Prep for What’s Likely, not What’s Possible


When my family lived in Phoenix, we didn’t have much to worry about. The Phoenix area is remarkably free from natural disasters: There are no earthquakes worth mentioning, no forest fires, no tornadoes, no hurricanes, no blizzards. Life there was pretty good, right up to the point when the power goes out and the water stops, at which point, everyone there is going to die.

That’s not the sort of thing you can prep for, aside from slapping on a hockey mask and going full Rockatansky.

Now that I life in Florida, though, things have changed. There’s everyday disasters to worry about here, such as tornadoes, hurricanes, flooding, and all manner of other mishaps. Before that, growing up in western Canada, we learned to keep blankets, sand, and a shovel in the trunk of our car, because blizzards happen.

That’s all “prepping” really is, or rather should be. It’s being able to take care of yourself and your loved ones for a given amount of time, without the use of society’s existing infrastructure,

What things are needed to accomplish this task will vary with where you live. When I lived in Phoenix, I had two hydration bladders within easy reach because I couldn’t count on finding water nearby (or anywhere, actually). Here in Florida, water is not a problem (although I still have a filter straw near me), but I do have a machete in the trunk.

I like a layered approach to this sort of thing. I most always have, on my person, a Photon Micro flashlight, a CRKT knife, a Leatherman Multitool, and my phone, which has apps for storm alerts and an emergency radio frequency monitor. Near me (not always with me) is a small bag that has everything I need to get along for 24 hours outside of the home or office. Finally, I have that object of so much Internet chatter, the bug-out bag.

There are plenty of pre-packaged “survival” bug-out bags out there, some good, some bad. If you’re going the pre-packaged route, I really like Echo Sigma gear because they use the brands I’d use if I started from scratch. Yes, their stuff is a little more expensive than other pre-packed kits, but the items in their packs are high-quality, name-brand items, not dollar-store knockoffs.

Creating a bug-out bag from scratch is another matter. There is terabyte upon terabyte on the Internet devoted to the idea of what makes a good bug-out bag. (Here’s mine.) Making a good bug-out bag is a personal process, though. Everyone  will arrive at roughly the same point, but they’ll get there by following different paths. In general, a bug-out bag should have:

  • A good, comfortable bag to carry everything in;
  • At least one way to get a fire going, like a lighter or matches or flint;*
  • Water, and some way of making more drinking water;
  • At least one flashlight, along with extra batteries;
  • Some form of shelter. A mylar blanket or two, at the very least;
  • A first-aid kit, and ideally, also a trauma kit;
  • A knife, and preferably other tools as well;
  • Paracord and duct tape for the improvised building of … stuff. All kinds of stuff;
  • At least one signalling device for rescuers, like a whistle or mirror or flare;
  • Regional-specific items such as dust masks, cold-weather clothing, extra water or the afore-mentioned machete;**
  • The little things that make life worth living, like sanitation supplies, grooming items, coffee.***

All this stuff is not going to do you much good if it’s at home when disaster strikes, so plan accordingly. Also keep in mind that there are man-made disasters as well as natural ones, so having something to fight off the planet’s apex predator (man) might not be a bad idea to have near you when most of society temporarily breaks down.

It’s interesting to note that the most useful thing I’ve carried around in my trunk these last few years hasn’t been an AR-15 rifle or my bug-out bag, it’s been a set of jumper cables. After all, being prepared means being able to deal with all of life’s ups and down, no matter how large and small.

* Make sure you know how to use it, as it’s trickier than it looks.
** Besides that, machetes are cool.
*** Yes, you can live without coffee, but why would you want to?


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  1. CB Toder aka Mama Toad Member
    CB Toder aka Mama Toad

    I’m enjoying your helpful and informative series; thank you.

    May I add an old-school tip? Papa Toad and I traveled cross-country for two months with all our earthly goods once and realized that if we lost our keys or got locked out of our car, we’d be screwed, so we used wire twine to affix a spare car key to the body of our car.

    Later that year, our campsite was burglarized and our car keys stolen. This was pre-cell phones, so we could have been stuck in the wilderness, but fortunately we had the spare keys wired on our car. (We were hiking on foot at the Oregon Dunes and stepped away from our site to watch the sunset when two dune trucks roared in, grabbed our stuff, and roared out.)

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  2. Larry3435 Member

    Don’t forget the Scotch.  Yet another reason to drink Scotch instead of beer – it’s much easier to lay in a long-term supply.

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  3. Austin Murrey Member
    Austin Murrey

    Kevin, do you still like the Keltec SU-16C?

    Larry3435:Don’t forget the Scotch. Yet another reason to drink Scotch instead of beer – it’s much easier to lay in a long-term supply.

    Knowing how to brew beer is an essential component of my post-collapse survival strategy.

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  4. Front Seat Cat Member
    Front Seat Cat

    We had terribly high winds and storms here in Florida early in the week. There was damage in various places, but what was more shocking was that same storm system headed up the East Coast devastating parts of the Carolinas, Virginia and even Amish country in PA! This is very unusual. especially in February. An F2 Tornado in Pennsylvania? The El Nino is the strongest ever recorded. We’ve had very windy conditions since January. I hope its not an indication of a strong hurricane season, but it goes to show that the unusual can happen anywhere – good post.

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  5. Kevin Creighton Contributor
    Kevin Creighton

    Austin Murrey: Kevin, do you still like the Keltec SU-16C?

    I do, although I’m starting to play around with the idea of a pistol-caliber AR pistol as a “trunk gun”.

    If I had the $$$, I *really* like the Sig Sauer MCX for this sort of thing. I think it represents the future of the AR platform.

    Another “bug out” rifle that doesn’t get the love it deserves is the KelTec CMR-30. It’s unbelievably light (4.5lbs), holds 30 rounds, and the mags are compatible with KelTec’s PMR-30 pistol. It’s not the right rifle for hunting grizzlies, but it will extend the fight off your front porch and you’ll have it with you most of the time, which is exactly what you want in this sort of thing.

    Also, my friend Michael Bane likes the Browning BLR in .223 for this task, because a lever gun is legal pretty much everywhere, and the .223 round gives him a good balance of oomph and recoil.

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  6. Austin Murrey Member
    Austin Murrey

    Kevin Creighton: If I had the $$$, I *really* like the Sig Sauer MCX for this sort of thing. I think it represents the future of the AR platform.

    Oof, that’s a little pricy. I’ve been looking at getting a trunk gun but I have a hatchback with a sort of hidden cubby hole beneath the flooring so I need something that’s shorter than my AR.

    I’d looked at the SU-16C as an option for that reason, so it’s good to know there’s still some love there.

    Why are you thinking of shifting from .233 to 9mm/.40/.45 if you don’t mind me asking?

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  7. Look Away Member
    Look Away

    Very important to being able to “create” potable water. There are some fantastic portable filtration systems, drinking straws and water pills for very little investment. Don’t forget a collapsible water bucket, water container and collapsible cup.

    Additionally consider portable solar panels kits to recharge radios, cellphones, portable fans, etc.

    Airplane liquor bottles and boxes of .22 LR will make the best barter goods in the early stages.

    As the British Security Services say, We are 9 meals from anarchy.

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  8. Kevin Creighton Contributor
    Kevin Creighton

    Austin Murrey: Why are you thinking of shifting from .233 to 9mm/.40/.45 if you don’t mind me asking?

    If I’m honest, it has more to do with wanting to shoot pistol-caliber matches than most anything else, and I like to compete with guns that sorta resemble the ones I use. I know I can engage targets out to 200 yards with a 9mm carbine, and that’s around the max distance for the SU-16 as well.

    Plus, I just like ’em.  :D

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