The collapse of industrialized civilization isn’t as far-fetched as many people think. With the ever-increasing amount of corruption, global conflict, natural disasters, and tension amongst world leaders only a fool would not take notice.
As the world becomes an increasingly dangerous place, it seems like the average person is becoming more dependent on the government and mass disruption channels.
This is a recipe for disaster.
I mean, think about the chaos that would ensue if we couldn’t get our 2-day Amazon Prime deliveries and the Walmart shelves were no longer being restocked. Honestly, very few people are actually properly prepared for even minor situations, let alone worse case scenarios.
That’s why you need to have the right SHTF gear, plan, and essential items so you’re part of the solution and not part of the problem.
Along with essential items like food and water, it’s also important to have a means of self-defense.
Because don’t forget, like my favorite Comedian Bill Burr says.
“If you don’t have a way to protect yourself, you’re just gathering supplies for the toughest guy on the block!”
In desperate times people will do desperate things… so don’t forget about having a means of self defense handy in-case of a shit hits the fan situation. We all have witnessed the looting and hysteria that follows emergencies, like what we saw with Hurricane Katrina. Police are spread thin, so it’s important to stay self-reliant.
By taking simple steps, like developing the best SHTF plan possible for you and your family, life will be a whole lot simpler should something happen.
Below, I wrote out an in-depth gear list, as well as some good plans you can follow if shit hits the fan. You can use the navigation menu below if you’re interested in just one particular area.
- SHTF Gear List and What You Need to Know
- 1. SHTF Guns, Knives, and Weapons
- 2. SHTF Rifles, Pistols, and Knives
- 3. Emergency Food Supply (Secret Bulk Food Option)
- 4. Mormon Food Canning Center (Hidden Gem for Cheap Bulk Food)
- 5. Freeze Dried Food
- 6. Meals Ready to Eat (MREs)
- 7. Water Supply and Water Filters
- 8. Water Purification Tablets
- 9. Water Distiller
- 10. Clothing and Rain Gear
- 11. Get Home and Bug Out Bag
- 12. Shelter
- 13. Other SHTF Items
The acronym SHTF means when shit hits the fan. It’s a situation associated with chaos, panic, and unpredictability. Having a SHTF plan ready is a good way to prepare for the unknown and will allow you to stay self-reliant. People sometimes jab at preppers for being paranoid, but preppers don’t mind because they know the people who look at them as “weird” will be exactly the type asking them for help.
Every time I turn on the news there is chaos in the world. Shit is hitting the fan big time, whether it be due to a flood, hurricane, or other situation. It’s crazy how helpless people are.
When even when just a relatively minor storm or threat is coming people rush to store and stock up on the essentials in-case they can’t make it out for a few days.
The store shelves quickly thin… I’m from Pennsylvania, and even when a minor snow storm is coming this happens. Now just think of all the potential SHTF scenarios that could arise. People will lose their minds.
Consider the Current State of Things
Think about some of the current world leaders, I’m not going to mention anyone specifically, *cough*… Rocket Man. They aren’t exactly trustworthy or stable. They’re one bad day away from turning the world upside down.
Are you ready?
We’ve all seen images of the aftermath of hurricanes, tsunamis, wicked floods, and seemingly endless wars in many countries, like many in the Middle East. While some of these scenarios are unlikely, I think you get the idea, you need to be ready. Ask yourself, are you ready if a situation like that comes to an area near you?
It’s also important to have a SHTF plan ready for every season. For example, if SHTF in the winter you’ll need a lot more gear to stay warm/alive.
Types of SHTF Situations:
- Extreme Weather
- Rapid Economic Downturn
- Natural Disasters
- Nuclear Attack
- Attack on central power grids (EMP Blast)
- Mass sickness / Epidemic – Ebola, Zica, Sars,
Having the proper gear is very smart if you truly want to be prepared for any situation. Ben Franklin was a smart guy, we should all take his advice! Here is a quote from him below.
SHTF Gear List and What You Need to Know
There are some people actually hoping for a SHTF situation. They are tired of all the needy people that constantly complain. I will admit, sometimes it seems like the world needs to hit the reset button, but we need to think about the implications of saying something like that. I’ve read estimates of up to 90 percent of the US population passing away during hypothetical SHTF scenarios. 90 percent… that’s not the criminals and bad people in the world, that’s friends and family.
Taking the time plan and investing in the right SHTF gear could save your life or the lives of your loved ones.
If you have everything on this list, you’ll be living comfortably while your neighbors are struggling to survive. If you like them, you’ll be able to help them out, otherwise, you’ll have peace and quiet going forward.
Now, lets cover a good SHTF gear list.
1. SHTF Guns, Knives, and Weapons
Utilize Non-Lethal Options When Possible
Not every situation justifies deadly force. As much as we all want to our moneys worth on our recent AR purchase, we need to be responsible! Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for loading up on boom-sticks and hand cannons, but it’s a good idea to have some non-lethal SHTF weapons as well.
You have to remember, in a SHTF situation ordinarily good people may be forced to act uncharacteristically in order to provide for their family. So, while right now you could never image your neighbor breaking into your home, when SHTF and their family is struggling and hungry you may be surprised by what they’re capable of. I will have an entire section dedicated to SHTF Guns, but here I’ll discuss SHTF weapons that are non-lethal.
1. Standard Pepper Spray
In the less than lethal weapon world pepper spray is pretty much the gold standard. On top of being extremely effective, it’s very affordable. You can pick up a reliable can for under 10 bucks.
If you’re someone that’s intimidated by the idea of carrying a real firearm, or you’re in an area where firearms aren’t permitted, pepper spray is a great alternative.
It’s very effective, I mean, it can be used to incapacitate bears, so you can bet your ass it’s going to stop some punk trying to steal your emergency food rations.
There are my different brands on the market. Range and canister capacity varies greatly from product to product, but to be honest the one I listed here will do.
2. A Dog that Doesn’t Run When the Door Opens
When it comes to personal protection, a Yorkshire Terrier isn’t going to do you much good. They’re all bark and no bite. They love to act tough, but as the door opens they’re suddenly nowhere to be found.
So what kinds of dogs are we talking about…
Usually, the same breeds that the military and police use. If trained properly, dogs can be one of the best and most practical home defense tools. In fact, homes with dogs are far less likely to be broken into. In surveys conducted on deterrents to crime, many burglars admit that dogs and security cameras major determinants to crime; they say they these houses with dogs or cameras are more difficult to break into and are more likely to draw attention. Here are some breeds that are known to take down bad guys.
- German Shepherd
- Doberman Pinscher
- Great Dane
- Belgian Malinois
- And many more (I can’t list them all here), but you get the idea. Big dogs with teeth!
Oh and don’t worry, if trained properly they’re totally safe to have around kids.
3. Non-lethal Self Defense Gun
These function much like a paintball gun, in fact, the gun most commonly marketed for this purpose is just an overpriced Tippmann brand paintball gun. It has better range than standard pepper spray and is more effective, but for indoor use, a standard can of pepper spray will do the trick.
4. Stun Gun
A lot of my Marine buddies were posting videos on Facebook this week of taser guns in action. Now you won’t be able to find a military strength one on Amazon, but the one I listed here definitely packs a punch and will put even the largest guys on their ass in a hurry. The major downside of tasers is you have to make contact with the skin, so you either have to hit an area of the body that isn’t covered with clothing or buy one that has sharp and pointy electrodes that can penetrate through clothing.
I’ve never personally been tased, but after watching videos and reading advice from self defense experts I assure you a taser is a very inexpensive and effective means of self defense. I recommend researching, reading reviews, and watching some YouTube videos of them in action. I think you’ll be impressed.
With most tasers, you have to literally be an arms distance away to be able to use them, but there are also ranged tasers you can buy. They’re a little pricey, but I’ll link one below that has some pretty good reviews.
2. SHTF Rifles, Pistols, and Knives
If you don’t already own a KA-BAR, do yourself a favor and pick one up. They’re a great knife and you’ll own an important part of history. I wrote an entire article on combat knives about a week ago where I explained how the KA-BAR got its name. It’s a pretty badass story, and if you want to read my full review on combat knives you can find it here. Basically the name is a play on the words “Kill-A-Bear,” which comes from a story of a man taking down a bear with one after his rifle jammed.
During World War 2, Marines and US troops needed a weapon that could match the effectiveness of German close quarter weapons, and the KA-BAR did just that. Along with being a great self defense weapon, the KA-Bar is also a great utility knife for survival situations.
Note: If you plan on using a firearm for defense, make sure you have a reasonable supply on ammo. You might have the nicest arsenal of weaponry, but without ammo, any SHTF gun is just about worthless.
Chances are if shit really hits the fan you won’t be able to get a hold of any more ammo, so even if your wife complains a lot, just keep stockpiling.
Henry U.S. AR 7 .22 Survival Rifle
If you’ve never heard of Henry AR 7 survival rifle it’s pretty cool. One fun fact about it is that it was designed by the same guy who designed the AR-15.
It’s a .22 caliber semi-automatic rifle that can be disassembled and the entire rifle fits into entire rifle fits into the stock of the rifle. It’s a perfect little survival rifle for backpacking and is perfect for taking out small game. Another great feature is that when the rifle is disassembled and placed into the stock it is water tight and floats.
I wouldn’t recommend this as a primary SHTF rifle, but it’s still an awesome little rifle that I figured some of you might like to know about. It’s inexpensive and .22 ammo is cheap! It’s also a great rifle to throw in your pack during long hikes or to keep in the safe as a backup SHTF rifle. Just keep in mind this is a survival rifle. I wouldn’t recommend busting this bad boy out for too much target practice.
Here is a good video that shows this little rifle in action! If you are looking to pick one up or want more information about it, you can check out the Henry Repeating Arms website here.
Ok that’s pretty generic, there are so many different types of AR-15, and the market is flooded with cheap ARs, so which model do I recommend? The Colt 6920 is probably the cheapest AR-15 that I would be caught dead with. There are better models, but this is a great starting point for anyone looking for an entry level AR 15.
- Colt LE9620 AR-15 (Best Value)
- Colt AR-15A4
- Sig Sauer M400 SRP
Now if you’re only planning on buying one rifle, I wouldn’t buy a bolt action rifle like the Remington 700, but I think most of you are just looking to beef up your arsenal. The Remington 700 is a perfect addition. If it’s good enough for Marine Snipers it should do the trick in a SHTF situation. The Marines actually use a variant of an M40, which is just a modified Remington 700.
AK-47 (“The most reliable gun that still sucks”)
Now I personally wouldn’t buy an AK, and they’re often called the most reliable gun that still sucks. They’re not very accurate, but if you want a gun that you can count on going BOOM in just about any type of condition they aren’t a bad option.
Shotgun (Best for Close Quarters)
SCAR (Best Overall If Your Budget Allows)
If Shit hits the fan and you’re using a pistol, you’ve made a big mistake! When SHTF you are going to want a rifle!
3. Emergency Food Supply (Secret Bulk Food Option)
Below, I’ll show you a way to get bulk food you probably haven’t heard of.
Most people have enough food on hand to make it for maybe… a week tops. They have no form of emergency rations. If shit hits the fan getting to the store for a long period might not be possible.
Even if you could, those store shelves might not be getting restocked. I mean, if the semi-trucks and transport vehicles can’t get the supplies to stores… you can imagine how things would quickly get crazy.
In the United States, we have already seen this happen many times when hurricanes or other natural disasters hit. You see people looting stores and burglarizing their neighbors to make ends meet.
Ask Yourself: How much food will I need for me and my family?
The American Red Cross recommends having at least a 3 day food supply ready, but preferably a 2 week supply. In my opinion that is the bare minimums, and how much you should have really just depends on what you feel comfortable with. Along with food, it’s a good idea to have some multivitamins handy.
What is the best type of food supply and storage method for me?
I actually wrote an entire comprehensive review on how to choose the best emergency food supply for you here.
Most people just don’t think ahead, and they pay the price down the road. It doesn’t cost much and it’s a good idea to have at least a few months of food supply. Keep reading to learn your options.
4. Mormon Food Canning Center (Hidden Gem for Cheap Bulk Food)
Although I am not a Mormon, I know they believe everyone is responsible for having at least a 1 year food supply so they can remain self-sufficient in-case of emergency.
So why am I telling you this? Well, you can take advantage of this. What my family does is hook up with a local Mormon food storage facility that allows us to go in and can all types of foods, such as various types of wheat, beans, fruit, etc. This is one option you could explore. You can also just go there and purchase the food by the can or case.
You can check out the food storage section of their website here they have 101 locations in the United States, so you should be able to find a facility near you.
5. Freeze Dried Food
Buying freeze dried food is a great way to enhance your emergency food supply, and it stays good for up to 30 years! There are a lot of options when it comes to food storage so make sure you take a look at my full review on your long term food storage options. You can buy or read reviews on my favorite freeze dried meals here.
Freeze drying is an old technique that allows food to retain its nutritional value and taste over extended periods of time.
Keep reading to find out how freeze drying works and two good companies you can buy from.
How it Works:
Freeze drying is a three-step process. First food is frozen, then placed in a low heated vacuum chamber, causing frozen water crystals to evaporate directly from ice to vapor in a process called sublimation.
Next, the food goes under a “second drying” where any residual water molecules are removed at increased temperatures.
The food is then sealed with nitrogen for storage to prevent any water or oxygen from getting inside, thus preventing the food from spoiling.
Where to Buy Freeze Dried Food:
Option #1: There are a couple of products I recommend, the first is the Mountain House Just in Case Bucket.
The company has a 30 year taste guarantee… One case provides 12 meals, which is a 3.5-day supply for a single person.
There are many different great meal combinations, and they’re very affordable. Click here to read reviews and more about the Just in Case Bucket.
All you need to do is add water to each individual packet, and you can eat right out of the packet so there is no mess.
You can buy or read reviews on Mountain House freeze dried meals here.
Option #2: If you’re looking to buy a bulk long term food supply (3 month supply), the Valley Food Storage company offers a good section offers healthy freeze dried survival food for emergencies.
Each box provides a 3 month supply for one individual. The company ensures quality by not using harmful ingredients like monosodium glutamate (MSG), hydrogenated oils, or GMOS.
The packets are lightweight, making them easy to transport and store. The bags are resealable, so you can rest assured your food will stay fresh even after opening.
You can buy or read reviews on Valley Food Storage freeze dried food here.
6. Meals Ready to Eat (MREs)
A MRE is an individually packed dehydrated meal that lasts a very long time (typically 5 years or more depending on how they’re stored).
They’re very nutrient/calorie dense and are designed to provide the body with essential nutrition when traditional food supplies are not available. They usually consist of a main meal along with several accessories, such as muffins, cookies, fruit, etc.
If you want a very in-depth review of MREs check out my everything you need to know about MREs page here.
Where to Buy MREs:
There are many types of MREs. I don’t sell any on this site, but I have listed some good Meal Ready to Eat suppliers below. To see what is in each menu item, check out my everything you need to know about MREs page (link above).
They usually have competitive prices and reasonable shipping. And most importantly, you can rest assured they were stored correctly and are fresh.
7. Water Supply and Water Filters
How long you can survive without water depends on where you live and other factors. Under ideal conditions, people are recorded living up to 10 days without water. You can read the full review on my favorite water filters here.
Exposure to heat and activity increases the about of water that leaves the body, thus increasing the amount you’ll need to take in.
Under extreme conditions, an adult can lose up to 1.5 liters of water through sweat in an hour.
There a many ways to ensure you’ll have enough clean water.
Using the products below, in conjunction with bottled water will ensure you’ll have a sustainable water supply.
Ensuring you have clean water and the ability to filter and/or sterilize water is very important. Purchasing a water filter and/or water purification tablets will increase your chance of survival in an emergency situation. To find the best products in each category, keep reading.
8. Water Purification Tablets
The active ingredient in water purification tablets is usually iodine, chlorine, or chlorine dioxide. These chemicals deactivate viruses, bacteria, and parasites that might be living in the water.
Drinking untreated water from rivers, lakes, wells, cisterns, or collected rain can make you sick, and can even be life threatening.
Water purification tabs are used by all major aid agencies, NATO, and other military organizations to purify water in emergency situations.
I recommend purchasing Aquatabs Water Purification Tablets. They have been around for over 20 years and have treated over 3 billion gallons of water.
The fast-acting tabs make water ready to drink in 30 minutes. These tablets don’t make the water taste bad like many other products out there. Aquatabs have been used during hurricanes, tornadoes, earthquakes, and floods.
Warning: Taking iodine tables may be contraindicated for anyone with thyroid conditions, iodine allergies, or women who are pregnant. Water purification tabs are not 100 percent effective and may lose effectiveness over long periods of time.
9. Water Distiller
After a natural disaster, many contaminants such as lead, salt, heavy metals, radiation, and/or other contaminants can taint previously safe drinking water supplies.
Distilling water involves boiling water and capturing/collecting the steam, leaving the dangerous contaminants behind. There are many ways to make a water distillation system at home, but it’s much easier to just buy one.
You can read more about the nonelectric water distiller I recommend here.
The Waterwise non-electric distiller can distillate 3.2 quarts of water in 1.2 hours, which is equal to about 16 gallons in a day.
This product is great for camping or adding to your emergency supplies. Another plus is that it comes with a 2 year warranty.
#3 Survival Straws
How survival straws work:
Survival straws are an easy way to filter water. The active carbon filter element found inside the survival straw filters out large pathogens and bacteria that might be living in the water. Another plus is they also remove bad odors and flavor from the water.
Lifestraw’s personal water filters are award winning and have been used around the world by millions of people since 2005. They remove 99.9999 percent of bacteria and protozoan parasites, which far exceeds EPA standards for water filters. Each Straw filters up to 1000 liters of water without iodine, chlorine, or other chemicals. Each straw comes in a sealed bag, making them perfect to put in a backpack or storing for emergencies. Survival straws are a great addition to your bug out bag and SHTF gear supply.
#4 Boiling water
Boiling water kills parasites, bacteria, and other pathogens. Although boiling water does not remove heavy metals and other contaminants, it is still one of the best methods to make water safe to drink.
I recommend letting the water boil for 5-10 minutes to ensure your water will be safe to drink.
As long as you have a metal pot and a butane burner, you’ll be able to safely boil a lot of water.
I recommend this portable butane stove burner.
Or if you already have a propane tank for your grill, this propane gas cooker is a good buy.
10. Clothing and Rain Gear
Many times during a SHTF situation there will be rioting and looting on a mass level.
You may want to relocate in some cases. For this reason ensure you have good hiking boots/shoes, rain gear, and clothing for hiking long distances. During winter months the leading cause of death is likely to be freezing to death.
If you find yourself in a situation where it’s raining or storming you’re definitely going to want a survival style rain poncho like the one here.
When it comes to a type of clothing that will keep you warm I recommend buying some wool clothes. Heat leaves the body through the head very quickly, so make sure you have some quality hats. I was issued a sweater like this Rothco wool commando sweater here when I was in the Marines and I loved it.
You’re going to need a good pack to carry all this clothing and gear, which leads me to the next section.
11. Get Home and Bug Out Bag
If you have to get away, or bug out, having a good bag is essential. A bug out bag is essentially a portable kit that has all the items you would most likely need to survive away from your home. You would only use this bag in an absolute worst case scenario. I also wrote an entire page on get home bags, which basically bags designed to help get you home during an emergency. These bags are best left in the trunk of your car.
You can either buy a quality bag and pack it yourself or buy one that comes filled with items you’ll most likely need to survive for 72 hours. I’ll link to two I would recommend below.
In your bug out bag, you might want to add some things that are often taken for granted and overlooked like personal hygiene gear, toilet paper, supplies to brush your teeth, etc.
You can pick up a good military style bug out bag (3 day assault pack) here.
A survival tent is a must have item on an emergency supplies list. In some cases, your home may be destroyed, or you’ll have to relocate for a period of time. Having a survival tent will protect you from rain, wind, and sun.
It is made from a mylar thermal material designed by NASA to reflect up to 90 percent of body heat to keep you warm.
It is lightweight, compact, and easy to carry. It’s good for hiking, boating, hunting, backpacking, or just a good addition to your emergency gear list.
It sets up in minutes and comfortably accommodates two adults.
Flashlights and Headlamps
You can check out my full review on the best hand crank emergency flashlights here.
Anyone who has ever lost power quickly realizes how dependent we have become on electricity. Not being able to flip on the lights is very limiting.
Having a dependable flashlight that will keep working in adverse conditions is very important. Along with battery powered emergency flashlights, it’s also a good idea to have a solar powered and/or hand crank flashlight.
Having a headlamp flashlight is very nice so you can work hands free. You don’t need anything super expensive or fancy. The headlamp I recommend here is cheap and will do the job just fine.
A hand crank flashlight is nice because obviously, it doesn’t rely on batteries. One good hand crank flashlight can be found here. It also can be used as a mobile cell phone charger and radio.
One cool product to add to your house is a product developed by the Red Cross called the blackout buddy. When the power goes out the blackout buddy automatically turns on. If you lose power the blackout buddy will allow you to find other hand held flashlights and other things you might need.
13. Other SHTF Items
Another important thing I want to remind you of is not to tell others about your plans or what supplies you have. Instead of telling them exactly what you have, it’s a good idea to inform them of how they should prepare so they aren’t coming to you for help. While it’s great to help others, when shit hits the fan your family should always be priority number one.
The below items are not necessarily must have survival gear, but are definitely things you should consider adding to your emergency supplies list.
- 550 Cord
- Battery Powered Fan
- Duct Tape
- Emergency Radio
- Fire Starting Materials
- First Aid Kit
- Fix a flat
- Flashlights and Headlamps
- GPS (Global positioning system)
- Hand Sanitizer
- Hang crank battery charger
- Heavy Duty Trash Bags
- Hygiene Products
- Hand/foot warmers
- Insect Repellant
- Jumper Cables
- Lip Balm/chapstick
- Laminated list of phone numbers
- Maps and Compass
- Multi-purpose tool
- Pepper Spray
- Personal Locator Beacon (PLB)
- Rain Ponchos
- Sleeping Bag
- Toilet Paper
- Walkie Talkies
You don’t have much control over when and if a SHTF situation takes place. You do, however, have control over if you’re prepared and how you react to these situations. Having the best SHTF plan possible and investing in emergency essentials will save you time down the road… and possibly your life.
I Need Your Help!
If there is anything you think should be added or changed on this list or have something you think I should add to this SHTF gear list, leave a comment below and let me know. I know a lot of you are experts when It comes to survival and emergency gear. Even if you’re not, I always like to hear other perspectives! Be sure to check out the other sections of my site before you go.
Remember…. The time to Prepare is Now!
Corporal Wabo is a former Infantry Squad Leader with 3rd Bn 4th Marines. As an outdoor enthusiast, he has been testing outdoor and tactical style gear for over 20 years. He started this website while transitioning out of the Marines, and since has recruited several other Marines to help him work on the Marine Approved website. On this website, we only write about things within our range of expertise like tactical gear, survival gear, hiking supplies, etc. Check out the “About Us” tab to meet the team.