Be prepared. This is the core logic of the survivalist movement. We work to be prepared for a variety of situations, from the common natural disaster to outbreaks of disease to TEOTWAWKI. We conduct thorough research, create organized lists and plans, shop while scrutinizing the fine print, test the products we buy, and then carefully store it all away for possible use in the future. A great deal of control and independence is involved. These steps we take to prepare, at a minimum, provide us with a sense of comfort and security. They can also save lives in an emergency.
But what if the worst happens and we find ourselves without vital supplies? It’s the potentially nightmarish scenario of any survivalist, and it can happen at any time. Some would call it a cruel twist of fate for those of us who have taken the time to prepare to suddenly be without. But it’s a very real possibility we must consider in order to ensure our survival in a time of chaos.
Why would you, as a survivalist, suddenly find yourself without supplies?
1. Looters. We’ve seen it repeatedly throughout history in disaster-stricken parts of the world. People take advantage of a society without rule of law. At first the majority of looters will fall on chain stores and businesses because they’re easy to access and literally advertise exactly what they hold. But as supplies dwindle and desperation increases, people will begin robbing one another of their very means to survive. Don’t fall under the false belief that if you have a gun for security then you’re protected from robbery. Some thieves will rely more on stealth than violence and come quietly in the night, leaving you to awaken to empty storage space and bare cupboards.
2. Damage. In the case of natural disasters such as floods, fires, earthquakes, and tornadoes, all or a portion of your supplies may be rendered useless. Your supplies may also be victim to random gunfire in a society without rule of law (an unseen hole in a water tank, for example) or damaged in your haste to bug out. Perhaps you failed to test a portion of your supplies and in the process of assembly, you break a vital piece of equipment. There are countless ways for supplies to be irreparably damaged in an emergency.
3. Inefficiency. Even with testing directly after purchase, there are times when supplies simply don’t work efficiently enough for their purpose and we’re forced to abandon them. Such can be the case with hot plates and camp stoves, battery-powered appliances, and anything else which requires energy to perform. Perhaps it’s been five or ten years since testing and the efficiency has dwindled enough for the batteries, fuel, or heat to be put to better and more efficient use elsewhere.
4. Breakdown. Breakdown can occur to brand new supplies without a reason why, or due to long-term use years into TEOTWAWKI. This is especially permanent when dealing with electronics and machinery. Hand-crank radios, two-way radios, generators, solar-powered lights, fueled stoves, water purifiers . . . eventually they won’t perform anymore. While we might have the skill to repair items like clothing, bicycles, and roof leaks, few people have the knowledge and tools necessary to repair broken down technology.
5. Charity. Most survivalists take charity into consideration when stocking up on supplies, and as they well should. But what if you’ve helped as many people as you planned for, and people in dire need of your help just keep on coming? This isn’t a question you can answer now, as you aren’t presently staring into the eyes of a starving pregnant woman and her toddler on your doorstep. Just know that there’s the possibility your supplies will be used by more people than you originally anticipated.
6. Duration. Few people who prepare for emergencies, even survivalists, will have enough of every kind of essential item to last five, ten, or twenty years into a societal breakdown. The severity of a situation could increase this problem as far as wounded people and medical supplies, outdoor heat and drinking water, strenuous labor and food, and threat and ammunition. Supplies will run out.
7. Budgets. It costs quite a bit of money to stock up on emergency supplies and to restock expired supplies. Survivalists can only stock up as their budgets allow and don’t typically buy everything they need at once. The pitfall of this necessary pacing is that disasters don’t wait for us to be ready. We all have wish lists. We could only be halfway through them when we find ourselves in the midst of TEOTWAWKI.
8. Oversight. You may overlook something. Right out of the gate there may be something you need that you just don’t have. For example, perhaps you failed to take lumber into consideration and your house becomes damaged. Maybe it’s something even more vital than lumber. All the lists in the world can’t prepare you for this moment, as it will be a shock. But no matter how many times you slap yourself on the forehead for forgetting a particular item, it doesn’t change the fact that you now must go without.
There are other reasons why you may suddenly find yourself without supplies. Perhaps you don’t know how to assemble a survival item no matter how hard you try, such as a four-person tent. Maybe you don’t properly clean your supplies and they become too dirty to use over time, such as a particulate water filter. The lack of one item may cause a chain reaction which makes other supplies useless, such as a safe key and a safe with a gun in it. There are limitless reasons why just having supplies in your possession isn’t enough to survive.
Now that the comfort and security of having supplies is all but gone, allow me to replace it with the knowledge that you can, in fact, survive without them. Supplies are a luxury which make our time during an emergency much more bearable, but luckily for the general populace, they aren’t one hundred percent necessary.
How would you survive with no supplies?
Water: Let’s take a brief look at survival with no stored water and no specific water treatment for purifying water.
If water is still coming out of the tap and the emergency situation hasn’t given you cause to question its quality, you must begin collection immediately, as it could be turned off at any time. Fill the bathtub, all kitchen glasses and bowls, heavy duty boxes lined with garbage bags, the washing machine (just be sure to turn it off when it’s full), anything and everything that can hold water. You can even fill garbage cans for non-potable wash water or plant irrigation. Even if you find out afterwards that the water isn’t deemed safe to drink, depending on the situation it may be non-toxic enough for bathing, or at the very least, useful for flushing the toilet. Cover the filled containers with plastic wrap if you intend to drink it in the future.
If water isn’t coming out of the tap, there are still several places to find clean water in your home and the homes of others. One of the most abundant sources is the standard water heater tank, which may hold anywhere from 25 to 60 gallons of water. To access the water, first turn off power to the tank. This could be a gas valve on the tank or a circuit breaker in a panel depending on your set up. Next, close the valve on the pipe which fills the water tank so that no (possibly contaminated) water can flow into it. Now: there’s a valve near the bottom of the tank where the water can drain. Turn on a hot water knob all the way at a faucet in the house so the water in the tank can drain through the valve at the bottom. If there’s dirt in the water you collect, let the water sit so the dirt settles to the bottom and collect water from the top to drink.
Collecting rainwater is an option for people who live in moist climates, as is collecting ice to melt with body heat for those who live in cold climates. For those who live in hot climates, making use of condensation is a viable option, as the necessary supplies are those found in the average garage. A type of solar still can be created by digging a cone-shaped hole with a diameter of three meters in a sunny spot, placing a clean collection container in the center of the hole, and covering the entire hole with plastic sheeting. Anchor the edges and place a rock in the center of the plastic sheeting just over the collection container. The inverted plastic cone should be deep enough that the condensed water runs down the plastic and into the container, but not quite touching the sides of the hole.
In extreme situations you may also drink your own urine. Urine is around 95% water and five percent non-toxic waste products. To safely drink your own urine, you must be free of bladder health problems, such as urinary tract infections (UTI)s). It’s also best to drink it along with another source of water if possible because of the high sodium content. To drink your own urine, you must first urinate for several seconds to clear the bacteria from the urethra before you begin collection for drinking. You must also drink it immediately; otherwise bacteria will begin to accumulate.
Other sources of water include fruit, certain canned goods like vegetables and tuna, ice cubes, water from your pipes, and even the water in your toilet tank (not the bowl) if you have the means to boil it.
It is important to remember that most water can be used more than once, such as for washing clothes and then again for flushing the toilet. You should also reduce the amount of water your body requires by staying out of the sun and limiting physical activity when possible. But however resourceful or conservative you are with water, nearly all sources of water will eventually run dry. It will then become necessary to move on and seek out new sources in order to survive.
No Stored Water (Review):
- If water is still coming out of the tap, fill anything and everything with water.
- The water heater tank is a prime place to find 25 to 60 gallons of water.
- Make use of your climate by collecting water from outside.
- Drinking your own urine can be an emergency source of water.
- Use your own resourcefulness to think about where more water could be.
- Conserve and recycle the water you have.
Food: Let’s take a brief look at survivalism with no stored food and no specific means to hunt, fish, or grow food.
It’s possible to live for at least three weeks without food. Possible, but not realistic. Going so long without food wouldn’t present a problem if we were in the physical condition of our ancestors, but most people today aren’t healthy enough for such a long fast. The strain on the heart would prove too much for those who are obese and would threaten the lives of those who are overweight. When you also factor in how many people are diabetic, having underlying health problems, and are on medications, we’re talking about hundreds of millions of people who simply can’t fast safely.
Luckily there are several alternatives to going hungry, and one of the best is foraging. There’s a great variety of edible plants, berries, and roots hiding in plain sight and edible raw or cooked. Take the ever so common Dandelion, for example. Every part of the Dandelion is edible, from the yellow flower to the leaves (young, small leaves taste better) to the roots. Earthworms are another source of food, and full of protein. Depending on where you live, you may also have access to Cattails which have edible roots year round, the pine needles of pine trees, the leaves of Plantains, or live (not beached) seaweed.
It’s worth researching now what other edible plants are found in your part of the world in case you need to depend on them as a source of food. Here’s a great link for knowledge on how to test a plant you aren’t sure is edible in a time of survival: http://survivalcache.com/wilderness-survival-edibility-test/.
Berries are another nutritious survival food, although before you dive in, there are some general rules you should know. If the berries are yellow, white, or green, then you should most likely stay away from them. About half of all red berries are edible, and dark colored berries are edible nine times out of ten. Most of us remember picking berries when we were children and can easily spot blackberries, raspberries, huckleberries, salmon berries, and other types of berries. The down side to berries is that they’re seasonal and one of the most easily recognized wild foods, which means in a TEOTWAWKI situation, they may be incredibly scarce.
One of the means to obtain food some people may overlook is teaming up with people who have food to feed you in exchange for work. Most likely the work will be hard labor and the food will be carefully rationed. However, working for food will be much safer than being caught stealing it in a world without courts and juries. Furthermore, working in a group provides benefits which go beyond food, such as protection, companionship, a wider range of knowledge and skills, and a greater chance of long-term survival.
No Stored Food (Review):
- Food isn’t as vital as water. Healthy people can fast for up to three weeks.
- There are edible plants all around us. Take time to research those around you.
- Berries are a nutritious addition to any plant-and-root-based diet.
- Working for food may be a practical option during TEOTWAWKI.
Keeping Warm and Staying Cool
Let’s take a brief look at survival with no means to start a fire and no air conditioning.
Warmth is a vital part of survival. Any emergency which causes a power outage could make staying warm difficult. All long term emergencies will eventually result in loss of power, or at the very least, the need to conserve power sources.
Depending on the emergency, you may need to dry off before donning dry, warm clothing. Clothing that will wick moisture away from your body and dry quickly, such as nylon or polyester, is best for a first layer. Most people who have these fabrics on hand will have them in the form of workout clothing for the gym. For bad outdoor weather, wool stays warm even when wet. Put on as many layers as you need and keep in mind that people can lose up to 75% of heat through their head. So on with those winter caps!
Moving around is an effective way to keep warm and if you’re short on supplies during an emergency, you will be doing plenty of it. But there are several ways in which exerting yourself too much could be dangerous. Aside from expending energy you may not have enough food to restore and injuring yourself due to exhaustion, you may begin to sweat and then get chilled when you stop to rest. Pay attention to your comfort level and peel off layers if you need to. The key is to be warm, but also dry.
Seal off one room of your house, preferably the smallest one. If you live in a two-story home, remember that heat rises and an upstairs room may be easier to keep warm.
Create a “fort” about the size and shape of an igloo, where the heat from your family is trapped in the small dome you’ve created. Blankets draped across chairs will work for the inner shell. Crumpled newspaper or pieces of cardboard should be piled on top and around the shelter for a dense layer of insulation. Crumpled printer paper and posters would also work. The outer shell of the shelter should be as impermeable as possible to keep the heat in and the cold out. It can be created using standard garbage bags, even saran wrap or tin foil, and tape. Don’t forget to seal off the sides. Make sure there are plenty of blankets left to insulate the floor of the shelter.
To keep warm throughout the night, have your family to sleep in this shelter parallel to one another so that body heat is shared. You can take turns sleeping on the outside ends if there are more than two of you.
Keeping cool can also be a life-saving survival skill. It can lessen the amount of water required by your body and keep you from developing heat exhaustion, or worse, heat stroke.
Wearing shorts and a tank top (or simply going without clothing as this may be TEOTWAWKI after all) is a good start to keeping cool. If you’re outside, be sure to protect yourself with sunscreen and be careful to keep the integrity of your skin intact. The best place to be inside is in the lowest room of your house. You can also be outside in the shade, relaxing in the breeze. It’s important to drink water whenever you’re thirsty (if you can) so you don’t become dehydrated. Drenching a scarf in second-use water and then tying it around your neck is an effective way to cool off quickly. Last, who could forget those fold-up manual fans? With a little thought and resourcefulness, you’ll come to find that there are many ways to keep cool without air conditioning.
Keeping Warm and Staying Cool (Review):
- Layer your clothing and keep your head covered.
- Move around, but stay dry.
- Create an insulated igloo shelter in which to sleep with your family.
- When wearing little clothing, protect your skin.
- Stay in the shade when possible.
- Drink as much water as possible.
Keeping Conditions Sanitary: Let’s take a brief look at survivalism with no basic toiletries, showers, trash service, or toilets.
Hygiene is something many of us take for granted. We don’t think twice as we wash our face, brush our teeth, take a shower, or put on clean clothing. We also take for granted how lack of good hygiene can make us sick. Here are some ways to stay clean and sanitary with what you already have in the house.
The Basics: There are several basic rules worthy of review, as we tend to disregard them when we have plenty of hygienic supplies at our disposal. First and foremost, keep your bacteria-covered hands away from your head. Don’t rub or pick your nose, wipe your eyes, pick at your teeth, lick your fingers, or put your fingers in your ears. Second, don’t handle food or drinking water directly with your hands; instead, use clean winter or Nitrile gloves. Finally, cover your coughs and sneezes with the crook of your elbow. The only thing more annoying than being sneezed on is developing a disabling cold that leads to life-threatening pneumonia.
Teeth: brushing your teeth with no toothpaste is nearly as effective as with toothpaste. Don’t attempt to use sugar or salt to clean your teeth as this may irritate your gums and wear away the enamel, but you may use baking soda if you have it on hand.
Bathing: First and foremost, know that you won’t be bathing everyday. Twice a week, at most, is how often you’ll be bathing. The easiest way to get “clean” is to collect water from a nearby lake or river and scrub away even if you don’t have soap. The reason you want to collect water for scrubbing down instead of simply jumping in is because you don’t want to contaminate the water source, dirty as it may already appear. When you’ve finished with the water, use it a second time to wash your clothes and then a third time to flush your toilet. If you aren’t located near a water source, you may need to use some of the water you’ve collected from the water tank.
Washing: Any soap can be used to wash clothing. Even if you have no soap, dunking the clothes and rubbing them against each other will be sufficient enough to further dirty the water. The clothing you can expect to wash regularly include the undergarments: bras, boxers, underwear, socks, and tank tops. All other clothing will be of secondary concern and only washed once in a while. I recommend buckets if you have them, as the tub only allows for washing and not rinsing. Once the clothes are washed, simply wring them of excess water and hang them out to dry.
Waste: If you have a septic tank that isn’t full, you may continue to flush the toilet for “number two” simply by pouring a bucket of water into it. Be aware that sewage lines may be damaged in an emergency, in which case your best bet is a shovel. Be sure your pit is at least a football field away from any water source and located in the lowest spot in your area. The deeper the better. Place a board or sturdy plastic lid over the pit so that no one falls into it. A plastic tarp over everything is a good idea if you live in a rainy climate. Cover each waste deposit with some dirt to discourage mosquitoes from breeding in the pit, and don’t allow water to pool in the bottom. You may run out of toilet paper, but leaves, newspaper, and small disposable rags will work fine. Do not flush these items as they may permanently clog the toilet. Dispose of them in a deep pit far from any water supply.
Trash: The best option for dealing with trash is to have as little as possible. Think before throwing any item away. Could you use it for anything else? You’ll need to burn or bury the trash you have. If you don’t have the means to build a fire, that’s alright. Pick up a shovel, a pick, even a metal rake. Allowing trash to accumulate is inviting germs and sickness into your living space. Depending on where you live, you may also be inviting wild animals. Get rid of your garbage as soon as possible.
Cleanliness: Even if you keep your space as clean as possible, eventually you will be faced with the need to abolish bacteria you can’t see. Modern day cleaning products are convenient, but they aren’t they only solution for killing germs. The Provident Living web site is a wonderful resource, where they explain how you can use common household items to create an effective cleaning solution. You can condense these recipes to the amount of water you have on hand.
Keeping Conditions Sanitary (Review):
- Keep your bacteria-covered hands away from your head.
- Soap isn’t always necessary. Scrubbing is.
- Keep waste and trash disposal far and low from any water source.
- Household items can be mixed to create cleaning solutions.
As you can see, there are many ways you can survive without disaster-specific supplies. It would be much more difficult and you would encounter more hardships such as sickness, weight loss, and stress, but you could survive. It’s just a matter of being intelligent and resourceful.
So if TEOTWAWKI or another emergency comes to pass and you’re standing there without a portion of those supplies you held so dear, don’t think about tomorrow. Keep your mind focused on today and the puzzles (not problems) that need solving right now. Make a list, mentally or otherwise, of all the items you have access to and/or around you. Think about how you can use a combination of them to solve your puzzle. With the right attitude and rational, logical thinking, you can survive no matter how many traditional supplies you don’t have.