A little about me: I am 27 years old, I have been married to my wife for 7 years. We have two boys, ages six and 22 months. Both my wife and I are school teachers; I also coach football and power lifting. So, we are the epitome of the American middle class. I have always enjoyed hunting, camping and the outdoors. So I have developed some basic “outdoorsman” skills throughout my youth and early adult hood.
As a young child and early teen, I was very interested in survival, homesteading, and living off the land. I remember reading Foxfire books with my grandfather and dreaming of becoming a true mountain man. I wanted to be a real Jeremiah Johnson. My grandfather passed away when I was thirteen and I subsequently lost interest because it was something we talked about together. It was just too upsetting to think about without him. Shortly after his passing, I began high school and eventually college and “got caught up in life”.
In the last several months, I have become very interested in emergency preparedness for my family. I was truly overwhelmed with the amount of information I discovered; some of it very good, some so-so, and some just plain off-the-wall. I am writing this in hopes that it will save others in the same situation I was in some time. Just like in any other survival or preparedness situation, time is of the essence.
This article is meant as an introduction for someone who has little to no background information on the subject. This article could also be useful to the serious prepper who never thought about how they would get back to their shelter if a disaster struck while they were “out and about.” This is a “primer” to get people thinking about survival situations. Are there some better choices out there? Possibly. Did I say my suggestions were the cold, hard, fast rules? No. Take this article as it was meant.
I have run across several three tier survival models in my searching. I have also discovered several good sources for emergency preparedness for bugging out and sheltering in place. I have combined the information in what I am calling 4-Tier Survival. The tiers are as follows:
- TIER ONE: This is your everyday carry (EDC) on person. You should have this with you 24/7 or as close to 24/7 seven as possible. Basically, if you have pants on, you should have these items with you.
- TIER TWO: This is your EDC bag. You should have this with you or within reach 24/7. Take it with you to work, the grocery store, running to the gas station, etc. If you walk out the door of your house, it should be with you.
- TIER THREE: This is your 72 hour kit, bug out bag, SHTF bag, or any of those other catchy names for them. At a minimum you need one. If you only have the funds for one, so be it. But, eventually I would suggest having one for the house, the vehicle and possibly at work if you have the space to store one.
- TIER FOUR: This is for long term preparedness. This is long-term food and water storage and procurement methods. Always prepare your home to shelter-in-place first. Then, if you have a secondary bug out location, prepare it. Depending on the disaster or emergency you may or may not be able to bug out. On the other hand, you may be forced to evacuate or bug out.
Before I go any farther in this article I want to give you a great piece of advice: Develop and hone your knowledge, ability and skills over the knives, tools and kits. A vast amount of knowledge and skills with a minimum amount of tools will keep you and your family alive a lot longer than a vast amount of tools and minimum amount knowledge and skills will. This may seem contradictory to what this article is about. But, do not lose sight of this advice. Everyone knows someone who has the newest, best whatever it is but no clue how to use it. This makes them look like a fool. Don’t be a fool.
When creating the tiers, I kept in mind the basic needs of a survival situation, shelter, water, fire, food and I am going to add protection. In a the end of the world as we know it (TEOTWAWKI) situation, protecting yourself, your family, home, supplies and gear could be a paramount priority. The first three tiers will enable you to get to your fourth tier. We all find ourselves away from
Now, let’s discuss the tools and supplies I feel are needed for each tier. This is by no means the end all, be all list of what is needed. This is what I have come up with for my kits. Feel free to add or take away as you feel necessary. This is based off of my skill set and my family needs. I wanted to condense a lot of information into a single article and basically get you thinking about what you will need. I want you to come up with your own kits. I also wanted to show you that all of the tiers are possible. They will take some time, energy and money, but anyone can do this.
Note: I will not get very technical in the types/brands of items to carry. Use your own judgment; remember, most times you get what you pay for. Also, I go by the mantra, “Two is one, one is none.”
TIER ONE: On-person EDC
- Quality folding knife of your choice. Make sure it is sharp. You are more likely to injure yourself trying to cut something with a dull knife than you are using a sharp knife.
- Quality multi-tool. There are many options available. Look at the type of environment you spend the majority of time in, consider your skills, and use this to decide the brand/style of tool you want to carry.
- Lock picks/Bogota – I choose NOT to carry these as of now. Remember what I said about skills earlier. I know I don’t have the skills needed to use these. Now, once I develop the skills, they will be added to my EDC.
- Small compass. Just to get a general direction if needed.
- Pen and small notepad. I personally like the waterproof kind. Nothing like getting caught in the rain and losing everything you have made notes of.
- Small survival whistle.
- Cotton bandana.
- P-38 can opener. I carry one on my key ring. I forget it is even there, until I need it.
- Cell Phone
- Pretty self-explanatory. Pretty much everyone has a cell phone that they carry anyway. [JWR Adds: It is important to also keep a 12 VDC cell phone "car charger" handy.]
- 550 Cord. There are lots of different, creative ways to carry. There are bracelets, key fobs, zipper pulls, belts, even lacing your boots/shoes with it. Learn how to braid your own items.
- Small brand name lighter. Cheap and easy to carry way to start a fire.
- Small firesteel. Another cheap, easy to carry way to start a fire.
- Tinder. Could be a magnesium rod, dryer lint, or any brand of quick tinder that is out on the market now, you should know what works. I prefer magnesium rods; they take up less room and are light.
- I am not going to start the never-ending conversation of discussing brands and calibers.
- Find a gun that you can comfortably carry and shoot.
- Shoot, a lot.
- Shoot from behind cover, kneeling, sitting, lying down, standing, off hand, from one yard to 25 yards.
- Shoot some more.
- Practice reloading, practice reloading behind cover, practice reloading standing, kneeling, lying down, off hand.
- Practice some more.
- Small flashlight. I personally look for an LED version that runs off of AA or AAA batteries. Look for one that is waterproof or at the very least water resistant.
- Keychain LED light. Look for one that has a locking on/off switch. These are easier to use in the fact that they do not have to have constant pressure on the switch to illuminate.
- USB Drive
- I use my USB drive to store all types of important documents and other information I run across and want to save. I have encrypted my USB drive in case it falls into the wrong hands. (I strongly suggest doing this.) Also, save the information under nondescript names. In other words, don’t save the file as: “Insurance Papers” or “Social Security Cards”, etc.
- Birth/Marriage Certificates
- Social Security Cards
- Driver’s License
- Insurance Policies/Cards
- Vehicle Registrations/Insurance
- Medical/Shot Record
- Recent Check Stubs/Bank Statements
- Property Description
- Another option/addition to this is online file storage. There are many places available on the internet to store files on a remote server and be able to access from any computer or cell phone with internet access.
Some people I have seen carry as much as possible on their keychain. The only thing with that is if you lose your keys, you have lost a lot of your gear. I carry some stuff on my belt, some in pockets and some on a keychain. I have even seen and thought about carrying some items around my neck. Whatever you feel comfortable with and what works for you is best.
TIER TWO: EDC Bag
Tier two is going to contain pretty much everything from tier one except bigger and better.
- Quality fixed blade knife of your choice. Again make sure it is sharp.
- Sharpening stone.
- Quality multi-tool. I would look at one to complement the one from tier one. A little larger and possibly features that the other does not have. I personally wouldn’t want the exact same model from tier one. Look at the ones that have the screwdriver possibilities.
- Small entry bar or pry bar.
- Larger more reliable compass. Possibly a GPS system if you are so inclined. If you are in a large urban environment, I would have a city map in my EDC bag.
- Pens and notepad again. Plenty of pens and permanent markers.
- P-51 can opener.(A scaled-up version of the P-38.)
- Cell Phone/Communications
- This is where I would keep a wall charger for my cell phone.
- I would also think about one of the emergency chargers that run off of batteries at this point.
- I also carry a pay-as-you go phone in my EDC bag. On some occasions when one service is down, others are still up and running. It’s a cheap insurance policy.
- Radio of some sort. Depends on your location and abilities.
- I would carry no less than 25 feet of 550 cord in my EDC bag. The more the better. Again, options here, braid it to take up less space, key fobs, I’ve seen some braided water bottle carriers. Use your imagination
- I have run across Kevlar cord, no personal experience with it. But, something I will check out.
- I would toss in some duct tape and electrical tape here. You can take it off of the cardboard roll and roll it onto itself and it takes up very little room.
- Possibly some wire, picture hanging wire works well.
- Possibly some zip ties. Various sizes as you see fit.
- I also have a couple of carabiners clipped to my bag.
- Another cheap lighter.
- Larger firesteel.
- More tinder. Personally I prefer the magnesium, but whatever you are comfortable with.
- I personally don’t see the need to carry a second firearm.
- I would however warrant the carrying of at least two spare magazines for the handgun in tier one.
- Basic first aid kit.
- Package of quick slotting agent.
- Basic EMT shears.
- Basic pain relievers, fever reducers, upset stomach tablets etc.
- Small bottle of hand sanitizer.
- Baby wipes.
- I always carry a couple of energy or meal replacement bars in my bag. If nothing else, I may have to work through lunch and need a snack.
- Some people will toss a freeze-dried meal or MRE if they have room. Personally, I don’t.
- A small pack of hard candy.
- I personally prefer a headlamp at this stage. You can use a headlamp as a flashlight; you can’t use a flashlight as a headlamp.
- If you don’t go the headlamp route, choose a higher quality flashlight than tier one.
- Extra batteries. On the subject of batteries, do your best to acquire electronic items that use the same size of battery.
- Another keychain light. I have one attached to the inside of my bag to aid in finding items inside in low-light situations.
- Some people carry chemical light sticks in their EDC bag. I have found battery operated light sticks that also have a small flashlight in one end I prefer to carry.
- I keep a packable rain jacket at all times and depending on the weather a packable pair of rain pants. Remember, your clothing is your first form of shelter.
- I also keep a couple of “survival” blankets in my bag.
- I keep a couple of contractor style garbage bags as well.
- I have a stainless steel water bottle that stays in my pack at all times. If I am traveling longer than my normal commute, I will toss in a small collapsible water container.
- Ziploc bags.
- Two-part chemical water purifier.
- Filtering drinking straw.
- Toss in a couple of standard coffee filters to filter sediment if needed.
Now, bear in mind, my EDC bag is not for long-term survival. I feel like I could sustain myself for several days if I needed to with the contents of my pack. However, that is not its intended use. All of the tiers are designed to sustain you until you can “make it” to the next tier.
My EDC bag is the same bag I use for school every day. Granted I cannot carry a weapon or ammunition into the school building. My point is you don’t want all of your Tier Two items to be so big and bulky that you can’t comfortably carry them. All of this stuff is in addition to my school books and papers and tablet. For those of you that are curious, I prefer a messenger style bag. But, again, whatever works for you and is the most comfortable.
TIER THREE: Larger rucksack or backpack
A lot of people would call this the 72 hour kit. I feel that this is a bit of a misnomer. Granted, 72 hours is a good figure for most people to shoot for. However, I feel that in this stage of the game, you should be able to carry enough to survive indefinitely.
- Quality fixed blade knife. If you want you can double up from tier two. Depends on your requirements. Remember, two is one, one is none.
- Small quality folding shovel.
- Quality hatchet.
- Small machete. If you feel that your knife is up to the task of clearing brush, no need for one. Also, if you are in a true bug out situation where people could be looking for you, you don’t want to clear a highway through the brush.
- Some type of saw or saw blades. There are some nice pocket chain saws on the market now. Or you could carry blades and fashion your own handle or frame.
- Tools for forced entry if warranted. Pry bars, bolt cutters, etc.
- Tool kit. Depends on your location and environment. At the bare minimum carry enough tools to repair anything that you are depending on in a survival situation.
- Cell Phone/Communications
- Depending on the level of the disaster cell phones may or may or may not be working.
- Again, depending on your location and abilities, depends on the type of communications you should carry.
- One thing I have not seen widely talked about is two way radios. Obviously this would be if more than one person is in your party. However, now you start talking about batteries and chargers.
- At least 100 feet of 550 cord.
- Depending on your environment, climbing rope, harness and gear may be warranted.
- Tape, electrical and duct.
- Zip ties, various sizes
- Wire, picture wire.
- Carabiners, various sizes.
- Cheap lighter.
- Camp stove. Small, lightweight, portable. A lot of good information about this out there. Pay special attention to the type of fuel that the stove you select uses.
This depends on the type of situation you are in. I will list the types of firearms I would have, not necessarily carry, and reasons why. If this is a true bug out situation obviously the adults in your party could carry at least one, more than likely two, long guns.
- We have already discussed a handgun.
- “Modern Sporting Rifle”. Be it an AR based platform, an AK-47, Mini-14 etc. I personally like the AR platform. However, A’s can be a bit finicky if not properly cleaned and maintained. Something you may not be able to do well in a TEOTWAWKI situation. So, I would grab an AK-47. Whatever your budget and preference lead you to.
- .22 caliber rifle. There are many options, I personally recommend the Ruger 10-22. There are several collapsible stocks available. This is for hunting small game.
- Home defense shotgun. I would suggest a 12 gauge. The options and setups are endless. You can go as mild or as wild as your budget and imagination allow. This is not something I would necessarily always grab. However, this is something I feel that no home should be without. The sound of a shell racking into the chamber of a pump shotgun is a sound that will deter most people without even firing a shot.
- Extra magazines and ammunition.
- More advanced first aid kit. There are pre-made ones on the market or come up with your own.
- Quick clotting agent.
- EMT Shears.
- Pain relievers, fever reducers, upset stomach pills, etc.
- A week’s supply of any prescription medications.
- Any supply of antibiotics or narcotics that you can procure.
- Knowledge of natural/herbal remedies. Here is a great area where knowledge can help you a lot longer than supplies can.
- If you want to put in a three day supply of freeze-dried meals or MRE’s. Go for it. But here is where procuring your own food will come in handy.
- I would suggest some type of mess style kit for cooking. Again, your choice.
- Fishing kit. Fishing line, assortment of hooks, sinkers and artificial bait if desired.
- Fishing “yo-yo” traps. Can be set and left alone to catch fish while you are doing some other task. I feel these are a necessity. They are light and take up little room.
- Snare kit. I would suggest several pre-made snares and supplies to create more.
- Traps. Connibear style traps, an assortment of sizes. 4-6 is all you should need.
- Frog gigs. Could also be used for spearing fish, depending on your location.
- You also have a firearm for taking small or large game.
- Knowledge of wild edibles in your area or bug out location.
- Again, I would suggest a headlamp and extra batteries.
- Use your discretion for what else you may want/need.
- Two changes of clothes. One for warm weather and one for cool/cold weather. Again depending on your environment.
- I would suggest at least 3 pair of underwear and 6 pair of socks.
- Packable rain gear.
- Quality bivy style shelter or tarp.
- Quality sleeping bag. Again, do some research. See what fits your needs and budget.
- Sleeping pad if wanted.
- Possibly a pocket style hammock.
- Stainless steel water bottle.
- Chemical water treatment.
- Water filter/purifier. Again, look at your budget and needs. There are several nice options out there.
- Coffee filters for straining out sediment.
- Collapsible water storage.
TIER FOUR: Long term preparedness.
Even though this is the largest of all the tiers, I will probably go into the least amount of detail. There are many great sources of information concerning long term preparedness, SurvivalBlog.com being one of the best, if not the best, in my opinion.
- Obviously any blade or tool previously discussed. Except full size versions.
- An ax, saws, shovels, garden hoes, rakes, etc.
- Possibly a plow, seeder, etc, for planting a garden.
- Variety of hand tools.
- Automotive tools, carpentry tools, etc.
- Sewing machine, needles, thread, clothing patterns, etc.
- Begin thinking of ways you can use your tools and knowledge to develop a skill that can be used for trade or barter.
- Short wave radios, ham radios, etc.
- Two way radios.
- Large amounts of any cordage or supplies under cordage already discussed.
- Cast iron stove.
- Begin thinking now about how you will be heating your home in the winter. Think about how you will be cooking your meals. Also, think about how you will get fuel for your fire.
- We discussed in tier three the types of firearms I felt were needed.
- Begin thinking about amount of ammo you can and are willing to stockpile.
- Begin thinking about reloading your own ammunition. Begin thinking about stockpiling supplies. This can be turned into great bartering items.
- First Aid
- Begin developing a large first aid supply. Think about what you will need to do without a doctor present. Suture kits, surgical kit, trauma kit, etc. There will be no running to the emergency room.
- Begin thinking about dental supplies. Again, there will possibly be no dentists to go to.
- Again, knowledge is key in this situation. There are some good books about this type of thing. Take a first aid class, learn CPR. Learn as much as you possibly can.
- Study about and begin stockpiling medications.
- There are many more articles to be written and read on this subject alone.
- Start developing a small reserve of foods that you eat on a regular basis that have a long shelf life. Start with a week; go to a month, then three months, then a year, then longer.
- Begin thinking now about storage. A year’s supply of food for your family will take up a considerable amount of space.
- Expand on the amount of items you have from tier three. Increase the number of traps and snares you have.
- Think about obtaining a variety of seeds to plant in your garden.
- Again, there is a vast amount of information to be found on this subject alone. The main thing I want you to understand is this is doable, on any income. Start small and work your way up to larger quantities.
- Do not get yourself into a financial burden by going out and buying a year’s supply of food at one time.
- Begin obtaining lanterns, fuel, mantles, etc.
- Begin thinking about candles and candle making.
- If you are so inclined, begin thinking about solar panels for your home or shelter location.
- Begin making those small repairs to your home. Things that may be fairly quickly and easily fixed now may not be so easily fixed later. I’m not talking kitchen remodeling; I’m talking leaky faucets, broken windows, drafty doors, etc.
- Think about having a metal roof installed if you don’t have one already.
- This is the time to think about a secondary survival location. A remote, rural location. Think of this as an investment. It could be used now as a vacation spot. Use it later as a retirement home.
- Begin storing water. Think not only about drinking, but also cooking and cleaning.
- Again, start small. Begin with a few days worth; then weeks and months.
- Start thinking about long-term procurement and storage. Gutters that empty into water storage, etc. Think also about purification on a large scale.
- Miscellaneous Things to Thing About
- Sit down and make a list of normal, everyday things that you do around your house, cleaning, washing, “personal” business, entertainment, etc.
- These are activities that require items that you will not be able to run down to the store to get.
- Toiletries. Soap, shampoo, toothpaste, toilet paper, razors, shaving cream, feminine hygiene, etc.
- Cleaning. Bleach, disinfectant, dish soap, laundry detergent, etc.
- Entertainment. Cards, board games, puzzles, books, etc.
- Think about large quantity storage of fuel; for cooking, heating, anything with an internal combustion engine, etc.
Again, I have very briefly touched on long term preparedness. There are numerous articles and books on long term preparedness. Read them. This is meant merely as a primer to get you thinking about long term survival.
I hope you use this article as it was meant; to give you some basic information on survival and get you thinking about survival situations. Remember to develop your skills, knowledge and abilities over the amount of tools and supplies you have. I cannot stress this enough. Read, listen to others, take classes, and always be open to new ideas and opinions. You will find things that will work for you; and just as importantly, you will find things that will not work for you.
Take the time to use the skills and tools you acquire. Go camping, use primitive methods to start a fire, gather food and water, cook over an open flame. Once you think you are ready to test your preparedness, turn the breaker off to your house, and turn off the gas main and water main. Do this for a weekend. You will quickly find your shortcomings and deficiencies. You will also find the things that you have done well on.