Exercise Four: Make a List, Check it Twice

28 Apr

This post is part of a series of exercises about how to begin preparing for emergencies. See the complete list of posts here.

Now that you’ve thought about which emergencies are most likely to strike in your area, made a plan, and taken steps to preserve your personal information, you’re ready to start actually storing some supplies! If you don’t like the idea of purchasing items that you don’t plan to use right away (or ever), think of it this way: you buy car insurance and health insurance, and these supplies are just another layer  of “insurance” in case something bad were to happen.

Creating a shopping list was my favorite part of my early days of prepping, because I love planning and making lists. I just feel better when crucial information is organized on paper, it puts me in control and lets me be methodical in my actions.

To start your list, write down everything you’ll want to have on hand during an emergency. You can be vague (“Food”) or specific (“iOSAT brand potassium iodide tablets”). The things you list should be related in some way to the emergencies that are most likely to occur in your area and your specific plans to deal with those emergencies. In other words, don’t waste a ton of money on a big tent and a zero-degree sleeping bag if you’re planning on hunkering down in your house….in Florida. See what I mean? Make sure your “wish list” makes sense for you.

Now, go through your list and number everything from highest to lowest priority. Hint: If water and shelter aren’t your first priority, you’re doing it wrong! 🙂  My general guidelines are water, shelter, food, fire, and then everything else. As you list your priorities, add specific products where you can. For example, under your “water” category, you may want to buy a filtration system, a large water storage bladder, treatment tablets, etc.  I try to be redundant in my preparations so I’m ready for a variety of situations. For example, knowing three or four different ways to start a fire, and possessing the tools to do so, is really important! For those of us who don’t have the time or space to learn how to rub two sticks together to make a spark, a variety of fire-starting tools could literally be the difference between life and death.

Once you have your list in some semblance of an order, give it another serious look. Think about your plans, and how your preps will help you execute said plans. Do many of your items serve multiple purposes? Fantastic. Will your items be useful to you in non-emergency situations? Wonderful.  These are the items that you’ll want to purchase first, or at least soon after the essentials. Again, don’t buy a 100-gallon stainless steel water drum if you live in a 500-square foot loft and plan to evacuate as soon as disaster strikes. It just doesn’t make sense!

Now can begin purchasing a few items at a time. Don’t try to buy everything at once – your wallet and closets will be pretty unhappy.  You don’t necessarily have to buy these things in order, either. Personally, I have my list divided into “thirds.” The top third is for the essentials – water, shelter, food, fire – the middle third is for more general but still useful survival gear (respirator, outdoor stove), and the last third is my “wish list” of items that I’d love to have but that aren’t my top priority. My wish list items include things like a non-electric coffee percolator and a vacuum sealer. I tried to get everything from the first third crossed off or well underway before I move on to the second third. The only time I break that rule is if I see a great deal on something and I want to snatch it up right away.

Oh, and one other thing – food and water storage can be intimidating, so my next two posts in this series will be focused specifically on starting your food and water stockpile.  You can focus on buying items for shelter and fire until then, but here’s one thing you can do NOW to start your water storage:

  • Fill an empty, clean 2-liter soda bottle with water until there’s no air left at the top (bottle will be overflowing).
  • Put cap on and seal it with duct tape.
  • Stick it in your closet!
  • DO NOT use old milk jugs for water storage – they can harbor deadly bacteria.

So…want to see my list? Here it is! The vertical dashes roughly indicate where I have my list divided into thirds. It’s a little long because I’ve added to it over the months that I’ve been shopping, yours does NOT have to contain this many items. For some of the lesser-known gear, I’ve included links so you can learn a little more about each product. Let me know if you have any questions and, as always, leave your comments below!

ApartmentPrep’s Survival Shopping List

  • Water
  • Food
  • Fire starters (matches, lighters, magnesium firestarter, steel wool/battery)
  • Tarp and tent
  • Sleeping bag
  • Radio
  • Compass
  • A pair of sturdy boots or shoes
  • Flashlight
  • Paracord(several hundred feet)
  • Survival knife
  • Big first aid kit (building my own – post to follow!)


  • Edible plants guide
  • E-tool
  • A pair of hiking pants (not denim)
  • Poncho + rain jacket
  • Potassium iodide
  • Zip ties
  • Mini stove
  • Small pot
  • Small hatchet
  • Whistle
  • Net
  • Respirator
  • Highway maps (get them free here)
  • Topographic maps


  • Extra socks (not cotton)
  • Extra shirts (long sleeve and short sleeve for layering)
  • Warm long underwear of some kind
  • Coffee percolator
  • Hat
  • Bandana
  • Chamois towel
  • Disposable white painting suits or scrubs
  • Bivvy sack
  • Shemagh
  • Vacuum sealer

Are there any items that I’m forgetting? What’s on your list so far? 


2 Responses to “Exercise Four: Make a List, Check it Twice”

  1. LP May 5, 2012 at 11:23 am #

    Hi Kate. The list looks good so far. In answer to “Are there any items that I’m forgetting?”. I would suggest a good portable water filtering device. Store and carried water will only go so far, and for your on-foot preps, it is absolutely necessary to include a filter capable of removing bacteria and viruses. It is also good to pre-filter the water so that a minimum of debris heads into the serious filter. No sense in making it work to remove things it doesn’t need to deal with, and possibly shortening it life. A tee-shirt over a hoop will get out most of the solids in a pinch.

    • apartmentprep May 7, 2012 at 2:00 pm #

      Great suggestion! I’m looking around for a good portable water filter, right now all I have is a little straw-like thing that attaches directly to my water bottle. I’d like something with a greater capacity so that I can filter enough water to refill my containers. Do you have a favorite brand or filter type?

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