A "must-have" is an item that a person cannot do without. My family has learned over the generations that the only true must-have is kept between your ears where they can't get it. Who "they" are changed several times.

For the world post-collapse there are many must-haves. After all, everything a person needs that they depend on modern society to provide for them will have be made by hand. For me, the postulate I've been basing my work on is "if you can't make it from scratch with what you find on the ground, don't expect to have it." So, this is a list of the must-haves I must-have for the world post-collapse. Please comment and add your own. I'd hate to learn that this list was incomplete five years too late.

1) How to make a fire in all kinds of weather.
2) How to make clothing and shoes.
3) How to make at least one weapon from scratch.
4) How to use that weapon to take down prey.
5) How to skin and otherwise partition that prey.
6) How to cook the animal.
7) How to identify and use a variety of edible plants in the summer and winter months.
8) How to identify and use a variety of medicinal plants, most especially ones that help with cuts and abrasions.
9) How to flintknap (without this you just haven't quite reached the stone age yet), or at least how to fire-harden wood.
10) How to make shelters appropriate for both summer and winter.

Each of these requires a lot of secondary knowledge that is not explicitly listed. For instance, learning how to make fire requires a certain level of knowledge about trees and tree identification. Making most weapons, tools, and clothes would require cordage. Flintknapping requires a rather thorough knowledge of a variety of stones and where to look for them.

Another thing to keep in mind is that this is only the must-haves. The like-to-have and would-be-nice-to-have lists are quite a bit longer. It is quite a bit to learn, but luckily it's all inter-related. Medicinal and edible plants often differ only in the method of delivery, part of the plant, and the amount ingested. Also, flintknapping will help with making those weapons. Depending on the shelter, the skills of making clothes, weapons, or skinning a animal might be relevant.

Ultimately this is only my list, and it is subject to revision. Everyone intending to survive has their own, feel free to share yours.

-Benjamin Shender



  1. Aftermath said,

    June 6, 2006 at 6:12 am

    I’ll add one of my own here. This is not so much a must know how to make, as it is a must know how to find.
    Water. If you don’t know how to find water when there is no stream nearby, you will not survive. Watch the insects. They need to stay close to their water source. Smell the air.
    Learn how to find water.

    – Miranda Vivian

  2. Aftermath said,

    June 6, 2006 at 10:44 am

    Just a note, we will be out of contact until Friday.


    -Miranda Vivian

  3. onyxblue said,

    June 6, 2006 at 11:58 am

    I would say that midwifery is a must-have skill, or perhaps, for women, knowing how to give birth unassisted. It should be something that simply comes naturally for us, but I don’t quite think it does anymore. *If* such a thing as a collapse happens, the next generation would know nothing different, but I imagine that deep in the backs of the most ardent unassisted-birthers, they know that if something goes horribly wrong, they can get medical assistance.

  4. Valnurana said,

    June 9, 2006 at 12:39 pm

    Don’t forget some form of paper and writing tool. Knowledge that cannot be passed on is knowledge lost.

  5. Aftermath said,

    June 9, 2006 at 8:41 pm

    Hey there onyxblue,
    Midwifery and skills such as birthing unassisted are things that women will need to know, and as the time comes, probably will know better than we civilized women folk do.
    Actually, currently, for all that are interested, I am in the process of writing a hand-book of sorts on womanly issues such as that, and more, for the want-to-be primitivist woman. When it is complete, a portion of it will be displayed on Aftermath, a teaser if you will.
    Anything in particular anyone would wish to know about?

    As for the writing tools, I have that one down! ;) Paper…is a bit more elusive. I know vaguely how to make it, but have not yet tried. =)

    – Miranda Vivian

  6. JCamasto said,

    June 10, 2006 at 12:08 am

    Don’t forget some form of paper and writing tool. Knowledge that cannot be passed on is knowledge lost.

    The oral tradition seems to have a good track record – no paper required. Story telling is part of what makes us human.

  7. Aftermath said,

    June 10, 2006 at 9:11 am

    Ah, but being an archivist at heart myself, I am certain that certain knowledges will be kept on record, such as maps. Story telling is different. Remembering a story and being able to tell it without reading it helps your memory in the long run, also helps to keep it alive and real.

    – Miranda Vivian

  8. onyxblue said,

    June 11, 2006 at 3:00 pm

    I’ve heard that agave leaves, when dried, make good paper. I thought I knew where I’d read that, but of course I can’t find it now. I realize that won’t really help in the northeast.:-) I would imagine that you might be able to use yucca in the same way, or other aloe-type plants.

  9. Aftermath said,

    June 11, 2006 at 3:14 pm

    Birch bark used to be popular. And, of course, one can always just pulverize a tree, soak the wood, throw in some rags and wait for it to dry. But the process is time consuming and takes some amount of effort.

    I kind of viewed paper as a luxury really. I like knowledge to be stored in my head rather in a book. After all, if some one burns the knowledge out of my head I really won’t be needing it anymore.

    -Benjamin Shender

  10. Aftermath said,

    June 11, 2006 at 3:20 pm

    Of course we could always “recyle” old paper. You know, the paper that is NOT burned at the first winter with no heat.

    I sort of view in my head a situation in which a message needs to be sent. Or a letter, or something like it. Drums work, but I’m sure being able to read a note in your hand would be nice too.

    I’d like to have paper to have maps on. We can survive without them, sure, but they certainly would be nice to have.

    But I agree with Ben, it is a luxury, not a necessity. Not to say I wouldn’t like to have it, I certainly would, but only for select instances.

    – Miranda Vivian

  11. onyxblue said,

    June 11, 2006 at 6:19 pm

    “After all, if some one burns the knowledge out of my head I really won’t be needing it anymore.”


  12. Valnurana said,

    June 11, 2006 at 6:50 pm

    All this talk about memories and oral tradition is wonderful. Has anyone ever played “whisper down the lane”? What information will have been lost or totally garbled by the time your great-great grandchildren hear it? Perhaps information which might save them from some of the mistakes we have already made. Perhaps just something which might have made their lives easier but has become anathema because of a misunderstanding.
    We don’t need to throw out the good things civilization has wrought–and there are some–while rethinking the mistakes we have made.
    Sorry, Ben, I disagree. Knowledge, and the ability to transfer it, intact, to our children, is not a luxury.

  13. onyxblue said,

    June 11, 2006 at 11:08 pm

    I think part of the problem with games like “whisper down the lane” (I’ve always called it telephone) is that we aren’t trained to remember things that way. An oral tradition isn’t made up of someone telling one person a story one time, and then that person has to tell it to another person one time, (and they told two friends) and so on, and so on. Things may be passed on from one person to one person, but they are lessons that are hopefully repeated until the student gets them right.

    The biggest thing that I think paper has going for it is that you don’t have to worry (as much) about the student getting everything right before the teacher dies. Someone has to write things down on paper, and there is as good a chance that things will be written down incorrectly, or not concisely, or that a page will be torn, or an entire book used for fuel in a cruel winter.

    I think if you really want to use oral tradition, you’d better start practicing now. Personally, I prefer books, too, but I see the value in each. What would probably be best would be a combination of the two. If nothing else, learning things two different ways like that forms more pathways in your brain.

  14. Aftermath said,

    June 11, 2006 at 11:45 pm

    The intent would be to use both. Written and oral tradition. But if we do not have paper it won’t be the end of us.

    Onyx is correct. Whisper Down the Lane is a trick. Humans communicate using more than just words. It strips down communication to just the verbal aspects, which is then transmitted in a low tone that makes it more likely for similar sounds to be confused. To top it off you do not get to hear it again or ask for confirmation of what you heard. Real human communication does not work this way. Does everyone here remember that favorite childhood story? Would you ever forget for anything less than severe mental damage? By the whisper down the lane theory you should be telling the story off Little Red Riding-hood as it took place in a land called Hon-a-lee with three Bears, an evil step-mother, and a poorly behaved son named Bart.

    A full oral tradition involves stories, songs, and repetition. Often times such a story has a rhyme and rhythm scheme that helps memory. But the knowledge being transmitted that way is not knowledge needed to live. That knowledge is transmitted the same way children learn how to count money. They just do. No child has to look up in a book the proper method of using a television. In the same way no forager child has to look up the proper method of how to make a basket. They learn how as it comes up. Knowledge passed down through story is more theology and philosophy. “How should we live” and “why do we live” rather than “what do we do to live.” And that knowledge needs to be able to change and develop as a people do. The Greek recited the Iliad verbatim for generations before it was written down, and that is not even the most impressive accomplishment.

    Now, physics, advanced mathematics, maps, etc. These things can be put on paper with no, or at least little, detraction. After all, the real knowledge in these situations is how to use the stuff on the paper.

    But no forager has ever needed a book on making a bow and arrow. Yet the knowledge has never been lost. Not even today.

    I’m sorry, but I do not see any possible mechanism by which a group of people can loose knowledge that they require to live. If they did, they would cease to live. And the next generation would hardly feel the loss in such a situation. This is why I call writing a luxury rather than a necessity. Knowledge can be passed down through other methods. But Valnurana is quite right, knowledge must always be passed down. If it isn’t it wasn’t worth anything to begin with.

    -Benjamin Shender

  15. Aftermath said,

    June 12, 2006 at 12:12 am

    I enjoy books and believe I will enjoy books for the rest of my life. At least, that is the plan at this point! I love a time to hear stories being told. To hear memories around a campfire, or during a trip, or at just any random moment. I also enjoy winding down at the end of the day with a book that I read myself, at my own pace, on my own time.
    Paper and the practice of writing is not something that should be discouraged. Yes, we can survive without it, and it would probably be good for our memories if we didn’t write everything down, as many of us tend to do now.
    Paper itself is a luxury. Knowledge is not.
    Maps keep being brought up, for good reason (I’m studying map-making). Maps will be incredibly useful, and I’m not just talking about the ones you can find with roads all over them, though they will be useful too, most likely for foot traffic. I’m not saying soley depend on them. You will more than likely know the lay of your land. Say you are in one area and a group of people are in another. You know the area fairly well to and from. Lets say that something changes in the landscape. Not at all an unlikely event, especially as waters may rise in the not so distant future. Suddenly, you need a new route. One that takes you around rather than straight through. You don’t know what way to go! Sure, you could bumble your way through to get to the other group, but if you had a map with topography and all, it would be much easier and less dangerous for you.
    I’ve heard a few arguments against the presence of maps in the future. To that, I shrug. It will be those with the maps that are the least likely to get lost. ;)

    To make a map, you must map it on something!
    I do want paper in the future, and I will make it myself if the need arises.

    – Miranda Vivian

  16. Old Jim said,

    June 12, 2006 at 10:21 am

    Your list is good and many of the skills you list are valualble tools, but, the fall of this civilization will not leave a clean slate upon which to proceed.
    The idea of hunting and gathering, while very appealing will be much harder to realize than one could hope. We have probably all read much about the hunter/gather (or more accurately gatherer/hunter cultures) and the ease with which they made a living on the land. While that is all true we must remember that their populations were greatly less than todays, land that supported a few thousand gatherers will not support a couple of million. The carrying capacity of the land is against the idea, at least not until the dieoff has adjusted the number to be supported.
    Since the time that the land supported gatherer/hunters we have steadily degraded, destroyed, and generally taken the land from a state of natural plenty to one of barrenness. Even the farms of this time will become hopeless weed patches for years as the previous plant communities evolve to reclaim their niches. While some of those weeds are edible, it will be a long time before a stable landscape emerges to support a human population.
    My idea would be that it is important now to be a prepared as possible for the coming changes.
    Growing food, and saving seed, securing a water supply for yourself and the garden will be very important and must be underway before the fall of the system. It would also be good to be raising animals for meat (if you eat it) and milk as well as eggs. Milk and eggs along with garden produce provide a pretty good diet.
    While flintknapping and all are valuable skills we must remember that all the cargo that our society has produced isn’t going to go away when oil stops flowing. The ability to salvage and scavenge for materials will be essential.
    The ability to work with simple smithing skills, construct with salvaged metal and wood, and adapt bits and pieces to new uses will be invaluable.
    Handcrafts will retake their important position and sewing. weaving. spinning, etc will be necessary skills.
    All of these are better learned before they are needed, and while there are others around that can teach them.
    I guess what I am saying is that the more you know, and the more you are already doing, before the crash the better off you will be afterward. There will be alot of materials out there to use and life will be harder before it gets easiler, there is just no way of knowing how hard for how long until it happens.

  17. Aftermath said,

    June 12, 2006 at 11:25 am

    When the crash begins people will move towards safety. In a civilization safety means city. The place I’m living in and intend to continue living in and around has a very low population, compared to most places. And that population should decrease. I also live near some of the only true forest left on the east coast. Land that has never been that great for farming.

    As for food, foragers ate a lot of meat. Numbers suggesting otherwise relied excessively on the !Kung who have an unusual love affair with the monogongo nut. Most foragers don’t even seem to love nuts all that much. On average perhaps 60% of a forager’s diet is meat. One of the things that foragers very rarely ate on the other hand is milk. Very few people have ever had the adaptation that makes drinking the breast milk of a cow possible, and even they tend to have added health problems because of it.

    Most weeds are edible or medicinal. Also, the bark of many trees is edible, although not tasty. As the population of my region reduces, and we keep moving, we should have enough food for a small band. We might not be having the most tasty of meals for a while, but we shouldn’t starve to death. There could never be enough food for a couple million, no. But there aren’t a couple million here now. Perhaps in a fifty mile radius I could come up with a million people, but that would include most of what passes for “cities” around here. And most of those people will head east looking for work. Also, the current population of this region is about 50% elderly…maybe more. So, during the crash the younger ones are heading east and the majority of the population is dying.

    Salvaging is all well and good. But my rule is “don’t rely on anything you can’t guarantee you’ll have.” I can’t guarantee anything with salvage. Salvage is by nature opportunistic. Also, smithing will be incredibly difficult. I live in a region that once had the best coal in the world. There isn’t much left. Without coal I’m left with charcoal, which makes for inferior smithing due to much lower temperatures. Metals like copper could still be used to great effect, but I’m not putting any money down on steel.

    On the other hand, flint-knapping and fire-hardening will be useful. There should be plenty of trees around the forest and there is no sign of any impending rock shortage.

    I do plan on learning a lot more than just this list, and already do in fact. But this is the base line list for me. I must know at least this much to survive.

    Finally, since we aren’t sure what is going to happen we are not planning on settling down somewhere and starting a farm. Sustainable or otherwise. It’s dangerous to pick a spot and settle there, because you can’t know what’s going to happen. Settling down doesn’t make you safer, but more vulnerable. Foragers do not have this problem. Also, I personally would not feel comfortable starting anything like a farm. Not yet. That being said I do intend to drop edible plant seeds nearer to each other in various places around the area. It’ll make foraging easier.

    -Benjamin Shender

  18. Aftermath said,

    June 12, 2006 at 11:40 am

    Salvaging and scavenging for supplies can also be dangerous, depending on when and where you do it. The places that you would need to scavenge at would be cities and towns. People will still be there. Not many will be willing to head out into the big and scary woods when they can stay in what remains of civilization. Salvaging in these areas around these people can prove deadly. Those still in towns and cities will be desperate people and anybody will be seen as a threat or even food.

    – Miranda Vivian

  19. Old Jim said,

    June 13, 2006 at 9:24 am

    I can appreciate your sentiments regarding foraging, but we must consider the amount of environmental damage that has been done to all local ecosystems/biomes by industrialized society. Cultures that lived well on land inhabited within it’s carrying capacity can no longer supply the same level of subsistence.

    Beside the damage to the land herself, the wildlife and fish populations have been impacted both by industrial harvesting and degradation due to pollution. Here in the northwest, salmon and other fish were a mainstay of the diet, now the salmon runs are disappearing and river pollution makes fish from many areas unsafe to eat. Even if this society fell immediately and quickly the pollution and it’s impact will be around for a long time before many species (if they can survive) will be safe to consume again.

    Although no native cultures in north america drank milk there is extensive evidence of domestication of animals. I’m not very familiar with the east coast but in the southwest the Anasazi kept turkeys (it’s not much of a stretch to include turkey eggs) and dogs. In south america the Inca kept llamas, alpacas, and guinea pigs.
    The lack of milk drinking most likely is the result of general asian milk intolerance and therefore no history of using milk in their diets.Since our cultural heritage, for the most part, is centered in europe, africa, and western asia. In these regions there is a long history of nomadic pastoralism.

    Here are a couple of quotes concerning this idea:

    From “Goat Walking” by Jim Corbett:
    “Two milk goats can provide all the nutrients a human being needs, with the exception of vitamin C and a few common trace elements. Learn the relevant details about range-goat husbandry and something about edible plants, and with a couple of mild goats you can feed yourself in most wildlands, even in deserts.”

    From “Goat Husbandry” by David Mackenzie:
    “When man began his first farming operations in the dawn of history, the goat was the king-pin of the pastoral life, making possible the conquest of desert and mountain and the occupation of the fertile land that lay beyond. The first of man’s domestic animals to colonize the wilderness, the goat is the last to abandon the deserts that man leaves behind him. For, ever the friend of the pioneer and the last survivor, the goat was never well-loved by farmers on fertile land. When agriculture produces crops that man, cow, and sheep can consume with more profit, the goat retreats to the mountain tops and the wilderness, rejected and despised-hated, too. as the emblem of anarchy.”

    Regarding ‘smithing’ I should have used a different term. I did not mean it in a strictly ‘blacksmithing’ way but as a ‘fabricator’. Probably ‘tinkerer’ would have been a better description of the concept I was looking for. While limited smithing would be possible, either with coal or the production of charcoal, the working of metals by other means would be more than enough to produce most, if not all, of the metal implements needed. I am reminded of the Negritos of the Philippines who built their entire village from the trash dump at Clark Air Force Base. On top of that, they would take the metal from the engine compressor blades and turn them into knives, swords, etc that they brought back on base to sell to GIs.

    The ability of indigenous cultures from the tropics to the arctic has depended on their ability to adapt, not only to changing conditions but also to changing material culture. The found bit of scrap – metal, fabric, cordage – that can be used to replace a harder to procure organic part was often welcomed as a sturdy and longer lasting replacement. Salvaging materials will be available everywhere, here in our rural area there are supplies of “junk” all over – even out in the woods where equipment, etc have been abandoned. You won’t need that much if your level of technology is much lower than it is now.

    It is very important to have venues like your blog to discuss these ideas and trade outlooks. As we all try to adjust to the coming changes we will have to be able to adapt to changes forced by climate change and economic/peak oil destruction of our social system. Even looking at the climate change models available there is really no way of knowing what to prepare for until it happens. I was just reading about the changes that may be coming for the forests of the northeast, as the warming climate destroys the habitat for the current forest communities and the warmer oak forest climax forests move northward to replace them. But even this isn’t sure, perhaps there will be pockets of micro-climates that will continue to support the birch, beech and maple forest?

    At least everyone will have the opportunity to live in interesting times, at least if they can survive.

  20. Aftermath said,

    June 13, 2006 at 9:52 am

    I am certain that there will be salvaging of scraps and materials going on. We just do not wish to rely on the chance that what we need is available nearby without a huge amount of people around it. Having the skills that Ben described above are essential skills. Regardless of whether you ever eat any game or not, having a weapon to wield might just save your life. Even if you wanted to have a herd of animals with you as you are nomadic (I have no desire to stay in one place), who is to say you actually could? We are here in the Appalachian Mountains. Not exactly the region for nomadic herding. Nor do we know how the weather is going to shift exactly, so it is not something that we can plan for, even if we wanted to.
    Personally, milk makes me ill, so I’ll stick with my wild edibles full of vitamins and nutrients.
    Interesting times, yes, and the hope is to survive. That’s the goal anyway!

    – Miranda Vivian

  21. Aftermath said,

    June 13, 2006 at 12:12 pm

    We have milk tolerance, which isn’t really to say that milk is a good thing to eat. It contains chemicals and substances that are not always good for an adult human to have. Things like dioxin, for instance, cause many health problems in humans, even though baby cows need it.

    There are two kinds of these pollutants. Short duration and long. While things like mercury, lead, and CFCs hang around for centuries, carbon molecules, particulate matter, etc are removed fairly quickly once we stop adding more. But you’re right, mercury and lead are serious poisons, that will have to be watched out for.

    I have faith in the adaptability of life. I cannot swear to specific species, but cannot conceive of a situation in which more species will go extinct because of the crash than are being killed leading up to the crash. Once industrial civilization is out of the picture much of the pollutants, although not all, will leave the air quickly. Simultaneous to this there will be huge release of carbon into the system. Not only will trees be better able to use the carbon in the air without our interference, but the carbon from the dead will be released as well. I would tend to predict first a fugal bloom to be quickly followed by a large increase in plant life and then animals. It’s the intermediate time that will be the hardest, and it is hard to judge how long it will last. The worst of it should be in the first few years. And if you prepared and out of the way, the difficulties can be reduced.

    Unless it gets as hot as Lockheart is claiming there should still be forests of some kind. And if Lockheart is right, we’re all dead any way.

    Salvage is a hard thing to practice. It’s mostly a combination of imagination and opportunity in my experience, both of which are out of person’s hands. But given the chance I certainly would not refuse to use something useful I found. I suppose the skills to practice would be those of manufacturing. That way given the inspiration and opportunity you won’t be left with saying, “wow, I could make a great sword out of that…too bad I don’t know how.”

    I’m not a big fan of domesticated animals. With the exception of dogs, they have always come with agriculture and civilization. Now that they are domesticated we might be able to continue to use them, but their connection with civilization might not just be in the process of domestication. It’s impossible to know for sure because no forager people I know of used domesticated animals for long enough to be sure. The Natives of the Great Plains used Spanish horses to great effect. Until they were slaughtered and forced into cages. A couple hundred years is a very short experiment. And, ironically enough, before they had horses they were sedentary farmers.

    I’m not sure about domesticated animals one way or the other in general. I suppose I take them on a case by case basis. I’ve been using as a general metric the concept of symbiosis. If the advantage goes both ways, then I like the deal better. Dogs and humans together make better hunters than either alone. Horses make humans faster, but the horse gets little from the deal. Cows, goats, llamas, ect are similar cases.

    -Benjamin Shender

  22. Glenn said,

    June 20, 2006 at 7:22 pm

    Interesting topic line.

    Must-Haves…let’s see.

    The first thing that will kill you will be panic, so the first must have is the right attitude. That is to say you have to have a calm, collected mind that has come to terms with what you face. Either way, if we face a slam the wall crash, or if we face a bleeding ulcer painful demise it ultimatly does not matter, the challenge everyone who wants to try to live will face is simply to unplug yourself from the life support system that is all you have ever known. If you accept this now and start now you can be calm while the 80% to 90% of people around you do what they always to in a survival situation. That is to say, either sit down and wait for resque till they die, and/or panic, run around like fools waisting energy and likely getting themselves injured or killed. May I suggest the book “Deep Survival” as an amazing resource for understanding the importance of attitude. Read the book, its awesome. However, here is a very boiled down gist. When people are thrust into a survival situation they go through a emotional process not unlike that of the greving. First they will have to over come denial. I like to call this social inertia. People will not believe its really as bad as all that, and most will try to keep doing what they have always done. If you can recognize this stage for what it is (difficult as getting reliable information is likely to be very difficult or impossible) you will have time to move before things get bad. I would thing about three days is likely, some looting of course but not that bad yet, after that we see the next stage. Anger, this is where the violence comes in, looting and murder, rapes and arson will be rampent. Thoes inclined to non-violence will get out of town or go into hiding if they can survive. Depending on how hungry people get this is likely to last two days to a week or so. Next, bargaining, people will look for some way out (“If we can only get to the City then we will get help.” or “If we all just pull together we can get through this.” or “If you will follow me and do what I say, I will save you.”) This will go on till it is past painfully clear that its not working. By this time its likely that over 50% of the people will be dead. As things move into the next phase, depression, stuff gets really ugly. Some will just lay down and die, or otherwise do themselves in, other will turn to cannablism at this point as hope dies and hunger destroys the last of people’s former social morality. Last, we reach acceptance where people go one of two ways. Either they come to accept their situation and get on with the business of living, or they come to the absolute understanding of their own hoplessness and they do themselves in. In all survival situations 75-95%+ die unless resque is forthcomming. This happens very, very quickly. It is likely that the first two weeks to a month after the life support system is cut off will see a 50%+ death toll. It is unlikely that people will “flood out across the countryside looking for food” but rather that they will stay put and die, seek help in the population centers many dieing on the way, and thoughs few that then do head for the hill most will have wasted to much health, energy, and hope on the way and they will not get far before they too are dead.

    Therefore, it is pivitol that you “must-have” already gone throught this emotional process and be ready to move or already be in possition when things go sour.

    The next thing that will kill you is lack of effective shelter. People die of exposure in hours and while modern houses will keep out the rain and cold wind, without modern heating they will not be so great. Expect lots of people to burn down their houses or die of carbon monoxide poisoning.

    Next thing to kill you is lack of water. Poor quality and polluted water is common in many places, and while drinkable water can be found if you know where and how to look, most will not know. The first most common impact of poor water is disentary. If you don’t know how to cure this, you will likely die of dehydration. Also, the possibility of disentary and other water born illness goes up quickly as people’s toilets stop working. You “must-have” access to clean water up stream of everyone else, and you still “must-have” the knowlege of how to make sure it is clean and drinkable.

    Now comes the tools that keep you alive and make life livable. These include something sharp (knife, stone flake, broken glass, etc…), fire (have to have something sharp to make fire, and often have to have fire to make something sharp, huh ironic), and you have to know how to make cordage. Everything else tool wise flows from these three basic tools (flint, fire, fiber).

    Next, food, the ability to find it and safely process it.

    There are the absolute “must-haves” for basic survival once unpluged from the modern world.

    As to books and paper, well…you must have books but you would be well advised to commit everything you can to memory as fast as you can and even better commit it to body memory and not just recall. Paper is no problem. Ever seen a book from the orient…slabs of wood, or bone, or ivory. Also, don’t for get the old stand by vellum, or actually rawhide. Lastly, I bet if you treat cattail leaves like papirus you might have some luck, can’t promise that but I intend to find out in the not to distant future.

    You must be able to be nomadic, but you are far better off preparing a place to hold up and stay put no matter what. This is advice give by a man who saw dozens of civil disruptions and survival situations, may I suggest his book “The Survival Retreat” by Ragnar Benson. The book is dated but the advice is still very sound. Your best chance is to find a place to hole up and stay put, if you have to run have a second backup place to run to. No matter what DO NOT become a refugee.

    To the list of must haves I would add three more things. Firstly, you must have a community, self contained and mutually commited. Second, you must have the ability to produce your own food. We don’t know what the enviornment will throw at us and we can’t count on forage, just as we can’t count on farming we need both. Last, you MUST HAVE a reason to bother. Thoes who live may think thoes who died were lucky. You better have a really good big reason to even try to survive, and that reason has to last a lifetime. I can’t tell you what that might be, you have to find it for yourself, and it would be good if it was reasonable close to your communities reasons.

    Without hope and purpose nothing else matters.

    Oh well…that’s what I think anyway.


  23. Aftermath said,

    June 21, 2006 at 2:07 pm

    Ok, I’m feeling a tad upstaged here, but you are right. I hadn’t really been thinking about the intangible “must-haves,” just the physical ones. But for humans nothing is as fundamental to survival as purpose and help. Even with ready supplies of food and medical help people die every day for lack of a reason to live.

    I’m rather fond to pointing out to people who are feeling depressed about the coming collapse that if you know how to survive and already have your community ready, your odds of survival increase dramatically. Even all the way to whole numbers.

    In a way community itself can be a very good reason. I’ve come to accept it as mine. Although I can certainly recognize reasons like survival, romanticism, or technological development.

    On paper you also made a good point. I had forgotten animal skins. Kind of odd for someone who has read from the Torah Scrolls to have forgotten you can write on sheep skin.

    -Benjamin Shender

  24. Glenn said,

    June 21, 2006 at 7:13 pm

    I told you I would only write when I felt I had something to say. Your topic line was interesting, and I had something to say. You were right on in everything you said I just felt that tightening up your thoughts on a basis on threat size and immediecy would put things clearly in perspective.

    The mental parts of survival are the most important. As it says in the book “Deep Survival” it is almost imposible to tell when an accident begins, or what choices lead to survival or death. Any event we could chose to try to issolate as “the cause” is connected to earlier events and thoughts going all the way back to the earliest childhood and sometimes into the lives of our parents and so on ad infinitum. The point is that we make choices everyday and while they may seem insignificant in the momment they push us down a path where we are either already a survivor or already dead. How we choose to think and the choices we make are what will ultimately kill us or allow us to live.

    Community is probably the best reason to live. Think of the soldier. They do not fight and die for a flag, freedom, a country, a politician, for thier general or anything like that. They fight and die for thier unit, for the man or woman next to them. They fight for their family and love ones, for their safty and/or the chance to see them again. The loyalty built by mutual crisis is so powerful that many, even injured to the point of death or complete incapcity still wish to return to help in the fight. Not for the sake of the fight but for the sake of their tribe, their community.

    I think this was the greatest gift and lesson at MAPS Meet, the understanding that we are not alone and that there are like minded good people in the world and I know that I would be willing to fight for some of the people I met even thought I hardly know them. This is weird to me as I tend to be an introvert and it often takes two to three years of knowing someone before I will even think of them as a friend. Yet, I feel that I have not only made friends but maybe something even closer in just four days. That for me is really, really weird, but also comforting.


  25. Janene said,

    June 22, 2006 at 9:07 am

    Hey —

    This is weird to me as I tend to be an introvert and it often takes two to three years of knowing someone before I will even think of them as a friend. Yet, I feel that I have not only made friends but maybe something even closer in just four days. That for me is really, really weird, but also comforting.

    How many times have we heard this, guys? :-)

    Hi Glenn, I’m Janene… nice to ‘meet’ ya.

    I could have said those same words after my first conference… and I know I have heard the sentiment echoed by others as well. It really is something ‘special’ in all this :-)


  26. ChandraShakti said,

    September 3, 2006 at 12:07 am

    Miranda, For that book on women’s topics, I’d like to suggest discussing ways to deal with menstruation. If dealt with inapproriately, it seems to me that this could cause troubles for the community. Whether from propagation of disease as the bloody material sits around or from the increased risk of attracting predators to the smell of blood. While safe delivery of children is important, the issue simply doesn’t come up as often. But it is my preference to have a woman who’s had babies of her own serve as midwife if one is at all available.

  27. Aftermath said,

    September 3, 2006 at 10:07 am

    Oh absolutely, ways of dealing with menstruation was actually the first thing I decided to put in the book, in all honesty, the reason I decided to make the book!

    – Miranda Vivian

  28. Galen said,

    April 25, 2007 at 3:58 pm

    Other things/skills to have:
    – a method of transportation (a travois or cart perhaps)
    – an axe (for building shelter, and yes, an axe is all you need)
    – basic building skills (square corners, vertical walls, sloped roofs)
    – a method of water purification
    – low tech lighting
    – direction finding
    I am sure others will be able to add endlessly to this list.


  29. Lindsay said,

    May 4, 2007 at 11:49 am

    I would suggest women get the Keeper/Diva Cup for menstruation. I think it would be the cleanest way to take care of it. Disposing of the contents would be the main concern; obviously it would have to be away from your camp, maybe into a stream if possible.
    Also, I think anyone with a young baby or expecting one soon should do at least a little research into Elimination Communication, breastfeeding, co-sleeping and baby carrying (and buy or make a good sling or wrap), because diapers, formula and strollers won’t be available in the post-crash world, and we’ll need to sleep together to stay warm.

  30. Galen said,

    May 5, 2007 at 3:56 pm

    Re: Disposal / cleanup

    NEVER empty ANY menstrual fluids into a stream. You have no idea who may be living downstream, and you will contaminate the water. I know this may sound petty, but this is how we got into this mess in the first place! I don’t know if you have read the studies on how excess birth control hormones are disrupting salmon and other fish reproduction and sex ratios (and it may be a good idea to do so…).

    The best way to deal with human excretia in a camp situation is to dig a small trech, do your thing, then burn the toilet paper to begin the breakdown, then cover. Do this AT LEAST 50m away from any water source.
    This is the method recomended by longtime backpacker and ecologist Colin Fletcher, and he used it for years.

  31. Lindsay said,

    May 6, 2007 at 2:55 am

    (blushing) Yeah, I knew it was wrong… but didn’t know the best option. So dumping the blood in the hole would be fine? As long as it’s far enough away?
    I have experience with low-impact/no-impact camping but we were always moving. After the crash I’ll be holed up at my parents’ deep in the country, and I would think we would start to run out of possible latrine locations…

  32. Aftermath said,

    May 15, 2007 at 10:04 am

    Hello again world.
    Things like the Diva Cup, while reusable, last for a limited amount of time. Even if they could last for the rest of your life, what about your children? Your children’s children? Even if you had enough to go around to all the women right now, eventually after a crash the population will go up again. It will have to, for survival.
    The cup is a great solution, for the here and now. Not long term.
    If you should have a permacultural garden, menstrual blood is actually a fantastic fertilizer, being incredibly nutrient rich.
    As for latrines locations, use a spot in a permanent or semi-permanent camp for a while, cover it up, nature will do it’s thing. Set up a new spot for your latrine. Repeat.

    – Miranda Vivian

  33. Rix said,

    May 17, 2007 at 12:01 am

    In a more permanent setting, humanure offers a great possibility for eliminating how many holes you need to dig.

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