Questions to assist in creating a working inventory of mind, body, and equipment for living in dangerous or uncertain times

hedgeless_horseman's picture

I have been reading the excellent book, Logavina Street: Life and Death in a Sarajevo Neighborhood, by Barbara Demick, and thinking about other places like Ukraine, Egypt, Venezuela, Syria, Argentina, Turkey, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Japan, Chile, Haiti, France, Zimbabwe, Iraq, Russia, Libya, Israel, Liberia, Yemen, Mexico, and my home state of Texas.  This has caused the paranoid part of me, a part that is apparently immune to normalcy bias, to consider how one might spend some spare money and time, apart from buying sovereign bonds and attending DSK's quarterly sex parties, to prepare for TEOTWAWKI as experienced by the people in the aforementioned nations.  What follows is not a shopping list, but rather a list of questions to assist in creating a working inventory of mind, body, and equipment for living in dangerous or uncertain times.  These are mostly things one would want to get squared away while one has time for consideration, before one's life, or another's life, depends on it. 



Whom do I love?

What do I love?

What do I have to live for?

What am I willing to die for?

What are my mental assets?

What are my mental liabilities?

What is my single biggest knowledge gap?

What are my natural rights?

What are the top three habits that make up my character?

Whom can I really trust?

Who are my mortal enemies?  Why?  What can I do about it?

What skills do I have to earn a living?

What special tools do these skills require?

Do I know how to beg...effectively?

Do I know how to barter...effectively?

How good of a liar am I...really?

Do I know how to use a compass and map?

What is the highest point in my county?

Do I know how to make a fire...without making much smoke?

Do I know how to hunt, fish, butcher, and prepare meat?

Do I know how to gather, grow, store, and prepare food?

Do I know how to change a tire, swap a battery, and jump-start a vehicle?

Do I know how to sail a boat?

Do I know how to use a two-way radio that is not a cell phone?

When and where am I safe to be in condition white?

What is my reactionary gap at day and at night?

How do I respond to a reset of my OODA Loop?

How can I reset someone else's OODA Loop, and how much time does that give me?

What does it feel like to get punched in the face, and how does it affect me?

Do I really know how to defend myself with a knife?  For example, where are the three primary arterial targets?

Do I really know how to defend myself with a pistol?  For example, how confident am I that I can draw my pistol and in less than 1.5 seconds hit the brain of a man wearing body armor and standing two meters away?

Do I really know how to use my rifle?  For example, can I hit a man twice in the chest at two meters, in less than 1.5 seconds, while moving?  What about once in the chest, at 250 meters, with my first shot, and while I am sitting on the ground?

Do I know CPR?

Do I know how to make and apply a pressure bandage?

Do I know how to treat a sucking chest wound?

Do I know how to apply a tourniquet?

Do family, friends, and I know our neighborhood, out-of-town, and out-of-state rally points?

What is the first and last name of my twenty closest neighbors (geographically)?

What is the name and cell phone number of my county sheriff?

What is the name of the commander of my local militia?

What exactly do I do if I see the flash of light from a nuclear device?

Do I know the location of several local bomb and fallout shelters?



How well, relative to others, am I able to see and hear, with or without aid?

Am I able to run for my life for more than a minute?

Do I have the strength to manage my own body weight?  For example, can I pull myself up over a six-foot wall?

Am I able to control my appetites, or do my appetites control me?

Am I chemically dependent?

Am I fit enough to perform sexually?

Am I able to swim 500+ meters?

Am I able to fight off everyday infection and illness, and to heal my own minor wounds?

Am I physically able to defend myself without a weapon?

Am I physically able to repeatedly manipulate and engage my pistol and rifle?

Am I able to carry myself, my pack, and my weapon up, down, across, over, around, and through obstacles for many miles?



Do I have multiple pairs of Rx glasses and hearing aids if needed?

Do I have a good light and spare batteries or fuel?

Do I have a good pair of shoes that I can put on and walk to the next town without blisters?

Do I have warm and durable outdoor clothing in muted colors?

Is my vehicle in good condition with a spare tire, tools, water, siphon, fuel container, and flares?

Do I have a bicycle, boat, aircraft, or animal (with appropriate kit) that will carry me, and my gear, hundreds of miles?

Is my dog obedient and does he or she warn me of danger?

Do I have at the ready a Get Back Home Pack (aka Evacuation Pack, aka Bug Out Bag, aka Assault Pack, aka 3 Day Pack, aka Survival Pack)?

Do I have portable, widely recognized, and durable assets such as gold coins?

Do I have a reliable and portable method to obtain clean drinking water?

Do I have a good compass and appropriate maps?

Do I have some sort of telescopic magnification?

Do I have a first aid kit?

Do I have a two-way radio that is not a cell phone?

Do I have a knife that is high quality and a small sharpening stone?

Do I have a sidearm, ammunition, gun belt, holster, spare magazines, and magazine carriers?

Do I have a rifle, ammunition, sling, spare magazines, magazine carriers, spare firing pin, and range card?

Do I have body armor and a kevlar helmet?  Or will I be relying on bread?

Do I have a "spare" set of identification?

Do I have a mask, balaclava, or disguise?

Do I have at least a month's cache of food?

Do I have ammunition cached?

Do I have books cached?

Do I have TamiFlu cached?


There are many more, I am sure, but I hope this at least spurs a lively discussion.


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s2man's picture

Thanks, HH. Good things to think on... TMI on the skinn dipping.  LOL

I swam across a huge lake/resivuor.  Not as bad as you would think.  Just keep doing a slow breast stroke and don't wear yourself out.  The ladies kept up on floaty things and they were not worn out,  either.  The scary part was the middle of the lake, with skee boats.  But,  I wouldn't expect them im TEOTWAWKI.

kiwidor's picture

i think there were far too many questions in the article, but the points are pretty good.  the swim 500m+ thing is my biggest weakness, and that's probably pessimistic.  i can swim 500m, but i may not get back.  i have always sunk like a stone when not flat out sprinting in the water.


back in 2010/11 i was in Christchurch, NZ and 'survived' the earthquakes.  in a situation like that, i can tell you the most useful thing you can have is full bottles of gas and camping stoves.  that's it.  everything else is available but that campfire-like social situation is the glue after a disaster.

convert to wood/coal/whatever fuel and you have an equivalent benefit.  community, socialising, etc.  there's plenty of food around to start with.  we had enough dry foods to last the household about 3 months. (not common, btw)

it is only one aspect of a complex problem. you can't predict who in your circle is going to lose it and defect to a place with warm showers carrying a bag of fresh underwear and cologne.

Some folks have mentioned the wild factor in survival. it's true.    last saturday i encountered trouble with 3 meth-head thugs who snatched my phone out of my hand.  i dealt to all three, retrieved my phone, and was able to continue the conflict.  removed them from an area, but still had to deal with attempts at re-entry.

at 45, i should not have been able to deal with 3 guys half my age who were on meth.  but i did. it is possible, and it's a minimum capability.  i was withholding lethal force for pretty obvious reasons.  

at a rough guess i'd say 2 years martial arts training/boxing/bjj/muay thai would put you in the 1%.

if you haven't started, do so.  if you can't, better get good hearing fast...and be a good shot.

in order;

psychological preparation

social skills


fighting/killing ability

and last...'stuff'. but make cooking stuff the most important thing on your list.  the leatherman promoters obviously haven't had to make do with less tools.  buy a knife you can open a can with, lever something with, skin something with, kill someone/thing with.  if it can't do that you are working with the wrong tool


oh, last but not axe/and or tomahawk.   you can build a house/shelter with those.


go into the bush and practice.  it's worth years of experience.


hedgeless_horseman's picture



Being a strong swimmer is an often overlooked capability. 

It may be one of the easier and most beneficial activities to take on later in life.

mrs_horseman and I practice a habit of skinny dipping whenever and wherever we go on vacation, to the great embarrassment of the lil_horsemen.  If there is an island we will more than likely swim out to it for a, "birthday party."

kiwidor's picture

looks like a i put two 'last's in that post, but here's a third.

knife-fighting course, which will teach you how to attack and defend. better hope they're not sober.



tonyhollow's picture

I'm on a bus right now, driving through the Cambodian countryside on my way back to Phnom Penh, thinking about how relatively recently SHTF here. I've visited the genocide museums, the S21 prison. And now I read this article and thought about what it will be like for me. Will I wake up one day, mind racing to accept the news of some new reality? Sitting somewhere later cooking snared rabbit thinking about what pizza Hut delivery used to be, and how I got passed off when they came late? 


Excellent article, HH, and thanks for the coincidence of me reading this in the Cambodian countryside. 

russwinter's picture

The Use of Cultists and Serial Killers in Death Squad Hits:

basho's picture

it would be interesting to get a tally on how many folks could master these lists of items.

Magooo's picture

Just arrive south island new zealand.   Bring it on....

kiwidor's picture

i love how newcomers to nz think it's such a safe place.  

Paveway IV's picture

The only marginally useful items will be an old surplus Victoreen CDV-700 geiger counter and a good, sturdy shovel. Those won't be that important, but it will keep your hands busy and your mind occupied if you survive a little longer that the others you're burying.

ILLILLILLI's picture

For those of you that are readers, you might want to check out Jerry D. Young, who has written more than 90 SHTF stories. Each of the stories is like a prepping manual that has a story line. You can find his stories on the major prep sites, or visit his site here.


Other good prepping stories are "Lights Out" and "One Second After". Another author to look for is to find his Unwelcome stories.

Bear in mind that these stories are not the 'end all' be all' of prepping, but they do offer a great opportunity to review what you would do in similar situations.


Shitgum Suicide's picture
Shitgum Suicide (not verified) Feb 18, 2015 11:48 PM

I knew you could do it HH. A nice piece to remind people of the times we live in and face to ask the necessary questions to pose because the certainty of life we've come to know could easily be disrupted throwing a unprepared society into chaos. I thank you.

I would still like to know how you came to be a contributor to ZH. I posed the same question to Cog Dis and had a pleasant conversation regarding it. No BS or anything like that, just would like to know.

Manipuflation's picture

I agree with this post and I like the knife question.  I never really thought about it but I have about a dozen very good and expensive knives and not a single one is made in China.  I didn't even realize I was hoarding knives.  Now that I think about it, I AM hoarding knives.  I guess it is just in my nature to hoard things I think I need.  I've noticed that I have been hoarding hand tools as well.  I can't seem to not buy more tools but I never have enough 9/16 wrenches.  I don't where they go but I usually find them eventually.

I would add something to the conversation that I believe is germane to the post.  I recently sold a property and I had to move a litany of items.  Heavy items.  Let's just call them crates of ammunition for the sake of argument.  I noticed that as I get older those crates get heavier.  I wondered to myself, "How will I ever move all of this if I have to move quickly?".  There is just no way to do it.  Then I thought about all of my guns that collected over my life.  Those require maintenance even if you are not shooting them.  How am I going to move all of those in a hurry?  Could I?  No.  But I won't sell any either. 

As far as food, we are still eating sphagetti noodles that I bought in 2008.  It's still good yet and the kids like it.  I eat it.  When my Mom passed I had an auction and I sold off some of my things as well.  I knew I had to thin out some of things but I hated to sell all of those mason canning jars.  Those go for cheap at auction.  I had way to many of them and I had no place for them.  I really hated selling them but I had to.  I just noticed yesterday that I have a couple of brand new cases of mason jars in the closet.  I don't even realize that I am doing it.

I do the same thing with vehicles and that is why I have three vehicles but none of them are brand new.  They all run because I wrench on them myself.  You have to have fuel, spark and air with a gasoline engine for it to run and the rest is peripheral.  There is more to it of course but that is the basic premise and that is why I accumulate tools as I do.

Let's get down to brass tacks here.  There is one thing I will never have enough of and that is gold.  I love my silver too, don't get me wrong but even that gets heavy.  The one thing that I never had any problem with having too much of is gold.  I love gold.  You don't have to do anything to gold because it is so inert.  Silver is like a woman and requires constant attention and monitoring.  I do not mean that as a knock on women because I love women but if you do not pay attention to her what will happen?  You will have issues.  Gold doesn't care what you do.  When you look gold, gold stares you right back in the eye and says, "Fuck off buddy, I am gold and I don't need to listen your bullshit."  Gold is multilingual which is pretty amazing for an inert metal.  Gold does not care about religion or politics.  The only thing that matters with gold is where it is located.

My little scheme of not having title to anything other than some shitty vehicles has been my approach for years.  I owe no one anything.  I have no debt.  I do not bother my neighbors and I do not even know their names.  I have no FaceFail account.  I have no 401K.  I have no trading account.  I have no mortgage.  I have no car payments.  I have no criminal record.  This drives the state and the banks batshit crazy because most Americans do not live this way.  It is the worst thing you can do to them without firing a shot.  I paid my obligations and have limited my exposure.  I have taken away their angles to the best of my ability and they do not like it.  Too bad.  What are they going to do about it?   

Wahooo's picture

9/16 wrenches go the same place socks go. We live among multiple universes and somewhere there is a world of plenty, with no want for wrenches and socks.

El Vaquero's picture

" I can't seem to not buy more tools but I never have enough 9/16 wrenches.  I don't where they go but I usually find them eventually." 


Haha, I'm kind of like that with 9/16" sockets.  I had one that fell into the frame of my Jeep, then 3 years later when I was replacing a stripped nut that was welded on inside the frame, I cut the frame open and viola!  There was the socket!


I don't remember what I was doing when I lost the other ones though.  I think the socket gnomes or the crab people took them.

Manipuflation's picture

LOL. They do turn up eventually.  Some are lost forever though.  Some sockets do go missing though.  I think one of those little gnomes is my four your old son.  He is pretty crafty on sneaking things away but he loses them somewhere.  It is the joy of having children.

knukles's picture

Send you to Camp 17 for being a nonconformist subversive.  Woulda been OK had you kept quiet, but  inciting insurrection is seditious, treasonous behavior comrade.

Manipuflation's picture

Stalag 17?  You folks are great.  That is why I come here to ZH.  I need sanity.  Sometimes I not correct but I had many years to figure out the best way to fuck the TPTB over.  I am not violent person so I figured that I would do it the way I described.  I didn't do anything wrong.  I didn't hurt anyone.  I did not steal from anyone.  I paid all of my debts.  But I am the asshole again.  I know the IRS will be after me but it was MY MONEY.  It was not an investment property.  It was a liability.  

Mrs. M thinks she might be deported because of what I am doing.  No, woman, you are not going anywhere if you do not want to because you have two American born children.  I have them twisted into knots over their over their own procedural and statutory bullshit.  Again, I did nothing wrong.  I paid off all debt and they don't like that.                      

Panafrican Funktron Robot's picture

I applaud you for doing the thing that hurts TPTB more than anything; getting/staying out of debt.  Debt is power. 

joego1's picture

Yes, the name of the game seems to be statutory usury.

A Lunatic's picture

When constructing a bun helmet which is better, hamburger buns or hotdog buns........?

Grouchy Marx's picture

Another couple of useful questions: 

* if you woke up to find the house on fire, what would you, could you grab on your way out the window?

* if you came home to find the place burned down, what then? How do you get your money, documents, insurance policy? Where are your important electronic records and data? Backups, anyone? 

rsnoble's picture

I'd like argue the point that with 95% of the population not prepared that none of that shit is going to do you a damn bit of good.

Two things that will be critical, in order of importance:

1. Pure luck.

2. Somewhat crazy and able to do whatever it takes.  And I do mean whatever.

I think luck will be 80%+ of the equation.  At one time I was all for this shit before I really got to thinking about it.  I'll go as long as I can, if I see the end before i'm dead i'm just going to blow my head off and exit this stupid fucking planet stage left.

rsnoble's picture

For example, what would you do if you and your spouse only had a weeks worth of food tops and had no idea where you were going to get more and you have your elderly mom in a wheelchair that cant contribute anything except make one of your cans of spam disappear everyday?

Easy to say what you'll do on a message board.

kiwidor's picture

kill the wife.  then kill your mother.   eat the wife.  use the bones from both to make tools.

pretty simple, eh? 

presto, 6 weeks food if you have salt.

lie_to_me's picture

Hope you get  Kuru  ***hole.

_Doomsayer's picture

The "acquisition program" is going to get you pushing up daisies within a week of the reset. Why not learn some basic foraging skills? learn the local flora and fauna? once i started looking into I realized I could survive of the land in my area with small game snares, acorns, and a basic knowledge of edible plants, and i live in a semi-desert environment. A few weeks of showing genuine interest in being self sufficient, and you'd be surprised how much you could learn.

_Doomsayer's picture

The "acquisition program" is going to get you pushing up daisies within a week of the reset. Why not learn some basic foraging skills? learn the local flora and fauna? once i started looking into I realized I could survive of the land in my area with small game snares, acorns, and a basic knowledge of edible plants, and i live in a semi-desert environment. A few weeks of showing genuine interest in being self sufficient, and you'd be surprised how much you could learn.

overmedicatedundersexed's picture

be very lucky. beats prepared every time.

overmedicatedundersexed's picture

if you have one silver coin, i will give you a pamphlet on how to increase your good luck, further advanced good luck instruction will cost alot more. one gold maple leaf or $50 buffalo gold usa coin. if you want the ultimate hidden secret of good luck, that is free.

rsnoble's picture

Looks like we're in the same camp on luck.

I don't own any silver.  I'm on the "acquisition program" when shtf.  Not a bad idea to have targets in mind.  Of course be aware you'll be a target yourself.

acetinker's picture

You're more than likely to find that none of the things you've listed will help you.

There are several like you- and I love you all.

Guys like Cognitive Dissonance,

Hardscrabble Farmer,

Mike Kreiger,

... and others came from the financial world into a real world and decided they needed to go feral- as long as they have their I-Phones.

So, I applaud your efforts, I really do.  But I gotta say that most of us (you included) don't realize that they can't survive on their own in this day and time.

I don't mean we need gov't.  We don't.

At the same time, if you go all Branch Davidian, you can count on your numerous fellow proles to take you down.

My point is, there's a middle ground that allows for modern distractions (the IPhone) without doing a complete turn about to agrarian subsistence.

Peace, indeed!

acetinker's picture

Hedgeless, you and your comfortable band of elite preppers can always and forever fuck off!

joego1's picture

I'm a humble prepper. Just trying to get back to a time when things were more real in life.

hedgeless_horseman's picture



Hedgeless, you and your comfortable band of elite preppers can always and forever fuck off!


Easy there Tinker. 

I am not responsible for who does and does not get invited to the POMO auctions and DSK's sex parties. 

Further more, if you are going to call us names, instead of, "comfortable band of elite preppers," we would prefer, "joyful, witty, healthy, sexy band of badass-libertarian epicureans," thank you very much.

acetinker's picture

Selfish people piss me off.  Self-righteous-former-Wall-Streeter-turned-gentleman-farmers piss me off even more.

You think you can atone for your ill-gotten gains by plowing those assets into an enterprise that only benefits you and yours?

Think again.

Epicurean my ass!

hedgeless_horseman's picture



You think you can atone for your ill-gotten gains by plowing those assets into an enterprise that only benefits you and yours?


You have absolutely no idea what you are writing about.

Your lower brain, angry, jealous, and afraid is responding to FEAR: False Evidence Appearing Real.

I hope you get some help.

serotonindumptruck's picture

Not sure why you got the down votes. Maybe you should wear them like a badge of honor instead.

If I'm to understand you correctly, you're implying that a post-apocalyptic SHTF world will be less than pleasant. Consequently, some of the concerns outlined in this thread might seem inconsequential or perhaps even a bit absurd.

I don't trust some of my immediate neighbors NOW. I damn sure won't be fucking around with them post-SHTF and trying to decide if they deserve some compassion or sympathy.

I'll likely deal with them in the most expedient way available, as I will expect them to be thinking the same about me.

It will not be a world of "milk and honey in the land of sunshine", to say the very fucking least. Life will be absolutely brutal, and hesitation will get you killed in an instant. Trust no one unless they planned for the collapse and made contingency plans with you.

acetinker's picture

I got the reddies because I cut against the grain.

There's a certain heirarchy at ZH.  It calls itself fight club, but there are certain members you're not allowed to fight- see?

Hedgeless is one of those members.

My reddies are the evidence.

It's the same old problem of humans self-organizing into groups that oppose each other- I am not immune to this.

Knowing this, I plan and prepare as a lone wolf does, knowing that I cannot survive outside the pack, likewise knowing that I cannot survive inside the pack either.

On a long enough timeline...

_Doomsayer's picture

What's wrong with prepping?

acetinker's picture

Nothing.  But if you think you can prep for what is coming...

We are transitioning from the age of Pisces to the age of Aquarius...

A Pisces mind will not comprehend the Aquariian mind. The Pisces mind will continue to interpret world events in the realm of the fishes.

What if you were the sea?