Prepare to survive social and economic collapse under conditions that resemble a Mad Max movie. No laws, No Law enforcement, No public services, No supply chains, and currency devaluation.
An environment of chaos and unpredictability where the only thing between surviving or not is your preparation.
Use the following 26 concepts to prepare you and your family to survive societal collapse caused by national catastrophes, economic collapse, War, Disease, or famine.
Work Towards Self-reliance
When you first start preparing for long-term emergencies like societal collapse, it can be overwhelming.
The easiest way to get started is to write an outline of the general areas you need to prepare for, such as water, food, equipment, and skills.
Your initial focus should be to store Water and Food.
Interested in learning more about Societal Collapse? Check out the Ready Squirrel article, “What Happens When Societies Collapse?”
Stockpile Water: Priority #1 For SHTF
Water is the elixir of life, more important than food, bullets, tactical gear, or any other item you will ultimately need for long-term survival. It really can’t be overstated. Come up with a plan to clean and/or store emergency water.
According to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), You need a minimum of 1 gallon of water per day to survive. Half of that water is for hygiene, and half is for hydration.
To survive the societal collapse, you’re going to need a lot more water than 1 gallon per day per person.
Survival and self-reliance involve dirty labor, including activities like gardening, raising chickens, and processing food. You will need a lot of water to stay clean.
Chemicals are especially hard to get out of groundwater and require a reverse osmosis system. If you Store water when it’s clean, you can use simple methods to clean it like: filtering, boiling or treating with chemicals like bleach, pool shock, or iodine.
For a long-term water supply, catch and store rainwater, take water from freshwater sources like lakes, rivers, and streams, punch water- well or siphon water from a fresh-water pool.
For societal collapse, you need enough water to last an indefinite amount of time.
7 things you will use water for in SHTF
- Sanitation and Hygiene
- Washing Clothes
- Maintaining Gear and Equipment
- Food Preparation
For an in-depth article on emergency water storage, check out the comprehensive Ready Squirrel Article, “How long can you store water: Beginner’s Guide to Survival Water Storage.”
Good Book On Societal Collapse
If you are interested in reading an excellent non-fiction book about societal collapse check out The Gulag Archipelago 1918-1956 by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn. I first heard about this book from Jordan B. Peterson renowned Canadian Psychologist. Solzhenitsyn spent eleven years in labor camps and exile during the Stalinist period in the Soviet Union.
This is a book you won’t forget. If you purchase anything on this Amazon link I get money for beans and bullets with no additional cost to you.
Stockpile Food: Priority #2 For SHTF
Humans can survive without food for about two weeks before they perish or become so lethargic they can’t function—store food to survive.
Short-Term Emergency Food: To get yourself started, stock up on non-perishable canned food and bottled water for FEMA’s suggested 72 Hour Emergency Kit, which includes 2000 calories per day per person and 1 gallon of water per day per person.
Long-term Emergency Food: After setting up short-term food supplies, start working on Bulk food for long-term survival. These types of food have a shelf-life of 30 years if stored properly.
You have a couple of options for storage. Purchase food in #10 cans or store food yourself by learning to use Mylar Bags, Oxygen Absorbers, and 5-gallon food-grade buckets. Following is a list of foods commonly stored for long-term survival.
- White Rice
- Dried Beans
- Hard Grains Like Wheat
- Instant Potatoes
- Dent Corn
- Soy Sauce
- Rolled Oats
- Dehydrated Foods
- Freeze-dried Foods
- Dried Lentils and Split Peas
- Low Fat Powdered Milk
- Powdered Eggs
Prepare a Storage Space For Short and Long-term Food Storage
Storage is a challenge, especially if you are working with a small space. I’m in the process of hanging my clothes in an outdoor shed so I can use my closet to store food. I’m going to make do with what I have. Don’t worry too much about not having perfect space. If you are serious about prepping for hard times, you can find the room.
Storage isn’t complicated but there are a few rules you want to follow.
Avoid storing foods in your garage or outside in a shed. Fluctuations in temperature severely reduce shelf life.
Ideal food storage is cool, dry, clean, pest-free, with good ventilation. Prime temperatures are below 75° F and above freezing.
It may be difficult to get constant temps of 75°, so pick your coolest, darkest location.
Food storage racks or pantry-type shelving can be put just about anywhere. Make them from dimensional lumber or buy Gorilla-type racks. You can also store food under beds, in closets, and inside furniture.
Tip: If your containers are clear, keep them out of direct sunlight to slow food oxidation.
Pick a Bug-out Location And Plan For Shelter
Ideally, your survival location will be out in the country, away from dense populations and main roads. In an SHTF situation, there will be hoards of hungry, desperate people. These desperados will want what you have. Stay hidden; stay alive.
Pick a bug-out location that provides a clean year-round water source, like a lake, river, or pond. Look for areas with abundant wild game, edibles, and trees for building, cooking, and heat.
Choose land close to large preserves, national parks, or other large bodies of protected land that provide ample resources and a lot of extra space. You may not own the land but can use it if things head south.
Other structures like barns, outdoor kitchens, animal pens, blacksmithing, and gardening take up space. Consider this when choosing a bug-out location.
Due Diligence Know about Covenants. HOA, Easements, Mineral & Water Rights, and neighbors before purchasing land for a bug-out location so you can build what you need without added expense or restrictions.
No resources to purchase land? Find a wildland area close to you and start camping and hiking to get familiar with the surroundings. Use this location to bug out in case of an emergency.
Shelter For Societal Collapse
The shelter you build should protect you year-round from the worst type of weather. Basic hiking and camping tents are good for short-term emergencies, but they aren’t optimum for the long haul.
A bug-out shelter doesn’t have to be fancy or cost an arm and a leg. If it keeps you warm, dry, and safe, then it is adequate.
Low on funds, use sweat equity to build structures from natural materials or invest in a garden shed and retrofit it with insulation and a small wood-burning stove. Here are 12 bug-out shelters to consider.
12 Bug-out Shelters:
- Tarp Shelter
- Viking House
- Military Surplus Tent
- RV or Camp Trailer
- Garden or Utility Shed
- Connex Box
- Bushcraft Dugout
Camouflage Your Bug-out Shelter And Location
Imagine an SHTF situation where a prison population escapes after cleaning out the armory and stealing many vehicles. Do you want to stay hidden from the escaped convicts or get in a firefight? Camouflage Your Bug-out space and stay alive.
- Avoid open soil, new roads, and heavy paths. Please do your best to disguise them with natural materials because they give away your location.
- Disguise bug-out shelter excavation with plant materials or camouflage netting. If you have the time, start planting edible landscaping like fruiting trees and bushes.
- Use building materials that blend in like logs, saplings, or wood siding.
- Paint shiny surfaces with flat paint to reduce glare and blend structures with the surroundings.
- Avoid shiny colors and materials that cast a reflection. If you have windows, consider creating wood shudders that can be closed.
- For Brightly colored tents cover with saplings, pine boughs, or tall grasses.
- Right-angles are uncommon in nature. Use netting, natural materials, and plantings to break up unnatural patterns like squares and rectangles.
- If you have antennas for equipment like ham radios or wind turbines, do your best to disguise the outline.
- Camouflage your garden by interplanting with natural vegetation using Permaculture and food-forestry techniques.
Consider Precious Metals
I’m not a huge fan of stocking up on precious metals; instead, buy gear, equipment, and supplies. Better yet, pay a professional to teach you a valuable skillset. You can’t eat or drink bullion, and it won’t keep you safe.
If you decide to hoard gold or silver, Keep in mind an adage, “people will trade items for silver, but they will kill for gold.”
The only use for Gold or silver in an SHTF scenario is to conserve wealth.
What could you buy today for the price of an oz of gold with a spot price of $1,946.14?
- 3,476 lbs of Long-grain White Rice
- 3,742 lbs of Prairie Gold Wheat Berries
- 3,742 lbs of Regular Rolled Oats
- 3 PSA-15 16″ Carbine-length 5.56 M4 Rifles, AR Palmetto State Armory (out of stock)
- 5,405 Rounds of 7.62 x 39 non-corrosive FMJ Wolf Ammo/AK (out of stock)
- 2,510 Rounds of 5.56×45 (AR) 62 Gr FMJ Winchester Ammo (out of stock)
- 465 38 oz cans of Dinty Moore Stew
- 712 12 oz cans of Spam Classic
Cash For Short-term Emergencies
During a societal collapse, currency may lose value quickly, but you still need it short-term. It will get you from point A to Point Z and allow you to purchase emergency items or last-minute fuel.
Gas stations and stores may be “cash only,” because card systems are down.
If you plan for a short-term emergency like a hurricane, you may want to have $1000 set aside to get gas, a hotel room, and buy food.
If setting cash aside for the end of the world as we know it, have enough to get you where you are going.
Grow hundreds of pounds of food on a tiny plot. Focus on perennials like fruiting trees and bushes and perennial vegetables like Egyptian onions and sunchokes.
American colonists planted fruiting trees and bushes before they started building their houses. Most of their hydration came from hard cider, either full-strength or watered down because it was cleaner than the local water sources.
15 Need to Know Concepts Of Survival Gardening
During an SHTF situation, you won’t be able to head down to the local nursery for plant starts or seeds.
Plan to provide all of your garden needs without outside assistance. Here are some general terms that will get you started in planning a survival garden.
Growing Zone Your growing zone tells you which plants are most likely to do well where you live. You want plants that are vigorous in your area, bordering on invasive.
Crop Rotation: Growing different kinds of plants in the same location but in different seasons. This cuts down on pests and can be used to feed the soil naturally.
Plant Propagation: propagation methods make many plants from just one plant, tree, or shrub. You can practice different methods, including plant cuttings, air-layering, division, and seed collecting. Propagating is a good way to create a food forest without spending money.
Bioaccumulating Plants like Comfrey, Black Locusts, and Willows create nitrogen you can feed to your garden by mulching garden beds or planting fruit trees next to them.
Storing and Conserving Seeds: Learn to store seeds from the best tasting, most vigorous plants in your vegetable and flower garden. Use open-pollinated seeds.
Companion Planting: Plant things together that are complimentary. Corn, Beans, and Squash are good examples of this. Each of the 3 plants adds something that makes the group of plants more vigorous.
Perennial Food-Forestry: A low maintenance way of growing fruit and nut trees based on a forest system. A food forest includes perennial vegetables, fruiting shrubs, edible vines, and flowers.
Land Race Gardening: “a traditional method of growing food in which the seeds to be planted next year result from the survival of the fittest in a particular garden in previous years.” Mother Earth News”
Silvopasture: This is a method of raising animals in a food-type forest. It’s an integration technique using animal rotation to improve land and the quality of meat.
Permaculture: A set of design principles based on whole system thinking. Created by Australian Ecologist Bill Mollison.
Vertical Gardening Growing plants up instead of out. Useful if you have limited space.
Mulching: placing plant or biomatter on garden beds and around trees and plants. Feeds plants, improve soil, and maintain ground moisture.
Multiple Fruit Trees: Planted in the same hole, 24″ apart. Used to maximize fruit production in a limited space.
Hugelkultur Mounds and Gardening: a raised garden bed built with logs, sticks, and other biomass. Hugelkultur mounds are excellent in areas where you can’t water regularly. They can be used in conjunction with mulch.
Korean Natural Farming uses micro-organisms in the soil and other natural materials to increase soil fertility, increase earthworm populations, and the soil’s overall health.
Suppose you have the skills to bring fallow land to the point of food production. You become a valuable resource for the unprepared around you. A labor force willing to work for food will bring the entire prepper community to a higher survival level.
Practice specialty skills related to gardening and fruit production like using a still to make alcohol, baking bread, making hard cider, or mead and honey from beekeeping.
Tobacco: Consider farming a small amount of tobacco for barter. Tobacco can also be used to keep certain pests away from your food plants.
For a comprehensive article discussing the best plants for a survival garden check out the Ready Squirrel article, “Best Plants to Grow In An Emergency Garden.” or watch the Youtube video.
Learn Food Preservation Methods
In a societal collapse, you will have to conserve the food you raise or forage. Food may be plentiful in good weather, but you will have to set some aside for tougher seasons like winter.
Types of Food Preservation
- Drying: removing water from food using sunlight. It decreases bacteria and mold and increases shelf-life.
- Fermentation: Used to make hard cider, beer, or fermented foods like Kimchi or Kefir
- Pickling: Preserving food in an acid solution of vinegar or salt
- Water Bath Canning: the method used to process high-acid foods like tomatoes for a longer shelf-life.
- Dry Canning: method of canning grains, beans, and nuts in canning jars and baking
- Pasteurization: Heating foods quickly to kill bacteria
- Smoking: Provides flavor to meats and provides some preservation
- Salt Curing: Using edible salt to cure meats like pork, beef, or fish
Grains, Rice and Beans
Hard grain, rice, and beans are so important for long-term food storage I gave them their own section. If you had to, you could survive on these foods alone for an extended period of time. When stored properly, you’re looking at a 30-year shelf life. Perfection.
If you do nothing for SHTF but store hundreds of pounds of beans, rice, and wheatberries, you are way ahead of the game.
Learn how to store these items in food-grade buckets. Get a hand-crank grain mill, and learn to process wheat berries into flour.
Set yourself up with pots, pans, and possibly an outdoor bread oven that you can make from clay and straw. Start practicing your outdoor cooking skills.
Start raising Chickens, Rabbits, or stock-fish in your pond. Raising large livestock like cows are more complicated and takes a lot more resources than raising chickens. Start small and see if it’s something you want to do.
Eggs are an excellent protein source, and they provide fat, which is hard to come by in a survival situation.
Most Americans have a difficult time slaughtering animals. If this is the case, raise chickens, eat the eggs, raise goats, and use the milk to make dairy products.
Early pioneers built log cabins with three basic tools: a felling ax, a broad-ax, and a carpenters adze. With basic tools, you can build an entire bug-out compound with zero electricity and a little willpower.
16 Essential Tools For Your Bug-Out Base Camp
- Felling Ax
- Broad Ax
- Carpenters Adze
- Crosscut and Rip Saw
- Carpenters Hammer
- Sledge Hammer
- Pinch Bar or Large Digging Bar
- Hand drill and Bits
- Knives of all kinds
- Wood Chisels and Mallet
- Water Proof Tarps of all Shapes and Sizes
- Rope and line
- Fasteners like screws and nails
- Standard and Phillips Screw Drivers
Creating a list of projects is a good way to figure out what tools you need to complete specific survival tasks.
Cooking In SHTF
Cooking for long-term survival requires a fuel source that won’t run out, such as cooking on a campfire or a wood-burning stove.
Store-bought or purchased fuels are good for short-term emergencies, but they are a weak link when you need to cook and boil water for the long-haul.
If you are cooking outdoors, use cast iron pans for cooking directly on hot coals or over direct flame.
A large Dutch oven with a lid is the single best piece of cast iron you can own. Cook just about anything in any style from frying and boiling to baking.
Use the Dutch oven lid, turned upside down, over hot coals to fry fatty meats.
Experiment with how you will cook food when the grid is down. Consider cowboy kitchens, covered outdoor kitchens, wood-fueled ovens, wood-burning stoves and cooktops, tripod cooking over an open campfire, or build a colonial-style outdoor kitchen with a DIY bread oven.
Produce Your Own Fuel or Electricity
For long-term societal collapse, set your survival location up to run on renewable resources like wood. In an SHTF, you won’t be calling for the delivery of propane or fuel oil.
Also, consider Solar, Wind, or Hydroelectricity as off-grid power sources.
Coppice and Pollard Fuel Trees
In Europe, Coppicing trees for firewood and fencing has been done for centuries. Coppicing allows you to treat wood as a renewable resource because you can go back to the tree repeatedly to harvest.
Coppicing certain trees for firewood keeps the tree alive and produces new wood you can cut for fuel.
Not all woods are prime for Coppicing.
9 Best Species for Coppice Forestry:
- Black Locust
- Autumn Olive
Hygiene and Sanitation
Put in a septic system or learn to dig a latrine.
Have enough water on hand to clean and cook.
Learn to make soap from natural materials or hoard soaps.
Consider purchasing products like pool shock that you can easily mix into a bleach solution for sterilizing.
Store extra soap, disinfectants and toilet paper.
If you are working on the rest of this list, you won’t need to worry about exercise, but being physically fit is important for surviving tough conditions.
Gardening, learning bushcraft, using hand-tools, and getting your other supplies in order will be enough exercise, so get started prepping.
Learn Bush-craft Skills
Start camping and practice shelter building, fire starting, and how to carve implements you can use around your homestead or survival location.
Consider old technologies like pole lathes that can be set up on a sapling and used to turn wood bowls and spindles for furniture.
Learn basics knots like the clove hitch, bowline, sheet bend, and the truckers hitch.
With paracord and wood, you can make some pretty cool stuff that will help you survive.
In a truly catastrophic end of the world scenario, you might not have access to a doctor or specialist. It just you and those around you.
Store supplies, get first aid training, and have hard copies of first-aid manuals.
You alone can decide how deep you want to dive into first aid training and supplies.
Some preppers stick with the basic supplies needed to treat everyday injuries, and some go deeper, stocking up to treat trauma.
Talk about a great skill for bartering during the apocalypse. Setting up a small forge isn’t expensive, and you might be the only person around that can make necessary items from iron.
Use a homemade forge so you can repair metal tools and make things like door latches, S hooks, and small fittings.
Get good at blacksmithing and forge axes, knives, froes, hammers, and other wood-working tools. These items can be made from scrap metal.
Prepare to Protect Yourself
The most common rifle for self-defense are versions of the AR-15 because they are accurate, reliable, and simple to use.
The AR is so popular in the United States that it should be pretty easy to barter for ammo and find replacement parts.
.22 Rifle: It’s controversial whether the .22 has a place when it comes to self-defense, but it is an excellent, light-weight caliber for hunting small game. You can carry thousands of rounds in a backpack, and the ammo is readily available.
9mm pistol: Ammo is popular and readily available.
Convertible Single Action Revolver: Some revolvers allow you to change ammo calibers by swapping out cylinders. This might be a good option if you are in a barter situation or scavenging
Shotgun: Versatile, reliable, and simple. Shotguns shells come in all types for different purposes. There are many ammo types, but the most common are Buckshot for hunting foul and Slugs used to hunt deer.
When choosing a firearm for SHTF, consider the weapon’s reliability and how easy it is to field-strip for cleaning.
(Check your local gun-laws before purchasing a firearm.)
Start Bartering Now
Bartering is trading a skill or a supply for something you want or need. This will be an essential skill if society collapses.
The recent collapse in Venezuela is a good example of this. The only way people are getting food is if they Barter for it.
Look in your closet or garage for something you don’t use anymore. Put the item on craigslist or Facebook and trade it for something you will use or want.
Take an inexpensive item and barter for maximum profit. Keep bartering and see how high you can get on the value list.
9 Items Bartered For During SHTF:
- Food: Sugar, Powdered Milk, Rice, Beans
- Hygiene Items: Razors, Soap, Shampoo
- Flashlight, Batteries, Candles, Matches
- Coffee, Tea, Alcohol
- Skills: Construction, Plumbing, Nurse, Carpenter, Electrician, Blacksmith, Sewing, Cobbler, Security, and Protection…etc.
Hard Copies of Books and Manuals
Hmm, what was the ratio of bleach to put in a 55-gallon barrel for water sterilization? I’ll look it up on the internet. No, you won’t.
Have hard copies of your survival manuals, how-to books, recipes, conversion tables, etc.
If you learn any of the skills on the list, have a way of looking stuff up that isn’t based on electricity or a battery.
Handcarts and Wheelbarrows
Handcarts and Wheelbarrows make for lighter work. Use them to make gardening, landscaping, feeding animals, or doing other labor that requires moving heavy materials.
Having the means to transport stuff around your compound decreases the amount of time it takes to get a job done, saves on calories burned, and helps you keep from getting injured.
Block and Tackle, Pulley Systems & Winch
Block and tackle are rope and pulleys you use to increase your lifting or pulling force.
You can use a pulley system to lift heavy lumber during construction or drag boulders and other objects that you would not be able to move with just body strength.
Make Lists or A Prepping Journal
My wife is big on lists, and now I am too. Start paying attention to the things you can’t do without in an SHTF situation and put them down on a list or in a prepping journal. Food, supplies, tools, skills, etc.
Putting ideas on a running to-do list will keep you from getting overwhelmed and make you feel in control.
What do you need to get a specific job done? How will you get fresh meat? How will you cook? What equipment do you need to complete the task? What skills do you need?
Your running list clarifies what you need to research, skills you need to learn, and what equipment you need to practice a specific skill-set.
Let’s say you want to fish in a stream or river close to your location, and you think a Caste Net would be effective. You put it on the list. “Purchase Cast net and learn how to use it.”
That sparks another idea; you’ve noticed a lot of crawdads in the stream, so you write down, “Learn how to make and use a crawdad trap.”
This same concept applies to everything you will need to survive. Keep a running list of things you need to supplement or replace in an SHTF situation and work redundancy into your system by having more than one way to complete a task.
I’m not preaching here. But it goes without saying if we want to put ourselves in the best possible situation for SHTF, we have to get off the couch and start moving toward independence and self-sufficiently.