A Different List of Top Preparedness/SHTF Items
It seems as though the internet is full of "Top 10 Lists" for emergency preparedness / SHTF items. I don't have actual stats, but I would guess that most of them have about 60-70% "overlap", meaning they all suggest the same core items.
Several of those "core items" would be the first thing anyone with any common sense would think of if they tried to jot down their own list.
Most of the lists I've seen start off with "stored food" and "stored water" as the top items. Seriously? Wouldn't those things occur to most people thinking about preparedness?
This list assumes that the idea of storing some food and water has already occurred to you, and instead suggests some extra ideas for broader use and protection.
Some people are not capable of responsible firearm ownership, or otherwise would not have a mindset to use one for self-defense or hunting. So, I'm not going to make a blanket "buy guns and ammo" recommendation here, with that in mind.
You know your own abilities and mindset better than I do, and if you are comfortable with guns, you don't need an internet article to tell you they might be useful in a bad situation.
One last thing: This list mostly assumes that you have no electricity, motor vehicle use, or cell phone usability. I see lists online that include things like "solar cell phone chargers" and wonder if they realize what "SHTF" could really mean.
If you're going to prepare, prepare for the worst conditions. This list also assumes that leaving your property is not practical or advisable. It is not a "bug-out bag" list, rather it is a "I'm stuck here for quite awhile" list.
OK, here we go:
1) This item is related to food storage, but different than the typical "buy freeze-dried food" recommendation. Learn to can your own food and get a decent pressure canner. A good one that will last a lifetime can be bought for under $100. Why?
Because canned food doesn't require water to prepare, like dehydrated or freeze-dried food does. Water is precious, and you don't want to use your supply just to make your stored food edible. Many things can be canned that you wouldn't think of. I've quartered and canned an entire chicken.
You don't even need a can opener to open what you've canned and the jars can be re-used. Many veggies that are excellent when canned can be bought in bulk quantities very cheaply. If you have a veggie garden, even better. Your canner will pay for itself even if you never have an emergency need.
2) Another item that is very useful for preserving food, as well as items that I'll mention later is a decent vacuum sealer.
These are much better than storing things in zip-loc bags, and if you have boxes of crackers or similar items that go stale in time even if unopened in the original package, putting those items in a vacuum sealed bag will keep them fresh much longer.
Be sure you get a sealer that also vacuum seals canning jars. More on this later in items #9 and #11.
3) This item is related to water, but it assumes you already have enough common sense to have a few days worth of water stored.
In an emergency situation it is quite possible that your tap water works, but for some reason is not safe to drink. Perhaps your property allows safe access to a creek or pond. Regardless, you definitely need to have a quality water filter.
Systems made by Berkey are top-notch and durable, and not that expensive when thought of as a very comforting insurance policy. Use it daily, and keep your stored water for "last resort" use.
4) Assuming you have acquired a water filter, buy a big box of paper cone coffee filters. If you are gathering water from an outside source to be run through a Berkey filter, paper coffee filters are very useful for "pre-filtering" water gathered from a stream or pond.
Eliminating silt and organic matter before putting it through your Berkey will keep it working longer and more efficiently.
5) As stated earlier, we're assuming you will have no electricity. Backup generators are wonderful, but they're also quite expensive and require re-fueling from a scarce alternate source, e.g., gasoline or natural gas.
Due to their need for carbon-based fuel, they need to be operated outside the home, making them vulnerable to theft. And, they're very noisy and draw attention. Let's continue preparing for worst case situations and concede that powering your entire home during an emergency is neither necessary or practical.
Prepare in advance buy replacing your old light bulbs with new LED bulbs. These new bulbs have evolved to the point where they now produce the same soft, warm light as your old bulbs, but instead of requiring 60-100 watts apiece to power, they need less than 10.
This means you can effectively light 2 or 3 rooms with the same power that used to be necessary for a single light bulb. It also means they will save you a lot of money from daily use, even if no emergency situation ever arises.
Another wise move is to keep your frozen food in a chest-style freezer rather than an upright, refrigerator-freezer. Chest-style freezers retain almost all of the inside cold air when opened briefly, unlike uprights.
Even without power, if kept closed, a chest freezer will keep the contents frozen for several days. The more you store in it, the longer it will retain the cold.
NOW.....how to power vital items in your home: Just having the ability to provide a couple of hundred watts for a few hours, or 10-50 watts for longer periods can make a huge difference in your comfort and attitude.
This can be achieved inside, quietly, and with no harmful fumes like CO by using a battery pack and inverter that you charge by pedaling a bicycle.
I know, straight out of Gilligan's Island....but it works.
And as an aside, it gives you a way to get some exercise if you can't go outside. A set-up like that can power several LED-equipped lamps for a few hours, or a chest freezer for a short spurt to keep it cold, or a recharger for small batteries used for radios, flashlights, or music sources.
6) Ok, now.....how to cook with little or no fuel. Here are a couple of items that go together nicely. One is a Sun Oven, a portable solar oven that produces 350 degree heat using only sunlight, if available. The other item is commonly referred to as a "pocket rocket" stove, and can cook effectively using only a few sticks for fuel.
I've found no other solar oven that you can make or buy that will consistently reach 350-375 degrees. I use mine several times a week, and take it on camping trips because of the even, "no-burning" way it cooks.
My meals are noticeably more moist and succulent when cooked gently by the sun. It works with any conventional recipe. I sell the Sun Oven at the lowest published price the manufacturer allows. Mention this article in your order and I'll rebate you $10.
The "pocket rocket" is simple and very effective, using the "chimney effect" to produce near-1000 degree heat from no more than a handful of kindling. Much more efficient than a campfire, and also a "must" for camping trips.
These two items complement each other well. One replaces your kitchen oven, and the other replaces your stove-top burner. Both weigh about 20 lbs and are easy to store, or to take along on picnics and camping trips. Also, both are made to last a lifetime.
7) Most emergency preparedness lists I've seen recommend that you have a portable, battery and/or hand-crank powered radio on hand to listen for news and emergency info bulletins.
I absolutely agree. I will add to that by recommending that you buy a few inexpensive CB walkie-talkies. One is fine if you live alone and have no family or close friends nearby. But if you do have family or trusted friends in a 5-10 mile radius, make sure each has a CB radio.
Don't confuse the little "family-band" radios that are in most discount stores with a CB radio. "Family-band" radios are underpowered and have very short ranges.
You want the maximum 5 watts of power allowed to a CB radio. At the risk of sounding extra-paranoid, I recommend that you and your loved ones/trusted friends meet in advance of an emergency and go over the usage of the walkie-talkies, and also to develop a list of code names and code terms to use when talking, as anyone else with one of these radios can listen in on your conversations.
The Citizens Band (CB) has over 40 channels to communicate over, so agree in advance which channels will be used for various purposes.
Even if you have no one outside your home that you wish to communicate with in an emergency, a CB radio can be a source of information about what's going on around you that is more valuable than public radio. AND, it gives you a way to call for help if needed, and you have no phone or cell service.
8) Batteries are a common recommendation in other lists, and I'll go along with that. However, I'll go a bit further and recommend that you buy a mix of regular and rechargeable batteries. Use the rechargeable ones whenever possible, and keep the regular ones for special needs or "last resort".
Get enough to be able to cycle through the use/recharge needs of each item that you will be using. At a minimum, that means two sets for each item. Of course, implicit in this recommendation is the need to buy a good battery recharger that will accomodate each battery type that you need. You can operate the battery charger using the generator/power pack that I mentioned in #4 above.
9) Hopefully, your home already has a decent first aid kit that includes antibiotic ointment and bandages. Try to take it one step further and ask your doctor about any prescription meds that you or a family member needs. See if you can get an extra refill for emergency storage.
Also, if your doctor seems interested in emergency preparedness, ask him/her about acquiring a small amount of the most versatile antibiotics to keep on hand. One of the last things you want if cut off from medical care is an infection or a bacterial illness. I was lucky enough to get acquainted with a vet near me who was willing and able to get me a small stash of various antibiotics useful for humans.
If you can get a supply, put them in jars labeled with correct dosage and purpose of each. Some antibiotics are for specific purposes.
Now...seal each jar of your meds or antibiotics with the vacuum sealer from #2 above. You want to keep them fresh for a long time, and this is the best way to do that while allowing access to a dose (and then re-sealing).
10) Oh...shit. Yes, I've made the assumption that storing some toilet paper has already occurred to you, which is why this item is so far down on this list. However, this recommendation and the next one take things a step further. Figure out how many rolls your household goes through in whatever period of isolation you are preparing for, and buy twice as much. Keep the extra available for bartering with neighbors for items they may have that you could use.
11) Bartering/trading items was the normal way of getting things you needed before "civilization" advanced to where it is now. A sustained power loss puts us right back in those times of old. Stock up on some things that you may not care about, but others would really want. For example....cigarettes. Even if you don't smoke, buy a few cartons of the most popular brands, take the individual packs out of the carton, and vacuum seal them using the sealer from item #2 above
12) There may be a time during an emergency when you want to attract attention or send a signal to someone in the distance, but you are out of voice range and have no other means of communication. It wouldn't hurt to have something to use as a signal mirror on hand.
I realize these are much more likely to be needed in the wilderness than at home, but why not have one? They require no storage space, and rather than buying a signal mirror at a camping supply store, just use an old audio CD. They reflect light as powerfully as an actual mirror, and even have a hole in the middle to help you aim.
I am a big proponent of collecting items that might be very useful if needed, even if they are unlikely to ever be needed, when they are easy to store and you can get or make one for no cost.
13) There may be times when you are facing an extended power outage, but the telephone system is still up and working. By "telephone system", I mean good old-fashioned land line phone service.....AT&T style.
Most people seem to have switched to cellphones only, or get their traditional phone service supplied as part of their internet/TV service. I recommend that you keep an active land-line account with your traditional phone service, and keep an old, plug-in-the-wall telephone in storage.
If the phone system is up, your land-line phone will work even with no power at your house. The resilience of land-line phone systems during periods of blackouts is really amazing. The cost of a traditional phone line that is local-only and/or pay-per-use can be very low. Consider it to be very cheap insurance. Old plug-in phones can be found in thrift stores for less than the price of a latte.
14) Get an old microwave oven as cheaply as possible. It doesn't matter if it works or not. If you see one that someone has put out for garbage pickup, grab it.
Microwave ovens are designed to keep electromagnetic waves contained inside of them. That also means they can keep what is inside protected from electromagnetic waves coming from the outside, such as from a powerful EMP. Think of your "trash microwave" as a safe storage place for any electronic items you might want to keep safe.
Keep your emergency walkie talkies inside of it until needed. And a spare battery charger. Also keep a couple of calculators, so if there's an EMP you don't have to remember long division to do any needed math.
If you go with the bicycle generator idea from #5 above, try to store at least the inverter in the oven until needed. If you have valuable data on your computer, back it all up to an external hard drive or USB and put that in your protective microwave.
Who knows if, or when you'll ever be able to access it again, but why not secure it? You know, you might want several
There you have it...a list that assumes you have common sense, but are perhaps inexperienced in emergency situations. Even in a most dire situation, like an EMP that fries your electronics, most of the items on this list will be useful.
P.S.: For those of you who live in an area that is vulnerable to volcanic activity or significant forest fires, I recommend keeping on hand a nice supply of paper breathing masks and swimming goggles. Predictions of a massive Yellowstone Cauldera eruption are increasing. Depending on where you live, you might be more vulnerable than you think you are.