Contrary to what a lot of people think, the most important thing you need to survive a disaster is water. The body can go weeks without food but only a few days without water. And once you start getting dehydrated, there goes your energy levels, your clear-headedness, and your ability to make rational decisions. You will need this gear to ensure your supply of water:
When I started putting together my first survival kit, I just collected whatever weird stuff I could find—like tablets that would protect my thyroid from nuclear fallout. My mindset changed when my first daughter was born. I realized I needed a more practical end-of-the-world plan, with equipment that would be useful for things that might actually happen. Nuclear war is probably not in store for 2018, and if it is, I’ll just open a window. I don’t want to live through that.
And, of course, people aren't going to stop wanting to get drunk just because they can't pop over to the corner bodega for a six pack whenever the urge strikes. Portability and long shelf-life make liquor of all types a valuable trade good -- people will kill to get a taste of the delicious bottom-shelf leftovers from your local dive bar when their only other option is the equivalent of prison wine.
Still, there’s quite a bit of overlap between the two. “There are preppers that are homesteaders, and there are homesteaders that are preppers,” says Levy, who identifies more as a straight-ahead prepper. “If there’s any difference, it’s just a difference in the environment in which we live. If there’s commonality, [it’s that] we still all have this real need to be self-sufficient and not dependent upon others, no matter what happens.”
For ideas, take a look at 12 Months of Prepping: One Month at a Time. Here you will find links to articles that take you though the process of gathering what you need in terms of supplies, gear, tasks, and skills to set you on a positive path of preparedness. It may not seem like a lot, but at the end of the year you will will be better prepared than 95% of your neighbors.
Another key difference is that the preppers didn't have any specific expectations for a particular disaster that's likely to happen. Some of them lived in flood-prone areas but would invariably mention additional fears like terrorism or outbreaks of new diseases. And for many of them, those risks didn't produce a sense that disaster was inevitable. Preparing was more a just-in-case activity. As Mills concluded, "Their concerns tend to emerge in response to numerous disaster risks that are widely reported and recognized in wider American culture."
For my stockpile, I use several Aqua-Tainers with categorical labels marked on them for drinking water, hygiene water (dishes and showering), toilet water and garden water. My priority is obviously drinking water, but any dishwater I have I reuse as toilet water. While it might seem overkill, keeping an eye on your stockpiles is good practice to get an idea of how much your daily consumption rate is, and where you can find ways to re-use or use less water.
Why not take it a step further and think, if you were in a flood, earthquake, or some other disaster or SHTF scenario where supply routes were cut off, and clean drinking water was not available, how would you try to mimic normal life and keep your modern comforts, let alone survive without relying on running taps, full grocery aisles, and electricity.
What’s on the list depends on which faction of preparedness you practice, pre-Y2K prepper and Seventh-day Adventist Church pastor Craig Wiles tells me. There are preppers, who anticipate an event like an ice storm or an EMP; there are survivalists, who arm themselves to face an enemy like a tyrannical government; and there are homesteaders, who grow their own food and practice self-sufficiency.
I confess that I can go for days eating the same meal of baked potatoes over and over again. That said, most people need and want variety. This is especially true for children, the elderly and the infirm who may already be picky eaters. Plus, you need a variety of foods items in order to get a full complement of nutritional value from your meals.
When the storm of the century is heading your way, know that it is time to evacuate. Load up your vehicle and go. As much as you feel that you are better off in your own home, if the authorities tell you to leave – and even if they do not – get out of harm’s way as a precautionary measure. Do so while you still have the ability to load up your vehicle with supplies and fill the tank with gas.
Firearms instructor and survivalist Colonel Jeff Cooper wrote on hardening retreats against small arms fire. In an article titled "Notes on Tactical Residential Architecture" in Issue #30 of P.S. Letter (April, 1982), Cooper suggested using the "Vauban Principle", whereby projecting bastion corners would prevent miscreants from being able to approach a retreat's exterior walls in any blind spots. Corners with this simplified implementation of a Vauban Star are now called "Cooper Corners" by James Wesley Rawles, in honor of Jeff Cooper. Depending on the size of the group needing shelter, design elements of traditional European castle architecture, as well as Chinese Fujian Tulou and Mexican walled courtyard houses have been suggested for survival retreats.
It’s impossible to carry all the food you will need for a week unless you’re eating very high density proteins like nuts. Nuts and dried meat are two of the easiest off-the-cuff meals. Canned food has a lot of water that is wasted during the cooking process. Stay away from heavily flavored or salted nuts. The amount of salt present in the unsalted nut mixes is still sufficient enough to replace electrolytes.