Planning for Double Duty, By Lane C.

Doing “Double Duty” is a concept that I was first introduced to during my first enlistment in the US Army.   It is a term that simply implies that an item or material (or person) could be utilized to fulfill an additional purpose besides the one that it was specifically designed or trained for.  As a young soldier in an infantry company, I quickly learned the value of being able to “get creative” with my equipment and supplies in order to increase their versatility and make them go farther. 

Chances are that this idea is not new to you.  With our economy in the US getting further and further out of control, many Americans have already changed their buying habits and now consider the versatility of a product to be an important buying point.  It just makes good practical sense.  During normal circumstances, planning for double duty is relatively easy to do.  Matter of fact, you’re probably already doing it.   But planning for double duty in preparation for unusual or emergency situations is considerably more difficult. 

In this article, we will discuss why planning for double duty is a good idea, how to plan for double duty both at home and in preparation for a “bug out” scenario, and finally some common items that can perform double duty; at home and on the trail.

Probably the best answer to why is, “to make better use of your resources”.  Most of us have limited income, limited space, and limited time to spend on preparedness.  Therefore, we need to make the most out of what we have and make it go as far as we can.  Double Duty Planning is a tool that can not only help us to be better prepared in the event of a disaster or emergency, but can also serve to make our daily lives more efficient and simple.

Limited Income                 
In order for your income to be of any benefit to your survival, you need to invest in those things that will be of most use to you and your family.  And it has to be done before you need them.  During a disaster, TEOTWAWKI, or other calamitous event, it’s a good chance that your money will be worth far less than it is now. 

When making purchases, we have all been conditioned by mainstream media to look for and identify what marketers call the “USP” or “Unique Selling Point”.  The USP is that one quality or characteristic that supposedly makes the product “the best” at doing one specific thing.  Chances are that our cabinets are full of products that specialize in one specific thing.  Bleach for example is a product which meets a specific need; to keep whites white.  No other product on the market enjoys bleach’s popularity in the market for this one purpose.  But what about the other uses for bleach?  Most people would be hard pressed to name any other uses.  But that is exactly where double duty planning or dual purposing comes in!  Bleach does much more than just whiten whites.
If I could show you how you could save hundreds of dollars a year on groceries and other household goods; would you be interested?  Well, even though it may sound like a sales hook and too good to be true, planning for double duty can potentially save you hundreds of dollars per year.   The way that this is accomplished is by eliminating those products that we purchase that only serve one specific purpose and replacing them with products that have multiple uses.  If you look in your cleaning cabinet or closet, how many different cleaning products do you have?  Do you have two, three, four, or more?  Or do you use a multi-purpose cleaner?  How much money would you save if instead of buying glass cleaner, floor cleaner, stove and countertop cleaner, toilet bowl cleaner, shower, tub and tile cleaner, pot and pan cleaner, etc; you could buy one product that did it all?  Better yet, what if the product or products that you replaced all of these with had other uses as well?  You could save a lot of money in cleaning supplies alone.

Limited Space
The issue of limited space is often resolved by our attempts at saving money.  This is natural in that as we consolidate the various kinds of products that we purchase, we need less room to store the replacements.   As we replace single duty products with double duty products, we will not need as much space to store them.  This is space that could be better used for storing additional food and medical supplies; or ammo.

Space becomes a lot more crucial when considering a bug out situation.  We will be limited to what we can carry with us or cache along the way.  The size, shape, and weight of survival gear become chief concerns when a bug out scenario becomes likely.  But, as within the home, dual purposing our gear can save us a lot of space.  I’ll use my own personal experiences in the Army as an example.  In the movie Platoon, the new soldiers were preparing to go out on their first patrol when their platoon sergeant went through and battle stripped them; leaving them with only what they needed to survive.  I went through a similar event before going out on my first patrol.  My rucksack was whittled down from a hefty 65 pounds to about 40 pounds.  I had packed many tools and items that were unnecessary because I had other items that could do multiple jobs.  Not to mention that I now had the space to carry more crucial supplies like water, food and ammunition.  It took an experienced platoon sergeant to teach me the value of versatility.  Years later, I became a platoon sergeant and made it a point of teaching my soldiers how to pack with double duty in mind.
One of the purposes of a cache is to serve as a resupply point.  Many people’s philosophy on caching is, “more is better”, but this is not always true.  The larger that you make a cache, the harder it is to hide.  Cache size is also limited by the geography of an area or route.  Space in a cache can be limited as well and could therefore benefit from the optimization that double duty items can provide.  During egress, BOBs and caches kind of go hand in hand; the more stuff that you can cache along your egress route, the more space you have for other items in your BOB. 

Limited Time
Time is a variable resource in that we will have more of it during one situation than we will during another.  When at home during normal life, time may be easy to manage.  But during the beginning of a TEOTWAWKI sort of event, time will be in short supply.   The more we prepare now, the less we struggle later.  So, how can planning for double duty save us time?  Ultimately it boils down to choices.  When you go to the grocery store and are confronted with buying dog food.  How do you decide which one to buy; price, your dog’s favorite, nice packaging?  You only have twelve different brands, seven flavors, three sizes, and twenty prices to choose from.  We can save a lot of time if we know beforehand what we’re going to buy.  Go there, get it, and leave!  The more choices that we have to make, the more time it takes.  Make your choices while time is plentiful. 

Another Reason                 
Have you ever been in line in the grocery store behind someone who was into Extreme Couponing?  It’s amazing to watch as they unload buggy after buggy at the checkout.  You can literally feel their excitement and dread building as the total rises ever higher.  As their coupons are tallied, we experience the suspense and danger of failure that this great adventure offers!  Then we get to see the glorious sense of jubilation that the shopper feels when their once high total is reduced to mere pennies!  All of the long hours spent searching, cutting, and planning have culminated in one flawless victory! Marvelous!  This is what makes the adventure worthwhile!  If it were simply about saving money, it would not have been worth the cost.  It’s about the victory!

Planning for double duty is a similar endeavor; it’s not only about saving money and stretching resources.  It’s about the victory!  It’s about being able to use what you have planned for in a pinch when it is needed most!

To find out how requires the most growth on our parts.  This is the step that requires us to do our homework.  The process that I am going to layout in this article is what I view as being the most simple and is the process that I use.

At Home
First of all, I created an inventory of what I had on hand.  Then, out beside of each item, I noted its use or uses.  If the item only had one specific use, then I placed a star beside that item signifying that it needed closer review.  My next pass on the list, I’m looking specifically at those items that have more than one use and whether they can take on the additional duty of those items that I marked with a star.  If they can, I put a mark through the item with the star that can be eliminated.  Next, I investigate to find out if there is a product which I don’t currently have that would assume multiple uses on my list.  Finally, I look over my list again to determine if those items have other uses.  I have included my cleaning supplies list for reference.

Cleaning Item List   Uses
Windex Window Cleaner     Glass
Comet Abrasive Cleanser   Sinks, tubs, toilet, showers, pots, pans, tile
Pinesol Surfaces, sinks, tubs, toilet, floors
Orange Degreaser       Surfaces
Carpet Fresh        Carpets/rugs
409 Multipurpose         Surfaces
Ammonia      Surfaces, floors

At this point, I have identified how other items on my list can perform the same duties as those that can only perform one.  The next step is to investigate to see if there is a product out there to replace those items still on my list. 

                  Baking Soda – can directly replace Comet Cleanser and Carpet Fresh.
                  White Vinegar – can directly replace the 409 Multipurpose cleaner, Pinesol, and the Ammonia.

Here is what my truncated cleaning supplies list looks like now.

Cleaning Item List   Uses
White Vinegar       Glass, surfaces, floors
Baking Soda  Sinks, tubs, toilets, showers, tile, carpet, rugs, pots, pans

Baking soda and vinegar both have additional uses in food preparation and in medicine. And both tend to be relatively inexpensive and environmentally safe compared to many other name brand cleaners.  Baking soda and vinegar mixed together also make a nifty science project for kids and is great for cleaning drains.   
I’m not telling you to go through your cleaning supplies and throw out everything and replace it with vinegar and baking soda.  I’m just saying that you could if you chose to.  Or, if by necessity, you had to.  This same process will work for other areas of home and survival preparedness as well.  The main question that you want to ask yourself is, “how many different ways can I use _______?” 

On The Trail
For those of us that hike and camp recreationally; and I mean survivalist type camping without a camper or grill, packing light is always a priority.  If I can consolidate the items that I need to take with me from 30 down to 8, that’s a big advantage for me so long as I know how to utilize what I brought for more than one purpose.  Let’s look at tools.  When I go camping, I know that there are certain tasks that I may need to perform.  I will need to cut brush and vines, chop down small trees, construct shelter, cut/chop food, defend myself from animals/people, and maybe skin and or butcher game.  So, is there one tool that I can take that will allow me to do all of these tasks?  If I inventory my tools the same way that I inventoried my cleaning supplies, the process will work the same.

Camping/Survival Tool List  Uses
Hatchet  Chopping wood
Machete     Clearing brush & vines, chopping food, Butchering, chopping wood, protection
Mallet   Driving tent stakes, hammering
Utility Knife Chopping food, skinning, butchering, general use, protection
Shovel/Spade    Digging
Saw   Sawing tree limbs, roots

Naturally, we can’t carry all of this stuff with us on a hike, so it’s in our best interest to consolidate.  The machete can accomplish everything that the hatchet can.  The addition of a military E-tool would eliminate the need for the shovel, the saw, and the mallet.  Taking an idea from the Russian Spetsnaz (Russian Special Forces), I could sharpen one edge of my E-tool to a knife’s edge and could use it as a bladed weapon and to skin animals.  As a result, my new list may look like this.

Camping/Survival Tool List Uses
Machete   Clearing brush & vines, chopping wood, chopping food, butchering, protection
Military E-tool  Digging, sawing, driving tent stakes, hammering, protection, skinning
Utility Knife       Chopping food, skinning, butchering, general use, protection

Notice that there is still some overlapping of duties.  It is important to remember here that consolidation of supplies and tools can be taken too far.  You can reach a point where you end up compromising your preparedness.  Some ascribe to the “Rule of Three”; as in that you need to have at least three ways of fulfilling a need or completing a task.  Although you can take it to extremes and purchase three of everything, the point of the rule is to stress the importance of having a back-up plan.  In the above refined list, if I lost or broke any one of my tools, I could probably make due with what I had left.  They may not fit the bill perfectly, but they’ll get the job done.                 

Double Duty Items & Supplies
The following list is simply a starting point.  But there are plenty of good web sites where you can increase your knowledge.  Matter of fact, there are probably many more that you know about that I don’t.  If so, please write an article so that we can all learn from your experiences. 
Rather than create a list for “At Home” items and then also for “Survival/Bug Out” items, I’ll leave it up to you to decide how these best fit your needs.

Item Use/Purpose
Baking Soda  Cleaner, deodorizer, cooking, toothpaste, medical
White Vinegar  Surface cleaner, clothes whitener, food, medicine, preservative
Bleach  (Plain, Calcium Hypochlorite)       Clothes whitener, water treatment, surface cleaner
Hydrogen Peroxide     Disinfectant, water treatment
Salt     Preservative, food prep, antiseptic
Pure Vanilla             Antiseptic, mild local anesthetic, flavoring
Olive Oil Cooking, skin moisturizer, lubricant, lamp oil, burn treatment
Chap-stick       Soothes chapped lips, zipper lubricant, seam waterproofing
Multi-tool (Gerber, Leatherman, etc.)  Knife, screwdrivers, saw, file, bottle opener, scissors, pliers
Entrenching Tool, Folding (“E-Tool”) Shovel, saw, mallet, weapon, food preparation
Machete   Clearing brush, chopping wood, food prep, weapon
Tomahawk              Chopping wood, food prep, mallet, weapon
Rope/Cord/String      Climbing, tying, binding, pulling, trapping, fishing

I will not go into dual purpose firearms in this article mainly because that is a subject that has already been covered exhaustively by others far more knowledgeable than me. 

Let your imagination be your guide.  But I would also advise you to not take my word for it because what works for me may not work for you.  Take the information in this article and customize it to your specific needs.  Then put your strategy to the test.  I recommend that everyone take a voluntary “bug out” to test yourself and your preps.  It will undoubtedly show you where your weaknesses are.