Camping & Survival

Survival for the Non-Survivalist

For those of you with a basement...

There are some who completely don’t get it, some that over get it, and then some of us who get it, but don’t do too much about it. I know all three types of these people. I don’t know if it is laziness or the fact that I work in a building attached to a warehouse full of survival gear, but I just have not been as diligent about storing up as I should be. Last winter when we had a week of snow and ice storms, frozen pipes, and power outages, one of my best friends was up a creek without a paddle, the head boss man was living in the lap of luxury, and me? Well, I was somewhere in the middle.

I generally keep about three days of food at my house at all times, flashlights, batteries, charcoal to grill stuff, a butane camp stove and butane, and candles. I am within walking distance of convenient stores, so if I run out of essentials like booze and cigs, or want a day-old donut, I don’t panic. Could I be better prepared? Of course, I could, but I am on a budget, like many of us, and I am also an urban dweller, renter in fact, so I cannot build a bunker in the backyard. Fortunately, I have plenty of space in my house to store emergency supplies, but I have a good friend who lives in a trendy, over-priced box in a high-rise downtown. With like no storage space. So how do you become a survivalist, without being a survivalist? It is not that hard actually.

For those of you with a basement...
For those of you with a basement…


If you are stuck at your place due to natural disasters, bad weather, zombie apocalypse, or a major flu or sickness pandemic, you will need food and water first. You will also need a way to heat up food and boil water. In all the above events, it is more than likely you will lose power, gas, and water. The recommendation is that you store 12 weeks worth of food for you and your family, but I say 10 days. Canned food items are the most logical and offer the most variety.

It is not necessary to go out to the grocery store and drop a hundred bucks right this very second on every canned food item you can find. Instead, every time you go to the grocery store, instead of the one can on your shopping list, get two. If you do not usually buy canned food items, just pick out a few ones each trip that you would normally buy fresh, like green beans, carrots, beef stew, or whatever. Also, take advantage of your grocery store’s 10 for $10-type deals. If you go to the grocery store once a week and take advantage of those deals, in one month for $40 you will have 40 cans of food, which is plenty.

I have enough space to keep 40 cans of food; but if you don’t, then do your can food shopping just twice this month. Twenty cans is still a lot of food! If your local grocery store never runs these types of deals, then clip the Sunday paper coupons, or look for in-store deals. I always buy the store brand or no-name brand of canned items. Canned corn is canned corn is canned corn in my opinion, especially when it is the difference between $0.39 and a dollar!

I have a charcoal grill and a butane camp stove at home. However, I also have a large outdoor space that enables me to cook outdoors safely. I prefer charcoal to gas, because I never trust the gas tank to be full when it comes times to cook. During the summer, I always find good deals on giant bags of charcoal, packed two together. I make sure I always have at least half a bag at all times.

If you have no way to cook outside, you can safely cook indoors a few different ways without electricity or gas. The “Altoid stove” is a simple and cheap alternative. Get a tin of Altoid mints. Dump the mints out and poke holes along the side of the tin. You can put alcohol inside the tin, or just all over the top and then light it on fire. Hold a pan over the top of the flame and you can cook an egg, boil water, or heat up something from your can. The flame surprisingly lasts over five minutes.

So cheap, so useful
So cheap, so useful

In addition, sterno is safe to use indoors. The Swiss gel fuel stove uses sterno-type fuel, and this stove is a collapsible stove that uses sterno as its heat source.

There is always MRE-style, pre-packaged foods from Moutain House that provide four days of food for two people, or eight days of food for one person. If you chose to buy MREs, make sure to get extra heaters. Though not recommended that MRE heaters be used indoors, our resident military guy says it will be fine if you absolutely have to. Just open a window and set the heater close to it.


Disaster experts recommend that you store one gallon of water per day per person. Cases of bottled water come fairly cheap from the grocery store or the warehouse store. One case of bottled water equals just over three gallons. Pre-packaged bottled drinking water will last a year before you need to rotate it. Store water in a cool, dry place, like the pantry or a closet, and away from direct sunlight. The Water Bob is an easily storable FDA-approved plastic bag that holds 100 gallons of water in your bathtub.


If you are anything like me, when you get ammo, you shoot it. It is incredibly difficult for me to stock pile ammo. In fact, it is impossible. I never have more than a box of each. There really is no definitive answer on how much ammo to store. Some say you should store 500 rounds per gun, others say 1,000 rounds. I say as much as you can afford. The best advice I can give you and myself, is to buy ammo specifically for NOT GOING TO THE RANGE. Throw it in an ammo can, then put the date on the ammo can and shove it out of sight.

Federal XM855 5.56x45mm SS109 ammo
Buy ammo in bulk

If you do not have a gun, then invest in one. This one item will probably be the most expensive of your preparation endeavors. The

IAC Hawk pump action shotgun is less than $200.


You will also need a flashlight, candles, batteries, some warm blankets, matches, and a basic first aid kit. You probably already have some blankets, and maybe a flashlight, but if you do not have any of the others, just pick up the cheapest ones you find next time you are out at the store. I buy large packs of batteries. When I am down to four, I just buy a new pack.

For less than $100, you can build yourself a very basic bug-out-bag:
Millennium Energy Bar 10 Pack $10
Leatherman multi-tool $21
Basic first aid kit $20
Filtering water bottle $20
Pre-packaged survival kit $20
For $25, the Personal Survival Ark 72-Hour Kit is perfect to keep in your car for bad weather or car problem emergencies.

So there you have it. It doesn’t require a lot of money, space, or time to get yourself prepared.

The Mission of Cheaper Than Dirt!'s blog, The Shooter's Log, is to provide information—not opinions—to our customers and the shooting community. We want you, our readers, to be able to make informed decisions. The information provided here does not represent the views of Cheaper Than Dirt!

Comments (3)

  1. Nestle Pure Life Purified Water in plastic bottles can be stored 25 to 30 years and safely used without contamination from the plastic.

  2. The items listed are a good start. Every family should take the basic steps to be prepared for a crisis/disaster situation. It is the prudent thing to do, whether you believe in the “Gloom & Doom” prophecies, or not. In the wake of the storm last week, I think a lot of people are currently wishing that they had taken some sort of survival measures. I would not encourage people to stop at the stockage levels that you recommended, or tell them that they’re done or prepared. Food prices are certainly not going to go down any time soon. And, if you suspect that we are really on the verge of economic collapse, having food, water, ammo, first aid supplies, etc will be far more valuable than money in the bank.

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