If we are being totally honest, some of us are not as prepared as we should be. Materially, I mean. Some of us might be drawing from a seemingly bottomless well of knowledge, experience and other survival information, but not have much to show for it in the way of supplies and equipment.
If this describes you, you should know that this is far from optimal, whatever else you might tell yourself about living off the land, scavenging to survive and all those other excuses.
Or, perhaps you are just new to prepping and have not gotten properly underway yet. You have identified a problem, acknowledged a deficiency in your own readiness, and have set about correcting it, one piece at a time.
This is more forgivable, but just like the example above it will not help you when disaster is coming up the driveway and knocking at the door. You are either ready, or you are not. There are no do-overs!
Whatever the reason, you are ill-prepared when it comes to needed equipment and supplies to survive a disaster. Time is short, and the hour will soon be upon you. There’s nothing else to do but scramble to grab whatever supplies you can, and then buckle down for the long haul.
Believe me when I say that there will be many other people doing the exact same thing. Time is limited, and supplies are dwindling: what should you grab? In this article we will share with you 20 last-minute survival items you should get while you still have opportunity.
Shop Fast, Shop Smart
When the balloon goes up and you are certain that disaster is close at hand, you’ll need to make the best possible use of your time to get the things you need. You’ll need to be fast and efficient with your shopping.
Not only because the danger increases and the chances of a bad outcome consequently go up the longer you delay before seeking shelter, but also because other folks will be in a panic, too, a mad scramble to do the exact same thing that you are doing.
Ideally you want to “pit in”, get the things you need in one stop, and then get home or get to your shelter wherever that might be. You’ll notice that all of the things on this list can be obtained in quantity from nearly any major big-box store.
The vast majority of the items on this list can also be reliably had from most gas stations and convenience stores, although the quantity they have on hand is usually drastically less.
Though it is less important when you are properly prepared with well-stocked supplies of food and other necessities, until you have reached that minimum level of material preparation it is definitely worth your time to rehearse this list as a sort of mental shopping checklist so you won’t waste any time when time is the most precious commodity of all.
Also consider that the items on this list are included because they assume you are starting at literally zero with hardly anything in your pantry, medicine cabinet or fridge. You might already have a good supply of food, or bottled water, for instance.
If that’s the case, great, that can save you a few precious seconds. But, as always, if some is good more is usually better and you shouldn’t hesitate to nab a little extra when you can.
20 Last-Minute Survival Items to Get
1. Canned/Pouched Food
Food is definitely an essential survival item. And though many people, and particularly people living in North America, have plenty of surplus “fuel” stashed on their body in the form of fat this does not obviate the need for regular calorie intake to sustain normal energy levels and mental acuity.
Also consider that most people become downright unpleasant when they aren’t getting three square meals a day. You can make your survival endeavor easier and nominally more pleasant by having plenty of decent food on hand.
As always, for most preppers’ sake, the ideal survival foodstuffs are canned, pouched or otherwise preserved items that are more or less ready to eat with minimal or no preparation. Canned vegetables and fruits, stews, soups, meats and so forth are all ideal.
Specialized camping and survival foods like dehydrated campers’ meals or MREs are also good, though you’re unlikely to find these with regularity in typical big box stores. They are also quite expensive for what you get.
If you did nothing else but grabbed several cans of beef stew, a variety of preserved meats, a few cans of vegetables, a few of fruit and so forth you would be ahead of the game.
The fact that these are found in all kinds of groceries in great quantity ensures there should be something for you to obtain so long as you act quickly.
2. Bottled Water
Water is the most essential survival consumable second only to oxygen in importance. The average person can go for weeks, even more than a month with absolutely no food, but will die in a matter of days without water to drink.
While it is true that many disasters will not necessarily result in a total loss of municipal water supplies, there is a lot that can go wrong regardless. Contamination will be a constant concern, and if you are banking on turning on your tap to obtain drinking water you are planning to fail.
The obvious and easy over-the-counter solution is bottled water in one form or another. Small individual bottles, larger multi quart jugs, or even gallon plus sizes are all adequate. You should take what you can get and be glad you have it.
Consider the usage demands of your family when purchasing water in quantity because it is both heavy and takes up a considerable amount of room. FEMA recommends you have one gallon per adult per day as this allows for both consumption, cooking and minimal hygiene requirements.
You should not be so quick to use bottled water for washing and bathing, but it will definitely beat having no water at all or only contaminated sources to draw from in a pinch.
Bleach is a super survival item, and as you will learn is good for a lot more than just keeping your white laundry pile sparkling clean.
Bleach does double duty as both a sanitizer and heavy duty surface cleaner, but also as an easy and efficient way to help make water taken from a questionable source safer to drink.
By adding a tiny amount of bleach to a known quantity of water, you can have reasonable assurance that any nasty microorganisms living in the water will be killed.
Obviously, the bleach won’t do anything to remove metals, sediment and other debris you should avoid ingesting but it will go a long way towards eliminating the most common threats that can make you gravely ill.
Now, this must be done cautiously although the risk factor is pretty low. Ingesting bleach in any significant quantity will cause harm, and you are adding little more than drops of bleach to a gallon of water at a time.
Make sure you study up on and then download the formulas you’ll need for the purpose ahead of time and then keep them with your bleach or survival manuals.
We see it every hurricane season year in and year out: when disaster draws close, there is always a run on the gas pumps. You might be forgiven for believing that the theoretical supply of gasoline is essentially bottomless, but I can give you my complete assurances that the practical supply is anything but.
Gasoline requires a considerable amount of industry to produce, both the extraction of raw materials and refinement to say nothing of delivery and storage. Once the supply lines stop, all the many gas stations in your local area can be drained in virtually no time.
The best way to prevent getting caught short of gasoline is to simply keep your cars topped off. Consider a half tank ‘empty’ for your purposes and fill up accordingly. This way, you will ensure you have a fair amount of range out of your vehicle if you need to leave at the instant.
Nonetheless, assuming you can get quick access to a gas pump immediately preceding an encroaching disaster, go ahead and fill up.
You would also be wise to get additional gasoline while you are there, and a clean, ready to use gas can for the purpose is a good idea. Even one extra gallon of gasoline will be helpful, though five gallons is better.
5. Toilet Paper/Baby Wipes
Just as you should count on the water supply going out, you should also count on your sewer system malfunctioning in your local area. What definitely won’t be malfunctioning is your natural urge to do your business, and that means you will need plenty of materials for the purpose.
Toilet paper and baby wipes are absolutely essential, even if you aren’t flushing them down the toilet anymore to dispose of them.
You don’t have to go very far in the prepper-sphere to find article after article packed with advice on alternate methods to wipe your behind when you run out of toilet paper. These are definitely good tricks to know, but you’ll be very glad if you never have to employ them!
Make sure you have a sizable stockpile of toilet paper, and if recent panics have taught us anything it is that TP will be in very short supply from the outset, so make sure you grab this as quick as you can.
Baby wipes are even better because they can be used for all over hygiene sans any water, not just for wiping your behind.
6. Petroleum Jelly
Petroleum jelly is that wonderful substance that your grandma probably wanted to put on every burn, scrape and boo-boo you suffered when you were little.
Though every house seemingly has one of these mysterious, goopy jars tucked away in a medicine cabinet or a closet you shouldn’t underestimate it; petroleum jelly genuinely has a million and one uses, and not just for moisturizing skin, taking care of cracked lips or doctoring an injury.
Petroleum jelly makes a great fire starter, and is also exceedingly handy for preventing corrosion. It even pulls double-duty as a cleaning agent that can remove nasty, sticky messages from your hands or other surfaces, and considering how precious water will be that might come in handy depending on what sort of messes you are dealing with.
Considering how cheap petroleum jelly is and how useful it is overall, there is no excuse not to have a jar of this smelly stuff. Make sure you grab one as you are passing by the pharmacy in your local department store.
Disasters and injuries accompany each other like peanut butter and jelly. Considering how many casualties a disaster will produce along with all the other attendant chaos and infrastructural damage, you aren’t going to be able to depend on your local doctor’s office, clinic or emergency room.
You very likely won’t even be able to depend on emergency medical services, or even getting connected to them through 911.
You’ll need to become your own first-responder, a common refrain in personal readiness circles. A well-equipped med kit is one of the very first things that any prepper should develop, but in the absence of a properly stocked medical kit, and the know how to use it you can do all right by keeping an abundance of bandages on hand.
Bandages will allow you to deal with one of the most common effects of injury, exsanguination; blood loss.
Rolled gauze, gauze pads and even hemostatic (or blood-clotting) gauze is all commonly available, and you should have plenty on hand. Also make sure you grab a box or two of Band-Aids for dealing with the innumerable smaller injuries that will doubtlessly occur.
8. Rubbing Alcohol
Rubbing alcohol is an excellent compliment for your burgeoning medical kit, and is useful as a disinfectant and even as an impromptu fuel source or small fires. Rubbing alcohol is available dirt cheap pretty much anywhere, so there’s no excuse for not having some.
As you doubtlessly already know if your childhood caretakers were sadistic like mine were, the stuff burns like liquid hellfire when applied to any cut or scrape. This is highly traumatic for the unfortunate patient, but it sure beats an infection, and since time is short and supplies dwindling, you should make do with dependable options that you can easily access for the purpose.
Rubbing alcohol does not necessarily expire but it can evaporate over time, so make it a point to check on it periodically and ensure that the container is tightly sealed.
You cannot get by without soap! Even in the middle of a disaster or some other stressful, terrible situation you cannot forgo basic hygiene.
Keeping your hands washed is essential for preventing the spread of germs, and you’ll have to be even more diligent than usual because getting sick is the last thing you want when society is grinding to a halt.
Beyond that, even though you might be pushing off your regular bathroom routine a little bit you’ll still need to keep the rest of your body clean.
It is not just your hands that can harbor germs, and if you let the little buggers go too long without being washed away you’ll start to stink, which will make the people around you miserable. You also start to foment infection which can once again turn into a major problem.
You can rely upon any kind of soap you want, but you’ll be best served if you are stocking up in a pinch to buy classic bar soap. It is easy to store, stable, and convenient to use. Any kind of soap will do, but if you see your favorite on the shelf just buy it.
I generally prefer the Lava brand soap that has grit in the mixtures, helping to remove a sort of nastiness from my hands with greater efficacy. Just a reminder, you might be dealing with all kinds of blood and muck in the aftermath of a disaster, so you should definitely consider it.
10. Hygiene Supplies
Think basics here: Toothbrush, toothpaste, deodorant, etc. You don’t need to get all frou-frou with your usual battery of lotions and anti-aging stuff. Also consider that specialty hygiene supplies will be just as vital as soap if you have to rely on them.
Pads for incontinence and ladies’ sanitary supplies will be vital, and you don’t want to run out of either of them since you cannot be assured of gaining access to any more after the onset of the disaster.
Included in this category is any specialized equipment necessary for catheters, colostomy bags and so forth. These are not things you want to be forced to improvise when you’re already in the middle of a bad situation. Things can always get worse…
11. Baby Care Items
For those that have an infant, the importance of baby care items cannot be overstated. The trick with babies is that they cannot be expected to modify their behavior in order to contribute to a positive outcome during any disaster, no matter what kind.
As always they will remain incredibly vulnerable and dependent upon their caretakers and that means taking care of a baby is just going to be business as usual. That means you need to load up on all the supplies you think you will need for the duration.
Foremost among these will be diapers and formula, but any medicines, creams or powders that are specific to infant healthcare and wellness are also a good idea.
Ideally you will be able to access all of the brands that you know your baby gets along with, but in case you can’t, you might have to settle for alternates. For this reason it is a good idea to establish prior to the event which brands you can use with your baby, and which you can’t.
These are among the very first things to dry up when people are in a buying frenzy during a panic, and you would be wise to prioritize acquiring these immediately when you head into the store to shop.
12. 5-Gallon Bucket with Lid
All preppers love these ubiquitous 5-gallon paint buckets, the kind with the heavy duty, gasketed lids that seal tightly. Useful for all kinds of projects and general storage, they will take on an entirely new and important purpose during a disaster.
You know how I mentioned above that your sewer service could be knocked out as a result of the disaster? Yeah, if you need some place to go but isn’t going to be in your bathroom this bucket will save the day when used in conjunction with a heavy-duty trash bag and some shredded newspaper.
But let us assume that you don’t need to use this bucket for that purpose. You’ll still be glad you have it because it will make for a convenient and sturdy storage solution for additional water if you’re able to draw it before losing water pressure, or even as a convenient tote for food or other items.
You will never be unhappy that you have one of these guys that is clean and ready to use for any given purpose, and worst case scenario if you don’t need it at all you can chuck it in the garage where it will be standing by for your next home improvement project.
You’ll need two batteries to run all sorts of useful electronic gadgets in a disaster, especially one that entails a grid down scenario.
Flashlights and emergency radios are foremost among these necessary gadgets, as once the power goes out on a local or regional level you must provide a reliable, safe way to see in the dark, and also a way to receive emergency broadcasts that is not completely dependent upon internet or television functionality.
While you are at it, identify any other useful tools or gadgets that run on batteries, and keep them in the back of your mind so you can grab them all in one pass while you are out shopping.
Also, don’t put off of grabbing batteries just because you know you have some rolling around at home. Alkaline batteries are notorious for losing a considerable amount of capacity over time, and even if you aren’t anticipating anything but a short duration event, you never know how long and how bad things could get.
Heavy use of any gadget will burn through batteries with surprising speed, so get several packs just in case. In the end, it will be cheap insurance.
Ammunition is a hot commodity in times of trouble, and recent years have taught us all that its seemingly limitless supply of available in America is anything but.
Ammunition can disappear from store shelves with frightening speed, and if you rely upon a firearm for self-defense you don’t want to discover how ineffective it is without ammunition so stock up while you can.
Even a single extra box can provide you a significant measure of comfort and security if society starts to turn on itself or opportunistic looters come sniffing around.
Many of the oldest department stores in America that are still operational no longer sell ammunition, but Wal-Mart does, and you would be wise to swing by the sporting goods counter before your fellow shoppers can get to it and thoroughly pick it over.
So long as the ammunition is of decent quality and functions in your firearm don’t worry too much how about specifics like projectile type or wait; anything that goes bang is much better than nothing.
15. Trash Bags
Disasters cause all kinds of problems end result in big messes. Inside, outside, all over the place. Trust me when I say you were going to need trash bags and plenty of them.
From dealing with the smelly necessity of human waste to simply taking out your usual garbage, trash bags are essential to maintain sanitation.
Trash bags also serve an important prepper-specific role as potential water catching systems, waterproofing material, ground covers and more.
As you continue your travels in the prepper-sphere you will notice that many preppers have a special love for any water impervious durable plastic sheeting as it is useful and all kinds and specific and improvised purposes. Modern trash bags definitely fit the bill.
Quality definitely counts here, and the stronger the better. If you can get the extra large, extra thick contractor bags that typically fit a 55-gallon drum, you’ll be in a good spot.
If you can’t, grab any standard size kitchen trash bag that is marked heavy duty, and has a drawstring top. They cinch down tighter and are easier to handle than the kind you have to tie yourself.
16. Propane / Charcoal Grill
A great many Americans enjoy grilling, and most have a grill kicking around somewhere on their property, either propane or charcoal fueled.
You might not be enjoying a festive cookout in the aftermath of a disaster your grill might take on new importance as a safe and reliable way to both cook and boil water.
Of course, you can only do either if you can get the grill started and that means you’ll have to have either propane or charcoal depending.
Naturally, both are likely to disappear quickly once of disaster approaches, because most people lack the skill or equipment to establish a cooking fire any other way assuming their kitchen is out of commission.
Even if your propane grill has some gas left in the tank, don’t count on that; you should definitely pick up another tank while you are shopping.
Likewise, your charcoal grill can burn other things for fuel like wood, this is going to be fraught with aggravation if you do not have a good supply of seasoned wood handy.
It is worth a reminder here: never, ever use any kind of grill indoors as the accumulation of carbon monoxide and other harmful byproducts of combustion will pose a potentially deadly health hazard. You must be especially cautious of this if you live in a cold climate.
17. Duct Tape
Duct tape is one of the few tools that has a legitimately meme-worthy status. The old jokes have been around forever that if you can’t fix it or make it with duct tape that it probably just isn’t going to get fixed.
Some of these jokes are humorous, some are cringe-worthy, but the fact remains is that there is a lot of truth in them!
Duct tape is wonderfully multi-purpose, capable of reinforcing, ceiling, waterproofing, joining, and all sorts of other tasks. If you need to quickly craft a patch for a leaky roof or seal a tear in clothing or gear duct tape can do that.
Duct tape can help you easily and safely pick up tiny shards of broken glass. Duct tape can even improvise a makeshift spear using nothing more than a broom handle in a kitchen knife.
You’ll definitely want to grab a couple rolls from the hardware aisle during your shopping forays. If you can, spring for the higher-end brands of duct tape like Gorilla Tape or T-Rex tape.
With far stronger adhesive and significantly more durable fabric backing than traditional brands these should be the preference of every prepper.
18. Fire Extinguisher
You may or may not already be acquainted what the frequency and hazard posed by common residential fires, but regardless you must know that fires are an altogether too common secondary event on the backside of a major disaster, and made all the more dangerous because fire departments will be over works, and emergency communication systems will be overloaded, disrupted or entirely disabled.
This means that you might have to become your own firefighter in addition to your own paramedic. Your single best resource will quickly and reliably snuff out a house fire before it turns into a major conflagration is a fire extinguisher.
Generally, you’ll want to get the biggest fire extinguisher you can easily handle, one that is ABC rated for dealing with all common fires (except flammable metals).
Though you can often get fire extinguishers at your local big-box department store they might not have the selection you can expect from a proper hardware store or fire safety supply store. If all you can get are smaller kitchen or car fire extinguishers, grab a couple of them.
19. Prescription Meds
If you or anyone else in your family requires ongoing medication as part of a health care regimen, it might well be too late to stock up immediately prior to a disaster. Swing by the pharmacy, and see if you cannot plus up a prescription for you or a family member.
This can be logistically challenging because pharmacist will not hand out prescribe drugs willy-nilly on a promise.
Talk to your doctor and your pharmacist beforehand, and see if you cannot get a standing +1 or +2 refills kept available for your dispensation at all times.
Credit cards and other electronic forms of payment might define our modern era, but society still, at its core, runs on cold, hard cash.
Most disasters will reliably knock out the infrastructure that makes modern forms of payment function, and that means if you were going to pay for anything in the immediate aftermath, especially pay for a favor, you’ll need cash and plenty of it.
You should have a good supply of cash stashed at home for just such an occasion, but assuming you are like most people, and have irresponsibly omitted this most basic of preps, you should swing by an ATM at the soonest possible opportunity.
Don’t be picky about paying fees either; you need to get that cash in hand before the teeming multitudes force a run on all ATM’s which will not be restocked before disaster strikes, and potentially not be restocked for some time after.
It will be a cold comfort indeed knowing you can still buy the things you need even if there is no power, no internet and no other functional electronic infrastructure for miles around.
You might be brand new to prepping and not have any stockpile materials and supplies to show for it, or you might know better and have just procrastinated. Now, facing down an imminent disaster and a severe need to gather the things you’ll require to survive the situation might look hopeless.
Don’t despair! Making one or two strategic stops and shopping quickly with a purpose can furnish you with many necessities that will help you and your loved ones survive the trying times ahead.
Spend the time to review this list, and either write it down, enter it into a note taking app or commit to memory so you won’t waste a second when time is of the essence.