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Off-Grid Survival for You and Me

A guide to maintaining your own basic power, water, and supplies

This article is part of Reason's special Burn After Reading issue, where we offer how-tos, personal stories, and guides for all kinds of activities that can and do happen at the borders of legally permissible behavior. Subscribe Now and get fast first class delivery of the July issue at no extra cost!

My family lived in a suburban garden apartment during the New York City blackout of 1977, when just two lightning strikes zipped millions of Americans back to the 19th century for roughly 24 hours. We had left the city several years earlier—fortunately, considering the rough ride urban residents had during that outage. Up the river in Tarrytown, we just congregated on the communal porch to light grills, share gossip, and bum any available candles. I can still remember the hiss of the Coleman gasoline lantern my parents had packed away with a companion camping stove. That thoughtfulness on their part allowed us luxury that those hooked on electricity flowing from far away had to do without.

When it came to unexpectedly losing some perks of modern civilization, we thrived because we were prepared. "Prepping" has gotten a bad name because of the loony obsessives on TV. But exhibitionist nuttiness aside, prepping is nothing more than extending to the rest of your life the same foresight that compels you to keep a spare tire and a first aid kit in your car, and maybe a puncture kit and a compressor, too.

A sensible prepper enjoys the convenience and predictability of everyday life but doesn't assume it will never be interrupted. Done right, prepping means you're not a burden on your neighbors, and can maybe help them out in the clutch—all because you did something as simple as storing fuel and a camping lantern.

The grid is amazing and wonderful. Wanting to survive off it doesn't mean you hate civilization. It means you love the conveniences of modern life enough that you've learned to provide some of them yourself.

Electricity

iStockiStockI've taken my own family even farther away from New York City, to rural Arizona. Because of that love of both civilization and independence, I'm immensely frustrated by the hurdles I've hit in trying to harness for my family's purposes that blazing ball of energy that hovers over the state. Solar power, right? It's a natural for a desert dweller. Shouldn't a nut like me, who does not want to be at the mercy of storms, lightning strikes, and low-probability disasters, have solar panels on the roof instead of a natural gas generator next to the house?

Turns out energy independence, even just for short emergencies, is a lot easier if you build from the ground up rather than retrofitting an existing structure to run off whatever juice you can self-generate. You can plan a new house to be thermally efficient, reducing heating and cooling needs, and you can equip it with appliances that sip instead of guzzle power. But if, like me, you buy a home designed to be plugged into the larger electric system, your options are limited.

Most solar installations are meant to be grid-tied and make sense only if electric utilities buy the resulting power from you. If you actually want to use the electricity yourself, you'll need to store it for when the sun sets. Solar panels and wind turbines are thus usually used to charge batteries, which are in turn used to power your TV and laptop. (Outside the desert, hydropower with a reliable year-round water source can free you from the need for battery storage.)

Because of that blazing ball of energy, we have big air conditioners in Arizona. And air conditioners, like a lot of appliances, require a starting surge to get the motor going. That surge can easily be triple the normal running load. Your battery stack must be able to accommodate that requirement for any motors you plan to plug in, and that costs money—a lot of money.

I had two companies bid on solar installations for my house. The price, including panels, batteries, inverters, and the like, came in at $30,000–$40,000. The lion's share of that amount was for the batteries.

Tax credits would've offset part of the cost. So would selling my excess power to the utility company in years to come. (This assumes the legal situation doesn't change; for now, most states require utilities to buy solar power generated by individuals.) But I wanted a backstop for occasional power outages and scarier what-if scenarios, not to explore the unlikely charms of personal bankruptcy or to dip my toes into a politically mandated market.

For a fraction of the cost of solar, therefore—about five grand plus installation, with fuel costs varying depending on market prices and how often the local grid chokes—I installed a 22-kW natural gas generator that runs everything in my house. We still have to rely on the flow of fuel, but that should be fine through most storms. It's true that natural gas is pressurized by pumps that, in some areas, rely on electricity (though in other places they're also gas-driven). Gas also moves through aging pipes that can be vulnerable to such disruptions as large storms, earthquakes, and, according to a March 2017 report in the Oil and Gas, Natural Resources, and Energy Journal, cyberattacks. But our backup has already seen us, our refrigerated goods, and our well pump through several outages. Yes, and the air conditioner, too.

When choosing a generator, "match your power needs to the size of the generator you buy," Consumer Reports advises. My parents picked an 8-kW standby generator that has kept lights and sump pump going through power outages as long as a week. But when a nasty tropical storm returned their D.C.-area community to the swampy conditions whence it emerged, they said they wished they'd picked a machine with enough capacity to run the A/C and keep the house a tad more habitable. (Running grid power to the nation's capital was a mistake to begin with, if you ask me. Climate control allows riffraff of undersecretarial depravity to skulk in the vicinity year-round.)

I do have a folding solar panel and lithium battery for juicing up various gadgets. It travels with me in the car and—if I'm in the mood to be connected—when I hit the trails. Solar definitely still has its uses, and I'm planning now to harness it to add a backup to my house's backup. If I rein in expectations and accept a solar setup that can power just the necessities, such as a refrigerator, some lights, and a few small appliances, the whole thing can be kept to a reasonable size and price.

As in most areas of life, there's no one-size-fits-all solution. Plenty of people might want to go full-hog for generating their own power, making all the necessary adjustments to their homes to do so. Others think I'm nuts for worrying about a power backup at all when cheap electricity is almost always a switch-flip away. But my approach gives me peace of mind to offset the risks of our occasionally shaky power grid. All it takes is a generator rumbling, barely audibly, next to the house.

Water

iStockiStockMan cannot live by electricity alone. Especially in the parched desert, where the water level in your well is far enough below the surface that you start to wonder if you've drilled into the communal Jacuzzi of the mole people, the wet stuff rightly takes up major space in your brain. It rains, blessedly, even in Arizona, so I've learned to tap my rain gutters and store the proceeds for use in the garden and as a backup to the well—important, since I can only run the pump if the grid is up or the generator is running.

Unlike some states, Arizona actively encourages the harvesting of rainwater—the University of Arizona even publishes a guide on how to do it, with plans that range from just sloping your driveway toward a garden that's been landscaped to hold fluids to sophisticated schemes including underground storage tanks and attached irrigation systems. A PDF version of the guide is distributed by the state Department of Water Resources.

Across the dry West, water rights are generally held separately from land rights, leading to some odd situations where property owners have limited or no access to liquid they can see and feel. But even restrictive Colorado now allows homeowners to install two rain barrels of up to 110 gallons' capacity. (You'll have to hide any extra barrels out of sight of snoopy neighbors.)

Several times over the years, my wife and I have stayed at a bed and breakfast built as a DIY project. The owner connected the structure's gutters, as well as grey water outflow from sinks, dishwashers, bathtubs, and the like, to an underground cistern of substantial size. The stored water is used for irrigation as well as limited household purposes, such as flushing toilets. The B&B is in a jurisdiction that allows for rainfall harvesting and grey water recycling but restricts their use. The owner may not have been excessively rigid in abiding by those rules, so I'll refrain from identifying the place. The setup, however, is an impressive example of maximizing your return on the available liquid in a parched environment.

Most folks aren't building homes from the ground up with such sophisticated water harvesting and reuse systems in mind. For us, something less ambitious will have to serve. Still, it's easy enough to repurpose the stuff falling from the sky in an existing house without too much trouble or expense.

Barrels and kits for diverting part or all of the flow of rain gutters are easily available from a variety of sources. I ordered mine online and picked them up free of shipping charges at a local home improvement store. The barrels even come in a variety of designs, if you're not immune to the Westworld-y charms of wood-patterned plastic.

Be warned that cutting into the gutters is loud, by the way. They're basically unmelodious organ pipes that amplify the sound of your saw. I found I had to fish ear protection out of my shooting bag to get through it.

I use harvested water to irrigate my garden and some trees by the side of the house. The rain barrels have spigots that can be used to fill watering cans or be connected to hoses. They can also accommodate the sort of drip irrigation system I'm installing now, so long as you're realistic about volume and pressure, which will not be high.

One of the easier ways to make use of rain is to plant trees, shrubs, or the tomato plants with which I'm constantly struggling in basins dug into the ground. "Concave depressions planted with grass or plants serve as landscape holding areas, containing the water, increasing water penetration, and reducing flooding," the University of Arizona pamphlet advises. I came late to this lesson, but it's an effective way to slow the water that otherwise rushes across my property during storms and into the arroyo across the road.

Like the struggle for liberty itself, my rainwater harvesting setup is a work in progress. I'm constantly tweaking it, moving components, and adding parts. However it's configured at any given time, though, it gives me a water source independent of my well. Which means I won't be completely screwed if the mole people ever get sufficiently bent out of shape to cut off the flow.

Supplies

vasavii/bergserg/iStockvasavii/bergserg/iStockCorpses are rising from their graves, the sweet meteor of death looms over the horizon, and a fine drizzle of radioactive fallout is settling to the ground. What to do to pull through the hard times? You might have sufficient electricity and water for basic survival, but there's more to life than that.

There's only so much theoretical future disaster you can plan around without gearing your entire life to the end of the world. Unless you have a reality TV show deal, that's probably not too tempting a prospect. So let's talk about something a little less apocalyptic, like storms, floods, power outages, or a victorious Trump/Sanders ticket in 2020. You can plan ahead for these prospects without breaking the bank or your sanity. Luckily, the law doesn't put too many barriers in the way of my particular pointers for making it out alive.

The American Red Cross recommends you have three days of food and water on hand for evacuations and two weeks' worth for home use in case of an emergency. That's probably the minimum you should consider. We're backpackers, so I keep our packs loaded up with a long weekend's quantity of camping supplies, including freeze-dried meals, a water filter, clothing, shelter, sleeping bags, a stove, and the like. You can skip the stove (and the need to rotate liquid fuel) if you stick with cold meals, but you'll still want a means of making fire for warmth.

By the way, that backpack is where you're going to stick your important documents and cash supply. You are keeping them in one place, and you remember where that is, right?

Put the backpack on. Look down. Can you see your toes? Remember, if you have to evacuate, the most important survival tool is your body and whatever physical condition—and abilities—it has to offer.

Keeping two weeks of food at home isn't that hard. Just buy some extra canned goods at every trip to the market, and push the newer purchases to the back of the pantry behind food you'll eat first. For longer-term storage—how long depends on what you're planning for, but Mormons are counseled by their church to keep a three-month supply—consider No. 10 cans of freeze-dried food, which stay good for decades.

A camp stove and fuel may be your only means of making meals if power and gas are out. After Hurricane Sandy, many Long Island residents waited two weeks for the lights to come back on—and that was merciful compared to the monthslong blackout that Hurricane Maria inflicted on Puerto Rico last year.

If you're an urban apartment dweller for whom the above advice about rainwater collection isn't useful, remember that two weeks of water takes a lot of weight and volume. Bleach and food-grade blue barrels can help keep a usable supply handy. In a pinch, the bathtub and collapsible containers that can be filled from the tap as a nasty storm is rolling in may be your best bet.

Filters and chemical treatment are handy in case you have to resort to water sources of unknown purity. With proper treatment (and by necessity) I've drunk from cattle tanks that more closely resembled cesspools than springs. I'm not saying I liked it, but I lived to tell the tale.

I would skip those hand-cranked radios and lanterns that certain vendors have been peddling for years in favor of a double-handful of rechargeable batteries that fit your existing devices. Bundle 'em up with a folding solar panel that can connect to a USB-equipped charger, plus an external lithium battery pack. This way you have some widgets that you can actually use, for camping and road-tripping, say, and not just in case of cataclysm.

If you're not already a gun owner, consider at least a pistol and rifle in commonly available .22 LR. That's a caliber useful in a multitude of situations, from bagging small game to (in a pinch) self-defense. The ammunition is cheap and portable; survivors will probably count it as money after the radioactive undead rise from their graves; and the same box of rounds will feed both firearms. You might want to mind the specific laws of your locality about weapon possession, carrying, and registration. Then again, thinking about your family's survival when worst comes to worst, you might not.


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Photo Credit: vasabii/bergserg/iStock

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  • DaveSs||

    I'm kinda surprised that a Tuccille article about prepping included but a single paragraph about personal arms.

    Maybe he ran up against a word limit.

  • Sevo||

    Was this added after you read it?
    "If you're not already a gun owner, consider at least a pistol and rifle in commonly available .22 LR. That's a caliber useful in a multitude of situations, from bagging small game to (in a pinch) self-defense."

  • Live Free Or Diet||

    The .22LR rifle is a great idea for several reasons.
    1 The ammo is comparatively cheap, even the copper plated ones that don't leave lead behind in the barrel.
    2 It's relatively quiet. The report travels a fraction the distance of other calibers, attracting less attention.
    3 It won't bugger up so much of the meat of small game. Speaking from (stupid teen) personal experience, never shoot a rabbit in the body with a .223/5.56. There wasn't much that was edible.

  • a tandem||

    The idea that small game will be around for anyone in any long term situation is absurd.

  • Live Free Or Diet||

    The idea that small game will be around for anyone in any long term situation is absurd.

    Why think this is only for the long term? And how long is long term? Remember Katrina (2005)? It took nearly a month to get to some parts of New Orleans.
    I'm not counting on taking game, but they need to be kept down anyway, and adding a little fresh meat to the canned goods wouldn't hurt. I also have fishing and crabbing gear, as I live on beachfront on the Chesapeake. It's a rural community, which will help with grain and vegetables.
    Still, I know at my age, my life expectancy after a serious, widespread disaster is about 6 weeks. Does that mean it's time to give in and die? No, I chose to try.

  • Aloysious||

    So let's talk about something a little less apocalyptic, like storms, floods, power outages, or a victorious Trump/Sanders ticket in 2020.

    On the apocalyptic scale, I would rate that higher than a plague of locusts.

  • Deconstructed Potato||

    A plague of locusts isn't very apopaleptic in a world with DDT. Only in America where it's banned!

  • Live Free Or Diet||

    DDT is easily synthesized, Old college organic chem books often have experiment instructions. The precursor chemicals can be hard to get. My daughter brought bedbugs back from a trip to NYC, and the various things from Home Depot and Lowes weren't doing the trick. I treated the whole house and cooked the bugs in her room with two "Big Buddy" propane heaters on medium, 150°F for 3 hours twice, a week apart. (Crack open a window an inch to give them enough oxygen to run.)

  • lap83||

    Good ideas in this article, especially the water section. I'm a pretty new homeowner and it's shocking how much more expensive water bills are now. I'm going to have to try the rain barrel with my garden

  • Crusty Juggler||

    I'm a pretty new homeowner

    You're literally the worst millennial ever.

  • lap83||

    that's the nicest thing you've ever said to me!

  • lap83||

    now get off my lawn

  • Anastasia Beaverhausen||

    Ugly new homeowners use water too!

  • lap83||

    not the smelly ones

  • Gilbert Martin||

    My water bill isn't all that expensive.

    The largest part of the water bill expense most people have is the sewer charge.

    I don't have that since my house has a septic tank and I only pay for tap water and not the sewer.

    Also I live in the southeast which has more plentiful supplies of water than the dry western states.

  • lap83||

    Yeah, the sewer charge is frustrating. As for the rest of it, I probably don't have an accurate reference point because water was always either a tiny charge or included in the apartment rent

  • Deconstructed Potato||

    But you do pay someone to take away the "fecal sludge" from your septic tank, yes?

    According to the World Health Organization, 79% of the United States population is served by municipal sewerage, 20% have septic tanks, and 1% just defecate into their immediate environment. I'll assume much of that 1% is San Francisco.

  • Live Free Or Diet||

    But you do pay someone to take away the "fecal sludge" from your septic tank, yes?

    Local law requires us to get the septic tank pumped every 5 years. We use a cup of Rid-X the first of every month, and root killer every Fall. The septic people always tell us our tanks and field lines are clear.

  • Live Free Or Diet||

    Prepping is a clear necessity here.
    We live on a rural island on the Chesapeake Bay where easily 1/2 the residents are vacationers. A vigorous thunderstorm can knock out power, which is also how we pump well water. We get more rain than Seattle, and the terrain is very flat, so driving to the bridge to the mainland can be an adventure a few days a year. We get snow and worse, freezing rain. We see hurricanes about every 5 years, and given all the trees here, power can be out up to two weeks.
    We're used to being on our own. We keep a 5 kw generator and rotate through 25 to 30 gallons of stabilized gasoline. We also keep canned food and bottled water for 4 to 5 weeks so we can share. We have at least one rifle, shotgun and pistol for each of us (and for the kids if they are visiting), plus a couple .22lr rifles and pistols, mostly for marksmanship training. We also have a lot of ammo (more than half of it .22lr) compared to the US average of fewer than 25 rounds per gun. I also have shortwave, GMRS and marine radios (and appropriate licenses to use them) because cellphone coverage is weak here to begin with, much less after a disaster.
    My one big piece of advice: think of your canned food as longer-term storage, rotate through it, a get stuff you actually eat. Otherwise, you'll end up throwing away a lot of money.

  • Crusty Juggler||

    My one big piece of advice: move to civilization, Duck Dynasty.

  • General Skarr's Prize Petunias||

  • Live Free Or Diet||

    My one big piece of advice: move to civilization, Duck Dynasty.

    Haha! Sorry, but no beard, no camo, no long hair, and most of my hats come from Australia.
    Civilization will move here eventually, I suppose. Meanwhile, we don't have a single traffic signal in the whole county. The nearest thing to a traffic jam is getting around the Sunday church traffic a mile up the hard road.
    I'm a city boy who retired from the rat race to here on purpose. I can push the boat off the beach and fish whenever I want to, put out the crab pots, build a fire on the beach and steam fresh Blue Jimmies, sit and read on the deck, and grill or barbecue whenever. The city is only 90 minutes away. We even have good internet access these days.
    It's a great way to live so long as I keep the sand out of my prosthetic leg.

  • dchang0||

    "Civilization" didn't work for NJ in Hurricane Sandy.

  • Live Free Or Diet||

    NJ is civilization? Are you sure?

  • a tandem||

    So we can assume "Crusty Juggler" has no fire extinguisher/s in his/her home.

  • a tandem||

    The places that have the hardest time, most murders, most rapes, most violence, worst supply problems during natural disasters have been urban areas.
    Twinkies and snowflakes who don't know what a Philips screwdriver is pile into the grocery store buying raman and paper towels is what you see in most norther cities when there is a blizzard warning.

  • Live Free Or Diet||

    I had a guy working for me whose idea of preparing for Hurricane Isabel was a couple 2-liters of Coke and a big bag of chips to take home on the bus.
    My sister lived in the heart of the "gentrified" part of the city. She lost all utilities for more than a week, and had a 4-foot diameter oak tree pinning her totaled Honda to the street. She didn't have so much as a flashlight or a manual can opener, nor any cash to buy any while the banking card systems were still down.

  • LarryA||

    Back in 1980 seven tornadoes hit where we were living. No power or water for ten days, and limited sewer service for two weeks. (Nobody ever thinks, "What if we can't flush?") And we were the lucky ones, three blocks away the houses were just gone.

    We were also the only people on our block who had manual can openers. I taught several neighbors to operate and appreciate P-38s.

  • Live Free Or Diet||

    I taught several neighbors to operate and appreciate P-38s.

    I had a guy in the mid-1980s tell me I was trying to be macho because there was a P-38 on the key ring when I pulled it out. "It's my girlfriend's key ring. She's a ballerina."

  • SamHell||

    I would just shit in my neighbors yard like their cat does in mine.

  • Ken Shultz||

    Sounds like heaven. No sarcasm!

    Granddaddy lived on the Chesapeake Bay. It's the only place I want to live on the east coast that isn't the Shenandoah Valley.

    To complete the postcard, I'd need a Chesapeake Bay Retriever.

  • Live Free Or Diet||

    Shenandoah, huh? That country is gorgeous. So was the girl in Winchester who broke my heart just short of four decades ago, although that happened in Front Royal.
    The only time in my life I have enjoyed more was raising the kids. Being a father was without a doubt my best role. Being a grandfather doesn't exactly stink, either. My daughter's family is moving between here and Richmond soon, so we'll be playing grandparents a lot more, especially during the summers.
    Like the t-shirts says, "Life is good."

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    Put the backpack on. Look down. Can you see your toes? Remember, if you have to evacuate, the most important survival tool is your body and whatever physical condition—and abilities—it has to offer.

    Finally, an article about the BMI and its essential place in disaster preparedness.

  • Bubba Jones||

    Some more practical advice is to identify friends and family who live 200 miles away and can serve as a refuge in the event of a natural disaster. If your local infrastructure is down, there is no reason to stay. Even if you have A/C. Keep some gasoline in Jerry cans for the trip.

    I disagree on the .22. Get a real caliber for self defense and choose a pellet rifle for hunting. You can take squirrels without alarming the neighbors.

    Cities discourage the rain collection because people use it to avoid water restrictions. They top off the cistern with a hose and then water their plants.

    But yes, a gas generator is the way to go. Just realie that on top of the $5k is about $500/year in annual maintenance. Unless you have frequent power outages, it doesn't make economic sense.

  • Vernon Depner||

    Get a real caliber for self defense...

    ...and remember to save the last bullet for yourself.

  • Agammamon||

    That's what the box of hand grenades is for.

  • a tandem||

    9mm is a good choice. My brother in law was in Barbuda during Irma where he has a place, Everyone who was armed was sitting outside their places with a good self defense firearm.

    If you were armed your property was safe. If not, not.

    good thing about heavy gun control is that means you pay off police a hundred bucks or so and they will sign off on any semi auto handgun, including carry.

  • Live Free Or Diet||

    I disagree on the .22. Get a real caliber for self defense and choose a pellet rifle for hunting.

    I agree about "real caliber" firearms, for myself anyway. Then again, I'm one f those who believes every family should have a center-fire rifle, a shotgun, a handgun, and a .22LR rifle for cheap practice, plus a fair amount of ammo. A good pellet gun would be a nice addition to that list.
    Also, get some training, and pleeease buy a holster.

  • Echospinner||

    Also as Max Brooks said in the Zombie Survival Handbook.

    A blade never needs reloading.

    A good machete is a handy item in a variety of situations.

  • Live Free Or Diet||

    A blade never needs reloading.

    We have knives and tools. There's a landscaping adze that's an especially nasty looking weapon.

  • a tandem||

    A blade is a contact weapon, nowhere near the efficacy of a firearm.

  • Live Free Or Diet||

    Oh, please. He was quoting Max Brooks' Zombie Survival Handbook. How serious do you think this thread section is?

  • ||

    Actually...

    Mr. Brooks' handbook has a lot of good, practical survival tips in it.

  • Live Free Or Diet||

    Like zombies having trouble climbing stairs?
    Actually, there is good info there, but mixed with a lot of fiction, and his tongue is lodged firmly in cheek.
    The best book I've seen on this is Cody Lundin's When All Hell Breaks Loose.
    There's also a book, Survive, by Lt General Russel L. Honoré about the whole Hurricane Katrina event and response. It's good for a government-eye view of a massive rescue & recovery effort.

  • a tandem||

    I agree about real caliber, 9mm is the most intelligent in the most likely case of survival needs -- a few day to few week loss of rule of law. then again for my 9mm I have a 22 conversion kit.

  • Canman||

    I prefer shifting wind and solar subsidies into nuclear that will be too cheep to meter.

  • Earth Skeptic||

    DIY home reactors?

  • Sevo||

    We have friends who have 'gotten away from it' after retirement. Access to medical care has turned out to be a (or the) biggest issue.
    How long does it take to get to the nearest real medical care facility?
    A couple of folks are sorry they didn't answer that question before they moved to where they are now.

  • Cy||

    It's really not that expensive to have a few good items and a good plan in the event of a natural disaster. Spending about $1k on survival items, including a reasonable firearm would be prudent. Moving out to the middle of nowhere and going 'off grid' should only be for people who have had that lifestyle before and are healthy.

    I think a lot of people get carried away in the apocalypse scenario and should focus more on the mobility/survival scenario of a natural disaster. Having adequate water, rations and keeping your pack adjustable to your traveling conditions, mostly very light, are key. Getting to an unaffected, non-overloaded, well stocked city should be your focus.

    Have a plan. Keep your pack light. Stay fed. Stay hydrated. Carry a small firearm. Make sure you have 2 different abilities to make fire. Take a water proof tarp. Wear appropriate clothing for worst case cold scenarios and make damn sure you have the right boots for a lot of walking that are climate appropriate.

  • Live Free Or Diet||

    True. I used to volunteer teaching CERT classes, which many communities offer free. One of the handouts I developed was basic (one week of food and water) disaster (mostly for hurricanes and floods) preparation for under $30/per year, and how to gradually add options to that. As a government program, we couldn't advocate firearms, though.

  • Vernon Depner||

    If "the worst" really happens, there's no good reason to survive. A continent-wide interruption of the electricity for a year or more? The handful of survivors will envy the dead, and the best prepping with include a quick and relatively painless way of self-termination.

  • Bubba Jones||

    What? My IT skills won't be valuable?

  • StackOfCoins||

    This sounds like an urban mindset. Humanity survived for thousands of years without electricity, and assuming the apocalypse doesn't irradiate the neighborhood, humanity could revert to an existence without it again. Though that is not a world I'd race to be part of.

  • Vernon Depner||

    A tiny remnant of humanity could survive without modern technology. Never in the past were there eight billion of us. The most likely survivors would be those in remote areas already living with few modern conveniences. Their survival would depend on their being able to repel starving marauders from more populous areas. I would save them the trouble and check out.

    Humanity survived for thousands of years without electricity...

    Uh...for millions of years. You must be a young Earth creationist.

  • a tandem||

    "Uh...for millions of years. You must be a young Earth creationist."

    You must have a teacher union controlled education since you are completely wrong yet so strident in your false views. Humanity does not equal all Hominina or even all ancestral Homo. In terms of home sapiens, fully modern home sapien is estimated at 80,000 to 240,000 years, and archaic HS earliest clade possibly is estimated at 500 K BD.

    And "humanity" also means human culture, and this is from 10,000 to 45,000 years BP depending on your defintion.

    Humanity is not in the science used to denote any and all hominids or Hominidae, eg be they Hominidae cousins like orangutans and gorillas or sapiens ancestral poputions like Erectos,

    In future you should avoid correcting others when you clearly do not know much.

  • Live Free Or Diet||

    As someone who has had to fight for his life (and been close to dying twice), believe me, send the world back to the Iron Age and most people will find the will to fight tooth and nail to live. That's not to say there wouldn't be a 90% population loss in the first year, and my planning would almost certainly not keep me alive at my age, but there's a lot of stuff that falls well-short of that: California style wildfires, floods, hurricanes, tornadoes... We even had an earthquake near Richmond, VA that was felt all the way to NYC.

  • a tandem||

    Agreed, it is an urban mindset bought to you by people who will be running around like chickens with their head off in an earthquake, strong hurricane or dirty bomb.

  • a tandem||

    If "the worst" really happens, there's no good reason to survive.

    So you have no fire extinguishers or fire escape pan at home or work?

    Modern society because of its complexity also is more fragile/brittle. Sure there are scenarios of total destruction, but there are a lot more scenarios of moderate time frame loss of potable water, rule of law, police, even food supply, and ability to evacuate etc are GONE. Just imagine say two storms the say double the impact of Katrina hitting the same city. In the latest Puerto Rico storm 80% of National guard and police failed to show up and were with their families. In New Orleans you had Dem Mayor Nagin stealing natural disaster emergency funds, before during and after Katrina.

    There are quiet a few urban areas where there have been two day blackouts from power supply loss. At 24 hours there are usually few problems and people are saying "See, virtually everyone is behaving." and then the second night without power all hell breaks loose. if you live in a US city there is a good chance that a few thousand violent felons are on the streets within a 5 to 30 minute walk of you. Something as simple as not having stored potable water for three to seven days may mean you have to walk an 30 minutes to an hour to some distribution center, all the while exposed to plenty of criminals preying on people, and having little fear of burdened police.

  • Vernon Depner||

    You obviously have a crippled imagination as far as envisioning "the worst". There is a huge difference between "the worst" and a kitchen fire or a few days without electricity.

  • a tandem||

    You must simply be a troll and someone who doesn't bother to read. Looking at various stories comments you do have a habit of trolling.

    You actually repeated my point.

  • Marica||

    Living in rural north central Mississippi we've plenty of experience with all sorts of outages / emergencies, etc. Here are a couple of tips that extend those in the article.

    Having a portable generator is a good thing. Use only non-ethanal gas in it. Know what the surge (turning on) and running wattages are for the things you want to keep running. Chose the size of your generator based on that list. Keep that list in your rubbermaid box of flashlights.

    From experience (!) figure out ahead of time how many & what lengths of extension cords you'll need to connect the generator to the appliances. Keep those separate from the ones you use routinely. It sucks to have the generator running and not know where the damned cords are. We have a schematic on our kitchen refrigerator that shows how to connect the generator to freezers and fridges with a sideline branch that goes to a TV (with DVD player) and devise charging station. None of these things needs to run constantly, so we just cycle through pulling the plugs on things. And if you're in for several days of outage, it's nice to end the day with a movie.

    Butane burners.

    Never ever run out of TP.

  • Live Free Or Diet||

    Having a portable generator is a good thing.

    My daughter was always the popular girl in the neighborhood after a hurricane or ice storm killed the power because we were set up for (gas) hot running water (hooray, showers!) and, because of a cheap 5 kw Coleman camping generator, we could keep the laptops charged, which meant DVD movies. There were times we had a dozen little girls, ages 6 to 17, taking showers by lantern light, eating popcorn and watching Disney movies.

  • dchang0||

    Also, BUY AT LEAST ONE CARBON MONOXIDE DETECTOR and the batteries to go with it.

    Gasoline generators can kill if the ventilation is not good enough. Buy a few chains and cables to lock it down to something if it will be outside where people can steal it. And buy a firearm to take care of anyone who tries to steal it. They should've bought their own in advance rather than put your family's survival at risk by stealing yours.

    I also recommend portable solar panels for recharging USB devices including smartphones and USB battery packs. You won't need to spin up the generator just to recharge the smartphones for the kids to stave off boredom. Even if the cell towers are down, a few ebooks, videos, or games can keep you sane.

  • Ride 'Em||

    Also, keep a spray can of ether (quick start fluid). Most people don't run their generators enough to keep them in good starting condition.

  • Ken Shultz||

    Perfect opportunity to reiterate one of my favorite observations.

    In San Diego, Los Angeles, and elsewhere I spend time with a lot of progressives, I've heard a lot over the years about how rural Americans need their ignorant asses to be forced to use renewable energy, etc.--to save the environment from global warming.

    Spending time with my brother in rural Utah, I've never heard so many people talking about alternative energy. They talk about their solar set ups, batteries, etc. the way other people might talk about sports. It's no wonder since they actually use and depend on solar.

    Seemed an excellent indication to me of the cultural divide between rural and suburban America. In suburban America, they imagine rural Americans don't know anything about alternative energy, solar, etc.--when in reality, it's rural Americans who have been using that stuff by necessity since forever. Rural Americans, on the other hand, imagine that suburban progressives are a bunch of ignorant elitists who think they know what's best for everyone but don't know really know anything at all--when in reality, . . .

    Well, that's actually pretty close to the reality.

  • Live Free Or Diet||

    I'm thinking about a solar system for us, just for the dependability. Our grid power lines have to cross salt water at the other end of the island.

  • IceTrey||

    The startup surge in an AC is provided by a capacitor.

  • DenverJ||

    Another good strategy is to move someplace that doesn't have large scale natural disasters. The worst we get here is a blizzard every ten years that keeps you in the house for a couple days.
    I'd tell you where "here" is but I don't want half of California to move here and jack housing prices up, clog the roadways, and in general just being a bunch of jerks. Oh wait...

  • Agammamon||

    Where I live we don't even have the blizzards.

    Best part? The Californians only want to come for two weeks a year (dove hunting) and then leave. Of course, you do have to put up with UPers and Canadians, all over 65, all living on government retirement checks in their RVs who drive really slow in the ultrafast lane while people behind them are going insane. And complain that this or that isn't done here like they do it back home.

  • a tandem||

    Another good strategy is to move someplace that doesn't have large scale natural disasters.

    True. But keep small scale disaster is amplified in most urban areas due to lack of planning, corrupt city politics diverting or outright thieving emergency planning and resource funds (eg New Orleans Ray Nagin railing on and on about Bush, when Nagin had stolen both pre emergency planning and resource funds, and post Katrina federal and state aid as well) -- and the general elevated crime rates in Us cities.

    So areas where there is less likelihood, but more of an impact should it occur are also problematic

  • Warren||

    If the water or electric goes out for a few days, I can ride it out. If it's longer, I'll have to resupply or call dibs on a relatives sofa. But if all of civilization takes a shit, I'm not interested in surviving.

  • Bill E||

    Good advice, J.D. Perhaps consider some emergency toilet and hygiene provisions, too. People can be pretty clueless when the toilet stops flushing. No biggie in rural areas, but a considerable problem downtown. Hand sanitizer, wet wipes, plenty of TP, will all be most welcome if needed.

  • Live Free Or Diet||

    We keep an extra Sam's Club sized case of TP. In the 2-week outage after Hurricane Irene, the stores that were open were "hit by the locusts" and not resupplied too well for a lot of that time. I handed a pack of TP to a young wife three doors down. The way she acted, you would have thought I had saved her baby from wolves.

  • IceTrey||

    That's what the phone book is for.

  • IceTrey||

    That's what the phone book is for.

  • susancol||

    You have an actual *phone book*??!! Wow! I haven't seen one of those in years . . . just get these little dinky ones that don't have residential listings, only businesses . . .

  • susancol||

    You have an actual *phone book*??!! Wow! I haven't seen one of those in years . . . just get these little dinky ones that don't have residential listings, only businesses . . .

  • Eidde||

    If I were in federal prison, I would be trying to make football players my bestest friends.

    "I can't wait to get out so I can wear your memorabilia all the time!"

  • Eidde||

    How did I get into the survivalist thread? I guess it's about survival, befriending football players.

  • Harvard||

    Best three items to have in extended disaster situations: manual water source (pitcher pump), hand crank AM radio, hand crank flashlights.

  • Vernon Depner||

    The need for stored food can be minimized if you can overcome any squeamishness about cannibalism.

  • Sevo||

    OT, and I'm surprised it hasn't gotten a thread. So I'll trot this out so that those suffering from TDS can give me stick about it:
    Trump's off tomorrow for that meeting with Kim. I check news sources now an then during the day and found out about it on a 'metaphorical' Pg4 this afternoon.
    The local dead-tree issue had not a word about it, only that Trump was leaving the Canuck econ talks 'early' and 'under a cloud', sort of hinting that he was on his way out of town to avoid the rail instead of heading home to prep for the meeting. It was an AP feed, so that's to be expected; last week, they reported he couldn't swim, since he was walking across the Potomac.
    It remains most likely that absolutely nothing may well come of the meeting, and the hints among the legacy press is that Trump will somehow give away the farm, since, well, 'cause Trump! (maybe he can give them Boston and Berkeley, no charge).
    Regardless, had a POTUS(D) been about to meet with Kim, it's hard to imagine the dancing in the streets and the cries of "Peace in out time!" which would be celebrated in Times Square and covered by all and sundry.
    As when first proposed, I doubt we'll get what we'd like, but I hope he comes back with a (verifiable) de-nuke agreement, not only because I think it's a wonderful thing for the world...
    but also to stick a thumb in the eye of every TDS victim, world-wide.

  • a tandem||

    If you know anyone in government planning, there are the unlike catastrophic scenarios, and then there are a whole lot more moderate to mild scenarios of natural disasters like very large earthquake, two Katrina's hitting city in the space of a week, or manmade such as single low yield atomic blast. In metro areas where most Americans live, these all will likely mean sharply reduced or absent utility (esp water), law enforcement, fire services and reduced access to evacuation. Even with a N. korea or eventual terrorist sized small nuke there are 30 times as many people living in a temporary disruption and moderate fallout area than in fatal blast or fallout area.

    The people saying no one should be prepared for a week without services because it wont protect against a massive asteroid strike or massive worldwide nuclear war are idiots. This is akin to saying fire escape routes or extinguishers in the home or at any office building are useless.

    If there are no cops, no water, and the most likely type of say a week long "stay in your home" disaster hits and you don't have the bare minimum of ) one week drinking water per family member and b) a firearm, you deserve whatever happens.

  • Shirley Knott||

    Six EMPs at the right altitude and you can kiss the modern world goodbye.

  • Vernon Depner||

    The people saying no one should be prepared for a week without services because it wont protect against a massive asteroid strike or massive worldwide nuclear war are idiots.

    The person who believes anyone here has said any such thing can't fucking read.

  • a tandem||

    @ Vendon, I get it, you have a reading disability. I see you troll lots of comment threads here misrepresenting what people write and then going off on some bizarre tangent.

    did I write "the people above" or "the people commenting here"? No. I am talking about common expressed views of anyone prepping as somehow irrational. There are clear studies showing majorities of urban populations do not even have water, food and other basics for more than a couple of days.

    But go ahead making more of jacka55 of yourself!

  • Vernon Depner||

    Pardon me for assuming you were attempting to participate in the conversation.

  • a tandem||

    pardon you for falsifying what people wrote? When you rather regularly do?

  • crufus||

    Other items you will want for the end times:
    12 gauge shotgun
    AR-15 type rifle with 10 magazines
    22 Cal semi-automatic rifle
    9 mm semi-automatic pistol with 10 magazines
    500 rounds for each of the above
    various knives
    large and small axes
    shovels
    various saws
    1 pound of meth
    5 pounds of weed
    10 gallons of whisky
    various real and fake IDs and passports
    various credit cards
    $5000 cash
    $5000 in gold coins
    list of enemies
    100 plastic handcuffs
    50 rolls of duct tape
    500 feet of rope
    50 disposable plastic tarps
    10 boxes of disposable gloves

  • Live Free Or Diet||

    Sounds kind of like redneck Dexter preparing for Season 9.

    I don't currently own any ARs. Obama's talked the prices up enough I sold all three at a tidy profit, and bought a couple new stainless Mini-14s instead. I prefer the M-14 style clean action and manual of arms, and I find the in-line stock's ergonomics more intuitive. They are also built with fewer parts, and they are almost mythically dependable. And before someone mentions accuracy, mine both shoot 2.5 to 3 MOA with bulk milsurp 5.56x45, either way, 55gr or 63gr.

    I also prefer silver over gold for most purposes. Gold is too compact a form for most regular transactions. Pre-1964 dimes, quarters and halfs make more sense to me.

  • a tandem||

    don't know about that, but 2/3's of London citizens don't have two days drinking water on hand.

  • Live Free Or Diet||

    A warfare class I was in did an analysis of several cities. We found virtually the same thing for every major city in the world. Blow three water pumping stations, and there wasn't enough transportation to evacuate fast enough to prevent upwards of 30% casualties. London was worse than 50%.

  • uunderstand||

    . . . that compels you to keep a spare tire and a first aid kit in your car, and maybe a puncture kit and a compressor, too.

    A spare engine and a mechanic is also a good idea. Seriously, who does this? I haven't had a flat in 20 years.

    Gold or silver for the end of time? For what? Until a society exists that can move beyond survival, this two things will have no value. Maybe for filling teeth, but nothing else. You can't eat, drink or wipe your butt with either. Toilet paper, food, water and ammunition will be the most important things for a long time.

  • Live Free Or Diet||

    Seriously, who does this? I haven't had a flat in 20 years.

    I do.
    My territory used to be more than half of Virginia. I did a lot of driving, often in very lonely rural areas. I keep a Car Bag that included a tire kit and pump, two quarts of oil, a few tools, Gorilla tape, water and a fire extinguisher. I changed the tire a couple times, and repaired a cut water hose once. Never used the extinguisher for myself, but put out someone's battery fire once, and the beginnings of a grass fire once. I also carry a Get Home Bag (rugged clothing, walking shoes, some food and water, etc), which I never used for its intended purpose, though it comes in handy for less than urgent reasons.

    Disaster is not an all-or-nothing thing. History shows the value of precious metal coins during times of crisis and recovery. 20th Century hyperinflation had prices doubling every day in Southeast Asia, Africa, Eastern Europe, Central Asia, 5 times in Latin America, and 4 times in Western Europe, Diamonds, gold, silver, and (in the last 70 years) 7.62x39 ammo have stood in as currency many times. And don't you want to be in as good a place as possible as things start to get better?

  • jdtuccille||

    How the fuck do you not get flats? I get them probably twice a year--always in the middle of nowhere. The puncture kit is for the nails fallen off the back of contractors' trucks (there's always construction here) or the rocks and thorns, since everything in Arizona is sharp. The compressor I use all the time--wild temperature swings in this state play havoc with tire pressure. Without it, I'd have been screwed years ago.

  • I am the 0.000000013%||

    Good article. I'm glad it wasn't the short version:

    1- Identify the preppers around you

    2- Work out how to raid them after the crisis

  • Live Free Or Diet||

    2- Work out how to raid them after the crisis

    1.5 - Wear Kevlar vest and helmet.

  • Vernon Depner||

    Work out how to raid them after the crisis

    When the starving urban refugees find out where a food cache is, it will just be a zombie-style mass charge until the prepper runs out of ammo.

  • JFree||

    Seems to me the best way to figure out what will actually be needed in a post-apocalypse is to go to Puerto Rico now and see what people are doing at the local/individual level.

    Course if we still understood the concept of a militia, we would have a way of both fixing that infrastructure apocalypse - AND transmitting that knowledge/skill to others far better than an article in Reason magazine