Staying alive has become so easy that most everyone can do it. Children manage it all the time. Idiot cats who chase laser pointers until they’re exhausted can do it. You’re probably even doing it right now. And that’s fine for ordinary days, but when extraordinary circumstances arise, staying alive can be a real tough thing to accomplish. You need approximately a gallon of fresh water per day, about 2,000+ calories worth of food, shelter, non-toxic air, and a decent Wi-Fi signal just to keep your head above water. Those aren’t always accessible in a SHTF scenario.
Surviving major disasters, or even personal crises – such as being stranded on a deserted highway in the freezing cold, or at a party where the booze ran out – relies partly on your wits and wiles, and partly on good planning and forethought. While canned food and bottled water will get you a ways, sustainable survival in dour conditions means having gear that will allow you to live off the land, protect yourself, stay warm, and light your way. Though everyone’s needs for outfitting their bug out bag or disaster kit is a little different, most of the items here will be required everyday carry for the apocalypse.
At the very top of things that will keep you alive is good ol’ know-how. Being able to draw on a well of information has saved many more lives than the best gear and gadgets in the world. Having as much information as you can muster at your fingertips will promise to deliver you from death’s clutches and put everything else in your satchel to good use.
Mountaineers and backpackers will tell you that you should have no less than three ways to start a fire at any given moment. Cold kills faster than hunger and thirst, on top of which it’s the best way to keep the literal wolves off your back. Harnessing fire is largely the only reason humanity is anything other than Thanksgiving meat for all the other creatures of the forest. So have this on hand.
Warmth might save your bacon, and turn it into crispy, sizzling deliciousness, but water is going to be the next major concern. You should stock up on ways to purify water, and learn the ways to turn saltwater or dirty stream water into pure and drinkable nectar. Boiling is always a good tactic for sterilizing water, again proving the utility of fire.
Out in the world, exposure is a major killer that our tender flesh isn’t ready to deal with. While the most delicate birds on wing can handle icy chills and biting winds, we’re far too weak to do any such thing. You can carry a tent, but usually a tarp is the best way to make any spot a home.
- Ultimate Survival Base Hex Tarp
- Survive Outdoors Longer Escape Bivvy
- Tennier Military Modular Sleep System
Those who know the rule of threes know that three hours without cover and warmth can kill you. Three days without water is likewise fatal. At the upper end is food, the lack of which will put you into the ground after three weeks. Dense protein gives you long-term energy your body can use, and complex carbs give you something to burn for short-term excursions. You can start with pre-packaged stuff, but devising ways to acquire food in the wild is also a necessity.
Though fire will give you sufficient light when you rest at night, you may need to traverse areas of uneven ground, dimly lit caves, or the interior of unpowered buildings. Carrying a flaming stick for these occasions isn’t practical. Have a few simple ways to make light that can be readily extinguished, for whenever fire isn’t the tool you need.
Your most basic needs have been attended to, which makes it time to get ready for the hard work ahead. A solid knife is self-defense, it’s a way to skin meat, it’s a tool for building stakes for your tent and skewers for your fire. In survival situations, many prefer a combination knife with a serrated and standard edge, but use whatever feels best in your pocket. A strong EDC knife can do the job, with tactical knives being better for keeping you alive.
As in the classic book Hatchet, you can get by in the wilderness with nothing but a hand axe to your name. All those fire-building skills and gear will only get you so far if you can’t keep it going. You can’t always trust there’s going to be fallen wood for your use, and fresh wood is better for fashioning tools.
Getting lost in downtown LA is a hassle. Getting lost in the Yukon territory is a death sentence. A compass, an area map, a GPS system, and various other analog and high-tech components, in addition to the ability to read them, ensures you can get where you’re going, and know where you are.
When plotting a course. the further you can see, the better. Hunting game, staying aware of your surroundings, finding water, shelter, food, or anything else, are all more easily done if you have good visibility. A pair of pocket eagle eyes don’t weigh much, and let you scout an area more thoroughly, preventing a walk straight into danger.
During a true survival situation, old tech is more likely to be helpful than anything new, since it requires less infrastructure to run. Having a hand-crank radio, or one that runs on simple batteries, will allow you to hear what’s happening in the world and where you might be able to seek shelter and supplies. It can also be a companion for the lonely wanderer, which might be all that keeps you sane.
All of your stuff needs to go in a bag, and when you’re out scavenging for berries or loot from the defunct grocery store, you need to put that stuff somewhere. Whether you have a home base or not, get a good, smart satchel, preferably with some MOLLE straps for expanding its utility.
There might be a right tool for every job, but since you won’t know what jobs need doing, you’d better carry as many tools as you can. Here, Leatherman and the One True Swiss Army Knife manufacturer, Victorinox, are going to be your best bets. Deadly reliable and tough as hell, few brands bear their tried-and-true traditions.
A poncho that is also a tarp is typically the best way t stay dry when the weather turns foul, but a waxed canvas jacket isn’t a bad buy either, as it’s fashionable and functional, as well as light and ready to help you carry your EDC load.
Skimping here means death by slow infection. Iodine along with clean bandages are a good start, but outfit yourself with a full kit, and then supplement it as needed. We suggest listening to the Red Cross on what to carry here.
- REI Backpacker Extended First-Aid Kit
- Adventure Medical Kits Ultralight
- Lifeline Trail Light Dayhiker
Cars breakdown, and can cause untold issues. Motorcycles are better, if you’re traversing highways, since they can dodge around traffic snarls. What we suggest is a good bike to suit the terrain your going to be facing. Single speeds or fixies are the easiest, with the fewest parts to give you fits, with mountain bikes offering the best overland movement.