Sundries For Survival,

by 3adScout
SurvivalBlog Contributor February 15, 2019

This article centers on logistics. This is not a list of what you need, but rather an inspiration to get us to think about a category of supplies that isn’t discussed a lot. Beans, bullets and band-aids are definitely key in survival but when you consider many of the items we will discuss in this article, they support our ability to raise, process or prepare food, ensure we can use our bullets if needed by having maintained and operational firearms and providing an ounce of prevention by supporting our health, safety and hygiene so we don’t have to use our band-aids (medical supplies). Having a deep stock of diverse sundries will enhance our ability to be prepared and to save time in a post-TEOTWAWKI world.

There is an old rhythmic poem about a nail that reads:

For want of a nail the shoe was lost,
for want of a shoe the horse was lost,
for want of a horse the knight was lost,
for want of a knight the battle was lost,
for want of a battle the kingdom was lost.
All for want of a horse shoe nail.”

I use this old poem, when I teach disaster logistics. It is such a clear and concise example of how the need for something so simple can have such huge impacts. Applying this quote to a TEOTWAWKI events, we can see that, for the want of a sundry item such as a chainsaw spark plug; a CR2030 Button cell battery; a spare wick for a kerosene heater; or numerous other seemingly minuscule and obscure items, our battle to survive can be lost. For many preppers being ready for a disaster revolves around a bug-out-bag. Having a bug-out-bag should not be construed as being prepared, since it just simply will not have the depth and ability to provide you with the wide range of resources that will be needed to survive post-TEOTWAWKI. Additionally, many of us have the traditional “Beans, Bullets and, Band-aids.” Having food, ammunition and medical supplies definitely increases our chances for survival in a disaster or post-TEOTWAWKI world but the reality is that our survival will also hinge on a plethora of seemingly trivial items. These items only seem trivial until you need one and Lowes has long been looted clean.

General Eisenhower once stated that “You will not find it difficult to prove that battles, campaigns, and even wars have been won or lost primarily because of logistics.” Unlike the military, preppers will not have any logistical lines of support besides what they store before TEOTWAWKI or what they produced post-TEOTWAWKI with the knowledge, skills, equipment and supplies they had before the event. By applying a military logistics lesson to the realm of survival we can prove that disaster survival has also been successful or a failure based on logistics.

And Then Came Katrina

Let’s look at Hurricane Katrina in two ways, from an individual standpoint and from a government standpoint. From an individual standpoint if a person, who was advised to evacuate failed to evacuate, it is safe to say they probably did not have a plan, and a disaster supplies kit and that person became a victim and unsuccessful at being able to adequately supply for his everyday survival needs. I define being a “victim” as having to rely on FEMA, the Red Cross, or Salvation Army are for day to day needs. From a government standpoint, was the government quick and efficient at providing the right stuff at the right time in the right quantities needed, in the right locations? We all know that this was a dismal failure especially when we look at the Super Dome. That isn’t to say that FEMA logistics is a total failure in all aspects. Over the years, FEMA has developed “push packages” of food, water, medical and special needs items based on lessons learned in other disaster responses. The point here is that like many Preppers, FEMA is looking at the basics of food, water, medical supplies. FEMA relies upon the private sector and/or the military for the obscure needs that pop up during a disaster. From a cost perspective this makes senses but from a TEOTWAWKI planning perspective this assumes that lines of communication for ordering, information management systems to find the needed inventory and track it, and lines of transportation to deliver it are still operating. If you fail to prepare adequately as an individual, don’t assume that government will much better prepared.

Your Horseshoe Nails

So how do we go about identifying those “horseshoe nails” that could be our downfall during TEOTWAWKI? Planning. Start with a basic class of preps such as food. Pick a particular food, for example hard winter wheat. Ask yourselves some questions. One, to use the wheat that I have stored what do I need? Answers are perhaps a can opener and a grain grinder. As for the can opener, let’s say you have an electric can opener. Your “nails” are obviously electricity, and the electric motor and parts inside. In this case it doesn’t seem prudent to mold our preps around ensuring that we can use that electric can opener post-event. A logistically smarter course of action would be a less “logistical needy” alternative such as a manual can opener and perhaps some P-51 can openers as back-ups.

For our grinder to work what parts will or may need replaced? What routine maintenance do we need to perform to keep it operational? You may need to replace the burrs and you might lose a nut or, wing-nut. So, burrs, wing-nuts and, nuts become your “nails” for that example. Another example might be a Katadyn Vario water filter. What “nails” does it have? Most of us would quickly identify that it needs replacement filters. But looking at the user maintenance manual we see that there are other items that periodically need replacement to keep the water filter performing. There are also ceramic pre-filter discs, several “O” rings, carbon replacement packs and intake pre-filter strainers that will need replacing at some point. Looking at the user manual or maintenance manual of a piece of equipment is an excellent place to identify the requisite “nails”.

The more complex the device or system is, the more points of failures (nails) you may have. Think of a solar power system and the number of parts/pieces that go into ensuring that the system operates. The more complex a system is, then the more vulnerable it will be to disruption. It is our complex society that creates many added vulnerabilities to disasters. If you want to learn more about complex societies and disasters read Dr. Joseph Tainter’s book The Collapse of Complex Societies, and watch a lecture with the same title, available on YouTube. Preppers should practice another age old saying of “Keep it Simple”.

One is None

Regular SurvivalBlog readers are no stranger to the mantra of “Two is one and one is none.” Having two grain grinders is basically a way of making sure you have the logistics needs in place to continue to survive if one is broken, a part is lost, et cetera. But there are certain devices that are going to require on-going replacement parts or will require maintenance to remain operational. Going back to our grain grinder example, having two is a good idea but both sets of burrs will go bad at some point. Now some people are probably saying yes, but I’ve used my grain grinder for years and I haven’t needed to change the burrs once. Post TEOTWAWKI may change a few variables. One, your grain that you use now may be cleaner than the grain you grind post TEOTWAWKI that doesn’t have the luxury of modern agricultural machinery to keep it as clean as we have today. A small rock or other foreign material can damage the burrs. We can also assume that we will be using said grain mill a lot more perhaps grinding grain for a community as part of a post-TEOTWAWKI cottage industry.

How a piece of equipment is going to be used post-TEOTWAWKI, not pre-TEOTWAWKI, must be considered when planning and putting away repair/replacement parts. I don’t shoot steel cased 5.56mm ammunition in my ARs today. However, I have put away a few cases of steel cased ammunition because it is inexpensive, but it will be the last 5.56mm ammunition that I use. Steel cased ammunition is harder on firing pins and extractors. Knowing this I have these extra parts stored.

Repair Spares and Loss Spares

Having a duplicate is great for a catastrophic failure of the first device but it should not be your only means of providing spare parts. Breakage of parts or parts wearing out isn’t the only concern but losing parts should also be anticipated and planned for. I keep several spares of certain parts now based on past experience of losing a piece during cleaning or maintenance. Think about cleaning an AR-15 and taking apart the bolt. There are several tiny pieces that can quickly disappear when you are in the woods siting on a log cleaning it. The firing pin retaining pin, a cam pin, an ejector roll pin and extractor spring just to name a few. A few other examples are mounting bar nuts for my chain saw and the ball nuts for Coleman lanterns.

Another benefit of laying in a good stock of repair/replacement parts is ensuring that you have them if/when the manufacturer stops making that particular model. Having deep stocks of repair/replacement parts can also be another source of barter goods.We can only imagine what a person post-TEOTWAWKI might trade for a firing pin for an AR-15 that only cost $15 today.

Besides repair/replacement parts and the equipment and supplies for maintenance of your equipment you will also need other types of sundries. I keep a very well stocked workshop. I have 5-gallon buckets full of various types of nails and spikes. This ensures that I have nails for any spontaneous projects and for TEOTWAWKI. This goes for all kinds of hardware. Recently I was adding some insulation to my pole barn workshop and was using a staple gun. I used a whole box of staples on just half the project. This helped me realize that I needed to increase my store of staples. For consumable items, like nails, I don’t think you can have too many in storage. My general rule of thumb is when I do a project and use nails or other consumables out of my stores, I replace them with double.

Other Logistics Sources

I also look for great deals at estate sales, auctions and clearance sections to pick up hardware for my storage. I was at an estate sale where they had two 2-foot-long by 1-½ foot high by 1-foot deep metal boxes. Each box was packed full of boxes nails and packages of other hardware. I picked up each box for $5. As I was going through the boxes, I found one package of stainless-steel screws that had a $5.99 price tag on it that was not even opened.If you look, you can develop a very extensive inventory of hardware very inexpensively. Buying second hand at garage sales, estate sales, auctions and flea markets is a way obtaining affordable spare parts for some of your equipment.

It is amazing how many Coleman lanterns I see at flea markets and auctions that simply have a missing glass globe and sell for $5 to $10. Stripping these lanterns of parts for spares yields easy three times the money in parts. You can do the same for gas stoves as well. There is also another great advantage of buying at auctions and estate sales. Many of the items from these sales are older and manufactured in the United States before the age of engineering everything for failure to keep the need for re-buying those products artificially higher. Something else to keep in mind about purchasing older made in the US equipment is that it may also have value as an antique that may go up in value over time. If you don’t read the SurvivalBlog “Tangibles Investing” posts found in the regular “Economics & Investing For Preppers” column, then you might want to start doing so.

With the many disaster and TEOTWAWKI scenarios, we can’t be 100% sure of everything that we will need in a post-event life. But the goal is to be as close to that 100% as possible. Another good saying to apply to prepping is that “necessity is the mother of invention.” Having a diverse on-hand stock of sundries can allow us to improvise and adapt those items to what we need. When at the hardware store I like to go down the aisles and look at items and think if they have a potential use for survival. This is a great way to exercise your mind in some outside-the-box thinking. Some of the more interesting items that come to mind that I have picked up and stocked for TEOTWAWKI are pipe hanger tape in both metal and plastic. This stuff is very versatile and inexpensive. PVC pipe and fittings are also very useful for applications besides plumbing. Rolled aluminum and copper flashing in various widths is also something that can have numerous uses outside of its normally intended purpose. Flexseal is also great and comes in different applications from spray can, tube and tape forms. Again, the applications are endless.

My Own Hardware Store

My ultimate goal is to have my own “hardware store”. This way, if something breaks, I need to fabricate something or I lose a nut or bolt, I don’t have to run into town to the hardware store to get supplies. Obviously, this means acquiring and storing a lot of stuff. We literally have large totes full of various types and lengths of rope and cordage as well as spools of para-cord and other cordage. Boxes of wire/cable and as well as cable clamps and ferrules, thimbles, shackles, and hooks.

Nothing irritates me more than working on a project and needing something and having to stop and go into town to get it. My nephew was helping install a propane gas line at the BOL and he ended up needing a few parts that he had not picked up when getting the black pipe for the project. Into my stores I went and I had 4 of the 5 items he was looking for. But we had to waste an hour and a half just in travel to pick up a bushing. That was in “normal” times with modern conveniences. That same trip into town post-TEOTWAWKI might not be possible. When we got there, I picked up replacements for the items that I used and of course several bushings in different sizes. If you need it once, then there is a good chance you will need it again.

Lab Equipment

Another category of sundries that is very often over-looked by preppers is lab equipment and supplies. When you consider it was the home laboratory of people like Edison, Carver and a slew of other American inventors we should not discount the application of basic chemistry as a useful survival category. In order to apply chemistry to survival does take some special knowledge, equipment and supplies. Before you discount this as not relevant to post-TEOTWAWKI, think about making bio-diesel, ethyl alcohol or moonshine, essential oils, white wash, et cetera. These all are basically chemistry. Having on hand stocks of some basic chemistry lab glassware, clamps, stands, raw chemicals and of course personal protective gear can provide a homemade replacement when you can’t run down to the store and just pick it up. The back wall of my barn/workshop has a small lab set up with glassware, chemicals and a microscope. This also is a great place to teach my kids some basic survival chemistry and biology, as well.

Sundries however are not just hardware and replacement parts. Other important survival sundries include standard household things such as clothes pins and line, sewing supplies for not only making and repairing clothes but also sewing leather and canvas. Wicks for candle making, replacements for oil lamps and kerosene heaters, replacement lamp mantels, glass globes, batteries, bulbs for lighting, aluminum foil, Ziplock bags, duct tape, glues, epoxies, garden supplies, canning jar lids, wax, pencils, hacksaw blades, razor blades, wire, cable, chain, hardware cloth, work gloves, grommets, rivets, tarps, webbing, matches, all types of brushes, bicycle repair parts, spare handles and wedges for axes/hammer, pest control, and many other items.

A Certain Place and a Clear Label

Part of putting together your sundries for survival is being able to find them quickly when needed. Being organized is very important. One of the forms of organization that I use is pegboard in my workshop. This allows me to quickly locate and grab and item as well as look to see how many I have remaining. I also use plastic totes of various sizes. On the shelf below my work bench I place 6-quart clear plastic totes full of supplies of different types like garden hose repair and accessories, nylon and/or polypropylene bulkhead fittings, barb fittings, reducer bushings, plugs, et cetera.

For smaller parts/items I also use multi-drawer small parts organizers. One might have DC electrical parts/accessories such as blade fuses, alligator clips of various sizes, and battery clamps. One has odd hardware such as steel rings, “U” clamps and such. I also recycled large plastic containers that held pretzels or nuts and use them to store different grades of steel wood, cheese cloth, pipe clamps, corks, and other items that are too large for the parts organizer but not big enough to put in a tote. Something else to consider is not placing your entire stores of something all in one place if you can. I try to keep a smaller inventory of various items in my basement workshop so if something happens to the barn, I still have some items on hand, just not as many.

Beside organizing these sundries by place, I also label as many of the compartments and containers as I can. This helps when I send my son, daughter or wife into the workshop to get something and they can quickly see where it is at. I use a Brother label maker that allows me to use up to one-inch wide label tape in various colors. I don’t have the easiest to read handwriting, so printed labels are much easier to read and they don’t fade out like marker on masking tape.

There are a few books that need mention on hardware and tools for survival. The first is Tools For Survival by James Wesley, Rawles. This is a great partner to his book How to Survive the End of the World As We Know It. Also, on one of my several trips to Lowes I found a book entitled The All New Illustrated Guide to Everything Sold in Hardware Stores. I found this book a great reference book. My 12-year-old son also was very interested in the knowledge that was contained int the book. The Pocket Reference Book by Thomas Glover is also a very good resource on several topics with survival/homesteading relevancy and I keep three copies around for quick reference.

Avoid Scavenging

Attempting to be prepared for TEOTWAWKI can be trying on the family finances but if you use a budget that includes funds for prepping and look for your needed sundries on sale, clearance, or at venues that sell used, you can over time build a supply of goods that will rival an 1800s dry goods store. Unfortunately, many people including some preppers will plan on relying upon post-TEOTWAWKI “scavenging” to meet their unexpected needs. Scavenging should be a last resort for several reasons. You and/or members of your family or community will have to leave your area of operations (AO) that should provide a much higher level of safety and security than areas outside your AO. The risk of injury increases since you or members of your community may be going through damaged structures and through other debris that could stick, poke, cut or crush. There is also the risk from other people who may not be happy to see you in their AO.

There are many articles, blogs, videos on the subject of scavenging post-TEOTWAWKI. Many of those try to define the difference between looting and scavenging. But what these articles fail to address for the most part, is that in our society we all recognize that when someone dies that their property goes to their family. This is a societal norm, which just so happens to also be ingrained in our laws. Even in a world WROL, their will be the expectation that property will be transferred to one’s heirs. However, with a society that now has families scattered through out the states verses all living in one small tight knit community that process of transferring property may have no way of happening.

So why bring this up? If you are in a rural versus a suburban or urban community there will be more of a chance that there is an extended family in the area that has a rightful claim on property that you may want to “scavenge” or as they will view it: “steal”. The location where we bought our BOL is heavily populated by two extended families. In fact, my neighbor grew up in our BOL home. With that said, are there scenarios such as a pandemic that decimates 50 to 90 per cent of the worlds population that can make “scavenging” more acceptable? Sure, but we must consider that anytime we go into a building that is not ours that we are the criminal in the eyes of the owner or the person who perceives ownership. And scavenging will also take a lot of time with no guarantees of producing what is needed.

Relative Isolation of Your BOL

Another issue has to do with current availability of sundries in our local AO today. If your home, homestead, or bug-0out location (BOL) is 50 miles from the nearest small “mom and pop” store, the chances that you will find what you are needing post-TEOTWAWKI in a 49-mile radius of your home is slim especially as time goes on and the on-hand stocks of sundries that people may have in their homes are used up. Simply put, the less people that are around the less sundries that will be around for barter or “scavenging.” The bigger the population the more stores which will equal more resources available. Will traveling into a larger populated area post-TEOTWAWKI to find sundries either by bartering or “scavenging” be worth the time, expense of resources to get there? And worth the dangers that may be encountered? Also keep in mind if a store is a “mom and pop” business verse a corporate store, mom and pop will also be around and not too keen on being a location you want to “scavenge”. There may be an opportunity to barter. But if you didn’t put a good supply of sundries away did you put barter items away?

I was involved in some local planning for Y2K and got to talk with a few very rural county emergency management coordinators who were very concerned that people from populated areas like Pittsburgh who owned hunting camps in their county would “bugout” and spend Y2K in their county. The issue was that the population of these small rural counties was less than 4,000 normally. Most stores were small “Mom and Pop” types and didn’t keep a lot of inventory around unless it was hunting season when demand was higher. A sudden influx of outsiders in the “off-season” can quickly deplete a small town’s normal level of supplies. Living in rural areas has many positive survival living benefits but deep stocks of manufactured resources is not one of them.


Again, the purpose of this article was not to be a comprehensive list of sundry items. Rather, it is advice to make sure that besides the beans, bullets and Band-aids that we also have a well-thought-out inventory of sundries. Also, that those sundries are organized and stored so when our survival depends on something as simple as a horse shoe nail, we won’t be left wanting.

"The time for war has not yet come, but it will come and that soon, and when it does come, my advice is to draw the sword and throw away the scabbard." Gen. T.J. Jackson, March 1861