How Redundancy can Save Your Life

by Charles

How many times have you heard this maxim in military and preparedness circles, “Two is one, and one is none”? That is the very distillation of the idea of redundancy as a virtue, and an acknowledgment that sometimes shit just happens; things break, get lost, get used up, wear out or rust away.

When the stakes are highest and lives or mission success on the line, the idea of equipment failure or exhaustion of some essential supply spelling doom is hard to stomach.

Your hedge against this fate is simple redundancy, the idea that anything important enough to carry must be carried in duplicate to ensure it will be available for use. Beyond simple material supply, though, redundancy as a watchword is valuable for contingency planning also.

All preppers should make allowances for redundancy if they want to failsafe their supplies and plans. In today’s article, we are looking at redundancy as a way to bolster your survival strategies where it counts.

Redundancy: Insurance against Mishap and Mayhem

Redundancy is a concept that goes far beyond having a spare flashlight or battery. Redundancy is even a biological strategy! Take for instance our eyes, plural. Two.

Yes, both in tandem allow us and other predatory animals binocular vision, but they also allow the loss of one and the retention of vision. Same with ears, and fingers, and toes. The lesson: you can lose one (or a couple) and maintain passable functionality.

Redundancy gives you the ability to sink some damage, however horrible it might be, without utter ruination. Life with only one eye is harder, but you can still see. The loss of one finger on a hand does not make the hand useless.

Redundancy alone, in light of replacement, is the only thing that prevents loss or destruction from truly becoming disabling. Airplanes, space shuttles and other technological marvels operating on the precipice of the performance curve all make use of redundant systems.

The same goes for our supplies, as preppers. Anything that we positively, absolutely must have, we should have in duplicate, even triplicate. While I do and sure would like to have two of everything I own, I don’t necessarily need to; not everything I have is important enough to warrant the investment of money and space. Some things definitely are, at any price.

No matter how careful you are, how sturdy your gear or how strict your rules for use, you can depend on using up, losing or breaking something you were counting on when in the midst of a crisis event.

This depends on the severity and nature of the event, of course, but the stress and chaos of a true SHTF moment will often see flesh and gear put to a severe test.

If you do not want to trust to luck, or the ever-dastardly Mr. Murphy of Murphy’s Law fame, you’ll need insurance. The kind of insurance that only redundancy can provide.

What Do We Need Two (or More) Of?

Ask any prepper that question and they’ll give you a different answer from their fellows. The real answer is, as always, it depends. It depends on your plan, abilities and objectives. Note that redundancy is not just simple duplication: if we are talking about redundancy what we are really aiming for is capability.

A flashlight can provide light, but so can fire, or a chemlight. A fire provides warmth, but so does a sleeping bag, blanket or other insulating item. An axe can chop, but so can a heavy knife. And so on and so on.

Careful thought and analysis of what capability you absolutely, positively must have before deciding on how to make it redundant is essential to ensure you do not get bogged down with twice as much weight. That being said, for some things, you will straight-up want to carry a spare, accept no substitutes.

Planning is another thing we should make redundant. I need at least two ways to accomplish every major objective. If I plan to leave town by taking the Smallville Hwy. and crossing the Green River Bridge, what will I do if the bridge is out or hard-closed? What will I do if my destination BOL is compromised or destroyed? What will I do… You get the point.

Redundancy prevents hard-locking, mentally and physically. If I lose or use a tourniquet (an item you definitely want to have spares of, by the way) and need another, now, it is no problem if I have one on hand. If I don’t, well, now I am playing a stupid game trying to fashion one from my belt or some such bullshit.

If I come upon the previously mentioned bridge, and it is out, or roadblocked, if I have my redundant backup plan, I am rerouting and on my way in short order. If that plan goes bad, I have my contingency plan, a third layer of redundancy. If that plan goes bad… Okay, I’ll stop but I trust you are taking my drift here.

Some things that are high-value-to-weight you may want to consider having “hard” duplicates of due to their difficulty in improvising 1-to-1 replacements for:

PistolI like a tiny, light .22 autoloader or revolver with a half brick of ammo. Easy to carry, easy to store, and while not a badass cartridge, adequate for close-range game-getting, and will still severely wound another surly human. I usually keep one in my emergency survival kit.

Medical Supplies – Gauze, tourniquets, meds, all of these things can be improvised, but this costs precious time, and their efficacy goes way down. Accept no substitutes for high-quality medical supplies and drugs!

Batteries –If you need batteries, you need spare batteries.

Socks, Underwear, etc. – Your underclothes will be the first casualties to muck, sweat and effluvial grime. Left unwashed, you will be dealing with some heinous, show-stopping skin conditions. A spare pair will help reduce this onset and definitely make you feel better.

Fire Starters – Lighter, matches, ferro rod. All of these and more have a place in your kit. The importance of fire in austere survival situations cannot be understated. The more ways you have to reliably start a fire the better.

Water PurificationThis is vital. You must have more than one way to produce clean drinking water. A filter is your primary, no question, but your secondary should be a stand-alone and supplementary method, like purifier tablets, bleach, iodine, etc.

Knife – Most of you that carry a knife plus some kind of multi-tool are likely covered, but if you do not, make sure you have some type of backup knife in your kit, as high-quality blades are difficult to replicate. This is an item also highly likely to be handed off to someone else, so have a spare.

Compass – If you use a larger lensatic or field compass, or a GPS, go on and supplement that with a backup button compass. Tiny, unobtrusive and able to be stashed anywhere, you may not get the precision you need for long marches, but basic direction finding will help keep you from becoming horribly lost. Suunto makes a good one.

Dust Mask – Good to have for keeping the worst of dust and small airborne particulate out of your lungs. These do get used up, so you had better have spares handy. Fashioning an impromptu mask from a bandana or cloth does not come close. The latest versions of the N95 pack down flat for painless storage.

Redundancy Planning Made Simple

You can backup all essential plans and items this way by writing. It. Down! Don’t trust this stuff to memory, especially procedural plans for loved ones and group members.

If you plan a series of rendezvous points for the group to meet at if separated before or during a crisis, write it down for them (and you!) If you have a plan for relaying messages, or leaving notes or instructions for someone, make two, and make sure all concerned parties know what they entail.

Likewise, write down all of the items in your BOB or survival stash. Now slowly go through the list, line by line, and think about what the outcome would be if you were suddenly deprived of anyone of these items in the course of your survival plan. If the story takes a severe turn for the worst, even tragedy, you need redundancy in that department.

Some very expensive items might be impractical or impossible to duplicate depending on your situation, i.e. a vehicle, multiple rifles, expensive electronics or other gear etc. If this is the case, remember, you are concerned with capability, with achieving an outcome using the same or different means!

A vehicle means escape; could you hike or bike out? A rifle means security, and perhaps wild game; could you make do with a handgun, crossbow or other less expensive weapon? If you keep your thinking solution and outcome oriented, you will not get so hung up on the notion that you have to clone every single thing you have.

Redundancy is about having multiple ways to accomplish the same thing.


The building-in of redundancy in to your survival planning and procurement is one of the smartest, most valuable things you can do to start ensuring your success.

Redundancy does not mean duplication, although duplication is one way to attain redundant function. Redundancy ensures that the loss of one module or your plan, be it orders or items, will not significantly derail the whole show. Redundancy is extra work up front, but it makes for an easy day when things are for real.

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