I was feeling smug – a little too smug. We were just over a year into our quest for self-sufficiency, and it was going well. We were hang-drying our clothes, opening cans by hand and the like. We hadn’t used our electric mixer but once in the last 15 months – no sirree! We would mix by hand with a fork or a whisk. Oh yes, we had arrived. We were well on our way to being the quintessential survivalist, homesteading family, and I was feeling good about it.
Then came Monday. I was opening up a can of green beans at 5 a.m. , for our cat, who (don’t ask) is on a strict diet of canned green beans with a touch of canned cat food, when the handle on our manual can opener snapped in half. Dangit! Looks like Fluffy is stuck eating regular dry food today.
However, as I brushed off the incident, it occurred to me that if this were a dire natural or other disaster situation, we really would be in trouble. The stockpile of canned foods and other long-lasting canned goods would be pretty useless. This was not good, so at that point I went about creating a list of things we should likely have at least two of on hand, and I thought I’d share that list with you today.
- Can opener. Of course you knew that this would be on the top of the list. In true survival mode, you should have at least two – and maybe even three – high-quality manual can openers in your stockpile. If one breaks, gets lost or stolen, you want to make sure you’re still in a good place for opening those cans from your stockpile of Hormel Chili and Dinty Moore Beef Stew.
- A decent knife. You definitely need to have at least two of these in your stock pile. Preferably two with serrated edges and two with smooth edges. We love the filet knives Rick has for fishing. They’re super sharp and long-lasting, and the higher quality ones come with sharpeners. You can add scissors to this list as well. Have at least two working pair on hand.
- Over-the-counter and prescription meds. This includes any medications you take regularly, along with your basics such as Acetaminophen, Ibuprofen, an antiseptic for cuts, Hydrogen Peroxide, Isopropyl Alcohol (for disinfecting), and Benadryl (in case of an allergic reaction to help start the control process as you’re on your way to the hospital. We buy children’s liquid Benadryl because liquids are usually faster-acting in the body than pills). See if you can get your doc to give you an extra month’s supply of prescription meds to keep on hand so that you’re never in danger of running out. Also on this list? An ample supply of first aid supplies.
- Personal necessities. This includes an extra pair of glasses, extra contacts, sanitary pads or tampons for women, diapers for young children, formula and the like. At our house, we have a running list of all of the things we need and keep an extra month’s worth on hand, just in case we’re in a situation where we can’t get to a store for an extended period of time, whatever the reason.
- Certain clothing. Make sure everyone has an extra pair of tennis shoes, at least. A pair or two of hiking boots would be good as well, and you can always sell them on Craigslist if kids grow out of them without using them. Two spring and winter jackets, two pair of extra-warm socks, two pair of high quality hats and gloves for everyone should also be on this list, along with anything else crucial to survival in times of disaster.
- Two sources of power or transportation. One of the key parts of planning for safety during a natural or other disaster is an escape plan. If you’re in an area that’s due to have a hurricane, for example, you may need to get out and get out quickly. If one car or other source for some reason gets rendered unsafe or unwise to use, you need to have a backup plan for getting out, whether that’s calling on a friend or a owning second motor vehicle. Don’t depend on public transportation at this time, because it’ll likely be overflowing with those who haven’t planned properly. Also, have a back-up route mapped out to your escape destination, as the highways will likely be jam-packed. If you’re staying home, make sure you’ve got a power source to back up your main source of power. Get your house running on both propane and electric, or acquire a back-up gas generator and keep a supply of gas in the garage or shed for it. This can help you if one source of power becomes unavailable for any reason. Our back-up electric heat saved us when we ran dangerously low on propane last month. We will also be getting our wood stove installed as another source of heat for next winter.
- Light Sources. This might be matches and candles, rechargeable lanterns or high quality flashlights with an ample supply of back-up batteries. Just make sure you don’t limit yourself to one as this is something that might become crucially important during a disaster and you don’t want to be without at least two options for light sources in case one fails.
- Pet supplies. Make sure you’ve got at least two months’ worth of food, one – better yet, two – transportation options like portable kennels, and two months’ supply of any meds your pet might need, litter and a box for cats, etc.
- Tools. You’ll want to have two hammers, two Phillips and two standard screwdrivers, and two pair of pliers, at the very least, on this list.
- Cooking Sources. Having a small camp stove with full and back-up propane bottles is great, but have a charcoal grill on hand too, along with an ample supply of charcoal, lighter fluid and matches on hand. Just make sure you’ve got that back-up source of safe cooking options on hand, just in case.
The chances of having a natural or other disaster may be minimal, but the victims of Hurricane Sandy and other disasters will tell you that it can happen, and that it’s best to be prepared if it does. Having at least two of the above essential items on hand will assure you’re not in a situation like I was last week, where you’ve got plenty of food to eat but no way to open it.
What other survival items should people have two of?
This is such a useful article. Living in Nebraska we are so susceptible to dangerous weather literally at a moments notice. Our family tries to balance between being prepared but not so much that were on any of those Prepper T.V. shows. FEMA runs a website http://www.ready.gov there you can sign up for emergency notifications along with some great tips for emergency preparation. I’m thankful you hit on this great subject.
Thanks, Jeff. Yeah, we have similar mindsets, it sounds like; eager to be prepared, but no underground bunkers – not that there’s anything wrong with that. :-) We do think it’s important, though, not to expect the government to be able to meet everyone’s needs at a moment’s notice if disaster strikes. That’s just not logical or possible, so, like you guys, we do what we can on our end.
My husband and I are minimalist backpackers. Honestly, when it comes to survival gear and natural disaster preparedness, I can’t think of any gear that would top the things we’ve accumulated over the years. You can always use sharp + blunt objects for opening canned foods, but where are you going to find clean water? How do you plan to stay warm? A simple water purifier can keep you hydrated and healthy, and synthetic clothing and a good sleeping bag are integral for avoiding hypothermia. If you’re cold and wet, even at temps of 55-60 degrees, you can start to have problems. I’d also add a hatchet to my list. They are so handy, when you don’t know what you’ll be up against.
And most importantly, with Tornadoes being our biggest threat, having access to all of these things after the disaster is key. If you’ve got them stored on one end of the basement, and you take shelter in the other, you’re setting yourself up for failure.
Great insight, Sarah. We’ve got high-quality sleeping bags too, and it’s nice to know we’ll be extra warm in them, no matter the outdoor temp. Thanks for sharing your thoughts – very helpful!
Great list! I’ve been working on an emergency preparedness kit and it is easy to miss things! The clothing is next on my list of things to assemble!
Smart move, Heather! It’s funny how much we take these things for granted, isn’t it, until we imagine life without them. I never knew how valuable that can opener was until it wasn’t usable anymore.
Thank you for the great info. It was a good reminder for me to buy another can opener. I also keep a lot of bottled water and toilet paper on hand as well.
The best advice that I’ve heard on the subject of survival supplies is that: “Two is one and one is none.”
LOVE that quote, Wen! Yeah, we have our fair share of TP on supply too. That’s one thing we sure don’t want to be running out of. :-) Thanks for sharing your thoughts – we appreciate it.