note: first appeared in March 2015
I have been a “prepper” most of my adult life. I have been a member of fire departments or worked for the federal government in wildland fire most of my adult life. I have learned incredible life-saving skills through my emergency services training as well as some great private training opportunities. I have taught myself a whole bunch over the years as well. So I consider myself, and my family, to be pretty well prepared and skilled. It wasn’t until about 8 or 9 years ago that I became worried about “grid-down” and the associated risks and threats. I wrote this article to address the “grid-down” scenario where I thought I wasn’t as prepared as I felt I should be.
Preparing for grid-down is a special kind of prepping because you must look at a wide range of scenarios. For a number of years I acquired long-term food storage, seeds, and multiple ways to filter/purify water, and other necessities. Then I really put some thought to what might happen if I couldn’t use the prepper items that I have put into storage. That got me a bit worried…OK, more than just a little bit.
The #1 thing that is absolutely critical to surviving any emergency, disaster and especially “grid-down” are skills. I am OK in that area. But without some kind of gear to work with it makes it much, much harder. So that became a focus of my efforts for awhile…acquiring the right gear.
The purpose of my posting this thread is quite simple – provide you with some solid ideas on what you might need to cache solely for “survival”. Yup, SURVIVAL!
Safely store sufficient essential survival gear and equipment to use as a basis to survive as I acquire additional survival gear and equipment.
So here is the premise of the situation used to develop the list:
- You are thrust into a situation where your first priority it simple survival.
- You have nothing with you or on you that is of any significant value.
- You must provide the basics of life, especially life safety.
- This is based on the L.I.P.S. decision and priority setting system.
Why even have a priority setting and decision making system?
Without it, how will you consistently make the best decisions and set the right priorities? L.I.P.S. provides that system; based on decades of emergency, life threatening, and high stress situations. A recap of the L.I.P.S. system:
- Life Preservation/Safety
- Incident Stabilization
- Property & Life Preservation
- Societal Restoration
Life Preservation/Safety – These are the priorities that must be set and decisions made to save your life. The most basic of human body needs (i.e. stop bleeding from a wound, protect yourself from an attacker, prevent death from dehydration, etc.)
Incident Stabilization – Don’t let a bad situation get worse; and potentially become a Life Preservation/Safety problem. This meets the next level of needs; examples – don’t starve to death, warmth, shelter, protection from the environment.
Property & Life Preservation – This means don’t destroy resources unnecessarily. Examples – Don’t destroy the edge on your knife trying to sharpen it on a rock, have a knife sharpener. Don’t allow insects to bother you so much that they won’t let you sleep or worse, have insect repellent.
Societal Restoration – This item means that you will restore society (or at least your part of it) back to the condition it was in prior to the event. This category is outside the scope of this discussion and will not be addressed.
So where does this come from?
- 40 years of preparedness experience
- 25 years of emergency situation experience
- 4+ years of military experience
- Teaching wilderness survival in the 70’s & 80’s
- Spending 4 – 16 weeks a year in some of the most remote areas in the United States
- Research from those people with even more experience than myself
- Common sense
If you don’t know and understand the L.I.P.S. system you really need to read this article
For now I will just post the list and give you time to look it over and think about it.
Here is my list. It all fits in a standard .50cal ammo can that the military uses and you can purchase as surplus. They are available for about $12.00 each. I vacuum sealed most of the items for added protection. The total cost for all the items purchased brand new was $195.16
Don’t freak over the cost. Many of these items you may already have sitting around the house, garage, or shop. For now, just look over the list and think through it. And don’t forget to check thrift stores and garage sales when it comes time to acquire your items.
Let’s get started with the first category, but before we do I think we should review a couple things:
- We must have a very specific defined “mission” for this kit; otherwise, we will just wander around adding more and more until we need a backhoe to bury a decent sized trailer full of items, including a small refrigerator. So the mission of this kit is to help us survive, period, nothing more. And survive in the term of just that -basic survival- nothing more. That means you must have a plan for what to do after you get your hands on this kit. Example: Make it home, or, get to your retreat, or, meet up with your family, or, get to “______” (fill in the blank). This kit is not to provide you with a camp, to arm you for a battle, to feed your church friends and families. This is just to survive till you can accomplish the next step in your plan.
- With the mission defined, the next issue to be resolved is exactly what do you put into this kit. If you don’t have a system by which you make these decisions you may well overlook a life-saving item for a creature comfort item. So I fall back on a simple but highly effective priority setting & decision making system called LIPS that I talked about earlier. Without an effective and proven decision and priority setting system you will struggle to decide what items that must be in there and what items can be in there. And that is entirely different than what items you would like to have in there.
So let’s move on to the first category of items to place in your kit, “Life Preservation / Safety” :
This category is the most important and the most urgent. The items contained in this category are those items that will save your life. I’ve listed them in order of priority. Maybe it would be better said, “…in my priority order.” My situation may be far different than yours. My idea of what’s important may be different than yours. Then again, maybe I am just missing something that you catch and feel is more important for your situation. That is fine with me, just use LIPS to justify and validate what you are doing.
So this category is all about saving your life – period. It is about making it through the next 1 – 8 hours of your dire survival situation. At this point nothing more matters, simply surviving the next 1 – 8 hours.
#1 & #2 Items – First Aid items; field dressing and triangular bandage. I come from the old school of first aid…I still remember my Army first aid training back in military school…”STOP THE BLEEDING!” But, I noticed that as I continued to gain additional medical training, including EMT, it was still pretty much the same. So here is how LIPS comes into play…
If you are bleeding and it doesn’t stop…you are going to die; so stop the bleeding. Hence, field dressings are more important than water. You can live another 10 or 20 hours without water but you can easily finish bleeding to death before you die of thirst. And you will die of thirst before you die of starvation. So you might be thinking, “Yeah, but I am in a full-on firefight and if I don’t have ammunition I will get shot!!”
You might just be right, but this is not a weapons cache, this is a survival cache.
But you might be saying, “Well, if first aid is so important then we need a whole lot more first aid items!!”
You might just be right, but this is not a first aid cache, this is a survival cache.
You see without defining the mission of this cache you could go crazy putting a whole bunch of items in it and having a small trailer full of stuff that you may or may not end up needing. But clearly defining the mission and having a decision making system (LIPS) you can figure out what you need.
Does that mean you don’t need ammo or more first aid items? Of course not. It is just not the mission of this cache to provide it. Can you have more than one container of cached items? Duh, of course you can. You can do whatever you wish, but we can talk more about that later. For now we will stay on task.
So #1 & #2 are to stop bleeding and assist in setting a splint if needed.
#3 & #4 Items – In my part of the country water is scarce and the lack of it will kill you pretty quickly. So I included a bottle of water to have on hand to consume quickly to rehydrate before delusional thinking sets in and/or to prevent imminent death. I chose water purification tablets over any filter, not because they are any better, they are just smaller and they do the job. There is water in our area but you may have to go looking (i.e. hike a couple miles) to find it. That bottle of water will help keep you alive till you find some other water source, even if it is just a cattle tank.
#5, #6 & #7 Items – You have to be able to defend yourself and be able to prepare food; to me, knives are the answer. Why not a gun? Come on, we talked about that already, this is not a weapons cache, it is a survival cache. If you want to make a weapons cache that is fine with me but that is another thread of information, just not this one. So notice the three different sizes of knives; large every day carry (EDC) knife, a smaller pocket knife, and a very small knife. Each has a job, and to me, each is needed.
EDC knife – this is your work horse knife. It will be used as a primary defensive weapon, then used to assist with food preparation, then other tasks as needed. I chose a Gerber “paraframe” model. I like the weight and feel of the knife, open to ease cleaning, securely locks open, thumb assist, holds an edge and sharpens easily. And it is only $17.97!! Sure there are lots of better knives, like my EDC which is a Spyderco Paramilitary2, great knife!!! But is costs $130 vs. $18. Remember this little piece of info – YOU MAY NEVER USE YOUR CACHE, YOU MAY NEVER COME BACK TO IT, YOU MAY NEVER FIND IT or SOMEONE MAY STEAL IT. So do you want to lose a $18 knife or a $130 knife? Up to you.
Pocket knife – this is your back-up knife, the knife that you will use in the event that your EDC is not available. You can designate it as the knife you will use to skin small animals such as squirrels and such. Or you may turn it into the knife that you integrate into a strong stick and make it into a spear. You may use it as part of a snare, trap, etc.; your choice. I chose the Gerber model STL 2.0 (black). This is a great little knife! I really like it. It doesn’t take up any room to speak of in your pants pocket; it’s flat, strong, great blade, holds an edge and sharpens easily. It locks open very well, no fear of inadvertent closing. But I am not crazy about knives that have the locking mechanism on the cutting edge side of the blade. This knife as well as the Paraframe have such a locking mechanism, nothing is perfect. But this is truly a nice little knife. And it is only $12.97!
Micron knife – yeah, this one may surprise you a bit, it did me the first time I saw it but know I love em and always carry one. The knife is called a micron knife for a reason; it is less that 2” closed and just under 3-1/2” open. It is only about 1/8” thick at the handle. So you wonder what you could use it for? For me it is primarily a back-up weapon. Yup! You read that right. It is small but will cut an artery just fine. But most of all it is easily concealable. I won’t tell you where you can hide it, coz I don’t want to give away my hiding places. But think it through and get creative. Also, you can integrate it into a decent size stick and you have a great little spear. I chose the SOG Micron based on overall quality and craftsmanship. Yes, it costs $12.88 (9 cents less than the Gerber pocket knife), but it is money well spent when you need a knife the bad guys couldn’t find when they search you. I didn’t seal this in a bag because I want it available to cut open the sealed bags in the can. Yes, I could have left out any of the knives but I chose this one because it is the one that is the least operationally valuable of the three knives. The one I want to lose if I have to lose one.
#8 Item – You might think that in the desert southwest we wouldn’t be in need of something such as a “body warmer”. But truth is, nights here can get cold, even during the summer. When you are exposed to 90’s and 100’s during the day and it drops to 68 at night, that is cold. During the winter it drops to 20’s at times; that is REALLY cold! You die of exposure pretty quickly so be prepared to have a heat source that can be quickly implemented. Yes, you could build a fire. But what if you had no fuel around you right then? What if the bad guys were pursuing you and a fire would give you away? What if you were so cold, it was raining, and your hands were shaking uncontrollably? Yup, a warmer could be put into play immediately. I chose the Grabber Peel n’ Stick Body Warmer because they work, lasts for 12 hours, you can put it where it is needed and they stay there. Oh, and they are less than a $1. If you are in a colder climate you can probably add more to your cache can without using up much space. So why didn’t I place it in a sealed bag? Coz I didn’t want to be shaking uncontrollably from hypothermia and have to deal with my knife to cut open a sealed bag to get to it. Or risk cutting open a hunk of skin instead of the bag.
#9 Item – Yup, you read it right, bobby pins. There are a number of uses for them, do some research on the Internet. But most of all, a little secret, if the bad guys put you in handcuffs a bobby pin is a very good key. Really?
#10 Item – I struggled a bit putting a Pocket Saw in this category but there is a reason that it is in this category vs. the next one. Yes, this saw can be used to create fuel for a small fire but it can also be used as a very effective and silent weapon. Sorry, that may sound a bit gross or heathen-like but we are talking survival here. And you can’t survive if someone can kill you. If you want to know more about using pocket saw as a weapon let’s make that another post or thread; one best related by one of our resident experts. I choose Coghlan’s based on quality, value and being readily available.
#11 Item – You can die from hypothermia rather quickly. If it is cold enough you could die within a couple hours, maybe less. I chose the Space Bag over the space blanket because it is slightly heavier weight and will completely surround you and stay in place. A blanket can be a bit unwieldy and leave gaps where cold drafts can get to you. Mostly, this is a personal preference…if you like a space blanket, by all means go for it. The point is…it will keep you warm! It will also resist other elements such as wind, rain, snow, etc. Also, if you build a fire you can use it to reflect the heat back at you, warming both your front and back at the same time. And should you have access to a sleeping bag of any kind you could potentially survive some very very cold weather. I chose the Grabber reflective bag based on availability, quality and price.
#12 Item – Yeah, why the heck would I put camo paint on the list at all, let alone in this critical category? Well, remember when I was talking about defensive weapons, being able to defend yourself? One of the best defenses is being unnoticed. If the bad guys can’t see you they can’t attack you. I would have put this up the priority list if this had been a “tactical cache” but it isn’t, but it is still important. Want to know how good this can work? In normal street clothes go hide in the environment around where you live, in the woods, in the desert or wherever. Now have someone just stand there and look for you. I bet I know what one of the first things their eye will be drawn to – your face. Now, do the same thing with camo paint on your face. See what the difference is. So one minor note, if you are trying to hide in the big city and are walking around the streets with people around you – ah, you might want to hold off on the camo paint. Just as a thought. I chose Commander War Paint because it was what was on the shelf, it was decent priced and it had a mirror with it. Yup, a mirror was a selling point. One of the important things in an emergency or disaster is communications. You can see a mirror flash for many miles.
So there you go, category #1 is done. I gave you a list of what I consider the basics to survive the first hour to 8 hours. You can add to this list if you have the space, have different priorities or just want to. You can buy the items wherever you wish, just remember to get the best quality for a reasonable price.
Why a reasonable price? You may never use this stuff, you may never find it, you may have it stolen. What you put in here you may never see again. So you don’t want to cry too many tears if you lose it.
Survival Cache to Stay Alive & Start Over – Part #2
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