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Before the coronavirus outbreak hit the United States, leaving people panicking and shelves barren, you probably imagined a prepper as a middle-aged white guy who fantasized about nuclear warfare in order to justify his gun collection to his wife.
Now… your perception has probably changed a bit. For years, people laughed at me for being a bearded “prepper,” and now those same people are asking me for advice. Don’t worry, I’m not going to say “I told you so,” but I’ll instead quote John McClane: “Welcome to the party, pal.”
Granted, many popular prepper items aren’t going to help in this case. There have yet to be any major utility outages anywhere in the world due to the coronavirus, so solar panels, fire starters, and water filtration kits likely (and hopefully) won’t be much help, though they’re nice to have.
But with many states asking people to stay home as much as possible, it helps to have some essentials on-hand—beyond toilet paper and hand sanitizer. Here are eight things that any rational prepper would recommend right now to help get you through this crisis.
A good prepper always has batteries on hand. Granted, it’s often for things like flashlights, weapon sights, and radios, but you don’t want to be without batteries during a lockdown. You might not use a stack of AAs to power up a ham radio to contact rescuers, but what about your kids’ toys, remote control (especially after all the Netflix you’ve been watching), and uh… marital aids? Think of all the things around your house that need replaceable batteries and imagine life without them.
If you’re short on batteries, it’s past time to consider stocking up, as they’re now in short supply. But if you can get them, I recommend the Duracell Procell, as I’ve found them to have much better battery life than the cheapies. You might also consider rechargeable batteries like the Panasonic Eneloop. The charge may not last as long as a disposable, but you can use them again and again.
For over 20 years, a Leatherman Wave has been a constant companion, though it was only in the last few years that I started wearing it on my belt every day. Nowadays, I don’t know how I’d live without it, because it’s like another appendage. Here are a handful of the things I frequently use mine for:
- Opening packages with the knife
- Picking out splinters with the knife
- Prying things like batteries with the flat-head screwdriver
- Cutting wires
- Pruning small limbs
Infrequent uses include everything from skinning squirrels to opening cans. Once you become a multitool person, you’ll never know how you lived without one.
3. Knife Sharpeners
A sharp knife is safer than a dull knife. That’s counterintuitive, but it’s a fact. And not only is a dull knife dangerous, it just sucks to use.
You probably don’t know how to sharpen a knife. Frankly, I really don’t either. But I know a great tool that can help you fake it: the Work Sharp field sharpener. This small gadget costs less than $25 and is absolutely amazing. Here’s what all it has:
- Both coarse and fine diamond sharpening plates, attached by magnets. There are small storage compartments underneath each one.
- Built-in 25-degree angle guides.
- A small ceramic sharpener for serrated blades.
- Three ceramic rods, selectable with a dial.
- A stropping strip for refining a blade to razor sharpness.
- It can even sharpen fishing hooks and help you remove arrowheads.
Follow the included instructions and your knives will be sharp in no time, even if you’re an absolute sharpening idiot. I use mine to sharpen not only field knives, but kitchen knives, chisels, scissors, and I even use the strop to hone my straight razor. I love mine so much I ordered another while writing this.
4. Nitrile Gloves
They’re hard to buy now, so I’m very glad that I always kept a big bag of nitrile gloves on hand. Nitrile is stronger than latex and doesn’t carry the same allergy risks. They’re handy for all sorts of things: cleaning, changing messy diapers, working on greasy dirty cars, and dealing with dead animals. But right now I like to put them on whenever I have to go into a store. When you take them off, be careful how you take them off so you don’t contaminate your hands. Here’s a video demonstrating the technique.
5. Emergency Food
Emergency food kits can feed a single person or a family for days or even months and can sit on a shelf for literally decades. They’re often sold in a bucket with a lid. Suppliers like Augason Farms also sell large cans of various foodstuffs that can be safely stored for years.
People used to laugh at televangelist Jim Bakker and his food buckets, but they’re not laughing now (okay, maybe they still are). After respirator masks, emergency food rations were one of the first things to sell out. My Patriot Supply saw a 100-fold increase in orders of emergency food shortly after the pandemic began, and the company now claims wait times of 12 weeks or more for orders.
If you missed out, the good news is that these aren’t things you want to eat every day. They’re formulated with shelf life in mind (as long as 30 years or more) rather than taste. But still, when I saw an Augason Farms 48-hour four-person emergency food bucket at Walmart, I snagged it. It was the last one on the shelf.
For those that have an excess of dry foods like beans or rice, you can purchase 5-gallon mylar bags that can be filled with your food and then sealed shut with clothes iron or hair curler. You then place the sealed bag in a 5-gallon bucket. Here’s a video explaining the process.
6. Duct Tape
What can’t duct tape do? I recently used a bunch to fix a rip in the tarp that serves as a roof for my chicken tractor. In a pinch it can be used to patch holes in clothing, work as emergency cordage, be used to start a fire, and you can even make a wallet out of it. Just don’t apply it to anything wet—it won’t stick.
I’ve used a lot of duct tape brands over the years, and I’ve always found 3M duct tape to be the most consistent. It’s worth the extra cost over cheaper brands.
7. A positive mental attitude
The best thing you can own during this time is something you can’t buy: a positive mental attitude. It’s been extensively documented that the best chance of surviving a bad situation is a positive mental attitude. We all have our moments of weakness, but a negative outlook defeats you before you even start. Survival instructor Cody Lundin in his book, 98.6 Degrees: The Art of Keeping Your Ass Alive describes this as a “party-on” attitude. Out of batteries? Party on. Can’t buy bread? Let’s eat something else, party on. John A. Call wrote in Psychology Today: “Learn to take challenges as they come, and think positively about the outcome of the situation. You will be able to overcome obstacles more easily with a more positive attitude.”
We live in scary times, but your best bet is to stay optimistic, accentuate the positive, and count your blessings.
8. An at-home garden
Not everyone has the privilege of owning land, but even having a backyard can offer opportunities not available to apartment dwellers, like starting a garden or raising chickens. Many preppers even had remote “bug out” locations in rural areas perfect for social isolation.
If you had a time machine, you might want to go back in time and buy 50 acres, but your best bet now is to use what you have. Our supply chain is being stressed to its limits, and even if barren shelves are more a symptom of panic buying than an actual shortage, anything we can do to relieve stress on the supply chain will help. Spring is almost here, so now is the perfect time. You might need less space than you think: Steven Cornett in San Diego started his own commercial farm on a mere quarter of an acre.
Josh Centers – USA Today