Post-Collapse Barter and Trade

[Note: I gave a presentation on this topic at the NPS Expo in Louisville, Kentucky, in October, 2015. These are the notes from that presentation, as promised to those who attended.]

After TSHTF, paper money will likely be pretty worthless. As for gold and other valuable metals, well I’m personally not sold on the idea of stockpiling them for future currency. I think that if the world does finally end up turned on its ear, it will be quite some time before people are concerned with more than just filling their bellies and keeping some form of roof over their heads. For at least the immediate future after TSHTF, barter and trading will be the most popular forms of currency.

No matter how long we’ve been prepping, each of us will probably forget to have stockpiled some item, or at least enough of it, that will get us through. Hopefully, someone else will have had the foresight to either stockpile it or in some other way be able to provide it…probably for a fee. No man (or woman) is an island and we all likely lack at least a couple of skills we might need at some point down the road. Thus, we’ll need a way to “pay” for someone else to help us out in those areas we lack.

There are essentially two categories for what you might have available to trade or barter – stuff and skills.

Stuff refers to the physical items you have on hand you could trade to someone else for either goods or services.

The key elements in my opinion as to what items to stockpile for future use in barter are:

1) They must be relatively inexpensive now.
2) They must be long lasting and easy to store.
3) They must have inherent use for you, whether you trade them later or not.

Some suggestions for stuff to stockpile for use in bartering:

Hard candy

Garden surplus
Powdered milk
Drink mixes

Feminine hygiene products
Pain relievers
Yeast infection treatments
Caffeine pills

Dental floss

Can openers
Butane lighters
Strike anywhere matches
Nails, screws
Hand tools
Cloth, patches
Needles, thread
Safety pins
Socks, underwear

Skills are the services you could provide in exchange for either goods or services. Again, same with stuff, the skills must have inherent value to you and your family.

Medical (including herbal remedies)
Leather working, tanning
Smithing, metal working
Foraging, trapping
Automotive, small engine repair
Home brewer, distillation

Obviously, if you have skills to offer, you should have stockpiled the necessary tools and supplies to do the job. Most of the above skills would be well suited for a cottage industry after a collapse.

The key elements to a successful trade either now or later:

1) Both sides should be happy with the result. Ideally, each party will feel they got the better end of the trade.

2) The trade should take place in a safe manner, as best as is possible. Thus, I highly discourage the idea of trading ammunition, just in case the other person feels like returning their “purchase” using some form of quick delivery system. If the other party is a neighbor or friend, obviously that is a less worrisome transaction than someone relatively unknown. In the latter event, perhaps you can work out a neutral location to swap goods.

Incidentally, that image at the top of the page? That was a barter kit issued to American pilots during World War II. The idea was that downed pilots could use the contents to help bribe their way back to safety. Read more about these kits here.

Realistic Bug Out Planning

[Note: I gave this presentation at the NPS Expo in Louisville, Kentucky, in October, 2015. As a courtesy to those who attended, I am sharing it here. It isn't verbatim, of course. In fact, there is far more here than I had time to cover at the Expo.]

Show of hands, how many here have at least one bug out bag packed and ready to go?

Show of hands, how many here have at least one planned destination if they need to bug out?

Show of hands, how many here know exactly how they are going to get from Point A to Point B?

Ok, cool. Now, here’s where I’m going to deviate from a lot of the advice you’ve probably heard or read when it comes to disaster planning. You ready?


Bugging out is what you do if, and only IF, you have no other viable options available to you. In the vast majority of potential scenarios, staying home is going to be your best, your SAFEST option. Home is where the bulk of your supplies are located. You’re familiar with the area and are likely going to be the most comfortable there.

Now, with all of that in mind, let’s talk a bit about what bugging out means.

Defining Bugging Out

What does the term bugging out mean to you?

Here’s how I look at it. Bugging out means traveling from a hazardous location to a safe one, as quickly, as efficiently, and as safely as possible. It does NOT mean heading for the hills to live off the land in a debris hut for months on end.

The fact is, relatively speaking very few people possess the skills that would be required to successfully live off the land for an extended period of time. Hunting, fishing, trapping, and scavenging wild edibles is all well and good, but that’s a damned hard means of existence when we’re talking potentially several weeks to several months.

Plus, think about this for a second. What scenarios could happen that would make living in the woods for an extended period of time be the best option? Natural disasters would, by definition, make being outdoors a risky move. Martial law? Sure, ok, but now you’re adding a need for extreme stealth on top of supplying your basic needs. Look, we live in the real world, this isn’t a post-apocalyptic fantasy novel. Do you really think you can meet the needs of yourself and your family members out in the bush for several weeks or more?

If this is your plan, I would encourage you to grow up, move out from your parents’ basement, and join the rest of us out here in big people world.

The fact is, the vast majority of people who plan to head off to the woods to live out the rest of their days will get exactly what they’re planning, just that the rest of their days probably won’t be quite as long as they think.

Ok, on to realistic bug out planning.

We’re not going to go into detail on what should or should not be in your bug out bag. That’s an entire workshop in and of itself. Suffice to say, there are roughly a bazillion lists available online that will tell you what you *should* have in your BOB.

Instead of this being what we might call gear porn, we’re talking today about planning for the actual bug out. The first step is determining where you’re going to go. Bugging out without a destination just makes you one more refugee on the roads. Perhaps a well-equipped refugee, but a refugee nonetheless.

Bug Out Locations

I suggest you have at least three different potential bug out locations, each of them in opposite directions from one another. Say, Grandpa’s old hunting cabin up north, your buddy’s homestead to the west, and your cousin’s place to the southeast. Prepping is all about options, giving yourself the luxury of choice rather than being locked into a single course of action. Planning multiple locations covers your bets, so to speak. Being that none of us can accurately predict the circumstances that might cause us to bug out, we don’t know where the safest direction for travel may be.

Assuming you’re like most of us in this room, you probably aren’t Mr or Mrs Moneybags and you can’t afford to just buy a bunch of land all over the place. Therefore, you’ll need to consider speaking with family and friends about coming their way should some crisis occur. Yeah, I know, that’s probably not going to be a fun conversation. But, it needs to happen so everyone is on the same page. Be sure to offer your place to them, should the event happen in their neck of the woods. I would also strongly advise you to give thought to socking some supplies away at each bug out location. This is made far easier, of course, if the BOL is someone’s home, rather than an empty cabin. Food, water, basic first aid items, all that fun stuff.


Once you know where you’re going, next is planning how you’ll get there. In an ideal world, you’ll have gotten out way ahead of the crowd and you’ll just have a leisurely drive, maybe even some sightseeing on the way, right? In reality, you’ll probably be facing rush hour from hell, possibly even roadblocks, official or otherwise.

This brings up something we didn’t talk about regarding choosing BOLs – the distance. Most cars and trucks on the road today average somewhere around 400 miles on a tank of gas. Given that most of us probably fill up when our tank reaches somewhere between ½ and 1/4 full, that gives us, on average, about 100-200 miles. Keep in mind, that’s not as the crow flies but as the road twists and turns, including detouring around roadblocks (natural or manmade) and other deviations.

Should you end up on foot, the likelihood of traveling a couple of hundred miles diminishes considerably for many people. Depending upon your physical fitness, the terrain, and other considerations, you might be lucky to get ten miles a day. If your BOL is 100 miles away, that’s almost two weeks of walking. Could you do that?

Something to consider is keeping bicycles at home for possible use when bugging out. You’ll travel much faster than if you were walking and you don’t have to worry about carrying cans of fuel with you. Plus, bikes can be used for transporting cargo, far more than you’d be able to carry on your back.

Animals can also be used for transport, of course. If you have horses or donkeys, they can be a great option. However, riding them or using them for cargo transport isn’t something you can learn in just a few minutes. Caring for the animals’ needs is crucial as well.

Route Planning

Ok, so you have your BOLs determined and you have a good idea of how you’ll be moving to get there. Now, we need to determine the routes you are going to take.

Plan for at least three separate routes to each BOL. Again, options. You can’t know ahead of time what the road conditions are going to be like. You might run into roadblocks or very heavy traffic. Speed is important, yes, but so is avoiding potential problems along the way. Far better to detour 30 miles out of your way than end up enmeshed in a major traffic jam for hours on end.

Routes should take you away from and around population centers as much as possible. Stick to back roads, ones that few people probably know well outside the locals. Test out these routes from time to time, varying between day and night as well as throughout the different seasons. You might be surprised at how different a given stretch of road can look at night or in the middle of winter. You want these routes committed to memory as best you can, so you know them like the back of your hand.

Always have the applicable maps in your bug out bag. There shouldn’t be a need for marking your routes on the map, you should know them already. The idea behind having the maps is to increase your options if you end up having to deviate considerably from a chosen route. Obviously, knowing how to properly read a map is important!


Depending upon the distance, it might not be the worst idea in the world to set up one or two caches along the way. A cache is simply a small collection of supplies that is hidden along your route. The most basic type of cache is a section of PVC pipe that is sealed up and buried. There are all sorts of websites and even Youtube videos that can show you how to assemble one rather easily. The idea behind a cache is to have resupply points as you travel to your BOL. If you’re running low on food or ammunition, it would be great to a stash available to you.

A few words of caution about caches.

1) Make damn sure you can find it again. One way is to triangulate the location between fixed points of reference, such as a large oak tree, a boulder, and a fence post. Another is to mark the location with a very easy to spot landmark, such as a uniquely shaped or colored rock.

2) Caches should be placed on property you either own or in some other place where it is legal for you to bury it. You really don’t want to get caught in the middle of the night in a public park or cemetery with a shovel and a large pipe-shaped object.

3) Items placed in a cache should be stuff that you can leave sit for years. Where in most areas of prepping we talk about regularly rotating our supplies, you can’t do that with a cache.

4) Lastly, I would encourage you to give thought to how you’ll access the cache when the time comes. Burying a PVC pipe isn’t all too difficult, removing it from the ground is a whole ‘nother thing. See, ground settles over time and that pipe might be locked in tighter than Winnie the Pooh got stuck after eating too much honey. Consider a tube-within-a-tube approach.

Unplanned party attendees

Okay, so there you are. You’ve managed to trek 80+ miles, mostly on foot, over the last week or so and have finally arrived at your BOL, only to find some folks have beaten you to the party. You’re tired, hungry, and more than a bit peeved that someone else has taken up residence in your BOL. Now what?

Well, like most things in life, it depends. For starters, hopefully you know the lay of the land, so to speak, better than they do. Use that to your advantage and learn what you can about them. Are they merely starving survivors who are thanking gods high and low that they found this nice piece of heaven on earth or are they more akin to raiders, looking to scrounge all they can and move on?

I mean, I might have a hard time kicking out a single mom with a couple of young kids, all of whom are starving and just looking to put a roof over their heads for a night or two. On the other hand, if it is a group of ne’er do well types, am I sufficiently armed and capable of meeting force with force, should it come to that?

Yeah, this one’s pretty much a judgment call. Let your conscience be your guide. Tell you what, though. Just at the outskirts of your BOL would be a dandy place for a cache.

The Importance of Drills

As I said at the beginning, bugging out should be your last resort, not your primary plan. That said, you should have a bug out component to your overall disaster plans. You don’t know what the future may hold. To that end, once you’ve established your bug out plans, you should practice them from time to time. On some Saturday afternoon when everyone is home, suddenly announce that you’re all bugging out. Time how long it takes for everyone to grab their stuff, load up, and get on the road. Practice a different route to a different BOL each time. Alternate drivers, change things up to make it interesting.

Now, you’re not doing this to keep everyone in a great mood, as likely as that is, of course. Remember fire drills in school? You know why they do them? Because they work! Family members need to know what is expected of them in an emergency and how to accomplish what you want them to do. Take it slow at first, with a minimum of shouting. Over time, they’ll get quicker at it, but only if you practice regularly.

At least one drill every few months should involve walking all or at least most of a route, rather than always driving. Yes, that’s a pain in the arse for all involved. But, it needs to be done.

Bug out bag recommendations

Now, as I said at the start of this workshop, we’re not going to go into great detail about what should or shouldn’t be in your bug out bag. However, I will share with you some of the most common mistakes I’ve seen over the years.

1) Don’t buy the pack first – determine what you’ll need to carry, then decide on a pack that will contain it all. Too many people buy a pack that is way bigger than needed, then feel compelled to fill the damn thing to bursting.

2) Cheaply made and/or untested gear – Look, I’m all about budgeting but relying upon the dollar store to provide for your survival is wishful thinking at best. Further, each and every item you purchase, whether for bugging out or sheltering in place at home, should be fully tested so you know exactly how it works and what is limitations are.

3) Lack of foot protection – Socks don’t weigh much and can be used for cushioning items in your pack. They are crucial to keeping your feet protected from injury. Always keep a good, sturdy pair of walking shoes or hiking boots near your bug out bag and change into them at your earliest opportunity. Ditch the Jimmy Choos or Allan Edmonds.

4) Ounces lead to pounds, pounds lead to back aches – overpacking is probably the most common mistake I’ve seen. Met a guy once who showed me his bug out bag. It was so large, he was out of breath from carrying it across a parking lot. Look, you need to put the bug out bag on your back and walk around with it, at least for a few hours. If you can’t make it to the end of your driveway and back, start ditching unnecessary gear.

Complication Free Food Storage Rotation

By Lee Flynn

Stored food will last for a while but it will not last forever. This is exactly why a good plan for rotating the food being stored is important. It will save money by eliminating the need to throw out groceries that have outlived their shelf life and it could prevent illness from food borne bacteria.

Keeping track of the shelf life of food is easier than you may think. Most foods have a “use by” or an expiration date. This is the date the unopened product should be used by for optimum quality. Some items have a longer shelf life than others.

Putting Together an Organized Plan for Storing Food

1. Plan the storage space.

Perhaps the most important part of storing food is to planning the space. Food that is not easily accessible is food that can go to waste. Shelve that revolve are an excellent idea. They allow you to easily move the food so the FIFO or First In, First Out strategy can be used. This strategy ensures that food stored first will be used first.
Other options include using rolling storage bins, Lazy Susans, and sloped shelves.

2. Place food items in order.

This will help you to find things more quickly as well as stocking them using the FIFO strategy. For example, place foods such as canned beans, canned corn, and other canned vegetables on the same shelf. When you are ready to use a can remove it from the extreme right. When you restock, add new cans on the left and push the existing cans to the right. If you are using deep shelves, place newly purchased food items in the back and pull the older ones to the front of the shelf. Grocery stores use this method when restocking shelves.

3. Date food items.

Although most food has “use by” dates, they are generally in small print and not easy to see. Use a marker to put the month and year the food was purchased on the top of cans, packages, and boxes. Make sure and check the “use by” dates first so you do not end up with items nearing the end of their shelf life. This tip also aids in helping to rotate the food correctly and efficient food storage. It is easier to see to make sure you are using the oldest first.

4. Keep an inventory list.

An inventory list will help you to keep track of the food you have on hand and what needs to be restocked. Check off items as you use them or inventory your food on a regular basis. This is particularly helpful when rotating food by using from the back and pulling older items to the front.

5. Check food storage areas on a regular basis.

This ensures that items are not sitting on the shelf for a prolonged period. If there are some that are not used as frequently and have been sitting for a while, pull them out and use them as soon as possible. This will prevent you from buying more of something than you need and reduces food being wasted.

Using these tips will allow your food dollars to go further because it will cut down on waste. Knowing what you have on hand keeps you from buying more than you need and increasing the risk that it will go bad before it is used. Organizing your food storage also makes it easier to find the items you are looking for when preparing meals. Rather than a cluttered shelf with food you forgot you had purchased, it will be simple to find that can of mixed vegetables you need for your home made soup.

Why Buy Books When We Have The Internet?

One of the most common complaints I see in negative book reviews on Amazon, reviews for non-fiction at least, is that the information in the book can easily be found online. I’m not referring to reviews on my books in particular, I’m talking about reviews in general for non-fiction books. Here’s the thing. If your Google-Fu is even just average, you can find out damn near *anything* you want with a little searching. The Internet contains what amounts to the sum total of all of mankind’s knowledge.

So, what’s the point of buying a book, then? First, the book probably contains information you’d never thought to seek out. Many readers don’t know what they don’t know, know what I mean? The information is out there, but if you aren’t aware of the need for it, you’ll never go searching to find it. That’s where the author steps in, takes you by the hand, and shows you what you’ve missed.

Second, in this particular niche (disaster readiness), we talk a lot about things like power outages. Disasters or emergencies that would preclude ready access to the Internet. Assembling a library, even a very small one, goes far toward ensuring you’ll have the information you need at hand when you need it. All of the best bookmarks in the world won’t do you a bit of good if you can’t get online.

Third, just because you can find the information elsewhere online doesn’t mean it’ll be presented in a way that makes sense or that is enjoyable to read. For some, the latter is irrelevant, I know. There are a few people out there who subscribe to the Jack Webb School of Learning – Just the facts, ma’am. Many readers, though, want to be at least somewhat entertained as they learn new information and skills. It has been my experience that people tend to learn and retain new information easier if they are relaxed and in a good mood. That’s one of the reasons why, as so many have noted, my writing style is laid back, as though the reader and I were just sitting on the porch with cups of coffee, solving all of the world’s problems.

Look, the fact is that probably around 80% of the information in Random Prepper Book #1 will also be covered in Random Prepper Book #2, #3, and so on. I mean, food storage is food storage, right? It is more a matter of HOW the information is conveyed, with the author’s unique spin on the topic. Plus, there’s that ~20% that’s going to be brand new information.

If you’re serious about prepping, setting up some sort of small home library is an essential step. Hard copies, books you can pick up and leaf through, are far preferable to electronic files you might not be able to access when push comes to shove.

Emergency Preparedness for Pets

By Lee Flynn

Imagine finding out that your home is in the path of a destructive storm and you have been given the order to evacuate. Knowing that you live in an area prone to severe weather, you put your 72-hour kit(s) in the trunk of your car, check to make sure that your home will be secure while you’re gone, and turn around to see your pet.

In the event that you have to evacuate your home, remember that if you leave, your pets should leave with you. Never leave a pet alone or set them loose believing that their natural instincts will kick in and that they can survive on their own. Always bring pets indoors at the first sign of an approaching storm. Pets may become disoriented and wander away from home during an emergency.

“Always be prepared.” It’s the Boy Scout Motto and is especially true when faced with the threat of a natural disaster. You have an emergency plan for your family but you also need to have an emergency plan for your pet(s).

When developing an emergency plan for your pet, consider the following:

Geography and Climate
Depending on which part of the country you live in, your family may be threatened by tornadoes, hurricanes, wild fires, blizzards or, mudslides. You also need to take into consideration the climate in which you live; this will affect your emergency plans.

Emergency Routes and Shelter Locations
You should have at least two emergency evacuation routes mapped out and you should drive these several times to become familiar with them. Where you shelter is also important. Call ahead of time to find out if there are pet friendly shelters or pet friendly hotels available if you don’t have a friend or family’s home to go to. Preparing ahead of time will lessen your pet’s stress.

Micro-chip Your Pets
If you have not already done so, consider having your pet micro-chipped. This will help in the event that you and your pet become separated. Keep recent photos of your pet(s) on hand to help in identification.

Collars and Tags
Be sure that your pets wear collars and tags with up-to-date information. Your pet’s ID tag should contain his name, telephone number, and urgent medical needs.

Prepare an Emergency Kit for Your Pet
Your pet has the same needs as any other member of your family. Your pet’s emergency kit should be clearly labelled. Make sure that everyone in the family knows where it is.

Items to consider keeping in or near your kit include:

• Up to 7 days of emergency food which can be either canned (pop-top) or dry food. Rotate the food every two months.
• Up to a 7 day water supply. Store your water in a cool, dry place and rotate it every 2 months.
Pet water/feeding dishes.
• Extra collar and leash.
• A sturdy pet carrier, one per pet. Be sure to write your pet’s name, your contact information, and any medical needs on your pet’s carrier.
Pet first-aid kit.
• Liquid dish soap, disinfectant, and paper towels.
• Disposable garbage bags for clean-up.
• Disposable litter pans and scoop-able litter. Aluminum roasting pans make great emergency litter pans.
• Photocopies of medical records and a two-week supply of any medicine your pet requires. Rotate the medicine every two months.
• A fleece blanket or piece of fleece fabric (for picking up a scared or nervous pet). The blanket can also be used in the pet’s carrier.
• Favorite toys.

Be sure and take into consideration the type of pet you own, the age of your pet, and the special needs of your pet when preparing an emergency kit. Review the kit annually to determine if your pet’s needs have changed.

Be prepared; take simple steps now to reduce your family’s and your pet’s stress during an emergency.

Resource Conservation When In Survival Mode

Conserving resources is always a good idea but it is especially important in a survival situation. When you enter into survival mode, you recognize (or should) that what you have with you at the time is all you have available for equipment. Therefore, you want to be able to stretch those perhaps meager supplies for as long as possible, just in case what you hope will be just a single night out in the wild turns into several days or more.

Fire making

Many of us have rather elaborate fire kits, don’t we? In particular, we carry several different types of ready-to-light tinder, such as Wet Fire, Instafire, or perhaps our own homemade concoctions. These are all resources that should be saved until they are truly needed. Instead of reaching for one of your egg carton tinder packages, use plant fluff, chaga fungus, or some other natural material you’ve scavenged. Only turn to the manmade stuff in your kit when you have no other option.

When you’re out on the trail, keep an eye out for good sources of natural tinder. Grab some here and there and place it into a plastic bag (you do keep some empty Ziploc bags in your kit, right?). This way, you’re not expending extra energy just searching for tinder, plus you’re conserving your manmade stuff for another time.

By the same token, while I certainly carry a supply of strike anywhere matches with me, I also have a butane lighter as well as a ferro rod. The matches are strictly for backup. I tend to use the ferro rod more often than any other method of fire lighting, including the butane lighter.


Much like fire making, rely on natural fuels rather than manmade ones when cooking the evening meal. Granted, in a true survival situation you might not be doing much cooking to begin with but it can be a morale boost to sit down and have a hot meal at the end of a stressful day. In any event, rather than lighting up your JetBoil, use the coals from a small campfire. Conserve your fuel for times when you’re unable to get a fire going for some reason.

Tool usage

A good knife is a necessity in any survival kit. We all know this, right? However, be judicious, even perhaps outright stingy, with its use. Why? Every time you cut, carve, or whittle with the knife, you dull the blade a bit. If it is a good quality knife, it will take some time before that dulling will become noticeable, but it still happens. While a pocket sharpener is a great addition to a kit, you should still limit your use of the knife and other tools to occasions when they are truly necessary. For example, rather than chopping through a branch to make it smaller for the fire, wedge it between two standing trees and push or pull to snap it. Or, just lay it on the fire and let it burn through. Refrain from snapping it over your knee, though, to avoid the possibility of injury.

Remember, a dull blade is far more dangerous than a sharp one. Keep yours as sharp as possible for as long as possible.


At the least, many of us have things like hard candy, roasted nuts, dried fruit, and the like in our pockets or our kits when we hit the trail. Being able to positively identify at least a few wild edibles can extend that small food supply quite a bit. I would not suggest you plan on subsisting completely on wild foods, of course, as one never knows exactly how the situation might unfold. I look at it like this – just because you know how to start a fire with a bow drill doesn’t mean you really want to rely on just that one method for lighting all of your fires, right? Same here. Just because you know how to obtain food in the wild doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have some vittles with you when you start your trip. That said, knowing a few plants that are nutritious and filling will allow your one day supply of trail mix to extend well beyond.

This isn’t difficult stuff, you just need to get into the right frame of mind. These are habits you’d do well to adopt in your routine excursions outdoors so that they are second-nature should you end up entering survival mode for a time.

2015 Survival Weekly Writing Contest Entries

Please take a few minutes to read through the following contest entries, then vote for your favorite! To vote, simply leave a comment below with the number of your favorite entry. Please only one vote per household. Votes will be collected until 11:59PM, Sunday, September 20. Winners will be announced on Monday, September 21st and contacted via email. Winners will have 24 hours to respond. Failure to respond within 24 hours will mean forfeiture of prize.

About 6 years ago, I began my preparations for just about any type of SHTF scenario. I researched a lot of online prepper sites. One of the first things I learned and that still holds true today is “without drinking water, nothing else really matters.”

Back then, I had very little money to spend on prepping and my wife was not yet on board with my plans. Even though my preparations list was lengthy, I knew that I had to start out small. I divided my plans into 3-phases. Each prepping category (ie, water, fuel, food, sanitation, etc.) started small and ended, I hoped, somewhat sufficient for any disaster.

The first thing on my list of preps was to start my water storage plan. (Phase I) After lots of research, I found that the best bang for my buck was to buy 10-each, 7-gallon water jugs from Walmart. I figured 7-gallon jugs were better than 5-gallons and Walmart had the best price. I soon found out that this “old man” could not carry 7-gallons of water down a flight of basement stairs, especially 10 times. Thanks to my grown children, I was able to solve that dilemma. To keep from changing the water every 6 months to a year, I learned that I might be able to extend the storage life to 5-years by adding certain chemicals (Clorox bleach and Betadine). I will soon be changing those jugs to see if it was effective or not. With the price of water being so inexpensive, I will now start changing our water every 6 months.

(Phase II) Since Phase III will be an expensive endeavor for us, we decided to help meet our need for good water by buying 2-each Outback® filter units with 8-each spare filter sets. These units will filter water to 99.99% purity. With the addition of Clorox and Betadine, the water they process will be 100% pure.

(Phase III) For the past few years now, I’ve been trying to save enough money to enhance our water storage by buying 4-each, 250-gallon water tanks and a shed to house them. I’ve been prolonging this for way too long because my wife, who is now in prepper mode, wants other things first; such as, ammo, food, fuel, an AWD vehicle, and such. Time is way overdue for this phase to be completed, and it soon will be.

As with most things, plans change. Advice from a famous prepper and author has made me rethink my water preps to add a Phase IV. I am now convinced that a large rainwater catchment system is absolutely necessary for my family. I hope to install it sometime before the SHTF.

My Favorite Survival Tip: “Without Drinking Water, nothing else really matters.”


Psychological preparation is at least as important as physical preparation! All your stockpiled supplies will be useless if you are unable to deal with the situation without being overwhelmed or giving up. Getting mentally ready is especially crucial if you have children, for two reasons: one, if you do not have a survival attitude yourself, even very small children will react to your feelings, and two, it is best to start survival training early. The best attitude for survival is a mixture of optimism (which comes from faith) and realism.

The essential resource for a survival attitude is faith in God, and its corollary, knowledge of the Bible. God’s word is full of examples of people who did not give up, but kept striving even in the most difficult times. Study the stories of Noah, Abraham, Moses, Job, Esther, Paul, Peter, and the other Apostles. Teach your children these stories, and memorize verses as a family. Some suggestions for survival verses: John 14:27, Hebrews 11:7, 2 Timothy 1:7, Matthew 24:37-39, Psalms 4:8, Psalm 34:18, and Philippians 4:13.

In addition to the Bible (which should be in your BOB), you will want inspirational books for your BOL. Some ideas include the Chicken Soup for the Soul books, Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl, Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy by Eric Mataxas, and Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis.

Finally, you should gather the practical knowledge and skills you might need when society collapses. Consider the range of situations you might encounter and make a plan for each. Then run through them on a regular basis, especially if you have children. Present problems for your children to solve, based on their age and abilities. This will increase their confidence and yours as well! God bless your efforts!

I recently broke out my DVD copy of the 1962 film “Panic in the Year Zero” which happens to be one of my all time favorite survival movies. In watching the film for what must have been the twentieth time, I came to realize that even after fifty three years, the common sense that one must possess in a survival situation hasn’t reallychanged that much. As years have gone by, we have certainly become more advanced in merchandise that would make an unfortunate situation a bit more comfortable,but the most important piece of equipment in bad times would be the grey
matter between our ears. In the film, a family of four is trying to survive the aftermath of a nuclear attack on the city of Los Angeles. The father, played by Ray Milland, tells his frightened family repeatedly of how important it is to not tell others what they have. In desperate times, even the most gentle of people can become deadly enemies in the name of survival. The plot of the movie is largely based on this survival tip, and this was in 1962.

In 2015, our world seems to be far more aggressive, and the possibility of a catastrophic event seems almost inevitable at times. In the event of a societal collapse, anything you own would become more valuable than you ever imagined, especially when you had it and the other guy wanted it. If you are a person who has prepped well and have food, water, firearms and ammo, you would be well advised to keep it to yourself. Not even Bill, the neighbor from down the street who goes to church every Sunday needs to know, because sadly, when it comes down to life and death,people may choose their life over your death.


Tip: Wild Plants for Food and Medicine

It was early in my prepping journey when I first asked myself the difficult question “What will my family do if all of our stored food runs out?” Sure, we had a nice supply of rice and beans as well as canned goods and some dehydrated foods, but if we couldn’t get more, we’d be in a real pickle. This led me to exploring the diversity of edible (and even medicinal) plants in my own yard and neighborhood — plants that could help us stretch what food we do have, provide some nourishment while we were waiting for the garden to grow, or be a “salad bar on the run” if we ever had to bug out to a safer area.

I began studying some field guides and watching plant ID videos, and soon I was recognizing plants right and left, my eyes now open to the provision of the Creator. In my own yard and neighborhood, I was able to identify plantain, clover, wood sorrel, wild onion and carrot, blackberries, dandelions, burdock, choke cherry, violet, day lily, peppermint, chicory, wild mustard, cattail, black walnut, crab apples, pears, and many other plants, herbs and trees. These plants could provide not just calories, but vitamins and minerals, fiber, and most importantly, variety. Some of these plants grow all year long, and others, I found out, lend themselves
well to being frozen, dried or dehydrated. This was a great start! Ultimately, my quest for free food led me to get additional training in herbal medicine, and I believe my family and I are better prepared as a result.

I encourage everyone to spend time learning the basics of plant identification so that you can do as my family did, and shop directly from Nature’s grocery and pharmacy. Study field guides, watch videos, go on an organized wild edibles walk, and taste the freshness of your local landscape. It may very well be a necessary skill sometime in the near future, and it can certainly save your family money now It is also an excellent way to reconnect with nature and get some much needed exercise.

The best tasting, highest quality premium water storage ever…using mason jars!?!

A few years back we didn’t have a great crop from our garden and sadly we didn’t can as much as usual. I had a ton of empty mason jars and had the idea to preserve water in them. Strangely I had never heard of anyone doing that. I filled the jars leaving a small amount of headroom and processed them in a boiling water bath for around 15 minutes. The water jars look great, the water tastes absolutely amazing even after years, and believe it or not none have ever broken (even when we moved). I have always hated the taste of water that has been stored in plastic so this is a great way to diversify your water storage to include “premium” drinking water. There are negatives such as difficulty transporting and glass is always susceptible to breaking if not stored properly. For the person that wants some very high quality water this could be an excellent way to use some of those empty jars you have in your garage or basement.

I buy solar patio lights at the dollar tree. For one dollar I get a solar powered night light. A triple a rechargeable battery. A solar powered battery charger that will charge any 1.2 volt rechargeable batteries..AA..AAA.C..or D. Not bad for one dollar. What do you buy for one dollar?

I think a fantastic survival tool is solar garden lighting. If I did not have any electricity, I would put the lights outside during the day and bring them in at night. They are great because you don’t have to pay for electricity, but more important for most of us is the fact that you don’t need to install any wiring. Take the light out of the box, put it outside and you’re done. Because most solar lights have a built-in darkness sensor, you don’t even need to think about turning them on
and off.

The technology for outdoor solar lighting is improving rapidly. Solar lights are looking more attractive, shining more brightly, their run-time is getting longer, and they are fairly inexpensive.


STORE SOME CLAY! Yup, you heard me right. Clay: Calcium Bentonite Clay to be more specific. Clay is a natural medicine that’s been around for hundreds of years. It can be taken internally or used externally. Internally it is used to very effectively “pull toxins from the body, stimulate the immune system, and absorb and bind pathogenic viruses, pesticides, and herbicides” (The Clay Cure by Ran Knishinsky), including any negatively charged toxins such as: yeast, fungus, candida, parasites, poisons, and other harmful bacteria. Externally it is great for cuts, burns, wound healing, eczema, hives, itching. It has amazing “drawing” and healing properties.

I’ve been surprised by some Prepper/Survival Medicinal Handbooks that mostly recommend ways of stocking up on prescription drugs and over the counter drugs. That’s fine, but there may come a day when that stock pile runs out and there is no way to get more. I think it is wise to consider some more natural medicines; ones that can be stocked up in a fairly large supply and have no shelf life, and can even be replenished with knowhow and some work.

Bentonite Clay is a natural medicinal wonder. If you’re like me, you can YouTube a bunch of great information on the many uses and benefits of this clay. And if you go to Amazon, you can download a free Kindle copy of the short book, We Eat Clay. I do, however, recommend getting at least one “real book” so you can have the information on its many uses on hand in case of an EMP or some other type of disaster that makes internet usage “no more.”

FYI: A good way to take it internally is by drinking it with some water. It takes some time and a little work to get it to disperse and mix with water, but its health benefits are worth it. I keep a pitcher full of clay water in my refrigerator at all times, and keep adding to it so I have a constant supply. I started with a plastic (can us glass—but not metal) 2 quart pitcher of filtered water and added ¼ C of Redmond Betonite Clay and mixed it with a plastic whisk. I drink this twice a day on an empty stomach. It doesn’t taste bad, but if you’re picky or just a wuss (jk), you can add it to some juice. But, I think it’s best to just Man Up and drink it!

Build a BOB: First Aid and Hygiene

As with all of the other components of our BOB, we want our first aid and hygiene supplies to be good quality and in enough quantity to meet our needs but to not take up too much space in the pack. Medical and hygiene go hand in hand. While it would be virtually impossible to reach or maintain any sort of true cleanliness out in the field, anything you can do to limit the possibility of infection or illness is well-advised.

First Aid Supplies

Most store-bought first aid kits are a decent enough start, but that’s really all they are, a good start. Keep in mind that any time you see advertising for a kit that mentions the number of items – “This 272 piece kit has all you’ll need” – they are counting each bandage as one piece. In other words, read the full contents list rather than just going by a piece count.

I personally like the Adventure Medical Kit line of products. The contents are well thought out and very well organized. In most of the kits, the contents are divided up by their purpose or into injury-specific pockets within the pouches. This makes it easier to find what you need quickly.

The Sportsman Bighorn Kit is a great option. It contains all of the basics and then some, but doesn’t cost a fortune.  What you certainly could do is take a look at the contents list and start assembling your own kit mirroring this one or another one that is similar. One thing I’ve found over the years is that if you follow the sale ads and use coupons when appropriate, you can often put together a great first aid kit for less money than a premade kit. Either way, I would suggest you augment the supply of meds beyond the rather minimal amounts found in these store-bought kits.

The medications you’ll want in your kit include (at a minimum):

Pain relievers (ibuprofen, acetaminophen)

You may want to include your preferred over-the-counter remedies for cold, flu, and other such routine ailments. Murphy’s Law dictates the day you end up truly needing to bug out will be the same day most of your family will be down for the count with the latest strain of influenza.

Don’t forget prescription medications, too. If you or a family member regularly takes any medication that is life-sustaining, you need a small supply of it in the BOB. There are a couple of different approaches to handling this.

If you have a good relationship with your primary care physician, have a conversation with him or her about the issue. In this day and age, it is not at all uncommon or unusual for people to be putting together emergency kits so as long as you avoid mentioning the New World Order, UFO invasions, and zombie uprisings, you’ll probably be okay. As long as it isn’t for a narcotic, odds are your physician will at least try to work with you on this. I doubt the insurance company will be so helpful, though, and you’ll probably have to foot the entire bill on the extra meds.

The second way to handle this takes longer but has less of an impact on your wallet. With most prescriptions, you’re able to refill a few days before you’d finish your current supply. Refill the script as soon as you’re able to do so and take the doses from the overlapping period and set them aside for your emergency stash. NEVER SKIP A DOSE! Always set aside the newest meds and use the oldest first. Make no mistake, this can be a royal pain in the butt to try and keep track of all of this but it needs to happen if you or a family member take any sort of life-sustaining medications.

You’ll definitely want a good supply of moleskin, especially if you have family members who aren’t used to walking for long periods of time. Elastic wraps for sprains and strains are also going to be needed. I recommend more than just one or two of those wraps, too. A SAM splint will be needed should there be a fracture involved.

Stock way more adhesive bandages than you might think you’ll need. Same with the larger gauze pads and such. Even just a single wound will use up several bandages as it heals.

Triple antibiotic ointment is helpful in reducing the possibility of infection. While the jury is out, somewhat at least, on the efficacy of this sort of product, I figure it will do far more help than it will hurt. Alcohol wipes are also good for quick cleaning of small cuts and scrapes. Plus, they double as a fire starter. Just cut them open and light. They don’t burn long but they do burn hot.

One of the most common injuries when doing an extended hike or camp trip is, believe it or not, burns. Many people just aren’t used to cooking over an open flame and someone invariably steps on a burning ember, picks up a burnt stick by the wrong end, that sort of thing. Have burn cream and appropriate bandages in your first aid kit.

In a similar vein, sunscreen is a very welcome addition to the kit. In today’s society, a large percentage of the population spends very little time outdoors and, as a result, is at high risk of sunburn if they need to bug out. Sunburn can be very serious, not to mention painful.

Eating food that might be different than your normal diet will sometimes lead to nausea and/or diarrhea. Therefore, a good supply of Pepto Bismol tablets or the equivalent would be well advised. Personally, I always keep antacids in my kits, too.

Anti-itch remedies might be very welcome, depending upon the conditions. Insect repellent, while not truly a first aid item, is also recommended.

One of the basic tenets of first aid is to protect yourself first. To that end, a supply of surgical gloves is a good idea. A CPR mask is also recommended. Just to be on the safe side, a small supply of N95 masks should be included, too. These will not only help prevent the spread of infection but they should work well to protect the wearer from biological agents that could be in the air.

A dental first aid kit is also well-advised. If you’ve ever suffered from even a moderate toothache, you know just how badly it can affect your thinking, judgement, and morale.  This kit isn’t bad but I’d augment it with a tube of lidocaine. This kit comes with a couple of small packages but you’ll want more if the problem is moderate to severe.

Don’t overlook the importance of a good first aid manual as well. Unless you’ve received first aid training (and you should absolutely seek this out), you might not know exactly how to handle certain emergency medical situations. A manual can tell you what to do, even if it is only reminding you of something you already knew.


As I mentioned earlier, being squeaky clean will be an impossibility when you’re on the road. But, that doesn’t mean you should just revel in your filth, either. The cleaner you are, the less likely you are to get sick or to have a wound become infected.

Your first line of defense is hand sanitizer. Use this after going to the bathroom to prevent what those in the military refer to as “ass to mouth” disease. I fully realize there are folks out there who believe hand sanitizer is responsible for a surge in various illnesses because the frequent use of it has lowered immune systems and such. Right now, our primary goal is to reach our bug out location without filling our pants. To that end, we want items in our BOBs to assist with accomplishing that goal.

You’ll probably want toilet paper, of course. You can grab a roll from your shelf for your BOB, if you want. Twist out the cardboard tube so the roll will crush flat and put it into a ziploc bag to keep it dry. Baby wipes are perhaps a better choice, though, as they can also be used to general body cleaning. Feel free to go with both, if you have the room in your BOB.

A small towel and a bar of soap will go a long way toward making you feel human again. In fact, if you’re a Douglas Adams fan, you know just how important a towel can be. I wouldn’t suggest a full size bath towel, though. Dish towels are usually large enough for our purposes during a bug out.

Toothbrush, toothpaste, and dental floss will not only help with morale but if you end up with a bit of squirrel stuck between your teeth, you’ll want to be able to get it out. A travel toothbrush will fold down, saving space. Odds are you’ll only need a travel size tube of toothpaste, unless you plan on being on the road for weeks at a time.

As for deodorant, that’s a personal choice. The thing is, those with a keen nose (humans and critters alike) can smell odors from quite a ways off. A “fresh scent” pit swipe will probably be far more noticeable than the funk from going a day or two without a shower. Just something to consider.

I wouldn’t worry about shampoo or conditioner. A brush or comb, though, will be helpful in detecting and removing pests that might find their way to your head.

Hand lotion (unscented) might be appreciated as hand sanitizer tends to dry out the skin. Lip balm will be very welcome as chapped lips are all but inevitable when traveling on the road by foot.

Survival Resources sells a great little hygiene kit that you might consider. Otherwise, gather your hygiene supplies and keep them in a ziploc bag in your BOB.

The takeaways from this section:

A good quality first aid kit is an essential component of your BOB. It should have the supplies necessary to treat the common types of injuries and illnesses.

Proper hygiene, at least the way we think of it today, will be virtually impossible while on the road during a bug out. However, at least some semblance of cleanliness should be doable, provided you’ve packed some essentials in your BOB.

Get caught up on all of the installments in our Build a BOB series here:
Build a BOB: Introduction
Build a BOB: Shelter
Build a BOB: Fire
Build a BOB: Water
Build a BOB: Food

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