Reading time: 6,370 words, 52 pages (lots of pictures), 15 to 25 minutes.
One of this blog’s regular readers suggested I do an article about my own emergency and survival preparations. I thought it was an excellent idea; ‘putting my money where my mouth is’, so to speak. Thanks for the great suggestion, GBV.
First, you need to understand that everyone is different so there is no one-size-fits-all recipe that covers everybody and every situation. Everyone has different characteristics such as age, personality, attitude, marital status, employment (full-time, part-time, student, unemployed, retired), income, location, home, health, skills, abilities, etc.
Briefly, I’m employed full-time, living in a high-rise in a small, relatively remote city in Canada, population 100,000, single (no wife, no kids, no pets, no catastrophes), in good health – I’m an avid hardboard snowboarder in winter, in-line skater in summer, climb double digit stairs rather than take the elevator and replaced my coffee table with a work-out bench. Having grown up in the great northern outdoors my skills include hunting, fishing, canoeing, gardening, summer & winter camping. As well, I have experience in construction, blasting (mining), renovation, administration and logistics.
The emergency/survival items I list below are not meant to be all-inclusive. They’re to give you some ideas about what is possible for short-term emergencies such as power-outages, severe storms, epidemics, radioactive contamination and civil disturbances as well as long-term survival situations such as economic and social collapse, war and zombie apocalypse (*kidding about the zombies*).
Some of you will be better prepared, some less. I began prepping in 1984 so I’ve been at it a long time. And remember, no matter how prepared you are, you’re NEVER completely prepared so take that into account.
I’ve included pictures because, as they say, a picture is worth a thousand words and they’ll provide a graphic illustration of various types and levels of preparedness
One of the most important survival aspects is community. From the accounts I’ve read and the survivor’s stories I’ve heard, the larger that one’s group is, the greater one’s chances of survival. A lone individual has very little chance of survival no matter how skilled or equipped with gear. A lone individual doesn’t have eyes at the back of his head and cannot stay awake 24/7.
I have family members spread over two provinces and friends in three. The furthest ones will present a challenge for me to get there or them to get here without considerable advance warning. Consequently, staying put (bugging-in) is preferable to escaping (bugging-out) except where the dangers of staying outweigh the dangers of travel. An example of a danger of staying would be a nearby railroad disaster spreading chlorine fumes and having a limited supply of organic vapor filters for my gas mask.
In my case, bugging-in with hundreds of high-rise tenants presents both opportunities and challenges. I’ve been here a long time and I’ve known many of my neighbors for many years. I help them carry their groceries, hold doors and the elevator the few times I use it rather than the stairs. They know me as friendly, reliable and trustworthy.
I attend tenant meetings, open-house events and barbeques. I should go to more pot-luck dinners. These are great ways to keep in touch with old neighbors and meet new ones. It is especially important to judge who’s trustworthy and who isn’t.
However, as the real-life ‘Shit-Hit-The-Fan’ (SHTF) links to stories at the end of this post describe; even the most trustworthy friends and neighbors can be expected to stab you in the back or rat you out if they think it’ll help their loved ones survive. Prepare yourself. Get used to it. It will happen.
Forgive, but don’t forget. We have a saying where I come from, “Hit me once, shame on you. Hit me twice, shame on me.”
On the other hand, some of the most unlikely people will help you. I encourage you to remember them afterwards, too.
I fully realize the danger of exposing my preparations to the public in this post. If I’m overcome at least my blog posts, preparations and stockpile will help someone else. I’ve had a good life; I don’t expect to live forever. Nor do I expect to go down without a fight.
Also, on the down-side, I doubt many family, friends and neighbors are prepping or stockpiling so I’m prepared to share what I have. I’m also prepared to defend myself, my family, friends, gear and stockpile.
Although I discuss the need for emergency and survival preparation with other people, I back off when I encounter resistance. There’s not much I can do about wilful ignorance. As the saying goes, ‘let the devil take the hindmost.’
No doubt, many family, friends and neighbors are subject to Normalcy Bias which will add to our challenge. This all too human bias is a failing you need to be aware of in yourself and in others regardless what situation you find yourself.
Below are descriptions and photos of my camping, emergency and survival gear and stockpiles in alphabetical order. Note: many of these photos are high resolution so you can click on them to blow them up for greater detail and navigate around the picture. Click ‘Return’ to return.
I reiterate; this is not a universal set-up. Everyone has different circumstances and needs and more or less time to prepare. These are suggestions and ideas only. If you have suggestions you’d like to add, please leave a comment at the end.
Air Purifiers – Having accumulated several thousand books over the years, I began using air purifiers because dust is the second-worst enemy of books (too much or too little humidity is the first). The large upright grey/black unit in the middle of the picture below is an electrostatic air purifier I use for the kitchen-living-dining room area. It’s rated for 864 sq. feet so it’s larger than required. This allows me to run it at medium speed during the day and slow speed at night thus conserving the life of the motor.
The black/wood grain unit on the left is a humidifier I use during dry winters to keep the humidity at comfortable levels and my books happy.
The circular white purifier above is also used at medium speed in the master bedroom. It also serves as a ‘white-noise’ generator masking distracting background noise such as car alarms, lawn mowers, ambulance sirens, etc. making it easier to fall asleep and stay asleep. I have a spare unit for redundancy.
The smaller white unit is one of two used in the library/home office. I have a third one, also for redundancy.
All these are permanent filters. The electrostatic is washable, the others can be vacuum cleaned. They cost more up-front but save in the long term not having to buy expensive replacement filters. Note: permanent purifiers are getting hard to find as manufacturers realize the profit opportunities selling expensive replacement filters.
The survival benefit is a) increased health by breathing clean air, and b) especially important if Fukushima or another nuclear reactor blows up again. Since air purifiers trap a lot of dust, pollen, etc. including radioactive ‘hot particles’ I always use a particle mask when cleaning them.
Backpack Bug-Out Bag – pictured below is North Face 65 liter backpack recently acquired on sale, still learning how to use it and hope I never have to.
Barbeque – a BBQ and an extra full propane tank pictured below can serve as a stove when the power goes out. Make sure to use the ‘barbie’ outdoors otherwise you risk carbon monoxide poisoning indoors. My balcony is covered so this helps in inclement weather although it doesn’t stop blowing snow.
Board Games – are great entertainment especially when the ‘lights go out’ and there’s no internet or TV. Actually, I weaned myself off the boob-tube 26 years ago and got a life but I will miss the internet. Pictured below are several games (others in storage downstairs) that can be used with candles or flashlights. Not shown are regular playing cards. Also, I should acquire some jigsaw puzzles because not everyone likes board games.
Books – we bibliophiles believe we can never have enough books. Modern gadget-heads may scoff at these ‘dead trees’ but with the aid of sunlight, candles, lanterns or flashlights you can read a book long after the electricity is off and the internet is down. I was given my first book, the Holy Bible, in 1957 but serious additions to my library didn’t start until I was a teenager in the 1960’s. Pictured below are several of many books shelves. I use small red sticky dots to identify books I haven’t read yet.
In addition to survival manuals, a wide variety of subjects lends itself (no pun intended) to selling, bartering and lending. After all, I do call it “Gerold’s Lending Library and Travelling Road Show”.
Camping & Emergency Gear – shown below is an assortment of camping and emergency gear – from upper left going clockwise is Army surplus canteen on top of First Aid supplies in an Army surplus 50 cal. ammo box, plastic water bottle behind lightweight Coleman stove, Coleman heater, fluid and lantern (always use well-ventilated because of carbon monoxide), starter fluid, Grundig portable, wind-up AM/FM shortwave radio (another AC/DC short wave radio in storage), eating utensils, metal tray, Leatherman pocket tool, assortment of knives and Ziplock bag of bug-out items such as compass, copper wire, wind-proof lighter, wax & candles, magnesium fire starter, etc.
More Camping & Emergency Gear – below – clockwise from upper left – snowshoe rawhide repair, vinyl groundsheet/ponchos, candles, mosquito coils, toilet bags, nylon repair tape, seam sealer, drinking water tablets, rope, nylon cord, knife sharpener, another poncho, various Ziploc bags, reflective space blanket, magnesium fire starters, water-proof match holder, camo make-up, hockey tape, more copper wire, handle repair wedges for hammers/sledges/axes, electrical tape, repair needles, more rope, map sealer, camo tape.
Camping pots, pans, dishware – below is vintage enamel camping ware plus more modern plastic ware and containers for various stuff. BTW – 35 MM film canisters at bottom are water proof, durable and also have 1,001 uses.
Remember to prepare plastic before first using it. Immerse in ice cold water for 15 minutes to half an hour to ‘set’ (seal) plastic compounds and then wash in soapy, lukewarm water. This helps prevent plastic from leaching into food (especially acidic food).
Candles, lighters, matches – When the lights go out, I have a variety of candles and stockpiles of lighters, matches and fire lighters (for the bug-out bag as they burn for several minutes).
Cash – You definitely need cash. First, it’s not wise to have cash in banks for fear of bail-ins (think Cyprus) and you make zip on interest anyway. Second, the recent ice storms and grid down situation showed that although gas stations and some stores were open; their credit/debit card systems were down. Third, never keep all your cash at home in one location in case of burglary or robbery where you’re forced to reveal your cash stash. Always stash cash in several spots, some more difficult to access than others. Last, don’t forget where you stashed your cash.
Coolers – coolers are helpful to store perishable food when the electricity goes out. Being an apartment dweller, I find the full-size, collapsible coolers below take up much less space than the rigid ones. Throw a blanket or quilt over them for extended use.
I also have several Styrofoam coolers. They ‘nest’ to take up minimal space. The one pictured below is kept on my balcony during winter with reusable ice packs. In summer the ice packs are kept in the freezer to be added to the coolers when needed.
Duffel and storage bags – for hauling emergency/survival gear in a vehicle or on a toboggan in winter. This is primary-level haulage. A backpack Bug-Out bag above would be secondary level i.e. when the vehicle stops running (out of fuel, road blocked, bridge out, etc.)
Fire Extinguishers – two 10 lb portables for each bedroom and a 5 lb for the kitchen. I would not recommend anything smaller than a 5 lb because of minimal coverage. A 20 lb may be too heavy for a lot of people to handle. For a bit more information on the need for every home to have a fire extinguisher, see this.
Also, in the picture below is a garden hose that has connectors for both outdoor and indoor taps as well as an adjustable nozzle. Shown below are smoke and carbon monoxide detectors. Also shown is enough rope to tie to a balcony railing and leather work gloves to assist in climbing down should that ever become necessary.
Why is fire extinguishing gear included as survival preparation? When you need the fire department the most like in an ice/snow storm, epidemic or civic breakdown they may not respond and it’ll be up to you to save yourself, your loved ones and your home.
Fishing gear – you can still catch fish long after other edible wildlife has been hunted to near extinction in a survival scenario. Hunting gear such as rifles and cross-bows are good to have, but do you want to be one of 500 hunters shooting at the last remaining deer before you start shooting one another? Below is a photo of some of the fishing gear I’ve been acquiring, replacing and up-grading over the years.
In addition to tackle boxes, there’s also a Berkley belly-pack for use with waders, a Mitchel folding travel pack and a small candy-tin of emergency items wrapped in duct tape.
Flashlights & batteries – pictured below are an assortment of flashlights – both battery-powered as well as hand-cranked. Make sure you have lots of spare batteries because hand-cranking is a pain, not very efficient, you’re muscles give out before long even when taking turns with others.
By the way, there was a time when we stored batteries in the fridge to make them last longer. Do NOT do that with modern batteries. They are designed to last up to ten years at room temperature. Cold temperature storage reduces their power.
In the lower right you’ll see both AC/DC and vehicle charger. Obviously, the AC/DC is only useful if you have time to charge before the grid goes down.
Food Stockpile – the harsh winter of 2014 with pictures of store shelves emptied by panic buying should have shown people the necessity of stockpiling food for emergencies. Yet, I doubt the vast majority of people have food storage. Here’s a LINK to some survival and emergency preparedness articles I’ve written.
The picture above shows some of the bookshelves I bought on sale that I use as a pantry for food, vitamins, cleaning supplies, tin foil, garbage bags, etc. in addition to the kitchen pantry. Being open shelves, it’s easy to see what’s in short supply and needs to be replenished and rotated (oldest at the front, newest at the back).
The picture above shows additional stockpiles of dried peas, beans and other lentils. The advantage of dried lentils is long term storage. Note that they’re stored in heavy 4 mil re-sealable bags available at industrial supply stores. If I lived lower to the ground, I’d store in metal cans to keep rodents out.
Gold & silver – For a long time, I’ve been advising readers to convert some of their wealth into gold and silver. Whenever Jim Rogers is asked what the price of gold and silver will be at the end of the year, that astute investor always says “How the heck should I know? But, at today’s prices it’s cheap and if the price goes down, I buy more.”
Once again I remind you that precious metals are NOT an investment; they are insurance. They protect your wealth from the ravages of inflation which is always higher than our incompetant governments tell us due to them devaluing our worthless fiat currencies.
There’s a story about a dentist’s girlfriend running off with his cowboy boot filled with gold coins. Whether the story is true or just an urban legend, it underlines the need for secrecy. Tell it or brag about it and risk losing it. Words to the wise.
Those of you with children living at home have a dilemma. Are your children trustworthy enough to be told where you stashed your precious metals and cash? Can they keep a secret from their friends? What if you don’t tell them and they find your stash? What if their friends are over and they find your stash? This is something you need to decide how to handle.
In any case, like cash mentioned further above, do NOT stash all your PM’s in one spot. Use several hard to find spots and one easy to find. Most burglars will stop after they find one stash. The same applies if you’re robbed in a home invasion and forced to reveal. Give up one stash or two if pressed and at least you still have others.
BTW – anyone larcenous that thinks I have a lot of PM’s will be disappointed. I don’t have enough wealth for gold; I do keep some silver Maple Leafs strictly for barter purposes, but hardly enough for you to risk your life.
Light bulbs – the enviro-nut, tree huggers have killed the manufacture of incandescent light bulbs; replaced by various types of efficient, but expensive and poor light-quality alternatives. Below is part of my stockpile of incandescents.
Perhaps by the time I’ve used this stockpile, alternatives will be cheaper and produce a better quality of light. One can only hope. Meantime, think barter in a worst-case scenario.
Lighters & refills – in addition to a stockpile of BIC lighters, I also have a couple of refillable lighters with Butane refills and extra flints in the picture below.
Manual tools & gear – I’ve begun acquiring old-fashioned manual gear and will begin to haunt yard and garage sales in summer looking for more. Pictured below is a vintage Hunnersdorff bean ‘frencher’, a rug-beater used to beat dirt and dust off rugs and other material that was used long before electric vacuum cleaners and a sturdy metal basin because you can’t heat water in a plastic one.
Paint ball gear – for the intrepid warrior to run around
getting shot avoiding getting shot you can’t beat paintball (I haven’t tried Airsoft yet). It’s a great way to get exercise, have fun and learn to control one’s breathing, fear and emotions.
Above is a Tippman A-5 (either single shot or full auto), face mask (never do without) and skin-tight leather gloves to reduce the ‘ouch’ factor. Adrenaline usually masks the pain of getting hit with a paint ball(s) but you feel it the next day.
Paper plates – the grid’s down, the water has stopped running and you have a sink full of dirty dishes. Whatcha gonna do? Call Ghost Busters? No, you’re going to use paper plates and plastic cups and utensils rather than wash with your limited water storage.
Paper is compostable, biodegradable and, once dry again makes great tinder (better than Styrofoam). Also, great for long term storage and, like many of these stockpiled stuff; great barter items.
Radiation meter – also known as a ‘Geiger counter’ is one of the last items I added to my gear. You can pick up cheap ones on eBay for less than $100 but they’re old, made in Lower Elbonia, not calibrated and likely don’t work in a life-threatening situation.
Rad meters will be helpful when Fukushima (or another nuclear plant) blows up again. They’ll alert you to radioactive hot spots in order to avoid them or touch-up leaking duct tape sealed windows.
The meter below is a Ludlum Model 3 with a pancake-style Model 44-9 wand made in Sweetwater, Texas. Not cheap. A bit under $1,000 U.S. but what’s your life worth?
The red item is a heavy duty, water-proof carrying case.
Pictured too is lots of duct tape to seal windows and doors. Estimate how much you need then buy 4 times as much because a) you may need to redo some and b) family, friends, neighbors won’t have enough and by the time they need it, the stores will be cleaned out. Keep duct tape you aren’t using wrapped in plastic for long-term storage.
BEWARE: duct tape, once frozen and thawed loses its adhesive quality. It still sticks but begins to peel shortly after being applied. Don’t buy duct tape in winter or spring. It was probably trucked to the store in an unheated trailer. It’ll thaw in the store but it will have lost its adhesion. The best time to buy duct tape is late summer. That way, unless it’s old inventory that arrived in winter, it will likely not have been frozen.
Also, older homes are notoriously more drafty (air leaks) than newer homes. Consider sealing older homes’ electrical outlets, openings for pipes, ducts, cables, etc. Also, the sill-plate where older houses sit on the foundation tend to leak. They can be stuffed with insulation and covered with a variety of expanding foam products that are available. This will not only reduce the intrusion of radioactive hot particles but will more than pay for itself in reduced heating and cooling costs.
Sleeping bags – pictured below are two sleeping bags. The gold color is a cheap Chinese-made Columbia three-season bag. In the black case is a more expensive Chlorophylle mummy-style winter sleeping bag made in Quebec. Winter survival is more precarious than the other three seasons so a better quality winter sleeping bag is good idea.
Also shown is a silver, reflective sleeping pad and in orange is a lightweight, self-inflating sleeping pad I’ve used to sleep on frozen ground in quinzee huts (snow shelters). The blue item is a cheap, but light pup tent that I hope I won’t have to use much.
Snow shoes, toboggan – pictured below are traditional, Huron style, back country snow shoes, 6 foot toboggan and ski poles for stability and additional muscle power. Wood and sinew snow shoes need to be re-varnished occasionally.
The preferred bugging-out method is the comfort of a vehicle. Cars and trucks cannot be relied upon to get to one’s destination because bridges may be wiped out or roads made impassable by stalled or broken or out-of-fuel vehicles. There may even be manned check-points to be skirted on foot or a variety of other reasons. In winter, a lot more gear can be pulled on a toboggan than carried on one’s back. A toboggan can also be used to pull children or the injured.
Caution: rags with hardening oil get hot and catch on fire, if you don’t allow them to dry out, or to keep them in a sealed metal container – outside and away from combustibles. You can also spread them out and allow them to dry, then throw them in the trash away from other combustibles.
When I asked the young man at the store for toboggans, he said, “What’s that?” Although advertised in the store’s flyer, they had none on the floor. I bought the last one from their warehouse. Word of warning, if you want a toboggan; don’t wait. It looks like toboggans are going the way of the dinosaur and being replaced with cheap plastic crap.
Toilet, tissue paper & paper towels – You don’t need a war such as in Bosnia twenty years ago to appreciate the importance of toilet paper. Just recently the brain-dead, Collectivist Venezuelan government enacted price controls resulting in stores closing rather than sell at a loss due to inflation and there, too, toilet paper was ‘worth its weight in gold’.
Toilet paper, tissue paper and paper towels are durable, long-lasting items that should be stockpiled and used during shortages and for barter. I store in closets, on top of book shelves and anywhere there’s room. See pictures below.
Hint: double rolls of toilet paper take up less room.
Tools – you can never have enough tools. Most of mine are manual so they don’t need electricity except the power saw and cordless drill in the upper left of the picture below. Note the machete at bottom for clearing underbrush and dealing with zombies (*kidding*). Also, note the crowbars, pry-bars and wrecking bars in the lower left for survival situations. Still needed are bolt-cutters.
You don’t need to spend a fortune on expensive tools like Snap-on, Husky, Grey, etc. unless you’re a full-time mechanic or for bragging rights. Sears Craftsman, Canadian Tire Mastercraft and other such tools work well for the handyman and both have lifetime warranties. On the other extreme, avoid cheap crap because they usually fail when you need them the most.
Vacuum flasks – generically called ‘Thermos’ bottles the picture below shows a variety of vacuum flasks made by Aladdin, Stanley, Thermos, etc. As I distrust plastic containers holding hot liquids, especially acidic coffee, I only use metal or glass inserts. The red and white (plastic) container is for cold beverages, and the vacuum ‘Cat’ coffee mug keeps coffee lip-scorching hot all day.
One of the articles about the recent U.S. ice storms (linked at the end of this post) espoused, “A couple of good large thermoses to store coffee & hot water (for other hot drinks or making instant oatmeal, etc.) without having to fire up a heat source outdoors again – especially when you want just one more cup of coffee.”
Here’s a trick college student have used when they aren’t allowed to cook in their rooms. Using a hidden hot plate to boil water or getting it from the cafeteria, they’d pour oatmeal or rice into a vacuum bottle with hot water, wait until done and eat with a spoon to avoid the smell of cooking food arousing anyone’s suspicion. This might come in handy in a survival situation, too.
Vehicle – a car or truck is handy for bugging-out but don’t bet your life on getting to your destination. Bridges and roads can be washed out or jammed with stalled, broken-down or out-of-fuel vehicles, etc.
Off-roading might get you a bit further but rock cuts, deep ditches and other hazards could get in the way. 4WD and AWD vehicles will fare better off-road than regular 2WD but they’re limited too and none drive on water. For more info see 2W Drive 4X4 AWD and Dangerous Pick-Up Trucks
I have an AWD Subaru Outback (all Subaru’s are now AWD). I use all-season radials for 3 seasons and winter tires for Canadian winters. Once you’ve used winter tires on ice and snow with their increased gripping power, you’ll realize that so-called “all-season” radials are really only 3-season tires.
The two pictures below show both types of tires; low profile summer tires on chrome mags and, at bottom, winter tires on steel rims with cheap hubcaps (for appearance) makes them easy to install and remove (bolt-on, bolt-off). I had a second coat of black paint sprayed on the steel rims and then I added several clear coats to prevent rust from salty winter roads.
Actually, both pictures are the same car, just from a different angle. I got bored looking at most cars on the road with their mono-chromatic black, white or silver/grey so I had it done with a custom “chameleon” special FX color that flips from burgundy to green as you walk around the car or as I drive by. It may be the end of the world as we know it but that’s no reason not to go in style.
One Globe and Mail automotive writer (a Toronto ‘citiot’) disparaged the Outback’s “tough guy cladding” (which I left with original factory paint) so I sent him the bottom picture showing how the cladding helps protect the car from harsh winter grit, salt and slush. He sheepishly back-tracked.
You might also be interested in reading about How to Make Your Car Last Longer.
Vehicle emergency kit – having driven to Thompson in northern Manitoba to celebrate Christmas with family for 42 years, I always carry a vehicle emergency kit pictured below. Fortunately, I’ve only ever had to use the tow rope to pull vehicles out of the ditch and booster cables to re-start vehicles with low batteries although that trusty hatchet has gone camping a few times.
I’ve stopped more times than I can count to render assistance to stranded motorists whose vehicles have stalled, or rolled-over, or run out of fuel. One thing I learned growing up in the north is always stop and help, “because next time that could be me” and it could be a long wait for another vehicle at sub-zero weather on a desolate road.
Starting with the black bag at the top of the picture above and going clockwise – the bag has winter clothing for stranded motorists such as mitts, toques (cloth caps for you non-Canadians), scarves, wool socks and long-johns. Also shown is a pump-gas syphon (never suck on a hose of ice-cold fuel). Next is a lightweight folding snow shovel, folding safety triangles atop heavy duty booster (jumper) cables in the circular grey bag, various tools including duct tape (adhesion only needed for short-term), tie-wraps, space-blanket survival suit and folding saw. On the left is tow rope, light-sticks and safety flares.
Water filter – pictured below is a Swiss-made, Katadyn ‘Pocket’ water microfilter. ’Pocket’ is the model name and at 9.5 inches (24 CM) tall it’s too large to actually fit in a pocket. It consists of a silvered ceramic 0.2 micron filter, produces about I L (quart) per minute (about 50 pumps) and capable of about 50,000 L before the filter needs to be replaced. Note: it includes abrasive cleaning pads for periodic cleaning and a measuring gauge to indicate when the filter should be replaced.
I also bought a spare parts kit as well as Sweetwater’s prefilter (as a spare) and their ‘siltstopper’ to extend the life of the primary filter as well as spare filters. I also include ordinary coffee filters for especially silty water.
Note: it’s important to disassemble after use and before long term storage to let components completely dry to prevent mold which can be cleaned off but still leaves a moldy taste to the water.
Water storage – I use eight 20 L (quart) water containers pictured below and stored in a closet. I’ve read various accounts of water needs. One liter a day is a bare minimum for drinking and 3 L/day for drinking AND cooking per person. So, 180 L would last one person 60 days at a bare minimum but nothing for washing or toilet flushing.
Given advance warning, I’d fill the tub and sinks to use as washing water and use that ‘grey water’ for toilet flushing. House plants will die for lack of water, unfortunately.
I rotate (drain & refill) the water every six months. Apparently water can last a year before going ‘skunky’ but why take the chance?
Also, when you buy them new, it’s important to prepare the inside of the containers similar to ‘Camping pots, pans, dishes’ above. Fill with ice cold water for half an hour, drain and fill with about half a cup of Baking Soda and a liter or two of water. Swish around the insides for a minute or so, then drain, rinse with fresh water and drain again. Then fill and store.
I use Baking Soda as a deodorant for the fridge and freezer. I replace after about three months – they recommend monthly in order to sell more but you can tell when the fridge starts to smell. Rather than discard, I keep the Baking soda in a large Zip-lock bag and every few years I repeat the Baking Soda process to be on the safe side.
Winter clothing – the most important thing to remember about winter clothing is COTTON KILLS. Cotton is a hot weather fabric. Cotton absorbs moisture like perspiration and loses 110% of its insulating ability. In other words, wet or moist cotton cools which is why it’s a great summer material, but in winter, cotton will kill you. It’s ok if you going from the house to your vehicle or vice versa or worn indoors. However, DO NOT wear cotton outside in winter for any length of time and expect to survive.
It never ceases to amaze me how many stores and outdoor-gear catalogs still have cotton winter clothing. Some incredibly expensive parkas claiming to be the only item of clothing you need are made of cotton. Don’t fall for these ridiculous advertising claims.
Another killer is down coats and parkas (‘down’ is bird feathers). Down is incredibly warm when dry but totally useless when wet and it takes wet down forever to dry. The same applies to ‘down’ sleeping bags. Great when dry; deadly when wet.
Good winter fabric includes wool and and a wide variety of synthetics which will continue to provide warmth even when wet. The downside of wool is weight. Wool is heavier than synthetics, but both can be used in combination. See further below for undergarments and ‘layering’ instructions.
In the picture below is an old Army surplus wool Arctic parka I have in addition to several other newer ones. Large zipper handles and oversize buttons make it easier to use with gloves or mitts. Under the parka are Army surplus Arctic pants. Both have nylon outer layers for windbreaks. Many good modern parkas are made with 100% synthetics.
The black boots above are expensive but very warm Baffin brand boots supposedly good to – 70 (I’ve used them standing outdoors videoing car ice races in stiff winds). Hopefully, I’ll never have to find out if they work at – 70. The white boots are ‘garbage boots’ (not a put-down), but they’re cheap, felt-lined, need warm socks and good for working and kicking around. The gauntlet-style mitts are leather (water-proofed with Dubbin) and have wool inner-lining. Those aren’t thumbs you see. Thumbs aren’t visible. What you see are trigger fingers. In very cold weather a lone finger gets cold so the mitts are wide enough to accommodate all fingers to keep each other warm.
Always, always, always have more than one pair of boots and mitts. Never, ever wear them two days in a row. Perspiration build-up needs time to dry. Perspiration build-up causes them to lose warmth, and acidic sweat destroys fabric. For more tips see How to Make Your Clothes Last Longer.
Pictured below going clockwise from upper left are wools socks. The black and white pile in the upper right is long-johns and long-sleeved undershirts consisting of silk, synthetics and wool. The technique to staying warm in winter is ‘layering’. Forget the parka ads that claim it’s the only thing you need to wear.
I wear silk or synthetics next to my skin. Silk needs to be cold water washed but they air-dry fast. So do synthetics. Body warmth makes them wick moisture away to the next layer for which I prefer wool. After that I use synthetic fleece for additional warmth on my legs and or wool sweaters. Finally, I wear a water-proof, wind-proof outer layer of synthetic material. Also, pictured below are toques (“cloth caps”) that are both wool and synthetic. Wool is a bit more windproof. Beneath them are parka hoods to act as windbreaks. In winter, wind is deadlier than cold which is why a ‘wind chill’ index was invented
The advantage of layering is it is much easier to avoid over-heating by peeling off layers. Believe it or not, but excess heat is just as dangerous as excess cold. Excess heat causes perspiration and wet clothing isn’t as warm as dry. Perspiration also causes dehydration which is exacerbated by exhaling vapor in dry winter air. Moisture control is essential to outdoor winter survival.
Afterward: there are still a number of things I need to acquire. More liquor because, as Selco says (link below) there’s 10 times as much drinking during a SHTF event so it makes a great barter item plus it has disinfectant properties. Another item to consider is a wagon for summer (like a toboggan in winter) to pull gear, kids or the injured. Also, I need to investigate which pet antibiotics are fit for humans in order to stockpile them.
Also, dragging all this stuff out for this photo shoot was a pain but a blessing as well. It forced me to examine and review my gear, discover a few that are worn, dated and need replacement. I found old energy bars as well as dated creamer, tea and pepper.
It would be wise for you to also periodically review your gear for the same reason. It’s better to remedy and test-run now than when it’s too late and your life’s on the line.
For further reading of real SHTF accounts, see the links below where there’s tons more real-life SHTF information than I mention above.
Selco from Bosnia – SHTF Planning: 20 Lessons from the Streets of Cairo
Eightbore from Cairo – SHTF Planning: 20 Lessons from the Streets of Cairo
Dmitry Orlov from the collapse of the Soviet Union – Post-Soviet Lessons for a Post-American Century
Orlov also has his own blog.
Recent U.S. ice storms – 5 Days with No Power – When the Ice Hits the Fan
One last note before I finish this lengthy post (sorry it’s so long!) but at the beginning I said, “And remember, no matter how prepared you are, you’re NEVER completely prepared so take that into account.” Don’t fall victim to Hubris.
Just before last Christmas, I was patting myself on the back after acquiring one of my last survival items and thinking I’m ready for anything now. Shortly after, I came down with the flu; the first flu I had after I quit getting flu shots more than five years ago. Two weeks later, almost recovered, I succumbed to bronchitis. Thanks goodness for antibiotics although I lost more than a month of snowboarding and unable to take advantage of a record amount of new snow. That’ll teach me to think I’m ready for anything!
Remember, avoid hubris or you could get run over by a beer truck.
March 6, 2014
Your comments are WELCOME!
If you like what you’ve read (or not) please “Rate This” below.
Lengthy comments may time-out before you’re finished so consider doing them in a Word doc first then copy and paste to “Leave a Reply” below.