Popular at this particular show were bug-out bags, the vendors tell me, because the casual interloper can purchase a lot of peace of mind all at once. For $449, Lenexa, Kansas retailer Game Plan Experts sells a bag with waterproof matches, a flint fire-starter, energy bars, utensils, a camp stove, water pouches and filtration, a first-aid kit, masks, a survival whistle, a pry bar, a folding shovel, an emergency blanket, toilet paper, a toothbrush, a hand-crank radio, survival candles and more. For the über paranoid, they’ll find a discreet contractor in your area to dig a hole in your yard and install a doomsday bunker.
In fact, one of the subjects specifically told Mills that "it’s not like on [National Geographic’s] Doomsday Preppers." They weren't preparing for the total collapse of society. They were getting ready to deal with a local collapse of services that might last a few months. It's less Armageddon and more Hurricane Irma—which hadn't hit yet while Mills was doing his interviews but has since suggested that preparing for a couple of months without key services may be badly underestimating needs. Prepper supplies would typically be enough to only hold out that long, and Mills said they often referred to these caches as "more than they'd ever need."
Hopefully, you will never have to use it, but you should have it. A self-defense weapon is a critical part of your prepper gear. Sometimes, just showing it is enough to deter people. Obviously, a firearm is the best choice. But there are other options, such as a crossbow or longbow with arrows, a taser, or a knife. Whatever you choose, be sure you are well-trained and practiced and that you have plenty of ammo.
Five backpacks, which I got at the Good Will, because I am a frugal paranoiac. These are our go bags, one for each person for our family, plus an extra for my husband to keep at work. In his work go bag I also put a blanket, another billion-hour candle, and, in case he has to sleep at work, a comic novel. Something lighthearted, because if he’s sleeping at work I know he’s going to be freaking the fuck out. I considered The Road but decided that was unkind.
During his presentation, Mr. Charles suggested that a well-prepared bug-out bag was only part of the equation; just as important was knowing where to go. “Bugging out will not be easy,” he explained. “It might take three or four hours to get out of the city. If the bridges are blocked, you might have to use a raft to get across the river. Everyone’s situation will be different.”
In both his book Rawles on Retreats and Relocation and in his survivalist novel, Patriots: A Novel of Survival in the Coming Collapse, Rawles describes in great detail retreat groups "upgrading" brick or other masonry houses with steel reinforced window shutters and doors, excavating anti-vehicular ditches, installing warded gate locks, constructing concertina wire obstacles and fougasses, and setting up listening post/observation posts (LP/OPs.) Rawles is a proponent of including a mantrap foyer at survival retreats, an architectural element that he calls a "crushroom".
On a humid day in early August, I traveled to Wild Abundance, a homesteading and primitive-skills school in the rolling green hills of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Founded by Natalie Bogwalker in 2012, the facility in Weaverville, North Carolina, offers courses in gardening, foraging, herbalism, tiny house construction, hide tanning, and any number of practices that might come in handy when living alone in the wilderness. It’s also a functional homestead with a sprawling vegetable garden and a series of charming hobbit-like outbuildings fanned out across a wooded hillside.
There are four top level items that you seriously need to consider when getting started: food, water, shelter and security. There are many sub-items. You're going to want to create lists. Write each of the four items at the top of a blank page. Then start writing down what you think you need to survive in adverse conditions for a specified duration. Over time you will revise your lists and break items out onto their own pages. The exercise in creating the lists is important because we all have different concerns and needs. What is an absolute requirement for me may not even be something you would consider. There are a lot of resources on the internet to help you discover items for your lists.
I keep several five gallon gas cans filled and ready for use. I don’t put any gas stabilizers in them, but I have stabilizers on hand. At the end of each quarter, I fill the cars with the gas from these cans, and go and get fresh. If the SHTF, and it looks like more time would be needed for the gas to keep, then and only then would I add the stabilizers to the gas.
The overall contents of your doomsday supply list will be based very much on what sort of shelter options are on the table, and how well-stocked with food and water such a safe house is. To get through that critical period of fleeing to a safe location, survivalists recommend keeping a "bug-out bag" on standby, with enough supplies to get you through the first 72 hours or so.