The purpose of this submission is to establish that we all have real lives to lead while we remain vigilant about all possibilities, most of which others choose to pretend away. Money is not unlimited, and we have families and a life to lead. These things should not be sacrificed or squandered because we’re too captivated by a single, or favorite, survival scenario. We need to be building happy lives and memories with our families, children, and their children, even as we remain ready for what we hope won’t happen, and may not happen.
The rank and file among us doesn’t have the money and unlimited space to stockpile AR-15s and M1911s. Or high-end freeze-dried Stroganoff, Chicken Cordon Bleu, and Pineapple Upside Down Cake. Likewise, fully-built safe rooms, pre-fab shelters, well-filter systems, and the like are off the table for most of us. What would be the essence of survival if you removed all options to replicate your favorite foods, daily routines, or favorite survivalist movies, in the TEOTWAWKI scenario? (Note: While TEOTWAWKI is a neat acronym, I’m still fond of the military’s SNAFU, TARFU and FUBAR as a barometer of conditions!)
I would start with a bare-bones arsenal that consists of a [used] entry level 12 gauge, low-end .22 rifle, and a 1,000+ FPS air rifle. Each can be had for under $150, new. The air gun is particularly important, if you consider that silence during hunting or self defense may be a life saver. The report of a firearm may cause you more harm than good, in certain conditions. Also, thousands of .177 or .22 pellets can be stockpiled for little cost, and almost no space. This weapon is just as deadly as any other in the right hands. The shotgun and .22 are mandatory hunting and defense tools, to be used when appropriate. They also feature cost-effective and storage-friendly ammo. The relatively small expense of these 3 weapons may also allow you to buy more than one, or to purchase the air gun with multiple barrels; this will minimize your need to focus on becoming a gunsmith or machinist to deal with maintenance. Some may argue the need to add handguns and larger firepower; I choose these weapons and guile over a reliance on quantity and massive power (a 12 gauge is quite powerful enough, given the option of buckshot and slugs). Other weapons such as bows and slingshots offer even more affordability and the ever-important silence, with a bit less power and quickness. However, they are important supplements to the survival arsenal and should be included. In the absolutely bottom-line situation (middle of nowhere with nothing), you must remember to quickly carve or grind spears, collect rocks for throwing, and craft clubs, rock mauls or axes, or slings and bows as your skills allow.
Knives are essential, and easily managed for cost and benefits. They are your last line of self defense, and typically your first tool for most other field activities. If you must, buy one or two high-end models for durability and surety. But then partake of a classic gun and knife show for a whole spectrum of $10-to-$15 tools that will be the bulwark of your survival. You must have multiple sharpening options, and oil and steel wool will round out your maintenance needs.
Regarding water management, sanitation, and medical, SurvivalBlog already enjoys many quality writings on affordable, effective approaches. Especially those that observe that nearly your whole inventory can come from various dollar stores. We will have to accept that our contingency-apocalypse medical careers will be limited to normal illness management, standard sanitation, and minimal doctoring like small wound care, maybe setting a fracture or pulling a tooth at best. Unless we are close with a medical professional who will be in our survival community, we’ll have to accept and prepare for a limited ceiling; as we conjure up images of maimed and deathly ill loved ones we may wish for more, but materials, training, and equipment for much more is likely beyond our grasp. Manage the small things that we can, and pray for help beyond them. The one other opportunity worth noting is military manuals, training materials, and backpack-beltpack style kits. The military long ago defined the medical capabilities and methods for the average Joe in the field, which will be nearly all of us. These items are affordable and can be found on-line, and in surplus stores.
Food is the last frontier. We must remember again that the bottom-line scenario looms. Nothing can replace the basics of hunting, fishing, trapping, and foraging. As always, you can run the gamut of fancy, expensive gear, minimal gear, or maybe no gear at all. The minimalist weapons noted directly above are a starting point. Fishing can be done nothing but a spear, or one level removed, string and anything resembling a hook (and don’t forget the potentials of anything resembling a net). Though nothing can equip you better than pure experience; do some fishing, hunting, and trapping just to get a feel for it and some skills. There is an ample collection of written materials on naturally growing plant foods, trapping, and foraging out there, especially in the aforementioned old military materials and survival manuals.
If you are lucky enough to pursue and stock “store-bought” stuff, let’s steer clear of efforts to recreate your favorite culinary and childhood experiences in an apocalyptic, chaotic world! What can we afford and store efficiently (space) and effectively (longevity / durability), that also gives us the densest and highest quality calories and nutrients? Whole wheat is a given, with a 30 year life span that dwarfs all other grain alternatives. Honey is the ultimate, chock full of food value, a nearly endless shelf life (it’s been claimed that honey has been found deep in the Pyramids, likely from the time of their construction, that was edible), and incredibly suited for efficient storage. You can buy yourself a plastic 55-gallon drum of honey, for much less per pound than it costs in small containers. Will you get sick of it? Yes. Will this much honey, eaten very sparingly, help keep you alive for a year? I believe so. Peanut butter has similar potentials, with a much shorter shelf life. Rice is also relatively inexpensive if bought in bulk. If you could stock one 55-gallon barrel of each of these four items, you would have quite the larder for multiple years, under severe, austere conditions. You must be ever mindful of the effects of temperature, moisture, and pests. The plastic barrels with effective lids, elevated off the ground, are probably the ultimate storage method. You can also achieve successful conditions with multiple layers of plastic bags and very tight plastic containers, always keeping an eye on placement and threats. The “barrel” volume is, of course, the ultimate efficiency, but keep in mind that gallon (or 5) boxes, cans and jugs of these products are available in many nearby stores. [JWR Adds: They can be re-packed into fairly vermin-proof containers, such as five gallon HDPE plastic buckets. As previously noted in SurvivalBlog these are often available free for the asking or for a dollar apiece from bakeries and delicatessens.]
As far as the rest of your contingency needs, nothing will serve and protect you like a hobbyist’s collection of affordable camping, hiking, fishing, and hunting gear. Simple backpacks, canteens, tents and sleeping bags…..and moving on up from there. Remember the opportunities of dollar stores, second-hand-Goodwill-yard sale approaches, and be sure to make it one of your hobbies. Also include simple and effective fire starting and cooking, methods & materials. A few remaining equipment items such as a small wood stove, bare-bones generator, grill-type propane tanks and stoves / grills / lamps; candles, matches, and mass-packaged lighters are eminently affordable, especially when bought used or at thrift stores. In the scenario where retaining and fortifying your home is an option, these are invaluable pieces of the puzzle. Lastly, don’t forget to stock several hand-crank flashlights and radios. They are plentiful, reliable, and inexpensive in most stores now.
In closing, you don’t need to sacrifice 98% of your anticipated life, or resources, for preparation for a 2% likelihood of calamity. Conversely, you can maximize your real preparedness with a highly efficient, reasoned approach, along with making much of it a part of your life’s hobbies, pursuits, and enjoyments. I wish you an enjoyable, successful prepping experience! - Steve G.. Lt. Col. USAF, Retired