Past disasters and how people reacted to them gives us a good idea of what you want on hand when SHTF. Certain items will go faster than others, including bottled water, canned food, batteries, paper goods and first aid kits.

What else might disappear quickly when SHTF? Check out the list below. They come from paying attention to what happens in areas hit by hurricanes, wildfires, economic breakdowns and other forms of disaster. Be prepared.

Top SHTF Item

A no-brainer. Bottled water always is among the first items to disappear. And with good reason. You’re not going to get very far or survive very long without clean water to drink. Have as much as you can store. It’s not like it is going to go bad.

Canned Food

Look at any image of grocery store shelves right before a natural disaster hits. The canned food aisle is picked clean. It doesn’t even matter what it is. If it’s canned and can last a long time, people grab it. Do this in advance and you’ll have canned food you don’t mind eating.


Water. Food. Fire. These all help satisfy the basic needs at the bottom of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. And when SHTF, basic needs are what you will need to fill. Charcoal can give you fire when you have no access to wood for burning. It also can provide warmth, light and some sense of security.

Tents and Camping Equipment

Speaking of basic needs, shelter and sleep are right up there with food, water and air. It’s not like you can check into a hotel after SHTF. Camping supplies – tents, sleeping bags, flashlights, lanterns, tarps, stakes, etc. – are often gone as fast as the items in the water and canned foods aisles. At least, in places where smart people live.


As many as you can grab and store. With the power grid blown out, they will come in handy very fast.

Hunting and Fishing Gear

What will cook over your fire? Guns, knives, fishing rods – all will come in handy. Think especially of fishing gear. While some people may never be able to kill an animal and skin it, learning to fish is relatively simple, as is skinning a fish. Make sure you have a variety of knives like a karambit to handle many tasks – including filleting that fish.

The Right Clothes

Fashion is out when SHTF. Practicality is in. You want plenty of pairs of gloves to both protect your hands and keep you warm. Also, several pairs of boots and thick socks. And blue jeans or pants of tough material. Other items include wool caps, ear protectors for when it’s cold, clothespins, clotheslines and washboards for doing the laundry in a world without electric power.

First Aid Kits

As many as you can get your hands on. The lack of medical treatment is going to be one of the toughest aspects of a post-SHTF world.


Over the counter medications that combat body aches, headaches and other pain will be in low supply and high demand. Drugs to combat cold and flu also are a smart call.

Paper and Booze

These are two areas that often run out fast. No one wants to get caught without tissue paper, toilet paper and paper towels – at least not for a long time. Wine, beer and other alcohol? We don’t need to explain that one. Both are worth stockpiling for your own use or because they both will make great bartering items in the post-currency-driven economic world.

While all of us hope that the SHTF situation won’t happen, we all believe deep inside it’s likely just a matter of time. While the above list doesn’t include everything you will need, it’s a great place to start.