Apocalypse Now: The Gear You Need to Survive Doomsday

A global financial meltdown. A nuclear holocaust. A zombifying plague. An asteroid strike. Four horsemen descending from the sky. The world as we know it could end in any number of ways.

A five-month hell on Earth for nonbelievers before the universe self-annihilates (or something) starts this Saturday, May 21, according to a fringe Christian radio broadcaster in California. [End Times Math: The Equation That Predicts May 21 Judgment Day]

Whatever the flavor, degree and likelihood of your preferred doomsday scenario, you will wish should such a day arrive that you had prepared for it.

Dozens of websites and books offer advice on supplies to have on hand and in stock if "the end of the world as we know it" – TEOTWAWKI, as it's known in survivalist circles – comes to pass. Here, then, is a rundown of the supplies you'll need to ensure that this proverbial "end of days" is not an end for you and yours, but rather a new beginning. [Could Cockroaches Really Survive a Nuclear Blast?]

Food

Since people began building fallout shelters during the Cold War, canned nonperishable food has been recognized as great to have around when the going gets tough. Freeze-dried food and MRE (Meal, Ready-to-Eat) military rations with years of shelf life are also good options that take up less space per available calorie. [Doomsday Facts (and Fictions)]

If the day of reckoning stretches on beyond a few months, however, the ability to grow one's own food will become paramount. Seeds and gardening tools, therefore, should be on everyone's doomsday supply list. Opt for so-called heirloom seeds. These seeds yield disease-resistant crops that produce yet more seeds season after season, unlike hybrid seeds used for mass-cultivated, commercial crops, which can develop into sterile plants.

Growing potatoes might be your best bet. They will do well in most climate zones in the United States and nutritionally are, "pound for pound, one of the most efficient things you can grow," said Jim Rawles, who runs SurvivalBlog.com, an online clearinghouse of advice on survivalism and preparation.

Water

Drinkable water is even more important in the short term than food for making it through a disaster situation. Keep bleach handy to kill bacteria, viruses and other potential pathogens that can contaminate a water supply. "One gallon of Clorox can disinfect 3,000 gallons of water," said Dennis McClung, proprietor of 2012supplies.com, a website offering survival information and supplies pegged to the widespread Mayan calendar myth that the world will end next year. Just add eight drops of bleach to a gallon of water and let it sit for 10 minutes, McClung told Life's Little Mysteries.

To remove solids such as dirt that are suspended in the water, strain the fluid through a T-shirt or a coffee filter. Portable water filters, like those offered by the camping gear company Katadyn, are also good to have in a pinch, said Rawles, and go at the top of his list because they are useful in "umpteen" different TEOTWAWKI breakdowns. [End of the World? Top Doomsday Fears]

Shelter

Besides food and water, we as human beings need shelter from the elements. In a truly society-upending scenario, we might also need protection from rival tribes seeking our precious resources (or our bodies as aforementioned food).

Staying at home might not be an option for long, especially in an urban area with lots of mouths to feed and dwindling supplies. A bunker is ideal, and at the very least should be partly belowground, fortified and well-provisioned. Barring that, a cave or a cabin somewhere away from populated areas will do. As a modicum of reduced exposure, a small, foldable tent or plastic tarp might not be a bad investment.

Miscellaneous

The overall contents of your doomsday supply list will be based very much on what sort of shelter options are on the table, and how well-stocked with food and water such a safe house is. To get through that critical period of fleeing to a safe location, survivalists recommend keeping a "bug-out bag" on standby, with enough supplies to get you through the first 72 hours or so.

In addition to food and water, key items to have in that doomsday duffel should include:

  • A first-aid kit, plus long-term supplies of your prescription drugs and other medications.
  • Basic cooking equipment, such as a pan
  • Fire-starting implements such as a lighter or matches
  • Maps
  • Money
  • A knife
  • Rope or twine
  • Tang (why not?)

Hand-crank-operated lights and a radio should make the list as well. "You don’t want anything that has to rely on batteries," McClung said.

If you wear eyeglasses, pack an extra pair. This is a critical and often-overlooked supply, Rawles said.

A firearm and ammunition are also often sanctioned. In addition to a gun or as an alternative, McClung suggests packing a slingshot. "You'll never run of bullets," he said, and the weapon can be used for hunting small game and in self-defense.

Last and certainly not least for a doomsday supply list is, of course, duct tape. "Duct tape does a million things," said McClung. The gray sticky film can be used to hold machine parts together, tape sides of windows to keep radiation out in case of nuclear attack, and even be used as wound dressing.

This story was provided by Life's Little Mysteries, a sister site to LiveScience. Follow Life's Little Mysteries on Twitter @LLMysteries.