that adjusts to practically any weapon and covers a snap closure. The idea is that you would flip the vecro strap off, unsnap the snap closure and draw your weapon. This might be cheap, but the platform and this holster has some drawbacks.

The first is inherent with any drop leg holster and that is the weight distribution. With the weight of the weapon that low on your leg, running feels odd. You are dragging this gun and a magazine with your leg and it makes you feel off-balance. Also, the drop leg renders your cargo pockets almost unusable. This holster has capacity for one extra magazine and is what I wear into the woods (deep into the woods). I thought that this would make a great holster, but it sounds better than it actually feels in reality. Additionally, the straps seem to ride down and always require adjustment.

One feature that is nice is the holster detachment clip so you can remove the holster without taking your belt off. You can’t do that with the Raven.

My plan for this holster? I will continue to use it when I go hiking as long as I am really in the woods. I wouldn’t take this on a day hike to the state park. If something does happen, most likely one of my kids would get this holster as it is better than nothing, but I wouldn’t buy one like this for your ultimate grid-down holster.


The third holster and my favorite is the Rogers Tactical Holster. This is also a drop leg platform, but it has some serious advantages over the cheaper nylon version above. Of course, those advantages come with a price.

Rogers Tactical Holster – My favorite holster.

The Rogers Tactical Holster will set you back over $100. It is built using Safariland parts and is used by police forces, military and competition shooters everywhere. The holster features a paddle that you slide inside your waistband. It removes very easily so you can wear the holster with or without a belt and you can remove it without taking off your belt. The ride is higher than a traditional thigh rig so the weight isn’t down as low on your leg. This feels much more natural. It is just low enough so that it doesn’t interfere with body armor.

You also have two magazine pouches that are friction retainers that keep the magazines in without latches or clips. This could save seconds when you really need it. The weapon fit at least for both of my Glocks is flawless and they both slide easily into place. The Rogers tactical holster has an ALS (Automatic Locking System) that keeps the weapon secure. You deactivate this by gently pressing your thumb down and pulling the weapon up. This feature is nice as the thumb release is perfectly positioned where my thumb naturally goes. Removing the weapon is a quick and easy affair and it feels so good, I have to admit that I practice drawing just to hear the perfect movement of the weapon sliding from the holster. You can tell that some serious engineering went into this piece of equipment.

The Rogers Tactical only has one thigh strap instead of two which I think reduces the ride up factor I mentioned above. Overall this feels and works great!

So when would I wear this holster? This is the ‘all hell has broken loose’ holster when you are carrying every single day and aren’t afraid to show it. Just like the drop leg above you can’t wear this if you are trying to be discrete unless you are on the firing range, but when SHTF, this is what I plan on rocking.

Your turn. What is your favorite holster and why?

This post might get some push-back from my military service friends but I welcome the comments. I have been meaning to write about various holster options for a while and

 

I want to talk about what I believe to be the most critical necessity in the event the SHTF: The ability to shelter in place, in a shelter that provides protection from radiation, bombs, attacks, tornadoes and numerous other threats to safety.

While there are above ground shelters that do offer protection from some of the above mentioned threats, hands down, the best place to be is UNDERGROUND.

That said, with the exception of a line of Tornadoes passing through, you need to be psychologically and physically prepared to go underground for at least 2-3 weeks.

The amount of time will of course depend on the extent and type of event that has or is occurring.

Let’s assume you have a bunker and did your homework and have an adequate supply of MRE’s, water and other necessities for what could be your INITIAL 2-3 week stay.

What is the best bunker design?

I want to address the psychological aspect of being underground, in a confined space, and the issues/considerations faced by the occupants with regard to the Type, Shape and Utility of your surroundings.

Let’s face it, practical and usable space quickly becomes a valuable commodity when you are going to spend a significant amount of time in the shelter before venturing topside, and that environment should be comfortable, healthy and space efficient. You are going to be stressed enough if you are in there, and the last thing you need is the additional stress of a cramped, unfriendly environment.

I present this question for your consideration: Would you rather be in a claustrophobic steel pipe or in the open area provided by a square-shaped reinforced concrete bunker that is already finished with non-toxic material?

If steel pipes and steel boxes were the best shelter platform, the Military would be using them, and they’re not….they are still using reinforced concrete. There has to be something to be said about that, and there is: Mass, Density, Thermal Resistance, Sound Attenuation and Cost, to name a few.

 Related: Build a survival bunker

All the information you need to implement a high security and self-sufficient residence or retreat.

Furthermore, steel shelters, which are typically 3/16- 1/4 of an inch thick, need to be buried DEEP, in order to provide the proper comparative level of protection against radiation. They are typically installed with 8-10 feet of earth covering the top and this presents a considerable number of challenges with regard to the costs for excavating, the need to hire a crane and other issues.

For example, a 10 foot Pipe that is 20 feet long will require an 18-20 feet deep hole and provides a gross interior area of 1,570 cubic feet. Keep in mind that the interior surface is curved ( similar to being in a submarine ), and therefore requires a floor to be installed, which reduces headroom. Simply put, a pipe doesn’t lend itself to being space efficient and comfortable.

Comparatively, a 10 foot tall, 10 foot wide and 20 foot long Concrete shelter will only require a 12-13 foot deep hole, provides a gross interior area of 2,000 cubic feet, does not require a floor to be installed, has no loss of headroom anywhere inside the structure and only needs to have 2-3 feet of earth cover overhead.

If the height of the Concrete shelter is decreased to 8 feet ( the same height of the ceilings in your home), the required depth of the hole is reduced to 10-11 feet and the gross interior area is 1,600 cubic feet. This is still more than a 10 foot pipe of the same length while also providing complete use of the space, as the side walls are not coming in toward the center as they do in a pipe.

Space Comparison of a 10 ft Pipe to a 10ft Square

In my opinion, the 2 feet of headroom throughout is more than adequate.

Having adequately addressed the space issue, I’d like to make a quick point on the use of ICF’s (Insulated Concrete Forms) for long-term underground shelters.

ICF’s are made of Expanded Polystyrene (EPS) foam blocks that are put together like Leggo’s, a double row of rebar is installed as the foam blocks are connected and when the walls are completed, concrete is pumped into them.

Of biggest concern with these systems is the fact that the Polystyrene contains toxic chemicals. Not only because they are made of petroleum-based foamed plastics, but also because they contain fire-retardant chemicals that are also toxic. Among these chemicals is HBCD (Hexabromocyclododecane).

HBCD has been classified as a category 2 for reproductive toxicity.[6] Since August 2010 Hexabromocyclododecanes are included in the EPA‘s List of Chemicals of Concern.[7] On May 2013 the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs) decided to include HBCD in the Convention’s Annex A for elimination, with specific exemptions for expanded and extruded polystyrene in buildings needed to give countries time to phase-in safer substitutes. HBCD is listed for elimination, but with a specific exemption for expanded polystyrene (EPS) and extruded polystyrene (XPS) in buildings.

Additionally, EPS is labeled a flammable material and MUST be covered with a non-flammable material such as fire rated sheetrock or masonry to limit surface exposure to possible ignition sources. This covering also reduces exposure to the off-gassing of other chemicals considered to be toxic that occurs without exposure to fire.

When it burns, EPS produces heavy, acrid and toxic smoke. This obviously presents another serious problem when you are in a confined space, from which there is no escape. Even a small event in which this material merely smoldered with no open flame can/would have dire consequences for the occupants. Exposure to the heavy smoke generated, even if only for a few minutes, has been shown to be lethal.

In short, you are looking for your shelter to provide you a safe, healthy and fireproof refuge from a multitude of disaster scenarios. The dangerous and potentially lethal points made above should not be overlooked when making a decision in choosing a bunker or shelter.

  I want to talk about what I believe to be the most critical necessity in the event the SHTF: The ability to shelter in place, in a shelter that provides

Hopefully, you are already in full swing on your own garden, but if you have been putting it off, or are still conducting research on how to start your own garden, this article is for you. If you’re a beginner vegetable gardener, here are basics on vegetable garden planning: site selection, plot size, which vegetables to grow, and other gardening tips.

Remember this: It’s better to be proud of a small garden than to be frustrated by a big one!

One of the common errors for beginners is planting too much too soon and way more than anybody could eat or want. Unless you want to have zucchini taking up residence in your attic, plan carefully. Start small.

The Very Basics

First, here are some very basic concepts on topics you’ll want to explore further as you become a vegetable gardener extraordinaire:

  • Do you have enough sun exposure? Vegetables love the sun. They need at least 6 hours of full sun every day, and preferably 8.
  • Know your soil. Most soil can be enriched with compost and be fine for planting, but some soil needs more help. Vegetables must have good, loamy, well-drained soil. Check with your local nursery or local cooperative extension office about free soil test kits so that you can assess your soil type. See our article on preparing soil for planting.
  • Placement is everything. Avoid planting too near a tree, which will steal nutrients and shade the garden. In addition, a garden too close to the house will help to discourage wild animals from nibbling away your potential harvest.
  • Decide between tilling and a raised bed.  If you have poor soil or a bad back, a raised bed built with non pressure-treated wood offers many benefits. See more about raised garden beds and how to build them.
  • Vegetables need lots of water, at least 1 inch of water a week. See more about when to water vegetables.
  • You’ll need some basic planting tools.  These are the essentials: spade, garden fork, soaking hose, hoe, hand weeder, and wheelbarrow (or bucket) for moving around mulch or soil. It’s worth paying a bit extra for quality tools.
  • Study those seed catalogs and order early.
  • Check your frost dates. Find first and last frost dates in your area and be alert to your local conditions.

Deciding How Big

A good-size beginner vegetable garden is about 16×10 feet and features crops that are easy to grow. A plot this size, planted as suggested below, can feed a family of four for one summer, with a little extra for canning and freezing (or giving away).

Make your garden 11 rows wide, with each row 10 feet long. The rows should run north and south to take full advantage of the sun.

Vegetables that may yield more than one crop per season are beans, beets, carrots, cabbage, kohlrabi, lettuce, radishes, rutabagas, spinach, and turnips.

Suggested Plants for 11 Rows

The vegetables suggested below are common, productive plants but you’ll also want to contract your local cooperative extension to determine what plants grow best in your local area. Think about what you like to eat as well as what’s difficult to find in a grocery store or farmers’ market.

(Note: Link from each vegetable to a free planting and growing guide.)

(Note: If this garden is too large for your needs, you do not have to plant all 11 rows, and you can also make the rows shorter. You can choose the veggies that you’d like to grow!)

Now Design Your Best Garden Ever!

Plan your perfect vegetable garden. Use online Garden Planner to draw out your vegetable beds. Click here to try the Garden Planner for free!

The best way to plan a successful veggie garden is to look at what similar gardeners have planned and see what works for them.

The above garden plot plan was created by one of our readers!

Happy gardening!

Hopefully, you are already in full swing on your own garden, but if you have been putting it off, or are still conducting research on how to start your own

I generally agree with the premise that skills are far more important than stuff, and that knowledge weighs nothing. There are skills that benefit us, every single day and definitely in a disaster – on any scale. However, sometimes collecting knowledge can be a pricey and time-consuming prospect. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t learn, but we need to prioritize as with anything else. We also have to honestly assess our preparedness level, plan, and current lifestyle.

Exceptions & Assessments

There are exceptions to some of what I’ll suggest. If you’re a wilderness adventure enthusiast or work in extremes, you already know it. If you truly have lots of free time but zero money after lots of cutbacks, and you have materials/resources lying around and don’t have to buy anything, okay.

If somebody is just into history, a reenactor, a hobbyist, I’m also not talking about that. Mental health clause – you need an outlet. However, interests are just interests and don’t belong in the “but it’s useful/preparedness” category of our time and financial budgets. It belongs under our entertainment budgets.

Please remember those caveats as you read the list. I’m talking about somebody learning from scratch specifically as a survival/preparedness skill in lieu of practicing, buying, or learning something else.

I also hear the argument put forth that somebody’s going to learn a skill or trade because then they can barter it. That is absolutely true in some cases (medical, mechanics, midwives). In others …

We have to ask ourselves: How many people who are preparing or not preparing are actually going to be around and need that particular skill? How do we plan to find those souls who are unprepared to do it themselves, but are expected to have surpluses worth our time and labor to trade for us?

Below are a few things I regularly see pushed as a must-have skill. I’ll break down the pro’s and con’s, and cover alternatives.

Image: How sustainable is our water plan – and our bodies – compared to our need to make soap or learn primitive fire making methods, or learning an already fairly common trade?

Alternatives After Assessment

Would it be better to develop the knowledge of how to find water by recognizing terrain and land cover patterns, a map of streams and springs in the area, and the physical strength to carry and drag water-level weight through woods, on crappy roadsides and ditches, and repeatedly lift buckets and containers out of a downed well or deep cut with cord, or over the side of a pickup?

Could we instead spend time locating buckets, storage totes, and barrels, the used and wrecked pieces of furniture and equipment on Craigslist and Freecycle to turn them into water catchment, and the afternoon or afternoons it takes to assemble them, to limit the amount of time we even have to go out hunting water?

We have to ask ourselves how important primitive skills are instead of something like wrapping a sprain.

Water is always going to be a focus for me, but there are other skills, too.

Gather wood for the stove/grill and practice cooking and canning on it. Learn hauling and tying knots, and practice felling, branch removal, and topping on consecutively larger trees. Learn to change your own oil and bike chain. Figure out how to unclog a drain using supplies and tools you already have on hand. Walk on the ditch verges and wooded hills to strengthen ankles.

We have to ask ourselves how important primitive skills are instead of something like wrapping a sprain, turning off water and gas mains, producing and finding food, mending a fence, sharpening a blade, rescuing a drowning/choking infant or child, and backing a trailer.

Fire From Scratch

If you happen to have a battery and steel wool, more power to you. It was never in my pack for fire tools.

Let’s start off with a super controversial one – yay!

First, I’m not talking about finding dry tinder in wet woods or making a feather stick. If somebody’s out in the woods regularly, the potential of injury in a downpour makes them worthwhile in the crisis stance. As a through packer (I think they call it ultralight now, but my bag was never light) and multi-day paddler, those are things that saved me time and energy for my hot meal.

I’m talking about Survivorman fire starting, primitive fire starting. If you happen to have a battery and steel wool, more power to you. It was never in my pack for fire tools.

Second, if you’re a remote-creek kayaker, canoe trekker, or a hiker, get a few pill bottles to stuff with wet-weather or DIY-coated matches and a few cotton balls or some dryer lint, and start wearing one around your neck and carrying one in a pants pocket. Get a ferro rod and block or a windproof cigar lighter, and replace the chain with 550 cord to wear on your belt or pants button or the snap of your life vest or knife. Keep another set duct taped to the bottom of your water bottle or glasses case.

No belt or knife? No glasses? Don’t worry about fire from scratch then. It takes a long time to master starting a fire with a bow and starting it with a lens requires a lens. If you don’t have a knife to make shavings and the bow and start the notch, there’s a stick and another stick, and you’d be far better served spending the time making a cocoon-style debris hut.

Matches/Lighters versus Primitive Skills

People do get lost in the woods, and eventually we absolutely will run out of matches and lighters on a homestead.

We’ll run out of them faster if we’re using smaller fires for short periods and thus starting them regularly. They can break, leak, get wet and grody, and strike-anywhere are harder and harder to find so you have to figure on the striker strips getting worn totally smooth, especially if we buy the big bulk boxes.

Learning to find tinder in wet woods is time-consuming enough (and worth it for some/many).

If you’re only bugging-out to a BOL, not in an INCH situation, or if you’re a boater, fisherman, hunter, hiker, or outdoors enthusiast, throw in a cigar lighter so wind is less of a factor – they fit in a Gerber case inside bags or small plastic bottles with matches and other fire-starting materials pretty well.

For a homestead/bug-in situation, we can say three meals and a snack a day, plus morning coffee. Starting five fires is pretty generous and buys time for us to learn how to bank a fire for coals and keep one going.

Say it takes us a couple broken/burn-out matches to get one started, so we need three matches per fire. Using 15 a day for a year gives us a total of 5.5K matches.

Bricks of 100 small kitchen match boxes run $8-15 bucks each for 3.2K matches – two would cover our needs for $20-$30. My dollar store also carries match books cheaper (not my first choice).

Or we could buy one of those multi-pack bricks for $10-15, and hit Amazon for a 100-pack of disposable lighters for $20 and a set of three big boxes of 300 matches for $7-$10. That gives us 4K+ matches and 100 lighters for $37-45.

We can store them in our currently empty canning jars, or spend $5-6 at the dollar store to get candles or nail polish or lacquer to waterproof them and some baggies to keep them in. Strikers and blast matches, cigar lighters that work even in whipping Montana winds, run in the $4-$12 ranges.

Yes, it costs money. Yes, if you already have the knife, tromping into the woods to do it like Bear doesn’t.

Tromp into the woods learning to not make noise, recognize animal sign, and recognize landscape features that promise water instead.

There are multiple situations (and future practical, everyday skills) that benefit from that knowledge.

Soap – Making vs. Buying

Let’s start with the basics of soap. There’s a couple of modern recipes, and a link to the history. About halfway down, that one breaks soap making into three stages of lye, fats, and combination – which is where we’d be at a total pioneer homestead or “My Side Of The Mountain forever” INCH lifestyle.

I’m going to discount any soap making as viably sustainable if it’s using a fat or oil that’s not locally produced. That’s including people who buy the glycerin soap blocks. (For soap making – no comment on other uses.)

That’s the whole argument about sustainable, colonial and primitive skills – they’re for when there is no store and we run out of things.

If you need palm oil, you’re storing something and you might as well store the finished product. (There are exceptions, like the many balms and other uses for various oils.)

Some basic soap-making starter kits are available for as little as $10-15. Better will run as high as you like. I couldn’t find one that already included a scale (soap making is one of those things that requires weights according to some experts, although others have converted recipes to volume).

$10-15 for a kit isn’t much, absolutely. However, soap requires those rendered animal fats or oils. Those aren’t in the kits, and some of the ones I’ve seen in recipes are pretty pricey.

Too, in a crisis, especially if we’re living off grass-fed livestock and wildlife and the diet food of garden produce, fats and oils are going to be precious to keep our bodies functioning.

There’s still tons of bar soaps available at the dollar store and <$1 at Walmart. Some are travel sized and singles in boxes. However, options are available in 2-packs and 3-packs of standard-sized bars. So for $10 I can get 18-27 bars of soap and still pay tax.

If I’m inclined, I can cut that down, get a bottle or two each of Dawn and pine cleaner for dishes and laundry, floors, and surfaces, and still get 14-18 bars of soap.

I once figured that between bathing and washing my hands and face, I run through a cake of soap a week, so I need more than $9-10 worth. I need more in the neighborhood of $20-$30, and about a shoebox of space. For laundry, surfaces and dishes for a year, and surface cleaning, depending on household, I need a couple of free liquor boxes and another $20-30 for liquid cleaners, even buying from the dollar store. (The dollar store is not the cheapest per ounce or most compact form, but they are incremental purchase and use sizes.)

Cost doesn’t apply for the folks who plan to have fatty pigs and cattle, and use their wood ash. For them, the comparison is strictly about time. For a lark, sure, jump one weekend. But weigh out what else could be learned, what other materials cost, and what family ties could be strengthened with a different activity.

Soap is compact. They are sensitive to dampness, so they need a Ziploc bag, lidded can, or plastic tub. There are environments where dry soaps melt, but most of North America could keep them in a shed. So will the ingredients for making soap, or finished homemade soaps.

Rendering suet for tallow

Some will still think it’s worthwhile. To each their own, but please refer back to the general premise and Pat’s arc to be sure it’s the best use of your resources and time as you stand now.

On the flip side, totally learn how to make suet and tallow if fatty animals and materials are present. They have a ton of uses, provide a storable sustainable fat source, and they fill very real needs in a self-sustainable lifestyle.

Treating Hides

Hides and making useful items from hides is 50-50 with me. On one hand, I know a woman who makes a bundle from it, and if you have rabbits or hunt deer, you have hides. On the other hand, should the world collapse to colonial and pioneer day levels if not the Dark Ages, lots of humanity will die fast enough for me to find underroos, sheets, work boots, and socks should I need to go out past my X date – they aren’t exactly the things being grabbed in today’s riots.

 

If it’s going to be a side business, sure, jump – after you do some market research. If it’s a niche market half-hobby, jump.

If it’s something on the to-do list because it seems like a great skill … maybe consider jumping on a maps website, finding farm fields and nearby specialty farms, making some non-nut cookies or muffins to carry, and sharing that you’re interested in breaking away from city life, would the nice farmer be willing to work out some kind of tag-along for labor deal so you can get a good idea of what’s involved.

Another option useful in disasters of all kinds is mapping power-line cuts to avoid traffic jams, snow and flood evacuation routes, and directions and A, B, C routes to and from kids’ schools and the school evac rally points.

Skills versus Stuff

Nine times out of ten, I would argue that knowing is better than having. However, there are exceptions – usually because of the time and-or resources they require, and sometimes because of the space.

There are lots of things that we should know just to be well-round humans, let alone homesteaders or – if inclined – nomads. However, sometimes we waste our precious resources learning something that only benefits most people during a very specific type of disaster, or a total breakdown and reversal that lasts for 5-10+ years.

Sadly, a lot of people who push and learn those lack the skills and supplies to survive long enough for some primitive skills to become valuable again. Some of those skills come at the cost of things that can benefit us, right now.

There are all kinds of things to do without spending more money or spending time on something with highly specialized skills and low-likelihood needs.

I figure I’ll get hate mail for the concept and for the specific few I listed. I just want people to weigh their to-do and to-learn lists so that they can prioritize based on where they already stand and where they want to go.

If there’s true need and potential – and sometimes there is – or it’s just a hobby, there’s nothing wrong with any of the primitive skills. I think most of us, though, have something we would be better served learning, practicing or building than the three listed.

I generally agree with the premise that skills are far more important than stuff, and that knowledge weighs nothing. There are skills that benefit us, every single day and definitely

Yes, I am going there. One of the most hotly debated questions in prepper/survival/firearm enthusiast circles is around the best survival rifle. For all intents and purposes, there are only two in competition in the US and those are the AK-47 and the AR-15. I will add that there are variants of both and I am lumping all of those into these two categories. This question of what is the best survival rifle is one that I asked myself when I was considering my first rifle purchase so I wanted to take some time on Final Prepper blog today to hash out what I see are the differences and to give you my opinion as to which rifle is better when it comes to the AK-47 vs AR-15.

House cleaning

I know that this subject is insanely controversial, even though it shouldn’t be. It’s the same as getting upset over Ford versus Chevy. If this post makes it to some of the firearms forums out there I know I will have some people who will disparagingly call me an “Internet Expert” implying that I have no idea what I am talking about. So be it. I am not an expert, but I don’t think anyone else is an expert either in this subject. I don’t think anyone out there is more qualified to determine what rifle is best in my opinion, for me, than me. I don’t really care if you are active duty police, 20 year military veteran, or mercenary for hire. This is my opinion based upon my belief and requirements, you are entitled to yours, but that doesn’t mean mine is invalid. It also doesn’t mean you are smarter than anyone else that disagrees with you. It simply means we have different opinions.

Additionally, I will throw out some facts that should be pretty easy to agree on and some opinions based upon my personal experience which may not be. Just because your experience is different, that doesn’t make it a law of science or anything. If you have a different experience, by all means, please comment down below but I would ask you to keep the debate civil as that is what I am going to try to do. If you would like to make your case for the opposite of what I recommend, please do so in the comments and we can all judge whether what you are saying makes sense.

History

Very briefly, the The AK-47 is a selective-fire, gas-operated rifle that fires 7.62×39mm ammunition. The AK-47 was developed in the Soviet Union by Mikhail Kalashnikov. Design work on the AK-47 began in the last year of World War II (1945).  In 1949, the AK-47 was officially accepted by the Soviet Armed Forces and used by the majority of the member states of the Warsaw Pact. It is still widely used today.

If you are going to count on a rifle, you should know how to take care of it.


The AR-15 is a lightweight, magazine-fed, air cooled rifle with a rotating-lock bolt, actuated by direct impingement gas operation or long/short stroke piston operation that fires 5.56 mm/.223-caliber ammunition.

The AR-15 was first built by ArmaLite as a small arms rifle for the United States armed forces.Because of financial problems, ArmaLite sold the AR-15 design to Colt who made some modifications and the redesigned rifle was subsequently adopted as the M16 rifle which was the main rifle used by US Armed Forces. Colt then started selling the semi-automatic version of the M16 rifle as the Colt AR-15 for civilian sales in 1963 and the term AR-15 has been used to refer to semiautomatic-only versions of the rifle since then.

For the purpose of this comparison we are only going to be discussing semi-automatic weapons available for purchase in the US by a non FFL carrying person, not their fully automatic counterparts.

The Facts

You can quickly see some of the facts below about each rifle on this excellent info graphic from TacticalGear.com , but I will list what I see are the important differences between the two rifles.

  • The AR-15 can effectively shoot 200 yards further than the AK-47.
  • The AK-47 shoots a significantly larger bullet than the AR-15.
  • The AR-15 weighs 2 pounds less (not counting a lot of hardware we add after the fact) than the AK-47
  • The AK-47 usually costs less than an AR-15.
  • The AR-15 has a higher (30% more) accuracy than the AK-47
  • The AK-47 is more widely used globally by a long shot than the AR-15.

For more information and my opinion on which rifle is best, please read below the graphic.
AK-47 vs. AR-15

The Debate

There are really only 3 main arguments that proponents of the AK-47 use as their rationale for saying that the AK-47 is the better survival rifle so I want to list and address each below.

  • AK-47 rounds penetrate better and do more damage – This is true generally speaking, let’s move on to the next point.
  • AK-47 Costs less – This is true generally, let’s move on to the next point.
  • AK-47 will keep working no matter how dirty it gets – This is also true to an extent, but with a caveat. The point to this argument is that if the AR-15 gets too dirty, you will have firing problems. I can tell you from personal experience that I have never had a single problem with any AR-15 or it’s fully automatic cousins that I have ever shot. However, I clean my rifles usually after every time I shoot them. Sometimes, I will wait, but they never go too long without a thorough cleaning, so what is this point supposed to be saying to us? Well, what if you are in a firefight and you have to shoot 300 rounds through your AR-15 rifle; will it jam then? No, at least not in my experience. Maybe if you shot 10000 rounds through it without cleaning the rifle you could see some issues, but if you are in a firefight so bad that you have shot 10000 rounds, you have bigger problems. What if you drop it in a vat of guacamole? Not a valid point in my book.

Which Rifle is the Best Survival Rifle?

I will tell you that in my opinion, the best rifle is the one you have with you when you need it. That sounds well and good, but if I was going to buy one rifle, and I lived in America, it would be the AR-15. Why? For me this comes down to 4 simple points.

Accuracy – The AR is simply more accurate at further distances than the AK-47. If I wanted to shoot a rifle up in the air when I was mad, riding in the back of a Toyota truck with 20 of my friends, or happy, or just plain stupid then I might get an AK-47. One of my goals is to be able to engage targets at up to 500 yards and the AR-15 does that better than the AK-47. The AK might use a heavier round that will go through more solid objects, but if you are able to kill the person holding the AK 200 yards before he can hit you, does that matter?

Range – Speaking of range, the AR-15 shoots further effectively, so that just adds to what I was saying above. Range is also important to me because I want to be able to take people out as far away as possible. I don’t want you getting so close that your AK-47 can hit me. I would rather you and your AK be far away and I will take care of you way out there. I don’t mind walking out there to pick up your rifle when I am finished.

Parts – The AR-15 is like the Barbie doll of the firearm world. There are so many accessories! And yes, the military version of this rifle (M16/M4) has a majority of parts that are fully compatible with the AR-15. The AR-15 is also the same weapon used by police, DHS, and NASA. If anything bad happens, there should be plenty of opportunity for spare parts to be acquired. I can’t say the same for the AK-47 unless we are invaded by Russia. So, even if your AK is able to fire with some mud in it, what if something breaks? That is why you buy spare parts you say. No, that is why you buy what everyone else is using including our government.

Ammo – Same as above, this is the ammo our police and military use as well as quite a large number of my countrymen, so I have the advantage of a very common caliber in my favor.

OK, that is my rationale and those are my reasons. The AR-15 does cost a little more on average, but you can find really good deals out there if you look and the price difference would be much lower. Does this mean I wouldn’t own an AK-47? No, not at all. I would love to have one, but I do think that for the reasons I listed above, if you can only choose one and you live in the good old US of A, the AR-15 is the better option in my opinion. I know for a fact people will disagree with me, so please let me know what you think in the comments below.

Yes, I am going there. One of the most hotly debated questions in prepper/survival/firearm enthusiast circles is around the best survival rifle. For all intents and purposes, there are only

 

I’m a mother of two in Texas who is very concerned about the very real possibility of SHTF happening within the next several years. I began prepping in 2011 after having a series of nightmares about a huge disaster where people were hungry, thirsty and afraid. I wasn’t very informed of worldly affairs at the time, but after researching current events I found enough reasons to begin prepping.

My major fears are: civil war, severe societal unrest, world war and economic collapse. After reading about the ‘just in time’ delivery in the USA I decided that I wasn’t going to be one of the American parents who had to explain to their kids why they don’t have enough food or preparations when the power goes off permanently. I realized even squirrels with their tiny brains have a survival instinct to store food. I think it is very sad that so many Americans are completely oblivious and unprepared for the many disasters which might change their lives forever, seemingly overnight.

I’m writing this article to share my personal preparation ideas because I hope that others benefit from my slightly different ideas on what a SHTF lifestyle could look like. When I first began preparing I looked for lists of preparedness items and tried my best to purchase as many as possible. After I had accumulated a reasonable supply of all the standard ‘beans, bullets and Band-Aids’ I found myself always asking myself what I am missing. I was bothered by the nagging idea that preparations are never enough for a truly long-term disaster. I began watching apocalypse and zombie movies and documentaries about survivalism to try to consider what went wrong for the characters in the movies and what could make life easier if I had thought of it ahead of SHTF.

I consider prepping an ongoing lifestyle and opportunity to create fun, educational experiences with my kids. Here is a list of some of the items that make me feel comforted to have considered and my rationalization for including these items. Some of these items are ‘essential for long-term survival’ and some are part of my plan to create happiness and safety because I was able to think outside the box about unusual preparations and ways to prepare.

I am not afraid of SHTF because I believe that humans are uniquely gifted to create happiness and hope in all situations.

1. Music: One of my favorite preparations is the joy of music. I tend to be pre-occupied with crank or hand-operated vintage technology. I started collecting crank phonographs and old 78’s. My son and I love to have a quiet night playing old records just for fun, even when not in SHTF mode. It is fun to collect old music and discover old genres. I consider a lot of my preparations part of my son’s educational enhancement. I discovered crank phonographs can use cactus needles instead of metal needles and I have several cactus plants in my garden that have needles. I also have aloe Vera cactuses which obviously have several medicinal uses. I added some string instruments and music books to my preparations. I think that if times are very bad, music heals the soul.

2. Entertainment: I think entertainment in general is an overlooked preparation. I collect games and books about old pioneer and Victorian period games and ways to entertain. It is a good idea to disengage from technology and realize that when the lights go out life can be fun and families can enjoy their time together. Researching and reenacting old forgotten activities is educational and healthy. We live in an isolated society where everything is geared toward non-human activities.

Preparing means you cover more bases than you think you will ever need to.

Part of my preparations includes activities which engage our family in older, forgotten hobbies.

3. Books: After collecting SHTF books I concluded that education supplies and art supplies will be rare and important during SHTF. Any books that explain old skills, home medicines, herbs, seed saving, gardening, wine making, cheese making or other pioneer type skills are valuable. I collect these plus books on Native American survival, Bushcraft, edible plants, edible insects as well as the standard survival books. I found some good books for where there is no dentist or doctor in third world countries. I am not fond of the idea of eating insects but the thought of watching my children starve sounds worse than rounding up some cicadas. I think part of being prepared is being ready to consider options that are not appealing. I’ve heard stories of people in the Middle East who were trapped during wars and ate stray cats. Since I don’t plan to eat my cats, I prepare for them instead. It is a good idea to understand what insects and plants are edible. Several books like the Anarchist’s cookbook have good survival ideas. I believe having a huge library is essential for SHTF. After SHTF when society rebuilds, these libraries will be of utmost importance, in particular we need to preserve the Constitution, the Bill of Rights and the writings of the founding fathers of the USA.

4. Think Third World: I researched survival items in third world countries. I found water filters, like the TIVA, designed for Africa and added this to my more fancy water filter and water barrel. I found camp stoves like the BIOLIGHT designed for third world counties which run on sticks and charge cell phones. Third world countries also rely on a disinfectant called DETOL which is quite cheap and has many clever uses, even for make shift hospitals where there is no good medical care.

5. Liquid Fish: On accident, I discovered the many uses of fish fertilizers. Not only do they work very well as fertilizers but they are cheap and very smelly. I believe they would mask the scent of food as well as deter looters because if the front of your house were doused in liquid fish no one would be able to stand trying to break into your house. Or, at least it makes your house less desirable.

Bushcraft 101: A Field Guide to the Art of Wilderness Survival

6. Archery: I learned archery with my kids. We like instinctive shooting with recurve bows. We learned how to repair arrows and I feel great peace thinking we have a good supply of arrows in the event the bullets run out one day. We also accumulated traps and books about trapping just in case. Part of thinking outside the box is considering a plan for after plans A, B and C run out so that you have several methods to try achieving basic needs.

7. Think Solar: I bought a solar oven and dehydrator set and some books on solar cooking. I also bought books on drying, preserving, curing and storing things without refrigeration. Of course, the cast iron camping supplies are useful but I like to have multiple methods for cooking. Solar items are very interesting. I’m not sure but I think they have to be stored in Faraday cages just in case of an EMP or Solar Flare. Solar lights are not that expensive and I found strings of outdoor lights for as little as $10. Solar generators, fans and other items could be highly appreciated one day. Some solar garden lights are very beautiful and when the lights go out they could bring a peaceful atmosphere. Black out curtains could be quite useful in this event as well.

8. Think Pioneer, Victorian, and Old School: As a hobby I am learning about growing tobacco, wine making, beer making, cheese making and other old skills. These activities are very fun to endeavor with family and great for preparedness. I find preparing is a lot more fun when it becomes an ongoing activity you share with your family as hobbies and learning experiences. Tobacco would be a great trading item and also doubles as an antiseptic. I believe that distilling water removes radioactive particles and is an important skill for certain SHTF scenarios.

9. Bicycles: If there are no cars, bikes will become important. Tandems are really fun. Those bike carriers for kids are useful trunks for your bike. Tandems are a joy for kids and a good way to become healthier. I enjoy any activity that triples as a preparation, a fun activity with my kids and a way to become healthier.

Tandem bike fun.

10. Think Holidays: If SHTF it would be awesome to have a few presents you hid for your children just to make an upcoming birthday slightly more normal. Sewing might one day become valuable and can also double as a way to create presents from recycled items like old clothes or blankets.

11. Think Hand Operated: Crank flashlights are very cheap and easy to find. There are zillions of hand-operated kitchen items from the 50’s and 60’s. I bought a hand crank meat grinder, a hand crank grain mill and a hand-operated herb grinder. Stored grains often get bugs and a good hand-operated grain sifter is useful. In the movies people always die because they lack hand-operated can openers.

12. Survival Medicine: Medical kits are very important. After assembling the standard survival kits, even including gas masks and iodine, I began to wonder about medicines. I stored fish antibiotics, antibiotics from overseas and a variety of homeopathic medicines. I realized there is a treasure trove of cures in the kitchen and it is easy to accumulate a huge supply of vinegar, baking soda, salt and spices. Vitamins, herbs and herbal seeds are a good idea as well. I had overlooked getting a snake bite kit but it occurred to me that snakes are a problem where I live, especially if no one were cutting the grass. Also, yeast is an issue in hot climates and I can’t think of a worse time to get a yeast infection than SHTF, thus stocking up on yeast cream is definitely important. There are also kits for bleeding and heavy trauma, including special bandages which clot bleeding. Hiking and camping medical supplies are often very helpful for traumatic injuries. I imagine that lice will become an issue in SHTF which is usually cured with over the counter medications or even olive oil. Parasites could get out of hand during SHTF so it is clever to stock up on parasite cleanses.

13. Think of Alternative Uses: Bleach and Clorox are not only good for cleaning but they could be used for self-defense if desperate. Several common items double as self-defense items. In history, several rebellions were won with farming tools. In my opinion, I will never become ‘chopped liver’ in the face of a home intruder. If my mom could fight off a burglar with her crystal bowl, I figure that weapons are all around us depending on our creativity and determination.

We learned how to repair arrows and I feel great peace thinking we have a good supply of arrows in the event the bullets run out one day.

14. Lock Picks: SHTF isn’t the time to find yourself without important hand tools, including a really good set of lock picks. Lock picking can be a fun and useful hobby that comes in handy in a variety of situations, saves you money and has a multiplicity of SHTF uses.

15. Clocks: Wind up clocks and sundials keep time without electricity. Part of a normal life is marking time and knowing which days are holidays or special days.

16. Water from Inside Your Home: You can use a solar generator with a dehumidifier to suck water right out of the air and then purify it. If desperate and unable to get water outside your house this could be a lifesaving idea.

17. Sanitation: Sanitation is a giant concern for SHTF. A camping toilet is necessary plus determining how to have an endless supply of toilet paper. Re-usable baby wipes can be washed. Old time wash buckets and a washing line, re-usable sanitary pads and solar showers are good additions to your preps.

As a mom, I want to be confident that I did everything possible to keep my family not only safe but also happy and healthy.

18. Redefine Normal: I realized a need to redefine my relationship with technology as well as money. What is ‘wealth’ during SHTF? What will people trade for a can of tuna, a roll of toilet paper, some seeds or a hotel bottle of shampoo?

19. Fire: I was bothered by how to start fire after the matches are gone and lighters are out of fluid. I stored magnifier glasses, parabolic fire starters as well as flint fire starters.

20. Recycle and Replant: Along with the standard survival seed gardens, I realized it is fun to learn how to save seeds and even re-plant parts of fruit and vegetables that we buy at the store on a regular basis. I like this preparation because it is basically free and fun for my kids. Pineapples are my favorite plant to replant from the part of the pineapple usually thrown in the garbage. I researched replanting fruit and vegetables from the parts you toss into the garbage and found a wealth of helpful information. You can recycle a lot of garbage into survival items. Heavy trash day can yield a treasure trove of goodies your neighbors discarded, minimally a constant supply of pots for gardening. Websites like ‘Freecycle’ can yield lots of survival goodies for free.

21. Learn from Your Environment: I lived through a hurricane where I was out of power for one week. I learned several important lessons during this trial run without power. I always store many bottles of water in the freezer to prolong the freezer time after the power outage. I always have a mental inventory of what needs to be eaten first from the fridge and the freezer. I realized how fast sanitation becomes an issue. I also realized the need to, if forewarned, stock up on as much water as humanly possible.

22. Heat: I don’t live in an area where heat is important but if I did I would buy a wood burning stove. I might get one anyway, it is on my wish list.

23. Bug and Pest Control: Mosquitoes and other bothersome pests can get out of hand during SHTF due to unsanitary conditions and lack of local response. This is especially a problem in the southern states and mild climates where a deep freeze doesn’t kill bugs and rodents. I found some plants naturally deter mosquitoes and there are a lot of home remedies for pest control.

24. Think of the Unpleasant: I realized it is better to consider some of the darker SHTF possibilities in advanced of being in the middle of an ordeal. For example, it is intelligent to formulate a plan to deal with insane people around you who turn into cannibals. Psychotic people whose medications run out and how to deal with mass burials if necessary. Sometimes life delivers very unpleasant experiences but it is better to face and overcome those obstacles with a plan, hopefully formulated in advance in order to gather necessary supplies.

25. Get a Plan: I learned ‘having a plan and executing it with determination is better than having no plan whatsoever.’ I add that having a backup plan upon another back up plan is ideal.

If SHTF people will die of

  1. Starvation
  2. Diseases due to lack of sanitation
  3. Violence and war.

As a mom, I want to be confident that I did everything possible to keep my family not only safe but also happy and healthy. I found that the best way to prepare is create a plan and then develop it over time. I mentally place my family in all sorts of disasters and imagine what coping methods are available and supplies are needed. I consider long-term situations and how to make the best of life without power. I am excited for whatever opportunities God places in my path because in life we have to consciously choose to survive, to love and to be happy. I do not live in fear of the future because I know that I have exhausted every avenue to prepare my family for whatever disasters come our way. I have resolved to do whatever is necessary for the survival of my beloved family and to always protect our freedom and health.

  I’m a mother of two in Texas who is very concerned about the very real possibility of SHTF happening within the next several years. I began prepping in 2011 after

Would your family know what to do in the event of a disaster or SHTF event? Would the prepping supplies you have carefully purchased and stored away help your family survive or would they be unused because nobody knew about them?

Not that your family is inept without you, but do they know all of the plans and preparations you have made? Would they know immediately what you had planned to do in specific disasters? Would they know your rationale for making decisions you did or would they make the same mistakes you had already learned through? Would they know the dangers you had anticipated and prepare correctly for them or would they have to figure things out along the way?

The article has a cryptic title but the thought of writing down instructions for what to do in the case that you weren’t home during the apocalypse occurred to me the other day. I envisioned how best to leave information for my wife or any family members if TEOTWAWKI happened and I wasn’t there to help. The image of a grainy video tape playing of me sitting in my favorite chair, possibly holding my AR15 for effect came to mind from far too many cheesy movies. My family would be watching me as I said the words uttered by many a B-Movie actor: “If you are watching this, I must be dead” or something like that. I wouldn’t leave video behind but I could see printing a manual out and in a nod to those cheesy movies, my opening line might be: “If you are reading this, I may be dead”.

You may be in fact dead or you could just be seriously delayed in getting back to your home. We talk about people who travel for business on Final Prepper and making a journey of hundreds of miles on foot possibly with the right circumstances. If you are on a business trip and something like an EMP wiped the grid out while you were hundreds of miles away your family might not even hear from you for weeks. They might not know you are alive and trying to get back to them. The unknown in that situation would be pretty daunting to most people. The last thing they knew you were hundreds of miles away and now the bottom just dropped out. Without knowing if you would ever even make it back home, instructions you leave behind could be your plan laid out into words that they could look to for guidance and direction. While it may not make the thought of you being lost forever any easier to take, it could help them survive.

Before you begin your prepper plan

I think it’s only fair to say that your family shouldn’t be clueless about your prepping plans for survival even if you are traveling. I personally share most of my plans with my family but I don’t go into great specifics on many issues. I do understand that on some issues they hear me, but don’t care very much. Would they recall what I said two years ago during a disaster now when they could possibly very scared and near panic? Maybe, but I am sure they would need some additional details to make things go smoother if my plan is meant as the ideal for our survival.

Some people though don’t have family members that care about their preparations. Some preppers have spouses that are actually opposed to taking any steps to survive if something happens. That’s what the government is for, right? If you have a situation where you are prepping on the sly or are in some ways doing this all by yourself because of an unwilling spouse, you probably want to leave them with information they can use if you aren’t there.

As much as possible, I think you should try to get your spouse on board with your prepping plans. If you do, things will be so much better in the long run. If your spouse is with you, the rest of the family comes next. Make sure to talk about bad things happening in life and what you would do if faced with those situations. You can make these conversation topics age appropriate obviously, but share your prepping plans with your family as much as possible and then they will already know where your mind was at even if you aren’t there.

Make sure the location of this document is known. The last thing you need to do is hide the instructions from them, but don’t put this out in the open for anyone to read.

What should you document?

I have seen detailed plans for very specific things like how to thaw the well pump with schematics. If this is something that you need to pass along and have the time to do that, I say more power to you. Most of us wouldn’t need that level of detail, but each of us must take our own situation into account when you are writing down the important information that the people you leave behind might need to know.

I have broken a hypothetical set of instructions down into what I think are logical sections. Your plans might be completely different from this sample, but you can use this to create your own prepping instructions list.

  1. Introduction – If you’re reading this I may be dead. You can use whatever words you want to in this section obviously but the introduction should be an explanation of what the instructions are for and what to do in your absence.
  2. Evaluate The Crisis – This part is important because some people freak out unnecessarily. Is this a regional event? Are communications affected? Is the TV still working? Are people dead outside? The urgency of their actions could vary greatly with the crisis. Using guidelines based upon your own prepping priorities there should be logical decisions you can make based upon what you are seeing.
    1. Short or Long Duration – Assuming there isn’t wide-spread catastrophe is this disaster short-term as in a natural event like hurricane, tornado, flood excreta or is this something more protracted and longer with no end in sight?
    2. What is affected? – What infrastructure is impacted? There are triggers that you can analyze to see if you need to act immediately or can try to wait out the crisis in your current location.
    3. Last Minute Preps – In some situations, there is a chance to run out and obtain last minute supplies. What are the risks of this? Do you have cash stored if credit cards and ATMs are down? What stores and supplies should be at the top of the priority list?
  3. Do you need to Bug Out? – This is a complicated subject but going back to the list of triggers, what decisions does the person reading this need to consider? How long can they expect to last with the supplies you have on hand? Do they have a place to go? Could they get there? Is it worth the risk traveling at this time?
  4. Security – Hopefully the person reading this knows about any firearms you have, where your ammo is stored and combinations to the safe. Do you have weapons hidden? Do you have platform considerations they need to know about? For example all of your pistols are .45 Glocks and our tactical carbines are all AK47. This information could be a detail they need to consider when looking for additional ammo or bartering with others for bullets. What provisions do you have for home security and defense? Do they have an appreciation for how desperate people could become and standard safety procedures to prevent unwanted contact with hostile people?
  5. Shelter – Heat and Cold – assuming there is no power, what can be done to heat the home? Do you have heaters stored somewhere? Where is the fuel? How do you light that Kerosene heater and keep the house vented? Where are the tents? Do they know how to set them up?
  6. Food and WaterHow much food and water is stored? How many people will this feed? For how long? Do you have any food hidden in caches somewhere? How will they cook the food without power? Do you have stoves or gear to cook over a fire? Water filtration is a big one. Do they know how and why they should filter the water, optional sources for collection like rain barrels and how to disinfect with calcium hypochlorite if necessary?
  7. Sanitation – What do you have planned for sanitation if the toilets stop running? Do they know where your portable toilet and stash of toilet paper, hand sanitizer and lime is?
  8. Power – What are your backup power options? Do you have a generator and do they know how to start it? Do they know how many electric devices this machine will power so they don’t expect every appliance in the house to run off a 3000KW generator? What about solar chargers, inverters to be run off a car battery or other options you have?
  9. Communications – It’s great that you have all of the Ham radio gear you need, but do they know how to use it? What repeaters are programmed into your handsets? How should they monitor their communications? Is there anyone they can trust and what frequency and call sign do they use? Additionally, you might not be able to communicate with them to tell them you are OK and headed back on Route 80. They should know how to communicate their intentions if they have to leave before you get back for a hopeful reunion.
  10. Homesteading Skills – Gardens, livestock and anything that needs to be considered for long-term disasters. Do they know how often the chickens need to be fed? Do you have survival seeds stored somewhere? Do you have plans for harvesting game locally?
  11. Money/Finances – Where is the money stored that you kept hidden? What guidelines should they follow for using each after a crisis?

This list could be 10 times as long, but these are just some ideas I came up with off the top of my head. Your instructions should fit your plans and resources.

Where should you keep this prepper master plan?

As corny as it sounds I would stick this information in a binder with a big label on the outside that says something like “In Case of Emergency”. Make sure your wife, kids and any relatives who you trust know where this is. The information you put in here could save their life.

Now, I don’t expect everyone will write down as much detail as is needed on every single subject. Each could be its own book and there are great preparedness books out there. I recommend everyone have several resource books on-hand to fill in the holes and answer questions you might have forgotten.

The job of making sure your family is taken care of doesn’t end when you leave the house. It’s your responsibility to ensure they know as much as possible in order to survive. Sharing information with them if you are delayed in coming home could save them.

Would your family know what to do in the event of a disaster or SHTF event? Would the prepping supplies you have carefully purchased and stored away help your family

 

On October 21, 2016, the internet broke. Netflix, Twitter, Paypal, and more were all hacked, and it took most of the day for representatives from the many major companies affected to find, fix and implement the problems. For most people, this was a minor disruption to their day. To my teenage daughter, the SHTF situation we’ve all been waiting for was occurring right then and there. She instantly lost at least half of her ability to communicate and find news, she lost her entire source of entertainment, and she lost the ability to pay for anything online, even if temporarily.

I think it’s safe to say that we could all live without Twitter. Netflix is a great modern convenience, but we could live without that too. What would happen, though, if we lost Wikipedia? I know that I reference Wikipedia at least twice a day, whether it’s for random historical trivia, information I need for work, or items of interest I’m using to plan my next prepping project. To lose access to what I consider to be the major source for all accumulated human knowledge would be a major blow. News recently broke that the Turkish government is preventing it’s citizens from accessing Wikipedia.

The outage I referenced earlier was one of the largest in the short history of the internet, and it was, fortunately, quite temporary, lasting around 12 hours. What if it affected your personal PC? The infamous computer hijacks and ransomware that have been plaguing PC users for the past few years often destroy and corrupt enough of your internal data that it cannot be recovered. What if it were permanent? That could be an EMP attack or a CME that wipes out all power, or it could be a targeted hack that we can’t figure out how to solve, or something else entirely. What happens if our government passes laws similar to those already in place in Turkey and many Asian countries which prohibits access to sites which they have decided contain information they don’t want shared?

I don’t have all the answers to these problems, but I know one potential solution – Local Data Backup. Most amateur computer owners have one or more PCs, with probably only one or two copies of their most important data – resumes, scans of birth certificates and other legal documents, family photos and more. The true solution is to have many copies of your important data stored locally, updated frequently, and maintained in a Faraday cage in case of an EMP attack.

To start, you’ll want a high-capacity data external storage device. I would recommend at least 5 terabytes of storage space per unit, and multiple drives if possible. You should also have at least one or two flash drives that store at least small parts of this information. This should run you about $200. That, and an older computer or tablet with a USB cord and an internet connection should be all you need for this invaluable project. I’ve heard some preppers who prefer to maintain optical discs with information on them, but a number of the solutions I want to implement will require files that are larger than the storage capacity of a single DVD or CD. You’d also have to consider storage space – all those discs and the disc drive itself will take up more space than a single external drive.

Personal Data comes first

The chances of any computer contracting a virus or a worm while you’re surfing the internet (yes, even you Apple people) is significantly higher than the chances of an EMP attack happening in next few weeks. It’s important to have a copy of your birth certificates and other important documents, including copies of social security cards, recent pictures of your immediate family, address and phone contact information, and other information available for bug-out situations, and it’s valuable to have that data stored in a variety of locations, including on your external hard drive. It is also highly recommended that you maintain a copy of receipts or warranty’s for major appliances, and pictures of each of the rooms in your house. It is possible that, in the event of a major flood or fire, that you could use these items to help increase the amount of money you can get back from home insurance as proof of at least some of the major items you’re keeping in each area of your house.

Second, survival. One of the first tricks that preppers learn when getting involved in the lifestyle of preparedness is that it’s possible to download a wide variety of “prepper manuals” online, including military survival PDFs and other documents. You could even save valuable web pages and articles for offline viewing. I have printed many materials to put in a binder, but again, that takes valuable storage space, and could be easily destroyed in a fire or a flood. My digital copies of data, so long as they remain well-protected in their Faraday cage, are safe from most dangers.

Next is the broad category of “items of personal importance” which could include almost anything that you find important to keep around. What’s in my collection? Family photos & videos take up a large bulk of my storage space. A simple feed scanner that you can purchase on Amazon for about $100 will allow you to scan and store thousands upon thousands of photos onto your external drive, where they are well-protected from flood damage and fading due to aging, and where you can easily gift them to another relative to open up more storage space under your stairs for prepping supplies. All of my wife’s hard work on our family tree is now scanned and preserved in it’s own folder as well for the next generation to continue the work, as are my grandfather’s old diaries we’ve been left. I also keep a local copy of any digital media I own, which is everything from digital copies of Disney movies that come for free with the Blu-Rays I’ve purchased for my kids, to those new music albums that I’ve bought as MP3s because it was cheaper and more convenient than buying the disc. I’ve got downloaded digital copies of my Audible collection, and a few Kindle books as well. Essentially, if I’ve paid money for it, I have a copy of it on my external drive that I can download and access forever, even if these host companies go out of business or lock my accounts.

Additional data to backup

Finally, you can do what I’ve done and keep a localized backup copy of Wikipedia and other sources of world knowledge. Many of these archive sites allow anyone to download a full copy of the entire site, and with a Wiki reader, it’s possible to maintain a version of Wikipedia which does not require the internet to search. In addition, you can also download a few other collections for posterity , including a huge collection of out-of-copyright novels from Project Gutenberg that could keep you reading for your entire lifetime without having to purchase a new book.

I believe that maintaining at least a bare-bones minimum of these documents and files is essential regardless of whether you take the steps necessary to protect this data from an EMP. For that, a Faraday cage – an enclosure completely surrounded by metal on all sides – is important. There have been thousands of people before me who have discussed the creation of such a device, so I’ll leave them to it. Suffice it to say that if an EMP occurs, it is widely assumed that almost all electronic equipment that is not protected is in jeopardy. That means that if you are taking the time to store data, you also need to store some kind of old computer or laptop capable of accessing the data, and a backup copy of installation files for programs you can use to read them. That means that you want a PDF reader installed, as well as programs that will allow you to view photos and videos, and if you have movies or audio-books tied to a service like Audible, you’ll need to have those installed.

Is this doable for Preppers?

The value of a project like this is in the details. First, it preserves a large amount of your family’s history, making it more accessible for younger, computer-savvy members of your family to learn about and carry on the knowledge we have as a modern society and many of the traditions that you hold dear. Second, this is a great way to make more space in your life (for prepping supplies, or whatever else you want to have). I was able to re-gift fifteen banker’s boxes worth of photos, VHS tapes, diaries, CD-ROMs and floppy discs full of data and combine them into one external hard drive, and I purchased a second drive to send to a distant relative overseas as a holiday gift that meant the world to him. Finally, I truly believe that with cloud computing, government regulations on access to information, and an ever-increasing life-or-death reliance on technology, there will come a time when the freedom of the internet and our personal data will be under attack. Having at least a portion of that knowledge stored in a metal trash can in your garage where Big Brother can’t find it might make all the difference.

Is this an expensive project? Yes, it certainly can be. A good quality hard drive along with a backup copy of a computer and a Faraday cage could cost a pretty penny. There’s no doubt that this is a long and difficult project as well. Even with a fairly fast feeder scanner for photos and small documents, but with searching and downloading times for files, and figuring out how to store this data for ease of use, it took me the better part of all Winter and Spring to make this a reality. How much of this would be useful in a true SHTF situation? Potentially quite a lot, potentially not at all. The information on that Wikipedia backup might be invaluable, but you may also not have the electrical power to access the data. As a project that has so many qualifications, this is likely not applicable to all preppers, but for those who have enough backup water filters, have installed their solar panels, and have too many boxes of old photos you can’t get rid of, this is a great project to start this year to help not only modernize but also to help prepare.

  On October 21, 2016, the internet broke. Netflix, Twitter, Paypal, and more were all hacked, and it took most of the day for representatives from the many major companies affected