How to Survive the Apocalypse


These suddenly chic survival satchels, also known as go bags, are typically lightweight military-grade backpacks stocked with provisions for at least 72 hours. Ready-made bug-out bags containing staples like water purification tablets, a 20-hour body warmer and a multifunction shovel are available on Amazon for under than $200.

Hard-core preppers, however, would never leave their survival up to a mouse click, which is why some sites suggest endless creative tweaks to the standard equipment. Graywolf Survival recommends a chain-saw blade stashed in an Altoids tin to harvest firewood. Survival Life touts feminine hygiene products, even for men, to soak up blood from wounds.

“As long as the gear gets the job done, that’s what matters,” said Andrew Pontius, a marketing consultant and disaster preparedness instructor in Kansas City, Mo., who helps run a site called Bug Out Bag Academy.

2. Go for the Silver

Two years ago, Greece was forced to shutter banks and limit A.T.M. withdrawals to 60 euros a day during a debt crisis that threatened to shatter Europe’s currency union. In the United States, prominent authors like James Rickards, a hedge fund veteran, and David Stockman, once the budget director for the Reagan administration, insist that an even bigger crisis will soon tank Wall Street and torpedo the dollar.

No wonder so many preppers, some of them wearing pinstriped suits, consider gold and silver to be a crucial hedge against a crisis.

While Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies make news, many preppers are quietly packing their bug-out bags with rolls of pre-1965 American dimes, quarters or half-dollars, which are 90 percent silver and available from coin dealers and precious-metals websites (silver is currently about $17 an ounce). “My preferred form of precious metal post-financial collapse, that is, besides high-speed lead,” wrote one prepper on SurvivalistBoards.com.

Unlike gold, which is hovering around $1,300 an ounce, these old silver coins come in small enough denominations to barter for a loaf of bread or a socket wrench in an economic “Mad Max” scenario. Even so, some survivalists remain silver skeptics. “For $100, let’s say you get five silver coins,” said an urban preparedness expert who goes by the nom de guerre Selco. “Why not buy 100 cans of soup?”

3. Alt-Currencies for the Apocalypse

Imagine a true economic apocalypse, one that makes the German hyperinflation of the 1920s, with its wheelbarrows of near-worthless paper currency, look like a hiccup. To prepare for the worst worst-case scenario, some doomers prefer daily staples like tampons, vegetable seeds and cigarettes (that timeless prison medium of exchange) to silver or gold as an alt-currency.

Liquor, too — particularly in easy-to-swap airline bottles — would likely prove a hot commodity, since it not only deadens the pain of surviving in a post-apocalyptic wasteland, but, as a blogger named Survival Mom points out, also provides useful off-label functions as a disinfectant or an ingredient in herbal remedy tinctures.

Visions of a barter economy are not necessarily the stuff of doomer fever dreams, said Xavier Thomas, who runs the British site MoreThanJustSurviving.com with his wife, Elise.

“If we look at examples of systematic social breakdowns, like Argentina in 2001, or the war in the Balkans, goods that people understood on an intrinsic level clearly carried the most value when trading — cans of food, gas, batteries, cheap Bic lighters,” he said. “A good rule of thumb: If you’d find it useful in an emergency, you’ll be able to find someone who will trade for it in an emergency.”

4. Beyond “Duck and Cover”

When President Trump issued his threat to North Korea at the United Nations, many preppers had an almost Pavlovian response: to check their nuclear survival kit. Ever since the backyard bomb shelter went the way of tail fins, survival in the face of mushroom clouds has seemed highly relative.

Some preppers place their faith in unproven home remedies, like bedsheets dusted with baby powder, which they hope will block X-rays, or generous helpings of turmeric mixed with black pepper, to inhibit tumor formation. Others turn to basics, like Geiger counters, wallet-size RAD badges, potassium iodide tablets or a Seychelle radiological family water pitcher, which the manufacturer claims will filter out “99.99 percent of the major contaminants that can be found after a nuclear event.”

Or people may just want to stock up on Snuggies, chocolate Easter bunnies, Hummel figurines or vintage Backstreet Boys paraphernalia, which will do about as much good in the event of a direct strike.

5. The Other Bug-Out Bag

In the event of apocalypse, bring condoms. This may sound like a slogan from a fraternity party T-shirt, but survivalists absolutely adore condoms. Featherweight, ultracompact and durable, condoms (nonlubricated, please) can be used as a makeshift canteen to store water, a fire starter or as elastic bands for an improvised slingshot to hunt small game, according to Creek Stewart, a survival instructor and television host.