When survival experts talk about SHTF events, it usually boils down to two main things:
The future belongs to those with the skill to obtain what they need from the discarded resources of a burned out world. There will be plenty of raw materials around after the SHTF, but it will exist in a much more primitive form than it does now. Your job at that time is to understand how to find and use the most useful items from a world without functional systems of production, energy, law, finance and resource extraction. In short, you’ll need to scrounge for your life.
Learning how to make successful survival scrounging happen for the 11 Survival Hacks Prepper Project we’ve published is what you’ll get here. You’ll learn what to look for, where to find it and how to use the bits and pieces found in junkyards, abandon stores and homes, vacant farms and even your backyard. This is what real survival preparation comes down to.
The Ethical Looters Checklist
The detailed design featured in the Prepper Project makes dirty water healthier than it was before (probably healthy enough to drink). Here are the basics about what the bio filter is made of and where to scrounge parts:
The Drum: Choose one that held food-grade liquids. No fuel oil or chemical drums if you can help it. Steel drums that contained polyethylene glycol (non-toxic antifreeze), vegetable oil or even soap products (wash out well) are good. You’re more likely to find plastic barrels used for food. These work fine for a bio filter, too. Look behind abandon restaurants, nursing homes, food processing factories and commercial food suppliers. If you absolutely must use a drum that contained non food-grade oil, burn out the barrel completely in fire, then wash out all ash.
Sand: This is where the filtering action happens. Building supply yards and home improvement stores all carry the kind of mortar sand that’s useful for a bio filter, and bags of sand are some of the last things to be looted. Naturally occurring deposits of sand will work, too. Beach sand isn’t great, but better than nothing. Boil it in water to sterilize it before using it if you can.
Crushed stone: The blueprint on the Prepper Project shows how crushed stone separates the water from the sand, and any kind of clean, crushed stone works here. Can’t find any? Break up chunks of rock or even old concrete by hand with a hammer.
Water tube: This transports water from the bottom of the barrel to the top. A garden hose is the easiest to find, but most leach harmful chemicals into the water. Food-grade hoses are sold for supplying water to RVs, so look in junkyards and RV lots. If you have to use an ordinary garden hose, let water run through it to freshen the water before taking a drink.
Turbulence slats: The Prepper Project blueprints show how these break the force of water added to the top of the barrel so the sand isn’t disturbed and good microbe colonies remain preserved. Old pallets, tree branches, scrap water pipes or any kind of food-grain objects act as a turbulence shield.
The Prepper Project teaches how this simple idea could save your life. Rivers and streams often have the best natural sharpening stones because water erosion has made them smooth. If you’re caught in the city when the SHTF, a chunk of broken concrete or even a sidewalk will work as a sharpening stone.
Fast and efficient heat for cooking and warmth is what the Prepper Project brick rocket stove delivers. It’s one of the simplest and easiest to build designs ever. Any kind of brick will do the job, so any kind of rubble heap is worth checking out as a source for bricks. Most will have mortar on them, which you can remove by pounding with a round rock or another brick. A cold chisel and mallet is a better tool for cleaning brick. Mortar is almost always softer than brick, so it flakes off when hit. Any kind of steel 1/8” or thicker placed on top of the rocket stove creates a serviceable cooking surface if you can’t find a pot or pan.
This is a big, ugly, essential food preservation tool that’s useful before or after a societal collapse. The Prepper Project blueprints include:
Steel barrel: Steel is essential and food-grade is best. Choose a barrel without a plastic liner, then build a hot, hardwood fire inside to clean the steel. Pallet wood makes an effective barrel fuel. Burn once, let it cool, burn again, then rinse with water and scrub.
Grill: This holds the meat up high in the barrel while smoking. The Weber 7432 grill is exactly the right size for use inside a standard 55 gallon drum. Any grill that’s 17 1/2” in diameter will work as well. If worse comes to worse, make your own “grill” with 1/2” rebar placed in holes punched through the sides of the drum a few inches apart.
Charcoal basket: This holds the charcoal that powers the smoker. Something called expanded metal lath is used in tile setting and stucco work, so bombed or burned out buildings may be a source if you can’t find new lath by scrounging a building supply yard.
Air valves: These allow more or less combustion air into the smoker to control temperature. These valves are exactly the same kind used in plumbing and hot water heating systems, so you can salvage from there. But honestly, all you need is some method for blocking air holes. Valves are a luxury and can be replaced by any non-combustible item. A rock, a chunk of plate steel, a tin can – they all work. Move them more or less over the holes to control air flow.
The photos in the Prepper Project show how ordinary food storage cans are used to hide small, precious items such as ammunition, gold or important papers. It all comes down to owning something called a smooth edge can opener. It leaves the metal rim of the lid intact, so the lid can be invisibly resealed onto the can with instant glue. The four best smooth edge openers on the market right now are the: Rosie All Stainless Can Opener, WMF Profi Safety Can Opener, Fissler Magic Smooth Edge Can Opener and the Kuhn Rikon Auto Deluxe Safety Lifter. If you don’t have an opener like these when you need one, open the bottom of a can in the ordinary way, wash it out, then put your valuables inside and set the can on a shelf. This only works if nobody tries to pick the can up, but it’s better than nothing.
The Prepper Project teaches the details of replacing wooden handles on axes, sledge hammers and nailing hammers. These tools will definitely become more important after a SHTF event because electricity will be short. Eventually wooden handles break, but if you can’t scrounge a replacement from a hardware store, use a straight hardwood sapling. Whittle the bark off, let the wood dry under cover for a couple of months, then use a jack knife to whittle the end to fit the head. If the handle of your sledge hammer or nailing hammer broke near the head, trim the wood and reinstall the old handle a little shorter than it was before.
The Prepper Project blueprints show all the details for building an electricity-free “fridge” to keep foods at least 20ºF cooler than surrounding air. Shipping pallets can be used to built the wooden framework, one pallet for each side of the fridge. The same metal lath that’s ideal for a drum smoker charcoal basket makes a perfect screen to contain the charcoal that lines the walls. Look for lath in wrecked buildings or building supply yards.
The Prepper Project blueprints show a simple way of extracting drinking water from soil, or purifying dirty water or even urine to get small quantities of pure water. The main thing you need is a clear plastic sheet, and a building supply outlet is an excellent source. Clear garbage bags work, too. As you walk up and down the aisles of a junked store, make your way to the insulation section. Clear plastic polyethylene is sold as a vapour barrier on rolls. You’ll find the same plastic underneath drywall in every home built in a region with a heating season.
This is the age-old survival and defense weapon you’ll find in the Prepper Project. The challenges of making your own involves whittling the wood for the bow, and finding a strong non-stretchy cord to use as a bow string. Can’t find a bow string? Braided steel cable of the kind used to hang pictures makes a great substitute. Used motor oil is a reasonable option to protect the wood of your bow against moisture if you can’t find linseed oil or urethane.
Not much gear needed here, just the root crops you intend to store covered with straw and soil as shown in the Prepper Project. Barns (even old barns) often have some straw in them, but strictly speaking you don’t need straw. Hay will work, too. Even long grass cut and dried for three or four days in the sun works fine as part of this system.
This is one of the best parts of the Prepper Project. Couple a small, two-stroke engine and a fan motor from a car and you’ve got your own supply of direct current (DC) power. Small engine repair shops are one source of the weed whacker engine you’ll need, so are two out of three backyard garden sheds. Blower fan motors in cars and trucks are usually found behind the dashboard on the passenger side. Look underneath or behind the glove compartment. The blower motor is the cylindrical metal object (almost always black) that connects to air ducts.
Final Tip: Scrounging 24-7
As you make your way through each day as a survival scrounger, keep your eyes open for abandon resources. Here are just a few of the places and exceptionally useful items to watch for:
The Most Valuable Items To Be Found From Abandoned Auto-Garages
Motor oil: Eventually your engines will need fresh oil. Never pass by a source of motor oil without claiming it. Even old motor oil is useful as a heating fuel drip-fed into a woodstove.
Fuel: Obviously, scrounge all the gas and diesel you can find, but be sure to look for fuel preservative, too. A small gas powered water pump is one way of extracting fuel from underground tanks when the power is out.
Tools: Never let the chance go by to stock up on socket wrenches, screwdrivers, hammers and tool storage boxes. Auto shops are full of them.
What To Look For In Abandoned Hardware Stores
Pipe: 1/2” and 3/4” copper and fittings; any size of ABS pipe
Wire: Standard 14/2 is the most useful, but grab thicker wire whenever you can. Thick wire is essential for low voltage, high current DC power systems.
Buckets: Simple but very valuable in world where food, water and animal feed needs to be hauled by hand. 5 gallon plastic pails are the most useful, but rubber buckets last the longest.
The Most Valuable Items In A Junkyard
Leaf springs: Always made of high carbon steel; ideal for forging tools
Wheels & tires: Memorize the size you have on your vehicles and implements, then look for and collect replacements.
Auto alternators: The best come from GM vehicles made in the 1970s. These are perfect for making a DC generator.
The Most Valuable Items To Be Found From Abandoned Laundromats
Dryers: Salvage the drum motor, bearings and drive belt for projects around your survival location. If the dryers are electrically heated, salvage the heating coils for making simple cooking appliances.
Steel gas pipe: This material is perfect for everything from plumbing and structural work; 3/4” and 1” diameters are the most useful.
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