Tools You Will Need When SHTF

Chris Byrne
By Chris Byrne January 19, 2017 14:03

Tools You Will Need When SHTF

by Chris Byrne

Even though there are many different SHTF situations possible, there are general-purpose tools and equipment that every prepared individual should have. I’m going to list not only the tools that everyone should have, but how to keep your list of SHTF equipment orderly and efficient. I’m going to show you a template for equipment planning that was taught to me when I was learning survival and security work.

Defensive Tools

1. The Bug-out Vehicle – Your ability to move out of the way of danger can be the first and most effective defense measure against any myriad of threats. For this reason, keeping a well-maintained vehicle is absolutely paramount to cover lots of ground quickly. I recommend having a survival kit to keep your car alive should you need to “bug out” ASAP. I would keep the following in a carton ready to throw in the trunk:

  • Automobile Fluids (1 Quart Size): Oil, Transmission, Brake, Coolant
  • Common Automobile Tools: Wrenches, Socket Set, Screw Drivers, Etc.
  • Tire repair: “Fix-a-Flat” Can
  • Jump-Start Cables & Chargeable Jump-Start Battery
  • Jack Stand and filled Spare Tire

2. The Bug-out Mule – When is the last time you went for a long walk (5 or 10 miles)? If your vehicle is disabled during SHTF, can you regroup and walk where you need to go? You’ll become a pack mule for the family, and you’ll need the right gear to carry the . . . gear:

  • Hiking boots & Cushioned socks
  • Hiking Pack (to carry some of the gear that was in the disabled car)
  • Moleskin (to mitigate blisters)

Related: 11 Smart Tips to Make Your Bug-Out Bag Lighter and Smaller

*While fitness level is not a physical “tool” per-say, it will help or hinder a family who is trying to escape an imminent SHTF situation. Now is the time to get yourself in better shape, regardless of how many survival items you’ve acquired. One can always be in better physical condition.

3. Self-Defense – Moving out of the way of trouble isn’t always feasible. There are plenty of criminals that would take advantage delayed law enforcement response if SHTF. Along with training to use force in self-defense, the family protector should lawfully keep tools to deal with deadly threats:

*While it should go without saying, responsible citizens spend time reviewing and demonstrating firearm safety as well as seeking qualified firearm self-defense training. Having a firearm without proper training is like having an operating room without a surgeon.

First-Aid Tools

While the use of force skills and tools are completely necessary, appropriate time must be spent learning to save a life. During a SHTF event, there will likely be little to no emergency medical response. You may be the only “EMT” available. That being the case, each person in the family should have a personal first-aid kit with the minimum items:

  • (2) Tourniquet
  • (2) 6” Compression Bandages
  • (2) Compressed Gauze Packages
  • (1) Roll – Surgical tape
  • (2) ABD Gauze Pads
  • (2) Occlusive (vented) Chest Seals
  • (1) Nasopharyngeal Airway w/ surgical lube
  • (1) Pack of Hemostatic Agent (QuikClot or Celox)
  • (1) Pair of Rubber Gloves

*Along with a basic first-aid kit, the family should have an expanded medical kit. The important thing to remember is that one will not magically know how to use a first-aid item under stress. Administering first-aid takes training and practice, but saving a life is worth the effort.

Observation and Communication Equipment Tools

During SHTF, the individuals and family that can observe happenings from afar and communicate with the outside world have a chance to formulate a plan to handle less than ideal situations. In the professional world of security, observation and communication equipment help process information into intelligence which helps leaders make decisions. At a minimum, here’s what you need:

  • FRS/GMRS radios – for each family member. Find out how to double your radio’s range here.
  • (1) HAM radio (and the requisite licensing and training in use)
  • Equipment to repower dead batteries (solar power)
  • (1) 60x Spotting Scope
  • Inexpensive 10x Monocular – for each family member
  • Emergency Signaling Devices – Road Flares and a couple cheap laser pointers

*Having alternate communication equipment is great, but it’s necessary to have a communication plan in place with other families and neighbors prior to SHTF.

Related: The Only Form of Communication After T-SHTF

Land Navigation – Land navigation along with first aid training may be one of the most underrated skill sets for SHTF prepping. When SHTF, there will probably be some folks that can stay on the homestead, while others will be forced to flee to safety. If GPS fails, and you’re forced off your route, then what shall you do? Luckily there are plenty of land navigation tutorials on the internet. Orienteering can be a lot of fun as an activity for the family to do together. Here’s what you need:

  • GPS (it may or may not work post SHTF)
  • (2) Compasses (with declination feature)
  • Several large water resistant area maps
  • Map tools: Protractor, pencils, scale

*It’s not enough to have maps and know how to navigate land. Just like a proper communication plan is necessary, so is having several contingency bug-out routes planned on your way to that family cabin.

Related: The Lost Art of Reading Nature’s Signs

Extreme Weather Clothing Planning

If the power goes out in the winter and it stays out, how will you keep you and your family warm? Does your family have the clothing to stay warm when there’s no external heat source for long periods of time? A family should have the following:

  • (2) Sets of Layered clothing (socks, underwear, long johns, top & bottom)
  • Wind and Water Resistant Parka (and/or rain gear for warm climates)
  • Polypropylene or Wool hat, gloves, facemask
  • Boots (mentioned in the “bugging out on foot”, should be insulated in cold climates)
  • All-weather 10×10 shelter / rainfly
  • Sleeping bag and ground-pad (1 each per family member)

I recommend having the following survival tools at a minimum:

  • Smoke masks (things catch fire, and if there’s no firefighters to put them out . . . )
  • All-weather shelter tarp / rain-fly (at least 10×10)
  • (1) each sleeping bag per family member appropriate to the climate
  • Fire steel, striker, lighter, tinder
  • Compact wood stove, steel canteen cup with lid, tea and bouillon cubes
  • Water filter and purification drops & tablets
  • Food rations – have 3 days’ food in your pack and a year’s worth of food at your home, and another year’s worth at your retreat / other family member’s houses.
  • Compact Sanitation Kit – (feminine hygiene products for women), soap, oral hygiene products, compact washcloth, Sani-wipes, mineral salt deodorant, and toilet paper when you have space. Keep a year’s worth in your home, and several weeks of sanitation items in your pack.  While you may not have enough sanitation products in your pack to last 3 years, the longer you stay clean, the better your morale will be, and the less the chances are of you getting sick.
  • Tomahawk with rear side hammer
  • Bush-craft knife
  • (1) Large Multi-tool per family member
  • Paracord – LOTS OF PARACORD
  • Duct Tape – LOTS OF DUCT-TAPE

*The internet is filled with survival tools, some are ingenious in design, others are not as useful as they are eye candy or good marketing gimmicks. The only way to know for sure is to get that survival tool out for some use in the outdoors. Experience rules over theory.

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Chris Byrne
By Chris Byrne January 19, 2017 14:03
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  1. Liz January 19, 16:12

    As an addition to your survival tools, please add a Charlie’s Horse. (a collapsible cart) and a trucker’s friend hammer

    Reply to this comment
  2. hidden January 19, 16:53

    I use tire plugs, they are lighter and work even if you are not “bugging out”. You will need an air pump which you don’t need with fix a flat. Fix a flat also has issues that make your tires hard to fix at a repair center.

    I have used two (2) aluminum walking sticks, the kind that telescope into itself. if you are not used to walking, you will be glad that you have them.

    I also carry 2 knives, one small and one large.

    I have some rubber straps that go over my boots or shoes that have cleats on them to help me travel on foot in mud and icy weather.

    I have other things in the car bag, and depending on the situation I can leave things behind if not needed at that time

    I also have sun glasses and protective clear (safety) glasses that fit over my sun glasses. If you ever had to walk in the blowing rain and snow you will make life easier with these.

    These are thing I have had to use when I have been stranded and had to walk out.

    Reply to this comment
  3. left coast chuck January 19, 17:29

    This is a nice list. I suggest before you stuff all that merchandise in your car that you pack it up and weigh it. Yikes! Sixty pounds! Are you really going to hike three days with sixty pounds on your back? Let’s say you are on I-5 in California between Kettleman City and Los Banos. I-5 is a major corridor between southern and northern California on a typical weekend thousands of people drive it. Every food vendor for a couple of miles on either side of that highway will be cleaned out in a matter of hours. If you live in the LA area you are about 250 miles from home. If you live in the Bay Area about the same distance or another popular route, LA to Las Vegas and the end of the world comes for you halfway between Barstow and Baker. I would suggest more food and water and a better means of carting the necessities than a back pack. I carry two light weight fold up luggage carriers in my car one for my wife and one for me. I can pull a lot heavier load on a luggage carrier than I can carry on my back. Plus if I have to engage in hostilities, I can drop the luggage carrier quicker than I can unbuckle my sternum strap, waist belt and shrug out of the shoulder strap of a back pack. Every “survivalist writer” recommends carrying fishing gear. Unless you know where the hot fishing spots are en route, that is a waste of weight and space. Ever spent a whole day on the lake or river, trying different baits, lures, depths, trolling, still fishing and not gotten even a nibble? That was a day you could have spent covering ground. The list in this article doesn’t mention matches. The reason matches were invented was because they are far superior to flint and steel. Pack Bic lighters (plural) and matches (plural). Don’t waste time fooling around with flint and steel. You can set more stuff on fire far easier with either a lighter or matches than you can with flint and steel. I read one “survival manual” wherein the author was adamant in his assertion that you should be able to cover 150 miles in three days. That just ain’t gonna happen baby unless you are on a bicycle. Do the math. That’s an average of 50 miles a day if you can maintain a pace of 5 miles an hour non-stop for ten hours per day. Get in your car. Drive two and a half miles measured by your odometer. Then go back home. Don’t take a pack, just walk out to the 2.5 mile marker and walk back home. How long did it take you? Oh an hour and twenty minutes? Well, Bucky, you are going to have to pick up the pace if you are going to cover 150 miles in three days. If you are halfway between Barstow and Baker and you are going to go home in LA, You have a ten to fifteen day hike depending on where in the LA area you live. If you think you will be able to supplement your supply along the way, what do you think all the other folks in all the other cars that were streaming to Vegas on Friday afternoon have in mind? If you truly are planning on surviving you had better have a plan which is based on reality and not fantasy. This article is a start but far short of adequate planning and preperation.

    Reply to this comment
    • Wannabe January 19, 18:25

      I’m afraid these articles are getting a little far fetched. All have good info and suggestions on equipment but not as practical as they need to be. Best way to survive is a good plan. That plan is formulated with individual surroundings. How portable is a ham radio anyway? I’m not asking a silly question I would really like to know. Don’t they need a power source? Are some battery operated? Don’t get me wrong, I’m not trying to be cynical, Lord knows there is enough of that going around. I’m just trying to be practical. As far as medical supplies go that stuff is very expensive. Six in my family so six personal first aid kits plus the trauma kit. I guess it goes back to the little at a time rule. I guess this article is for a bugging in scenario and not a bugging out scenario unless all six of my family members have their own bug out bag to cover sleeping bags, clothes, guns, ammo, etc… sorry, I just believe in practical.

      Reply to this comment
      • Bob January 24, 06:29

        Ham radio portability: I am a licensed Ham Operator very concerned with this topic. An HT (hand held) contains it’s own battery which can be recharged by means of a solar panel such as a “briefcase ” panel from Harbor Tools. There are also battery holders for “AA” batteries for emergency power as well. I have a Yaesu as well as a Baofeng, both 2M and 440 bands.
        One of the big drawbacks is the limited range for simplex transmission. This can be rectified by obtaining a (linear amplifier of 15 to 50 watt output).
        contact me if you wish to have a further discussion.

        Reply to this comment
    • roro February 24, 21:48

      fishing gear is not just for fishing for food ……. you can use the monofillamaent line as a near invisible early warning system and you can use the hooks as keep away ideas on spring loaded (smll trees or branches) thus when hit wth the hooks may make an incoming intruder not want to proceed but just a thought but hey what do i know

      Reply to this comment
  4. Wannabe January 19, 18:12

    Anybody want to loan me three thousand dollars to buy all this stuff? I guess a little at a time. Would love to have all of it

    Reply to this comment
  5. PB- dave January 19, 18:19

    This article is way to small for the broad topic it tries to cover. Each topic could be its own article. Give a panel of authorities a task of assembling the top 10 tools for a specific task, and also give size and weight limits. Why they were selected and how to use them efficiently.

    Top 10 hand tools for the shelter.
    Top 10 items for a vehicle.
    Top 10 first aid items.
    Top 10 security items.

    Etc, etc, …

    Reply to this comment
  6. Karigan January 19, 18:28

    This is a well put together article that all people (preppers or not) should do. I grew up in a very rural area. Many of these things were just regular life in the 50s. We had big potato chip cans all set up to go in the car trunk with extra warm clothes and some basic tools like a short handle shovel and metal grid things that tucked under the tires if you got stuck. The cans stored away in good weather and went to the car at the first storm.

    Reply to this comment
  7. Karigan January 19, 18:40

    another light weight addition I would suggest would be a basic sewing kit, with a household needle set and regular sharps,which would double for repairs and sutures if you had to use it, oh and super glue for sealing wounds if you can get them clean before using it.

    Reply to this comment
  8. Rod January 20, 05:09

    As you get all your stuff together you,will undoubtedly see & learn how much to add & how much to take will not get it right the first time you pack and unpack.Learning by practicing packing & loading up will be as important as prepping and readiness.Learning where to pack what is important as well.Just one small example; lets say your jeans & socks ? Fold your socks like a wallet & put them in the back probanly thinking no big deal however you can’t imagine how much difference it will make in the Shallow boxes for under the seats of your truck for storage,.One more little thing that will have big rewards is;rolling your clothes up tightly instead of folding them will matter greatly.Hard core ? maybe, In the end every little bit of what you practice & learn now will be the difference in what you have with you and what you wish you had room for.

    Reply to this comment
  9. Farmer Phyl January 20, 23:51

    One recommendation for a medical kit is tampons. They are to insert into deep puncture wounds. They stop bleeding and by their nature, apply pressure at the same time. Also feminine pads are what most hospitals use after surgery for bandages. Cheaper than most medical supplies and more readily available. And you big macho guys, I promise it won’t make you “girlie men”.

    Reply to this comment
    • Rod January 20, 23:54

      Total agreement.

      Reply to this comment
    • Wild Rabbit January 22, 07:46

      I never even thought about this usage of tampons and pads. Great idea. Thanks.

      Reply to this comment
    • left coast chuck January 24, 04:17

      Please read qualified medical advice before advising to stuff tampons into deep puncture wounds. That advice is only good if you are en route to an fully staffed emergency room where qualified medical staff can irrigate and cleanse the wound. If it is going to be more than a few hours before you might see a qualified doctor in an adequately equipped facility, you are only going to induce deep wound infection with sepsis which in all likelihood will prove fatal. Even in the old WWII individual first aid kits, when you took the field dressing out it looked like an old kotex except that it was green instead of white. Sanitary napkins are made to absorb blood flow and so serve admirably as an external bandage for major wounds.

      Reply to this comment
    • Mary January 24, 17:12

      Just Make Sure those tampons are Unscented. You don’t need a big supply of them either…they have boxes of multi-size (sort of like sm.,med., & lg.) Sure saves on having to have more than one puncture wound seals…

      Reply to this comment
    • Roro March 25, 16:46

      Do not do this in shtf situation unless you have a way to amputate area infection will be rampid … keep pure (clean) zinc oxide to help clotting you can use sanatry napkins (emt class) as outside wound cover and then apply direct pressure to reduce flow of blood loss .
      Recap open napkin set near wound open zink oxide packet holdd napkin in one hand packet of zink in other pour zink oxide in wound use napkin to push in apply more zink oxide use napkin too push in again as needed then press napkin on wound with pressure and wrap tightly ….. hopefully you wont need it …. be well

      Reply to this comment
  10. vocalpatriot January 24, 15:20

    “Having a firearm without proper training is like having an operating room without a surgeon.”
    ..Except.. the levels of training required for this comparison is ludicrous.
    My grandchildren learned to shoot and be safe at early ages..young men and women (teens) have defended their homes with firearms since firearms were invented. not so much with surgery…to wit:
    “Before surgeons are qualified to operate, they must meet a set of challenging education requirements. These generally include four years of undergraduate study, four years of medical school leading to a Doctor of Medicine (M.D.) degree, and three to eight years of surgical residency at a hospital.” (

    Reply to this comment
  11. roro January 25, 20:41

    you left out the zinc oxide powder (bulk supplements com) and/or cayenne pepper to help stop bleeding in case of gun shot or knife wound —– a def must have

    Reply to this comment
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