Your Survival Gear Could Save Your Life…But What Do You Need?
Bugout Bags, firearms, water purifiers, tents, firestarters, and the vast list of other common prepping supplies can all be grouped together under the general heading of “survival gear”. They are the items you will need to be able to make it through various disasters with some degree of comfort and health. Some of this gear is absolutely essential while others are more to improve comfort or to cover your bases and ensure that you’re ready for those less likely situations that could crop up. As such, there are many different things you will need and it can be easy to overlook an item here and there. This post is here to help you make sure that you have all of the gear you’ll need to survive!
Absolutely Necessary Survival Supplies
To help you further, we’re also going to separate the “nice to have’s” from the “without this you will likely die” kinds of items. This list here will cover only the most important gear you’ll need.
Stored Food Supplies
From canned goods to MRE’s to freeze-dried or dehydrated foods, you will need enough food to last until grocery stores reopen or you can start growing/raising your own. Stored foods need to fit 3 major catagories, Durability, Nutrition, and Ease of Use in order to be useful in this regard however.
A durable food is one that has a long shelf life and is fairly easy to store without it rotting or becoming unfit to eat. A bag of rice lasts a long time, while a fresh tomato is unlikely to survive the month. Generally speaking anything that lasts at least one month (assuming frequent replacement) can qualify in this case, though for items you don’t want to eat as often you will want a later expiration date.
Nutritious food is fairly obvious, since there are durable foods like hard candies that are tasty and even somewhat filling but overall utterly worthless to the body. Death by starvation sucks, but death by malnutrition isn’t much better! In particular, sugar and protein are two very important items to have in your foods since both are useful in a hardworking, grid-down situation.
Ease of Use varies by person, but generally it just means that you can prepare it readily with whatever you plan on having on hand. If you have a camp stove tucked away somewhere, for example, you might keep some foods that need boiling water to be edible. If you’re planning on running off on foot without so much as a pot or pan however, your foods might be limited to things that can be eaten raw without a fire or extra cooking water available.
Water Purification and Procurement
When the faucet no longer gives you water and the standard electric water plants or local well give out, you will need an immediate solution on hand if you are to survive. You can survive at most 3 days without any water (and that’s assuming you’re not sweating yourself to death or working very hard, mind you) so waiting until you run out to find a new source is simply not an option.
Procuring water can be as simple as walking over to the stream nearby or nearly impossible depending on where you live, which can also determine whether or not you need a purifying system on hand. Someone who lives in the desert in the West, for example, might be better served stockpiling water and (if reasonable) attempting to tap an aquifer with a well.
For many though, finding water might be as simple as consulting maps to determine where streams and lakes are nearby. In that case, you will need some manner of water purification available since “natural” water is usually contaminated in some way and tends to carry some powerful disease and heavy metals. Tablets, Portable UV lamps, and small filtration systems are all practical and reasonably priced ways to handle different contaminants contained in water, and each come with strengths and weaknesses.
Tablets tend to suffer from their disposable nature, since they can break down over time and even in the best of circumstances are limited in quantity. They also do little for sediments or chemical contamination, since a filter or neutralizing agent is the only thing that can deal with those. On the other hand, they are extremely convenient to carry compared to even the smallest filters and are quite effective at eliminating common microbes.
UV Lamps are longer lasting overall (particularly the pen-type designs made for survival situations) and they don’t leave the water tasting of a cleansing chemical. On the other hand, they are largely ineffective in cloudy water since the light cannot penetrate the debris to deactivate the microbes hiding on it. They also offer no long-term cleansing effects: once the lamp is removed for pouring the water the remaining microbes (if any) will simply continue swimming on. This means that anything but the most thorough cleansing could potentially leave some disease-causing bacteria in the water without your knowledge.
Finally, water filters are a mixed bag. Some designs (such as the Berkey systems) are very effective at removing microbes and some chemicals/metals from the water without eliminating the necessary minerals and the like that are needed to make water properly useful to the body. Others are fine for minorly contaminated waters, but either clog up quickly or lack the extremely fine filtering to catch the tiniest bacteria that can harm you.
Clothing Appropriate to the Climate and Terrain
Thankfully this is usually one that you have on hand to begin with, but it never hurts to ensure you have everything that could be necessary. Preppers in colder areas will need winter gloves, tough boots, warm under layers and a nice thick coat to keep them toasty even in a blizzard, while those in the warmer states will need wide-brimmed hats, breathable material that still protects their skin from the sun, and plenty of extra under layers to switch out when drenched with sweat.
Terrain should also be taken into account, since a bare rocky area is very different from a flat grassy plain or a hilly forest or even a city’s paved roads. Different styles of boots and shoes can help depending on what kind of ground you’ll have to cover, as well as what kind of obstacles you’re likely to come across.
Optional But Very Useful Survival Gear
On the other hand are the supplies that have a strong likelihood of saving your life but which aren’t strictly necessary just to live.
Some means of self-defense is almost surely needed during any disaster. Even during something as minor as a week long power outage looters, thieves, and the occasional psycho could come creeping in while the phones are down and the police occupied. Hand weapons such as knives, axes, clubs and other implements are often dismissed in favor of the myriad of firearms available, but both melee and ranged weaponry deserves a good long look to see which are most useful to you.
Melee and very short ranged weaponry (axes, knives, spears pepper spray etc)
Unlike the more specialized ranged weaponry, these weapons can be both purchased and improvised as necessary, though obviously a well-made tool is going to be of a higher quality than one you have to make on the fly. As a bonus, some of them (particularly knives) tend to serve as a secondary tool as well. Although they are not the best if you are going up against anyone armed with a firearm at any kind of distance, in close quarters even small knives can do terrible damage quickly. With training these can be quite potent, so here’s a quick rundown of the strengths and weaknesses of each.
- Knives: Often easy to conceal and useful for a variety of tasks, knives are among the most common melee weapon most preppers will keep. A solid knife can be excellent for self defense within short ranges (about 10-20 feet assuming you can get the drop on an opponent) but they can also lack that obvious “threatening” look which could keep you out of a fight entirely.
- Spears: A weapon of a bygone age, these are generally useful as a last ditch weapon more than anything. Their one usefulness over others is that a homemade spear is easily made and still quite deadly in that last point of desperation.
- Axes: Very useful for practical purposes, an axe can also be quite intimidating to a looter who can easily imagine the damage such a large weapon could do. In close range theycan suffer from limited usage for the unskilled however, since without room to swing an axe is much less useful for self-defense.
- Pepper Spray: Very limited usage particularly since the spray is a limited commodity in a disaster. If used in conjunction with actual weapons that can deal with an opponent, however, the distraction that a quick shot of pepper spray can provide could make investing in a bottle or two very much worthwhile.
The most common type of weapon available today and easily one of the most powerful in the hands of a trained individual, firearms are a definite need for self-protection. With designs that cover every range from face-to-face all the way out to the horizon and a wide variety of styles for individual needs it’s impossible to cover everything about these weapons, but here are a few things you will need:
- A handgun for concealment and carry when longarms are not a good idea. Going completely unarmed is terrible in a dangerous situation but many people, particularly in an emergency, will dislike seeing strangers wandering around them toting a rifle on a sling. Having a handgun on you at all times allows you to be better protected without screaming to the world “I HAVE A GUN! PLEASE STEAL IT!”
- A convenient mid-range rifle that suits your needs and ammunition desires. The AR-15 and AK-47 platforms have both been incredibly popular in this area, but there are also less prolific but still excellent types available for use. The main thing is that it needs to be something you are willing to use and practice with regularly, since after your pistol this will probably be the “go-to” weapon for emergencies.
- A rifle suitable for long range or penetrating shots. Some favor the classic bolt action rifles of the past such as the Mauser or Mosin Nagant, while others choose modern magazine fed automatics for the job. Regardless, make sure it is a weapon that is suitable for the distances involved in your area and that it doesn’t break the bank too much, since it is usually the third in line for use.
- Extra magazines and ammunition for all of your weapons. If you’ve ever loaded a mag before you know very well that you aren’t going to be pushing rounds into the magazine while someone else is spitting bullets at you. It’s too time consuming and requires too much concentration to be practical. As such, any magazine-fed weapon should have at least 3 mags available, with more being required for the mid-range rifle. Having sufficient ammunition is an obvious necessity, but what qualifies as “sufficient” depends on your budget and expected opposition. If you’re preparing for mild emergencies like thunderstorms a few hundred rounds would probably be more than enough, but a long term siege against multiple looters in a long grid down situation would demand a far larger stockpile.
- A comfortable holster and slings. Often overlooked but still extremely useful, these help keep your weapons on hand and ready to roll on a moment’s notice. Comfort and utility are both important here, since you may be wearing these pretty much all the time and chafing is not going to be pleasant!
- Cleaning rods and other supplies. Patches and the like can be made out of cloth if need be and even the soap can be manufactured at home, but a solid cleaning rod that fits the weapon is an excellent thing to purchase unless you are a metalworker of some kind.
This list would provide one person with a decent setup. Generally, more people in the same household would demand additional handguns for all adults willing to handle the responsibility and an extra rifle or two. The long-range rifle probably doesn’t need to be duplicated unless your group is fairly large, since it’s more likely to run into mid-range firefights or close up confrontations.
Inevitably you’re going to suffer some kind of injury and you’ll need to be able to stitch it back together or halt bleeding and prevent infection without the aid of a hospital. As such, you’ll want a fully stocked medical kit with all the essential items and medications ready and waiting. Gauze, various sizes of bandages, antibacterial cream, anti-inflammatory pills, forceps, scissors, saline, a tourniquet, medical information cards, a splint, suture/stitching materials, and sterile gloves and masks are all part of a well-stocked medkit.
In addition, make sure you have extra household medicines and a stockpile of prescription meds commonly used by members of the household if you can legally acquire them. Despite what you may have heard, keeping some booze on hand is not useful medically, so you can save some room and money in that regard.
Useful References and Information
This type of gear is basically “knowledge in a can”, containing information about locations, terrain, resources, skills, tactics, and medical techniques that you will need to make the best use of all the other survival gear you have. Here are some ideas for useful references:
- A large and comprehensive dictionary. This is a useful reference to help you understand the other books you’ll be using. Unless you have a truly stupendous vocabulary, you’ll likely need a dictionary to assist you when perusing the more difficult resource books.
- A book on first-aid and general care in survival situations. Try to find one that includes more than just the “here’s what to do until the ambulance arrives” type of instructions. If possible, choose books that offer large color pictures or real-life photos of the care involved, since this can be helpful if you’re out of practice in a particular technique.
- Local road and topographical maps. These will help you navigate, find water or food sources, and could even help you to estimate where refugees might travel in your area. Combined with a compass, these maps can also keep you from getting lost while travelling or foraging, so try to get copies you would keep with you can use on the fly.
- Books detailing edible or medicinal plants and animals in your area. You may have to settle for a larger national index, but hopefully you can find a more local guidebook for quick reference. These will be very useful for supplementing stored/grown foods and treating minor injuries or illnesses. Furthermore, the book may also highlight deadly, venomous or poisonous organisms that you would want to avoid!
- A journal or notebook. These will help you to make notes detailing where friends and enemies live, where good food sources are located, and other valuable information that will crop up over time. As the situation progresses, a single notebook could rapidly become a go-to source for “real-world” information which could be shared with others.
- Phonebooks for your county/state. Even if phones aren’t working, the addresses for both people and businesses could help you fill in information about where things are. Best of all, these books are often given away for free or at a low price!
- Specific geographic or tourist maps for your state. Maps of state parks, cave systems, lagoons etc. that don’t readily support people could assist you in traversing through normally impassible or confusing terrain.
Survival gear comes in a myriad of types and with seemingly endless uses. Make sure you have all of the necessities in hand before a disaster strikes so that you will be ready for anything!