Is Recession Preparing a New Breed of Survivalist?

Yahoo ran an interesting article this morning indicating a rise in the number of survivalist communities cropping up around the country. I have been wondering myself how much of the recent energy crisis is causing people to do things like stockpile food and water, grow their own vegetables, etc. Could it be that there are many people out there stockpiling and their increased buying has caused food prices to increase? It’s an interesting theory, but I believe increased food prices have more to do with rising fuel prices as cost-to-market costs have increased and grocers are simply passing those increases along to the consumer. A recent stroll through the camping section of Wal-Mart did give me pause – what kinds of things are prudent to have on hand in the event of a worldwide shortage of food and/or fuel?

Survivalist in Training

I’ve been interested in survival stories since I was a kid, which is funny considering I grew up in a city. Maybe that’s why the idea of living off the land appealed to me. My grandfather and I frequently took camping trips along the Blue Ridge Parkway and around the Smoky Mountains. Looking back, some of the best times we had were when we stayed at campgrounds without electricity hookups, because it forced us to use what we had to get by. My grandfather was well-prepared with a camp stove and lanterns (which ran off propane), and when the sun went to bed we usually did along with it. We played cards for entertainment, and in the absence of televisions, games, etc. we shared many great conversations.

Survivalist in the Neighborhood

I have a neighbor who recently converted his entire side yard into a vegetable garden. I don’t know his motivation, but I couldn’t help but wonder if he was a sort of “urban survivalist,” planning to grow his own food to live off in an emergency. Maybe he is simply hedging against higher food prices. Either way, he is growing an impressive amount of food. We recently upsized our square foot garden into an in-ground garden in our backyard. By no means could we live off the harvest at this point, but we may have a few veggies to supplement summer salads. Perhaps I need to follow my neighbor’s trend, and borrow his tiller!

Survival Gear

Having a few basic necessities on hand makes a lot of sense, not only in the face of recession, but as a practical homeowner who at times may face natural disasters, power outages, etc. Within this post, I’m going to start a list of items to have on hand in the event of an emergency – sort of a home emergency kit. Over time, the list will grow much larger as I remember new items, or as readers share their lists with me. We keep our home emergency kit in an old school backpack (the contents are stored in gallon-sized Ziploc bags to make them waterproof) and stored high in a closet. In the event of an emergency we could easily grab it and have all the smaller contents close by.

  1. Gallon of water per person, per day of required survival. A general rule I’ve read from others is to keep about three gallons of water on hand per person. Hopefully, in a small scale disaster water treatment facilities could make necessary repairs of diversions to get water back online within a few days.
  2. Water purification tablets. Pickup a few of these at a camping store. In the event you can’t generate heat and boil water these tablets may provide the only way to make drinking water safe.
  3. Can opener. I sort of chuckled as I wrote this, because we always hear jokes of people being stranded with canned goods and no can opener. Think of all the things in your pantry – how would you open them without a can opener? I guess you could resort to smashing them against a sharp object, but save yourself some time and effort by picking up an inexpensive, manual can opener.
  4. Weather radio. Just a couple weeks ago tornadoes ripped through the town just to our north, knocking out power, and taking several radio stations down. Without a battery-operated weather radio tuned to the NOAA emergency station you would have no way of knowing what was going on outside your home.
  5. Spare container of propane for gas grills. Grilling out is kind of a luxury now, but in the event of losing power for several days it may be the only way to heat food.
  6. Ramen noodles. A cheap way to store several days worth of carbs and necessary fats. Add a little water and you have a meal in a real crunch. Hey, if college kids can live off these things, you could in a pinch.
  7. Gatorade. In a hot summer I can go through gallons of Gatorade when working outdoors. In an emergency situation, Gatorade can be a great way to replenish salts and electrolytes robbed by dehydration.
  8. Waterproof matches. Along with a torch lighter or two, waterproof matches may be your best bet for lighting candles, fires or the grill mentioned above.
  9. Whistle. Whistles are great to carry along on hikes because they can make a lot of noise without wasting a lot of energy. They are also good to keep at home in case of a structural collapse as a way of communicating with rescuers.
  10. Swiss army knife. Many of these have multiple tools such as screw drivers, corkscrews and bottle opener, in addition to a variety of cutting tools.
  11. Flashlights. Every home should have a few flashlights and spare batteries.
  12. Gun and backup ammunition. Gun-control advocates won’t like this one, but I believe in our right to bear arms. Make them safe and out of reach of kids if you have them. In the event of a disaster you may be forced to defend your food and other supplies from those who failed to prepare wisely. It is a scary proposition, but unfortunately it is human nature – survival of the fittest.
  13. First aid kit. Every home should have a well-stocked first aid kit. Most of the larger retail stores sell pre-packaged first aid kits, but you may find you can stock your own cheaper. I like to add to ours occasionally by picking up trial-size items at Wal-Mart or Target. It’s nice to toss a small bottle of aspirin or acetaminophen in the kit without having to buy 100 tablets in larger packaging.
  14. Dust masks. I have a box of these on hand anyway to help fight allergies while mowing our lawn. They also offer protection from dust and debris in the event of a structural collapse. We all remember the images of 9/11 when the towers collapsed, spreading toxic dust hundreds of feet.
  15. Prescriptions. It’s a good idea to never let everyday prescription supplies run low. Those taking medicines such as insulin or blood pressure medication should always keep a fresh supply on hand in the event they are unable to venture out for refills.
  16. Hand sanitizer. Sanitizing wipes or squirt bottles are an effective way to clean hands before eating without using up precious drinking water. Again, keep out of the reach of children as sanitizers are toxic if ingested.
  17. Vitamins. Vitamins may help supplement important nutrients missing from an emergency food diet, such as iron and potassium. For purposes of an emergency kit I recommend a bottle of generic Sam’s Club vitamins or similar because a large quantity can be purchased dirt cheap. Look for vitamins that can be halved and given to children making it unnecessary to purchase separate bottles.
  18. Protein bars. Inexpensive way to store individually wrapped servings of protein.
  19. Antibiotic cream. To ward off infection to cuts and scrapes.
  20. Gallon Ziploc bags. We store the contents of our emergency kit in Ziploc bags, but we also store a few extras in case we need to separate things during an emergency, or to store opened food, etc.
  21. Duct tape. Can be used to seal off windows and doors in the event of a biological attack. (submitted by Gretchen)
  22. Surgical mask. Offers some protection against the spread of airborne biological agents. (submitted by Gretchen)
  23. Books to read, a deck of cards, a travel game, and note book and pen. All good ways to pass the time if forced to “wait it out.” (submitted by Greg)
  24. A wad of small bills, mostly ones and fives. Stores would soon run out of change and most vending machines only take small bills. (submitted by Greg)
  25. Waterproof copies of legal documents.  Keep copies of birth certificates and other personal papers in a Ziploc bag. (submitted by Jenni)
  26. Include a book about edible plants.  This is a great idea, and a topic I took great interest in when I first read the SAS Survival Handbook - in fact, I may just pick up a new copy of this excellent book and toss it in the pack. (submitted by lootsdw)
  27. Stockpile seeds for your garden. (submitted by lootsdw)
  28. Don’t forget pet food. I try to have an extra bag on hand for the dogs and when I’ve used up the current bag I rotate and go buy a new backup. Doggies need to eat too! (submitted by castocreations)

Be sure to rotate your food stockpile, water, vitamins and prescriptions so that they are fresh and effective. Most canned goods can easily be stored up to one year, and most dried goods may be consumed up to six months from their purchase date. If no expiration date is present on items, label the date you added them to the emergency kit with a marker so you’ll know when it is time to replace them. I’m not advocating you rush out and buy all these things today (unless you are ready to make a significant investment), simply add a few items from the list to your grocery budget over the next few weeks and begin to build your own family emergency kit.

Ask the Readers: What kinds of things are in your home emergency kits? I’ll add new items to the list and make this a group project.

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photo by: ktylerconk

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