The world and our country are going through some pretty rough times these days. We have imminent threat of terrorist attacks, with more threats being made against Western nations almost daily. We have a president in the United States who is not known for his intelligent (or sane) policy. We have a nuclear North Korea and Iran, both of whom have long history of very bombastic threats involving war and the Western world (specifically, the United States and select allies). Through our overuse of antibiotics, we’re growing ‘super bugs’, illnesses that we could once knock out with penicillin but which are now immune to the vast majority of common antibiotic treatments. In the United Statesin particular, we have racial tension the likes of which hasn’t been seen for sixty years. We are, surely, slowly running out of oil, and our nations are sitting atop a ticking timebomb of debt. Our world is a fairly dangerous place right now, is the point I’m making.
*Check this out: 15 Survival Adventures Every Prepper Should Read
Table of Contents
- A Guide for Beginning Preppers
- Basic Human Needs
- Best Survival Foods At Your Grocery Store
- SHTF Water Filtering and Purification For Preppers
- Hunting, Foraging, And Supplementing Your Emergency Food
- A Quick Review Of Handloading
- The Act Of Hunting
- Foraging For Food
- Related Posts
A Guide for Beginning Preppers
I don’t write this to scare you. Likely, most of these things will never be an issue in our lifetimes. But that could all be wrong. Tomorrow, something could happen, something terrible, that would cause a mass-casualty event and completely upend the world as you and I know it today. Think of the popular TV show ‘the Walking Dead’ or the cult British film ’28 Days Later’ and you will understand the kind of even that I’m speaking of. Something, whatever that ‘something’ may be, that will undermine our social system in its entirety.
Whether the event will be something that will have long-term effects (like an epidemic similar to the Spanish Flu, but more deadly) or something where the shakeup will be temporary (a limited military strike against a Western nation’s government, similar to the failed strike on the Pentagon on 9/11), being able to survive favors those who are equipped to do so, and who have already taken steps to ensure that they have some sort of plan in place to keep alive.
Today we’re going to talk about having an emergency food supply. If you live in the Western world, you are very lucky. To us, food comes nicely packaged and cheap, either from our local supermarket or any one of the hundreds of restaurants near you. Sure, if you live in an area where tornadoes, hurricanes, or blizzards are a common issue, you may have experienced a day or two where you couldn’t get food from the store, or a few days where the shelves looked a bit more sparse than usual. But most of us have never experienced a situation where finding food was not only difficult, but even dangerous to our health. The closest comparison in our world today is in Venezuela, where mismanagement has created food scarcity, and it is a rarity indeed.
If you’re going to survive the kind of crisis where society falls apart, whether it is able to right itself or not, you are going to need to have a plan of some sort, and that plan will have to involve meeting your basic human needs.
Basic Human Needs
Anyone who has attended a 100-level sociology or psychology class has heard of Abraham Maslow and his ‘Hierarchy of Needs’. It is a way to rank how important something is to being able to live and thrive. Going from most to leastimportant, the hierarchy goes something like this:
- Love/ Belonging
The physiological needs, which are generally accepted to mean things like air, water, and food, are the most important; without these, no human will survive very long. It also includes things like clothing and shelter, which protect from the elements.
In the event of societal collapse, it isn’t likely that shelter will suddenly become in short supply, but food is a different story entirely. Because of that, it is paramount that, if you are going to survive in a crisis situation, you have food on hand that you can access and that doesn’t require a refrigerator or a microwave to cook.
You need at least 2000 calories a day to maintain your body mass (give or take) while doing a moderate amount of physical ‘labor’. The more physical labor that you are performing, the more food you will want to consume in order to keep yourself healthy and to keep from losing muscle mass. With this in mind, let’s take a look at a few options for food in an emergency.
Best Survival Foods At Your Grocery Store
*We dedicated a whole article on this topic here: Best Food for Emergency Storage
Humanity has been canning fruits, vegetables, and even meats in various preservative liquids since the early 1800s. Today, you can go to your grocery store and get everything from peas and carrots to pineapple to cooked chicken in a can, and it will last for quite some time. Though food does have an expiration date after which it is no longer tasty, there is evidence that food canned over a hundred years ago and recovered from a shipwreck was still safe for consumption (though it looked and smelled just terrible).
Canned food is a great option for surviving in the somewhat short term. It has many benefits, including:
*Check this out: Canned Food with Longest Shelf Life
- Long shelf life. Most canned foods that you can buy in a grocery store will last for somewhere between 2 and 5 years. Of course, that is just the ‘best by’ date, which means that you’re going to get the best flavor out of it if consumed before that date. If you’re hard-up for nutrients and you’re able to stomach food that may not look, taste, or smell its best, you can eat it safely so long as its seal has not been broken.
- Wide variety of options. There are not many things you cannot get canned. You can get delectable soups, fruits, vegetables, and much more. You can even get meats like Spam, ham, tuna, more. The options are many, and if you like food of any kind, it’s likely that you can find it in a can somewhere.
- Amazing taste. There are options that we will discuss on this list that will have a longer shelf-life than canned food while maintaining their flavor and consistency. However, it cannot be argued that of the options we are going to be reviewing for your food sources in the event of the end of the world as we know it, canned goods are some of the best tasting options.
Another great benefit to canned foods is that they are everywhere and they do not require any special equipment to collect or to utilize. You can build a collection of canned foods for an emergency by simply buying an extra can of your favorite soup or fruit every time that you go to the grocery store, and then putting it in a box. Put the date of the first purchase on the box, and make sure that you check it every year or so and replace the cans that have ‘expired’. It’s simple, it’s cheap, and it is a great source of nutrition. Even better, a well-selected assortment of canned goods can provide both the calories and the vitamins and minerals that you will need to be able to survive.
If you have the money to be able to do so, it’s never a bad idea to keep an entirely separate pantry stocked with canned food. With careful planning and smart selection, you will be able to, with 3 cans a day, make enough food to keep your belly full and your body running properly.
Another great option for meals in an emergency are dried goods. They can be found almost anywhere, from your local grocery store to your local 7-11, and they last for at least a few months so long as you do not open them.
What are dry goods? Pastas that come in a box and have not been exposed to water or cooked. Boxes of Macaroni and Cheese. Various bars made with granola. Mixes for things like pancakes. Most dry goods require water and cooking or boiling before they become fit for consumption, but they can last for months or longer if they’re properly kept.
*Check this out: How To Freeze Dry Food At Home
The reason that I have chosen to mention dry goods so close to the canned goods is that they complement each other so well in cooking. Do you have a box of noodles and a somewhat flat soup? Cook both and mix them together, and you have a decent meal that has a lot more carbohydrates and a much higher caloric count.
Dry goods can last for some time, but they will not last as long as canned goods. If you decide to augment your collection of canned goods with some complimentary boxes of pasta or something similar, be sure that you consume the dry goods before they go bad, even if it means you’re eating some fairly boring meals. It’s more important that you’re consuming the right amount of calories, rather than that the meal be a five-star dining experience, after all.
Whenever the US military or the UN or aid societies go to parts of the world that have just been ravaged, be it a war zone in Somali or a disaster area like Haiti, one of the foodstuffs that is quickest brought to the front in the greatest supply is rice. It is easy to move rice in giant fifty-pound sacks. Rice is extremely cheap in much of the world. Rice is a fantastic source of carbohydrates (which are easily converted into energy for labor).
Better still, rice is a dish that can be used for multiple purposes. You can just cook it, of course, with a two to one ratio of water to rice, and consume it plain. But rice is a popular food around the world because it is so easy to flavor it with relatively little by way of spices. You can add soy sauce, hot sauce, cheese sauce, almost anything you add to rice will change the flavor for the better. Better still, you can mix some of your canned goods with rice, and you will be able to have a heartier meal.
But when I said that rice could be used for multiple purposes, I meant it. With rice, you can make:
- Rice Porridge. In a lot of Asian countries, this is known as congee, and is a common meal for those who are elderly or ill. Basically, you keep adding water to rice that you are preparing in a pot until the grains break apart, and it leaves you with a very soft and easy-to-digest meal. You can add in various meats or vegetables for flavor, and you can season it with the usual variety of spices and sauces.
- Rice flour. You can use rice flour much the way that you would use wheat flour, but rice stays longer than wheat does, on average. Tortillas, bread, all sorts of things can be cooked with rice ground into a flour-like substance.
- A desiccant stand-in. Desiccant is that stuff in pill bottles that keeps humidity out of your bottles of vitamins or what have you. It removes moisture. Rice can be used the same way, to keep moisture under control, whether in your salt shaker or in a bag with your electronics.
There’s a reason that rice has long been such a popular food in emergency situations. It is easy to cook with, capable of being used in a variety of different ways, and it pairs well with almost anything that you could think to pair with it. Rice will be a true asset to anyone who is looking to survive.
Best of all, if kept well and not cooked, white rice can last almost forever without going bad. Even without taking special care of it, a sack of rice can last 4 to 8 years, and a bag of ‘microwave rice’ can keep just as long. It may not make the tastiest meal on its own, but if your options are between rice and nothing, rice starts to look a whole lot more delicious.
Jerky is basically a lean cut of meat (with the fat trimmed, if necessary), cut into strips, and then dried. There are various methods for drying, but they almost all include the use of salt or some other spice that will act as an anti-microbial agent. Sometimes they're marinated to impart flavor, which stays behind during the drying process and makes the jerky more likely to be tender, as well as much more delicious.
Jerky has been recorded as early as the 1500s, being made by Incans, and it has since become a favorite way or preserving meat. This is great for a survival situation, because most meat does not keep well, especially when you don’t have the ability to cool the meat. Drying the meat over a low heat, on the other hand, allows you to keep it for months, if not years.
So what are the benefits of beef jerky, from a survival standpoint? Well;
- A bag of beef jerky made by a major manufacturer (like Jack Links, for example) can stay good for a year or two. Most of the bags say they expire by then, but realistically, if you keep it well and out of the sun and don’t open it, it can keep for two years or so since being packaged.
- Morale. Depending on how long you’re having to survive for, you are going to miss things like meat. If you’re not proficient in hunting or trapping animals or fishing, this may be your best chance to have meat you can easily carry or use to spice up otherwise dull meals (like rice).
- Delicious. It also contains salt, which, contrary to popular belief, you actually need in order to live. Seriously, of all the food on this list, beef jerky is the most delicious and portable. Only canned goods can be as tasty, and that all depends on what you bought and your ability to season things.
A great thing about beef jerky is that it is so very easy to make it yourself. If you like to go hunting at all, or if you have friends who go hunting, or if you just want to make some of your own from beef you buy at the grocery store, it is simple, it is fairly low-effort, and it produces meat that you will be able to enjoy for quite some time to come. If worse comes to worse, you’ll at least be able to enjoy the taste and flavor of meat if you buy some beef jerky, and it makes a great traveling snack or an accompaniment to things like hardtack/pilot bread mentioned below. Best of all, it is insanely portable, and comes in its own pre-sealed bag if you buy it from the store.
Here's a video on how to make your own beef jerky.
MREs (Meals Ready to Eat)
The military has long been a driving force behind the development of rations that last and fill the stomach, even if the flavor of the meal leaves something to be desired. The MRE replaced the LRP rations that were widely issued to special operations forces since the sixties, as well as replacing the canned MCI rations (more commonly known as C rations) in the early 80s, and they have been the issued meal of choice for the US military ever since.
They are known by their brown or tan bag (depending on where you ordered them from and what theatre of operation they were meant for), and are designed to provide about 1200 calories that can be easily eaten on-the-go. Though the precise contents of the MRE vary from packet to packet, the military-approved standard-issue MRE will include:
- One entrée
- One drink mix
- One side dish
- One dessert
- Crackers or bread
- Spread consisting of either cheese, peanut butter, or jelly
- Utensils (usually just a spoon)
- Beverage mixing bag
- Ration heater
- Accessory pack, which will include:
- Chewing gum
- Coffee powder
- Tobasco sauce
If you’ve ever been in the military in any capacity, you likely have at least had a taste of the MRE during BCT/ basic training. At any given time, there are a select number of ‘menus’ that the MREs can contain, with about 20 or so being offered. For example, if you were to buy some MREs right now, you would be choosing from entrees such as beef ravioli (18), spaghetti with meat sauce (4), maple sausage (15), and, of course, the very best MRE that has ever been made, cheese tortellini (13).
The MRE is specifically designed to be easy to carry and easy to consume on the go. In fact, aside from the entrée meal, there is literally nothing in the MRE that you cannot eat while you are moving from one place to another, making it a great survival food for those who cannot stay in one place for whatever reason.
Preparing the MRE only requires that you open the pouch and consume. Mix the beverage powder with water from a canteen or bottle, and you’ve got a drink that contains electrolytes and a bit of sugar (but be warned, I have never had an MRE drink mix that tasted like anything other than a hint of sugar and a lot of food coloring). Put the spread on the bread or crackers to get the most out of it, or you can simply suck it out of the packet as you walk.
Now, the entrée can be heated if you desire. Note that I said CAN be, not MUST be; there is nothing in the MRE that requires heating. Using an MRE ration heater sometimes called an FRH, flameless ration heater) is a simple process. Open the green bag, fill with water as directed, and apply it to the MRE entrée as directed, and you’ll be able to enjoy a warm meal. Just make sure that when you do this, you do it in an open area, because the gasses released can pose health issues.
So what’s so great about the MRE? Well:
- Wide variety of meals. There are currently 24 meals being offered, as well as at least one vegetarian option. If you can’t find something in the meals offered that you would eat, then you are far too picky an eater to survive.
- They keep for quite a long time, even in hot and humid climates. They can last for three and a half years if kept at 81 degrees Fahrenheit, and can even last for nine months at 100 degrees Fahrenheit. They have a minimum shelf-life of 3 years, and most standard issue MREs will last 5. Some MREs even last up to 8 years.
- They are made to be moved. The packaging has to meet strict requirements for the climates it can survive.
- They were designed to be able to fit in the cargo pocket of military-issue BDU uniforms. If you have a set of BDU’s, ACU’s, MARPAT, or any other military-issue combat uniform, you will be able to carry at least two MREs in your pants alone.
- They’re light, coming in at under two pounds per MRE.
- They provide about 1200 calories per MRE set.
Now, before you go out and try to find some MREs of your own, I have a warning that you should heed. Each box of MREs has text printed on it that says, ‘US Government Property, Commercial Resale Is Unlawful’. This applies even if you purchased privately through one of the military contractors who makes MREs.
It is absolutely true that buying MREs issued to a serviceman or purchased for military use is illegal. If you buy MREs from your friends on-base, for example, that’s illegal, and the federal government doesn’t look too kindly on that. However, the contractors who make MREs will also sell to the general public, so you can legally buy your very own. There are also many civilian versions of the MRE that will differ in quality and offering, so look around and find what you want for your own use.
This is definitely one of the better options for long-term use, but they are not meant to be the sole source of nutrition for more than a few weeks at a time. You will need to supplement with other foods.
If you take some time and look around on the internet right now, or if you listen to talk radio at all, you will probably come across a couple of businesses offering you various packages of ‘survival food’. They offer them in packages that are split up by how long they will last (4 weeks, 6 months, and so on), and they basically send you packages that are appropriate for a serving. You take a packet, you mix it with water and follow the instructions, and bam! You’ve got a meal that may or may not taste decent.
There are literally hundreds of companies offering these products, so I won’t waste your time (or mine) reviewing them all. Instead, I’ll talk generally about the concept of dehydrated food and using it in the event of an emergency.
One of the best things about dehydrated food is that if it has been properly dehydrated and properly packaged, it will keep for years. There are dehydrated emergency food plans out there that will keep for twenty-five years if the packaging is still in one piece. This makes dehydrated food a great option, especially if you are looking for something that you can buy and just leave in your basement or somewhere else until it is needed.
Now, that is not to say that there are not some downsides to dehydrated food. A few of them are:
- Consuming dehydrated food almost always requires the addition of water. Depending on the food, it can require a lot of water. For example, one dehydrated soup that I reviewed required 5 cups of boiling water to make a cup. While the soup was tasty, water is just as valuable a resource as food, and without a large supply of water (or the ability to clean your own water), you may find yourself unable to rehydrate your meals.
- The process of cooking a lot of these meals is very time-intensive or labor-intensive. Referring to the above soup again, you have to boil those five cups of water, mix in the packet of dehydrated soup, and then simmer for twenty minutes. Then you take it off the fire or heat source and let it rest for another two minutes while it thickens. You can see how this may be a problem under certain circumstances.
A great benefit of dehydrated food is that there is such a wide variety of dehydrated food available. From simple eggs to soups to freeze-dried rice dishes with meat, there is so much food that you can dehydrate and then rehydrated without it losing all of its flavor. As I said above, dehydrated food deteriorates much slower than it would if the moisture was not removed, and because of this it can last for decades.
Another benefit is that because of the removal of water from the food, it weighs less. You would be shocked how much of the food that you consume is water and fluids. Without all that fluid, it is much easier to move packets of dehydrated food, both when it comes to the size needed and the amount of weight it adds to a pack.
For an extremely long-lasting solution to your emergency food needs, dehydrated food is the longest-lasting option that you can possibly turn to. However, you must have the water supply on-hand to be able to rehydrate the food, or you can end up having to eat dry and disgusting powder. If you’re going to go the dehydrated food route, invest in a lot of water as well, or you will regret it.
One of the oldest ‘survival’ foods is known as hardtack. It was basically a very dense, very starchy cracker. It was not a tasty meal, to be sure, but if you ate one, you had plenty of carbs and calories (recipes vary on what they include and how many calories consumption will yield), and enough energy to keep going. Of course, the downside is that it was, as the name says, hard, sometimes to the point of damaging your teeth when you chewed it, but it was the first survival food. It was popular on battlefields and on vessels, and people still make it at home.
Yes, you can still buy it (it’s sometimes called by other names, like cabin bread, pilot’s bread, ship bread, and similar). In the United States, it is made by one group, and it is only commonly sold in Alaska and Hawaii. However, if you want some hardtack for your own use, you can find it being sold as ‘Sailor Boy Pilot Bread’. It is sold in packs of crackers that are roughly twice the size of a larger Ritz cracker.
Some great benefits to hardtack include that it:
- Packs a lot of calories into a very small container. In a cracker or ‘biscuit’ that is twice the size of a Ritz cracker, they manage to pack 100 calories.
- This makes it a great snack for the traveler or the survivor on the go. With a backpack full of pilot bread and the ability to forage for other food, you could go quite far with a stomach that is full (even if your palate is left unhappy with the bland flavor).
- It keeps a long time. There are stories that, depending on the recipe, hardtack could keep for five years on the high seas. Modern hardtack/pilot bread can keep for up to 20 years if left in its protective sleeve. If you take your pilot bread out of the sleeve and put it in a water and air-tight container with an oxygen absorber, though, it can least for fifty years or more, so long as you keep the absorber up to date and replace it every few years if needed.
Of all the reviewed foods, this is one of the less well-known ones. It is also one of the less flavorful options that you will find. You can spice it up with cheese, mustard, and various other spreads and sauces as you can find them, but the truth is that at the end of the day, hardtack or pilot bread is nothing more than a really hardy cracker that will last forever. That being said, for the survivalist on the go, or one who doesn’t want to have to worry about carbohydrates, a couple of airtight packages of pilot bread can go a long way toward your needs.
Here's a video on how to make emergency survival biscuits or hardtack.
Emergency Food Bars
When the Army Air Corps (and its successor, the Air Force) began to take seriously the possibility of being shot down, they began to issue their pilots with various emergency rations that were meant to keep them from starving to death while waiting for someone to find them. Eventually, the Air Force and other military organizations began to issue them emergency food bars.
These bars often claim to have some sort of flavor, but the reality is that most of the time, they don’t have much taste to them. What they are, though, is like a modern version of hardtack. They’re dense bread-esque products that contain a lot of calories in a very small package. For example, one commonly available bar, which comes ready to break into nine pieces, provides about 400 calories per piece.
When I say that these bars claim to have some sort of flavor, I mean that the package says ‘lemon flavor’ or ‘cookie flavor’. Their ‘flavor’ is a lot like the ‘flavor’ in MRE drink mixes. Sure, that drink mix may say it’s grape flavor, but the reality is it tastes like purple. So sure, it may say it tastes like lemon, but it tastes like maybe there was a lemon in the kitchen when they cooked that batch, and has a very vaguely lemon-y smell, but the taste didn’t really translate.
But, as with hardtack, the point isn’t really to make a tasty meal. The point is to figure out how to cram a lot of calories in a small bar. These are commercially available from companies like Mainstay, ER, Datrex, CalorieMate, and more, and though the taste may differ slightly, they are all good sources of calories. Some additional benefits to these emergency food bars are:
- Ease of storage and carry. These are mostly used these days in survival on boats. The Coast Guard recommends some of these for use on boats and in emergency survival kits on said boats. The point is to make a dense foodstuff that can keep you alive while you’re sitting in a raft waiting for rescue.
- They last for five years on the shelf. This means that you can put them somewhere and forget about them for half a decade, so long as you buy some new ones before that time is up.
- Their wrapper is made to withstand water conditions, as well as being able to resist temperatures from -40 to 300 degrees Fahrenheit. That basically means that these are good for use anywhere from the Arctic to the equator, and everything in between, without worry.
- The packaging is made to be easy to spot in an emergency.
If you’re looking for a decent supplemental source of calories, or you’re heading out for high adventure on the ocean blue, then these emergency bars can provide the calories that you will need. Just be warned that they don’t really taste like much of anything, no matter how hard they may try to change that. Still, if you’re looking to fill a bag or a small kit with a lot of calories, they can’t be beat.
SHTF Water Filtering and Purification For Preppers
No matter what you do, there is no point in trying to survive if you don’t have water. Without food, you can stay alive up to seven days (although you will be absolutely miserable). Without water, you’re dead within three, and that’s assuming that you’re not exerting yourself or sweating. Furthermore, when suffering from dehydration, your brain’s not operating at peak capacity. A study performed on Navy Seals found that when properly hydrated, they made the correct choice in a situation 2/3rd of the time. When dehydrated, that drops to 1/3rd.
*Check this out: How to Find Water Almost Anywhere
How much water you need depends on how much you intend to do and what kind of issues you’re expecting to have to survive. It also depends on the kind of emergency food you have. If you’ve got dehydrated food, for example, you will need much more water so that you can rehydrate it to eat. If you’ve got canned goods and MREs, you won’t need as much. If you’re expecting something like a hurricane, where you may be without access to food or water for a while, then you won’t need much water. If you’re equipping yourself for some sort of NBC attack (Nuclear, Biological, Chemical), on the other hand, you may not be able to trust water that you didn’t buy prior to the attack.
How Much Water Do I Need?
People believe that they need eight glasses of water a day. This is false, and built around a claim from decades ago. The truth is that how much water you need depends heavily on how much work you’re doing. The best advice I can give you for how much water you need is that your body is fantastic at telling you when you need water. When you feel thirsty, take a drink! If you’re still thirsty, take another drink!
Another great way to tell how much water you need is by examining your urine. The more yellow your urine is, the less hydrated you are. The clearer it is the more hydrated you are. If it’s yellow, maybe drink a little bit more the next day.
Now, let’s look at the two ways that you can go about getting your water supply built up.
The simplest way is to just buy water and store it in a dry, cool place. For example, my emergency water supply is in my basement. Building up a supply of water this way is extremely simple. Anytime you go to the store to buy a gallon of water or a pack of small bottles, you just buy double, and put away the extra you bought.
A great thing about buying water is that it really doesn’t go bad. If water is properly sealed and the container is not punctured, it should be fine forever. Yes, people talk about various plastics seeping into the water from the container, but realistically if you’re drinking an emergency water supply, a small increased chance of cancer probably isn’t too high on your list of worries.
There is also the emergency water supply pouch, for those who are on a boat or in a plane. These are small pouches with a bit over 100ml of water in them. They have at least a five-year shelf life, so you can buy them and forget about them. They tend to be pricier than actually buying bottled water, though, and you’re paying more for less, so they may not be the best option for your uses.
*Here's a guide to 17 best ways to purify water in the wild
Purifying Your Own Waterin the Outdoors
If you run out of water, or if you’re not able to stay near your water supply, or if the emergency lasts so long that you end up running out of water that you know to be safe, you may have to purify your own water. There are a wide variety of methods that can be used to collect water and purify it, ranging from the basic distilling of water in a pan to the more complex chemical treatment tablets.
If you’re preparing for an emergency where you will need to purify your own water on the go, purification tablets are a good investment. If you’re lucky, you will be able to find more water that you can trust, but having the option to drink from most water that you will find is always a plus.
Here's a video on how to make your survival water filter.
For advice on how to collect water and purify it without purification equipment, search online. There are a number of ways to make natural filters to remove sediment before distilling. However, if there has been an NBC attack, even flowing rivers may not be trustworthy or potable.
*Here is a resource we put together on best survival water filters
Transporting Your Water
However you go about getting your own water, carrying it with you is important. If society has fallen apart, you can’t really trust that you will be able to come back to your shelter daily, and as time passes, you’ll have to go further and further for foraging expeditions. A CamelBak or similar device is a great way to carry water while keeping it easily accessible, as are canteens. Water bottles are a good way to carry water, but due to changes in how they’re made to make them more environmentally friendly, many water bottles are now an unexpected source of noise. Whatever method you use, make sure that you keep it as clean as you possibly can, or else you may be making yourself ill.
Hunting, Foraging, And Supplementing Your Emergency Food
Your food will not last forever. I don’t mean that it will expire, either. I mean that you are going to eat it, and unless you’re a multi-billionaire who spent millions buying freeze-dried and dehydrated food, you probably don’t have enough food to survive forever solely on the food stored away. If you’re looking to only survive for thirty days, you should be fine with a small supply of food. But what if society can’t repair itself? What if it takes years for the world to right itself? What if it doesn’t right itself in your lifetime?
You will need to begin to find other methods of putting food on the table, and of supplementing the food that you have to make it stretch longer. A few of your best choices will be hunting and foraging, as well as growing your own.
If you live in the United States of America, hunting is easy to do. You’re living in a nation that has at least 300 million, and as many as 600 million firearms in civilian hands alone, along with trillions of rounds of ammunition. Getting a rifle is easy so long as you’re not a felon or otherwise barred from weapon ownership. Finding ammunition is as simple as going to your local sporting goods store or Wal-Mart.
What Do I Want In A Rifle?
A hunting rifle is more useful than a hunting shotgun for a variety of reasons. Mostly, though, a hunting rifle has many times the range of a high-end hunting shotgun, so you can shoot deer, elk, even bear from afar without exposing yourself to much danger.
The problem is that there are so many rifles in so many calibers out there, it can be hard to know what you need in a hunting rifle. Do you want a semi-automatic or a bolt-action? What caliber should it be in? What kind of scope do you want or need?
Here are a few things to consider when buying a rifle:
- Your skill with the rifle. You’re better off with a rifle you’re familiar with than with a rifle and round you’ve never fired.
- What you will be hunting. If you’re hunting deer and similar creatures, you will probably want something in the 30-caliber range.
- What is widely available. It doesn’t matter if you have the perfect rifle that can drive a nail. If you don’t have ammunition for it, you won’t be able to hunt for anything, and it becomes just a heavy club at that point.
- Price. I have shot 3000 dollar .308 Surgeon rifles and I have shot 500 dollar .308 rifles made by Savage. Yes, there is a difference when you start shooting at ranges greater than 500 meters, but it’s a hunting rifle, not a sniper rifle. Given the choice between the two, I would buy the 500 dollar or 1000 dollar Savage offerings, and put the rest of that money into ammunition, water, and food for an emergency situation.
Whatever rifle you pick, in whatever caliber you decide to use, you will want to get a few things for your rifle to make it easier to use/carry and more effective when firing. Here are a few things to invest in:
- Bipod. A bipod adds some weight to your rifle, but a good bipod also makes for a more stable shooting platform. You cannot always depend on nature to give you a good position for firing your rifle supported, but a bipod can go a long way toward helping you with that.
- Sling. Most bolt action rifles, on their own, weigh about 5 pounds and change. Add in ammunition, scope, and bipod, and you’re looking at an easy 7 pounds, and more likely a lot more. A sling allows you to comfortably carry it on you back, while still being able to reach it in a timely fashion.
- Scope. If you can, get a scope that is designed for your rifle caliber. If not, a scope that goes up to 12x magnification should be more than enough for most hunting. Just remember, the more powerful and high-tech your scope is, the heavier it is likely to be, and the more weight you have to carry.
- Additional buttstock padding or a riser. Depending on your height, you may want to put something on the buttstock that will allow you to get a better cheek weld higher up on the stock.
So, now you’ve got your rifle. But a rifle is no good without ammunition, of course. If the crisis situation doesn’t last a long time, you should be fine with a hundred rounds or so of ammunition in whatever caliber. However, in the event of a long-term event, or the end of the world as we know it (TEOTWAWKI), you may find that you need more ammunition.
Luckily, you can load your own ammunition by hand, if you keep your brass after firing, and if you make sure that you have a supply of gunpowder, primers, and bullets.
A Quick Review Of Handloading
As long as you have an accurate scale that can measure grains of gunpowder (such as the Hornady Powder Scale), you can reload spent casings by hand! This process requires a handloading dye kit like the Lee Loader, and depending on the kit you buy, you will also need a rubber mallet.
Reloading a cartridge consists of the following steps:
- Place the shell in the decapping chamber and remove the primer as directed.
- Re-size the case (please note, this only resizes the neck, not the entire case, so use cases for the same caliber you’re loading) by pounding it flush into the die with a rubber mallet.
- Prime the case using the priming chamber and a new primer, as well as the priming rod.
- Add powder, ensuring that you measure carefully for consistency and safety. Pour powder into case with a funnel.
- Place the casing back in the decapping chamber, then place the die over the casing. Drop the bullet in, place the bullet seater in, and gently use the rubber mallet to hammer it back until properly seated.
A Complete Beginner's Guide to Handloading for your Rifle.
Handloading shells is relatively simple, inexpensive, and it allows you to continue to have quality rounds long after you are unable to find them. You can buy everything you need for reloading either online or from your local gun store, from brands like Barnes and Hornady. Handloading is a great hobby to get into well before things go wrong, too, and by handloading, you can build up a nice supply of ammunition.
Two points of caution, though: Make sure that you follow the guide when you are handloading concerning how much powder, and make sure you inspect shells before you load them. Shells that are cracking, broken, rusted, or otherwise damaged, they should not be loaded.
The Act Of Hunting
Spending some time understanding the basics of rifle marksmanship is important to being able to accurately hit a target. If you’re hunting with a rifle, you’re in luck; you can be further from the target and still hit it accurately. This means that deer, for example, are less likely to notice your presence. Just remember that whatever you shoot, you will have to butcher it yourself. Make sure you have a survival knife, and enough knowledge of how to skin animals and access the meat.
What if you aren’t a proficient marksman, though? Or what if you run out of ammo? There are entire books written on how to trap animals, which will allow you to catch smaller prey like rabbits and squirrels. With some know-how and experience, you can even learn to catch larger animals, but when you’re trapping animals, you have to remember that they’re a danger to you as long as they’re still alive.
Fishing or stringing a net across a moving river is a great way to be able to catch food without a lot of effort. Depending on where you live, this may or may not be an option. If you live near a river (like the Ohio River, for an easy example) that is dirty and polluted, fishing may do little more than make you ill, no matter what you catch.
However, if you live near a running river that is somewhat clean, you can catch fish to augment your food supplies. Fishing also doesn’t require a lot of equipment or tools, and it is a very low-effort process. You simply bait a line, put it in the water, and then watch for the line to become taut. Then you pull the fish in.
Here’s what you’ll need for fishing.
- Fishing line. There are various thicknesses that are meant to stand up under different strains, and you’ll know what’s best by where you live.
- Hooks. You can find these locally, and you will want to make sure that you have a lot of them. They will get lost, they will get ripped off the line, and your line will snap.
- Bait and lures. Different fish respond to different things, and having some knowledge about the local fish will make you more likely to catch them. A tackle box will make it all much easier.
If you manage to catch a fish, you should also know how to gut and clean it, as well as descaling the fish by hand. There are a wide variety of manuals and videos on cleaning a fish for eating, so I won’t go into it here. Be sure that you know what you’re doing when cleaning a fish for consumption, though, or else you can end up very ill.
Foraging For Food
Depending on where you live and what season it is, you may be able to find a wide variety of fruits, nuts, and berries that are naturally growing. In some parts of the United States, you can even find wild carrots, onions, and other various vegetables.
When finding fruits or berries for consumption in the wild, you would be best off if you have a book or manual about what is and is not edible. Books like the Collins Gem SAS Survival Guide will have valuable information about what can, and can not, beat eaten in a survival scenario, and you can find that information in a wide range of other books that you can find for sale.
There are a few things that are generally dead giveaways that a plant will be poisonous to some extent. The list includes:
- White berries
- Seeds, beans, or bulbs inside of pods
- Groups of three leaves (think poison ivy)
- Bitter tastes
- Thorns, hair, or spines
- Grain heads with pink or black spurs
- Giving off an almond scent
*Here's our research on Top 10 Wild Teas for Survival
But what if you encounter something that you’re not sure about? If you’re willing to risk it, you can often figure it out yourself. Before you begin, make sure that whatever you’re trying out is available in plentiful supply, or else the risk just isn’t worth it.
- Do not eat or consume anything but purified water for eight hours before you test the berry you’ve found.
- Dissect the plant. Separate it into flowers, fruits, leaf, steam, and roof. Test each part on its own, with that eight hours between. If you find insects inside any part, find another sample. If you find grubs, don’t eat the plant, as grubs are a sign of rot.
- Test if it is poisonous on contact. Substances poisonous to the skin tend to be poisonous to consume. Take the root, the stem, the leaf, and the fruit, and crush a little till it excretes fluid. Rub the fluid on the inside of your elbow or your wrist. Be sure to remember which part you rubbed where.
- Cook a small portion of the plant that isn’t poisonous on contact. If you can’t cook it, or you don’t think you’ll be able to cook it in the future, skip this step.
- Hold a small portion of the prepared plant to your lips for about five minutes. If you notice tingling, burning, swelling, or any other reaction, don’t eat the plant.
- Place another small portion of the plant on your tongue for fifteen minutes. Don’t chew it, don’t swallow it, just let it rest there. If you notice any reaction, spit it out and don’t consume the plant.
- Chew the plant for fifteen minutes. DO NOT SWALLOW. If you notice a reaction, spit it out and do not consume.
- Swallow the small portion of the plant if, after fifteen minutes, you’ve noticed no negative impact. After swallowing, wait for eight hours. Do not eat or drink anything but purified water. If you have any sort of reaction or feel ill, do whatever you can to induce vomiting, and do not consume the plant again.
- Eat about a ¼ cup of the plant, prepared the same as the test sample. After consumption, wait another eight hours consuming nothing but purified water. If you feel ill, induce vomiting, and do not consume again.
- If you don’t feel any negative impact after that, then it is probably something that you can safely consume.
As you can kind of tell, this is not something you want to do a lot of, but in a pinch, it may help you to find the calories that you need, even if the food is not the tastiest.
We’ve talked a lot today about the importance of having a stockpile of food in the event of an emergency. However, some may not be quite sure as to where to keep this stockpile.
If you have a place out in the middle of nowhere that you plan to go to in event of an emergency or unrest or something similar, then you’re going to want to leave it there. And honestly, if it’s something like undeveloped land out in the middle of nowhere, you’re probably going to want to bury it somewhere so people do not mess with it. There are many kinds of waterproof and air-tight cases that you can get to allow you to bury something in the dirt without worry about water ruining the contents.
If you’re going to be keeping your stockpile in your house, here are a few good rules for where to keep it.
- Separate it from the food you normally eat. It’s far too easy to get lazy and to eat the food you mean to use in an emergency rather than going to the store to get something to eat.
- Keep it in a cool and dry place where it is safe and out of the way.
- If you’re going to leave it in a basement, make sure you elevate it. Basements are prone to flooding, and if the food gets wet, it may damage it.
- Most importantly, if you’re going to keep your emergency supply at home, make sure that it is somewhere that you can get to it and that it is setup so that you will be able to easily access or move it.
Like I said earlier, fortune favors the prepared. If you take steps to make sure you have proper preparation for a food supply in the event of an emergency, you will be much more likely to come out of it on top, whether society fixes itself or not.
Other Related Resources:
- When hunting or surviving in harsh weathers you need boots that can handle the conditions. A good list of boots is one we put together here: Best Combat Boots and List of Authorized Boots