Editor’s Note: This post is another entry in the Prepper Writing Contest from Xavier. If you have information for Preppers that you would like to share and possibly win a $300 Amazon Gift Card to purchase your own prepping supplies, enter today.
When planning your preps, you’re faced with a myriad of options and contrary to the popular social campaign to be unique, I urge you to follow the masses. Not only do the masses USUALLY get things right in aggregate, but it can make your life easier in the long run to just go with the crowd. There’s no need to be exotic with your preps. Consider a tiny slice of prepping: bug-out vehicles, electronics, and firearm selection. The same concept can be applied to almost anything you’re prepping for!
Cars and bug-out vehicles
When looking for a car: don’t be exotic. Play the numbers. The most popular small car in America for MANY years going back decades is the Toyota Corolla. The most popular minivan in America for MANY years going back almost a dozen years is the Honda Odyssey. Care to guess which two vehicles I own? They’re not the most stylish vehicles, not even the best performance or features. That’s not why I own them. I own them because they’re EVERYWHERE! This makes it cheaper and easier to find parts for them NOW, and will make it that much easier to find the parts I need after SHTF. If I were to buy a pickup, I’d likely end up with a Ford F-150 for the exact same reason.
Consider your geographic area where you live now, your path to your bug-out location, and eventually your bug-out location when making these decisions, and what you’ll need to do with the car. I’ve heard that AWD Subaru’s and Toyota 4Runners are common in Colorado and for a good reason.
Having a popular car makes it easy to find parts. Knowing which cars are compatible make it even easier. For example, the Toyota Corolla and the Toyota Matrix (and even the Pontiac Vibe) use the same 4-cylinder engine & drive train & suspension for any given year. When I do work on my Corolla, I use the Matrix repair manuals. The Honda Odyssey, Honda Pilot, and the 6-cylinder Accord share their frame and most engine components. The Toyota 4Runner, for instance, uses the same size oil filter in 2015 that it did in 1988. If you can, having two cars that share the same frame/engine components can simplify purchasing parts; this way you only have to keep one type of spare on-hand. Even if you can’t, at least keep them all metric or SAE, so you only need to carry/own one set of tools.
This can also come into play when you’re planning your preps with a group. If everyone in your group has the same or realistically similar vehicle and one completely dies, it can serve as a Frankenstein parts donor for other vehicles in your group. Your group can share the cost of a parts-pool for your bug-out camp, as it will benefit every member. Even something simple as having the same oil filter or tire-size may save a life in a pinch. Be wary of aftermarket parts on your vehicle if it prevents you from using standard parts as a rip & replace and doesn’t require welding or metal work.
When thinking of survival electronics, the same rules apply – play the numbers. The most likely ways to use electronics after grid down are AA batteries, 12vDC and USB. Without reliable grid power or a generator the most common way of using portable electronics is battery power. The most common battery is the AA. All of my flashlights and most of my radios use AA batteries. They’re readily available, and can be scavenged from many household accessories such as TV remotes or children’s toys if needed. Don’t be exotic. Don’t get stuck trying to find specialized batteries because you bought a tacti-cool flashlight.
Next up is 12vDC power. This is available from just about any car battery so there should be no shortage, at least in the short-term after grid-down. They can be recharged using solar power generators. Inverters are available to make 120vAC available in a pinch for devices such as laptops, though they’re not always electrically efficient. Many popular survival related electronics operate on 12vDC power, such as CB or HAM radios and GPS units. I would recommend having a 12v deep cycle battery and a way to recharge it at your bug-out location. Having cigarette lighter adapters for your accessories can help while bugging out if you encounter an abandoned vehicle and need to make a quick contact with a radio or to recharge. Many smaller capacity 12v batteries can be found in lawn-care equipment, or as backup power for home alarm panels and garage door openers. There are even personal computers that run completely on 12v. These may be useful in short-term grid down events such as local natural disasters or for EMCOMM groups that have a need for digital communications.
USB ports and accessories are ubiquitous in today’s technological world. Understand that USB isn’t a /source/ of power, but rather an interface that I wouldn’t want to be caught without. Most cell phones and tablets charge using USB. Many small FRS/GMRS or even HAM radios can charge via a USB port. I have a small solar chargeable battery with USB interfaces in my bag. Again, having charging cables for each of your devices along the way can facilitate your travels. Travel adapters to take a 12v cigarette lighter to USB port are also very convenient. Try to make sure your devices use the same USB interface or at least stick to the most common plug types such as usb-micro for most Android phones, or the lightning style plug for newer Apple devices.
Ammunition and Firearms
When looking at purchasing firearms for self-defense or hunting, one of the first and largely asked questions is “what caliber”. Often it comes down to what’s the most powerful round you can reasonably handle or what has the most ‘stopping power’. However, the most powerful handgun in the world is useless if you can’t find ammunition for it. Don’t be exotic. Picking and standardizing on the most common rounds works in your benefit, and thus often cheaper to acquire now; and more importantly are the most easily obtained after SHTF. Even if you create a substantial stockpile at your home or bug-out location, there’s no guarantee it will not be plundered before you arrive, destroyed by malicious individuals or natural disaster, or that you can remain indefinitely at your bug-out location. You may have to abandon it; how much ammo can you carry with you?
For a standard loadout, you pretty much can’t go wrong with NATO rounds or those inspired by them. This means 9mm for handguns, 5.56mm for your light rifle, and 7.62mm for your long-range rifle. A word of caution: use only ammunition that fits your particular firearm. Many other articles available online explain the differences between the NATO 5.56mm and the common .223 Remington round and the inherent compatibility issues that are involved with these two related rounds. A similar discussion should be had regarding the .308 Winchester and the NATO 7.62, as well as ‘standard 9mm’ vs ‘9mm +P’. Also be aware if you carry a backup/pocket/ankle gun in .380, it’s very similar in size to a 9mm. .38 special and .357 magnum rounds are both basically physically identical. Don’t put the wrong round in the wrong gun or you could have disastrous results.
These rounds pack enough punch for what we’re likely to encounter and are small and light enough to carry a substantial amount. If you own multiple firearms for the same caliber, it would be wise that they are identical. This gives 2 primary benefits. The first is part compatibility. You only need to stock one style of part that can match both of your guns instead of having a plethora of parts for different guns. Your accessories and magazines will be interchangeable. If one gun is incapacitated or damaged, it can be used for loaner parts for your other firearm. The second benefit is weapon familiarity when training. Muscle memory built on one weapon can fail you if you resort to your secondary or backup gun in an intense situation. If you are prepping with a group of others, the same wisdom applies: get the same weapon platform.
I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the ubiquitous .22LR. It’s never a bad idea to have a weapon in this caliber and to stock up on plenty of ammo for it. It’s suitable for both handgun and long-gun usage. All in all a very versatile round. Another highly popular and useful gun not to neglect is the 12ga shotgun. They’re considered very reliable and pack a punch. There are a myriad of options available for ammunition that are almost 100% compatible with any modern 12ga shotgun.
Consider this just food for thought as you plan your preps. This mindset of shooting for the average can not only minimize your costs for prepping, but stretch your ability to survive after SHTF. If we end up WROL and there’s a need to barter something, having the most popular items makes your trading agility that much higher, rather than the high-priced exotic item that can only be used by a select few.
Be the gray-man!