American Survival Guide - - TABLE OF CONTENTS - By Frank Phillips

How to store and man­age your sur­vival sup­plies

Ajum­ble of oddly shaped boxes looms out of the dark­ened cor­ner of your base­ment, and a fran­tic wave of ner­vous anx­i­ety mixes with a rush of adrenalin flood­ing into your stom­ach. You had only min­utes to spare 10 min­utes ago, and now, you’re rum­mag­ing through totes full of gear that will do you no good once you’re dead. But where is ev­ery­thing—bat­ter­ies for the flash­light, ammo for the .38, ex­tra fuel for the stove?

You have spent years and a small for­tune col­lect­ing a re­spectable ac­cu­mu­la­tion of equip­ment for just this very minute, and when push came to shove, you’re lost in a pile of your own hoard, not able to find the one thing you des­per­ately need.

Why? You paid too much at­ten­tion to the col­lect­ing and not enough to the ac­tual col­lec­tion. To main­tain a proper cache of us­able and re­li­able gear, you must store, or­ga­nize, in­ven­tory and ro­tate.


The first step to hav­ing a great col­lec­tion is hav­ing the space to store it. These are not items you will need or use ev­ery day (or even once a week), so giv­ing them prom­i­nent shelf space in the pantry or up front in the hall closet isn’t a good use of space needed for other, more-im­por­tant, day-to­day things such as the vac­uum cleaner or the cof­fee maker. Find­ing a cor­ner in the garage or cre­at­ing a se­ries of shelves in the base­ment specif­i­cally (and only) to store your emer­gency sup­plies is cru­cial. It must be out of the way, but it must also be eas­ily ac­ces­si­ble: You don’t want to have to move a great deal of things to get at your gear.

Don’t have the room for it all? Break your gear into smaller groups of sim­i­lar items and store them in dif­fer­ent parts of the house. For ex­am­ple, know that your ex­tra bat­ter­ies are in the emer­gency col­lec­tion on the top shelf of your closet, but all the re­serve canned goods oc­cupy the space above the re­frig­er­a­tor. This way, your hoard won’t seem so enor­mous. And if some­one were to at­tempt to steal it, it is bet­ter hid­den, and you will have ac­cess to dif­fer­ent parts of it from dif­fer­ent parts of the house. Ad­di­tion­ally, if some­thing were to de­stroy a por­tion of your house or apart­ment (earth­quake, fire, tor­nado, et al), you will not have lost the en­tire stock­pile.

Be­cause every­one’s cir­cum­stances are dif­fer­ent, their ideas for stor­age will also be dif­fer­ent. How­ever, one highly com­mon ap­proach is to ob­tain hard plas­tic boxes in which to store ev­ery­thing. They not only seal well against the el­e­ments (hu­mid­ity, ro­dents, in­sects, etc.), they are stack­able, and you can write the con­tents on the sides and lid if need be.

The boxes’ sizes are en­tirely up to you and how big your stash is, how much more you think it will grow and how much you can carry. You might con­sider in­clud­ing stor­age space for a few ex­tra boxes that will re­main empty, al­low­ing your in­ven­tory to ex­pand.



Most of us are prob­a­bly the same. We ob­tain a new hatchet; this hatchet is the per­fect one we feel we’ll need to hack through the front door in the event it is blocked by de­bris. So, we place it promi­nently on the shelf and await the day a hur­ri­cane piles up de­bris in front of our door so we can use that hatchet.

How­ever, that day doesn’t come for a long time; in the mean­time, we’ve added snowshoes to the shelf, along with a back­pack, lan­tern and a pair of muck boots. These new items have buried the hatchet at the bot­tom of the pile, and when it comes time to use it, we won’t know where it is. We need to or­ga­nize!

Clean Slate: Start by com­pletely clear­ing the shelves. Take ev­ery­thing you want to keep in your apoc­a­lypse sup­plies and sort them into cat­e­gories. Knives here, fuel there, flash­lights, med­i­cal sup­plies, sleep­ing gear, etc. When you be­gin to box these items up, all your edged tools will make it into one box, for ex­am­ple, and you’ll only need to visit that one box to re­trieve any knife.

Group Like Items: Take this con­cept even fur­ther: Keep to­gether things that are used to­gether. For ex­am­ple, it makes no sense to store the man­tles for your lan­tern in an­other box or the blade sharp­en­ers in a box sep­a­rate from your knives.

Spe­cial­ize Groups: If you have mul­ti­ple ex­am­ples of sim­i­lar items, you have a few choices for how those items get or­ga­nized. You can ei­ther store them to­gether (as you would any other item), put them in an “over­flow” or “du­pli­cate/ex­tra” box that is in­tended for use in trades and bar­ter­ing later, or sell or trade them now, es­pe­cially if space or fi­nances are tight.

Du­pli­cate Cov­er­age: An­other op­tion is to cre­ate a few spe­cial­ized groups of gear and place them in key van­tage points. For ex­am­ple, you could cre­ate a back­pack full of gear for a get-home bag for your car and make an­other for your of­fice. Place ex­tra sup­plies in a box to bug out with, and place it in the hall closet next to the front door, where you can get to it quickly on your way out. Uti­liz­ing du­pli­cate gear in sim­i­lar ways will give you con­fi­dence, know­ing you’ll have what you need when and where you’ll need it.


For all in­tents and pur­poses, you are cre­at­ing a store­room for a small busi­ness. Your busi­ness—al­though you will never plan to hang an “Open” sign or sell any­thing to the public—is a small shop for out­door and sur­vival gear. As you add in­ven­tory to your store­room, it must be cat­a­logued, in­ven­to­ried and recorded. It is a poor busi­ness that doesn’t know how many tent stakes it has or how much para­cord is on the shelf.

Be Counted: While you are clear­ing your shelves and or­ga­niz­ing your gear into

what­ever sys­tem of or­ga­ni­za­tion you feel will work best for you and your fam­ily, take time to in­ven­tory what you have. Your list can be as sim­ple as a page of line items, show­ing how many of ev­ery­thing you have—from the num­ber of com­passes you will keep in your var­i­ous bug-out bags to the types of bat­ter­ies you have on hand.

The De­tails: Re­gard­less of how you cre­ate your list, make it prac­ti­cal and easy to un­der­stand and up­date. For ex­am­ple, in Box #1 is a Cold Steel 3V SRK fixed-blade knife (black)—one of 15 bladed ob­jects (axes, hatch­ets, etc.) in Box #1. Is putting the date you bought this knife, how much it cost and where you might have pur­chased it nec­es­sary for your list? Of course not. The im­por­tant de­tail here is that it is in Box #1.

How­ever, are de­tails im­por­tant re­gard­ing items that have ex­pi­ra­tion dates, such as medicine and per­ish­able foods? Yes! Where did you get the med­i­ca­tion (over the counter or prescription)? How much did you pay for the car­ton of cig­a­rettes you plan to use as a bar­ter­ing tool (to help you de­ter­mine their worth)? How much longer will that ground cof­fee last?

Your in­ven­tory and records should pro­vide enough de­tail to be help­ful when you re­fer to the lists in the fu­ture.

Food Records: One of the most im­por­tant as­pects of in­ven­to­ry­ing your sur­vival gear is in re­la­tion to your stores of food and wa­ter. Ob­vi­ously, be­cause they are highly per­ish­able, you won’t be able to keep them for­ever, thereby ne­ces­si­tat­ing ro­ta­tion of your stock.

When in­ven­to­ry­ing food stuffs and other per­ish­ables (medicine, bat­ter­ies, fu­els, drinks and other pro­vi­sions), make sure to take spe­cial note of when they ex­pire; place foods with the long­est ex­pi­ra­tion date at the bot­tom of the box or at the back of the shelf. Make note of when you bought it and how long it is sug­gested to re­main edible (or po­tent, if it is medicine).

Much as you did with your hard gear, place to­gether food items that re­late to oth­ers: bak­ing goods, rice/grains, al­co­hol/”vices,” etc. As a re­sult, you’ll only need to go to one box (or one shelf) if you plan a spe­cific meal or dish.

Your pri­mary goal in tak­ing these pre­cau­tions is to not waste money buy­ing and re­buy­ing food that merely goes bad on your emer­gency sup­ply shelves. Check your food, wa­ter and per­ish­ables ev­ery six months to make sure your lists re­main ac­cu­rate and up to date.


As im­por­tant as col­lect­ing gear and food for the end of times is, so is keep­ing your col­lec­tion main­tained, up to date and as fresh as pos­si­ble. Mealy flour, dead bat­ter­ies and past-prime ga­so­line will do you no good, es­pe­cially at that cru­cial mo­ment when you need them.

Con­sult your in­ven­tory records and ro­tate out all per­ish­ables that are near­ing their ex­pi­ra­tion dates. A great way to do this is, for one, to al­ways store the foods you eat.

That way, they can al­ways be ro­tated into your meal-plan­ning. For ex­am­ple, you pur­chased a case of tomato sauce three months ago that is set to ex­pire in one year, and in that time, you’ve bought six ad­di­tional cans of tomato sauce. Take out the older tomato sauces and re­place them with the newer ones, mak­ing sure you up­date your in­ven­tory with the changed ex­pi­ra­tion dates.

A healthy ro­ta­tion of old with new goods is im­por­tant to keep your stock­pile of per­ish­ables fresh and so they can last in­def­i­nitely.


It makes per­fect sense to un­der­stand that when you in­ven­to­ried what you have in your cache, you also in­ad­ver­tently cre­ated a list of things you are miss­ing: For ex­am­ple, you have a stove but only half a can­is­ter of fuel; or you in­ven­to­ried three pairs of boots, but there are four peo­ple in your crew. What’s miss­ing? It is a good idea to cre­ate a “wish list” of sorts to be ful­filled the next time you have the re­sources (or acu­men) to ex­pand your sup­plies.

By prop­erly in­ven­to­ry­ing, or­ga­niz­ing and main­tain­ing what you have, you’ll be able to fo­cus en­er­gies on com­plet­ing ar­eas of your cache that might be lack­ing. You may have plenty of an­ti­his­tamine but no an­ti­fun­gals; or you might have noted plenty of toi­let paper but no bio-waste bags.

In­ven­to­ry­ing is a great way to round out your gear.


Hav­ing the gear you need is mean­ing­less un­less you can prop­erly store it and ac­cess it quickly and ef­fi­ciently.

To keep your gear or­ga­nized (and mostly to keep you from over-pur­chas­ing one area of your emer­gency needs), know­ing what you don’t have in your col­lec­tion is al­most as im­por­tant as know­ing what you have.

Take an ac­cu­rate in­ven­tory of your gear pe­ri­od­i­cally and com­pare it to your pre­vi­ous lists. Up­date any ex­pired foods or goods that have been ro­tated out of your stores. Ac­cu­racy here is para­mount if you want to have a top­notch and re­li­able cache sys­tem. h A good ex­am­ple of a sup­ply list is the Prep­per’s Check­list that can be found in the back of the ASG Prep­per Man­ual, avail­able on news­stands in late Septem­ber.

Above: When stor­ing your equip­ment—edged tools, for ex­am­ple— it is a good idea to keep them all in one place. That way, you’ll know where all of them are and will only need to ac­cess one box to find a spe­cific item.

Left: A sturdy stor­age rack sys­tem works best for large tote-style boxes. In ad­di­tion, large items—tents, stoves, tarps and other gear that doesn’t read­ily fit into a box—can be stored and eas­ily ac­cessed, as well.

Over time, a col­lec­tion of emer­gency sup­plies that is not prop­erly cared for, or­ga­nized and in­ven­to­ried will end up be­ing a ran­dom as­sem­blage of gear with no or­der or use­ful­ness.

As with any large ware­house, or­ga­ni­za­tion and clean­li­ness are two keys to be­ing able to find and keep track of your sur­vival stores.

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