I like to think that as preppers most of us are already pretty prepared, materially. But I know that in reality some people are new to the lifestyle, and others are just procrastinators. Still others might be rebuilding after the use or loss of their supplies that they spent so long accumulating.
What matters is that you have the right supplies and goods on hand when disaster strikes so you can be ready to sustain for the duration. If you are lacking these goods, then there is a problem.
But you know what they say. There is no time like the present, and if it looks like disaster is looming or you are sure that trouble is headed your way, you can literally start from zero and gather the supplies you need in a flash if you act quickly enough.
Whether you are a so-called death’s door convert to the idea of personal readiness or are simply forced to play the hand you are dealt, it is possible to grab survival supplies at the very last moment in many situations.
To help you or anyone else who might be in this sticky situation we have assembled a list of 20 last-minute survival items that you can buy in surplus to equip yourself for rough times ahead.
It is far from ideal, and I definitely don’t recommend this as a go-to plan, but sometimes there’s no other choice. So fasten your seatbelt and let’s get going, there is no time to waste.
When Time is Short the Pressure is On
The major and obvious problem with trying to locate crucial supplies when an event is nearly upon you is that most of your fellow citizens are already going to have the exact same idea.
All of the folks who are caught short-handed or going completely without will be mobbing the stores, shops and any other location where they could find those critical supplies.
Any announcement of a major natural disaster, snapping threads in the fabric of society or any other momentous event will see people booking it toward grocery stores, department stores and anywhere else you can think of where those supplies might be had.
Unless you and you alone are somehow privy to this knowledge when no one else is, that means you’re going to have competition and plenty of it.
Accordingly, speed is a major factor in this exercise. You have to get there fast, before the bulk of humanity, and then get through the store and your checklist just as quickly if you want to stand any chance of getting home with the things you need in the quantity required.
What’s worse, you must also be careful that you do not get overtaken by the event itself while you are desperately trying to gather supplies.
This plan is purely reactive in nature, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t give it any prior thought.
Know in advance where you are going, how you’ll get there and the general layout of the store so you can start putting together an efficient plan of action while inside. Every second you waste is a second where grasping hands will be clearing the shelves ahead of you.
20 Last Minute Items to Get in Surplus
The items on this list will be available at virtually any grocery store, department store and even many corner stores or larger gas stations. As I emphasized above, work quickly because stock on hand will not last against the blitz of panicked people coming in to procure supplies.
Petroleum jelly is an undervalued addition to any medicine cabinet, and it also has plenty of uses on the workbench or around the home.
For first aid, petroleum jelly is useful for treating dry skin and minor cuts, scrapes and burns. It is ideal for protecting exposed skin from high winds or blistering cold. Around the home, it is useful for loosening and cleaning up a variety of sticky messes or stuck on crud.
On the workbench, petroleum jelly can protect electrical contacts, help clean up certain spills and provide a barrier against chemical contamination for working hands.
This is some pretty wondrous do-all stuff, and though it’s usage has fallen out of popularity in recent decades there is a reason why your grandparents wanted to use it for pretty much everything.
Whatever store you go into, breeze by the pharmacy section and you should be able to pick up a couple of pots with no problem. A little bit goes a long way, so you needn’t overdo it.
5 Gallon “Painter” Bucket
One of my favorite multipurpose prepping tools is the common, 5 gallon utility or painter bucket that you can get from pretty much any hardware store or hardware department in your local big box shop.
There are so many uses for these things it isn’t even funny. Obviously they can be used as a handy tote for whatever you want to put in them, and the ones made from higher grade plastic or suitable for storing food or water.
Another important use for preppers is there efficacy as an emergency toilet. Line these with a heavy duty trash bag or plastic wrap, place some absorbent media at the bottom be it sawdust, kitty litter or shredded newspaper and you can do your business before sealing the whole thing up with a heavy duty, gasketed lid.
Make sure you take out the liner and dispose of it before it gets too full.
You’ll be glad to have a handful of these and I’ll recommend you grab at least two if you are able. Don’t forget the lids!
Bleach is another survival superstar item you’ll want abundance for any long-term survival scenario. The most obvious and common usage for bleach is on laundry day, as it helps get your white clothes and towels sparkling clean and smelling super fresh.
Beyond this, bleach makes a superb disinfectant for surfaces of all kinds and there are few chemicals that can rival its germ killing power while remaining comparatively safe.
However, probably the most vital function of bleach in our survival arsenal is as an additive that can disinfect water of biological contamination, bacteria, viruses and all. It’s true, and all you need is common, standard, unscented and non-thickened bleach for the task.
The ratios are specific and must be precise for the amount of water you are treating, but this is easily accomplished using a small chart and an eyedropper or pipette.
This isn’t the first thing most people think of when they imagine survival supplies, so you can probably prioritize other goods and then circle back for bleach on your madcap trip through the store.
Bottled water is one of the first things that leaps to mind when thinking about survival supplies, and you had best believe everyone else competing against you will be thinking of the same thing. You’d be wise to prioritize grabbing a quantity of bottled water as soon as you enter the store.
The reason everyone thinks of water is that all people everywhere understand it’s important. Water is utterly fundamental to life, and going even a few days without water is enough to kill from dehydration.
Although it is true there is water all around us and most environments, most of it is not safe to drink without treatment, and drinking contaminated water can make you gravely ill.
Getting sick off of contaminated water can be debilitating or even fatal under the circumstances when medical help is anything but assured.
When snagging your water supply you can prioritize larger containers like gallon jugs or stick with the old trusty multipack of smaller bottles, or even both kinds. At the bare minimum, aim for a couple of liters of water per person in your family, per day.
It follows that right after thoughts of water, thoughts of food. Luckily in our society food is also extremely plentiful and though its acquisition is nowhere near as pressing as that of water it is still essential for maintaining energy levels.
Not for nothing, many people start to emotionally capsize after a few missed meals even when death is several weeks or months away from lack of food.
You’ll want to grab high calorie, shelf stable foods for your survival food supply. Any items that are ready to eat with no or minimal preparation are best.
Canned foods or those that are available in foil pouches are worth consideration, but don’t forget energy dense dry snack foods like nuts, jerky, fruit bars and the like.
If you are picking up plenty of canned foods make sure you acquire a good manual can opener or know that you have one at home because you’ll likely be facing a power outage under the circumstances.
If you feel confident about your ability to heat and boil water, you might consider basic staples like oatmeal, rice, beans and the like.
Surviving isn’t just about having enough to eat and drink while you wait for things to get back to normal.
Life must go on, and part of taking care of yourself and remaining healthy is taking care of your personal hygiene. Omitting this critical but mundane everyday part of your routine could lead to disaster in the form of disease, infection and general ill health.
Not to mention, failing to take care of yourself means you’re going to stink, stink, stink and drive the people around you positively crazy, damaging morale.
Go back to basics here on these items. Soap, deodorant, toothbrush, toothpaste, body powder and any needed feminine hygiene items for ladies in the family should do it.
I think everybody learned painfully just how desirable toilet paper will become in the middle of a major event. Although it is not strictly necessary to survival, it is far more comfortable and more hygienic than using other options to clean your behind after going number two.
Also, we should not discount the value of normalcy in trying times, and the fewer culture shock things that you and your family have to deal with under the circumstances the better off you will be emotionally.
Pretty much any type or brand of TP will do here, but by all means grab your favorite if it is still available.
Do consider, however, that toilet paper packages are large and bulky and will gobble up significant room in your cart and you shouldn’t overload on toilet paper at the expense of having to make two trips into the store for the remainder of your supplies or being forced to drag two carts around, slowing you down.
One more thing, I highly recommend you grab an extra large package or two of baby wipes while you are in the toilet paper aisle.
These moist wipes will help you stay extra clean without the benefit of water and you can also use them for impromptu sponge baths when you need to freshen up, saving you even more water.
Duct tape is a prepper’s best friend, and that’s no joke, though you have likely heard all of the gags made about this wondrously sticky tape over the years.
As the saying goes, if it moves and it shouldn’t, use duct tape. Duct tape has only achieved meme-tier status as a readiness item because it lives up to the hype, and has innumerable uses for repairs, improvised construction and even first aid.
You can use duct tape for repairing a hole in your roof, splinting a broken limb, crafting and improvised spear, repairing damaged car body work and so much more. The only problem you’ll ever have out of duct tape is that you run out of it and I’m not happy unless I have three, full rolls on hand at all times.
One more thing, the high-end so-called “boutique” brands of duct tape are actually worth the money owing to greatly improved adhesive qualities and a far stronger woven fiber backing.
As emergency supplies, they are definitely worth the money if you can find them. Gorilla-brand duct tape and T-Rex tape are two you should consider.
It is hard to overstate just how much society can be tossed, turned and flipped upside down during a major event, be it natural or man-made.
Suffice it to say you won’t be able to depend on typical public utilities, particularly electricity, and it is far from out of the question that even natural gas supplies could be cut or disrupted.
That means if you want to cook, you’ll need to have self-contained ready to go methods for doing so. One of the best is an outdoor grill, weather permitting.
Charcoal is one of those essential elements for a good time summer barbecue, but it also works as a vital fuel for your backyard grill.
You might not be a fan of charcoal compared to propane when it comes time to grill, but charcoal has an advantage and it can be used without a grill at all. By digging a pit, placing a few bricks and laying a great over them you can improvise a highly effective surface for cooking.
Grab a big bag and call it good.
Out of all the possible disasters that could be for you, the most cataclysmic on a personal level is usually the loss of your home.
The total loss of your home due to disaster is comparatively rare unless it catches fire, in which case the loss of your home is all but certain if you cannot put it out at the instant.
Considering the outbreak of fires is highly likely in all kinds of disasters you must be prepared with a fire extinguisher.
Only a modern fire extinguisher has the reliability and speed of use to ensure you can put out an incidental fire before it turns into an out-of-control blaze that will consume your home and everything in it, including all of your survival supplies but hopefully not your loved ones.
Grab an ABC-rated fire extinguisher as that will handle any typical household fire not involving flammable metals and get the biggest one that you and your partner can handle easily.
In a long-term survival situation, one of your biggest ongoing problems will be the generation of trash and other waste.
Garbage is a problem, mostly because it will accumulate and create a significant health hazard, especially biohazardous waste like food scraps, used bandages, human waste and so forth.
Naturally, you want it bagged up and sequestered from your living area at the minimum even though the trash collection service is probably out of commission.
But beyond their mundane utility, trash bags have many other survival purposes. They may be easily cut open and worn as a poncho to help protect against rain, used as a water resistant patch or covering and even employed as rain catchers so long as they are clean.
You can’t beat the multipurpose utility of modern trash bags, but strength is everything in this matter. I highly recommend you invest in the heavy duty, tough contractor bags in the 55 gallon size. This will give you maximum versatility while still allowing you to use them for trash day purposes.
If you rely on a firearm for self-defense, it isn’t going to do you much good if any without ammunition to feed it.
Ammo is one of those things that dries up immediately in times of trouble, and most of the people who want it the most are extraordinarily keen to any sign or with of trouble on the wind.
That means more than most items on this list you might find the sporting goods counter cleared out of ammunition upon arrival.
Under the circumstances, don’t get too wrapped around the axle about projectile, load or anything else. Most over-the-counter ammunition, even the low quality stuff, is likely reliable enough in your firearm if you own a high quality gun.
By all means you should procure the good stuff if you can, or your firearms preferred load, but beggars cannot be choosers when you are trying to hoover up some ammo with seconds to go on the clock.
Various medications are another item that will disappear in a hurry once there is a major spike in immediate demand for them.
Pain relievers, anti-nausea meds, antihistamines and all associated over the counter items will be hotly coveted in any kind of disaster scenario, and you can expect them to fly off store shelves so make sure you swoop by the pharmacy section and grab some of the usual suspects.
Also consider grabbing antibiotic appointments or antiseptic wipes for wound treatment.
If you are able, top off any prescription meds that you and your family require. Depending on the status of your prescription, this may or may not be possible. This is one of the chief failure points of any prepping plant, and another good reason why you should have an abundance of your meds on hand, just in case.
If, for whatever reason, you desperately need meds from the pharmacy but they cannot be obtained for lack of personnel or problems with prescription fulfillment, do what you need to do.
Rubbing alcohol is yet another vital, multipurpose component for any well-rounded prepper stash. Its most obvious use is as a topical disinfectant for the treatment of minor wounds, a usage that it excels at. If it has ever been used on your wounds before you already know how badly it burns. Nonetheless, it is indispensable for the task.
But rubbing alcohol has other uses, including a topical disinfectant or sterilization solution for medical implements and it can even be used as a hot burning fuel for an alcohol stove or as a fire starter for stubborn, difficult to light wood.
Rubbing alcohol is something that is regularly taken for granted, and is not often high up on people’s survival checklist of supplies but nonetheless you should grab this when you swoop through the pharmacy area for other things.
You probably already know that you will be the only person you can count on for the duration of the event.
Anything that sends you and the rest of society scrambling for supplies is probably going to be pretty bad, and that means that medical help from any source will be sporadically available at best, and will most likely be in full triage mode and busy elsewhere.
You must be prepared to take care of business if you or someone you love gets injured, and that means you’re going to need bandages and lots of them.
Rolled gauze, gauze pads, hemostatic gauze and even common Band-Aids will come in handy. You’ll need to be prepared for dealing with minor wounds and major penetrating or lacerating trauma. You don’t need me to tell you that any disaster can inflict a terrible toll on the human body.
Keep in mind that initial treatment of an injury is one thing but sustained treatment includes the changing of bandages and that means you’ll go through a lot more than you think in a very short period of time. Grab as much as you can when you breeze through the pharmacy section.
Gasoline is another product that will dry up with frightening rapidity once disaster strikes. It is a funny thing.
Most people believe that gasoline is extremely plentiful throughout their town, probably because they imagine a veritable ocean of gas in those giant tanks beneath every gas station.
Little does the average consumer suspect that gas stations are entirely dependent on regular deliveries from tanker trucks to keep those storage tanks topped off.
To make matters worse, most gas stations only function when there is electric power to operate the pumps. Cut the power, no more fuel, or at least no more easy access to the fuel in those tanks.
If you are wise, you will keep your vehicles filled up but regardless make it a point to fill up your vehicle as soon as practicable once disaster appears on the horizon.
Keep in mind that might be your last fill up for some time depending on the event. Once the logistical gears that ensure the production and delivery of gasoline grind to a halt, it will become quite scarce indeed.
If you are able, snag a couple of approved gas cans from the store and fill them up on the way out once you are heading back home.
Propane is another precious liquid fuel that will disappear seemingly overnight once the s*** hits the fan.
Propane is typically used for operating gas grills in America, at least at the consumer level, but it also sees significant use for running certain types of vehicles and also for operating appliances like radiant heaters and even certain tools.
Compared to gasoline, propane also has huge advantages when it comes to storage life, and it basically does not wear out with its shelf life being in excess of 30 years.
Even if you don’t rely on propane for grilling it could come in handy for operating a heater if you live in a colder environment.
Even if you don’t need it for cooking or heating, there are plenty of other people who will and that can make a full propane cylinder a valuable chip for bartering.
However, compared to most other items on this list propane could be difficult to get in a crisis situation because large cylinders are invariably locked up to prevent theft and other mishaps.
If you are able to get one quickly and easily, do so, but if not swing by the sporting goods section and grab the smaller camping cylinders off the shelf as they will work for the same purposes with a common adapter.
There are innumerable devices around our homes that operate on batteries, and many survival-centric pieces of gear that depend on them also.
Most notably flashlights, headlamps, electric lanterns, walkie-talkies and emergency alert radios all depend on primary cells for power.
That means you’ll be depending on batteries for at least some of your survival gear and you need to grab them while they last because they’ll be going quick, I promise.
The battery rack is usually chronically under-stocked in the best of times, and you better believe it’ll be picked clean like a carcass on the side of the road by the time you get there if you don’t hustle. If you are able to consolidate battery sizes and types ahead of time, you’ll have an easier time getting what you need.
You should also consider specialty batteries for hearing aids or other small devices. Picking these tiny, nearly identical batteries out of a lineup when the pressure is on and you’re in a rush is quite difficult, so be prepared if you or someone you love depends on them for day-to-day life.
You better believe cash is on this list. Cold, hard cash will be a reliable method for taking care of transactions in the aftermath of a major event.
All modern forms of payment, including credit cards, debit cards, check, ePay, and everything else are entirely dependent on incredibly intricate and interconnected information on networks, networks that are utterly reliant on electricity to operate. One outage here, another there and the whole thing goes offline.
Trust me, even when the chips are down money talks, and a wad of hard cash might be just the thing to get you the crucial favor you need to improve your situation or get out of dodge.
Naturally, plenty of other people will be thinking the same thing you are and there will definitely be a run on ATMs. It is worth a try, but you might consider ducking into your bank to make a rapid withdrawal before things get too hairy.
Parents who have little ones hardly need to be reminded but they have needs all their own, but for everyone else, you might consider grabbing some baby supplies on your mad dash through the store if a relative or a neighbor has a little one that they take care of, as they might not have been in a position to get everything required in a timely fashion.
Baby food, diapers, wet wipes, rash cream and all of that make a huge difference in babies’ well-being and parents’ sanity.
Now, if you don’t have a baby or know anyone in your immediate circle who does leave this stuff behind for the parents who definitely will need it as it, like everything else, will dry up all too quickly.
Grabbing critical survival supplies when it is minutes to midnight should not be anyone’s Plan A response to impending disaster, but sometimes life throws you a curveball that you have to react to as you are, not how you wish you were.
But with a cool head and a clear understanding of what you need, if you act quickly and get to stores fast you stand a good chance of grabbing everything you need in one mad minute dash through the store.
Let the list above inform your route and what you put into your shopping cart before it is too late!
Tom Marlowe grew up with a gun in his hand, and has held all kinds of jobs in the gun industry: range safety, sales, instruction and consulting, He has the experience in helping civilian shooters figure out what firearms work best for them.