Yes, Wire HANGERS!!!

Photo by Anna Nekrashevich on Pexels.com

Disaster struck, the apocalypse happened, or the SHTF… You’re safe (for now) and are taking stock of what’s in your home. It looks like you’ve got a good supply of the essentials, but notice there are several closets full of unused wire hangers. They’re leftovers from all the dry cleaning you’ve been using over the years. You planned to throw them away, eventually, but never got around to it.

A wise survivalist knows it’s a good idea to reuse everything, but how can wire hangers make living after the SHTF a little easier? This article provides some ideas on how those hangers can be used as-is, bent out of shape to make simple tools, or destroyed to make something completely different[1]

As Hangers, to Hang Stuff

Hang Clothes to Free Up Storage

First and foremost, hangers should be used as… hangers. You’ll need an efficient way to store clothes and hanging is the best way to use vertical space. Take as much clothing out of the dressers as possible and hang them. This will free up storage space for more useful items like: canned or freeze-dried foods, tools, and supposedly useless electronics.

Aside from freeing up storage space, hanging clothes is faster than folding, which gives you more time to work on other survival tasks.

To Dry Clothes Faster

You can even hang wet clothes on hangers, and then hang the hanger onto a clothes-line. Use the wooden clothes-clamps to space the hangers and stop them from sliding to the center of the line (I use this trick while camping). Here’s how this drying technique makes doing laundry easier:

  • The hanger allows more air to circulate within the clothes and they dry faster.
  • The hanger eliminates those annoying clip wrinkles at the shoulders.
  • Using hangers allows you to dry more clothes if you don’t have much rope.
  • Taking clothes off the line is faster with hangers.
  • The hooks can be bent shut to keep the wind from blowing your laundry away, and can easily be reshaped for hanging in the closet.

A couple things to keep in mind:

  • Unless you have a clamping pants hanger, this trick won’t work with pants and shorts and they’ll need to be hung on the wire with clamps.
  • You can use hangers with socks and underwear, but they need to be clipped on. It’s a good idea if you’re running out of space on the clothes line, but I find it easier to clip them directly onto the line.

As a Whip

As the movie, Mommie Dearest, showed us in 1981, hangers can be used to punish children. This long-lost method of correcting bad behavior will make a comeback after the SHTF. Think about it. Socialist media will be a thing of the past, and there won’t be swarms of opinionated people to shame and criticize parents for spanking their kids. 

Disobedient kids will quickly learn how to behave once they realize they can’t report their parents to CPS because they got spanked for stealing. However, there’s a big difference between discipline and abuse. I know this from personal experience, so please don’t cross that line[2].

Lockpick

Straighten the hook part of the hanger and use it to pick a lock. A hanger lockpick will only work on internal doors because exterior locks are more complex (for good reasons).

  1. Stick the straightened end in the hole at the center of the doorknob.
  2. Feel around for the locking mechanism. This can be as easy as pushing a spring-loaded latch, or as frustrating as twisting the lock back to the unlock position.
  3. Twist the handle and open the unlocked door.
  4. Bend the top back into a hook, so it can be used as a hanger again. Also, try not to lock yourself out of that room again.

For Cooking

Starting with cooking, the following methods of using a wire hanger will destroy it as an actual hanger.

Hanging Meat

Clean, stainless-steel hangers are great for hanging meat while smoking or making biltong. I must emphasize that you shouldn’t use hangers coated with plastic because that will melt into your food.

Shish Kabobs

Again, only use stainless steel hangers to stab meat and soft vegetables before cooking over an open fire. This is great for roasting marshmallows too, but good luck finding them after the SHTF.

Drain Snake

Finding a plumber after the SHTF will be impossible and you’ll have to fix things yourself. If you’ve got a clogged pipe, take a wire hanger out of the closet and use it to unclog a drain.

  1. Straiten the boomerang shape out of the hanger, so it’s stretched out.
  2. Stick the hook-side of the hanger down the drain and rotate.
  3. Pull the hanger out of the drain and clean off any hair and gunk.
  4. Repeat this until the hanger comes out of the drain clean(ish).
  5. Store your new drain snake and reuse it the next time it’s needed.

I guess you could technically reshape the drain snake back into a hanger, but… eww! Why?

S-Hooks

Wire hangers can be made into s-hooks to provide quick and easy organization in the kitchen, workshop, or any room. Just keep in mind these are made of wire hangers and can’t hold large objects or multiple tools. The process of making an s-hook is simple:

  1. Use wire cutters to cut the hanger into 6-inch strips.
  2. Bend one end to form a hook. This can be done using your hands.
  3. Bend the other end, the opposite way to give the wire an “S” shape.
  4. Hang the s-hook on a rod to hang plastic spoons, spatulas, small tools, etc.

The hooks don’t have to look pretty, but they need to be functional. Some of my homemade s-hooks have pointed ends on one side, like a “V”. I find this makes the wire able to hold heavier objects when hooked to a wire shelf.

I’ve even made a few hooks with one circular end, so it functions like a hooked keychain for individual tools.

Trellis

Wire hangers can be turned into trellis to support vines and other weak plants. Plastic-covered hangers are especially good for this because the plastic protects the metal from rusting. The easiest way to make trellis out of hangers uses 6 to 8 hangers per vertical row. You’ll also need something to nail or staple them to, so if you’re building a freestanding trellis, that’s at least 2 wooden posts.

  1. Set 2 wooden posts in the ground, 14 inches apart.
  2. Orient the hangers on the side, with the hooks pointed toward the space between posts.
  3. Staple the “top” and “bottom” of the hangars to the posts.
  4. Twist the intersecting hooks together. This should also stretch the boomerang part of the hanger into an “X” shape.
  5. Repeat the process until you reach the desired height. 6 wire hangers should make a trellis about 4 feet high.
  6. Add another post and repeat this process to expand the trellis.

I’m not a visual artist, but the hangers will be situated like this and will have more of an “X” shape.

For a slightly stronger trellis, space the posts about 8 inches apart. The process is similar, but instead of twisting the hook-ends together, they get stapled onto the opposite post. The hangers will be crossed like this:

There are many other ways wire hangers can be made into trellis, but these are the 2 easiest methods I can think of. You should experiment based on the materials at your disposal and what makes sense for the garden.

Border Markers

Cut the hook ends off and straighten the wire to make thin rods. Similar to what surveyors do, the rods can be used as border markers to help visualize how much yard-space a structure will take. They can also mark where you plan to dig or as a reminder of where root vegetables are planted.

Make the rods more visible by tying a thin strip of cloth or brightly colored rope to each rod. Using different colors in a garden is a waterproof way to identify plants.

Cement Rebar

Stainless steel wire hangers can be used as rebar when building a small cement slab. Don’t use hangers with plastic coating because the cement won’t bind properly. Rebar usually isn’t needed for most small projects, but rebar could definitely help the floor/foundation support heavy equipment.

I needed a slab to support the weight of a full bathtub in a greenhouse bathroom experiment. Pouring a small slab probably would have been good enough, but I wanted to err on the side of caution. The general method I used to make the rebar was:

  1. Measure the area, fit the wooden border-planks, and pour concrete to about half the planned thickness.
  2. Cut the hook ends off and straighten the wire to make rods. Each rod should be about 30-36 inches, which is the width of most bathtubs. For a 60’x30” tub, I used about 40 wire hangers.
  3. Lay the rods. The rods should be spaced about 3-4 inches going down the length of the slab. Then lay a perpendicular layer of rods over the first layer, in a pattern similar to a chess board.
  4. Push the wire into the cement, so it’s slightly submerged at parts. This kept most of the wire from moving all over the place when I poured the rest of the concrete.
  5. Pour concrete to fill the top half of the slab.

Here are a few things to note with this project:

  • I am not an architect and what worked for my specific project may not be suited to your needs. Use your best judgement and experience when building any structure, or hire a professional.
  • This type of rebar should not be relied on for large-scale construction.
  • The method I use is similar to rebar used on streets, but I think highway workers use thin wires to bind the intersecting bars together. I didn’t.
  • After step 4, I noticed a few rods shifted while pouring the second half of concrete. Binding the wires would have prevented this, but I wonder if letting the concrete sit for a few hours would have worked to keep the wire in place.

Dowsing

If you’re in touch with inner psychic energy, using 2 hangers to make dowsing rods can be a way of finding resources. Albeit, a non-scientific and very unreliable method.

***

As you can see, there are several ways a survivalist can use wire hangers after the SHTF. Stay openminded and consider how other common household items may be used to make life easier in a survival situation.

I have a couple more ideas on how we can reuse common items during a survival situation. Be on the lookout for these in future articles.


[1] OMG Wreaths! I already had a nice list of dreamed-up ideas on how to reuse wire hangers after the SHTF, but thought someone else had better ideas. Most of the articles I saw online were about how to make wreaths out of them. After spending an hour looking at wreath-frames, I decided it was a damn waste of my (the author’s) time trying to research further.

I’m glad Christmas is over and won’t have to look at another wreath till November.

[2] Personal Experience with Abuse: The 5 years of hell I endured while living with my first step mother left a scar that may never fully heal. CPS was called 3 times, so you can imagine how easy it was for me to write a book about it. Writing a book was my way to come to terms, and get a little revenge from that vile woman. However, after the SHTF, such passive revenge will be a thing of the past and abused children may seek their revenge by more violent means.

Please remember readers that I do not condone violence or vigilante justice.

Survival Tool… A Towel?

In The Hitchhikers’ Guide to the Galaxy, by Douglas Adams, the most valuable piece of survival gear is a towel. The novel’s entry for towels can be found in the footnotes of this article[1]. In summary, the guide states that a towel can be used for: warmth, shade, defense, cushioning, as a sail, chemical warfare filter, or defense against the Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal.

But seriously, how useful is a towel during a survival situation?

Obviously, a towel can be used for warmth and make-shift shade, but I’m dubious of the other uses listed in the Guide. Here on Earth, a towel won’t be much use as a sail or defense against a large monster. Nor does it provide much comfort as a mattress, but it makes a decent extra-firm pillow[2].

Here are some ways towels can be used during a survival situation by us Earthlings.

Wave to Signal

The easiest way to survive a disastrous situation is to get rescued. If you’re stranded and see a plane or helicopter flying nearby, grab a towel and wave it around to get the pilot’s attention. Even if the aircraft flies away, the pilot probably saw you and reported your location to other rescue teams. Keep waving the towel at passing aircraft until you are rescued. If one pilot doesn’t see you, maybe the next one will.

For Warmth and Cooling

There are a few ways a towel can be used to stay warm or to cool off.

Shade

Tie the corners of a towel onto a low tree branch and sit under it to shelter from the sun. Just don’t expect it to cover your entire body if you want to lay down for a nap. If someone is suffering from heat exhaustion, in addition to applying cool water or ice to the skin, providing shade to the upper half of the body can help cool the victim while waiting for medical assistance.

Insulation

If your home has a drafty door, tuck a towel into the cracks at the bottom to keep the hot/cold air out. Similarly, if there’s a small hole in a wall, stuff a towel in the opening to temporarily seal it.

During Hurricane Harvey (2017), the storm pushed rain through the masonry of my building. I was faced with having to pat-dry that wall nonstop for multiple days, with less than a dozen towels, and no way to dry them. It was an impossible task and I had to be creative with the materials at my disposal. I managed to rig up and adhere a few towels to the wall so they soaked up the water, and guided it into a bucket (so I could sleep).

Warmth

A towel makes a decent blanket for the upper body, but won’t cover much more than that.

I once had to use a towel as a blanket while attending school in North Texas. I was returning from Spring Break when a late Greyhound stranded me overnight at the station near my campus. The weather can be bipolar in that part of Texas, so the warm day quickly became a frigid night. I found a towel in my luggage and used it to stay warm enough to get a few naps in before the school shuttle picked me up the next morning.

To clarify, the “station” was little more than an office with 2 public restrooms, all of which were locked. Also, this was about 10 years before Uber became popular and taxis didn’t serve the area.

Head Covering or Scarf

The derogatory term, “Towelhead” gained usage after 9/11 as a slur against Arabs, Muslims, and desert nomads. During a survival situation, it’s wise to adopt the traditional garb of those desert cultures to shield your skin from the sun. Here are a few examples of how you can use a towel in this situation.

Turban

Wrap a towel around your head into a turban to serve as a makeshift hat. Wetting the towel helps keep your head cool as the water evaporates. If you have a really large towel, alternate forms of a turban can be fashioned to cover your neck as well.

Scarf

Similarly, using a damp towel as a scarf can provide additional cooling if you already have a hat. Even a dry scarf helps to absorb sweat and cool your skin through evaporation.

Alternately, a towel used as a scarf can help cover or insulate your neck when exposed to the cold.

Lawrence of Arabia Turban

This is a simple head covering and may be easier to wear than a turban, but you need a rubber band or rope. This two-piece “turban” is worn to shield the wearer from the sun and provides additional cooling by directing breezes toward the head and neck.

  1. Center the towel and cover your head as far forward as the mid-forehead. Don’t cover beyond your eyebrows, because that will ultimately cause distractions and limit visibility.
  2. Use a large rubber band (or a string/rope) to fasten the towel, so it stays in place. Fasten it midway up your forehead and around the back of your head.
  3. Experiment with how you wear the turban. If you wear the “turban” lopsided, or longer on one side, you’ll have enough towel to use as a scarf or face mask.

Makeshift Clothing

What if you suddenly find yourself naked and afraid, with nothing but a towel?

Don’t panic!

Use that towel to cover your very public, pubic areas. If you’re female, wrap it over your chest. Most towels are wide enough to cover the breast and pubic areas of the body. It’s a little easier for men because we can simply wrap it around the waist.

However, the width may be too long and may hinder a man’s ability to run quickly. I find it useful to fold the towel in half to reduce the width. It still covers what you need covered, while providing unrestricted movement.

Plus, it’s sexier… if you’re young or muscular, or generally attractive looking. Humans tend to be more willing to help those we find sexually attractive and wearing that towel in a sexy way could help with finding a survival companion. Who knows, maybe you’ll find love in a hopeless place (or time).

A Diaper

Finding fresh diapers will be impossible during a survival situation, so you’ll need to use towels as a substitute. It’s best to have multiple towels when using them as diapers. I think 5 towels are a good amount to have per infant, but more are always better. It’s a good idea to use the following rotation plan.

  1. One towel is worn by the baby.
  2. Wash each towel immediately after soiling.
  3. Dry soiled towels (could take hours if air-drying).
  4. One towel should be ready for the next diaper change.
  5. One towel should be ready as backup.

You’ll have 2 towels washed and drying at the same time, while still having 2 available when the diaper needs to be changed… in theory.

Absorb Water

Imagine finding an open well with water, but no bucket in sight. This is the only water you’ve seen all day, and there’s no guarantee you’ll find more tomorrow.

How can you get that water?

The basic function of a towel is to soak in liquids, so use it to soak up and collect that water.

  1. Tie a rope to the towel and drop it in the well.
  2. Make sure the towel is soaked before pulling it back to the surface.
  3. Wring the water out of the towel into a cooking pot, or some other container.
  4. Repeat the process until your container(s) are full.
  5. Make the water potable before consuming (filter, boil, germicidal tablets, etc.).

Makeshift Water Filter

It won’t remove microbes, but you can pour water through a towel to filter out debris before making it potable.

Air Filter or Mask

A towel can be used as a mask to keep sand and dust out of your airways. Used as a mask, it can muffle the germs of an infectious person and reduce the distance germs travel away from the wearer. As the Covid pandemic has shown us, masks don’t provide much protection from germs that are already in the air, so this is more of a preventative measure to help keep infectious people from spreading diseases.

A dry towel can even be used as a make-shift respirator to reduce the amount of smoke inhaled during a fire. According to most sources, wetting the towel doesn’t provide much additional benefit, and can make it harder to breathe through the towel.

What about Chemical warfare?!

Well, a towel can help… and it can’t.

According to FEMA[3], you should cover your mouth and nose while seeking shelter, but it should not be relied on as a safety measure in place of getting to shelter immediately. Covering your mouth does not prevent exposure to chemical vapors, but is effective against smoke and aerosols. Such byproducts would be released to the immediate area of a biological or chemical attack. Although, you’re most likely to encounter smoke during a house fire or wildfire.

In studies, using a dry folded handkerchief (or towel) was the most effective filter for particulates or aerosols[4]. As previously mentioned, wetting a towel doesn’t provide any benefit, and can make it harder to breathe. Placing a wet towel at the bottom of a door or window does not prevent vapors from entering a room, nor does it reduce the amount of chemicals entering[5].

As Defense

There are several articles about using a towel or other piece of clothing to defend against an assailant armed with a bladed weapon. Watch any “kung fu” movie to see how the unarmed protagonist fends off attackers with clothing, and even disarms them with it. In real life, the goal is to constrict the weapon or arm to disable or disarm the assailant, and then escape the situation.

It’s possible to use a towel to defend yourself from an attacker armed with a dagger, but it may be harder if faced with a larger blade like a sword. The best way a towel can be used to defend against a bladed weapon is to redirect the force away from your body. However, you shouldn’t go into a fight expecting to use a towel as a medieval shield, because a sharp sword (or katana) can easily slice through it.

If a stabbing attack is unavoidable, try using the towel to reduce how far the blade penetrates the skin. 

A Torture/Interrogation Device[6] 

Do you recall how painful it was getting whipped by a towel in the high school locker-room? The same principle applies when using a towel to interrogate a prisoner. Hold the towel at opposing ends and roll it into a long, towel-like rope. Then crack that whip at random parts of the body until the prisoner talks.

If used with enough force, a towel-whip can even leave bruises.

Wetting the towel can cause additional pain, but don’t get the towel soaking wet. If the towel is too wet it’ll only create a sloppy mess and won’t cause the prisoner much pain. You need enough water to moisten it. The perfect amount seems to match up with the dampness a towel gets after drying an average-sized adult as he walks out of a shower.

To Dry Things… A Towel’s Basic Function

Don’t forget the basic function of a towel is to dry stuff. Knowing how to use it for other things is great during a survival situation, but towels are best at doing the following.

  • Dry yourself, objects, and surfaces (of course).
  • Absorb liquid.
  • Wash yourself (most towel sets come with rags, which are made of the same exact material).

Last Resort Uses

Useful things can be made out of a towel, but doing so will destroy it. If you have no other option, a towel can be scrapped to make bandages, cut for cordage, or used as kindling for a fire.

***

When I read The Hitchhikers’ Guide to the Galaxy, I knew the claim that a towel is the most valuable piece of survival gear was meant to be a joke. However, a towel can be very useful during a survival situation.

Use this article as inspiration to see how ordinary household items can be used differently to improve your chances of survival. I’ve already found a few things we tend to throw away and will share their potential uses in future articles.


[1] Towel – The Guide’s Description:

A towel is just about the most massively useful thing an interstellar hitchhiker can carry. Partly because it has great practical value. You can wrap it around you for warmth as you bound across the cold moons of Jaglan Beta; you can lie on it on the brilliant marble-sanded beaches of Santraginus V, inhaling the heady sea vapours; you can sleep under it beneath the stars which shine so redly on the desert world of Kakrafoon; use it to sail a miniraft down the slow heavy River Moth; wet it for use in hand-to-hand combat; wrap it around your head to ward off noxious fumes or avoid the gaze of the Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal (a mind-bogglingly stupid animal, it assumes that if you can’t see it, it can’t see you — daft as a brush, but very very ravenous); you can wave your towel in emergencies as a distress signal, and of course you can dry yourself off with it if it still seems to be clean enough.

More importantly, a towel has immense psychological value. For some reason, if a strag discovers that a hitchhiker has his towel with him, he will automatically assume that he is also in possession of a toothbrush, washcloth, soap, tin of biscuits, flask, compass, map, ball of string, gnat spray, wet-weather gear, space suit etc., etc. Furthermore, the strag will then happily lend the hitchhiker any of these or a dozen other items that the hitchhiker might accidentally have “lost.” What the strag will think is that any man who can hitch the length and breadth of the Galaxy, rough it, slum it, struggle against terrible odds, win through and still knows where his towel is, is clearly a man to be reckoned with.

Hence a phrase which has passed into hitch hiking slang, as in “Hey, you sass that hoopy Ford Prefect? There’s a frood who really knows where his towel is.

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy Wiki. (n.d.). Towel. Retrieved from The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy Wiki: https://hitchhikers.fandom.com/wiki/Towel

[2] Towel Pillow: A towel makes a good extra-firm pillow if folded. Its flexibility means it can be formed into any shape you need without flattening out, which is great for ergonomics… or so my doctor says.

[3] FEMA Guidelines: I know that many of my readers don’t exactly trust FEMA. Some of you don’t trust the government at all. Hell, I don’t have confidence in it either because it’s repeatedly ruined simple common-sense laws and messed up so many straight-forward public works projects. HOWEVER, the scientific data it acquires is originally designed to help our soldiers and we shouldn’t disregard its value to us as survivalists.

[4] FEMA. (2020, February 5). Using wet towels in chemical attack? Retrieved from Federal Emergency Management Agency: https://www.fema.gov/faq/using-wet-towels-chemical-attack

[5] Door/Window Covering: Placing a towel at the bottom of a door or window will not prevent vapors from entering. All points of entry (door, window, AC vent, dryer vent, plugs, etc.) need to be sealed with plastic and duct tape. Unfortunately, even that may not be good enough considering that some plastics are semipermeable, and there are likely deformities in the room or house which could allow vapors to enter, such as: cracks in the wall, floor, and internal ceilings (and/or standard features in a home, like attic vents).

[6] Crime/Violence Disclaimer: The author does not condone violence or breaking any laws, nor does the author support vigilante justice. The intention of this article is to educate readers on how to improve personal survivability during a theoretical disaster, and does not promote or entice anyone to steal, loot, or commit any other crime in any ordinary circumstance.

An Argument for Tea

Do you remember learning about the transcontinental railroad in school? I learned about it a little more than 2 decades ago and don’t recall much about the railroad part. However, I retained a greater life lesson from that chapter in history class.

This article describes the most important part of the school lecture, and how we can use that information during a survival situation.

First, A Warning

I went to school long before everyone became “woke”. Hell, “political correctness” just started to be a thing when I was in high school. My teacher came from the back-woods of Liberty County, Texas and proudly claimed to be of “Indian” descent (I think she was ¼ Cherokee or Wichita). She was a country girl, but her teaching method was probably influenced by how her ancestors were oppressed by the “white man”.

The History Lesson

My teacher told us that Chinese people were used as cheap labor to build the railroad, and some were even forced to work on the project because they were shanghaied and stranded here in the United States. The Chinese workers bore the brunt of the work and were often discriminated against. The practice of making and drinking tea was often looked down upon as inferior by white people. The funny thing is, the Chinese didn’t die from illnesses as often as whites.

She explained that white people drank water from questionable sources like streams or stagnant water from barrels, and oftentimes got sick from waterborne illnesses (like dysentery[1]). The Chinese boiled water to make tea, which killed harmful bacteria in the water.

Of course, no one knew about germs because Germ Theory was just being discovered in Europe when the transcontinental was being built. They observed that Chinese people were hardier workers and, obviously, were better suited to labor.

Modern Takeaway

If a disaster causes civilization to end and we have to survive on water of dubious cleanliness, brewing tea will help ensure the “water” is safe. If you have kids, the process of making tea could be a good way to teach them about the importance of making water safe by boiling it[2].

Basic Tea Recipe

Growing up, I was taught to use 1 teaspoon of tea per 1 cup of water[3]. Use the ratio as a guide when making a whole pot/kettle of tea… because I know you aren’t going to waste time and energy to boil water for one-single-solitary-cup 😉

Metallic pot and kettle sizes vary, but the average size in the USA is about 1.5 quarts (6 cups). I use this amount in the recipe.

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons (6 tsp.) tea leaves or chopped herbs (or 4-6 teabags)
  • 6 cups water

Directions

  1. Pour water into a pot and add tea or chopped herbs.
  2. Bring to a boil and continue boiling for no less than 10 minutes.
  3. Cool to a comfortable temperature and drink.

Sun-Brewed Tea

If you’re getting tired of tasting the iodine or chlorine from water purification tablets, you can use tea to enhance the flavor. The amount of ingredients is a bit different for this recipe because the size of most glass pickle jars is 1 gallon. Also, sun-brewing takes much longer to make and allows more time to release the tea into water.

Ingredients

  • 3-4 tablespoons (9-12 tsp.) tea leaves (or 8-10 teabags)
  • 1 gallon purified water[4]
  • 1 glass jar with lid[5]
  • Optional: Aluminum foil

Directions

  1. Pour purified water into a large sealable glass pickle jar and add tea.
  2. Seal lid and set in the sun to brew for about 6-8 hours. You may use aluminum foil or some other reflective material to deflect more light into the chamber and get a better brew.
  3. Drink.

[1] Dysentery: The Oregon Trail was a popular videogame when I was in elementary school, so dysentery was a perfect example for this lesson.

[2] Truly Safe Water: Boiling water may kill microorganisms, but it cannot remove harmful chemicals and metals. Other low-tech methods may be necessary if forced to drink water from a source that may be contaminated by chemical or metallic substances. Distilling water kills microbes, removes metals, and some chemicals with low boiling points.

The only way to remove 99% of everything is to use a reverse osmosis filter.

[3] 1 Tsp. to 1 Cup: It’s probably a good idea to use a little less tea than the old 1:1 guide because you’ll be boiling the tea for a longer time, meaning more flavor will be released. Plus, the supply of tea is going to scarce. The exception to this frugal advice is if you’re brewing tea for medicinal properties. If you’re using medicinal herbs, use the full amount to ensure a good infusion.

[4] Use Purified Water: DO NOT use unpurified water for sun-brewed tea. I don’t think it’s necessary to say this to most of my readers, but the lack of common sense displayed by some people will amaze you.

[5] Glass Jar: I emphasize using a glass jar to make sun-brewed tea because glass will allow more light energy into the jar and retain it. Another reason is that plastic jars will leach chemicals into the water, especially when exposed to UV radiation or sunlight.

Cooking after the SHTF

Depending on the world-ending scenario you subscribe to, the method of cooking everyday meals will change. I guess it’s possible our cooking habits won’t change if we’re lucky enough to “suffer” a candy-ass sort of disaster. A disaster that merely knocks out most government services, but somehow keeps the power running and leaves our food supply chain intact. If you believe that, I’ll use the condescending insult popular in the Southern USA…

Bless your heart.

For those of us with more realistic views on how the world will change after the SHTF, I’ll provide some ideas to help answer the following questions.

  • How will you cook without basic utilities required for electric/gas ranges and ovens?
  • How can you adapt meals to fit the ingredients you’ve stockpiled or forage?

Different Preparation Methods

Humans have been cooking with fire since the dawn of time[1]. Just start a fire to sear, roast, or boil your food. Campfires, hearths, and wood/coal-burning stoves are the first things we tend to think of when it comes to cooking, but there are many other sources of heat you can use. Some of these methods don’t produce smoke and shouldn’t attract unwanted attention.

Coal & Gas

I’m not a fan of using propane or coal for cooking in a survival situation, because those sources of fuel won’t last forever. I personally think you should save propane for emergency heating during winter, but use it if that’s the only way you can cook food.

Unscented Candles

It may take a while, but you can use the heat from unscented candles to boil water and cook a soup[2]. Cooking with candles can be difficult because the flames tend to go out every time there’s a slight breeze and it’s hard to control the heat level. You can try controlling the heat intensity by raising or lowering the cooking surface, or by snuffing out a candle. However, such measures can remove too much heat and stop the cooking process entirely.

I’ve come to realize that when cooking with candles, it’s high heat or no heat.

Kerosene Lamp

Someone recently gave me a kerosene lamp, that’s missing a globe. I don’t have a spare globe and thought I’d just use the oil contained inside, but I noticed the globe clamps look similar to the pot holder on my compact gas grill. This made me think of how people around the world use kerosene for cooking and heating, so I should be able to use this lamp to do the same.

The clamps are too flimsy to hold a pot (obviously), so I built a crude platform out of bricks and an old stainless-steel grill. That “broken” kerosene lamp cooked a 1-pot meal better than tea candles. Not only was the lamp better able to tolerate a breeze than candles, but controlling the heat was easy too. I was able to bring the stew to a rolling boil and then lower the heat to simmer for an hour simply by adjusting the height of the wick!

Solar

If enough light energy is directed to a contained focal point, you can boil water and bake food[3]. Boiling water and cooking is easy if you invest $70 for a solar oven[4]. If you don’t want to spend that much money on a specialized oven, you’ll need to build something similar[5]. It may not be as nice and probably won’t boil water, but a homemade solar oven can reach temperatures around 200°F on a sunny day[6] (which means it can’t boil water).

The primary complication with solar cooking is access to direct sunlight, so cook with fire if it’s cloudy or looks like rain is coming. Regulating the temperature is impossible because you’re at the mercy of the sun and the amount of light you can focus into the cooking chamber. And baking takes longer because the cooking temperature is much lower than what conventional ovens can reach.

Automotive Dehydration

A sealed car in direct sunlight can’t reach temperatures high enough to safely cook food. You may not be able to bake food in a car, but the sweltering heat can be used to dehydrate fruits and vegetables to make them last longer in dry storage.

How else will you use a car if there isn’t any gas?

Different Ingredients

When the SHTF and access to food becomes scarce, the ingredients you have for meals will be limited to what’s in the stockpile and whatever you can forage. That means you may not have all the ingredients to make your favorite meals and will be forced to improvise.

How can you adapt your recipes?

  • “Powdered” ingredients will be used for things like: milk, butter, potatoes, and even tomatoes.
  • Specific meats will be unavailable and you’ll need to substitute beef with deer, rabbit, squirrel or whatever you can catch.
  • If missing a specific ingredient (like spice), you may have to cook without it.
  • If missing a vegetable, you could replace it with something similar or double up on another ingredient. For example, hardy greens like kale can be substituted with foraged dandelion or rose leaves.
  • Extra Virgin Olive Oil can be substituted with vegetable oil, ghee, or lard. Similarly, butter may need to be substituted with oil (preferably, a clean oil if baking cookies).

Different Planning

Meal planning will change after the SHTF. Certain foods will need to be prepped a day in advance, like beans. You can quick-soak beans in less than 2 hours, but a wise survivalist won’t waste fuel on shortcuts.

Alternately, you can’t store perishable ingredients if you don’t have electricity to power a refrigerator. Which means meal prepping will be restricted to 12-24 hours prior to dining. This also means you can’t easily store leftovers and shouldn’t waste food by cooking too much. It doesn’t make sense to cook a huge pot of soup if you’re only serving 2 people, so cut the amount of ingredients a recipe calls for in half.

Speaking of ingredients, the amount of ingredients used in recipes won’t be an exact science. You can’t afford to waste an onion if a recipe only calls for 1/2 cup of diced onions. Use the whole thing!

***

The way we cook our meals will change after the SHTF. Ovens probably won’t work and it’ll be impossible to go to the grocery store for ingredients needed for specific recipes. It’ll be inconvenient and maybe a struggle at times, but survivalists adapt and learn to make do with the tools and ingredients available.

A phrase I’ve learned to enjoy is “Eat it, or starve”. Well, in this case:

Cook it, or starve.


[1] Fire Safety: Fire is a potentially hazardous tool and should be handled responsibly. Never leave a fire unattended, even if it’s contained in a seeming innocuous vessel (candle, lamp, etc.). Always take precautions when using any form of fire, or when handling or storing any type of flammable substance. Always have fire extinguishing equipment or substances available in case a fire gets out of control.

This disclaimer provides a few general fire safety guidelines, which do not encompass all safety precautions related to using fire.  

[2] Scented Candles and Lamp Oil: DO NOT use scented candles or lamp oil to cook a meal, even if using a tasty-smelling scents like vanilla or cinnamon. Most scented candles and oils are made using paraffin wax and other synthetic chemicals, which leach into the food you cook. This gives the food a chemical or plastic flavor and can be hazardous to your health if consumed regularly or in large quantities.

[3] Camp Oven: I own a small portable camp oven that works using the heat from a stove top burner. It works, but it’s incredibly hard to regulate the temperature and may not be practical in a survival situation. Plus, it’s hard to use the oven over a campfire because it becomes a smoker.

[4] Solar Oven: I don’t make specific product recommendations unless I’ve personally used them, so do your own research and buy a solar oven if you’re interested. I don’t make commissions on any products I describe in my articles either. Hell, my website doesn’t even have ads… I wonder if I can, at least, get a tax deduction from paying for the website account?

[5] Homemade Solar Oven: The goal of this article isn’t to teach how to build cooking devices, but here’s how to make a basic solar oven: (1) build a box, (2) paint the inside black, (3) top the opening with glass (not plastic), (4) place in direct sunlight, and maybe (5) consider using a mirror or panel covered with aluminum foil to direct light into the box.

[6] Internal Temperature: A homemade solar oven may be able to reach 200°F, but you should always check to make sure meat has been cooked to an internal temperature of 165°F. Do this regardless of the cooking equipment used in cooking.

We’re all Preppers

TV and other media sources have done a good job depicting “preppers” as militants, racist, and borderline terrorists. While there certainly are some people in the prepper community who fit that stereotype, it doesn’t mean all of us fit that mold. If you think about it, everyone is a prepper to some extent.

You don’t show up for an interview looking like you just rolled out of bed. You prepare by making yourself look presentable and arrive with the supplies necessary to survive the meeting. Similarly, you don’t go camping naked and afraid[1]. You prepare for the trip by packing supplies, tools/weapons, and shelter.

Preppers are just more dedicated at being prepared for any occasion than most people… including civilization-ending disasters. Let’s look at how people prep from one extreme to another.

Simp Prepping

At the basic extreme, we have those who prep for small events. If preparing for a meal, you’d buy ingredients and arrange them to be cooked later. The prep-work is slightly different when going out for dinner, because you dress for the occasion and wear perfumes to be more attractive. 

Some people take PrEP to prepare for a “really good time”, whenever it may happen.

Older people take Cialis, for when the moment’s right.

This may be simple and short-sighted, but it’s prepping… sort of.

Short-term Prepping

Most news agencies along the Gulf Coast tell people to prepare for potential tropical storm activity during hurricane season. Families buy bottled water and non-perishable foods to prepare for this dangerous season.

At least they’re prepping for something.

Wannabe Prepping

These preppers purchase everything they think will help in a survival situation, and maybe a state-of-the-art bunker with all the luxuries of modern life. These wannabes may have all the right things to survive, but probably don’t know how to use all that fancy equipment.

That posh bunker is probably useless without electricity to power all those bells and whistles. 

Well, at least they’re trying to prep. 

Activist Preppers 

Activist Preppers are the type who prep because they fear our country will become a police state. They fear our civil liberties will be taken away and are prepping for a possible confrontation which they, theoretically, may be called upon to defend the nation. They may or may not have bunkers full of supplies, but they probably have enough guns and ammo to equip a small army or well-regulated militia, which may prove necessary for the security of a free state.

Technically, it’s prepping.

Hobbyist Preppers

Hobbyist preppers follow the usual “SHTF” or “Prepper” social media groups. They read prepping or survivalist-themed books and have hobbies that complement the lifestyle[2]. Circumstances may force hobbyists to be less equipped than what some consider ideal, especially according to the most opinionated in our social groups. Many hurdles faced by some preppers stem from how expensive prepping is:

  • Land – Most people can’t afford to buy a second property out in the wilderness, and building a bunker is probably out of the question too.
  • Supplies – Non-perishable food is expensive, especially if you want variety. The price for specialized water purification tools are outrageous too. The retail turkeys in our prepper groups squawk about and worship Berkey Water Filters all the time, but those filter systems start at $200 and the replacement filters cost almost as much! There are cheaper alternatives for camping, but they tend to hover around $50. That’s a lot for some people.
  • Storage – Hardly anyone has space to store several years’ worth of food and water, much less a lifetime supply. And, it costs money to buy that extra storage capacity.
  • Familial restrictions may forbid “hoarding” or owning firearms too. 

Don’t be overly critical of hobbyist preppers. They may not have the materials most preppers have, but they tend to have the knowledge to find or grow what’s needed to survive. Afterall, anything can happen to a stockpile and leave you with nothing except knowledge and skill.

They’re prepping as best they can.

Serious Prepping

Most of the preppers I’ve seen in various social media groups appear to fit in this category[3]. They’re the people trying to prepare for the next major long-term disaster. A SHTF situation so disastrous, it causes economic hard times, civil unrest, and/or famine[4]. They store food, water, ammunition, and some have an extra property to which they can move (or bug-out).

Most of these preppers have trained themselves to be self-sufficient if necessary. They can live off their supplies for months, and have the skills to find or grow more food to live for many years.

This is prepping.

Extreme Prepping

TV shows and the news have promoted this extreme form of prepping and it’s what most non-preppers tend to think of when they hear about prepping. Preppers of this type usually own a home out in the wilderness or have an extra property they can bug out to if the situation becomes dire. Their property almost certainly has a fully stocked underground bunker too. 

Preppers of this sort are prepping for cataclysmic civilization-ending disasters. They’ve stockpiled enough non-perishable food, water, and other supplies to last a lifetime or longer. They usually have the knowledge and ability to find or produce even more supplies. They also tend to have an arsenal of weapons to defend their hoard. 

They’re prepping for doomsday… and will wage war to defend the hoard.  

What type of prepper am I? 

Based on the criteria described in this article, I’d consider myself a “serious prepper”.

  • I own property and can relocate or “bug out” if needed.
  • I’ve stockpiled enough food to last over a year (by myself), and know how to grow more.
  • I’ve trained myself to use the equipment I own, and am proficient with firearms. 

I’m not a wannabe prepper, but I definitely want-to-have some of the stuff extreme preppers claim to possess. If I win the lottery or land a high-paying job, the first thing I’m buying is a small bunker (with no technological bells and whistles). 

Unfortunately, my spouse isn’t very supportive of prepping and sees it as an embarrassing hobby of mine. He jokingly calls me a hoarder and doesn’t approve of the numerous ideas I have for my property. Needless to say, firearms are forbidden in our household[5].

Of course, my self-assessment could be proven wrong if I don’t actually survive the incident or attack which causes civilization to fall. Heck, I’ll probably be murdered by a snowflake who can’t handle the fact that I have a different point of view, but that’s a story for a different article.  

I’ll close by saying that everyone is a “prepper” in some small way. Some people are prepping for one or two scenarios they’re convinced will happen, while others try to prepare for every possible disaster. Some preppers can only afford to stockpile knowledge, while some are rich enough (or took out a loan) to own: a bunker, food to last several lifetimes, and enough weapons to supply an army.

We all prep in different ways and should remember that no one has a perfect preparation plan. Now go hold hands and start singing “Kumbaya, My Lord”, like a bunch of hippies.


[1] “Naked and Afraid”: Even on the TV series,  the “survivalists” are allowed one helpful item.

[2] Prepper-like Hobbies: Activities can complement a prepper lifestyle and allow people to practice their preps or survival equipment. Such activities include: Camping, hiking/backpacking, gardening, hunting, fishing, martial arts, beekeeping, and much more.

[3] Most Preppers: I already know this article is going to trigger some of the more extreme preppers. They seem to be driven to exclaim they know a lot of people who’re just like them. People who own a mountain of cash or are in debt from taking out a loan to build a bunker to survive for all eternity.

[4] Disastrous SHTF… Now? It could be argued that we’re already living through the beginnings of such a disaster. There have been supply shortages since 2020, fertilizer is in short supply and the 2 largest suppliers (China & Russia) are hoarding it, famine is starting in Africa, WW3 almost seems inevitable now that the Soviets invaded Ukraine and are probably sabotaging Western infrastructure AND keep escalating the war.

I mean, pick a disaster.

[5] Firearm Prohibition: Firearms may be forbidden in my household, but we aren’t defenseless. I’ve worked in law for enough years to recognize and take advantage of loopholes when I see them, so despite the prohibition, I’ve made certain we have many weapons to defend ourselves if the SHTF.

Electronics After the SHTF?

There are many ways our consumer electronics could be rendered useless during a SHTF situation. EMP scenarios are popular among preppers, but rain or carelessness will break them just as easily. Let’s assume your equipment survives the disaster and you weren’t careless. How will your tech work properly without reliable electricity or the necessary infrastructure to support them? Let’s review what’s required to operate the devices most of us own and explore a couple dangers from using those devices during a survival situation.

Author’s Note: I considered including electronics with my previous blog titled, Entertainment after SHTF, but decided to dedicate an entire article on the practical application of using our electronics during a survival situation.

Power & Batteries

The most obvious requirement for electronics is… electricity. Depending on the disaster, access to electricity could be cut off and generators may be the go-to plan for a lot of people. However, most generators available on the market require fuel to operate, which might be impossible to find. Even a solar/wind generator with battery bank may not provide enough reliable power.

A lot of electronics are compatible with standard batteries found at most supermarkets. That’s great, but you’ll eventually run out of them and that device will turn into a fancy brick. If you stockpile a “lifetime supply” of batteries and store them in idyllic conditions, those unused batteries can lose their charge or go bad some other way (like leaking).

And if the batteries leak inside a device 😱

Most portable devices have built in rechargeable batteries and a lot of people keep a battery backup for emergencies, but the charge will eventually run out. I probably own one of the best portable solar battery backups you can get on the market, but I won’t rely on it as a regular power source. The battery backup I use while camping, has folding solar panels and stores enough power to charge my phone twice.

I’ve set the battery backup in direct sunlight for an entire day and the charge only increases by 1-2 bars, out of 5[1]. That’s mathematically unsustainable if your phone is on all day, or if your family rations its electronic use and needs to top-off multiple devices.

Rechargeable batteries will eventually die too. Usually, they’ll die a slow and silent death by not holding a charge, but they can go out with a bang if they overheat while charging[2].

Supporting Infrastructure

I think a lot of our devices will power on after a cataclysmic national or global disaster, but probably won’t function properly. I base this prediction on the fact that most modern devices depend on multiple layers of infrastructure to function as expected, all of which is maintained and controlled by greedy corporations. During a SHTF or survival situation, the services we rely on will be cut off if there’s no incentive (money) to keep that infrastructure operational. Here are a few examples.

Mobile Phones

Mobile phones require the following to function:

  1. The device must turn on and be able to send/receive signals.
  2. Cellular towers must be operational and within range[3].
  3. The cellular service provider you subscribe to must be operational to allow access to the network or internet. 
  4. The service or destination website you’re trying to access must be functioning.
  5. You need access to electricity or have some way to recharge the phone’s battery, otherwise you won’t be able to use it in the future.

TV and Radio

The complications related to TV and radio are similar, but not as numerous.

  1. The TV/radio must have access to electricity.
  2. The device must be undamaged and able to receive analog/digital signals via antenna.
  3. Broadcast stations must be operational and in range[4].

Cable/Satellite TV and Home Internet

Cable/Satellite TV and internet services probably won’t work for a couple reasons.

  1. In addition to powering your TV, computer, or other tech, cable/satellite and internet require external devices (cable box/router) to access the service. That’s yet another thing you’ll need to power, which may not be sustainable for small-scale solar and wind generators.
  2. Access to the internet and TV channels requires verifiable service subscriptions. Depending on the company’s service gateway program, you may be forced to stare at an “outage alert” message if the provider’s central office isn’t operating.

Warning about Nationalization

It’s possible the government will nationalize services and allow “free” access to cable/satellite TV and internet[5]. Of course, this depends on the type of disaster and/or the availability of power and related infrastructure. A government could nationalize entertainment services and provide “welfare entertainment” to keep the sheeple happy.

If this were to happen, you should expect extreme censorship related to the type of shows and websites you can view. Obviously, all your viewing and browsing history will be saved and subject to review. The ruling government will probably use that data to determine your loyalty to the state. If a user attempts to access restricted content too often, the government may penalize the household by withholding services… or conduct a gestapo-style nighttime arrest and assign the offender to reeducation camps.

Such oppression happens in China and other totalitarian nations, but thanks to 9/11 and the Patriot Act, even the USA isn’t immune[6].

Warning about Electronic Emissions

Smart devices (especially phones) can be tracked, and probably will be the method of choice to find fugitives or people hiding from internal or external attackers. All modern smartphones and most tablets have GPS built in. The government reports that GPS location services are accurate to within 16 feet[7]. However, a TV documentary I viewed recently claims the accuracy is as good as 3 feet[8]!

If a domestic or foreign entity wants to track and capture a “fugitive” or unregistered (newly-conquered) citizen, all they have to do is ping your phone’s GPS. Even if you turn the GPS off, they can broadcast a manufacturer backdoor code to remotely reactivate it without you knowing.

GPS is the easiest way to track a phone, but the cellular towers can help someone track you too. Our phones constantly ping the nearest tower(s) to ensure the user has the best signal. If someone wanted to get your approximate location, they can do a reverse ping between towers and triangulate your location. It’s not as accurate, but it’s enough to send a search party and find you.

Phones may be the easiest method of tracking someone, but other electronics can broadcast your location too. Smart TVs transmit and receive Wi-Fi signals at all times, even when turned “off”. The Wi-Fi signal can alert anyone within range that someone with power is nearby. This probably won’t be a problem in a city because the signal range will be limited by surrounding structures, and your neighbors will likely be in the same situation as you. However, it’s a dead giveaway in rural areas where a Wi-Fi signal can be detected as far as 300-400 feet.

Specialized equipment exists to locate a broadcasting Wi-Fi signal, but the signal can be tracked down with something as basic as a smartphone[9].

***

No one knows if our tech will work during a survival situation. An EMP can fry our tech, a massive natural disaster (or attack) could destroy the infrastructure needed to use our devices. If a survivalist is fortunate enough to have power and functioning tech, it’s wise to consider the inherent risks before by using those devices…

Is the convenience worth the risk?


[1] Solar Chargers: I bought a simple solar recharger for AA, AAA, C, D -type batteries around 2005 and it still works great, Although, it takes at least 2-3 days to charge AA batteries.

[2] Battery Explosion: I’m not a scientist, so I won’t pretend to completely understand the cause, but the most common reason why rechargeable batteries explode is because of old age. Exploding phones with lithium-ion batteries were all over the news in the early-2010s. According to the expert the news station interviewed, rechargeable battery explosions happen when the internal electrolytes overheat or come into contact with their oppositely charged electrolyte. Charging and depleting the batteries will eventually wear down an internal protective barrier separating the positive and negative electrolytes. Depending on charge, once that barrier is breached, you’ll hear a POP-fizz as the energy is discharged all at once in a jet of flames that can reach temperatures over 1,000°F… in your pocket!

If you like Sci-Fi (like me), that sounds like a matter-antimatter explosion.

[3] Damaged Cellular Towers: There will be low signal if the nearest tower doesn’t have power or is damaged, and your phone has to use a distant tower. There won’t be any signal at all if the entire network is damaged or doesn’t have power. All those damaged or unpowered towers probably won’t be repaired quickly, or at all, during a cataclysmic disaster.

[4] Signal Range: Signal strength and range depends on line-of-sight from the source to the device. The signal can be hindered or degraded by structures or landmarks (mountains, hills, forests). The signal will degrade as it travels through the air itself, so the average maximum range for broadcast signals are:

  • TV & FM radio: 40-60 miles
  • AM radio: 80-100 miles.
  • Satellites may not work, so I’m not counting them in this list.

[5] The Real Owner and Inventor of Services:  It’s well known that our government (DARPA) invented the internet, but it also fronted the bills to create most of the services we enjoy today. The companies you pay to access cable/satellite TV and the internet do not own the technology those services use. The government leases the infrastructure to companies, which in turn charge us for services our taxpayer dollars already paid for.

That’s fucked up 😠

[6] 9/11-Patriot Act Searches: I had a college professor whose home was raided while at work. She came home to a NSA letter posted on her door and all her belongings rifled through. She was flagged for funding terrorism because she gave her children monetary gifts from her retirement or savings accounts yearly. These gifts were the maximum allowed without having to file on income taxes.

Needless to say, she was pissed and our class learned about the dangers of government surveillance.

[7]  GPS.GOV. (2022, March 3). GPS Accuracy. Retrieved from GPS.GOV: https://www.gps.gov/systems/gps/performance/accuracy/#:~:text=GPS%20satellites%20broadcast%20their%20signals,4.9%20m%20(16%20ft.)

[8] 3-16 Feet: GPS has a reliability variance of 3 to 16 feet. To put that in perspective, it’s the difference between someone sitting next to you or standing at the opposite end of the bar. It’d take a blind or nearsighted person to miss you!

[9] Wi-Fi Tracking via Cellphone: To track Wi-Fi using a smartphone, walk toward the estimated signal location and adjust direction based on how the signal gets stronger or weaker.

Entertainment after SHTF

How have you planned for entertainment after the SHTF? It stands to reason that survivors will spend most of the day working to ensure they can survive, but what we do afterward is just as important. Most normal people need something fun or distracting to take their minds off work and the situation they’re in. Without entertainment, morale will drop and you could lose hope, or possibly the will to live.

A major hurricane can easily deprive an entire region or state of internet, cable, and electricity. If civilization collapses and we permanently lose our modern luxuries, families will have to go low-tech to have fun.

Music

Music can lift your spirits in any situation, and listening to it can be as easy as turning on a battery-operated or crank radio. But what if there aren’t any active broadcasts within range? If a civilization-ending disaster were to occur, it may very well be “The Day the Music Died” on the airwaves[1].

Don’t despair, you can still make your own music.

It doesn’t take much skill to strum the strings of a guitar or blow into a harmonica. However, sheet music may be necessary if you’re stuck with a more complicated instrument or want to play specific songs. If you don’t have sheet music, you’ll have to rely on your memory or make it up as you go.

What if you don’t have musical instruments?

You can make music with all sorts of stuff. I once had a hard-covered music book with printed piano keys on the back cover. My 2nd grade music teacher used those keys to show my class that we can create music by tapping those keys with a finger or pencil. If you can make musical sounds from a (new-ish) hard-cover book, you can make: 

  • Maracas – Put some beans/rocks inside a resealable container and shake it.
  • Drums – Flip a pot upside-down and bang on it with a wooden spoon or stick. Striking different parts of the drum will produce a variety of sounds. Use a plastic container to get a deeper hollow boom.
  • Cymbals or bell – A steel lid from a pot looks a lot like a drummer’s cymbals. It can sound like a church or dinner bell too. 
  • Tambourine – String together some pop-tabs and shake to make a slight jangle. 
  • Base-tapping – “Tapping” was all the rage when I was in middle school. I found it annoying at the time, but you can reproduce a drummer’s base and a snare drum (from a marching band). It was done by “tapping” the flat edge of a pen or pencil onto a desk and banging the base of your palm onto the same surface.

I won’t lie to you. These home-made “instruments” will not sound like the originals we’re familiar with, but will produce the same musical notes. If the S really HTF, you’ll have plenty of time to practice and who knows, maybe you can earn food or drinks at a local drinking establishment.

Music may not be an ideal form of entertainment for everyone. It can be an annoying racket if you’re terrible at playing, or are tone-deaf.

I personally think that one man’s music, is a noisy beacon for looters and raiders.

Read a Book

Reading is a great way to pass the time by delving into a fantasy world… one that isn’t as terrible as this one. Most people read silently, which is great if you’re trying to hide from the rest of humanity.

The only drawback to reading is that it requires light. Natural light is present during the hours you’re probably working. Which means you’ll need to use a lamp or flashlight to read at night (which causes eyestrain).

Write

Writing could be another way to pass the time and it provides multiple benefits to the writer. While it can’t truly replace live communication, writing a daily or weekly journal helps satisfy the human need for communication if you’re alone in a bunker. Your journals could teach future historians what life was like during and after the fall of civilization.

If you have an active imagination, you could write stories to keep kids and other adults entertained. This leads me to the next activity…

Tell a Story

Weekly story night could be a new family or community event. Write stories one day and read them aloud the next, or make it up on the fly. Different members of the family/community can take turns making up stories to tell around the campfire or fireplace.

You can use musical instruments to make story night even livelier. The ratta-tap of a drum can bring forth visions of soldiers on a battlefield, or blowing into a harmonica at the right moment can be terrifying in a scary story.

But do you really want to tell horror stories, if you’re living in one?

Physical Activities

Playing sports may be the last thing you want to do if you’ve been laboring in the field all day. You may not be interested, but it’s a great way to keep your children occupied and wear them out while you’re trying to relax. Here’s a few activities your family can play.

Kick Ball

Humanity has been playing sports similar to soccer or “fútbol” for thousands of years and on every continent, including Antarctica (in recent times). The rules follow the same basic format with little variations over the centuries.

I can see how soccer or other kick-the-ball games will be popular after the SHTF. You don’t need any extra equipment to play. All you need is an inflatable ball and your feet, and maybe a landmark to serve as a goal.

Play Catch

If you have a baseball or football (American), you can play catch. All that’s required is a ball and at least 2 people. You can toss the ball to each other and chat about your day.

Hacky Sack

You and your kids can kick, toss, and bat around a hacky sack. If you’re crafty and have sewing tools, you can make a hacky sack in 3 steps.

  1. Cut out the toe-part of a sock (3 inches should be enough).
  2. Fill it with small beans (navy or smaller).
  3. Sew it shut.

Play with Pets

Playing with a pet is not only fun, but the activity helps build a stronger bond between you and the animal.

  • Toss a ball or stick and watch your dog fetch it.
  • Grab a toy or stick and play tug of war.
  • Dangle a string or roll a ball to tease/play with a cat.
  • Whistle or play peekaboo with a parrot.

Even if you’re too tired to play, simply petting the creature can make the worries of the world seem to melt away.

Let’s Talk About Sex Baby[2]

Sex is another form of entertainment, which is as old as time itself. If you do it right, it’s a pleasurable experience for all parties involved. However, unless you regularly participate in “Sexual Olympics”, sex isn’t a long-lasting form of entertainment. According to several online sources, the average duration ranges anywhere from 5-20 minutes. So…

What’s the plan for the rest of the day?

Brutal Entertainment

Our methods of entertainment could devolve into something resembling ancient Roman gladiatorial battles. It’s possible that criminals or undesirables will be forced to entertain us by fighting in a “Thunderdome”[3]. While I don’t personally approve of this form of entertainment, it may be wise for a survivalist to conform to the “norms” of the community and be a spectator.

***

Preppers are good at preparing for the physical aspects of survival, but tend to neglect mental and emotional needs. Entertainment is important because it takes your mind off the everyday struggles and allows your mental battery to recharge. If civilization were to collapse and our modern conveniences were to stop working, families will have to go low-tech and play with board games, cards, dice, puzzles, or balls.

Even bunker-preppers need something fun to do after the hatch is sealed.


[1] Nod to: Don McLean’s, The Day the Music Died.

[2] Nod to: Salt-N-Pepa’s, Let’s Talk About Sex.

[3] Thunderdome: “Thunderdome” is a reference to the gladiatorial arena seen in the movie: Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome.

Alternative SHTF Scenarios

I’ve noticed that many members of the various “prepper” groups seem to have a narrow vision regarding how civilization may end, and some won’t consider or prep for other possible situations. A lot of survivalists have read apocalyptic books or watched similarly-themed movies and sold their souls to those scenarios. I personally think it’s a good idea to be flexible with your preps because we really don’t know what disaster we may face in the future.

The movie stars of the apocalypse genre tend to be: 

  • EMP Attack
  • World War III a/k/a Nuclear War
  • Biological or Chemical Warfare

But, how else might civilization end?

This article will cover some of the less popular methods which could end the world. This isn’t intended to be a comprehensive list of possible world-ending disasters, and I’m not going to delve too deeply into some of these theoretical scenarios. Almost all of these disasters will cause social unrest and global conflict. Others may cause instant death for some or all life on the planet, and there probably isn’t any prepping you can do to survive it (except maybe build a self-sufficient space colony). 

I should also mention that reader discretion is advised. These scenarios favor a western (USA) point of view, and some may find the two religious parts offensive[1]

Act of God

Let’s rip the Band-Aid off and start this list with Act of God.

God decides to kill or rapture all of his worthy believers and at least 1 billion people die all at the same time. The same God who “works in mysterious ways” forgot or decided not to explain why he did this, so nobody really knows why all these people died/disappeared for no reason at all.

Planes start falling out of the sky because, by some miracle, both pilots were true believers and worshiped the correct way. We lose a large percentage of firefighters and fires rage out of control across the globe. The economy suffers as workplaces start finding out that workers are gone. Some businesses close entirely because the owner disappeared. 

There are different reactions to the loss of 1 billion people:

  • 1/4 Wonders why it happened and want to avoid it at all cost. Is it a new plague? Is it a massive international conspiracy? Aliens?!
  • 1/4 Are of a different faith and have their own apocalyptic theories.
  • 1/8 Don’t care.
  • 1/8 Are uppity Bible-thumpers who got the insult of an eternity, because all their hypocrisies were laid out to the open. 
  • 1/8 Jokingly think Thanos snapped his fingers.
  • 1/8 Where are all the gays? Oh my GOD! He really did make them that way.

Other God or Goddess Attacks

A forgotten Goddess picks a random day to exact their revenge and knocks a planet-killing asteroid into the path of our planet. All temples and religious text related to this Goddess had blueprints and instructions on how to build a communications device to commune with the entity and appease her. Unfortunately, the 3 major religions ruined our chances of survival.

  • The followers of Judaism wiped out most of the Goddess’s followers during an invasion 3,000 years ago.
  • Then Christians came and persecuted the rest into extinction or conversion, and burned the last religious texts.
  • And then radical Muslims blew up the only known temple belonging to this angry Goddess[2]

Coincidently, the goddess is worshipped in India, the land of a million gods and goddesses. She happens to be one of the goddesses who protects a city block. There’s even a small temple dedicated to her, which has instructions on how to build the all-important transmitter.

BUT, Earth is destroyed before the Indians can tell others of this.

Now that I’ve got that awkwardness out of the way… let’s see how else the world as we know it could end.

Invasion

The two bad guys of the modern world (Russia and China) formalize a military alliance. They can clearly see the general incompetence of our government has taken its toll on our country and decide now’s the time to take out their strongest opponent. 

Despite multiple party changes and supposedly tighter security measures, the US Government has allowed a foreign army to grow inside the country. This army has been stockpiling supplies and ammo for two decades. Finally, the long-awaited signal is received and the 5th column is mobilized.

The attack is multipronged. The “Sleeper” or “Manchurian” Army attacks key military targets, while hackers from around the world attack our electronic and eCommerce industries. They also attack our civil infrastructure to wreak general havoc. The country is completely unprepared as the devastating strike cripples our country from within.

While the enemy saboteurs rape our economy and public infrastructure, their navies send large battlefleets to blockade Taiwan in a mock-invasion. This is only a ploy to distract our military, and it works because state of the art troop ships are allowed to sneak armies onto the American west and gulf coasts… unopposed. The defense of our country is completely dependent on National Guard units and civil militias.

Who knows what the outcome of such a war will be, but you should expect anything. Heck, the USA may launch nukes to maintain its territorial sovereignty… maybe on its own soil. 

Hostile Takeover

Similar to the practice in business, a foreign government may call-in all the debts and bonds their nation owns and force our country to default. Faced with economic collapse, the government may be forced to cede control of material resources, digital assets, or even territory. 

If our government refuses to pay, the national economy will collapse because it’s been proven that our nation can’t be trusted to honor or pay its debt. The hostile country may launch cyber or military attacks to compel us to pay, which may start a world war.

In the end, we’ll have to rely on ourselves to survive. 

This could already be happening. For the past 7 months (to this publication), China has been selling its US government debt. Such action could be a preliminary measure to a much more dramatic selloff. Or, it could be proof China is preparing for war against us.

Global Famine (Plausible/Fact-based)

Russia and China have been preparing for a future global famine for years. They’ve been hoarding chemical fertilizer and stopped selling it to other nations. For example, India once purchased most of their fertilizer from China, but now they’re experiencing a shortage and are faced with the possibility they may not be able to feed the more than 1 billion people in their country.  

We only have ONE major fertilizer plant, which caught on fire a few months ago. We have a few smaller producers, but that won’t meet the demand. 

Now, Russia is invading Ukraine, the “breadbasket of Europe”. With the knowledge of the fertilizer shortage, one has to wonder if the reason why Russia attacked. Most claim it was to stop Ukraine from joining NATO, but I keep myself updated on global politics and don’t remember hearing about any imminent entries into NATO before the Russian invasion.

Could that rhetoric be a cover to hide the real reason for the invasion… to acquire the most fertile lands in Europe? Back during the Cold War, Ukraine provided over 25% of the Soviet Union’s food production. Maybe Russia is trying to ensure it can feed its people in a future famine.

If food shortage or famine were to occur, we would be caught completely off guard. Only a few people in the USA have experienced true famine. That’s something poor nations have to deal with, “it can’t happen here”.

If global famine were to occur, it’ll be up us to provide our own food. We will have to grow our own food, or live off our own stockpiles and hope things normalize. 

Economic Collapse

We may already be experiencing the beginning of such a collapse. The news media is abuzz with supply-chain shortages and inflation is spiraling out of control.

Covid-19 forced everything to pause and the economy hasn’t been able to recover from the consequences of that shut down. The workforce either died or decided it didn’t want to work anymore. To make up for the worker shortage, major companies started offering outrageous wages for unskilled laborers. These companies gave people who didn’t earn an advance degree $25 per hour, plus sign-on bonuses.

And don’t think there won’t be consequences to that! 

Gas prices were recently out of control and nobody seems to know why. Despite the fact they’ve been making record profits, the major oil companies tell us to believe them when they say they have “no control over the price of gas”. These same companies ARE NOT increasing production to help alleviate the pain at the pump either. They’ve been laying off employees, despite benefiting from governmental policies intended to promote job growth. 

That’s some trust-worthy behavior… 

Regardless of the industry, companies have to make money and woo investors. Those higher wages and fuel costs can’t affect the bottom line or it will spook investors. That means consumers have got to pay more to make up for the deficiencies. We’re already seeing higher prices in some products and the prices are only going to get higher. To make costs seem normal, companies are trying to trick us by using “shrinkflation”. 

Neo-Civil War 🔪 🗡 

Our country is split on ideals and morals, which somehow coincides with which party you vote for. Both parties have somehow convinced their followers they care about certain social issues, and most of us have swallowed that load of bull… hook, line, and sinker.

  • The Elephant Party panders to the moral or religious values of certain people, while the other claims to care about social reform. 
  • The Elephant Party claims to support independent and self-sufficient people, while claiming the other party wants to take freedoms away. 
  • The Jackass Party seems to tax and regulate everything, while the other party has historically been good for business. The fact the Elephants benefit from previous taxes imposed by the Jackasses is just an added bonus they’re working to repeal, but never get around to doing so. 
  • The Jackass Party appeals to those tired of endless mass-shootings and police brutality, while the followers of the Elephant Party are depicted as backwards or out of touch with the rest of the world. 
  • And Independents who agree with both sides on the major issues get demonized as racist or classist by Liberals, and branded as immoral or anti-business by Conservatives. 

A new civil war will pit us against each other. Old grudges will fuel a bloodlust of murders before local authorities can establish control. Communities will become isolated and those who don’t fit in will be ostracized, exiled, or killed. 

We will have to rely on ourselves for survival and we could be drafted to fight in a civil war we never wanted. Whoever controls the nuclear codes may decide to use them against our own people to stay in power. 

We are our own worst enemy.

Devastation to Orbital Infrastructure 🛰 

Something destroys all satellites and the resulting orbital debris makes it impossible to re-establish space-based services such as: GPS, internet, telecommunications, TV & radio broadcast, Spy Satellites, etc… This will affect society in different ways.

Individual

The first thing people will notice is the internet and GPS suddenly stopped working. Maps don’t exist anymore, so drivers will start getting lost when traveling to new destinations. Streaming services can’t function without the internet and people will have to find other sources of entertainment. Credit cards won’t work because POS terminals can’t verify the availability and transfer of funds.

Economic

The loss of internet and long-range communications means people can’t work and offices give their employees the day off. Eventually, the economy will collapse because almost every aspect of business is completely dependent on the internet.

Society

Access to centralized or global news sources is cut off and disinformation is allowed to spread unchecked. As we saw in 2020, the lack of entertainment/work will cause all those idle hands to take their frustrations to the streets. Our civilization is already polarized and such a disaster could easily push us into a Neo-Civil War.

Natural Cosmic Event ☄️

An extinction-level event could come from space. An asteroid or comet could strike our planet and cause a new ice age. Crops won’t grow and the population will have to rely on greenhouses and UV or “grow” lamps to grow food. 

Those with alternative and renewable sources of electricity may be capable of surviving such an ice age. A possible government response to such global cooling is to give companies the freedom to pump greenhouse gases into the atmosphere to PROMOTE global warming. 

After all, it’s terraforming. 

The possibility exists that our planet could be completely destroyed by a space object or event.

  • A massive interstellar asteroid moving at relativistic speeds could strike Earth and bust it like a bullet does fruit.
  • An in-conveniently directed gamma-ray burst could fry the planet to a crisp.
  • A black hole could enter the system and devour our planet or fling it out of orbit.
  • Hell, a Giant Space Fish could eat our biologically rich planet as a tasty snack before swimming off to the next star system.

Alien Invasion

There’s a vast universe out there. It’s ridiculous and a bit arrogant to think humanity is the only intelligent life in the entire universe. Should an alien civilization make “first contact” with us, we should look at human history to predict the outcome. Almost every time an advanced civilization encounters a lesser one, we’ve either exterminated or subjugated them.

Do these situations sound familiar? 

  • “Cowboys & Indians” (Native Americans)
  • Afro-Slavery 
  • Homo sapiens vs Neanderthals (theoretically)

Don’t believe all those Sci-Fi movies that show how lowly humans manage to repel the alien invasion, despite being ignorant to the sciences that drove the aliens to our planet. Any civilization capable of interstellar travel has a technological edge over us and an alien invasion would probably end with our extermination. 

Natural Disasters (Terrestrial)

Regardless of the natural disaster, history has proven we cannot rely on our own government to help us. 

It will be up to us to ensure our survival. 

Super Volcano 🌋 

Scientists have been telling us the super volcano under Yellowstone is overdue for a major eruption. If it were to blow, the dust ejected into the atmosphere will create a new ice age and cause famine. 

Earthquake 🌎 

A devastating earthquake could happen along a fault-line. The resulting devastation could destroy entire cities and ruin infrastructure. Entire industries will be affected and the supply chain may not be able to recover. 

Polar Reversal 🧲 

According to the latest science, the poles shift on average once every 300,000 years. We are long overdue for a polar flip because the last one happened about 700,000 years ago. 

Some scientists have reported that Earth’s EM field has been weakening over the past few years and think a flip may be eminent. Unfortunately, these flips don’t happen overnight. The EM field, which protects the planet from solar radiation can last decades or centuries[3]

With so much polar fluctuations, it stands to reason our entire navigation system may need to be updated to compensate for the chaos. Compasses will be useless because polar “North” or “South” could appear at multiple locations at the same time. 

Navigation Satellites may be affected as well. If not by the confusing polarities, then by the diminished protection from cosmic rays. The EM field protects those satellites in orbit as well and systems will begin to fail as the EM field weakens. 

Speaking of diminished protections…

With the EM Field being drastically weakened, it’s possible that going outside could be a hazard to your health. Partying on the beach could be a thing of the past. If this were to happen, a single day with “the guns out because the sun’s out” could cause cancer. Meaning, our health system will have to focus on treating various skin cancers.

Finding a date with perfect skin will be hard too.

People will be forced to move underground as they seek protection from the sun’s harmful rays. This won’t be practical for most people and those who aren’t prepared, will turn to the government for help. That government won’t be able to help everyone and people will start turning on each other for protection. 

Unda tha Sea 🌊

We know more about space than we do of what happens below the ocean’s surface.

Let that sink in.

We know more about objects that are billions of miles away, lightyears away, than what happens here on this planet. For all we know, there’s an advanced oceanic civilization below the depths and we won’t know it until they make contact or send their squid and octopus troops to attack!

Octopussy… ROFL!

The British recently announced that octopi are sentient creatures, and they’re masters of disguise. They’re so good at hiding, divers can swim right past without knowing. An oceanic empire employing the natural talents of octopi could easily disguise or camouflage their cities against land-based observation. 

Or, an underwater civilization could mirror the actions of most fish and sea animals. Their version of a city could be a fleet of migratory vessels. IF our sonar were to detect these “cities”, we’d assume they’re a pod of whales or a school of large fish. 

You know what…There MUST be a reason why North Korea keeps launching missiles into the ocean. Maybe they’re fighting a war against the Crustaceans and we don’t know about the war because of a massive international government conspiracy.

I just thought of this, but our government could be hiding vast underwater cities for our civilization’s elite. It’s possible, we’ve had the technology for half a century

Anyone remember SeaQuest DSV? Same concept.

Slow Flooding

The polar ice caps are melting and sea levels are rising as a result. We’re already seeing how this is flooding historic cities like Venice. As more coastal cities are inundated with water, populations will migrate to dryer lands. 

Larger nations can handle an exodus of large people. Look at how Poland is handling the over 5 million refugees. However, there are limits to how much a society can absorb. Such a migration caused by flooding of coastal cities will cause strain on infrastructure and grate on the tolerance of local communities. 

There will be a point when local communities say no more and start turning people away. Those refugees will have to move on to less developed or desirable lands. If they survive, they’ll have to live in tent-cities or shanty towns. They may even become completely dependent on the government for support. Crime will be rampant in these new ghettos.

Or they’ll ignore the wishes of locals and invade. We already see something like this in the form of homelessness. That’s probably what such an exodus will look like. 

There’s millions of acres of government land for people to evacuate to, but most of that land is undeveloped or completely uninhabitable. I expect the government to claim “Eminent Domain” on desirable private properties to support refugees before they develop government lands.

Civil unrest will ensue regardless of whether flood refugees remain homeless, move to shanty-towns, or the government takes control and reallocates lands. 

***

I don’t have a crystal ball telling me what will happen in the future, so I’m prepping as best I can for what I know I can prepare for. I admit to having a few personal favorites of what I think are more likely to cause a SHTF situation. I think an EMP attack is very likely, but also think it could be used as a “Pearl Harbor” to a third world war.

Of the other possible civilization-ending disasters, I believe that famine (all by itself) is the next likely situation we may face. We already see the signs of how climate change is making the breadbaskets of the world less reliable, or how we’ve been unable to export/distribute vital food resources, and there’s already supply shortages on certain foods.

One last thing. Survivalism is a serious subject for most preppers or people in our societal group. You can probably tell I had some fun with a few of these ideas. I did this because, all work and no play make Survivalist-Sam a dull-boy.


[1] Religion: It is not my goal to bash anyone’s individual beliefs. I believe in myself and things which can be proven. If you want to believe stories which, have been told and retold over thousands of years, which may have originated from someone tripping on hallucinogenic compounds… That’s your prerogative and I’ll thank you for keeping your hurt feelings to yourself.

Pray for me if you’d like, but use your inside voice.

[2] Other Gods: I’m an equal-opportunity kind of person, and don’t discriminate against religions or superstations. All of the activities listed as being done by the 3 major religions are historically accurate.

[3] Buis, A. (2021, August 3). Flip Flop: Why Variations in Earth’s Magnetic Field Aren’t Causing Today’s Climate Change. Retrieved from NASA: Global Climate Change: https://climate.nasa.gov/ask-nasa-climate/3104/flip-flop-why-variations-in-earths-magnetic-field-arent-causing-todays-climate-change/

Traveling when the SHTF

An apocalyptic disaster can happen at any time, even when traveling. It doesn’t matter if you’re travelling for business or pleasure, you CANNOT assume you can shelter in place and rely on the hotel’s services indefinitely. You must find a way to get home as soon as possible, because tourists are the first people locals will evict when a major disaster happens.

Think about it.

You don’t have family living at the tourist trap of a town you’re visiting and nobody is obligated to look after you. To the locals, you’re an unemployed stranger who’s consuming precious resources. You must begin the journey home before those locals start saying: “It’s them or us.”

Before Leaving

You probably don’t have your bugout bag with you, so the first thing you need to do is make one by shopping at a sports or department store. The electronic cash registers probably won’t work and you’ll need to pay in cash, or use a 5-finger discount[1]. If you must rely on the “discount”, be cognizant of the location to which you apply it because shopping in such a manner is dangerous. It could be less dangerous at a big box store in a major city, since the minimum-wage employees probably won’t care enough about the business to stop you. 

Regardless of how you shop, your focus at the store should be: 

  1. Water filter
  2. A large knife (guns won’t be accessible)
  3. Backpack (if you don’t already have one)
  4. Bicycle with spare tire and pump
  5. Small tent (poncho or thermal blanket work as make-shift tents too) 
  6. Camping food and snacks
  7. 2-way radios and batteries
  8. Fitness clothes (especially if you’re on a business trip)
  9. Anything light and easy to grab

Returning to your hotel may be a good idea so you can grab useful items such as: medications, clothes, soap, shampoo, a towel, and necessary travel documents. Most major hotels have backup power generators and it’s possible you can get more information about the disaster from broadcast news or radio.

The Odyssey Home

Don’t sleep on it. Start the trek… NOW.

The longer you wait, the more dangerous the journey will be. You need to get on the road before other people realize things are going to get worse. Once it becomes apparent that things aren’t going to get better, people tend to be less hospitable or outright hostile to strangers.

Technology has forced maps into extinction, so you’ll need a good sense of direction to get home. Get your bearings and go to the nearest interstate or highway. These roadways have signs specifically designed to guide drivers to the next major city. If you have a general understanding of geography, you can use them as a breadcrumb trail home.

The last thing to do is survive the journey as best you can. During your journey, you’ll probably encounter: street gangs, escaped prisoners, dangerous wildlife, extreme weather, other desperate people, and maybe an army. You may be able to avoid most of the human-related problems if you start travelling right after the disaster happens. Just keep in mind that the more days into your journey, the more dangerous cities and towns will become.

It’s going to be hard to assess the risks you should take or avoid, but always be prepared to defend yourself. You may also want to consider traveling with a group because there’s strength in numbers. However, that strength can also make you a target if the predators of our society see a herd of people moving through their territory.

Use your gut instinct when assessing what risks to take. If you get a bad feeling about someone, don’t travel with them.

Traveling Overseas

Traveling overseas is the exception to my advice regarding getting home at all cost, as soon as possible. If you’re across an ocean when disaster strikes, the only way home is by air or sea and it’s going to be next to impossible to book passage.

Air

Obviously, computer systems will be down and online bookings won’t work. What’s less obvious, is that on-site booking at the airport won’t work either and there isn’t a non-digital backup system. Airlines won’t allow planes to fly without a functional system to verify who you are and that airfare has been paid, meaning airports will be crammed with panicked travelers.

It will take weeks for a system to be worked out… if at all.

Sea

Cruise liners will experience similar problems. Passengers who are already on the ship or who have printed boarding passes will probably be allowed on board, but cruise ships don’t have a system for taking on new passengers at the dock[2].

Thanks to terrorism, you can’t gain access to most ports to ask cargo ships if they’ll take you across. Even if you manage to get within yelling-distance of a ship, cargo ships aren’t equipped to transport human cargo and they’ll deny you passage.

What can you do?

If you’re overseas when the SHTF, you can try getting home. Just be aware that your chances at getting home are going to be slim to none. You’re best chance at survival may involve hooking up with someone and starting/joining a family. It’s going to suck having to abandon all your preps and make an entirely new life in a country you don’t know much about.

You’re a survivalist, so deal with it and survive as best you can.

***

Hurricanes, fires, floods, and avalanches befall tourists all the time and there are emergency plans and resources available to deal with those disasters. However, a civilization-ending disaster will be much worse because there’ll be a cascade of failures on a systemic level. If such a disaster were to occur while you’re traveling, remember that sheltering in place is a death sentence.

You must go home, even if it means walking there.


[1] Crime/Violence Disclaimer: I do not condone violence or breaking any laws, nor does the author support vigilante justice. The intention of this article is to educate readers on how to improve personal survivability during a theoretical disaster, and does not promote or entice anyone to steal, loot, or commit any other crime in any ordinary circumstance.

[2] Human Cargo: There once was a time when you could book passage the same day or at the ship itself, but that ended in the 1900s.

Air Conditioning after the SHTF

Our modern society lets us maintain our homes and workplaces at comfortable temperatures at all times. There are adults living today, who’ve never had to live without air conditioning for longer than a few hours. We take this modern marvel for granted now, but what if civilization were to collapse?

Humans have lived in harsh climates since the dawn of time, so there’s a good chance you’ll learn to adjust and survive too. But that doesn’t mean you have to sweat and wallow in misery. This article will provide some pointers and ideas on how to heat and cool a home with no air-conditioning or electricity.

Cooling the Home

There are a lot of things you can do to cool your home after the SHTF, but I’d like to make a couple observations first.

  • Some of these ideas may not be practical in some oppressively hot and humid climates (like mine).
  • Some of these ideas aren’t possible if you live in a multi-family structure.

Open the windows and close the curtains. Open windows and doors to allow a breeze to blow through your home. Closing the curtains will help to deflect solar heat back out of the home.

If you have white or light-colored curtains, consider dampening them. The home will cool even more as the water evaporates out of the curtains. But, don’t dampen them if you aren’t going to open the windows, because that’ll only cause mold and mildew to develop on the curtains and in the home. 

Consider using double curtains. For double-layering curtains, some people think it’s best to use a white/light external curtain and a dark one facing the interior. Light-colored external curtains will reflect light back out of the home and the dark interior curtains will absorb all remaining solar energy to help ensure the room stays cool.

Double-layering should help cool the home regardless of the windows being opened or closed.

Let the night air in. Opening windows and interior doors at night helps cool the home, even in oppressively hot and humid climates. It may not seem like it to our spoiled senses, but the night air in such humid regions lower by an average of 10-15 degrees below the day’s peak temperature. This is especially helpful in dry or arid climates, which the temperatures at night can drop 30-40 degrees below the daytime temperatures.

The key is trapping and preserving this cold air for as long as possible throughout the day, by using other methods to keep the house cool.

Live on the 1st floor. Hot air rises and if there isn’t a way to vent the heat, it may become necessary to avoid the second floor of the home. Yes, the upper floors of a building usually benefit from stronger breezes than the first floor, but that may not be enough to keep it cool for comfortable habitation. If this happens, your family may have to learn how to live on the first floor (and/or basement) and only use the upper levels during colder months.

Keep in mind the upper floors of your home still have benefits in this situation. The extra storage is an obvious benefit, but less obvious is the additional insulating properties vacant floors provide to lower levels.

Have you ever walked past a large parking garage in a major city and felt nice and cool air exiting the structure? The owners aren’t air-conditioning the garage, but the building is benefitting from a sort of natural air-conditioner. Each floor is shaded and cooling air. As the cool air flows down, it gets cooler and cooler to the point it feels like a crisp 70 degrees at ground level. Don’t expect that sort of cooling ability from a 2 or 3-story home, but the general principle is the same when it comes to insulation and keeping lower floors cool.

Close off hot rooms. Some rooms of a home get more direct sunlight than others, or there may be something else making it hotter than the rest of the home. It may be necessary to sacrifice these rooms by closing them off to the rest of the house. Simply close the interior door during the day and commit to use the room only at night. If the room in question was an office before the SHTF, maybe you should turn it into a bedroom so it’s only in use when it’s cooler.

Adjust the ceiling fan. This will only work if you have access to electricity or a solar/wind/other generator. We tend to forget about it but, most ceiling fans have a small switch on the side of the unit that changes the direction the blades spin. If the fan is rotating in a counterclockwise direction, it’ll push air down and create a cool breeze. Alternately, a clockwise direction is best for winter to bring the hot air back down.

Use a rechargeable fan. This will only work if you have some way of charging the battery, but a battery-operated fan will help you feel cooler. I have a few of these and they’re great while camping. They can last about 4-6 hours on a single charge if used at the lowest setting.

Paint the roof. If you have white or light-colored paint, painting the roof can help reduce the amount of solar heat the home absorbs. That means the house can stay cooler longer throughout the day.

Add awnings. Adding awnings to your windows and doors will help keep direct sunlight out, while still allowing a breeze to come in. Awnings help keep the rain out as well, so you don’t have to close the windows during a heavy shower.

An awning doesn’t have to be a rigid structure. You can make a simple one by using a towel, pillow case, or sheet (preferably something you don’t care about). Simply nail one end over the top of the window, and use a rope or string to tie the other end to a tree, pole, or another building. It doesn’t have to look pretty if it works.

Shade the home. I just thought of this. If you have a small house, it may be possible to build a shade to cover part or all of your home. Theoretically, this can reduce the amount of solar radiation the home is exposed to, and could potentially keep it about 10-15 degrees cooler than it would be in direct sunlight. The primary problems with this idea involve finding enough material to build the shade, and then tying the shade to something taller than your home (like a tree).

When I first thought of this, I envisioned camouflage netting as the perfect material for shading a home. Camo netting comes in huge sizes and is porous, making it less likely to blow and flap in high winds (which means it’s more stable when tied off to trees). Camo netting also makes your home harder to find from areal searches. But your home needs to be small enough to benefit from this cover.

Build a primitive AC. You can try making a primitive air-conditioner, like the Water Bottle AC I encountered (description below).

Water Bottle AC

I saw a weird contraption that uses large water bottles and a piece of thin plywood to keep a home cool[1]. Here some basic instructions on how to build one using 32 oz water bottles: 

  1. Measure a window and cut a thin rectangular cardboard so it fits snugly into the part of the window that opens. For a 24×36” window, that’s maybe 22×16 inches.
  2. Measure and create a grid on the plywood of about 3×3 inch squares. Depending on the size of the window, you can fit 30-35 bottles onto the board.
  3. Drill holes large enough for the bottles to fit snugly. Uncap a bottle and eyeball the drill bit to be slightly larger than the bottle opening. 
  4. Cut the bottles in half. 
  5. Unscrew the bottlecaps and cut off the top of each cap. Don’t worry about cutting too much off, because you probably won’t be able to tighten them all the way (during step 6).
  6. Slip bottles into each hole and use the caps to fasten or adhere the bottles to the plywood.
  7. Place the plywood-bottle AC unit over a window and cool air should start flowing into the room.
  8. Optional: If you live in a region plagued with mosquitos, staple screen mesh over the semi-flat side of the plywood.

Dehumidify a Room or Home

If you live in an area with high humidity, it may be in your best interest to, at least try, keeping the humidity out and prevent mold from developing inside your home. This will have an added benefit of making you feel a little cooler too. Unfortunately, there’s only so much you can do without electricity, but the following methods may help.

Ventilate the room/home. Open doors and windows to allow a cross-breeze to move the moist air out of the house.

Hang dry clothes inside the home. Hanging dry towels and sheets inside a damp room or house will absorb moisture out of the air. The caveat, is that you must remember to take them outside to air-dry afterward. To do this, use a set of towels one day, then switch them with a fresh set the next day while they dry. 

Use calcium chloride (CaCl). I’m reluctant to mention this because I can’t think of how you’ll find it, but a container of calcium chloride should dehumidify a home as well. If you can find some, pour the calcium chloride into a sock and tie it shut, and then hang it in the room with excess moisture. You’ll probably need multiple socks.

Use salt. Similar to CaCl, salt can help dehumidify a room. Pour a large amount of granular salt onto a plate and place it in a damp room, stir the salt to prevent clumping and expose more surface area to the humid air. This will require several plates to have any noticeable effect, but it may work in a closet.

Another reason why I don’t like this dehumidifying method is because you’re potentially wasting something that can be used with food. The only thing I can think of to alleviate the waste is to try consuming the salt used for dehumidifying, before using containerized salt in food preparation.

Also, don’t tell anyone what you did or you’ll gross them out.

Limit “wet” activities. Don’t do anything in the home which may cause additional humidity, such as: 

  1. Shower without a vent or open window.
  2. Cook soups or recipes requiring boiling liquids. Baking, however, may dehydrate a room… but will make the house hotter than hell. 
  3. Don’t moisten your curtains or dry anything inside the home. Contrary to the advice I previously gave about cooling your home, if you’re facing oppressive humidity or mold, moistening your curtains may be the last thing you want to do.

Heating the Home

Thanks to global warming, or the natural heat cycle of the planet, or whatever you believe… we don’t have to worry about heating our homes as much as we did over a hundred years ago. Hell, here in Southeast Texas, we only experience a few days of real winter.

All joking aside, regardless of how few days of “winter” an area experiences, not being able to keep warm during extremely cold weather can be just as deadly as heat exhaustion. This was most apparent when the winter storm of February 2021 caught us off guard. So, how do you keep warm?

Start a fire[2]. Use the fireplace if your home has one. Grab fallen wood from a nearby woods or scavenge wood from around the neighborhood. You’ll be amazed at what you can find. Most pallets can be burned safely because the wood isn’t normally treated. If you can’t find any wood, you may be forced to burn whatever non-toxic trash you can find to survive the cold.

But what if your home doesn’t have a fireplace?

Absorb solar heat. Keep the windows closed and open the curtains to absorb as much solar radiation as possible during the day. Then close the curtains at night to trap that heat and insulate the window. If direct sunlight shines into a room, consider laying a dark blanket there to absorb even more heat.

Bundle up. Wearing warm clothes and jackets at all times will help keep you warm. You can even use a blanket as a make-shift cape for additional heat retention[3]. Below are a couple examples of the best blankets for staying warm:

  1. Wool blanket: Wool is the best natural cloth for heat retention and will keep you warm even when it’s wet.
  2. Thermal blanket: One of the best synthetic blankets available is a “Space Blanket”[4]. These blankets are made of thin, heat-reflective, plastic sheeting, and helps to retain heat when wet or dry[5].

Move to the second floor. All heat generated from cooking or absorbed from the sun will rise into the upper part of your home. You should use that trapped heat to stay warm by living in the second floor. If your home doesn’t have an upper level, and you don’t have enough materials to keep a fire going, you should consider using the attic, even if it’s just for sleeping.

Build a terracotta heater. Currently, the most popular alternative source of heating is the “terracotta heater”. This ingenious device only requires: a candle, a quarter, and an upside-down clay pot.

The theory behind terracotta heaters depends on the candle’s heat being trapped by the upside-down clay pot, which absorbs and radiates the heat into a room. Most videos call for you to cover the hole at the “bottom” of the pot with a quarter, or some non-flammable object.

Most of the instructions I’ve seen claim these heaters can warm an entire room. However, I’ve tested it and learned this type of heater doesn’t work as well as these videos would lead us to believe. Here’s why:

  1. Some instructions position the candles fully inside the pot, which doesn’t allow enough oxygen to reach them and the flame is suffocated.
  2. Even if the design allows for air to enter from below the flames, blocking the hole at the “top” also suffocates the candles and they burn out.
  3. Just one of these heaters will not noticeably heat an average-sized room.

I don’t mean to bash the concept, but I must ensure you don’t expect a miracle from these emergency terracotta heaters. I’ve built a functional clay-pot heater and used it in a well-insulated, 91-square-foot tiny house. The clay pot got extremely warm and became too hot to handle, but I had to sit right next to it for any warmth to be felt.

But in a survival situation, a terracotta heater is better than nothing.

***

These primitive air conditioning methods should help make life more comfortable after the SHTF. They can be used individually, but a wise survivalist will use a combination of these ideas to maximize your ability to remain comfortable.


[1] Water Bottle AC Source: I don’t have permission to provide an exact source for the first Water Bottle AC I encountered, but I found the below source. The article calls it a “Bangladeshi air cooler”, and it’s close enough to be used for a visual reference.

DiStasio, C. (2016, August 01). This amazing Bangladeshi air cooler is made from plastic bottles and uses no electricity. Retrieved from Inhabitat: https://inhabitat.com/this-amazing-bangladeshi-air-cooler-is-made-from-plastic-bottles-and-uses-no-electricity/

[2] Fire Safety: Fire is a serious tool and should be handled responsibly. Never leave a fire unattended, even if it’s contained in a seeming innocuous vessel (candle, lamp, etc.). Always take precautions when using any form of fire, or when handling or storing any type of flammable substance. Always have fire extinguishing equipment or substances available in case a fire gets out of control.

This disclaimer provides a few general fire safety guidelines, which do not encompass all safety precautions related to using fire.

[3] Necked Cape: I’ve used various blankets as capes and they’ve helped keep me warm… while walking around a cold house in my underwear.

[4] Space Blanket: These may be called by different names, such as: emergency blankets, “foil” blankets, reflective blankets, first aid blankets etc.

[5] Wikipedia. (n.d.). Space blanket. Retrieved from Wikipedia The Free Encyclopedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Space_blanket