An EMP places pretty high on most preppers list of theoretically possible mega-disasters. A man-made or naturally occurring electromagnetic pulse can conceivably crash or destroy the vast majority of electronics or the power grid in the blink of an eye.
Anything with a circuit board is vulnerable, as is anything with a computer chip and even some simple technology that lacks protection from such an event.
It is a terrible thing to consider. With no warning, and often with no kaboom, flash or any other theatrics your car will turn off and will not start again. Your laptop, your computer, your GPS – all toast. Your microwave, your electric stove, your can opener, your blender – all history.
Even your lawn care equipment like your fancy zero-turn lawnmower and power tiller will be done for.
Considering we live in the 21st century it is very hard to contemplate just how much technology we will lose access to if something like an EMP was to occur.
But, what if there is a way to insulate yourself against such an occurrence and prepare for it? If a nationwide or even regional EMP were to touch off, we will enter the era where analog will have its revenge.
I am talking about utilizing manually operated tools to replace the modern contrivances we have all grown so hopelessly dependent on.
By acclimatizing yourself to doing things the old-fashioned way, now, you won’t miss modern conveniences when they go up in a silent puff of smoke.
These Tools Work if You Do
All the tools you will find on this list are completely free from any reliance on electricity. Instead, they rely only upon muscle power or, in some cases, your brain power.
Now I’m not saying both of those things will not be in short supply, but generally they are far more dependable in far more circumstances than electricity is.
All of these tools are commonly available or easy to get assuming you cannot pick them right up in your average big-box store or hardware store.
A little bit of preparation now will basically ensure that your household and work-related activities can continue unhindered, if a little slower and sweatier, after an EMP.
Some preppers might want to go ahead and take the plunge now, weaning themselves off the convenience and speed of modern electronics, appliances and power tools.
I know a couple of people who have done this and they are far happier in general, saving money and staying fitter, even if they are not as efficient as the rest of us.
It is true that all these tools will still need maintenance and can break, but barring a serious breakage or their operator wearing out they are ready to go when you are, anytime and anywhere.
The Mega-List of EMP Proof Tools and Items
All of the items on the list below are generally sorted by category- general tools, kitchen tools, garden tools, woodworking tools and so on- for easy reference.
Something to keep in mind: the tools and items that you see on this list are not necessarily one-to-one replacements for electronic or electricity-dependent tools that will be knocked out in case an EMP happens, but are instead necessary for replacing the lost functionality with a manually-operated or improvised solution.
So, by way of a “for instance” there is no such thing as an electric bucket, at least to my knowledge, but a bucket with a lid is nonetheless a great thing to have on hand for surviving an EMP for reasons that I will reveal below.
Without any more ado, let us get into the list!
You can kiss your fancy power screwdriver or drill goodbye if an EMP hits. Assuming the tool itself still works, its power supply will be completely shot be it corded or battery powered.
It is true that you can still theoretically make use of a solar charger and power port to keep your electric drivers running, but all of these tools are extremely power hungry, and you’ll be out of luck on seriously cloudy days or at night.
A good set of manual screwdrivers will drive every kind of screw and fastener you want, only a little bit slower.
Assuming you weren’t turning screws, you are probably driving in nails. Plan to rely on your electric or pneumatic nail gun to pop up some plywood over your windows or patch that gaping hole in your roof? That is going to be a no-go after an EMP.
With a little practice, a hefty carpenter’s hammer will let you do the same thing nearly as quickly and with a surprising amount of efficiency. Just keep an eye on your fingers!
Handsaw / Hacksaw
There will be no end to the lumber and the branches that need to be cut after a major disaster, and especially after an EMP that causes no shortage of mayhem.
I’m sad to report though that the one tool that all demolitionists love, the sawzall, will be out of commission since it is completely dependent upon electricity in one form or another.
One tool that can do the same thing is a trusty handsaw or hacksaw, and these tools are limited only by the muscle and the determination of the user.
A hacksaw with interchangeable blades can handle everything from wood to plastic and even metal with surprising aplomb, no voltage required.
Sockets / Ratchets / Wrenches
When the time comes to remove lug nuts from your wheels or heavy duty fasteners holding together major machinery, you are not going to be able to call upon your impact wrench.
You’ll have to call upon old-fashioned crescent and adjustable wrenches and equally old-fashioned sockets and ratchets.
Sure, you’ll risk plenty of busted, bloody knuckles and your 10mm socket will dematerialize into the ether no matter how diligent you are at keeping track of it, but with enough grit and elbow grease you’ll be able to tackle the most intricate machine maintenance with these trusty mechanics tools.
These tiny manual drills have long been a favorite for hobbyists and jewelers who need to create tiny, precision holes in cramped spaces on equally small work pieces.
Since your Dremel tool is going to be out of action for the duration, and potentially forever, it pays to have a simple tool that is capable of creating similar holes using nothing more than your own fingers.
Pin vices will typically take standard if tiny drill bits that you clamp into its chuck and padded jaws and are very handy for all kinds of modifications and impromptu repairs of small and delicate items.
For felling, bucking and limbing trees, there is one ancient manual tool that can do it all: the axe!
Now, I already hear some of you cracking your knuckles about to take me to the captain’s mast since a chainsaw is a gasoline-powered modern tool, and only rarely an electric one.
Right you are, astute reader, but what you might have failed to account for is the fact that our modern gasoline supply chain and even the dispensing of gasoline day to day is almost entirely dependent upon our modern electrical grid, which will be the most dramatic and largest casualty of an EMP.
With no or dwindling gasoline, a chainsaw will only work for a little while. An axe will work as long as you can.
Quite a few modern small engines of all variations rely on sophisticated computer control the same as any modern automobile engine.
And that means that these smaller powerhouses could be affected by an EMP, just like their larger internal combustion kin, and they will be out of commission after an EMP takes effect.
Also, they are just as dependent on gasoline as chainsaws above. Sure, older mowers may lack these chips and circuit boards and will survive the silent scourge, but plenty will not.
If you want to keep your lawn trimmed to a safe and tidy standard after the pulse, look into getting one of the lawn mowers that your grandpa or great grandpa used.
When maintained and kept sharp, these whirligig mowers are quiet and do it extremely good job on grass, fueled by sweat and nothing else.
An alternative to a push reel mower, a scythe is in many ways the first lawn mower, unless you count goats!
A scythe Is equally at home slicing down wheat or tall grass, but once you know the trick to it when it comes to getting it fitted right to your body dimensions and the technique for employing it properly, you can you can hew down tall grass even faster than you can with most gasoline-powered or electric trimmers.
Map & Compass
Unless you have your GPS stored in a proper Faraday cage, that incredibly handy gadget is off to the great electronics graveyard in the sky in the immediate aftermath of an EMP.
Even if you did have your GPS handheld or vehicle mounted system hardened against EMP, you’re making a bold assumption that the satellites serving that device would survive the event.
Two ancient tools that will definitely survive an EMP are a good set of maps and a road atlas along with a good field compass. As long as you have a little skill and know what you are doing you can get anywhere you need to go using both in tandem.
Let’s get real for a second: When most of us need to level something we probably whip out our fancy smartphone with its onboard tool suite to get a “good enough” reading.
I hate to be the bearer of bad news but your smartphone will definitely not survive an EMP event, and so there will go your electronic level made possible by the phone’s internal sensors.
Make sure you have at least two traditional beam levels, a smaller one of 3 feet or less and a larger one that is at least five feet long.
A bubble of air suspended in fluid will definitely survive an EMP. You’ll have plenty of use for them in all kinds of construction and repair projects.
An angle grinder is useful for shaving down all kinds of metal parts, fixtures and structures.
Too bad you won’t really be able to use it like you used to after an EMP knocks out the power grid, same as all your other electric tools in one form or another.
It is slow and laborious by comparison, but you can still get through metal as easily as you please with a set of hardened metal files.
If you need to take a few hundredths of an inch off of a part to make it fit, smooth jagged edges or cut through thinner stock the old-fashioned way, files are the way to go.
Mason Jars / Lids
Preserving food in all its forms will still be important after an EMP, only now you will not be able to rely on that most cherished of kitchen appliances to do it: the refrigerator will be RIP. To make up for this, you need to fall back on that classic country skill of canning.
Everything from fruits and veggies to meat can be canned in order to preserve them for a long period of time, no refrigeration required.
Be advised, if you have never done it before you will have a whole new appreciation for your great grandma’s blackberry preserves.
It is an involved process that requires careful attention to detail and no small amount of set-up, but the results are worth it.
No matter what, though, you will need a good supply of mason jars and their lids to accomplish this.
Manual Can Opener
Are you even a prepper if you don’t have a P38 can opener? I don’t think so, hand in your credentials!
Irrational love for this army surplus store fixture aside, a manual can opener is absolutely a must for prepper, and never more so than in the aftermath of an EMP event. After all, electric can openers are, well, electric, and so that means they are out of commission.
A hand-cranked or lever-operated manual can opener will get you into any canned goods in the land. Also make sure you have a couple of portable versions as backups just in case.
Dehydration is another technique that is invaluable for preserving and extending the lifespan of food. Everything from meats the vegetables and even fruits can be dehydrated and consumed as-is or made ready to consume with very little work thereafter.
Lots of folks use their ovens or dedicated electric dehydrators for the purpose, but neither of these will be a certain bet after an EMP event.
No matter where you live, chances are good you can make use of a solar dehydrator to achieve the same ends with no reliance on electricity. It will take a little longer, but these things are virtually foolproof so long as the weather is good and you place them properly.
Your food processor will be out of action after an EMP and that means no freshly ground coffee, spices, nuts or anything else.
But you can still grind all the things that you need and want in life after the electrical grid goes down permanently so long as you can provide a little bit of a muscle and have access to an old fashioned crank grinder.
Almost everyone has fond memories of seeing these contraptions sitting around on the shelf in their grandma’s kitchen or pantry, even if you never got to see it used.
A very few fortunate people might even have that family heirloom in their possession. These devices are surprisingly efficient and fast, and deserve a place in every prepper’s post-EMP pantry.
Your electric oven after an EMP? Kaput. How about a gas oven? Well, I guess you’ve got me there- Not so fast!
While natural gas appliances will not be affected by an EMP, the intricate systems that control the distribution and monitoring of natural gas supply certainly will be, so you can expect even that resource to be disrupted if you’re connected to a city natural gas supply network.
If you live in a rural or truly remote area and have your gas trucked into a large tank on your property, you should be in good shape so long as you do not have a computerized controller.
At any rate, a solar oven works exactly as you’d expect: by focusing the sun’s rays within an insulated container to raise the temperature, and cook your food just as surely as your traditional kitchen appliance.
Cooking or baking anything worthwhile depends on careful and precise timing. This still applies even after all your clocks and electronic timers go out. A simple, mechanical kitchen timer will take care of all your timing needs with absolutely no electricity required for operation.
Cast Iron Cookware
Even though your kitchen appliances will be out of commission after an EMP, that doesn’t mean you have to give up efficiency in cooking.
Cast iron pots and pans are greatly beloved by preppers, outdoorsmen and everyone who has to cook regularly in austere environments, because they are so versatile.
They are just as much at home over a campfire as they are on an outdoor grill or over a bed of coals.
Using a Dutch oven and a large griddle alone you can prepare an amazing array of dishes and one-pot meals that are delicious and simple, saving you time and energy.
While cast iron is extremely heavy and you definitely don’t want to be transporting it anywhere on foot, for general preparedness cast iron is tops.
You like coffee, right? Of course you do! Everyone does, or almost everyone.
Alas, our electric drip coffee makers will be another casualty of a massive EMP event, unless you are already on the craft or boutique coffee train prior to, you’re going to need a reliable way to brew your coffee using any open heat source, not just an electrically powered coffee maker.
Enter that old and trusty standby that excels at brewing the bean water: the percolator.
Compared with making “cowboy coffee”, which is doing nothing more than boiling grounds in an open vessel of water and subsequently having to sip it through clenched teeth (to filter the grounds!), a percolator will make a recognizably good and tasty cup of joe so long as you know what you are doing.
No outlet required; you can use an open fire, a bed of coals or even a solar oven!
Easy availability of processed grains and cereals will dry up after an EMP pops off. Make sure you are ready to process your own, however you acquire them, by keeping a manual grain mill among your preps.
It will take time and effort, but it is entirely possible to turn out adequate amounts of processed flour for making all kinds of baked goods using nothing more than raw grains, and your grain mill.
Using one correctly is not quite as straightforward as you might be thinking, so make sure you study up on use, care and upkeep before you need it.
You’ll need a sifter to use in tandem with your grain mill. Make sure you have one handy amongst all your other kitchen utensils!
Another casualty in the kitchen will come in the form of your power food processor or electric meat grinder. Far from being just a staple for making delicious hamburgers, the most American sandwich there is, grinding meat is a great way to use every bit that you can.
A meat grinder is ideal for minimizing waste and will also let you turn out such delicacies as sausage in addition to straight ground cuts.
This is another device that most of us all saw in our grandparents or great-grandparents house once upon a time and they were very common. Hand-crank versions are not so common today but still readily available for those who care to search for them.
Mortar and Pestle
An iconic tool used by apothecaries and doctors working in austere environments for ages, a traditional mortar and pestle is just as at home in the kitchen as it is in the laboratory.
A mortar and pestle will make short work of breaking down, grinding or rendering into a paste all kinds of herbs and other ingredients.
This is naturally a boon for processing your own spices and seasonings, and is another tool that will be very handy after your food processor quits.
You’ll be doing plenty of gardening in the aftermath of an EMP, and the quintessential tool for any gardener is the hoe. For getting rid of weeds or just breaking up soil to prepare it for planting, the hoe is one of many manual tools you will require in the absence of a power tiller.
Using one of these for any length of time is sweaty, laborious and blister-inducing work, but it is so much worse without one when you need one.
Sometimes you need to get up close and personal with your garden and your plants, and that means you’ll need a trowel. For leveling, moving, smoothing and compacting soil around your plants a trowel fits the bill.
You definitely wouldn’t use a hoe in a raised bed or when working with pots, so make sure you have a trowel handy even if you are doing large-scale gardening.
You won’t be getting much gardening done if you can’t dig, and the ideal tool for digging is of course a handy shovel, or spade, depending on how pedantic you are.
You’ll also have plenty of use for shovels when it’s time to dig outdoor latrines, waste disposal pits, fighting positions and so much more.
These rolling bundles of spikes look more like a medieval torture device than a gardening tool but they are an important gardening tool nonetheless.
If you’re a planting grasses or tightly growing and compact plants on soil that you have not tilled recently you will want to use a soil aerator to help both the seeds and the water/plant food penetrate the soil, giving you the best chance of seeing a return on your efforts and giving your plants the best chance to grow.
This is a one-to-one replacement with a power version for the same purpose.
These jumbo squirt bottles are a common sight in greenhouses around the nation, and also a common fixture on farms.
These handy contraptions are little more than a large plastic container that contains a gasketed pump mechanism for placing the contents under pressure which are then projected through a simple wand and sprayer arrangement controlled by a trigger.
For spraying liquid fertilizer or plant food, gently watering delicate plants or spraying your homebrew pesticide you cooked up these things are perfect.
They also make handy outdoor showers in a pinch, especially when you leave one in the sun to warm up the water inside.
Note: Make sure you never use a sprayer that has contained chemicals previously for any other purpose. Get multiples if you have to!
Your gasoline powered pruner might be noisy and aggravating, but it sure makes short work of trimming back shrubs and low-hanging branches off of trees.
Unfortunately this nifty contraption will fall prey to the same vulnerability that all your other gasoline and electric tools will, namely that an EMP will either total its power source immediately or slowly strangle the supply chain that is absolutely necessary for supplying its fuel.
Pruning shears are quiet, reliable and versatile, and a tool that no homeowner and certainly no gardener should be without.
You can struggle to pull weeds, tearing them off at their roots and letting them regrow for you to deal with next week, or you can keep on-hand the right tool for the job and pop them out with very little effort and with a high degree of certainty. Your choice!
There are plenty of ways to kill weeds using chemicals, but most of these chemicals will involve a certain amount of risk to mix up on your own and you can depend on the fact you won’t be able to run down to the hardware store and get any more after an EMP.
Once again, the old-fashioned way comes to the rescue!
Dealing with plants properly, especially ones that will give you vegetables or fruit, is an awful lot of work, and much of it is maintenance to ensure they stay healthy, and grow within the correct parameters.
A big part of your maintenance work will be pruning off unneeded or undesirable branches, leaves and vines. These controlled and delicate snips will give you the accuracy you need.
Most people pick up the leaves on their property using a vacuum attachment on a riding lawn mower or simply by mulching them with the mower itself when time comes to cut the grass.
I think we have already determined that most of your power equipment is going to be out of commission or on a very short timer before gas will no longer be procurable after an EMP.
In keeping with the idea of having manual tools to replace their power or electric equivalents, make sure you have a good, broad rake among your garden tools.
Woodworking in the shadow of a wide-area EMP event will mean that your typical tools of the trade, namely table saws, planers and routers, will be totally out of commission.
We are going old school now, and you’ll have to keep up if you want to conduct certain repairs or join wood together with maximum strength.
Chisels are your front line tools for creating shapes in wood form the basis of sturdy joinery. Make sure you have a set of several good ones, keep them sharp, and also get a wooden mallet to go along with them.
When you need to flatten out a piece of wood stock or reduce its thickness uniformly by just a little bit, a plane is what you will reach for.
This is another archaic tool that has been getting it done for centuries all over the globe, and it is just as valuable today for the manual woodworkers as it was for those pre-industrial and pre-electric age craftsman of old.
A hand drill is another manual tool that quite a few people have forgotten actually existed before the advent of power drills.
Compared to your cordless wonder drill, using a hand drill is going to be an exercise in patience and cost you a little bit of sweat, but with a good sharp bit they can still make surprisingly short work of the task and leave an astonishingly clean hole.
And as with all the tools on this list there’s absolutely no electricity required.
This unique and double-sided oar shaped saw has gained a fast following in the United States for its versatility, simple operation and reputation for clean cuts. It is just at home in your toolbox and at your woodworking bench.
You can think of this as a sort of Swiss Army knife of hand saws, capable of performing all kinds of tasks with equal aplomb, replacing a router and joiner all in one fell swoop.
You won’t be much of a woodworker if your constructions are not square and true. To help ensure you are nailing the angles you need when making your cuts rely on a good selection of squares.
With a little bit of know-how and starting with any given piece of wood you can make the cuts you need to make ensuring that your creations will stand up straight, strong and level.
Clamps are what will hold your projects together until they are screwed, nailed or glued securely and permanently.
Absolutely no woodworking setup is complete without them, so make sure you have a variety of clamps of all kinds for your post-EMP woodworking setup.
Rasps and Sandpaper
Without access to any kind of orbital or belt sander you will need to rely on plenty of sandpaper and rasps to shape and smooth wood.
Rasps have the advantage over sandpaper in that they generally do not wear out, or at least don’t do it anywhere near as quickly as sandpaper, which is consumable.
Modern red dots and other electro-optics are extremely vulnerable to the effects of an EMP, and will likely be rendered completely unusable after one occurs.
Most shooters still have iron sights on their weapons at least in a backup capacity, but modern red dot and electro-optics have gotten so good that increasingly more shooters are choosing to omit them.
If you are one of those shooters, and you want to be completely prepared for all contingencies, make sure your firearm can accept a set of iron sights and you have the capability to install them.
Buckets w/ Lid
This might seem like a strange inclusion on a list of EMP proof survival gear, but stick with me.
As mentioned above, certain utilities you make use of might not be electrical in nature, but they could be dependent upon an electrical power grid for sustained function in any number of ways.
Public water, well pumps and even municipal sewer systems all depend on a functioning electrical grid to a greater or lesser degree. If that grid goes down, it is only a matter of time before the whole system collapses.
This might mean that the sewer system is intact, but unusable, and if you are staying in your home with no ability to create an outdoor toilet in the short-term you will need a secure and comparatively comfortable way to dispose of human waste.
Your standard issue 5-gallon plastic bucket with gasketed lid is ideal for the cause.
Sawdust / Newspaper
Sawdust or newspaper is used in tandem with your buckets above to provide absorbency for liquid and solid waste.
It will help to a degree in keeping odor under control and let you use your improvised toilet for longer before you need to empty and clean out the interior.
Trash Bags / Can Liners
You want to make sure you have a serious supply of heavy-duty trash bags or can liners to line the interior of your improvised bucket toilet with.
This will ensure that emptying it is a simple, mess-free and hygienic affair.
Almost everybody I know uses an electric toothbrush, and this is one of those items that is easily overlooked as part of EMP preparation.
You can, of course, use your large, bulky electric toothbrush in a manual fashion, but you’ll have a much easier time of things and do just as good of a job with an old-fashioned, manual brush.
Buy a large economy pack, and put them away among the rest of your supplies; you’ll find a dozen uses for them aside from brushing your teeth, like detail cleaning your firearms!
An EMP will no doubt be a paradigm-shifting event, but you don’t have to start off all the way back at the Stone Age if you fall victim to one.
With a little bit of forethought, some careful planning, and the right acquisitions, it is possible for your life to go on more or less the same as it has minus modern-day electronics.
All kinds of tools useful inside and outside the home can ensure that the work gets done, the food gets cooked and preserved, the repairs get made and other “business” gets taken care of.
Start making the lifestyle choices today that will help “EMP harden” your life for the future.