Living in the Internet Age of Information Bombardment, it’s easy to get entranced by the idea that you’ll need the one, perfect specialty item or piece of equipment to tick off that box on your prepper checklist. True, there is a wide world of specialty gear out there, and some of it is nothing short of amazing, and well worth the time to track it down or order it.
But what about your staples and basics? In your quest for best, have you outrun your headlights, so to speak? Lost sight of the forest for the trees? Maybe you are a beginning prepper with nary a stash of food or ammo to your name, or are on a pretty tight budget. Or perhaps you just cannot be bothered to make a bunch of extra stops or order things online.
If any of those sound like you, I have good news! Your friendly, neighborhood Wally World has a lot of what you need under roof. Sure, Wal-Mart rarely carries the “best” of anything, but their pricing and convenience gives them a quality all their own.
So if you need to plus up a few low or missing provisions in your stockpile or are starting from scratch by busting open the piggy bank, Wal-Mart is there for you. Below I’ll present a sort of guide and shopping list for getting the most survival-mileage out of your next trip to the Big Blue Box. There’re also links to Amazon.com if that’s more convenient for you.
This list is not comprehensive and not specialized to any one particular kind of disaster survival scenario. In keeping with the generalist theme of checking off as many boxes as possible with one trip, some specialty items or items of higher quality have been omitted. By the end, you can probably think of a half-dozen items off the top of your head that I have omitted but you need. Good. Put them on your list!
Regarding quality, Wal-Mart carried plenty of entirely serviceable brands, but very rarely Tier 1 quality goods. If you desire or require that level of quality, look elsewhere, but don’t be afraid to buy backup or redundant items on a budget. You should stay away from the very cheapest of anything that your life may depend on, but looking for buys and discounts on certain items can help stretch your funds.
Things like store brand foods, essentials like socks and underwear, generic meds and so on. You don’t need to spend a fortune on a knife or other bladed tool to get one of serviceable quality. Other things like flashlights, batteries and ammunition you should expect to spend a little more on to ensure they last and work when needed. A $2 flashlight may work fine until its first tumble, or might stop working unexpectedly, leaving you in the dark.
It is bad to pay too much, but worse to spend too little. There is a level of product where quality is impossible. Also bear in mind this list is for a single individual, adjust the quantities based on what your family will need, however many people are in your group or who you anticipate lending a hand to.
Grab a Cart!
Grab a cart, have a quick gawk at the weirdoes capering about, and let’s get moving. Your first stop should be the pharmacy. Ignore the rack of ribs thawing by the reading glasses and find the first-aid section. Start with basic wound care and trauma supplies. Grab the following:
- Rolled Gauze, x 2rolls
- Gauze Pads, various sizes
- Compression Bandages, x 2
- First Aid Tape, x 2 Rolls
- Butterfly Strips
- Antiseptic Solution
- Burn Cream
With all that, you have the essentials you need to treat minor wounds and injuries. Now duck over to the medication aisle and grab the following. Real quick, you may already have these items at home, fine, but we want them sealed for long term storage, remember? Anyway, grab a bottle of the following meds, and perhaps a handful of each in single dose packets to stash in your pack.
- Pain Reliever, acetaminophen or ibuprofen
- Nausea Relief
Put these away for the long haul when you get home, and don’t forget to consult with your doctor about getting a supply of any prescription meds you need also. If you need things like contact cleaning solution, grab them now.
Roll around the corner to the bath and hygiene department. We are only here for a few things, but these will make all the difference when it comes to preventing disease and other ailments from laying you low, and staying clean is a big boost for your attitude:
- Bar soap, x6
- Shampoo, large (optional)
- Toothpaste, x2
- Toothbrushes, x2
- Hand Sanitizer, large
- Disposable razors or cartridges
- Feminine Products as required
In addition to these, do make sure you get lots of toilet paper, because you can use it in a variety of ways – not to mention it’s cheap. We’ve all seen TP flying off the shelves when people start to panic, so do make it a priority.
Next Stop: Tools, Tools and More Tools
Brace up, we are leaving the bath isle behind and setting out for the hardware section. Pass the man who is singing to himself. Don’t make eye contact. Remember your training. Once at the hardware section, grab the following:
Hardware and Tools
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- Vise Grips, large
- Hatchet, preferably with hickory wood handle or metal handle. Avoid plastic (these may be in lawn care section).
- Framing Hammer
- Folding hand saw
- Nails, various sizes.
- Duct tape, x2 rolls
- Carpenter Pencils
- Contractor Bags, large roll
- Large plastic bucket with sealing lid.
- Tarps, large, sturdy with heavy duty grommets, x2
- Gloves, light technical or heavy leather variety, maybe both.
- Flashlight, large work-lamp type. Try to get ones with common batteries.
- Cordage, accessory cord or paracord, 100ft. Paracord may be in the outdoor section.
These items will allow to fix light structural damage and build any needed basic structure so long as you have wood, which is usually plentiful anywhere. The tarps are useful for shelter and privacy.
Duct tape really does have a billion uses, and your hatchet makes a great all-purpose travel tool and brutal weapon with a little reach. The contractor bags are useful for sanitation concerns as well as disposing of rubbish or hauling soiled or filthy gear. Used with the bucket, you can improvise a toilet when the water is out.
Now that we have our Wasteland Builder kit, turn around and make your way to the outdoor and sporting goods section. Swerve around the two kids wearing dinosaur heads jousting each other on bikes with pool noodles. Well done. We’ll be grabbing quite a few things here:
Camping and Sporting
- Knife, medium fixed blade or large folder. Get a decent one.
- Flashlight, handheld x 2
- Batteries for lights
- Chemlights, x 4
- Emergency Band Radio, crank or battery powered.
- Camp stove and fuel
- Small metal cook set
- Water Bottle or canteen
- Ammunition for firearms
- Small gun cleaning kit or bottle of gun oil
Most of these tools are obviously important. Your knife will perform countless tasks as well as serving as a last-ditch weapon. Light sources will be at a premium in many disasters, and essential for navigation and signaling; a must-have item.
Your headlamp will be your mainstay, allowing you to walk or work while keeping your hands free. Face it, keeping a light between your teeth sucks, and may lead to some freestyle dental reconfiguration.
A camp stove and appropriate fuel source will let you cook up food or boil water without the need to build a fire, either indoors or on the move.
Speaking of on the move, compass, even a very basic one is invaluable for general direction finding, “which way am I headed?” However, if you’re serious about bugging out, you may want to invest in a quality lensatic compass.
Lastly, if you own a gun or guns, they’ll do no good without ammo to feed them, so keep a minimum stash of 250 rounds set back for anything you are counting on. Likewise, they’ll need maintenance as well as ammo, so invest in a basic cleaning kit or at least a bottle of gun-specific lubricant.
The Final Stretch
Whew! This cart is getting heavy, and that bum wheel that is always pulling to the right is seriously getting on my nerves. We’ll need some food, of course, but let’s swing in to the electronics department on the way over to the grocery.
While we may lose power, we won’t necessarily lose all communication infrastructure, and our smart phones, radios and other devices can still be valuable. Of course they’ll need to stay charged to get any use from them unless we like expensive coasters, so pick up the following:
- Power Cell, preferably battery powered.
- Spare phone cable, to use with charger. Get a long one.
- Car adapter for cable.
- Walkie-Talkies, get a pair, and the nicest ones you can afford.
In the event that communications networks are not down entirely, just degraded or clogged with traffic, being able to get your phone back up and running a little later, along with all of its wondrous functions will be a huge advantage. If the networks are hard-bent or gone, the walkie-talkies will let you and a friend communicate and coordinate over short distances. A real lifesaver.
Now we have enough equipment and gear to see us through a fairly significant event. Next we’ll need to grab a buggy full of food to stash so we have the calories we’ll need to stay active and save our skins. You want to be buying stable, easy to store food with long shelf lives that are calorie dense. You can add a few things that you really enjoy for morale, but you need to be thinking game time. Head to the grocery side of the store and pickup the following provisions and rations:
Food and Drink
- Water, case of bottles or large jugs, aim for a gallon a day for drinking and hygiene.
- Food, think calories, not meals. 2,200 calories is a decent baseline for an adult.
- Canned or foil packed meats (tuna, chicken, beef, etc.)
- Canned fruits and veggies
- Dry Staples
- Salt and Pepper
- Hot Sauce
- Instant Coffee or Tea bags
- Stable snacks
- Granola bars
- Powdered Drink Mix
- Electrolyte Powder
- Plastic Utensils, large box
- Paper plates, large pack
- Styrofoam or paper cups
- Can Opener
Water is the most important thing on this list. You should be planning to collect and store water somehow, even if you can only use it for washing and bathing, but if you do nothing else but lay up a good supply of potable water you’ll be ahead of the ball game. Buy more than you think you’ll need, and if you live in an arid climate even more than that.
The above foodstuffs are nothing fancy, and may not be the lightest or most efficient prepper-centric items, but they are available now and are inexpensive calories. The throw-away cutlery will help you conserve water since you won’t have to initially wash dishes and they can simply be thrown away.
You can treat jerky, granola and other meal-replacements as travel rations. Your drink mixes will give you a variety, quick energy and in the case of Tang and some similar mixes, plenty of vitamin C. Vitamin deficiency will not be a concern initially, but protracted events and malnutrition will see you come down with scurvy or worse.
If you are banking on bulk grains and legumes, remember they take quite a bit of hot water to prepare, so adjust your water and fuel estimates accordingly to accommodate. Canned food is usually palatable enough right out of the can, and can be heated in the container once you remove the label. Whatever you do, don’t forget your can opener, and a spare!
if you’re lucky to find some pre-packed food kits, make sure you get the best bang for your buck. The more calories the better, but do look for nutrition info as well. Micronutrients such as vitamins and minerals are just as important for your long-term survival.
Coffee and tea are great for pick-me-ups and in the case of tea, is pretty decent brewed cold. The caffeine content is valuable on its own when you need to slog on through the night or stay awake on little sleep. That, and most of us are hopelessly addicted at any rate, and coming down cold turkey, end of the world or no, really sucks. Either can stave that off just a little longer, hopefully long enough for things to get back to normal!
Woo Hoo! Homeward Bound!
Well, you made it. Another trip through the wild and wooly fluorescent expanse of Wal-Mart. Only this time we are coming away more prepared for what might lie ahead. Like I said above, this list is not comprehensive, and is biased toward a single individual who is lacking in the basics.
You might be thinking that all of the things on this list would amount to a small mountain in a shopping cart. You aren’t wrong: it really is not as much as you think, and seeing it all in a pile like this may give you some perspective on how much is required to sustain (modern) human life in trying times.
It is also a fairly expensive outing, so if you do not have the cash or credit to plunk down for all of this at once, break it up into a couple of trips, prioritizing water, food and first-aid. After that get yourself some lights, batteries, tools and weapons, and then everything else.
I want to take the opportunity to remind you, reader, that gear and equipment is fine, but the first tool is your brain. You must be taking the time now to learn and practice the skills, including moderating your mindset, that will see you through a time of great upheaval with life and limb intact.
It is not enough to fill your basement or home with everything you may possibly need, and “figure it out” when the time comes. You will not rise to the occasion; you’ll fall to your lowest level of training and experience.
After you get all your goodies stored away, I challenge you to get to work on improving your skills with your gear as well as your primitive skills.
You don’t need to shop at a specialty outdoor or camping store, or a site catering to preppers to get the things you need to survive. You local Wal-Mart or other big box store has a lot you can use. This is made even more attractive by their typical low pricing allowing you to stretch your dollars that much further.
The next time you are getting ready to head to Wally World, take a moment to review your other shopping list and see what you need to add to your stockpile. With one trip, you could come home with more than just staples.
Charles Yor is an advocate of low-profile preparation, readiness as a virtue and avoiding trouble before it starts. He has enjoyed a long career in personal security implementation throughout the lower 48 of the United States.