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:

[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:

Religious Groups Will Take Over

If an apocalyptic event happened that causes our civilization to fall, religious communities will almost certainly try to take over. If they don’t succeed outright, they’ll still be the dominant socio-political force in the land.

Under normal conditions, people of faith are just like ordinary Americans. They hold very strong beliefs and political views on a few major subjects, but hold many of the same values as modern liberals when it comes to the majority of our laws and common social etiquette. Individually, they aren’t too dissimilar to Agnostics and Atheists either. It’s the greatness of our nation’s justice system and the availability of information, which maintains this harmony.

However, that respect for thy neighbor will disappear once the centralized government is gone. Things will start getting bad once rural communities are forced to come together as a group. There won’t be reliable sources of media to provide news and information to the shocked and stunned survivors. You’ll be amazed at how quickly people will ignore rational thought and start believing any story or rumor. It only takes one person of authority and influence to turn a good Christian community bad.

Let’s consider the ingredients that can make such a terrifying dystopian nightmare happen.

  • The location where most conservative Christians live.
  • Lack of centralized oversight and control, coupled with a newfound ability to abuse power.

Location, location, location!

The United States has a “Bible Belt” across the southern and rural states, where conservative Christians tend to live. This “belt” stretches as far north-east as Virginia, then goes down to Florida’s panhandle. You can feel the spirit in the vast middle-of-nowhere regions of Texas, and the belt snakes up to Salt Lake City. There are other pockets of isolated religious communities everywhere in the country, but the “belt” is where they seem to be concentrated in the United States.

Aside from a few scattered minuteman missile facilities and silos, there’s virtually nothing of strategic importance in these rural areas. Nobody’s going to waste a nuke on a small town or village out in the middle of nowhere, like Lufkin, Texas. Heck, I doubt anyone would try targeting our missile facilities since they’ll be empty by the time the attack hits them.

It stands to reason that small towns and rural communities will be safe from the attack, but accidents and mistakes in targeting can happen… Barring any bad luck, these communities will rise from the ashes of our civilization.

They were once meek, but will seek to inherit the earth if left unopposed.

A Shocked & Stunned Population

The apocalypse just happened! People are going to be assaulted by a cocktail of extreme and stressful emotions. They will be shocked that the world as they know it has ended. They grew up in a society with computers everywhere, even in their pockets. They grew up knowing that information and entertainment can be had at any time of the day. Now they can’t even turn on a TV, and the only radio they own is in the car that probably doesn’t work anymore. Emergency services were available at the touch of 3-buttons on a phone, but now the phones don’t work.

Yes, the occasional natural disaster caused all of us to suffer some time without our technological tools and toys, but everything returned to normal within a few days. Nothing is going to be “normal” again, and people are going to be brought to a mental breaking point once that realization sets in.

Ordinary people will recoil in horror at the knowledge of their, and their loved ones mortality. People will start dying of treatable chronic diseases like asthma, diabetes, and HIV/AIDS. People will start dying from easily curable diseases and infections too.

And what do you do with the body of your most cherished loved one? In the past, you’d call 911 and the paramedics would declare the death and take the body away to be processed by professionals. All you needed to do was arrange for memorial services, and then pay for it.

Now, it’s all up to you. You have to accept the responsibility and summon the energy to: dig a hole, drag or carry your loved one to it, and bury the body of the person you loved. You’ll be so focused on surviving, that a proper memorial service may be impossible. You may even wake up the next day to the horrific realization that you didn’t properly dispose of the body, and animals dug up and desecrated your beloved family member.

It will take people a couple weeks to fully realize and accept that things will never be normal again. That sort of paradigm shift can shatter a person’s psyche, and make them more susceptible to radical influences and manipulation. This can happen to the best and most rational of us.

And, this is happening to people all across the country.

The Rise of Religious Communities

The secular government won’t be around to keep these communities in-check anymore, and ambitious religious leaders will use this disaster as a perfect opportunity to seize control and spread their dogmatic ideals. It’ll be easy, and will probably happen several hundred times across the country.

The majority of these survivors are already inclined to believe in immaterial forces based on faith alone. The apocalypse may be the only proof necessary to make them loyal followers of a religious leader. Then you have the remaining population of shocked and stunned survivors who, ordinarily, wouldn’t believe in superstitions and things of a spiritual nature. But some will latch onto any idea, or person of authority which claims to provide salvation, answers, and hope.

A small minority of strong-willed or intellectual people will be left who won’t “see the light” and “come into the fold”. This minority can grow as more people realize what is happening and shake the religious influence, but I doubt this will happen. Humans like things to be easy, so the minority will probably shrink as ever-growing desperation or blatant threats of violence forces them to conform.

There are several things a leader will do to rise to power and solidify their authority. He[1] will start with speeches, then perform “good” deeds, and scapegoat others to maintain his hold on power. 

Speech and Preach

The religious leader will first claim their connection to divinity by reminding community members that they have been warning us this was coming for years. Expect speeches like the following:

The leader will start the speech in a modest and self-deprecating manner.

“In his divine wisdom, God chose to share his vision with me. Me, a poor wretched soul…”

Pause for dramatic effect before continuing with a scolding tone.

“He instructed me to spread his warning that a day of judgement will come. That our society will be punished for its sins of pride, lust, and greed. You didn’t heed those warnings then, but now you remember…”

The leader may dust off a few of the “Armageddon” chapters and verses to claim it was further ordained in Revelations[2].

The leader will close the speech in a way that solidifies his power and influence by instilling the belief that their community was spared from the apocalypse because they are the chosen, righteous, people. The speech will change to have a powerful and inspirational tone.

“God chose me to be here to help guide you through this time of great turmoil. You, his most devout followers are his chosen people. God’s wrath struck down the heathens and sinners, but he chose to spare you from his divine judgement. Us chosen few were spared to carry out his will, and we must work to rebuild this nation in His image!”

The speech might be slightly different, but it should carry the same meaning. You’ll be amazed and disappointed at how many people will be influenced by such a speech.

I hope I didn’t just write a future theocratic dictator’s speech.


Speeches alone won’t be enough to persuade some people to follow and remain loyal to a leader. The leader will have to perform deeds to entice more to join as followers. They will establish the church as a bountiful provider by pooling the resources of the community and distributing supplies to those in need.

If the church hasn’t wrested control from a secular community, it will passively proselytize in the sidelines by providing “care packages” to the poor and needy. This simple deed makes their church look good and gives them a chance to speak and engage with potential converts. Alternatively, if the church already has a firm grasp on power and control over resources, the leader will distribute rations during church services. They’ll organize communal housing and dining for the homeless. They will preach during meals and before bedtime in an effort to indoctrinate those benefitting from the services being provided[3].

All of these tactics ensure the followers become and remain dependent on the church for their survival. Their continued safety and well being is linked to obedience to the community’s dogma, and violators will be punished by withholding supplies or being exiled from the community.

Being self-sufficient may not protect you either. Depending on how insecure (or evil) the leader is, he may see your independence from his church as a challenge to his authority. You’ve proven that you can support yourself, and can be a highly valuable member of society. He can’t have you showing his flock that it’s possible to live outside of his influence. He needs to get rid of this challenge by either converting you into a productive follower, or eliminating the threat to his authority.

He’ll send his followers out to convince you of the error of your ways. They will use words and incentives to entice you to convert, and if that doesn’t work… threats. They will force you into the fold by terrorizing you and your family. And if all else fails, they will eliminate your family to serve as an example to others.


Things won’t be sunshine and rainbows all the time. The actions of the leader may cause misfortune to fall upon the community, but you’ll never hear that. No. The infallible leader will do everything in his power to distract the followers attention away from his ineptitude, and onto scapegoats. You’ll hear things like:

“Yes, the Smith family is suffering from hard times, but they brought this upon themselves when they chose to ignore the abomination living in their home! God is punishing them for not casting out that sinful harlot of a lesbian daughter[4]!”

“God wants us to love thy neighbor and to give alms to the poor, but he is angry at us for aiding heretics.”

The leader may use this as an opportunity to get rid of competition or those who have spoken against him. In this type of situation, the guards may drag out a few of sinners or Satan-worshipers, who conveniently have had their tongues cut out so they can’t sway the community with their evil words (or defend themselves).

“I have sad news to report. We’ve discovered that Satan has been filling our ears with vile lies, and has seduced some of our most respected community members to do his bidding. These sinners have poisoned our well water with disease and they must be punished.”

Or the leader will rally his followers against an external threat. The threat could be another community that will not follow his dogmatic belief system. This tactic serves to blame the external threat for all of the community’s problems, and he gets rid of the challenge to his authority.

“Our crops are being sabotaged by those who hate our devotion to God. These nonbelievers revile in our misfortune and will do anything to make us turn our backs to God’s loving arms. We must root out this evil! We must fight the infidels![5]

If there’s a rival crack-pot religious upstart who wrongfully thinks he’s the Second Coming of Christ, substitute the last sentence with:

“We must slay the false prophet!”

Scapegoating doesn’t have to be limited to times of hardship, it can be done during the good times too.

Birth defects are going to happen, especially after radiation or chemical exposure mutates our genes. Unfortunately, most of the survivors aren’t going to have much scientific knowledge and will probably believe the defects are of supernatural origin. Meaning, birth defects are going to become marks of Satan or signs that God is punishing a family for some misdeed[6].

What can we do if faced with such a nightmare?

In short, hope and pray I’m wrong. I hope I’m wrong. Barring a cynical thoughts & prayers approach, there are a few things you can do to improve your chances of survival when a totalitarian religion, or religious figure takes over. You can either speak out, blend in, or hide; but you should always be prepared to defend yourself.

Speak Out

Let’s say you live in a community of people with moderate values, and only a few devoted Christians. People start holding town meetings after the dusts settles, but the church leader and his followers start proposing some radical changes to the town’s laws. You should speak out early on to nip the religious movement in the bud before the vile takes root. There are others who share your reasonable point of view, and fear your community will repeat history by persecuting anyone who is different. They only need someone to voice that first objection.

The bad thing is, if you push too hard against bigotry, you run the risk of becoming a target yourself. These religious types always have henchmen who do their master’s bidding and respond to his suggestions. The henchmen will attack or kill those who threaten their rise to power. You’ll need to make sure your closest neighbors are on your side, or generally like you for being a good person. They’ll be there to warn you when the attack comes, and may even jump to your defense.

Blend In

Maybe you stayed in your basement a little too long and found out the religious fanatics took over while you were sheltering. You climbed out of your basement and emerged into a nightmare. That first time you traveled to City Hall, you saw people hanging from trees with signs showing their sins. You know you can’t fight the establishment, so you need to hide what you are and blend in.

Enter the community with the knowledge that every single person is watching you, so be careful with what you say, how you say it, and how you act. They will watch you for any weakness or sign that you aren’t a true believer. Do not volunteer much information about yourself.

With that said, you mustn’t isolate yourself from the community either. Being seen in the community has its benefits. The more people that see you, the less they’ll suspect that you’re hiding a secret. You’ll need to attend community meetings and remain in contact with your neighbors to make sure you know what’s happening. Being aware of what’s happening will help you get ready to defend yourself should you find that you’re part of a group being targeted for persecution.

Another good way to blend in is to display historic symbols of conservatism and hate. If you can find a Confederate flag[7], hang it outside where the locals can see it as they pass your home. This will help to convince the hillbilly survivors you’re one of them, and definitely don’t hold any liberal values.

Having a cross on your property can help ward off fanatics too.


If you own a large wooded property that’s hard to access, you could try hiding. This depends entirely on how self-sufficient you can make yourself. You need to be able to grow your food, purify or distill your water, and scavenge from nature. You also need to scare trespassers away to make sure nobody knows what you have hidden away. Firing a warning shot at a trespasser should do the trick, but if it doesn’t, you may have to resort to more drastic measures.

Just know that if too many people go missing in or around your property, the community will unite and converge upon your home in a mob.

What if there’s an emergency and you need to travel into town to trade for supplies? This is very risky. It’s a religious leader’s job to know everyone in their flock. It’s how they empathize and gain the trust and devotion of their followers. If you come out of hiding for any reason, you run the risk of being seen as an outsider. The leader may have you followed back home. If it’s found out you live within walking distance to the town, they’ll never leave you alone.

Always be Prepared to Fight

Fanatics are irrational and will turn on you in a heartbeat if they think it will make them look more devoted to a religion or leader.

Always be prepared to defend yourself in town.

Always be prepared to defend your home.

Always have an escape plan when the mob turns against you, because you can’t fight them all.

Is there no hope for the future after they take over?

You should always hold tight to a small kernel of hope. Even in a community full of devout fanatical followers, there will always be moderates or generally good people who don’t approve of the crimes being committed by the leader and his followers. They’ll be hard to find because they’re hiding their true beliefs, just like you are. You might not know who they are until they discretely approach you. The identities of these people may surprise you, because they may be better pretending to be a fanatic than you are (or they’re spies).

Just know that you are not alone. One day the leader will screw up so badly the closet-liberals will rise up against him. You need to stay alert to these opportunities[8] and be ready to speak out. It only takes one voice to encourage others to speak up. And don’t forget that accidents can happen too. The leader is merely mortal and will probably die from disease. The organization is most vulnerable during the transition between one ruler to his heir.

Just know there are risks involved with opposing the leader and his followers. If you are caught helping persecuted people escape, you’ll probably suffer the same fate as them. If you stage a revolt, you must be prepared for the probability that you may die in the act. And if the revolt fails, leaders of this type tend to make examples of entire families. Things truly must be horrible enough for you to risk it all, for the chance your family can have a better life afterward.

Another thing to remember is that this nightmare won’t last forever, and you may be able to wait it out.

What’s left of the country’s military and political leadership is still battling for its survival against an external enemy. Once that enemy has been neutralized, they will focus on reestablishing control over the country.

There’s also the possibility that we’ll lose the external war and be conquered. In either case, the religious nut-job will lose his totalitarian power. I’ll finish under the assumption our country will successfully fight off the external threat and will work to reestablish control over our country.

The problem with religions is that they tend to divide more than they unite. Even religions that follow the same core belief system, further divide themselves based on how they worship or which texts they decide to prioritize. Some even create their own lore or origin story, setting themselves further apart from the other religions. And the largest dividing factor of all is the belief that each of them is the true and correct religion, and the others are wrong or blasphemous. 

This divisiveness will be further compounded by the lack of communication. The various religious leaders will be so entrenched and drunk with their own power, they’ll react violently when a slightly different religion or sect is encountered. Unless they give up their belief system and conform, the opposing religious community is an immediate threat to the leader’s authority and connection to divinity. Both leaders are going to have this mindset, and if the threat isn’t removed, it will undermine the leader’s authority in perpetuity.

If any semblance of a federal government is ever reestablished, the conflict between religious communities or the inherent lack of cooperation will help ensure that no single religion has the upper hand in a nation-wide political system.


[1]He” – The majority of religious leaders will almost certainly be male. Most radical religions are patriarchal by nature, and fanatics are more willing to follow a strong man.

[2] Armageddon – I think the majority of the end-of-days verses are in the “Book of Revelations”, but I haven’t read a Bible since I was in elementary school.

[3] Indoctrination Services – We already see this type of passive recruiting with the homeless who rely on church-based charities for shelter and daily meals.

[4] Lesbian Daughter – I do not condone hate speech. This statement is used to describe the possible method by which an evil person may victimize others to achieve their agenda.

[5] Fanatical Speech – Don’t fool yourself into thinking this can’t happen here in the US-of-A. We have fringe groups that are arguably the Christian version of Al Qaeda, who think every single Muslim is trying to eradicate people of Christian faith. The same people think it’s okay to punish Jewish people for the treachery of Jesus Christ.

[6] Birth Defects – This has been happening to people with albinism in Africa for centuries. Even today, albinos are hunted down for their body parts because, according to witchcraft rituals, they can promote wealth, power, and sexual vigor.

[7] Symbols of Conservatism and Hate – I do not condone hate-speech or the proliferation of paraphernalia intended to intimidate or make any group of people feel uncomfortable or in danger. The survival strategies are designed to maximize the chances of surviving in this hypothetical nightmare-scenario.

[8] Opportunities – Religious leaders can get overconfident in their selection of people to victimize. They will focus on easy targets like: homosexuals, other religions, and probably other races. You’ll be surprised at how many people will accept this. But their faith in the leader will be shaken if he targets someone who’s obviously innocent like a child, or possibly a mentally disabled person. You should speak out when they target people like these.

Making a Living After the Apocalypse

In a previous blog I described how agricultural products will be the most important commodity in the new world. So much so, whatever currency is used may hold a foundation based on calories, and non-edible products will be traded based on the perceived caloric value.

Your main goal in this new world is to survive. To do this, you need to make sure you can feed your family and fight off those who would steal from you. But, how do you make a living if you don’t have a green thumb?

In this article, I’ll outline what I think will be the easiest ways to make a living after the fall of civilization. I’ll describe what you can make or grow to trade for food or other valuables. Certain products or services can be produced with little effort, some will need a certain level of skill, and others will require skill and specialized equipment.

Don’t Bother with These

Let’s start with what you should avoid. Precious metals and jewelry aren’t going to be worth much. You can’t eat a diamond ring, and they don’t have much utilitarian value. Precious metals can be worn as jewelry and that’s pretty much it. Speaking of which, I personally don’t recommend wearing jewelry. You’re basically inviting people to steal it from your cold, dead fingers. I recommend you hide any jewelry you may possess or discover and maybe use it to trade with later.

I don’t think there will be much of a market for new clothes, since there’s already an overabundance of clothing. Clothes will likely be abandoned and free for any passerby to take. However, once the economy has stabilized and clothes become scarce, there may be a market for new clothing. I just don’t think much profit can be made as a seamstress[1] unless you’re doing it in your free time as entertainment.

Passive Products

There are a few things that can be produced or grown with little to no effort on your part. Some herbs and vegetables can be grown “wild” and thrive without human intervention. Plants like: green onions, mint, potatoes, ginger[2], mushrooms (starter spores required), some peppers, and some established trees.

Most of these foods will grow year-round.

You can raise chickens and produce honey almost wild too. However, both require an investment in shelter and you need the proper skills to harvest the final products.

If that’s not enough, or if you tend to kill plants and animals just by looking at them, you can forage[3] for your food. There’s plenty of food to be found growing in the wild. You can find: wild tree nuts (acorns[4] & pecans are easiest to identify), loquats, dandelion greens, clovers (save any 4-leaf clovers for luck), roses, carnations, honey, and psychedelic shrooms (medicine/trade).

If done properly, you can easily survive on passive foods and trade any excess you produce.

Mid-value Products & Professions

If you can make products from raw materials or provide services no one else can, you may earn enough to be part of the new middle-class. I don’t think people will get rich making these because they’ll have to pay suppliers for the building materials and maybe pay to distribute the products. 


If you have the knowledge and have the equipment, almost any food item that can be dehydrated and made into a powder will be valuable. Foods like grains, potatoes, corn, and nuts are the most common and easiest foods to dehydrate and turn into powders.

Pretty much anything that’s made into a powder will last forever, and that longevity will make preserved foods great cash crops. The only requirements to preserve dry foods are… to keep it dry, and don’t allow humidity or pests to infest the food.

Don’t be too reliant on conventional crops. It’s not likely you’ll live near a region that grows food grains like wheat. That means you’ll need to think outside the box [5] and convert what you can produce or harvest into equivalent products. If you have pecan trees growing more or less wild on your property, harvest those nuts as they drop and use them as a flour alternative[6].

Food will quickly lose its value when things settle down and supply stabilizes. But I still think you can gain wealth manufacturing and trading food.


Hygiene products will be extremely important to prevent diseases and infections. Simple bars of soap only require 3 ingredients and can be transported easily, but require time to make (and you’ll need some practice to perfect your recipe).

Regular customers of soap makers will be medical facilities, Laundromats, and, if they exist, communal baths. Although, I have a lingering fear that many people will forego bathing. We’ve seen this happen with various degrees during the Medieval period, (also known as the “Dark Ages”).


Many people may turn their noses up to this, but another profession could be cleaning clothes… from piss[7]. Urea from, well, urine has been used to clean clothes since ancient times. The process is much the same as it’s done today, and I’ll briefly describe it since it’s such a gross-sounding task:

  1. Add clothes and cleaning agent (urine) into a container and agitate the clothes. Agitation was done by stomping on the clothes in ancient times.
  2. Thoroughly rinse the clothes.
  3. Hang the laundry out to dry. I imagine the sun and breeze airs out any lingering urine smell.

The launderer could charge a premium to wash clothes with scented soaps. Another upcharge could be to offer an expedited service to rapidly wash and dry clothes by using precious electricity to machine-wash and dry them.

Going into Labor

Labor is a mid-value product too. You can lend your hands to help on the farms, work to construct buildings, or labor on an assembly-line (if any factories or workshops exist).  Your earnings will always be capped at what your boss can “pay” for your labor, which may be as simple as food and housing, or other valuable supplies. Remember that food and housing are scarce and valuable now that millions of newly homeless people are roaming the countryside. You may make more money if you already know a trade like plumbers or electricians. But don’t bank on this because the raw materials (power and water) may not exist.

Quick Cash

Tools will be the gold bars of the post-apocalyptic world, but they won’t make you rich. You can make a quick profit by trading any tools you don’t need. Alternatively, if you need them for work, keep them under lock and key. You should be prepared to defend your tools and even kill for them, because people will try to steal them for a quick “buck”.

What are the best ways to get rich in this new world?

The cash-crops, so to say, are going to be commodities required to power technology, luxury products satisfying vices, and medical labor. All of these are going to require knowledge or skill.


If you don’t have a green thumb or don’t have anything edible growing wild, then maybe you can make and sell luxury items like fuel and alcohol. There won’t be a reliable supply of energy, and your local gas station won’t be getting a resupply. The refineries will almost certainly have burned down and if they haven’t, there won’t be any labor to operate them.

If you happen to be lucky enough to live in an area that still has working pumpjacks that produce oil, it may be possible to refine it. That is, if someone in your community knows how to do it[8]. If you have the knowledge and are able to make a simple refinery powered by fire and horses, you’ll be rich. 

Some generators and cars can operate using ethanol, which is easy to make by fermenting food waste. You just need a container for the food waste, bacteria to allow fermentation to occur, and something to distill the alcohol (ethanol) out of the mash. You may need to redistill the alcohol to achieve a higher ABV.

Liquor & Wine

Of course, you can sell your ethanol as a beverage commonly known as vodka or white-whiskey, or moonshine[9]. You can charge a premium for whiskey aged in wood barrels.

I think wine will be pretty hard to make and sell. If you can’t find or make a still, you may have no other choice but to rely on wine as an alcoholic beverage. First, you have to grow the grapes, or other sugary fruits like apples, pears, or peaches. Then, you have to keep yourself and others from eating the fruit. If you still have fruit, you’ll need to pulverize and ferment it. Once fermented, bottle it.

It sounds easier than distilling, but the hardest part to wine making is getting past the first 2 steps: growing and not eating the raw materials. Distilled liquor, on the other hand, can be made with leftover food waste.

Another use for ethanol is sterilization. You can sell or trade your high ABV liquor to medical professionals for “money”, food, drugs, or services.


If you happen to be a doctor or nurse, you’ll be a very valuable member of society. Medical professionals will be hard to find, and any community will guard and treat these professionals well to ensure they’re happy. Medical supplies will be scarce or non-existent, so a good doctor will need to know how to treat ailments using herbs. A good doctor in this new world will need to know how to manufacture drugs as well.

When the civilization-ending disaster starts, most medical facilities aren’t going to be concerned about payment. A triage system will quickly be put in place, but I don’t think hospitals and emergency clinics are going to be concerned about payment until resources become scarce.

As medical resources run out, payment will be demanded up front. Food will likely be accepted, but the most valuable forms of payment will be fuel, cleaning supplies, and sterilization materials (alcohol). Facilities or private practices will maintain the triage system as a standard practice, even after things calm down and we get used to the “new normal”. It simply doesn’t make sense to waste time and resources to treat people who are going to die regardless of medical intervention, or even those who cannot contribute to society.

A wise government or medical facility will socialize medicine to ensure medical treatment is available to the community. This is smart because the medical staff can provide a list of drugs and materials that are running low or are depleted to the community. The local government will be in the best position to ensure the medical facility has the fuel necessary to operate, and can scrounge or trade for drugs and other resources. And the government can easily provide security to the facility.

Ironically, socialized medicine may win in the end. The caveat being medical staff will be required to adhere to strict government rules dictating who they can treat and how.


Criminals who made and sold drugs prior to the apocalypse, may find their craft newly legalized if they can retool their operations and make useful drugs for doctors. Any excess drugs can be sold to other communities. Don’t forget the inconvenient truth that there will always be a market for recreational drugs, but be careful with the new laws.

The laws of the local community can go one of two ways regarding the sale and use of recreational drugs: legalize or ban. A devoutly religious community will likely outlaw such vices and severely punish (kill) those caught in the manufacture and distribution of drugs. Whereas, a moderate or practical community may allow the manufacture of recreational drugs, if they aren’t sold within the community.

If the community doesn’t have a specific policy, the authorities will likely turn a blind eye, if you make it worth their while. Don’t be naive and think that bribery won’t exist. Bribery has always been the oil that lubricates government since the dawn of human civilization. Some countries legalize and profit from bribery by renaming it to permits. Some politicians accept bribes in the form of campaign contributions, and charitable donations to organizations they may have a stake in.

The Oldest Profession

Prostitution will still exist, and may even thrive now that centralized state or federal laws are no longer enforced. If the local community doesn’t ban it, we may see the rise of brothels. These brothels will cater to all of your sexual needs, both hetero– and homosexual. As always, be prepared to pay more for male prostitutes.

Why will men be paid more in yet another industry? I remember seeing a documentary several years ago about “straight” porn actors who describe their pay as 10 times that of women[10]. The reason is because they are rare, and it’s an exotic taste[11], and men are willing to pay more for discretion to hide the fact they sought the services of a male prostitute.

It’s going to be a rough life for female prostitutes, and it’s going to be even harder for male sex workers. Willing gay men are going to be hard to find because they’ll die at a much higher rate than women of the same profession will. Just like women, they’ll have to endure the usual risks from abusive clients, jealous lovers, and sexual diseases. But on top of that, the religious fanatics won’t have anything to stop them from murdering gays en masse, and don’t forget about opportunistic gay-bashers who will prey on gay sex workers to prove something to themselves or their peers.

We live in a very accepting and inclusive world now[12], but that will change once civilization falls. Religious communities are going to be common and we need to expect a return to the historic religious persecutions of people who don’t fit with the dogma. Prostitutes are shunned by the major religions, and gay prostitutes are going to be double-negatives in the eyes of fanatics.

Straight men won’t have much work, because women have historically patronized brothels or individual prostitutes less often than men. There may not even be a demand for straight male sex workers.

Of course, if you follow this career-path, you’ll have to worry about the local laws. Just like drugs, the community will either allow or ban prostitution. If you happen to be in a religious community, expect the penalty to be death or worse.


Producing and trading these products or services will help ensure you can survive and can help generate income or wealth (or the post-apocalyptic equivalent). Some will be fast tickets to wealth, or they’ll make you a target for exploitation by any potential overlord. 

Let’s hope for a not-so-grim outcome.

I’d like to close by saying that while I use a nuclear attack as the cause of the fall of civilization, it’s important to remember that chemical and biological warfare can have the same effect. A chemical attack can render entire cities uninhabitable until the agent has been cleaned, or enough time has passed that weather has disbursed the toxic chemicals. The same may even be true for biological attacks, but biological warfare is much messier and harder to manage (as evidenced by our democracy’s handling of the Covid-19 pandemic).

[1] Fun Fact: The male version of a “seamstress” is a “seamster”.

[2] Ginger – Some  caution should be taken with growing ginger, as other wild tubers can easily be confused as part of the plant.

[3] A word of caution regarding foraging: You absolutely must know how to identify plants, or you could kill yourself and your family. The same can be true for gardening. It’s possible to accidentally pick and eat the poisonous parts of edible plants, or unknowingly pick a poisonous weed from your garden and eat it.

[4] Acorns – Acorns need to be processed by boiling out the tannins. You will need to boil them and replace the water several times, until the water is clear or the acorns aren’t bitter. You can remove the tannins from acorns using cold water as well. The process is similar, but will take over a week to achieve the same product.

[5] Thinking outside the box is probably the best survival practice anyone can have.

[6] Pecans fall from the trees with an external shell, protecting the shell we’re familiar with. Remove both, and pulverize them to dehydrate the “meat” using the sun or an oven. This can be ground down into a fine flour.

[7] Laundromat – I’m  pretty sure I learned this from one of my history teachers. I remember someone asked how the ancients kept their clothes clean, and the class was grossed-out to learn they used pee. I had a very subtle reminder about this method of cleaning laundry from a show I binge-watched recently, Plebs.

[8] I think a crude (pun intended) explanation of refining is distillation of oil to make different gases at certain temperatures. I’m not a chemist or an oil expert, by any stretch of the imagination, so I’m sure there are other processes I’m missing. Refining oil is very dangerous, and if not done by an expert can cause severe injury or death.

[9] Moonshine is just vodka or whiskey that hasn’t been taxed. Also, there’s no real difference between spirits distilled as moonshine and vodka.

[10] Male Porn Stars: I want to say it was I’m A Porn Star: Gay 4 Pay, but I’m not sure.

[11] Rare & Exotic: Free online porn and services like “OnlyFans”, made it more readily available and reduced the demand for male sex actors.

[12] Inclusive World: 10% of the population has been the standard calculation of LGBTQ population in the country for nearly 2 decades. But if you consider the fact that many men who like having sex with the same sex, don’t identify as either homo- or bi-sexual; or those who just want “fun”, the percentage is almost certainly twice that… and that’s not counting all those other sexual identities (there were over 100 when I graduated from college in 2018).

Post-Apocalypse Markets

How will we operate businesses and trade after World War III, or if a catastrophic attack or disaster befalls our country? The local economy is going to have to focus on producing or trading products needed for survival. That means the most important products and services are going to be things that can immediately be used for everyday household needs, and probably won’t stray too far from that. 

Where will you find a market to trade goods? The surviving malls of the old civilization have been turned into palaces for highway barons and their minions[1]. Most supermarkets have been looted and damaged so extensively that it’d be impossible to secure your inventory. So, what does that leave us with?

Flea markets!

After everyone abandons the major cities and metroplexes, after the initial chaos settles, and when communities start coming together, the once forgotten flea market is going to become the new mall or trading hub. Why?

  1. They exist out in rural areas, which aren’t going to be targeted by a foreign enemy.

I mean, come on! Who’s going to waste a nuke on Woodville, Texas, or a small village called Swartout?!

  • There won’t be any reliable electricity, and these places with outdoor pavilions are going to be perfect to serve as the malls of the post-apocalyptic future. Some of the more upscale flea markets are wired for electricity, and a generator can be hooked up allowing the market to operate at night. 
  • Most flea markets are structured in a way that makes them easily defendable. The rent and protection fees vendors will be forced to pay landlords will help fund the market’s security.
  • Plus, it shouldn’t be too hard to convert some of the stall-pavilions into make-shift housing for vendors and security personnel. 

The only problem I can see is getting products to that market. At the beginning of the 20th century, there were about 21 million horses in the United States[2]. Nowadays, horses, donkeys, and other draft animals are endangered here in the USA. According to Pete Gibbs[3], a Texas A&M University animal science professor, the Houston area has one of the highest concentrations of horses in the country, with a population between 150,000 and 200,000. We’ve become so dependent on the almighty car, we don’t have the draft animals to produce the “horsepower” needed for agriculture or transportation.

There’s a reason why automobiles are advertised as having varying amounts of horsepower.

I always liked a scene in Things to Come[4] when the Airman lands and the community leader arrives on a convertible car being pulled by horses. I thought it was funny the first time I saw the movie, but that odd sight may very well be the stagecoach of the future. We will need to return to using animals to power our new agrarian society and to bring those products to market. 

Dollars will be worthless.

The new economy will be based on barter. If you want a certain product, you’ll need to trade something of equal or greater value… and more often than not, you’ll need to trade with greater value.

Inequitable trading is to be expected. Recall that a centralized economy doesn’t exist anymore. There is no reliable currency, so it makes sense people will want to trade their products for greater value because of this unreliability.

Whatever you do, do not accept any immaterial currency as trade. Currency only works in an insulated environment controlled by someone who has power to enforce the stated value. It also needs the faith of people who believe in the inherent value of that currency. None of that exists any more.

You may be able to trade currency with one person, only to find out it’s worthless to another. It’s also easy for that same person you originally traded with to turn around and say they aren’t accepting cash or currency as legal tender anymore. You’ll be hard-pressed to find someone who’s as gullible as you to accept that currency in turn when that happens. 

Recall that I previously mentioned currency only works in an insulated environment? In this new world, you may encounter specialized currency at a sealed market. In this situation, you trade goods the community needs for a posted amount upon entry and receive a locally accepted form of currency, which can only be used inside the borders of the market. Expect the person issuing you the new currency to take a cut of your trade as a fee. (The local government has to make money too.)

If you encounter this type of system, you need to make sure you spend all of this new money immediately. If you have any cash left over, use it to buy something that has a stable value, like non-perishable food.

Nothing is certain anymore. A change of leadership could happen, or counterfeiters could flood the market. Whatever the cause, the accepted form of payment can change overnight and you’ll be left with nothing of value to trade the next day.

I’m pretty sure food will become the new unit of account for currency, akin to what the “gold standard” used to be. If the new markets are smart, they will base the currency on the common knowledge of caloric count. and may give special dispensation, or increase in price, to foods which provide a boost to certain vitamins and minerals. An example would be bananas, which are high in potassium. If you’re operating a distillery in the post-apocalyptic future, it’d be beneficial to grow bananas as well as distill alcohol. You could resell the bananas as a hangover remedy[5]

What’s going to be sold at these markets?

Food will be the most important products being sold at the market, and you might not find much else until the local economy gets stronger.

Eggs and live chickens are light and easy to transport, and will be the first proteins or meat to be traded. I emphasize that chickens will be traded alive, because there won’t be power to refrigerate and preserve butchered meat. The best way for the new markets to cheaply “preserve” meat for days is by selling it live.

I don’t think many hens capable of laying eggs will be sold at the market. It doesn’t make sense for the farmer to sell something that’s making money or ensuring the survival of his or her family.

Livestock will be another early addition to the market. Horses and donkeys will cost a fortune because they can provide transportation and power to work the land. You may be able to find goats at the market too. Demand for goats milk and cheese will plummet. Most Americans don’t have a taste for either, and storing the dairy products will be next to impossible without electricity. Farmers will need to sell off or cull their stock when it becomes apparent they can’t feed all the animals on the farm. You can buy them for the meat, or if you can get a male and female, purchase to start your own farm.

You may find the same situation with pigs. There will be too many mouths to feed and no way to quickly preserve the meat. Both pigs and goats can eat pretty much anything, so feeding a small number of these animals won’t be much of a problem for a survivalist farmer. If it does get too hard to feed them, then it may be time to host a meat-lover’s party.

Fuel may show up at the market at some point. I’m not sure when it will appear though. Most people with petroleum gas or propane may try to hold onto it to power farming machinery or generators. Barring hoarding for personal use, I’m pretty sure fuel will get confiscated by local governments to power emergency vehicles, or possibly provide a dramatically scaled down form of public transportation.

A Word of Caution

What if you want to start a business and open a shop? That’s very enterprising of you, but drill this into your head now:

Don’t set up shop at home!

You’re basically inviting people to come to your house and look at what you’ve got. The majority of your shoppers are probably honest, but you need to expect that with every 10 customers, there’s probably 1 thief scoping out your home to rob later. If the “business” gets burglarized, so does your family.

It’s much safer to sell things at a market. Yes, you’ll have to pay rent on your stall and you may have to pay a security surcharge on top of that, but it’s worth it in the long-run.


Money as we know it will be worthless after a catastrophic attack or disaster befalls our country. So, how will we conduct business and trade? Our redefined economy will be based on barter and locally defined currency exchanges. Flea markets will be the perfect foundations to establish markets to buy, sell, and trade goods.

Check my blog later for the next part of this post-apocalyptic series. I plan to describe what you might do for a living after the collapse.

[1] A wise slum-lord will take over a mall with a jewelry store, and use the gold, diamonds, and other precious metals as a form of currency to pay an army of desperate soldiers.

[2] ExhibitsUSA, a national division of Mid-America Arts Alliance. (2007, September). The Educational Programming Guide for Going Places. Retrieved from Park City Museum:

[3] Crowe, R. (2006, January 18). Riders rearing up over new horse restrictions. Retrieved from Chron:

[4] Menzies, W. C. (Director). (1936). Things to Come [Motion Picture].

[5] I’m sure there’s a Ferengi Rule of Acquisition related to this.

Shopping/Looting List

If you are lucky enough to survive the initial blasts from a nuclear attack, you will likely be forced to loot or scavenge for resources in order to survive. Let’s not kid ourselves.

  • There will be no government.
  • No assistance or aid is coming.
  • The emergency number, 911, will be a joke or footnote in stories we tell our grandchildren.
  • We will be on our own.

We already know this will happen, because we’ve seen the government fail in other regional disasters like Hurricane Katrina in Louisiana (2005), Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico (2017), the government neglected Lake Charles, LA after Hurricane Laura hit (2020), and since mid- to late-2020 regional and city governments on the west coast have had chronic difficulties with controlling protesters, or depending on your perspective, rioters and anarchists. Arguably, the government failed in managing the Coronavirus/Covid-19 pandemic. These past failures will be minuscule in comparison if the nation suffers a nuclear attack.

Law and order will be nonexistent, and everyone will be looting department stores for chances to improve their wealth. You need to be smart and immediately “shop” to improve your chances of survival. You need to act fast because it won’t take long for people to stop looting for greed, and start looting for need.

This looting list is focused on acquiring supplies for someone who is leaving the cities, and not hunkering down. You should focus on getting out of the cities as soon as possible. Law and order will be nonexistent, the supply chain will disintegrate, and there will be millions of desperate people trying to grab what little resources are left. This is a recipe for disaster and violence. Scavengers will try to break into your home in an attempt to steal your resources, and they may even kill you for what supplies you may have.

Major cities are going to be the worst places to be on the planet, so get the hell out of Dodge!

That may be easier said than done, because not everyone has property outside a city. If you’re fortunate enough to have a vacation house, you already know where your evacuation spot is. If you don’t have additional property, pick a direction and start walking out of the city. You’ll likely hear other people say where they are heading, and you can take your chances with camping out near them.

The sooner you hit the road the better. I’d say you need to leave the city immediately after the attack and only stop to collect supplies. Keep in mind that once supplies run out in the cities, there will be a mass exodus of people trying to reach the newly establish “rural” communities and resettling will be impossible.

Below is a list of supplies I would grab immediately after a nuclear attack… assuming I survived.

Electrolyte Mix

This will help your body retain water and replenish electrolytes lost in sweat and urination. You can use this to help temporarily reduce the amount of water your body needs to survive, but only for a short period of time. Nothing can truly replace water for long periods of time when you’re constantly exerting yourself. Be sure to focus on stockpiling the mixes, and not the drinks themselves. You will likely need to walk out of the cities to safety, and you won’t be able to carry gallons of bottled drinks very far. The mixes weigh next to nothing, and you can mix them with clean “fresh” water later.

Pain Killers

Aspirin, Ibuprofen, Tylenol, or the store equivalents are always a good idea to have in an emergency. They will never be in stock again, so get the biggest bottle of each, Aspirin will help if you have a heart condition, Ibuprofen & Tylenol will help with inflammation. Plus, you can trade these pills for other items.

Cold Remedies

Any cold and flu remedy can be priceless should you get sick in the future (and you will get sick). Having a cold and flu remedy will help you be a productive member of whatever society or community you happen to find yourself in.

Rubbing Alcohol or Sanitizer

You need to have a way to clean wounds (which will happen at some point in the future). Rubbing alcohol is best, but you can grab sanitizer as an alternative. Rubbing alcohol can be used as a fire starter of last resort when you reach your destination too. Don’t waste it as a fire starter while travelling, because I’m pretty sure there will be an abundance of fires along your evacuation route.

A Weapon

Guns and ammo will be the first to go, so don’t bother trying to get either. A bow or crossbow kit will do just as fine, but there won’t be many in stock. I’d grab a BB gun and a container of BBs people are going to focus on real guns and will often overlook lesser weapons. You can use the BB gun to hunt small animals… even domesticated animals (pets). Another benefit to having a BB gun is it looks very similar to a real rifle. If you’re lucky, you may be able to trick an attacker into believing you’re armed with a deadly weapon.

A knife will be the most valuable weapon or tool you can get. As a tool, you can use it to craft wood or sticks into spears and primitive arrows. You can use the knife to skin and clean animals you shoot or capture too. As a weapon of last resort, you can slash and stab the knife in an effort to defend yourself.

Please remember that you are trying to get to a safe area to live out the rest of your life. Ideally you should sneak out of the city and to your evacuation zone without drawing much attention to yourself or family. This means that you really don’t want to be a “Rambo” rampaging through the city and countryside. That will only paint a target on you.

However, if you insist on taking your chances at becoming a post-apocalyptic Highway Baron. You will need to be ruthless. You will need to resort to barbarism even worse than was recorded in World War II, you will have to be as ruthless as biblical nations and eliminate all those who stand in your way. All the while making sure your own people don’t turn against you and kill you in your sleep. The ideal person who would fit this role will likely come out of the newly opened, unlocked, and unmanned prisons.

So, good luck with that.

Potassium Iodide (130 mg)

This has been approved to help reduce the absorption of radiation since the 1980s. According to the Wikipedia page related to this chemical (Wikipedia, n.d.), “potassium iodide cannot protect against any other mechanisms of radiation poisoning, nor can it provide any degree of protection against dirty bombs that produce radionuclides other than those of iodine [Iodine-131].” Also, don’t try to get the benefit from eating iodized salt. You’ll poison yourself with the salt before you can get the recommended dose.

Sleeping Bag (Preferably Weatherproof)

A sleeping bag will be essential. You will need a place to sleep so you can stave off exhaustion and bugs or other vermin. Hopefully, you can get your hands on a weatherproof bag, so you don’t have to worry about it getting soaked if it rains. Also, about the rain, you will want to avoid that for the first few days after a nuclear attack since it will be raining fallout. And while we are on the subject, do not drink from rivers or streams for at least a week because that’s where the rain goes on its way to the nearest lake or ocean.

Water Filtering Straw

A water filtering straw will be indispensable and far preferable to bottled water. The most well-known brand is LifeStraw, and they even have a high-volume gravity version. I would grab that, plus as many replacement cartridges and individual straws as I can carry. I previously cautioned against drinking from rivers and streams for at least a week because of fallout, but there are many places that contain water, which may not have been contaminated by radioactive rain like water heaters and toilet tanks (I know, yuck). This straw will help you safely drink from those sources.

Even if it is within the first week after the attack, I would consider using the straw to drink from a large pond or lake (preferably a lake). I read from a government survival manual several years ago (I don’t remember the exact book), that large bodies of water will likely be safe to drink from as the radioactive fallout will likely be very low given the large volume of water inside a lake.

Of course, use your best judgement. You may not want to risk drinking from any body of water if you see an extraordinary number of dead fish floating in the water or washed up on the bank.


I don’t smoke, but I would grab as many cigarettes as I can carry. These are luxury items many people are addicted to. Cigarettes will be worth more than gold once the supply of cigarettes runs out, and smokers will do or trade anything for a few cigs. They weigh next to nothing, so try grabbing as much as you can carry.

Bicycle or Functioning Transportation

The EMP burst from nuclear detonations will fry the computerized components of our cars. They may not be comfortable, but older cars are more likely to still function than any car built in the 21st century.

It’ll be pretty hard to car-shop for a classic car after a nuclear attack, so your best bet at acquiring motorized transportation will either be a motor bike or a simple ATV (3 or 4-wheelers). These are simple mechanically driven machines, and do not rely on a computer to operate. They are very gas efficient and if you are grabbing one of these, be sure to grab a spare gas tank or two. Be sure to get gas as soon as you can… IF the gas pumps even work. If pumps aren’t working, then you may be shit out of luck until you find a way to get some gas. Having a supply of gasoline will always be a problem, but you should have some success siphoning gas out of disabled and abandoned vehicles.

Barring a motorized vehicle, try using a bicycle to get out of the city. Your legs will never permanently run out of power (I apologize in advance if you happen to be paraplegic). You can transport a lot more supplies on a bicycle by hanging things on the handlebars. Even if you get a flat tire, you can still push a bicycle much more easily than a motorcycle or ATV. A bicycle may be the best option because they are easier to repair than any motorized vehicle.

Another thing to consider is a bicycle will move silently down the street. People will be desperate to hitch a ride on an ATV or motorbike, or even steal it from you. You can hear most ATV and motorbikes a mile away, so you don’t want to draw much attention to yourself when everyone else’s car is disabled.


You’d think water would be at the top of my list. Nope! Please recall this article focuses on surviving a nuclear attack, by escaping to a safe location. While water is a very important thing to have in case of emergency, it weighs a lot. If given the choice between water and any sports drink (Gator- Power- aid, etc.), I’d choose the sports drink. The sports drinks will contain electrolytes necessary to function while you are exerting yourself trying to get to safety.

I ride my bike long distances and use a CamelBak on those trips. In a situation like this, I would fill it up with as much water at home and raid a major grocery store for sports drinks, on my way to safety. Take care not to attempt to raid convenience stores, because the owners are almost always armed (with guns) and will defend their inventory. A major grocery store will be operated by employees who do not have a familial stake in the business and will abandon it as soon as they grab all the food, water, toilet paper as they can carry. While at the store, I’d drink as much of the water as I can from my pack and secure a bunch of sports drinks. Then I’d either dump my water or pour as much electrolyte drinks into the pack as it will hold. I’d grab a few extra bottles and some small water bottles as well.

If the store is out of water and sports drinks, try for the electrolyte mixes or even bottled tea. Tea is made out of water. It’s the primary ingredient. You will also reap the additional benefits of some caffeine to help your body get to safety.

Do not get bottled coffee. Yes, it’s main ingredient is water, but coffee has been shown to cause dehydration. It’s a mild laxative too, and may force you to stop to shit somewhere. You may also want to avoid coffee because it typically contains about twice the amount of caffeine as most teas. You will likely be stressed by the attack, and you may be a little dehydrated. Both of these conditions will cause your heartrate to increase dramatically. You don’t need to be drinking something that will increase your heartrate even further.

Red Wine

Red wine has shown some, as in very little, benefit in helping cope with radiation. This can be used to supplement the Potassium iodide, and to drink to celebrate your initial survival. The alcohol will help calm nerves and may serve as a sleeping aide. Drink in moderation as alcoholic drinks will cause dehydration.

Hard Liquor

Similar to cigarettes, hard liquor is a luxury item many people are addicted to, and you can use it for trade. You can use liquor as medication too. Alcohol in liquor will help calm a person having a panic attack and can help as a sleep aid. It’s not ideal, but liquor can even help sterilize a wound if rubbing alcohol isn’t available.


There are many other items you could consider grabbing in a catastrophic disaster like a nuclear attack. The best thing you can do is be prepared well beforehand by having a stockpile of supplies at your evacuation point, and only rely on scavenging or looting while evacuating to your safe spot. You could even make or buy a preassembled “bugout bag” to save you time (and maybe save your conscience).

I would caution you that looting will be fine immediately after an attack, but theft will quickly become a capital-offense once small communities reorganize to self-govern without a central authority or overarching legal system. The laws and processes we once enjoyed will be replaced with a practical system of justice akin to the “wild west”. If you are caught stealing vital supplies from the community, you will likely be punished severely or even killed.

I personally think the new communities will have a 2-strike system: public flogging on the 1st strike and then hanging on the 2nd strike. Although, it stands to reason these communities may resort to hanging thieves on the first offense to serve as an example to others.

So be sure to keep your newly developed kleptomania in check once you reach your new home.


Here’s a basic list without the explanations describing their importance as survival items.

Shopping/Looting List

  • Electrolyte Mix
  • Pain Killers
  • Cold Remedies
  • Rubbing Alcohol or Sanitizer
  • A Weapon
  • Potassium Iodide (130 mg)
  • Sleeping Bag (Preferably Weatherproof)
  • Water Filtering Straw
  • Cigarettes
  • Bicycle or Functioning Transportation
  • Water
  • Red Wine
  • Hard Liquor

I do not condone criminality. The intention of this article is to educate, and definitely not to promote or entice anyone to steal or loot in any normal circumstance.


Wikipedia. (n.d.). Potassium iodide. Retrieved from Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia: