Are “Long-Term” Storage Foods That Important?

This is going to fly in the face of a lot of what you’ve likely read or heard with regards to food storage but here goes: You don’t need to invest a ton of money into buying special “long-term” foods. Seriously, you really don’t. In fact, for many people doing so is just a bad idea all the way around.

A common question is some variation of, “What foods store the longest?” There are some foods, such as dried rice, honey, salt, and sugar, which will last essentially forever as long as they are protected from critters and the elements. They’ve found jars of honey, still perfectly preserved, sitting next to mummies several thousands of years old. That said, kinda hard to survive on just rice and honey.

Here’s the thing, folks. Shelf life, while important, falls far behind a few other considerations when choosing what to store. First and foremost is taste and personal preference. It makes absolutely ZERO sense to store food you don’t like to eat. I don’t care if you found it at an incredible price. If you don’t want to eat it now, you aren’t going to want to eat it later. Choose food items that you enjoy. Honestly, there is such a variety out there today, it would be foolish to do otherwise.

Many of the foods we eat regularly also happen to have long shelf lives. The aforementioned rice is a great example. Dried beans and canned goods are also commonly found in kitchens and pantries from coast to coast. These types of foods will last a long time and you’re already accustomed to eating them. Add a few extra bags or cans to your cart each time you go shopping and build up the supply slowly.

Second, choose foods that agree with you. We all have things we dearly love to eat but we pay for later, right? I mean, I love bananas but even just a few bites of one will give me stomach pains. If you’re considering adding a new food to your storage plan, try it first. Make sure it doesn’t give you indigestion. Disaster recovery is stressful enough without adding tummy troubles to the mix.

Another thing to keep in mind is that many, though certainly not all, of these special “long-term” foods require water to prepare. Water might be in limited supply, depending upon the nature of the disaster. Do you really want to be forced to choose between drinking the water and using it to prepare the only food you have on hand? If you’re going to invest in these long-term foods, plan ahead and be sure to store extra water as well.

Many long-term foods aren’t the healthiest things on the planet, either. Frequently they are loaded with sodium, which not only isn’t very good for you but will make you thirsty, causing you to consume more water. Now, I will freely admit I’m far from the healthiest eater on the planet so don’t take this as a pot meet kettle situation. But, you need to go into a food storage plan with both eyes wide open. If you’re going to rely upon these long-term foods as a primary source of sustenance, you’re going to suffer from some nutritional deficiencies unless you also stock up on vitamins and such.

A lot of these products are also fairly expensive. For the cost of one case (12 units) of MREs (Meals Ready to Eat), I could feed my family of five for several days. The food would be healthier, too.

Here’s one of my big issues with these special long-term storage foods. A proper food storage plan will incorporate regular rotation. Meaning, you use the food and replenish it as you go along. However, these long-term foods don’t encourage that practice. In fact, the whole point is that you can buy a few cases and they’ll be good for 25 years or more, right? This, to my mind, is the lazy man’s way to preparedness.

Now, with all of that said, I’m not suggesting you abandon any plans of buying these products. They have their place in some scenarios. You just need to determine for yourself if the long-term food option is right for you. What I suggest to most people is to concentrate their food storage plan on the things they already eat regularly but also have a stable shelf life, such as rice, dried beans, dried pasta, and canned goods. Then, add some long-term storage foods as a backup.

Build a BOB: Food

Food is one area where I often see people go a bit overboard when it comes to stocking their BOBs. Don’t get me wrong, we need to have some calories in our packs to keep us going. We just might not need quite as many calories as some folks seem to think, that’s all.

There are a few different options or approaches when it comes to food for the BOB. As with most things in life, there are pros and cons to each. Before we go into detail on those different options, though, let’s talk quantity of food needed first.

If you have any thoughts of rolling out three full meals each day you’re on the road, forget it. The point of bugging out is to reach your destination as efficiently, and safely, as possible. This means you won’t be stopping to prepare any sort of elaborate meals. In fact, there is a school of thought that dictates a complete lack of cooking in any form and only relying upon foods that can essentially be unwrapped and tossed into your pie hole. We’ll talk more about that in a bit.

Many of us are already carrying extra fuel in the form of fat around our middles and on our backsides. We’re not in danger of starvation within a day or two, that’s for sure. The food we have in our BOBs is there to keep us moving without a large degree of discomfort in the form of rumbling stomachs.

Snack foods

These are among the cheapest and easiest things to put into your BOB, but they aren’t typically the most nutritious. Here, we’re talking things like granola bars, protein bars, dried nuts, trail mix, that sort of thing. Bear in mind that many of these foods don’t do well in hot conditions. So, if you’re storing your BOB in your vehicle and you live in an area where it gets quite warm, these sorts of things probably aren’t the best choice.

No prep work involved, just unwrap and eat.
High levels of sugar give quick energy.
Taste pretty good.
Relatively inexpensive.
Easy to find locally.

Storage is a concern, especially in warm conditions.
Little actual nutritional value.

Grocery store food

This category of BOB food consists of the stuff you probably already eat regularly. We’re talking about rice, dry pasta, canned goods, all those things that you can find in the average grocery store. Many of these the foods in this category will require some sort of cooking or other prep work prior to consumption. Not all, of course. A pouch of tuna or chicken could be eaten on the move without much trouble. Your choices in this category of food are also well known to your body, so you shouldn’t suffer many ill effects from consuming them.

Easy to source locally.
Could be reasonably healthy if chosen carefully.
Your body and taste buds are accustomed to them.

Will likely require cooking or other prep work.
Canned goods are heavy.
Require a can opener.
Most are less than ideal when eaten cold.
Leftovers, should there be any, are difficult to transport.

Dehydrated and freeze dried food

Now we’re getting into the foods that are truly marketed to preppers and survivalists. You’ll often find these in sporting goods stores, too, for those camping and hiking. Basically, they are foods that are specially prepared and packaged to take up as little space as possible. Just add hot water and you’re good to go. Some of the brand names are Mountain House and Wise, though there are others out there as well. These packets of food tend to be rather pricey, which stands to reason given the work involved in processing and packaging them. As for taste, some folks love ‘em and others not so much. I’d highly recommend you sample a few before investing a ton of money into them. Make sure you like them and that they like you. Meaning, you want to make sure your digestive system doesn’t rebel against this new type of food.

Easy to find in most sporting goods stores as well as online.
Easy to prep, just add hot water and wait.
Very light and easy to pack.

Expensive when compared to alternatives.
Requires the use of water, which might be in limited supply.
Taste is very subjective. Try before you buy!

Meals Ready to Eat (MRE)

These are incredibly popular amongst the prepper crowd and, honestly, I don’t really know why. I think at least part of it stems from the general popularity of anything military in appearance. Either way, a traditional MRE is a packet that contains a main course, a side dish, a dessert, some type of bread or cracker, some type of spread (cheese, peanut butter, etc.), and a drink mix of some kind. The MRE will also have eating utensils, a flameless heater, and other little tidbits like salt and pepper. On the surface, sounds like a great option. But, the food in the MRE isn’t dehydrated so you’re carrying the full weight. Each MRE typically weighs around 1.5lbs, give or take. Doesn’t sound like a lot, I know, but when you plan on carrying enough to last you a few days, it adds up quickly. Plus, MREs are rather bulky and more than a couple of them don’t pack very well. But, the food is generally pretty tasty and the flameless heater gives you a hot meal without using other resources. What many people do is buy a few MREs and break them apart, distributing the contents to a few different BOBs, providing some food to each pack.

Good tasting and high calorie food.
Flameless heater gives you hot food without a fire.
A truly full meal per packet.
A good variety available online.

Bulky and heavy.

Stoves and Cookware

Another consideration that goes hand in hand with food for the BOB is the supporting gear you might need, such as stoves and cookware. Simply put, if you’re packing food that needs to be cooked, you need to have a way to cook it, right? We talked about fire starting gear in a previous installment but there might be times when a full campfire isn’t possible, either because of weather conditions or because of the overall situation. For times like those, a small camp stove might be desirable. There are several great stoves available on the market. Keep in mind, we’re not talking about full camp stoves like you may have used when car camping or something. You don’t want to try lugging a small suitcase sized stove on a bug out. Instead, focus on small and portable.

The fuel the stove uses is another consideration. I tend to favor alcohol as well as biomass (fancy term for sticks, leaves, and such). One great option for the former is a DIY alcohol stove using an old Altoids tin. As for a store-bought option, I really like my Esbit Spirit Stove set. What I do is keep a plastic bottle filled with denatured alcohol in my BOB. It is a simple squeeze type bottle with a secure lid that I put inside a ziploc baggie for extra insurance. The only time I use this stove is if I’m unable to use a normal campfire.

Incidentally, Esbit also makes a really cool little stove called the Pocket Folding Stove. Very compact but it uses special fuel tabs you’ll need to pack in the BOB.

For a biomass fueled stove, a pretty nifty one is the Biolite Stove.

It has the bonus of turning heat energy into electricity, allowing you to charge your cell phone and such while you’re cooking dinner. At a hair over 2lbs, isn’t isn’t too heavy for long-term carrying.

There are other options out there, too, such as the JetBoil products. The downside with those, though, is that you’ll need to carry fuel canisters as well as the stove.

Once you have the stove sorted out, move on to the cooking implements, specifically the cookware. This at least partially depends on what you’re bringing for food, of course. A small frying pan isn’t going to be much good for heating up soup. In general, a small pot of some sort with a lid should be adequate for most things. The lid is important as it helps to hold in heat, cooking the food more efficiently. There are some great options shown here.

Eating utensils will be welcome as well, of course. One option, and certainly the cheapest, is to save the plastic forks and such you receive at fast food restaurants. Alternatively, hit up your local thrift store and pick up some silverware (not real silver, of course) on the cheap. If it costs you more than a couple of dollars, you did something wrong. Bring it home and wash it well, maybe even boil it if that helps you feel better about used silverware. Sporks have come a long way since you were in elementary school, too, if you wanted to go that route.

Wild Sources of Food

One more thing to address is the possibility of trapping, fishing, and/or hunting food as you travel. Ragnar Benson is familiar to a lot of us old-time survivalists. He has a theory called Ragnar’s Survival Thermodynamics. Basically, he says you shouldn’t invest more energy into a survival activity than you’re likely to get out of it. In other words, it makes little sense to invest a ton of time and energy into food gathering if you’re likely to only end up with one measly squirrel or bluegill for your efforts.

Trapping only really works if you’re staying in one place for a while. I mean, it isn’t like you set out the traps and come back 30 minutes later to collect dinner. You might get that lucky once in a while but not often. The more traps you set, the higher your chances of catching something, too. Plus, traps are always working until they are tripped, allowing you to use your energy elsewhere. But, running a trap line takes time and that time might be better spent moving in the direction of your bug out location.

Fishing is about as low impact as it gets for food collection. But again, there is a time element. That said, here’s a link to the World’s Smallest DIY Pocket Fishing Kit, which takes up almost zero space in the BOB. As with trapping, the more lines you set out, the better the return on investment. In that regard, yo-yo fishing reels are an option. Trot lines are another way to increase the odds of success. This basically involves stringing a line between floats and running hooks down into the water from this main line.

My friend Creek Stewart (I know, lots of folks say that about celebrities, referring to them as “my friend.” Here’s the thing, Creek once sent me one of his books in which he’d inscribed “To Jim, I’d bug out with you any time!” In some states, that makes us legally engaged, I think. At the least, I think that makes us friends.) has talked in one or another of his books about scavenging supplies from ditches and such, repurposing trash for survival uses. Floats for a trot line could be made out of plastic bottles, Styrofoam, or any number of other common garbage items we find on the side of the road during our travels. Again, though, trot lines and other fishing methods aren’t an immediate gratification method of producing food.

As for hunting, the same thing applies. It takes time and energy to locate, track, and harvest wild game. However, should the opportunity arise to pick off a rabbit or something without endangering you or your party due to the noise and such, have at it. I just wouldn’t devote a ton of resources and energy to actively hunting while bugging out.

One more thing to consider is foraging. I highly recommend you take the time to learn to recognize and prepare wild edibles in your area. There are several great books on the subject, of course, such as Peterson’s Guide to Wild Edibles and Samuel Thayer’s The Forager’s Harvest. However, this is an area where you’d be best off taking a class or two with an instructor in your neck of the woods. Plants change their appearance throughout their life cycles and most reference books only have one or two images of each plant, typically illustrating the plant at the time of best harvest. Contact your local County Extension office about any programs they might offer for identifying wild edibles.

Of course, in many parts of the country foraging is all but worthless for at least a few months out of the year. Kinda hard to find wild berries when there’s 2 feet of snow on the ground. But, time spent learning a new skill is never wasted, as far as I’m concerned. We can only hope that should we truly need to bug out, we’ll be doing so when the weather is nice and nature is bountiful. In reality, it will probably be the middle of January, with bitter cold temperatures and blowing snow. That’s just Murphy’s Law.

Today's takeaways

Take into account the expected length of time you’ll be living out of your pack and stock it accordingly.  Have enough food to make the trip, plus a little extra for a cushion, but don’t overdo it.


Don’t overlook foraging as a potential means of adding to your caloric intake but don’t rely upon it exclusively.


Be sure you have the gear you’ll need to prepare the food you’ve packed, including stoves and cookware.


Wild sources of food, such as hunting and fishing, may be feasible but take time and energy that you might want to devote to traveling instead.

I you’ve missed previous installments in this blog series, you can get caught up here:
Build a BOB: Introduction
Build a BOB: Shelter
Build a BOB: Fire
Build a BOB: Water

Build a BOB: Water

Water is another of those things that you truly can’t do without for any great length of time. Various and sundry experts have said over the years that the human body can survive roughly three days without hydration. Naturally, there are all sorts of variables that come into play with that, such as exertion level, overall health, and climate conditions. The average couch potato suddenly finding himself sweating his cojones off in the Mojave Desert will dehydrate faster than, say, a frequent marathon runner leisurely strolling through a Northwoods forest in autumn.

On top of that, keep in mind that the latter part of that “three day” time frame isn’t going to be pleasant. I mean, it isn’t like you’re just walking around lackadaisically and then an alarm bell suddenly goes off at the 72 hour mark and you fall over. No, severe dehydration brings on fun stuff like dizziness, lethargy, confusion, fever, even coma. Any of those sound beneficial for surviving a bug out? Yeah, I didn’t think so. Kind of hard to find your way to your bug out location when you’re comatose.

Water, though, can be problematic. Water is what it is. By that, I mean you can’t shrink it down, you can’t compress it, and you obviously can’t dehydrate it. One gallon of water weighs a bit more than 8 pounds. You can’t get around that fact. One gallon of water takes up 231 cubic inches. That’s another fact that won’t change.

In other words, if you’re traveling on foot, you’re not going to be carrying a whole lot of water with you.

What I suggest is a two-pronged approach to this problem. First, carry some water with you. Second, carry in your BOB the means to filter and disinfect additional water you source along the way.

Water containers

There are roughly a bazillion different water bottles on the market today. As with most things in life, you get what you pay for. I recommend going with stainless steel if you can afford it. A steel bottle can be used to boil “wild” water to ensure all parasites are killed. Aluminum bottles might work for that purpose but various studies have found that aluminum can leach into the water over time. Short term, probably not that big of a deal in the grand scheme of things. But, if you can avoid the issue altogether by investing in a stainless steel bottle, do so.

If you go the metal bottle route, be sure to select one that allows you to remove all plastic pieces, such as tethers that keep the lid attached to the bottle. Otherwise, this plastic will melt if you need to boil water in the bottle.

Go with a 1 liter size bottle, if you can. Many water purification products, such as tablets, use 1 liter as the standard amount of water per dose. Having a container that size just makes things easier all around.

I recommend having at least two such water bottles in your BOB. Both will hopefully be full when you begin your journey. Most people can probably carry 2 liters of water without undue strain. However, and this is important to remember, 2 liters is only equivalent to about ½ gallon of water. If you’re traveling on foot, you could go through that much water in half a day or so, depending on the climate and such.

The reason for multiple bottles is it gives you the option of using one bottle to disinfect water while still having the other one for drinking as you move. Water purification tablets, for example, aren’t instant. They take time to work.

Another option is to invest in a hydration bladder for your BOB. This is basically a large, heavy duty bag that fits into a pouch in your pack. You fill the bag with water and drink it from a flexible straw that loops through the pack and over your shoulder. I have mixed feelings about these products. On the one hand, they allow the user to carry a fairly substantial amount of water somewhat easily. But, these bladders could prove difficult to clean in the field, especially if they become tainted with something. I’m not saying to buy them and I’m not saying to avoid them. Just keep in mind they can be difficult to maintain when conditions are less than ideal.

One product in particular I highly recommend is the Aqua Pouch Plus with Water Purification Kit sold by Survival Resources. It serves as an excellent backup to your primary water bottles and such. The pouch is made from a very heavy duty plastic and is gusseted at the bottom, allowing the bag to stand when it is full. It has grommet holes at top, so you can loop cordage through and carry it easily. The pre-filter device allows you to use coffee filters to remove dirt and such before actually disinfecting the water.

Speaking of water disinfection….

Water filtration and disinfection

Lakes, rivers, streams, these are all what I refer to as “wild” sources of water. As you plan your bug out routes, try to incorporate visits to these bodies of water so you have the opportunity to resupply as needed.

Never, and I mean NEVER, drink water directly from one of these wild sources without treating it first. While it might look crystal clear, odds are good that the water is teeming with microscopic nasties that will do a number on your body. There are two ways of dealing with those bugs and such – filtration or disinfection.


As might be obvious, this involves removing the bad stuff from the water through the use of one or more filters. The filters might be ceramic, glass fibers, or some other material. These devices generally work rather well, provided you’re using a product from a reputable manufacturer. In general, water treatment isn’t an area where I’d want to rely upon some no-name, fly-by-night company.

When it comes to purchasing water filtration gear for the BOB, you’ll want something compact yet robust. Sawyer makes an awesome mini-filter that will fit in the palm of your hand. Lifestraw is a bit larger but also works very well. Some companies, such as Aquamira, make water bottles that have the filters built right in. All you do is fill the bottle with the questionable water and drink through the filter. However, those bottles are plastic, not stainless steel, so you won’t be able to use them to boil water. Just something to keep in mind.

No matter which kind of filtration device you use, it will work better and more efficiently if you pre-filter the water. Yeah, I know, that sounds a lot like washing dishes before putting them into the dishwasher. The idea behind pre-filtering is to remove the visible debris in the water before running it through your Sawyer Mini or whatever. Simply pour the water through a coffee filter, bandanna, or some other similar material to remove the dead bugs, dirt, and other debris.


Rather than removing the parasites and other nasty critters, disinfection works by killing them off. The simplest way to do this is to boil the water. You don’t need to boil it for a certain length of time, either. As long as the water is brought to a rolling boil, you’re good. If you feel better by boiling it for 5, 7, 10 minutes or whatever, go ahead. This method of disinfection is why I’ve hammered home the point about carrying a stainless steel bottle in your BOB. It is easy, with no moving parts to wear out or components that could fail at a crucial time.

Next on the disinfection list is water purification tablets. There are two basic types – iodine based and chlorine dioxide based. When given a choice, most people prefer the latter as the resulting water tastes better. Something to remember, though, is that these tablets have a finite shelf life. You want to be sure the tablets you’re carrying are still viable so you’ll need to be sure to check them periodically.

Polar Pure is another great option. Basically, you add water to the little bottle to make a solution that you then add to the water you are going to drink. This particular product is highly recommended by my good friend and fellow author Scott B. Williams.

The takeaways from all of the above are:

1) Have multiple water containers in your BOB. Keep them filled until you bug out, rotating the water periodically.

2) As with any other survival goal, have at least three ways to render found water potable. I suggest at least one way to disinfect and one way to filter, then choose one more method or device from one of those categories to meet the minimum three.

3) Test out your chosen methods or devices well in advance of truly needing them. Have a full understanding of how they work and how to clean them.

If you’ve missed previous installments in this blog series, you can get caught up here:

Build a BOB: Introduction
Build a BOB: Shelter
Build a BOB: Fire

Prepper Questions I Can’t Answer

Ever since I started trying to educate people about disaster readiness, I’ve encouraged folks to ask me any questions they might have on the subject. You know the routine, “There are no dumb questions.” I’d rather someone ask what might be a foolish question and get solid information than be afraid to ask and end up getting false information from some kooky website. I certainly don’t know it all but I can help look for answers if I don’t have them already.

There are a few questions that come up on a regular basis, though, that drive me nuts. I’m not the only one who gets these questions, either. Every preparedness instructor has been hit with them over and over. The problem is, we have no way to intelligently answer these particular questions. Remember back when you were in school and had to do word problems in math class? It seemed like there was always some vital bit of information missing that made it impossible to solve. Same thing applies here. These questions cannot be answered without a lot more information being provided. Yet, I’ve had people get angry or upset, accusing me of dodging the question. What can I say, I’m not a mind reader….

Here are a few of the questions that I, nor any other instructor, can answer for you.

How much food should I store?

There is no pat answer to this and anyone who tries to give you one is full of crap. You need to determine for yourself the following criteria:

  • How long do you want to be able to feed your family using only stored food items?
  • How many people are you planning on needing to feed?
  • What kind of budget do you have?

Really, the only way you’re going to be able to figure this out is to do some homework. Sit down and create a meal plan for at least one full week, preferably two or more weeks. Using paper and pencil, write down everything your family would eat for that time frame. Include every dish made at every meal and don’t forget a few snacks here and there. Then, determine the quantities of each food item needed for that time frame. Once you know that, multiply it out based on the length of time you want to be able to feed your family.

For example, let’s say you plan on making spaghetti once every two weeks. For your family, this requires half of a box of dry spaghetti noodles and a 16oz can of sauce. If you’re planning on having enough food on hand for six months, that means you’ll need 6 boxes of pasta and 12 cans of sauce, right?

Math can be hard, yes, but it isn’t impossible. Once you know what you need to purchase, you need to keep that list with you and pick items up as they go on sale and you can afford them. Few people have the luxury of just going out and buying food for a few months at a time. Just add a few items to your cart each time you hit the grocery store and it will add up over time.

What kind of gun should I get?

A firearm’s purpose is to put holes in something from a distance. What you need to determine ahead of time is:

  • How big does the hole need to be?
  • What is the hole going to be made in?
  • How far away do you want or need to be from the hole you want to make?

Firearms are tools, nothing more. They have no good or evil intent inherent in them. They are also pretty much a must when it comes to disaster planning. I’m not saying you need to go out and invest $10 grand in a small armory for your basement. But, if you feel you may need to protect your family and/or hunt for food at some point during the disaster or recovery period, a firearm pretty much trumps all alternatives.

If you ask 10 different firearm instructors to recommend a gun, you’re likely to get 15 different answers. Choosing a firearm is, or should be, a personal thing. I don’t mean that in some sort of creepy, intimate way but rather the firearm needs to be selected based upon many factors that are unique to the individual. Body size, hand size, arm and hand strength, familiarity with firearms (or lack thereof), primary purpose of the firearm, other people in the household, the list goes on and on.

As a very general rule of thumb, I recommend a .22 rifle for an initial firearm purchase. From there, a shotgun, handgun, and eventually a deer rifle might be added to the mix.

Where should I go when I bug out?

Um, away from the danger. That’s about the best answer you’re going to get without providing a whole ton of additional information.

  • Where do you live now?
  • What risk factors do you likely face that would cause you to bug out?
  • Do you have friends or relatives with whom you could shack up for a while, if need be?
  • What kind of transportation do you have available? Is it reliable?
  • How many people are in your family and would be bugging out with you?
  • Are any of them likely to have problems traveling any sort of distance on foot?

Remember, too, that bugging out should be your last resort, not your primary plan of action. You should plan on evacuating the area only if home becomes an unsafe environment AND you have a place to go. Just hitting the bricks without a clue as to your final destination is a recipe for failure.

Heading off for the local national or state forest probably isn’t the best choice, either. First of all, you’re probably not the only one around who came up with that idea. Second, unless you possess a high degree of skill and experience with wilderness survival, you’re probably not going to prevail in the long run.

As a general rule of thumb, I would choose bug out locations that are 100 miles or less from home. Reason being, 100 miles is only a few hours by car and if you can’t stop for gas, you can probably still get that far on ½ tank or less, depending on traffic. Plus, 100 miles isn’t an impossible journey on foot for most people. It would take several days, no question, but it isn’t like planning a trip to the moon.


Disaster prepping is very much a personal, individual thing. I and others can give you recommendations and guidance but you’re gonna have to do the bulk of the heavy lifting. That’s sort of what self-reliance is all about. We’re happy to help and do what we can, but you’re going to have to participate. Prepping isn’t a spectator sport.

Build a BOB: Fire

This installment of our Build a BOB series focuses on one of the most important, as well as fun, aspects of survival planning.

My apologies to all of you who didn’t spend at least a bit of quality time with those two knuckleheads back in the day. Those of us who did are forever scarred with that memory and when the subject of making fire comes up, the above sound bite inevitably comes to mind.

Fire serves many purposes. It lights up the night. It cooks our food and disinfects our water. It keeps us warm and helps us to dry out. Fire also provides a significant psychological boost. Sitting next to a campfire just makes us feel a little better about things.

Fire requires three things – oxygen, fuel, and heat. The absence of any one of those elements will result in a failed fire. Generally speaking, when we’re talking about oxygen, we’re referring to letting the fire breathe and not smothering it. When it comes to what to pack in your BOB, we’re concentrating on ready-to-light tinder and tools for getting those items lit.

As we go along, bear in mind that the focus of this series is on what to have in your BOB, not necessarily instruction on how to use the goodies. While I’ll include some tips and tricks here and there, the idea is just to discuss the various options available.

Note: While there are certainly many primitive methods of starting a fire, such as the bow drill, every survival instructor I know, myself included, recommends carrying modern equipment in your pack. Primitive methods are great to learn and are valuable skills to have. But, they should be considered backups to your butane lighters, matches, and other supplies.

Fire Starters

There are two primary types of fire starters – those that emit flame and those that emit sparks. The flame emitters are things like butane lighters and strike anywhere matches. These should be your primary methods of lighting a fire. They are simple, easy to use, and reliable under most conditions. That said, here are some pointers.

Butane lighters don’t like cold temperatures. If you find your lighter won’t light in the middle of winter, hold it in a closed bare fist for a few seconds. Putting it into an interior pocket of your jacket or a pants pocket for a bit should work, too. Anything that will warm the fuel inside will help.

Neither butane lighters nor strike anywhere matches get along well with water, so keep ‘em dry. There are many different types of match containers on the market today. I like this cheap plastic one as well as this not-so-cheap metal one. Some of the available containers are large enough to store a small butane lighter. I generally prefer lighters over matches because I can store a lot more “lights” with the lighter than I can with the matches. I do, however, usually carry both.

A great way to help keep matches viable no matter what the weather is to coat them with wax. Simply melt some old crayons or candles, then dip the match heads into the wax. When it comes time to use a match, just rub some of the wax away from the head and strike as normal. A bonus is that the wax is flammable as well, giving you a hotter and longer lasting flame. The downside is the wax makes the heads larger, which means you can store fewer matches in the container.

Pay the little bit extra for the name brand butane lighters, such as BIC. The cheap ones you’ll find at gas stations in their 3/$1 bowl often don’t last very long and tend to leak. The better made name brand lighters last a lot longer and are worth the added expense.

Recently, I’ve been seeing ads for these things referred to as “everlasting” matches or something similarly named. Basically, it consists of a small metal container you fill with lighter fluid. Then, there is a small “match” you pull from it and light by striking it on the side of the container. I just find it rather gimmicky and there are far better tools out there.

As for the spark emitters, most of them on the market right now are ferrocerium rods in one or another configurations. You’ll see these rods as standalone products, with or without a handle, as well as attached to blocks of magnesium or other items. There are two types of rods, true ferrocerium and mischmetal. My good friend John McCann has a great video here that explains the differences between the two.

For the standalone ferro rod, I heartily recommend the Light My Fire Swedish FireSteel. I have been using their products for years and have never had trouble with them. That said, you can find ferro rod blanks, which are just the bare rods, on ebay fairly cheap. You can leave them bare or affix some sort of handle to them for comfort and ease of use.

The important thing to remember with ferro rods is you need a striker. Other than the blank rods, most ferro rods are sold with a striker. If need be, the spine of your knife, provided it has a 90’ angle and is made of carbon steel, will work. A shard of broken glass or ceramic will work, too. The nice thing about ferro rods is that they are unaffected by weather conditions. It doesn’t matter how cold or wet it might be, a properly used ferro rod will rain sparks down on to your tinder.

There is a little bit of a learning curve with ferro rods. They aren’t so much as struck as they are scraped by the striker. Hold the rod firmly in one hand and the striker in the other. Now, right here is where many beginners make a mistake. Your instinct will likely be to scrape the rod as though you were carving it, moving the striker down the rod toward your tinder. That’s not the best technique as you will likely end up hitting the tinder with your striker hand, moving it away from the sparks. Instead, hold the tip of the rod into or just above the tinder, then slide it backward against the striker. In other words, keep the striker in place above the tinder and move the rod instead.

Ferro rods often come with some sort of coating or paint on the rod. This needs to be removed before you’ll get sparks to fly off the rod. Just scrape the rod a few times with the striker. Once you see bare metal, you’re good to go. There’s no need to scrape the entire rod clean of the coating, either. Just do one or two swipes with the striker and you’ll be fine.

As much as I generally detest most of the gimmicky, gadgety stuff that permeates the prepper world, I have to say I’m digging the Wazoo Bushcraft Survival Necklace. It has a small ferro rod and striker threaded on a leather cord. It is a great way to always have a fire starter with you, plus it is kinda cool looking!

One more fire starter product that is practical is the BlastMatch. Essentially, it is a ferro rod and striker assembled together so you can use it single-handed. You simply push the spring-loaded ferro rod down into your tinder bundle and the striker scrapes the sparks down. Simple, easy, effective.

Another product that requires only one hand to operate is the Spark-Lite Fire Starter. If you can operate a butane lighter, you can operate the Spark-Lite. Think of it as a lighter without the fuel reservoir. You use your thumb or finger to roll the wheel and sparks come out. Very small and yet very practical.


Okay, now that you have 87 different ways to light something on fire, what are you gonna light? Tinder comes in a few different types – natural, DIY, and commercially produced. As a general rule, tinder is material that is dry and will light easily from a spark or flame. Ideally, it will burn long enough to get the rest of your fuel going.

Natural forms of tinder include things like plant fluff, cedar shavings, chaga fungus, and birch bark. Bark and wood shavings should be shredded into as fine of a material as possible. This provides a lot of surface area to catch sparks. In your BOB, keep a few empty plastic bags, preferably ziploc ones, of different sizes. When you take a break on the trail, look around for natural tinder. Toss what you find into a plastic bag for later use. Using natural tinder whenever possible will help to extend your supply of DIY and commercially produced tinder.

Incidentally, a great addition to the BOB is a simple pencil sharpener. Use it to create shavings from sticks, which works great for tinder.

There are several easy DIY projects that will result in great tinder products. One of the easiest is to add petroleum jelly to cotton balls. Toss a small handful of cotton balls into a plastic bag, then add a spoonful of jelly. Mash it all together and you’re done. I store these messy cotton ball fire starters in a plastic match case. Tie a string to one of the cotton balls and put that at the bottom of the case, leaving the string to dangle on the outside. Feed in the rest of the cotton balls, then screw on the cap. When you need one, remove the cap and gently pull on the string. The cotton balls will rise up as if by magic, allowing you to pick off the top one without having to dig through the container.

Another oldie but goodie is to take a cardboard egg carton, fill each little egg compartment with dryer lint, then cover them with melted wax. These work great but tend to be big and heavy, which is something you’ll generally want to avoid in your BOB.

Not all dryer lint is created equal

Dryer lint that comes from natural fibers like cotton works great for starting fires. Lint from manmade fabrics, though, not so much. If your family wears mostly denim, cotton, and that sort of stuff, you’re golden. Otherwise, ditch the lint and use cotton balls. They are certainly cheap enough!

Jute twine makes for great tinder, though it burns fairly quick. Many people carry a small roll of the twine in their BOB to as cordage as well as a backup form of tinder. For burning, cut off about six inches, then pull apart the fibers to make sort of a nest shape. What some people have done is cut segments of twine and then dip them in melted wax.

There are all sorts of products sold today as fire starters or tinder. Some of my favorites include:

Instafire – This stuff is awesome. It consists of volcanic rock and recycled wood coated with wax. It is so waterproof it will actually float on water while it burns! I like that the pouches allow you to control how much or how little of the product you want to use. It will light easily from spark or flame.

Mini Inferno – These little disks light easily and burn HOT! The downside is they are kind of pricey, with six small disks running about $8.

All-Weather Cubes – You’ll probably only need to use maybe half of a cube at a time, these are so potent. You shave off as much as you’d like, then light it with spark or match. It burns hot and for longer than you might think.

One more product worth mentioning is the Fire Blowing Tube produced and sold by Survival Resources. Remember way back at the beginning when we talked about the three essential elements for a successful fire? Waving at a budding fire is one way to get more oxygen flowing but it is actually pretty inefficient. With the Fire Blowing Tube, you can direct the airflow where it is needed most – the base of the fire.


What I recommend is keeping some sort of fire kit in your BOB. Use a waterproof or at least water resistant container to store the bulk of your tinder. Keep a couple of butane lighters as well as some matches with that kit. Additionally, keep a lighter and a ferro rod with striker accessible in another pocket of the pack. When you hit the road, take those out and put them in your pocket. This way, no matter what happens, you’ll have a way to start a fire on your person at all times.

Fire is important, make no mistake. Even if your bug out plan consists of being on the road no more than an hour or two, plan ahead in case things go awry.

If you’ve missed previous installments in this blog series, you can get caught up here:

Build a BOB: Introduction
Build a BOB: Shelter

Build a BOB – Shelter

Shelter is a primary survival objective. You need to be able to get out of the elements and stay warm and dry. Hypothermia is a very real danger in even somewhat mild temperatures. On top of that, there is a strong psychological component involved. If you’re able to get at least a little comfortable, you’ll be able to relax a bit. This will calm you down and allow you to plan your next move.

Even if all of your bug out plans entail reaching your chosen location in just a matter of hours, you should plan for at least one night spent in the rough. Remember, hope for the best but plan for the worst.

Your first line of defense is, of course, your clothing. Many of us have jobs that require a certain type of clothing, such as business, business casual, or perhaps some sort of uniform. Whatever the case, it probably isn’t something well suited for traveling on foot for extended periods of time, possibly over rough terrain. With that in mind, keep at least one full set of clothing in or with your bug out bag. The clothing should be comfortable as well as durable. While your bug out plans likely involve traveling in a car or truck, you may very well end up on foot for part or even all of your journey, so plan accordingly.

What I’ve done is actually set up a separate stuff sack containing clothing. This is stashed in my trunk alongside my bug out bag. The idea is that if I need to beat feet, I can grab both the BOB and the stuff sack. At the earliest opportunity, I’ll change into my bug out clothes, ditching my work clothes. The then-empty sack can be rolled up and stashed in the bug out bag.

The clothes pack contents will change with the seasons, of course. Here are a couple of examples.

Spring/Summer load out:
Long-sleeve T-shirt
Short-sleeve T-shirt
Jeans or cargo pants
Thick socks
Walking shoes or boots

Fall/Winter load out would add:
Flannel shirt
Hooded sweatshirt
Knit hat

Additionally, you should have a couple of extra pair of socks and underwear stashed in your BOB. Trust me, you’ll appreciate having them. You should already be wearing or have in your vehicle seasonal appropriate outerwear, such as a heavy coat in winter.

The next layer of protection consists of a rain poncho of some sort and/or an emergency blanket. You might be able to get by with wearing a large garbage bag with a hole for your head while at the county fair but don’t plan on it working out well for you long-term. Far better to spring for a small but durable poncho that will easily fit into a side pocket of your pack. This will hopefully keep you from getting drenched in a downpour. This particular emergency blanket, sold by Survival Resources, has a built-in hood, which is a great feature.

All of the above will help keep you warm and dry as you travel but, like I mentioned before, you should plan for at least one night on the road. For that, you’ll probably want something a little better than a rain poncho.

One great option is to carry a small tarp and a hammock in your BOB. These items take up far less space than an actual tent and will serve quite nicely in all but truly low temperatures. All that is required is a couple of trees between which you can rig your hammock and tarp. You could even do away with the hammock, if you wanted to save space and weight in your BOB, and just sleep on the ground. I’d caution you, though, to put down a layer of pine boughs, grass, or similar material to insulate your body.

At the minimum, have a thin tarp and some cordage in your BOB. There are several different configurations you can use with just those two items.

4 Types of Heat Loss

There are four ways you can lose body heat and it is important to do what you can to combat each of them.


Your body is surrounded by a thin layer of air that is constantly being warmed by your body. It is sort of like insulation. However, wind or water can tear it away from you, causing you to suddenly feel cold. Clothing helps protect that layer of warm air, keeping us warm.


Ever sit on a boulder at night? It doesn’t take long for your butt to feel cold, right? That, my friend, is conduction at work. Heat energy tends to want to even itself out so if a warm object rests on a cold object, the energy seeps away from, say, your butt and moves to the rock. Insulating materials such as blankets, foam pads, even grass and leaves help to prevent this.


Most of our body heat is lost this way. Our bodies constantly radiate heat energy. Some bodies have higher heat output than others, of course. For some reason, puppies and kittens tend to be little hot pockets, right? You can help prevent radiated heat loss by bundling up in a jacket and hat.


When you step out of a lake or pool and a breeze blows by, you shiver. This is because evaporation is a cooling process. This is why our bodies sweat. When we’re working hard, we’re heating up. Sweat is generated to evaporate off the skin and cool us down a bit. You can avoid this having a negative effect on your body heat by removing layers when you’re working so you don’t sweat as much.

This is an excellent example of a quick and easy overnight set up. [Photo credit to Brandin Johnson.]

There are many different types of expedient shelters you could build as well, such as a debris hut or lean to. However, you are far better off to have supplies in your BOB that will allow a fast shelter set up and take down.

A step up from a tarp and hammock would be a sleeping bag and/or a bivvy sack, as well as a small tent. Keep in mind, though, that the more complicated the setup, the heavier it will be to carry around. The idea behind a BOB is to get you from Point A to Point B safely as well as (hopefully) quickly. That said, a heavier sleeping bag with a bivvy sack will keep you warmer in the dead of winter, as will an actual tent as opposed to a tarp.

On the other hand, a debris hut can be quite serviceable for a night on the road. It won’t be the Ritz but you’ll be alive to see the sun come up.

Depending on where you live and where you’ll be heading, you might consider investing in some sort of mosquito netting as well. It is very light and easy to stuff into a side pocket of your BOB. Where I live, the skeeters come large enough to qualify for single engine aircraft and carry off small children. Plus, they can carry some pretty nasty diseases.

In a survival situation, whether we’re talking a bug out or a lost in woods scenario, providing some means of protection against the elements is a primary objective. It takes precedence over just about everything. A decent shelter will help you to stay warm and dry, provide you with some degree of psychological benefit, and allow you to rest for a bit as you plan your next move.

[Note: If you missed the previous entry in this series, you can find it here.]

Avoid Stray Cat Syndrome

A couple of years ago, my wife and I were out walking one evening, something we do rather regularly when the weather is reasonable. A few blocks from home, we heard the mewing of a cat. We stopped to try and determine where it might be coming from and in a matter of seconds the cat walked out from some bushes. I reached down and scratched it behind the ear a bit, then we went on our way.

Want to guess what happened next? Yep, kitty followed us all the way home. It didn’t have a collar but was obviously not an outdoor cat. He was very affectionate as well as hungry. I poured a little food into a dish for him and that was that.

You know what happens when you feed a stray cat? I mean, aside from Brian Setzer playing guitar in your driveway.

That’s right, boys and girls, Jimmy got a new cat. Now, don’t get me wrong, it all worked out. Vinnie is an absolutely beautiful Maine coon and is, hands down, the softest cat on the planet.

But, I also knew going in that if I fed the kitty, he wasn’t likely to leave. I knew that and accepted the responsibility.

[For those wondering, we did our due diligence in trying to locate the cat’s owner. We took Vinnie to our vet and found he was microchipped (and also learned his given name). Vet tried to contact the owner several times, leaving messages and such, but received no response. Apparently Vinnie was abandoned when the owner moved.]

Stray Cat Syndrome is this same principle applied to people. If you feed them, they aren’t likely to leave willingly. Look, I’m all about paying it forward and trying to help folks as best I can. The problem, though, is charity can lead to issues, especially if we’re talking about a time period after a major collapse.

I would hazard to guess that it will only be a matter of time before you’re approached by someone in need in the aftermath of a big event. Someone who for one reason or another has no food or water and might likely perish without help. If you have anything approaching a soul in your body, you’ll want to do something to assist, especially if there are children involved. But, if you start handing out food and drink, where do you stop, where do you draw the line? In other words, how do you prevent the strays from trying to become house cats?

Sure, the threat of violence might work and it may very well come to that point. But, perhaps you can get out ahead of the problem before it becomes an issue.

I know some of you reading this are of the opinion that you should never, under any circumstances, share your stuff with an unknown person. I’m not going to argue the point with you one way or the other. But, there are many folks reading this who will, for right or wrong, try to help those less fortunate. The remainder of this article is for them.

If you are compelled to lend a hand to those in need, do so with both eyes wide open and fully recognize the risks. Keep in mind, the person receiving the aid will remember you. And it might not be some sort of fond recollection like, “Yeah, we were really desperate and starving. Then this nice family blessed us with a meal and some supplies, just enough to get us to the next town.” More likely, it’ll be, “Yep, I know exactly where we can go to grab some food. The daughter is quite a looker, too.”

One way to avoid that from happening is to devise some way of donating anonymously. For example, instead of handing out goodies on your doorstep, direct those in need to the church in town. “I’ve been hearing how some of the folks in town are setting up care packages there.” Of course, it is you who might have positioned the supplies there but the person doesn’t need to know that. The idea here, of course, is to direct attention away from you and your family and toward a nameless and faceless entity that might provide some aid to those who need it.

Think of it like sending the stray cat to a shelter instead of feeding it on your patio.

Build a BOB – Introduction

In the prepper world, there is perhaps no single item more debated or discussed than the Bug Out Bag. At times, it seems as though the Bug Out Bag (or BOB) is the stuff of myth and legend. Survival literature is rife with descriptions of what you need to have in your BOB, what type of pack you should use, and where you should store it.

At the core, a BOB is nothing more than a collection of gear and supplies designed to keep the user alive until they reach a safe location. The BOB gives the user options as to accomplishing different goals or objectives. Anyone who has read my books or heard me speak knows that I am all about giving yourself options when it comes to survival planning. Locking yourself into any single course of action without available alternatives could mean a death sentence. Instead, a far better plan is to provide yourself with as many options as is reasonable, allowing you to choose the one that makes the most sense given the set of facts you face at the time.

The thing is, though, the BOB is, or should be, personalized and customized based upon the needs, the skills, and the experience level of the end user. There are a few really great premade BOBs on the market, such as those offered by Echo-Sigma. However, even those need to be torn apart, played with, and added to in order to make them truly perfect for the user. Not too mention, the good ones are rather pricey.

In this blog series, I’m going to break down the BOB into various categories of supplies. For each, we’ll discuss different approaches to the goals needing to be met and present different options for meeting those goals. The idea here is for you to carefully weigh the different ideas presented, see how they fit into your own situation, and then apply them as needed. Some of what I’ll mention won’t work for you. That’s perfectly okay. Hopefully, though, at least some of it will fit very well for you and your family.

The different categories we’ll discuss are (these will become clickable once the blog posts for each go live):

First aid / Hygiene
Pack or container

Before we get into all of the nitty-gritty, let’s talk a bit more about what a BOB is and what it isn’t. In order to do that, we need to discuss bugging out, at least in a general sense.

I suppose we should define bugging out, just to make certain we’re all on the same page. For our purposes, bugging out means leaving the area with little to no expectation of returning in the immediate future. In other words, this isn’t a “stay at Grandma’s for a few days” sort of situation but rather a “grab Grandma on the way out of town” deal.

Bugging out should rarely be your primary plan of action in the event of a disaster. In all but a very small number of scenarios, you are far better off staying put than you are hitting the road. For most of us, home is where we have the majority of our supplies stored. Why in the world would we willingly leave all of that behind or try to quickly pack it all up into the family trickster?

Yes, you should have a bug out plan and a BOB. But, this should comprise only a small part of your overall disaster readiness planning.

Think about the disasters likely to befall you and your family. For each of them, consider whether it would make better sense to stay home or hit the road. On top of that, consider that for the few scenarios where bugging out might indeed be the best choice, with any of them you’ll need to get out ahead of the crowd in order to pull it off.

Forget all notions of heading for the woods like you saw in Red Dawn (either version). Keep in mind, you’re not the only person who saw the movie(s). Plus, if you lack a high degree of skill in bushcraft and such, you’re just dooming yourself to failure. Camping is one thing, living off the land for extended periods of time is quite another.

Your eventual bug out location is a key factor in planning your BOB. You need to have a realistic idea of the length of time you’ll be traveling. We’re not putting together a “head off to the woods and live forever” type of kit, here. The purpose of the BOB is to provide you with the supplies you need to get from Point A to Point B. We’ll get more into the specifics of planning as we go along in the blog series. Suffice it to say for now, have an idea of where you’ll be headed and how long it will take you to get there, on foot if necessary.

A BOB isn’t Santa’s Gift Bag, filled to the brim with all manner of gadgets, gizmos, and doohickeys. Nor is it some sort of magical device that automatically grants the user immunity against any and all dangers. It is simply a collection of gear and supplies designed to keep you alive, pure and simple.

Make sure you “friend” me on Facebook and/or join the Survival Weekly FB group so you can be notified as new entries in the Build a BOB blog series are posted.

CRKT to Release New Knives and Tools Designed by Speed Climber, Hans Florine

CRKT and world-record setting climber create knives and tools that take technology to new heights.

CRKT® is releasing the Hans Florine designed NIAD™, Bivy™ and Hyphenate™ at the Outdoor Retailer Summer Market (Salt Lake City, UT August 5th – 8th). These knives and tools are super lightweight—you’d expect nothing less from a world record holding speed climber of The Nose on Yosemite’s El Capitan.

At 0.6 oz, the NIAD™ (Nose In A Day) folding climbing knife keeps you light on your feet when they’re 2000 ft above the ground.

It features a simple two-piece design so you don’t have anything getting in your way when scaling cliff faces. The stainless steel blade seats against the frame and eliminates the need for a sheath or additional parts while climbing. That’s welcome news for those who are looking for something that’s high-function but not high-maintenance.

When you want to take a bivouac on with one hand, there’s the Bivy™.

Inspired by Han’s work with the Bandaloop Vertical Dance Troupe, this revolutionary multi-tool provides easy single-handed operation for those times when your other one is busy with rigging or emergencies. Simply push the button and spring-assisted pliers jump into action. A comforting thought for those who are at the end of their rope. It also features a locking liner safety, marlinspike, and Phillips and flathead screwdrivers.

Finally, the Hyphenate™ bridges the gap between knives in places bridges don’t exist.

This fixed blade climbing knife crosses over into camping or any other outdoor activity. It features a modified tanto blade design with a combination edge making it feel comfortable in a variety of conditions. Additionally, there are two large holes in the handle to help with grip and cut down on weight, as well as an O² wrench.

The new line was created in response to Han’s need for tools and blades that could operate as freely as he does.

“I wanted things that were simple, lightweight and safe,” Florine recalls “And in climbing, sometimes you have to fashion those for yourself. I’m glad to now be working with CRKT to put these knives and tools into production.”

If you’re looking for a minimal knife or tool that offers maximum cutting ability and ease of use, reach for the NIAD™, Bivy™ or Hyphenate™.

**Hans Florine will be available at the CRKT booth (#70) at OR Summer Market on Thursday, August 6th from 2:00-4:00 PM to talk about his awesome new products!

The NIAD™ knife manufacturer’s suggested retail price is $39.99.

The Bivy™ multi-tool manufacturer’s suggested retail price is $69.99.

The Hyphenate™ knife manufacturer’s suggested retail price is $29.99.


SKU: 2406
Blade Length: 1.560” (39.6 mm)
Edge: Combination
Steel: 5Cr13MoV, 56-58 HRC
Finish: Silver Stonewash
Thickness: 0.080” (2.0 mm)
Closed: 2.500” (63.5 mm)
Open: 4.060” (103.1 mm)
Weight: 0.6 oz. (17.0 g)
Handle: 6AI4V Titanium
Style: Folding Knife w/Frame Lock

SKU: 2450
Blade Length: 2.230” (56.6 mm)
Edge: Combination
Steel: 8Cr13MoV, 58-60 HRC
Finish: Silver Stonewash
Thickness: 0.120” (3.0 mm)
Overall: 4.440” (121.2 mm)
Weight: 1.2 oz. (34.0 g)
Handle: Stainless Steel
Style: Fixed Blade Knife w/Sheath
Sheath Material: Glass Reinforced Nylon
Sheath Weight: 0.9 oz. (25.5 g)

SKU: 9250
Blade Length: 2.920” (74.1 mm)
Steel: 5Cr15MoV, 55-58 HRC
Finish: Satin
Thickness: 0.090” (2.3 mm)
Closed: 4.120” (104.6 mm)
Open Pliers: 6.030” (153.1 mm)
Blade: 7.060” (179.3 mm)
Weight: 7.7 oz. (218 g)
Handle: 1060 Al
Style: Multi-Tool w/Locking Liner

Founded in 1994, CRKT® is the industry’s premier brand of knives, tools, and lifestyle accessories, with a reputation for innovative design. For more information, call: (800) 891-3100, email:, on the web:

The Disaster Tool Kit

Almost any disaster you can imagine brings with it the likelihood of damage, debris, and other unpleasantness that will need to be handled or dealt with in some way. While downed trees and branches certainly come to mind first, it might be that you’ll need to stumble your way through a plumbing issue because help will be delayed. Or, maybe you’ll need to patch a hole in the roof or cover a broken window.

Whatever the case ends up being, you’ll be glad you took the time and effort to put together a set of tools to get you through.


Perhaps surprising to some people, hammers come in a dizzying array of sizes and styles. If you can only afford one, go for a framing hammer. Larger than most other types, the framing hammer will not only drive nails but it works great for quick demolition work. It has a longer handle which provides some extra reach. Honestly, a good framing hammer will be able to handle just about any job you can realistically expect. But, if you just gotta have more than one hammer, your second one should be a simple claw hammer. It will be a bit smaller and lighter than the framing one, which could ease the arm strain a bit in the long run.


You’ll need at least flat head and Phillips screwdrivers, both in varying sizes. Torx (star shaped) screwdrivers are sometimes needed for certain car repairs but that’s about it. Square screwdrivers, the ones that end in a box shape, are sometimes used in home building and remodeling. Take a look around your house to see if anyone has used square head screws and, if so, pick up the corresponding size screwdriver, just in case.

Rather annoyingly, the folks who owned my house before me often did their own home repairs using whatever they happened to have around. So, if I need to remove a shelf, for example, I’m usually confronted with a flat head screw, a Phillips screw, a square head screw, and a nail. Yeah, working on projects in my home is lots of fun, let me tell you….


When you’re dealing with nuts and bolts, you’ll need wrenches. Don’t just pick up a cheap set at the dollar store. They are likely to bend into pretzels the first time you actually need to use them. Pay a little extra for good quality and they’ll last a lifetime. These come in two flavors and you’ll probably need both. “Standard” or SAE are the fraction ones (1/2, 9/16, 5/8, etc.). Metric are the whole numbers (10, 11, 12, etc.).

You should also have a couple of adjustable wrenches in your tool kit. I actually like to have three, so as to cover all the bases – 6 inch, 10 inch, and 12 inch. You can often buy these in sets of 2 or 3.

Socket sets can often make jobs a lot easier than plain old wrenches but it can get expensive buying both sets. A good compromise is a set of ratcheting wrenches.


You’re going to want at least two pair of pliers. The best for general use are the channel lock variety as they open the widest while still affording some degree of control over the tool. I say to get two because many jobs require you to hold one fastener tight while you turn the other.

Duct tape

There are many brands and varieties of duct tape. Honestly, I don’t know that any one is significantly better than the rest. No matter which kind you get, duct tape has millions of uses and you’ll want to have at least a couple of rolls on hand. I like Gorilla tape, myself.


Most of us carry at least one knife with us almost all the time. That’s all well and good but I like to keep a small sheath knife in my tool kit as well. The one time you forget to put a folding knife in your pocket will be the time you need a sharp blade to do some cutting during a repair project. You don’t need anything fancy nor expensive as this knife is likely to see some very hard use.

Cordless drill

I know, I know, the drill might be cordless but it still needs electricity to charge the batteries. Here’s the thing – the drill will still work until the batteries are drained. That being the case, the drill will keep my wrists and arms from getting tired from turning screws by hand, at least for a while. Plus, I use cordless drills all the time when working on remodeling projects anyway so for me it isn’t an added expense to the emergency tool kit.

Tree/brush trimming

If you live outside the city, you’re going to want a bow saw, loppers, and perhaps smaller pruners to handle storm damage. A chainsaw would certainly be nice, too, provided you have fuel, sharp chains, and you know what the hell you’re doing. You’ll probably want or need shovels and rakes as well for general cleaning up outside.


Nails, screws, nuts, and bolts can be had for pennies by the pound at rummage sales and such. Many homeowners have found these fasteners seem to multiply on their own, too, and accumulate jar after jar of them. They come in quite handy when doing expedient repairs so if your own collection is somehow sparse, pick some up.


Given the high probability that the power will be out after a disaster hits, a portable source of light will be necessary. Headlamps allow you to free up both of your hands, which is nice, and even small lanterns can light up a room. Make sure you have plenty of batteries.


This is a very handy tool should you need to move something rather heavy. You attach it to something stationary, such as a tree, and hook the line to whatever you’re trying to move. A ratchet pulls the line and thus the object.

Start with getting together a set of basic hand tools. These are the things you’ll likely need most often for home repairs and such. Once you have acquired those, branch out into power tools and such.