9 Places to Scavenge After SHTF

James Walton
By James Walton April 3, 2018 05:49

9 Places to Scavenge After SHTF

There are many phases in a total collapse of society. In the earliest stages you will find that people are simply trying to figure it all out. In this phase people will likely still be civil with one another. There will still be resources around and people will be living off their own stores. This phase will end quickly and give way to the more dangerous parts of a collapse.

Eventually – and in a modern society it won’t be long – there will come a phase when most resources have been exhausted. You will still need resources to stay alive. At this point the scavengers will arise. If you haven’t prepared enough, or if unseen issues crop up, you might be a scavenger too.

The smart prepper will operate in a balanced world of simple, self sufficient living and scavenging practices.

Scavenging Scenario

In the chilly air of a spring morning you find yourself bundled up and walking out through a quiet lot. You are keeping your body close to an old abandoned distribution center. The threat of others is always in your mind.

You have a large pack on your back that is mostly empty. Your goal is to fill it. There is a sidearm on your hip, but the reality is you only have three shots left.

The frosty winter has exhausted much of your food stores and your home has taken a beating from the high winds of a notable winter blizzard. Spring has brought no relief. So here you are, checking every nook of this small business park. The windows are shattered and most everything is gone, but you hold onto the hope that there is a gem just around the corner.

What Will You Scavenge?

Here we are going to outline several categories of resources that you can head out and scavenge from the fallen world. I did not include food because I feel like that is always going to be high on your list when you are out scavenging.


Not only will your local Lowes or Home Depot be gone; it will be picked clean and likely taken up as a decent base of operations for some gang or military faction. Still, you will need a home that protects you from the elements, with a roof and walls that keep the wind and rain out. It’s vital to keep as much of your home in working order as possible. Consider scavenging things like:

  • Scrap Metal
  • Scrap Wood
  • Insulating Materials
  • Cloth
  • Gutters or Irrigation
  • Tools

Related: This Pawn Stars Negotiation Technique Will Guarantee You The Best Value For Your Items After SHTF


Did you know that every business with onsite employees is required to have access to a first aid kit? Even the small law firm down the street has a first aid kit. When it comes to scavenging these types of supplies you would do well to look at these small abandoned businesses and business parks. I think you will be pleasantly surprised with what can be found in the desk drawers of offices.


Whether we are talking about bullets, guns, knives or even baseball bats, in a collapsed world where scavenging is necessary you will need to be able to protect yourself against various threats. The gun shop may not be the best stop to swing by on a scavenging jaunt, but what about the distribution center for a big box retailer that is far out in the country? A lot of firearms and ammunition get sent by mail in the USA, so when the crisis hits the chances are there will be weapons among the packages waiting to be delivered. It will be this type of thinking that makes scavenging profitable.


Scrap wood, metal, nails and other random bits and pieces will be crucial if you plan on DIYing yourself through the disaster. The good news about scavenging these items is that the disaster and the following collapse will likely leave plenty lying around to be scavenged.

Crumbling homes and buildings are likely to produce plenty materials to scavenge. You might still be in the market for things like nails. If you find yourself an abandoned pallet yard, you can build a whole house using the nails and wood you harvest from those pallets!

Related: 12 Essential Things You Can Scavenge from Cars when SHTF

Smart Scavenging

There will be a certain amount of risk when you head out to scavenge. Where you go and when will determine the amount of risk you face. We will look at two ways that you can scavenge smarter. You must be willing to do a little research ahead of the collapse, and learn to operate at the best time for scavenging.


Long before the scavenging begins you will want to make a resource map of your immediate area. These are simple to create. By printing an area map of your location and the surrounding areas (use google maps) you can mark all the major retailers and business parts in the immediate area.

Color-coded markings and a key will help quickly identify things like medicine, food and tools.

This resource map should focus less on the big retailers and more on small stores and business parks. Your scavenging success will come down to how few people you run into, so you want to stay away from obvious places that most people will search.

Stick to smaller business parks and offices for scavenging. Look also in abandoned homes that can be watched from afar.


Another very important factor in successful scavenging is when you decide to get out there and do it. Your goal should be to move when the least amount of people are around. The time between 3am and 6am is a great window to get things done. You have darkness for most of this time frame in most seasons. Those who stay up late will be sound asleep by this time.

When planning your trip be sure to calculate your round trip. Make sure that you have plenty of time to scavenge when you arrive at your location. Don’t blow an entire trip on travel time.

9 Places to Scavenge After SHTF:


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James Walton
By James Walton April 3, 2018 05:49
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  1. Red Rover April 3, 13:41

    Disassembly of pallets is a lot easier said than done! I learned that by salvaging oak slats from pallets that I then would plane to thickness and cut to size to make boxes for canning jars. The nails are usually spiral and nearly impossible to pull often damaging the wood in the process. One should actually try something like this before counting on it in a SHTF scenario!

    Reply to this comment
    • A. April 3, 14:44

      So true about this, pallets are almost impossible to take apart. I did see someone on youtube take a reciprocating saw, and saw through between the slats to cut through the nails… that would be about the only way.

      Reply to this comment
      • Biscuit March 24, 02:19

        I’ve got a tool that will disassemble a wooden pallet in no time and very easily. Also it rarely destroys the wood. After disassembly the nails can be driven out

        Reply to this comment
    • Lonejack April 3, 18:03

      Great observation.. But, don’t discount it, last resource.

      Reply to this comment
      • tlm April 4, 22:34

        Pallets are easy to take apart but do not use a hammer or nail puller. Take another board and put between the slats pop upwards from the bottom of the slat and the nails will unscrew a little at a time.

        Reply to this comment
  2. Liz April 3, 13:52

    Consider getting a “truckers Friend” for a multipurpose tool. A spiral nail is a fencing nail It was designed to stay in.

    Reply to this comment
  3. Powderhorn April 3, 15:48

    I live on a limited budget, so prep is what I can make with a little imagination and very low cost. I mostly have hand tools that I picked up at auctions, some as little as $1.00 or less. Good to almost New condition. Then got to thinking about trade goods. Anything that I could replace simply. To conserve ammunition, I thought of a bow and arrows. Tops and bottoms of tin cans can be easily cut into arrow heads. Heavier plastic can be used for fletching and thread to tie. I used some old thin doweling to attempt and found the 3/8″ hardwood dowels to work best for arrow shafts. I did buy a break-down recurve bow, but used twisted, small animal gut to make a backup bow string. It works. Not well enough to replace professional arrows, so I began stockpiling those. Again, auctions and good sales at small hardware stores.

    Thank you for providing a source of free information. I appreciate it.

    Jack V. Smith

    Reply to this comment
  4. Jake the Pup April 3, 15:53

    I have found that wet (I mean wet not damp) pallets come apart much easier than dry pallets. Maybe that doesn’t make sense but it makes a notable difference. Also, I made a L shaped fork from 1 inch square tubing that really works well. I put a 5 foot handle on it for some real leverage. You can see several variations on YouTube.

    Reply to this comment
  5. Powdrhorn April 3, 16:24

    Use the oak for firewood. It burns longer and you can pick the nails out of the ashes. Pine or dogwood pallets are easier to pull nails. Because the wood is softer they don’t burn as long and being soft they aren’t as pretty if they have been used.

    Reply to this comment
    • Johnny3h April 3, 19:01

      BUT… Be careful to NOT expose people, pets, and livestock to pallet smoke as many, if not most, are chemically TREATED to slow deterioration!

      Reply to this comment
    • Hexpert April 3, 23:25

      Tried this before, but it makes the nails very soft so they bend or break very easily. Less than half the recovered nails were usable. I even tried supporting the shaft with pliers whilst hammering them in, but it made no difference

      Having said this the fence I built with them is still standing nearly 20 years later

      Reply to this comment
      • Patd07 April 4, 16:40

        Take the nails get them red hot then immerse them in oil to harden them again

        Reply to this comment
        • Claude Davis April 5, 13:13

          That will work, but it’s probably easier to just find a hardware store and pick up a box of nails. Tempering metal isn’t that simple, and there might be better things to spend your time on. In a pinch it’s worth a shot, though.

          Reply to this comment
  6. Brett April 3, 16:40

    The items to bring with you is important. Tools, bags, cordage, liquid containers, duck tape, etc might all be very useful when scavenging. Especially if you hit the motherload. If you do hit the motherload, you may have to hide some of your booty to come back and get. Materials and tools for this would be handy.

    Reply to this comment
  7. Prepper In Training April 3, 16:46

    Valuable locations for various supplies could include feed stores, sale barns, and veterinary clinics. Tools, batteries, various fencing and repair items, and medicines and bandages can all be found there. These places may be picked clean early, but they may still be worthwhile for a scavenging trip.

    In a true SHTF situation, even animal medicines may prove useful. Before considering any “alternative” medicine, be sure to research the heck out of it. Get a medical encyclopedia for the dire situations, but while you have the time now, remember – “Google is your friend”.

    Also, feed stores may have batteries left for the poor man’s taser (cattle prod). Spend some time looking for the useful items: traps, rope, solar power, self-help books, etc.

    Being in a rural area, I am fortunate to have access to several auction houses that specialize in junk sales, but remember the saying that One man’s junk is another man’s treasure. When downsizing, people often do not think about how useful some of their junk actually is.

    Reply to this comment
    • pbpossum April 3, 22:43

      The animal medicines—I have not had any type of health insurance since 2008, & sometimes need a little antibiotics for an ear infection. I have tried various ‘Fishmox’, ‘Fishpen’, ‘Aquamox’, and the like…..on both me and non fish species. No problems….. they have really been a life saver (not to mention $$$)

      Reply to this comment
  8. Lonejack April 3, 18:06

    I’d like to add one point. You should also think about Scavenging in pairs. 1 as a watcher and one as a scavenger.

    Also, a very valuable skill would be sign language.

    Reply to this comment
  9. Miss Kitty April 3, 19:09

    Group scavenging would definitely be a plus, especially if you are going after heavy stuff. Pallets are really heavy.
    A couple other places to consider would be empty offices – office workers always have snacks in their desks- and the dump. Before tshtf most dumps would have had a swap shop and separate areas for furniture, building supplies, glass items, etc. Any small business including thrift shops would offer a variety of goodies and would mostly get overlooked by the majority of looters. Depends on what you need, but most looters are going to be going for brand new top line merchandise. If you’re not as picky you can make out very well “shopping locally”. I would like to see an article with some practical suggestions on how to get your pickings home. I’ve got ideas, but new info is always appreciated.😸

    Reply to this comment
    • SillyOldGoose July 13, 03:44

      build a travois like Indians used behind their ponies to transport tents, tepees, buffalo hides, belongings, and the elderly and children, can make one and two man ones for your group. Can haul a lot more stuff that way than hauling on your back.

      Reply to this comment
  10. Steve April 3, 19:51

    Dont forget those already made solar panels at all these bridges and substations. They are ready to go and not very large. We have them all around us. Even some signs on the highway have panels.

    Reply to this comment
    • Hoosier Homesteader April 3, 21:38

      Steve, in my area, there are some billboards that use solar. Check the billboards where you live.

      Reply to this comment
    • Steve July 16, 00:33

      Hoosier Homesteader… Good idea! Never thought about the billboards. I’ll have to check that out ‘just in case.” You’d need a good ladder to get to any solar panels that may be in use. The billboards around here are likely 25 foot to the top where solar panels are located.

      Reply to this comment
    • Sellsword April 17, 21:42

      Don’t forget about your local library and used book stores. Remember knowledge is power.

      Reply to this comment
  11. SherBear April 4, 00:48

    Don’t forget schools. Nurses office, janitorial supplies and tools, toilet paper, lost & found filled w/sweatshirts and gloves, cafeteria. A treasure trove.

    Reply to this comment
  12. IvyMike April 4, 00:51

    Talk about scavenging, there is an area south of Dallas, TX called the Inland Port. Tens of thousands of acres of warehouses and truck terminals fed by endless trains (if you’re out in the country you’ll find no greater prize than a disabled train) arriving from the west coast ports and the Port of Houston, this is a major logistics center for just about every major retailer in the country. Two day supply of goods in the city? If our society collapses without a devastating nuclear exchange this will be the new power center, the greatest source of wealth in North America.
    Richard Matheson wrote a book in 1954, I Am Legend, the original of all zombie apocalypse tales, and a great intro to prepping and scavenging. Neville has to go from 0 preparedness to a desperate struggle for survival in a matter of days. And he does just fine until the government reemerges…

    Reply to this comment
  13. Miss Kitty April 4, 03:13

    Maybe movie theaters for some food and other supplies? Hotels? Definitely craft stores! And garden centers! On a much darker side nursing homes might be a good source of medications, but it might be just too heartbreaking. Look at what happened during Katrina.

    Reply to this comment
  14. Wannabe April 4, 15:42

    Should always assume a potential area to scavenge is already occupied so may need to do some reconnaissance to make sure it is safe. Someone may not take too kindly to others coming in and stealing their claim.

    Reply to this comment
  15. TheSouthernNationalist April 4, 18:48

    The time to locate the areas, print out google maps, and learn your way around is now while the grid is up and running. If you wait until SHTF or grid down it will be too late.

    Reply to this comment
  16. Red April 4, 20:55

    Buy a pair of bolt cutters now – For later. They are the master key to many things. A set of lock picks would be worth gold!

    Reply to this comment
    • Claude Davis April 5, 13:07

      Lock picks are very useful things to have – if you know how to use them. They’re small, light and don’t cost much, so they fit easily in a bug-out bag or EDC kit (but check the law where you live…). Make sure you practice with them before you need to use them for real, though. There’s an art to it, and if you don’t have the skill already you can easily waste a couple of hours prodding at a lock when bolt cutters or a hammer would have dealt with it in seconds.

      Reply to this comment
      • red August 24, 15:26

        Yo! CIA has manuels on lock picks, how to use, how to make them, and so on. IN the event you do not want a lot of noise, lock picks are the way to go. niio

        Reply to this comment
  17. Damien April 5, 01:40

    I hate to say it as it sounds ghoulish, but old people’s retirement complexes/apartment buildings and hospice care homes. Food medicine bought in bulk for the residents, groundsmans/handymans tools somewhere on site for repairs and maintinance, detergents and cleaning gear readily available. Worst case scenario, little resistance… ghoulish, but worth remembering

    Reply to this comment
    • Miss Kitty April 5, 05:00

      Already beat you to ghoulish! Little resistance, but even worse to find people dying from neglect. Don’t know if I’ve the stomach for that.

      Reply to this comment
      • Damien April 6, 03:02

        In that case, should our paths cross, you stand watch and I’ll throw up later 😉
        Or…school run? Kids would all be collected by parents by the time we get there, teachers wouldn’t hang around, there’d be similar stock of food (canteen/cafeteria) meds (first aid items at least) and tools (plumbing, wood work, garden) + zero resistance. On the down side, we might both end up hurling chunks (I have bad memories is school food 😉

        Reply to this comment
    • Smokies Hiker April 7, 17:38

      No way I could EVER steal from someone’s mom and dad! There are other sources besides the weak and frail you can take from. I’ll hunt, fish and do whatever is needed for myself and family, and give whatever I can to those in need of assistance. Just because there is a SHTF episode, doesn’t mean we become an animalistic society to our elderly population! I should be able to “get by” while I help someone who isn’t as strong as I am.

      Reply to this comment
      • left coast chuck June 6, 01:21

        Smokies Hiker: I agree with you. I have resolved in an EOTW situation that I will not steal from someone. I will not beat nor kill someone weaker than I in order to acquire their goods and/or food. However, if I come upon your car parked on the highway and it is empty and it has been several days since the EOTW, I will not hesitate to crack the trunk, siphon the gas and remove such parts as I deem will be helpful to my survival. I feel that if you valued them and wanted to preserve them you would have removed them yourself.

        Additionally, if I come across a house that is empty with no signs of recent occupation, I will again do the same. I see no difference in an abandoned house and an abandoned store or office building. Now should I enter a house and find signs of recent occupation, warm coffee in cups, half eaten piece of fresh bread, then I would leave because I would think, lacking any signs of violence the folks plan on being back.

        I think advocating stealing from old folks who might be too feeble to resist strenuously is depraved and should be castigated fully. In my opinion it shows a lack of moral courage. I was never impressed with someone who beats up on someone smaller, considerably older or weaker than the coward. I always thought if you wanted to prove yourself, you took on the biggest, strongest, meanest bully you knew.

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  18. Miss Kitty April 6, 04:12

    LOL Damien! Hurling aside, schools are a good choice because you might find epi-pens and asthma meds in nurse’s office, both of which are going to be at a premium after tshtf. Lockers might yield a few goodies as well. Libraries and bookstores are good too for all kinds of diy info as well as entertainment. Maybe churches? Many have food pantries or soup kitchens. Any building can potentially yield good pickings.

    Reply to this comment
  19. Smokies Hiker June 6, 03:42

    Using “bolt cutters” to gain entry to any structure could spell trouble if there happens to be any policing activities in the area. Bolt cutters would be considered a “criminal tool” and the authorities protecting the area would arrest those involved, or someone wanting the same items as you may take your tools away from you.or cause hostilities to take place. Criminals will be after these same items, but for themselves, not as a barter item.

    Reply to this comment
  20. SillyOldGoose July 13, 03:48

    build a travois like Indians used behind their ponies to transport tents, tepees, buffalo hides, belongings, and the elderly and children, can make one and two man ones for your group. Can haul a lot more stuff that way than hauling on your back.

    Reply to this comment
    • left coast chuck October 12, 21:00

      The plains indians used travois to haul their villages long before they had horses for the job. The women, kids and dogs would haul the travois while the men walked along the outside of the tribe looking for trouble and game. Old Fido can haul a travois with his dog food and water on it.

      Reply to this comment
  21. Midwest Transplant October 13, 12:56

    Having read the authors scenario he was talking about the likelihood of several months having already gone by the likelihood of find anything of value other than scraps of junk would be minimal and very possibly unlikely.I would think that maybe several weeks out that might be possible and also the proximity to any of these places mentioned would be some distance from your shelter and your ability to bring back anything would be limited by the size of your pack.I have come to enjoy and gained and insight to some things that I would not have thought about had I not been following any of these blogs,but I have to think what are we wishing for EOTW scenario or should we live in the moment but be prepared.I have found myself being caught up in the moment,but I also have taken some provisions to put my self at ease.The likelihood of having to bug out for me is out of the question as my wife is disabled and requires a wheel chair,bugging in is my only option.I live in a small city roughly 28,000 people about 15 miles from a major city,I’m not worried those with the ability to leave will have done so the rest will be waiting for the government to show up others looting and taking the high ticket items thinking when civility is restored they have it made and only then realizing nobody is showing up will migrate,and by then they will to weak to go very far and will be taken advantage of the by thugs that too have stayed and not planned to be prepared.The community I live in used to have a bumper sticker(country close to the city)know a lot of good people here (not saying what will happen when SHTF)but,I believe most people will act accordingly (civil),so I have to ask myself sometimes do we want something to happen and by reading these blogs are we feeding of of each our and have stopped living and forgotten how to live,bless all of you.

    Reply to this comment
    • left coast chuck August 24, 04:40

      Somebody once said “Hope for the best but prepare for the worst.”

      I don’t know who that was, but it sounds like good advice. Most assuredly one should prepare for emergencies that one knows are very likely to happen. In Florida if you don’t prepare for hurricanes you are a fool. In the Midwest the same apples for lack of preparation for tornados. Northern states, snow storms. Low lying areas, flooding.

      If some phenomenon of nature happened in your area in the past, no matter how distant, it will happen again. If you live in the New Madrid fault area, there will be another earthquake there some day. If you are lucky, not in your lifetime, but then perhaps tonight.

      In the fifty years I have lived in this town we have had wildfires in the hills behind the city on three occasions. Two were not as big as the last one. Will we have another wildfire and will the city be as unprepared as they have been for the three we have had? Does the sun rise in the east? Should one be prepared to evacuate if a wildfire again roars through town? If you don’t — well, don’t complain when you lose however much of your life you have in your house.

      The city next door has approved development of property that fifty years ago was under water from six to twelve feet deep. There are going to be stores, offices and apartments. They are going to be multi-story. Should I, in a moment of mental lapse, acquire some property in that area, it would have to be above the second floor and I would make darned sure I had flotation devices stored where they were readily available.

      I just cannot understand the politicians allowing development of that property. But then, most of them weren’t even alive in 1969. And for politicians, their memory only goes back to the last election and only goes forward to the next election.

      One cannot rely on public entity approval of development to indicate its relative safety. In the city of Pacifica, CA there is an apartment house falling into the ocean. It is built right on the San Andreas Fault. One can see the fault lines in the rocks at the base of the hill on which the apartment house is built. No, I don’t have a clue why the apartment house was approved. No idea why someone thought it was a good place to invest in an apartment house and why some financial institution thought it was a good investment to front money for the construction of an apartment house right smack dab on the San Andreas Fault where one can see where the rocks have moved. Nor do I have a scintilla of empathy for the folks whose apartment has fallen down the cliff. What were you thinking??

      Reply to this comment
  22. Sellsword April 17, 22:15

    To transport goods make/modify a bike with a cart. , Or a wagon with a small hoist for heavy items . Use a lock box for tools/gear security.Also just a thought those who prepare to survive deserve to survive. if you choose to party , play videogames or whatever.dont show up at my house expecting to consume my resources.

    Reply to this comment
  23. red August 24, 15:43

    AKA treasure hunts. We were raised doing that for a little extra money. Old dumps are the best place. Old outhouses. My stepson when he was young used to take his bros out and dig. Antique bottles, tools, glassware and plates, every once in a while, silver or gold coins. He found a cavalry sword, quarter pint canning jars and a lot more over the years. When Penna passed a law everyone had to replace their outhouse with a septic system when the outhouse was full, Dad dug from the road to the bottom of the ‘house and cut a hole in the stone wall. It was years old and filled with fishing worms. Wheelbarrow loads went to the manure pile, and he found a small sack of coins someone stashed there, the newest was dated 1863, I think, about when POW and AWOL soldiers were moving thru the hills raiding farms. Silverware, and a lot of old bottles (brownstone whiskey jugs, for medicinal purposes only, I’m sure :). A few fountain roses planted by the entrance hid it from snoops.

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  24. Nuckles January 18, 20:30

    Most over looked item(s) rarely mentioned…
    How do you carry items in SHTF.

    Sports/hockey gear bag, large camping pack
    and 2 wheel shopping cart you see old folks with.
    Great to see ppl mention travois.
    Worst case. Use a tarp laid out on ground
    Not efficientfor long haul but short haul ok

    Plus someone else mentioned

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