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  • Joshua Stevens

Survival in Uncertain Times

This post began as advice and planning steps for a family member concerned at the start of COVID-19’s appearance in America, around the beginning of March 2020. The information presented was intended to provide a basic overview of preparedness for the preparation novice. I ended up sending this advice to a good number of people, so I decided it would be a good idea to polish it up, add in some extra information based on what has happened since March 2020 regarding COVID-19, and post it all here for the widest possible distribution.

Water

When COVID-19 kicked off hard and heavy in the middle of March, one could only find Survivor Filter’s products on their website, and they sold out frequently. To their great credit, not only did they refuse to price gouge, but they also ran a bunch of sales during those uncertain times and really earned my support as a customer. Now, you can find their whole range of products on Amazon.t Walmarts, or you can order them online. They’ll store 5.7 gallons of liquid each, and are made for easy stacking.

Here is a link for Aquatainers: https://amzn.to/3e01YLM

A good filtration system is critically important as well, particularly for collecting water from renewable sources. Drinking bad water leads to many issues, the most common of which is dysentery. Dysentery dehydrates you in the long run, negating any benefit you could have gained from drinking water. Boiling water is an option, but this method doesn’t always kill everything in the water. It’s also very inefficient, especially compared to today’s available modern filtration systems.

I like Survivor Filter a lot; I have one of their hand pump filters with a bunch of extra parts. It’s great for camping and the end of the world: https://www.survivorfilter.com

My Patriot Supply provides great long-term freeze-dried food. As a company, they were completely cleaned out during the early weeks of COVID-19. They’re also another company that really impressed me, both by their refusal to price gouge and by remaining very transparent with their customers regarding any delays and when they’d restock on items. They also refuse to supply Government Agencies, which makes them unique compared to competing companies. By refusing to supply the government, in times of crisis, they tend to have more inventory on hand. Other big names in the freeze-dried food industry often have all their inventory purchased by government accounts during natural disasters, for example, leaving little left over for civilian buyers. You can find a link to My Patriot Supply here:

This is the model I have the most experience with: https://amzn.to/3e01YLM.

It works wonderfully. I’ve taken it on several camping trips and have also filtered plenty of water for the Aquatainers at my house. The only drawback is that it takes a while to filter, as you have to manually hand pump the water.

Eventually, I’d like to upgrade to their electric model, simply for ease of use: https://amzn.to/3foVy9j.

The electric version runs off of two double AA batteries, or off of a USB charger. With a high-quality, solar-charging battery bank, you could run this pump forever, even if you didn’t have electricity or batteries. I prefer this solar-charging battery bank. It can be charged from either a wall outlet or thirteen hours of sunlight: https://amzn.to/2XTd67k.

Berkey filtration systems are also very popular for homesteads, particularly the large, standup, gravity-fed ones. The most useful and popular version of a Berkey filtration system is this countertop gravity-fed one: https://amzn.to/2XYzo7X.

For electrolyte supplementation, you have a ton of options. In my opinion, Drip Drop is hard to beat. I like their lemon flavor and have used this product for years. They’re a life-saver when I’m working outside in the summer, and the packets are easy to keep around if you need some quick rehydration. Amazon offers “Subscribe and Save” for this product. I get a 10-pack every month to make sure I never run out: https://amzn.to/3hmd93o.

Food

Food is a complicated issue when it comes to long-term storage and preparedness. Ideally, you would want to create self-sustaining renewable resources. For many, that isn’t practical. Even when it is practical, you can’t just flip a switch and have renewable resources ready to go by tomorrow. For those reasons, I keep both long shelf life freeze-dried food and normal food on hand.

My Patriot Supply provides great long-term freeze-dried food. As a company, they were completely cleaned out during the early weeks of COVID-19. They’re also another company that really impressed me, both by their refusal to price gouge and by remaining very transparent with their customers regarding any delays and when they’d restock on items. They also refuse to supply Government Agencies, which makes them unique compared to competing companies. By refusing to supply the government, in times of crisis, they tend to have more inventory on hand. Other big names in the freeze-dried food industry often have all their inventory purchased by government accounts during natural disasters, for example, leaving little leftover for civilian buyers. You can find a link to My Patriot Supply here: https://mypatriotsupply.com/.

A good option for healthier and vegan options is Captain Mariner’s Gourmet. This is a small, family-run business with excellent customer support. All of their products are vegan, and they offer a wide variety of choices: https://captmarrinersgourmet.com.

The final company I use—one you’re probably more familiar with—is Mountain House. You can buy their single serving products at Walmart most of the time. They were also hit hard in the early COVID-19 days, and their products have only recently popped up again in stores. My favorite product of theirs is the Chili Mac. I keep plenty on hand for camping. A product they make that I really like for long-term storage would be their 10-serving cans. You can find them on Amazon, and you can even use the “Subscribe and Save” option to slowly build up a stockpile: https://amzn.to/3hklIeZ.

With normal food, it’s best to buy extra of what you normally eat. This ensures that you don’t end up with a cupboard full of canned peas or something you’ll never touch—unless the world ends—so it just sits in your pantry, collecting dust and slowly going bad. Normal food should just be part of an expanded rotation of food you’d normally eat, only in larger quantities. In the best case scenario, nothing bad happens, and you can have peace of mind knowing you have extra food on hand. If you stock up on food you normally eat, it will eventually be eaten and your stockpiling wasn’t a needless money pit.

Along with freeze-dried food, other good long-term foods to store are rice, beans, and flour. They’re good staples that last a long time when stored correctly. That being said, don’t do yourself dirty and fail to buy ingredients that make those items more palatable. Nothing ruins your appetite faster than eating the same bland food over and over again. I had to do that on my first trip to Afghanistan and lost forty pounds because, at times, I didn’t care to eat what we had available. It took me years after that deployment before I’d eat chicken again because, for whatever reason, it was one thing the cooks always made.

Make sure you have nutritional supplements to, well, supplement your body with what you’re not getting from the food you’re eating. You don’t want to get scurvy or anything on your sixth month of your bread-and-beans-only diet. I personally love Huel, both as a meal replacement and a nutritional booster. Huel makes an all-natural vegan powder perfect for mixing up into a shake and drinking.

Amazon carries Huel products here: https://amzn.to/3fjHu0K. You can also visit their website, which offers flavor boosters and subscription services: https://huel.com.

I like the taste of Survival Tabs, another good supplement option: https://amzn.to/2XXtrYN.

Good multivitamins are another option. I use Naurelo’s line of multivitamins: https://amzn.to/3fhLsH1.

My son enjoys SmartyPants Kids multivitamins: https://amzn.to/30CBwnm.

Now, for how long should you prepare for? I think the recent COVID-19 lockdowns provide a good baseline. Try to keep two months of everything you need to be comfortable and fed. That doesn’t mean you need to run out right now, max out a credit card, and get everything I’ve mentioned above. It also doesn’t mean that after two months, you won’t need your preparedness gear anymore. Start small—an extra few days of stuff outside of your normal—then move up to a week or two, and keep building from there. If you’re comfortable with two months, that’s fine. I see it as a starting point: the goal to have everything you’d need to survive on today—with nothing else—until you can produce and/or grow everything else you’d need.

The idea with any type of long-term preparedness is that it doesn’t break the bank or cause you hardships in the moment. It should be something you do gradually to act as a buffer during bad times until you get back to normal times. Bad times could mean anything from losing your job to a natural disaster, or just a crazy year like 2020.

Medical

The most important medical supplies to have on hand are the normal basic injury items: things to treat cuts, burns, and sprains. Generally, modern conveniences are exactly that: convenient. Without modern conveniences you end up doing more work and manual labor; if you’re not used to that kind of work, then the risk of injury is higher. With an overloaded medical system, an infected cut could become life-threatening. Plus, who wants to be stuck in a hospital emergency room because of a septic cut during a pandemic, anyway?

In addition to basic medical supplies, you want the nutritional supplements I mentioned above, as well as medications to deal with normal ailments: colds, allergies, dysentery, etc.

The final topic—and probably the one I know the most about— is security. Like I mentioned earlier, in a societal breakdown, law and order fly out of the window, and crime normally rises significantly. Historically, more affluent neighborhoods and districts are often seen as easy targets as they have valuables worth stealing. During the French Revolution, the poor people weren’t the ones getting their stuff was taken and heads lopped off. However, civil violence is often unpredictable, and more of a “target of opportunity,” especially early on. I saw a lot of it in Iraq and Afghanistan.ch an emergency room in time. The ability to stabilize someone or stop bleeding until a professional shows up can make all the difference in the world.

Of course, like any equipment, medical supplies are useless if you don’t know what you’re doing. I’m far from being an expert, and I know just enough to know that I don’t know much. YouTube is a great resource: SkinnyMedic is one of my favorite channels. However, if you can attend a class or two on first-aid—with hands-on application—you’ll be well ahead of the curve and that much more useful.

Security

Vehicular travel requires a car that is 1) well-maintained and 2) has gas in it. I do most of my car maintenance myself and generally, never let my vehicles get under half a tank of gas. I also keep a good amount of tools and other items in my car so I can fix common issues myself. Most of that stuff is carried over from how we maintained our trucks vehicles overseas.of its money in Iraq by providing convoy security for companies and diplomats moving on the Iraqi roads between the safe military bases and protected zones. ty,” especially early on. Something I saw a lot of it in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The most recent protests and riots offer a wealth of valuable information. Generally, the destruction and looting was confined to businesses and apartments in inner-city areas, which is a bit of an anomaly. These locations do make sense, however, if you consider that targets of opportunity in the same areas as the protests became the focus once things turned violent. Talk of the unrest spreading into suburban areas popped up here and there, but it didn’t materialize to a significant extent.

Security is a layered thing. You have security for the place in which you live, the place in which you work, and in your travel. Without getting deep into the weeds, the most important thing you can do regarding security is to have a plan and have contingencies. You are most vulnerable while moving from one place to another. The infamous company Blackwater made most of its money in Iraq by providing convoy security for companies and diplomats moving on the Iraqi roadsbetween the safe military bases and protected zones.

It is critical to have more than one route to get where you’re going. In Afghanistan, illegal criminal checkpoints were a big issue. The Afghanis would set up a roadblock and charge a “toll” for people to get past. In Iraq, the same ploy was a common method for kidnapping and ransoming people. Once you hit a checkpoint, you’re in a bad spot, so avoidance is your best bet. The ability to spot trouble and move onto a different route on the fly requires both a knowledge of the area and several contingency plans. When I have the time, I like to make a habit of going down roads I haven’t before or trying different routes to a particular destination. This way I am able to learn firsthand what’s around the area, ideally before it’s something I’ll need.

Don’t be afraid to ram either someone or something in your car. Tons of YouTube videos can teach you how to do that kind of stuff, but in a nutshell, a vehicle makes an excellent weapon if you know how to use it. The most important thing to remember when traveling by vehicle is that momentum is your friend. Once you’re stopped, you’ve lost the biggest advantage a vehicle offers. Again, the recent riots provide a good example of this: moving vehicles could generally make it past large groups of protestors, as they (the protestors) moved out of the way. But the second the vehicle stopped, it was swarmed by protestors. In some cases, drivers were torn from their vehicles and beaten on the spot.

Learn how to spot and lose tails (someone following you). In South America, it’s common for people to be targeted for kidnapping or robbery based on the quality of their car. Those who drive nicer cars will often be followed and surveilled before the criminals act. You never want to lead a pursuer back to where you live, and you never want them to know what routes you commonly use. If you spot a tail during normal times, it’s a good idea to drive to the nearest police station. During bad times, you don’t want to isolate yourself. Ideally, you could call some friends to link up with you in a well-populated area so you have back up, so to speak, and become less of a target.

Vehicular travel requires a car that is 1) well-maintained and 2) has gas in it. I do most of my car maintenance myself and generally never let my vehicles get under half a tank of gas. I also keep a good amount of tools and other items in my car so I can fix common issues myself. Most of that stuff is carried over from how we maintained our trucks vehicles overseas.

Home security is incredibly complex. Avoid leading any criminal elements to your house. If they do show up You want a house that looks like it would be a hassle to rob. Most crime is opportunity-based: robbers don’t go looking for a hard time. Fences, good lighting, well-maintained landscaping—which is important to keep up with if social order breaks down—and a visible human presence are all big deals.

In Iraq and Afghanistan, most houses are in a walled compound with steel gates preventing access to a homeowner’s living quarters. Generally, multiple families, all related, live in these compounds. This helps them logistically manage the comings and goings of the day-to-day. More importantly, it gives these familial groups extra eyes to keep a lookout for trouble. In America, a good camera system can help offset that manpower-lookout issue, but nothing beats actual human eyes keeping an eye on things. It’s important to inspect your home at least once a day to 1) see if anything has been stolen outside the house, 2) look for people casing the neighborhood, and 3) to see if anything has been altered to make criminal activity easier such as fences being cut for example.

The ability to spot trouble before it happens, much like with transportation, helps you to avoid that trouble before it happens.

Finally, we come to firearms. Guns are an excellent equalizer. For example, the average man will be stronger than the average woman, just due to the nature of simple biology. That means if an unarmed man and an unarmed woman get into an altercation, the odds are automatically generally in favor of the man due to simple biology. But if the woman is armed with a firearm and proficient in its use, she has instantly negated any advantage the unarmed male might have had. She has also dramatically increased her advantages and odds towards a favorable outcome in an altercation.

I know that scenario is a dramatic oversimplification of things, but I like to use that example because it illustrates the inherent benefits of having a firearm while being able and ready to use it for self-defense. In times of civil and social unrest, pistols are the best firearm for the average person to own because they are easily portable and easily concealable. Unfortunately, they are also harder to shoot well—compared to rifles—so it’s important that any firearm owner obtains training so they may use it well.

The most popular pistol for those Americans that don’t own one is the Glock 19. It’s a good size (portable), economically-priced, and has a ton of aftermarket support. It shoots a common 9mm round that is generally economically-priced as well. At a minimum, you should own one. I would personally recommend one for each family member, but that is a personal choice you’d have to weigh the options on regarding your own family.

I can’t stress enough how important it is to gain familiarity and train with whatever gun you choose to own. It is not smart to depend on something with your life and not be familiar with how it works. For example, you would never read an owner’s manual for a car and then take it for a drive on the highway, having never driven before in your life.

This post provides a ton of information both really quickly and, in many cases, in broad oversimplifications. Eventually, I’d like to go more in-depth into each of the different topics presented here, but as an overall primer on the subject of preparedness, I hope this will get the gears turning and provide a better baseline on how to get started. Right now, things in America have chilled out a bit (relatively speaking, for 2020), and you can find a lot of the stuff I’ve discussed in this post available in stores. Now is the time to start thinking about what you need for the future. You don’t want to be that person with the shopping cart full of toilet paper and no idea what you’re doing if we get some event like COVID-19 in early 2020.

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