Preppers have always been divided on the use of advanced electronics in emergency preparations.
The preppers in the “Nay” camp claim that advanced electronics are too frail, too dependent upon incredibly intricate and complex infrastructure and too much like training wheels to depend on when the chips are really down.
Their opponents in the “Aye” camp will be happy to regale you with the incredible capability, light weight, and performance-multiplying nature of advanced electronics as too much of a good thing to pass up.
The Phone Controversy
Probably no electronic gadget is more common and more controversial among preppers than the smartphone.
Incredibly taken for granted, these little black bricks are still absolute miracles of technology, cramming in all kinds of advanced functions that would have been totally unthinkable just 20 years ago, and literally impossible 30 years ago.
Truly, life imitates art because the most advanced smartphones might as well be props on your favorite science-fiction show.
No matter if you are an old-school shunner of advanced technology for serious survival situations or an early adopter of all the various capabilities they can give you, you would be wise to take advantage of your smart device.
One such feature that everyone can appreciate is their ability to store literal gigabytes, or even terabytes of survival literature in their gargantuan memories.
In today’s article I’ll be telling you what books, manuals, info, knowledge, know-how and applications you should store on your phone to turn it into a portable survival library.
Is Your Info Heavy or Light?
When discussing survival gear and assorted gadgets, there is one constant limitation, a constraint that all preppers must be aware of and factor into their survival plans, especially if they’re planning on bugging out by foot
That constraint is weight.
Weight is not a joke in a survival situation, no matter if you are carrying it by foot or by vehicle. In the military, you’ll constantly hear the pithy aphorism that ounces make pounds and pounds make pain. That is definitely true.
More germane to the topic of prepping is that every single ounce of weight you dedicate towards gear must be justified against your objective and your anticipated threats.
Additionally everything you carry must be weighed and balanced against the other things you are hauling. What’s really important, what can you not afford to leave behind no matter how much it weighs?
But all preppers know that the most valuable thing you will carry (and are carrying right now!) doesn’t weigh anything at all; it is your accumulated knowledge and experience.
Information doesn’t weigh anything so long as it’s stored in that wetware computer housed inside your skull.
But if we are being 100% honest none of us know everything, none of us have all the answers to the problems we’re likely to face.
It is for that reason that many preppers choose to carry a survival guide, or some other survival tome full of information they think they may need in order to shore up weaknesses in their own body of knowledge.
These books could be anything from classic survival guides, how-to instructions for certain survival tasks, maps, atlases, flora and fauna guides and so much more.
The temptation is definitely there to carry more than one book. After all, a few books don’t take up that much room and they don’t weigh that much, right? Right…
Actually, they do weigh that much, even the small ones. There’s just no getting around it: books are heavy, and dense.
While the information they contain may be invaluable, even life-saving, it doesn’t change the fact that they will gobble up big chunks out of your weight and space budget in your BOB or to a lesser extent in your vehicle.
This begs the question: Is choosing to carry a bound book really the best use of limited space among your survival supplies?
Electrons Weigh (Almost) Nothing
Look, no matter how old school you are, no matter how much distrust you have for electronics and other modern technology, you have to admit that when it comes to weight savings, electrons beat ink and paper hands-down period.
I mean, the two mediums are not even in the same galaxy, not even remotely comparable.
Even the cheapest smartphone with the most limited memory can hold dozens of books, and the average phone can hold many more than that if not hundreds of books, files and guides.
All of that can fit into a slender polymer and glass brick that fits in a pocket and weighs less than a pound. Stop for a moment and consider how many hundreds of pounds that same amount of information would be in traditional bound books.
I’ll tell you what: you can carry that bag, I’ll stick with the phone.
For better or worse, our phones are basically external organs that we carry with us all the time. It is a rare person I know that doesn’t keep their phone in their pocket while they’re around the house, even.
If you had 5 minutes to grab your gear and hit the road, you probably wouldn’t even have to think twice about grabbing the phone; I’ll bet you already had it on you.
That ubiquity and portability Is definitely an advantage in the smartphone’s favor when it comes to hauling a survival library with you.
And considering that as long as you have memory left on the device you can keep adding books and other useful survival information, there is no disincentive to leave behind your book on small game trapping, for instance, so that you can carry the general purpose survival guid.
Keeping your survival knowledge on your phone means you can bring everything plus the kitchen sink. You can truly have it all with you at your fingertips.
I don’t know about the rest of you, but that perk alone sees me firmly on the side of keeping my survival info on my smartphone.
Smartphones Hold It All
All modern smartphones have pretty much identical capabilities to a leaned-down laptop computer or tablet.
They can read all kinds of files, open various programs or apps for interacting with those files, and have all sorts of functionality for sorting and sifting data.
This info could be anything from maps that you have created and marked up with various information about routes, bug-out locations and even potential hazards during certain seasons that you need to be reminded of.
Let’s not forget lists of more generic but no less useful info like emergency contact numbers and addresses, vital personal documents, doses of medicine required for you or another family member, ballistics information for your firearms and so much more.
It is also possible to encrypt files that are of a sensitive nature so they do not become an immediate liability if you should lose your phone or it is stolen from you.
Overcoming Shortcomings of Survival Phones
Now, for all their capability and immense advantages in weight and capacity over bound books, smartphones have some pretty obvious shortfalls.
The most obvious and the one that you will hear opponents lambast the most is their obvious and utter dependence on electricity to function.
Aside from their power-hungry nature, their two other drawbacks are their vulnerability to submersion and water or other fluids and their comparative fragility if they are subjected to a drop or sharp impact.
Make no mistake, you’ll definitely have to deal with all of these problems if you want to seriously rely on your phone as a survival implement, but they are far from insurmountable and much easier to handle than the naysayers would have you believe. None of them are showstoppers.
Two of these issues are a simple affair to deal with in one fell swoop. As durable and water-resistant as modern smartphones are, they are not what I would call ruggedized, heavy-duty electronics.
If you want to give your phone a fighting chance in case you drop it on a hard surface or into a body of liquid, or mash it in your pocket or pack all you’ll need to do is equip it with a high-end, hard use and waterproof case.
There are all kinds of so-called adventure cases available for the most popular flagship phones for both iOS and Android systems.
Even if you have a less popular phone it is still easy to get a ruggedized bump case for it. With a few add-ons or a little DIY molding with silicone you can seal up the charging port and other vulnerabilities on the phone.
A little bit of extra cash and perhaps some ingenuity and you can make your phone all but proof against impact, drops and moisture intrusion. Your on board survival library is incredibly valuable in an emergency and you should protect it accordingly!
The other issue of keeping your phone charged up and running is easily solved by the addition of a few more gadgets to your kit. If you’re carrying any kind of modern electronics a high-density power bank or backup battery is mandatory.
This can allow you to fully recharge your smartphone once, twice or even four times or more. Of course, this backup power bank only functions as a sort of electrical scuba tank, something that lets you remain off grid so long as the “tank” lasts, not a source of power generation itself that can continually feed your device.
To handle that, we will need a different solution.
One of the most popular and best solutions for preppers is a portable solar charging kit. In ideal conditions, these solar chargers can easily recharge one or two devices at once, or funnel power back into your backup battery for you to make use of it when you need it.
Alternately, you can use a thermoelectric stove that converts heat from burning fuel into electricity, storing it in an onboard battery.
These ingenious little devices also have the primary function of actually boiling water and cooking your food while you are on the move bugging out.
All preppers know that multipurpose tools are always a good idea!
Survival Guides, Lore and More for Your Smartphone!
We truly do not want for choices or variety when it comes to survival manuals and prepping guides today.
Especially since the explosion of classic books being converted to eBook formats that are compatible with all kinds of devices, it is a common thing to see most or even the entirety of someone’s library electronic in nature.
Survival books are no exception, and a simple search on Amazon or elsewhere will furnish you with hundreds upon hundreds of eBooks on every imaginable topic.
This does not even delve into valuable magazine articles, blog posts, videos and other “non-traditional” sources of survival info you would do well to store on your phone.
Below I will offer some of my very favorite survival guides, how-to manuals and more from a variety of authors and in several formats. No matter what kind of smartphone you have and how experienced you are these books have value!
Best of all, you don’t need to pick and choose which are most valuable to you; since eBooks weigh only as much as your device weighs, you could do a lot worse than simply downloading all of them to your favorite device!
When All Hell Breaks Loose: Stuff You Need to Survive When Disaster Strikes, by Cody Lundin
You probably already know of Cody Lundin, the long-haired, barefoot and bodaciously fit survival instructor and co-host of Dual Survival.
Whatever you might think about his aesthetic and lifestyle choice, Lundin is an excellent and extremely experienced survival instructor focusing on austere environment survival skills and primitive living adaptations.
He’s the rare survival instructor that really does walk the walk, and his work on conservation and doing more with less has earned him acclaim from all sectors of the industry.
His second book, When All Hell Breaks Loose, has gone on to become one of my favorite survival manuals. Inside, Lundin covers everything from creating shelter no matter the environment to dealing with the ever-present and ongoing problem of human waste disposal.
He approaches all this subject matter in comprehensive detail using his trademark easy-going and easy-to-understand way.
Despite its fun and flowing layout, the book is very easy to reference, packed full of information, and is always the first one I reach for when I need to get a survival question answered quickly.
Don’t leave home without this one!
Bushcraft 101: A Field Guide to the Art of Wilderness Survival, by Dave Canterbury
Completely coincidentally, this book is written by the other former co-host of Dual Survival, Dave Canterbury. His book, Bushcraft 101, is going to be your personal backwoods bible if you need to live in the deep country for any length of time.
The amount of techniques, procedures and accumulated wisdom that Dave has crammed into this book is really something, and almost all of the techniques and skills are accompanied by excellent illustrations and hand drawings that will help you make sense of some of the more complicated concepts.
Another good reference work, Dave covers how to make a variety of primitive shelters for every conceivable situation, where your best bet to find food is in various environments in various seasons, how to craft tools and weapons that you may need on your journey, and perhaps most informatively, how to determine when you are taking a smart risk versus a stupid one.
Being forced to endure living in the bush is awfully tough, but if you know where to look and know what to do, nature will furnish all the tools and materials you need to survive its trials.
Even if you are very accustomed to hiking and camping in the woods or other remote places, you shouldn’t get too comfortable: all it takes is one bad turn where you lose your gear and are left with nothing or almost nothing and you will be put to a severe test.
If you can master or at least have access to the information presented in this book you can turn a potentially fatal setback into an inconvenience.
U.S. Army Survival Manual
Any prepper worth their salt is familiar with this classic and time-honored guide on survival. Most of us probably had our first encounter with this either in the military or after picking it up from a local Army/Navy surplus store.
Regardless, it is still a treasure trove of survival information presented in a logical and easy to follow step-by-step format.
It isn’t flashy, it isn’t cool or particularly clever, but it does cover nearly all the basics of survival in various situations.
It is not the most thrilling read but it remains an invaluable reference for all preppers, and nobody should be without it.
Even better, this one is freely available for download all over the internet so you don’t need to pay for it!
Medicine for the Outdoors: The Essential Guide to First Aid and Medical Emergencies, 6th Edition, by Paul S. Auerbach, MD
There are all kinds of outdoor survival manuals that cover first aid, improvised wound treatment and so forth, but there are very few that could be called proper medical manuals.
Medicine for the Outdoors is one of the most complete, intricate and comprehensive works of its kind in the industry.
This book is the one to have for medical care and injury treatment in any remote or austere care setting.
This book features a mammoth index for any imaginable ailment or situation, tons of flowcharts and supremely detailed explanations and guidance aplenty that can help even a layman deliver effective care in any situation.
No matter what kind of problem you run into out in the world while dealing with the aftermath of a disaster this book has you covered.
I cannot impress upon you enough how useful and how complete this book is.
It isn’t going to teach you how to deal with just common hiking trail mishaps; your typical sprains, strains, fractures, gashes, punctures and lacerations along with assorted bug bites.
No, this massive work goes much farther than that, covering diseases, every kind of accidental and combative wound, indices on localized threats, alternate treatment, injury proofing in the wilderness, and even a pretty good section on taking care of dogs.
The author’s understanding of the subject is total, and its instructions are complete. Combined with the hundreds and hundreds of drawings and diagrams you will never find a better book for medical care in a survival situation.
The Complete Guide to Hunting, Butchering, and Cooking Wild Game, Volumes I & II, by Steven Rinella
I talk to a lot of preppers who claim grand ambitions about hunting and bagging wild game to supplement their food supplies when bugging in or out during a long or unknown duration survival situation.
Quite a few of them are excellent shots with gun and bow, or are accomplished trap masters who can turn an acre of woodland into a veritable death trap. There is just one shortcoming in their plan…
I’ll be honest with you, several of them have never cleaned and processed a carcass even so small as a squirrel’s!
It would be the very summit of idiocy and waste to claim the life of an animal for food, and then waste much of the meat because you don’t know what you’re doing.
These two books (volume 1 and volume 2) will fix that. If you didn’t grow up hunting, or grew up hunting but never had to deal with the really hard part which is the processing of your catch, these books are indispensable.
Author Steven Rinella knows every possible game animal on the continent inside and out, literally, and will teach you everything you need to know to skin, gut and process your wild-caught game no matter what it is.
Using the information he gives you, you will soon know every trick there is for harvesting, processing, and cooking your own nutritious, free range protein.
Between these two volumes he covers every large and small game species that you might be expected to encounter.
Even if you have to prop up your phone or tablet to follow the step-by-step instructions you’ll be doing much better than you would if you just tried to make it up as you go along.
Motion X is a survival app that no preppers should go without.
Entirely distinct from built-in mapping apps like the omnipresent Google Maps, MotionX has grown to be the favored map app for outdoorsmen, backpackers and preppers since it gives you the ability to download directly to the phone’s memory detailed maps of all kinds for nearly any region on Earth, and still access them when you’re offline with no internet connection.
That is a game changer.
Nobody in the readership should need any emphasis or explanation of how valuable maps are in a survival situation, and this app will let you take full advantage of the processing capability and the memory of your smartphone or similar device to put those maps to good use.
You can have a map detailing all of your bug-out routes, another one marked up with potential water sources and still another one outlining danger points that you should avoid.
MotionX will let you keep your maps ready to go offline and ahead of time which will save you precious minutes in an emergency situation, and also bulwark you against the potential pitfall of not being able to access the internet when you need navigational data.
So long as you know how to tie a variety of knots you will rarely get more use out of any tool than simple cordage or rope when in the wilderness or a survival situation.
Knot tying is an essential and fundamental skill for all survivalists, but if we are being entirely honest most people don’t know more than a few or perhaps a handful of knots by heart.
Trying to blunder your way through a knot you only half-know is certainly going to be frustrating, and may result in disaster if the knot fails.
Knots 3D will make that frustrating exercise a thing of the past.
Compared to traditional knot-tying books (which you should also have in your survival library) Knots 3D will provide you with step-by-step three-dimensional instructions for nailing the knot you’re trying to tie the first time.
It has built-in tutoring as well as logical and easy to follow guidance for knot selection and employment.
Even if you weren’t a Boy Scout, Knots 3D will ensure you always use the correct knots for rigging a hammock, tying a raft together, lashing down a load, or just erecting your shelter.
You can go from knot neophyte to knot nirvana in no time flat using this app.
Can you tell the difference between water parsnip and water hemlock? You had better be able to if you think you’re going to forage nutritious and tasty plans from the water’s edge, or else you might be facing respiratory collapse or worse before you finish dinner.
Foraging of wild edible plants is another skillset that many preppers claim they are depending on, but they lack the considerable and intricate knowledge of their local ecosystems in order to do so safely.
Wild Edibles is the best app of its kind for shoring up that weak spot in your botanical knowledge base.
Completely packed with full color photographs, descriptions, comparison diagrams and more this app goes above and beyond by providing detailed descriptions of the plants in various growing phases, seasons and areas.
Perhaps the most valuable of all is the finely detailed breakdown of so-called “look-alike” plants; deadly plants that look like edible ones that may result in an untimely death or grievous sickness if carelessly picked or eaten.
The interactive database is easily searchable by various criteria including your region and season, and is further broken down by taxonomy; shoots, fruits, nuts, herbs, roots and so on.
Aside from being a vital survival resource this app is quite a lot of fun to rifle through and peruse.
Common and scientific names are provided for all plants, as well as a breakdown of what parts of edible plants are best prepared with various cooking methods. Many of the illustrations rival any of those produced in foraging guides of earlier centuries.
An indispensably valuable and entertaining app that no prepper should go without!
Evernote is not technically a survival app, but its functionality is too valuable for preppers to pass it up.
Evernote is another cloud-based file storage, note-taking and syncing service in a field already packed with competitors, but what makes Evernote so noteworthy, pardon the pun, and worth your money is its excellent interface and ability to download your notes and notebooks directly to your device for offline access.
It is subscription-based, but a small yearly fee will get you syncing for multiple devices. A light version is free, full-featured and works for two devices.
Evernote is the perfect app for storing your emergency contacts, procedures, important personal information and more.
You can easily update any of your notebooks from any logged device and have that information transfer automatically to all the other devices seamlessly with no clicking or further input.
For keeping a prepping journal, databasing important information and contacts, or just wirelessly syncing all of your important files that you want to take with you Evernote is tops.
Scanner radio is an app with a simple purpose: it lets you use your smartphone as a conventional radio scanner, tuning into local police, fire & EMS dispatch radio frequencies, and listen to the chatter going back and forth over the airwaves.
Also included in its comprehensive listings are amateur radio repeaters, weather radio broadcasts, marine radio channels, and other emergency related broadcast functions.
For getting live, up-to-the-minute intelligence on what is going on at the outset of a disaster, this app is the best and will save you from having to haul around an actual scanner or radio set of your own.
Helpfully, the app includes a notification feature which will pop up and alert you anytime a particular channel has more than 3,500 live listeners.
You can think of this as a sort of viral early warning system, as any channel that is garnering that many listeners likely has some serious stuff taking place on it.
This app is free, but the paid version includes several other useful features, like the ability to record broadcasts, and the removal of ads which will streamline and speed up your experience.
Used properly and with a few precautions your smartphone is a powerful survival tool, and an indispensable source of survival information, able to carry an entire survival library within its sleek black plastic and glass confines, safely stowed in your pocket.
Set up correctly and armored against mishap and accident, a smartphone will only expand your survival capabilities and it is an indispensable tool that will help you do more with less.
That is certainly a comfort when you are facing the unknown.