If Covid-19 has taught the world anything, it's that we aren't typically well prepared as individuals or a society to handle sudden massive upheaval. Empty shelves haunt social media timelines, toilet paper is now gold-level valuable, and seemingly well-stocked products disappeared from online retailers overnight.
To combat these types of widespread shortages in the future, one can hardly seek better advice than that of those who've planned for an event this scale for years, even decades.
Doomsday preppers and survivalists have long been eyed with scepticism, but their measures – some reasonable, some extreme – have certainly proven beneficial in times of reduced access to necessities, and we could all stand to take a lesson from their foresightedness. We talked to a handful of experts in the field who have practiced mindfulness and mobility on the subject for a long time now and got their best suggestions on what to keep handy in the face of an extended battle with coronavirus and other lingering threats.
Jim Cobb is the author of Backwoods Survival Guide: Practical Advice for the Simple Life, an upcoming 192-page "definitive guide to living off the land" as well as numerous other books on the topic found on his website. His approach to preparing for tough times is a level-headed one that relies on common sense, and his 'must-haves' follow suit. "My approach to preparedness has always been decidedly not disaster-specific," he wrote in a comprehensive list of advice to us. "By that, I mean that I don't recommend people look at a single threat and prepare just for that. The simple fact is that prepping for, say, unexpected and lengthy unemployment isn't much different than prepping for a pandemic, not when you get down to the details. Our basic needs, such as food, water, and shelter, don't change."
We also spoke with the highly resourceful business owners and mothers to large families Michelle Walrath and Fran Paniccia, co-founders of Long Island and Hamptons-based lifestyle eatery Organic Krush. Michelle compiled an extensive shopping list of weekly and long-term items to stockpile, so we've selected a few to include here along with their benefits. "When we shop for our families we prioritise: organic, fresh, seasonal and colourful." Many common staples like apples, bananas, olive oil, and nuts made the cut, but a few unexpected items cropped up along with an outline of their helpful properties.
The third source we tracked down is Douglas Katz, a survivalist turned divorce lawyer (truly a man prepared for everything), who prefers to create a self-made version of a Go Bag as opposed to the premade options on the market and recommends reasonable investments over splurges. "A Band-Aid is a Band-Aid," he expounds, "but if you need to get a decent pair of forceps you're not going to corners."
Read on to find some top-rated suggestions in line with what each of our sources thinks the average person should have on hand–you might be surprised at how much far a little thinking ahead can get you.
You can trust our independent reviews. We may earn a commission from some of the retailers, but we never allow this to influence selections, which are formed from real-world testing, expert advice and our own research. This revenue helps to fund journalism across
Sawyer Point One Emergency Water Filtration Kit: $59.99, Cabela's
"I've seen nothing that indicates this particular virus is threatening our water supply," Jim said, "But, I feel every home should have a couple of options for filtering or disinfecting water, just as a matter of course. How many times have we heard of communities having a boil order?" His top brand choice is Sawyer, and their Point One Emergency kit can filter up to 540 gallons per day and promises uncomplicated use with no replacement filters or cartridges necessary. Of the reviews on Cabela's website, not one ranked it lower than five stars. You don't have to wait for a disaster to try it out, either, as one user notes: "I can get freshly filtered water while I am out fishing! Who could ask for anything more?"
Xtend-Life Total Balance Unisex Multivitamin/Multinutrient Supplement: $52, Amazon
Another bit of guidance from Jim falls in line with Michelle and Fran in supporting a nutritious diet to keep your body healthy. "I prefer people to get their nutrition from eating real food. But, if we're limited in what we can find to purchase and consume, it is best to hedge your bet, so to speak, and pick up a good multivitamin for everyone." It's impossible to suggest only one product when discussing a product so tailored to unique needs, but a good blanket option is the Xtend-Life unisex option that espouses anti-aging and general health benefits in addition to providing 74 key ingredients to optimize health and absorption. One of the top-rated reviews on Amazon comes from an especially galvanized shopper who relays, "I have been using multivitamins for 35 years. I have tried many products through the years. None, I mean none, have worked as well as this product."
Swan Hydrogen Peroxide: $1.39, Mercato
Cleaning products are being scooped up left and right, so now's a better time than ever to learn how to make your own. "Hydrogen peroxide is good for making a basic cleanser that works well on hard surfaces," Jim tells us. It may be difficult to find in stores, but Mercato.com is still accepting orders on it so grab a couple bottles and check out articles such as this one to learn how you can make a sophisticated household cleaner out of it.
Seeds: Various, Greenhouse Megastore
With growing season upon us, Jim has a balanced idea about what we could all be doing to provide for ourselves given our individual access to space and ability. "I'm not suggesting we'll all need to grow all of our own food in some sort of post-apocalyptic commune," he concedes, "but I do feel that we can each grow at least something that will help offset what needs to be purchased at the store." What you choose to grow if you should is naturally an individual choice, but Greenhouse Megastore is a place providing many options to point you in the right direction whether it's turnips, peas, or pumpkins catching your green thumb's eye.
Board Games: Various, Best Buy
Preparedness doesn't have to be all doom and gloom all the time, and part of the charm of quarantining is fighting the boredom in creative ways with your partners in isolation. Jim's no-nonsense approach happily accounts for this, as he notes: "Sure, we have Netflix, Amazon Prime, Hulu, and all the others. But, this is a great time to reconnect as a family and do things together." His top picks for togetherness activities include reading out loud, playing music, crafting, and playing board games. Classics like Monopoly and Yahtzee are always a good choice, but building a collection now can be an easy way to pass the idle time for current and future bouts of staying in.
Jasmine Rice - 25 Lb Bag: $48, Amazon
When it comes to long-lasting food, it's hard to beat regular old rice. It ranks near the top in Douglas' choices for being cheap and easy to store. "You could spend a huge amount of money on prefabricated rations or spend way less on a Home Depot bucket, a mylar bag, and 25lb of rice," he says. "The latter will last upwards of fifty years." With a starchy texture ready to take on any flavor and an expanding texture that provides nutrients and hydration, it's the nearly-perfect staple everyone should consider stocking up on while it lasts.
24BattlePack Tactical Backpack: $69.95, Amazon
Douglas was also insistent on building one's own go bag, also known as a "bug out" bag to some. Prefabricated options are easy to find, but he warns they "generally have low quality items because they have to make a good amount of money to be profitable. It is far better to build your own go bag from the items that you see as essential." An Amazon search for tactical backpacks yields endless options but the 24BattlePack sits somewhere in the middle price-wise and has 87% five-star reviews, leaving it a nearly unbeatable choice. "I was impressed from the product description of the features of the pack," the top reviews reads, "and when I got my hands on it, I was pleased to see that the description and reality matched." An added bonus: 24BattlePack is a veteran-owned company, so you can count on them to know the ins and outs of quality when it comes to travel gear like this.
Grocery Suggestions: Prices vary by market and availability
The extensive list sent by Michelle and Fran leans heavy into organic, nutrient-dense foods that mesh well with the multivitamin suggested by Jim. For fruits and vegetables, they offer up items like avocados for their healthy fats and brain-nourishing effects, blueberries for polyphenols and antioxidants, carrots for their densely packed vitamin A (an eyesight booster) and immune system benefits, garlic for its antimicrobial, lemons for vitamin C and kick-starting digestive juice production, sweet potatoes for similar reasons to carrots but also the protection of respiratory health, and mushrooms for the one-two punch of vitamins C and D (something hard to find in a single food). "If you choose about 10 of these and rotate every other week," they tell us, "you can get a really nice balance of the unique antioxidants and immune- boosting properties that each fruit and vegetable offers!"
Produce is vital, but a general suggestion right now is limiting those to a once-weekly journey if possible and limiting your exposure to public surfaces and other people. Thus, pantry staples are a great thing to grab all in one swoop (without buying more than your share – it's important to respect others' need to access food) and Michelle's list has plenty to go on there as well. Among her preferred items are cardamom for increasing the oxygen capacity in your bloodstream, grass-fed butter for the obvious and diverse reasons one procures butter, cacao powder for the important but sometimes hard-to-get magnesium, hemp seeds for omega 3 fatty acids and their complete protein, dried dates for anti-inflammatory properties and ability to help those suffering from high blood pressure, canned beans for their easy-to-use and versatile capabilities in recipes, and oats which are naturally high in fiber and easy to make for adults and kids alike.