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Survival Stockpiling October 17, 2008

Posted by federalist in Open Questions, Uncategorized.
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Imagine a catastrophe like an EMP attack that destroys our power infrastructure.  Before long the pumps that bring us water and fuel will stop.  What can you reasonably do to prepare to survive in such a post-apocalyptic world?  You and those for whom you care will need clean water, food, and shelter.  Eventually you may also find a need for other things, like medicine.

If you own a rural estate you can transform into a fully self-sufficient compound that’s great, but suppose that, like most people, you can’t move far away from cities.  With small amounts of land you might be able to install a well for fresh water and a garden capable of supplying some food.  With extra storage space you can stockpile food, though to maintain a food stockpile you have to either adopt a regimented rotation system or buy extended shelf-life emergency stores that you refresh every ten years or so.  You can’t stockpile significant amounts of fuel.

At some point you will almost surely want something from somebody else.  What can you acquire now that is easy to store and that would be very valuable to other people during a crisis?  At this point you may expect me to shout “Gold!” or “Silver!” followed by an offer to sell you coins near the current spot market price.  But I can’t imagine precious metals being worth very much in this scenario.  You can’t eat them.  They don’t keep you warm, nor do they protect or heal you.  They are not particularly useful for anything, and not many people today are competent at authenticating a piece of metal as being precious, not counterfeit.  In a crisis precious metals are not more useful than any other fiat currency; people will accept them only so long as they believe other people will.  Therefore a wad of twenty-dollar bills would be just as good as a pocket of gold coins — probably better since people are familiar with paper currency.

So it might make sense to keep some hard currency on hand, but in a major crisis where the supply of essential goods is in question barter will be the only kind of trade you can count on.  One other thing you can count on in such a scenario: If you do possess essential goods there will be a lot of other people desperate to take them from you.  Which brings me to the list of things I think are worth stockpiling for a crisis.  Each of these has two key characteristics:

  • High crisis value: These are things that you would want for yourself in a crisis, or that most other people would want enough to barter for in a crisis.
  • Easy to store: This means they pack a lot of “crisis value” into a relatively small space, and also that they have an extended shelf-life.

Which suggests:

  1. Knowledge and Skills.  Granted, some knowledge will be in greater demand than other.  Medical and survival skills are bound to be the most valuable.  Mechanics, crafts, agriculture and husbandry will probably also be quite valuable.  Nothing is easier to store than knowledge.  Useful books are also easily stored.
  2. Weapons.  Specifically firearms and ammunition.  In a crisis there are those with guns and then there is everybody else.  He who has a gun can defend himself and his possessions.  He who does not is at the mercy of the mob.  Guns and ammo have a virtually unlimited shelf-life if kept dry.  They are also among the densest stores of value for crisis barter.
  3. Water.  A well outfitted with a hand pump that produces high-quality water would be indispensable.  Don’t overestimate the reliability of municipal water: During the 2003 Northeast Blackout taps began to run dry after less than twelve hours!
  4. Medicine.  All varieties of analgesics, antibiotics, antifungals, antihistamines, antivirals, steroids, and vitamins are worth stockpiling.  (If you are concerned about biological or radiological catastrophes be sure to add doxycycline and potassium iodide to the list.)  They are a very dense store of value, though the ability to barter them may depend on how easily they can be authenticated.  Actual shelf-life needs to be determined, since “expiration” dates are really just a lower bound on shelf-life.  [Update: See this post on the question.] Other medical equipment should also be stockpiled though I would welcome a list prioritized by value density. [Update: See my list here.]
  5. Food.  Extremely valuable, but bulky and difficult to store.  You will almost certainly want as much as you can hold and maintain.  Vendors like Walton Feed sell dehydrated food sealed with oxygen scrubbers that can last for decades when kept in cool, dark storage.
  6. Seeds.  Eventually people with even a little land will want to start to grow food.  In such a case seeds are much more valuable than food.  But shelf-life is a concern as with food and drugs; all need to be stored in a cool, dry place to preserve potency.
  7. Liquor.  Distilled alcohol seems to be a reliable and relatively dense store of value.  It also has a virtually unlimited shelf-life.  I would stockpile sealed bottles of mid-grade well-known brands of liquor for bartering.  High in calories, alcohol can be used not only as food or fuel but also as an antiseptic or anesthetic in a pinch.
  8. Tools.  Most likely hand tools since any fuel or power is bound to be scarce for the duration of a crisis.  Here too I would welcome lists prioritized by value density.
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Comments»

1. Rebecca - October 21, 2008

Another great vendor for food storage items is http://www.shelfreliance.com

2. federalist - December 22, 2008

I just came across the appropriately named SurvivalBlog. On their page about preparing for a flu pandemic are some useful ideas, including a recommendation for Ready Made Resources as an alternative to Walton Feed for people in the eastern U.S.

Jim Rawles, SurvivalBlog’s proprietor, has written a few survivalist novels. His FAQ for one includes a list of items to stockpile for barter (see #12).

3. federalist - January 7, 2009

As we reviewed the criteria for a good survival stockpile a friend jokingly suggested nuclear fuel. But that immediately brought to mind Pebble Bed Reactors. It actually seems like a good idea: Once we have commoditized nuclear pebbles you could not only put a reactor behind your house, but you could also store a massive amount of useful energy in a vault full of pebbles.

4. federalist - April 28, 2009
5. federalist - May 27, 2009
6. federalist - July 12, 2013

Good perspective on “sane” prepping here.


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