Shopping for the Apocalypse: How I Learned to Love Buying Emergency Supplies

Walt explains how his concern for “double-dipping disasters” spurred his desire to “shop for the apocalypse.” Here are 10 things he bought, and why.

Reviewed in this post: specific, excellent products within categories suggested by Ready.gov for inclusion in an emergency supply kit, with Amazon affiliate links for easy browsing, buying.

Weather radio: RegeMoudal Emergency Solar Hand-Crank Weather Radio for Emergency with AM/FM, LED Flashlight, Reading Lamp and SOS Alarm [check current price]

Light: Solar Powered, Crank Dynamo, Battery Operated Whetstone Lantern With 4 Ways to Power [check current price]

First aid kit: Johnson & Johnson All-Purpose Portable Compact First Aid Kit for Minor Cuts, Scrapes, Sprains & Burns, 140 piece [check current price]

Water: BOTTLED JOY 1 Gallon Water Bottle, BPA Free Large Water Bottle Hydration with Motivational Time Marker Reminder [check current price]

Can opener: Stainless steel can can opener with easy, big turn-knob and ergonomic, anti-slip handles

Food: Amy’s Organic Black Bean Vegetable Soup, Low Fat, Vegan, 14.5-Ounce (Pack of 12)

Masks: Cameleon Cover – Made in USA – Fashion Face Mask Covering Washable Cotton Double Layer – 3 Pack

And more! Keep reading for further list and reviews.

In early March, 2020, when I realized Covid-19 was materializing in the United States with alarming ferocity, I did what every good American does in times of crisis.

I went shopping.

Can you buy your way out of a global pandemic? Of ­course not. But there was a method to my retail madness.

My sudden, energizing goal was to assemble a Basic Disaster Supply Kit, something our household was lacking. I know a virus can’t be tamed with a flashlight, gallons of water, or a weather radio. My motivation to assemble was spurred by this question: what if, as Spring unfolds, we get hit by another type of disaster during the pandemic, concurrent with the pandemic? I call them:

Double dipping disasters.

For example: let’s say Midweste­rn thunderstorms knock our power out for days, as they have done multiple times in recent years. In the past, when the lights blinked out – and stayed out – I would move my home-office-based freelance business to a nearby motel, camp out for days, and keep working at the speed of thought, which was what the job required.

But during the first, dazed days of a lockdown, going to a hotel – or even a friend’s house – is somewhere between ludicrous and impossible. Staying home, staying safe and staying fed becomes the job.

That’s where having a Basic Disaster Supply Kit comes in.

First, I went to ready.gov, the official website of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, and studied its list of recommended supplies. Then:

I started buying.

Here are items from the DHS list, what I bought in response, with Amazon affiliate links (and Amazon’s own pics) to help you do the same.

1. Battery-powered or hand-crank radio and a NOAA weather radio with tone alert

Well, I got both of those things and then some when I purchased the…

RegeMoudal Emergency Solar Hand-Crank Weather Radio for Emergency with AM/FM, LED Flashlight, Reading Lamp and SOS Alarm

and it is now one of my Top Ten Favorite Things I Own. Human civilization and technology came together to build this marvel. Plus, it’s red. The best thing about it is the hand-cranked power, enabling lights, radio – and USB-connected phone charger. The ability to charge a phone without the availability of powered outlets seems fundamental. In a previous St. Louis power outage, phone draining, I walked to a nearby hospital – powered by generators – and sat on the floor of a deserted corridor, phone plugged into wall. In a pandemic, I will not wander into a hospital. I’ll stay away or be carried in.

Dialing into a NOAA weather station was a breeze, pun intended, and the comforting, mechanical voice of the weather A.I. – “showers will be moving out of the area after 6 p.m.” – wonderfully free of bad news. For the moment. I tuned the AM/FM radio to my beloved NPR. Only bad news there, alas. But the multi-setting, LED lights are crazy bright. Let’s shine our way out of this.

2. Flashlight

I thought bigger. I went lantern.

Solar Powered, Crank Dynamo, Battery Operated Whetstone Lantern With 4 Ways to Power

The previously mentioned weather-radio-flashlight provides beams of light. But I want the ability to light a room, or at least a dining room table, for the important business of Scrabble. (We have the deluxe Amazon edition.) This well-reviewed beauty has four sources of power, and I see that I am currently using none of them. So here I go, plugging into AC power, plugging into computer USB port, and hand-cranking. There. That should do it.

There’s a lovely solar panel on top, so why am I storing this in a drawer? Next to my office window it goes. As for luminescence, imagine very bright little disco lights, in three settings. They don’t flash. Except in my imagination. All it needs is a little Donna Summer.

3. First Aid Kit

I scored not one but two of the

Johnson & Johnson All-Purpose Portable Compact First Aid Kit for Minor Cuts, Scrapes, Sprains & Burns, 140 pieces

This well-organized, well-labelled kit is in itself reassuring. It’s grab and go. Plus, it’s red. It’s from Johnson & Johnson, a corporation needing more of our money, I’m sure, but well done is well done. I bought one for each car. That’s where I think a First Aid Kit could be of the most value, I think. On a getaway. During an Earthquake. During a pandemic. Coming soon to a theatre near you.

Includes: bandages, Neosporin, Tylenol, Bengay, cleansing wipes, gauze pads, rolled gauze, antibiotic cream, itch cream, cold pack, two pairs of gloves, and a durable, plastic box to keep items organized. I’m needing all those things right now, and I’ve only been gardening. [Rimshot]

4. Water

I was thirsty to buy the…

BOTTLED JOY 1 Gallon Water Bottle, BPA Free Large Water Bottle Hydration with Motivational Time Marker Reminder

What’s more fundamental than water? We are created by water, I say. Or perhaps we are water’s mechanism for moving itself around. Either way, we’re 60% of it. Give your water some love, and keep it coming throughout the day. Bottled Joy’s spiffy, BPA-free gallon container has a motivational time marker to monitor consumption, 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. (Presumably you need no water after 7 p.m. Too many trips to the bathroom?)

Though I have ordinary containers of tap water in the basement, for use in a bath or toilet in a disaster that might mean no water service (earthquake? yikes,) we’re using Bottled Joy on adventures by car. It could conceivably go in a backpack; haven’t tried that yet. The 1.5’’ wide-mouth opening accommodates ice cubes, the flip-top lid is built for easy filling and refilling, and the handle makes it easy to haul to the socially distant beach. Have some water and get in the water. Feel the water inside you and around you. Be the water.

5. Manual can opener for food.

I bought the…

Stainless steel can can opener with easy, big turn-knob and ergonomic, anti-slip handles

Get a grip. Get this can opener. The description on Amazon says the non-slip handles are “so soft, like your lover’s hand.” *ahem* I wouldn’t go that far. It also says the device allows you to “enjoy the aroma of canned foods.” Yeah, I wouldn’t go that far, either. But let the copywriter have fun and acknowledge this well-done, sturdy opener with a big handle that’s “so soft, so big.”

Here’s why that’s a deal. I’m a senior. I have arthritis in my hands. This device really is easier to turn, and the sharp blade really makes opening even the toughest can “can-tastic.” See? I was a copywriter, too, once. Bonus: built-in bottle opener for long-neck fans. And little handles for hanging up if you have one of those kitchens where you can hang things up. If you do, I admire you.

What cans are we opening? How about cans of…

6. Food

Have to use that cool can opener on something. How about…

Amy’s Organic Black Bean Vegetable Soup, Low Fat, Vegan, 14.5-Ounce (Pack of 12)

We’ve been eating a lot of beans in the pandemic. Red, black, white, cranberry, green; dried, cooked, baked, reheated, repurposed and beloved. There are 2.6 grams of protein in pinto, as in most of the others, and they satisfy hunger on a fundamental level. Randy soaks the dried ones overnight before cooking, reducing the possibility toot-toot-tootsie, goodbye.

Amy’s Black Bean Vegetable is a nice change of pace. Let Amy do the work of getting the bean/spice ratio just right, and enjoy its savory goodness. The 12-pack belongs in a kitchen or basement survival shelter, and why, yes, I am building such a thing. Stay safe, everyone. And eat more beans.

7. Dust mask (to help filter contaminated air)

Duh.

As I mentioned above, when I was first searching ready.gov in March, there was no mention of the coronavirus. But “dust mask” was already on the list of emergency supplies, “to help filter contaminated air.” Good. Little did the site know just how contaminated the air was about to get. We now know masks to be an indispensable part of daily life. My wife sews many for our family, upcycling old t-shirts, but on Amazon, I like…

Cameleon Cover – Made in USA – Fashion Face Mask Covering Washable Cotton Double Layer – 3 Pack

I cannot mask my enthusiasm for this 4-pack of double-layer, doubled-sided, 100% Lycra masks. Oh sure, the white inside is 100% cotton. Oh sure, the 13-inch, earloop-to-earloop length will stretch to 17. Oh sure, they’re breathable, comfortable, and made in the U.S.A.

But what caught my eye and triggered my shopping cart were the colors – Chameleon Cover’s Summer Collection: Neon Yellow, Neon Pink, Neon Orange, Neon Blue. I’m too manly for the pink, but I wear all the other three proudly. My previous black masks were somehow menacing. “I know I look like I want to rob you, but I just want to pay for this juice.” A socially distant summer concert calls for that orange, I think. I socially distant hike along the mountain ridge, the yellow. Listening to the Blues, the blue.

Masks. Our future. Make peace with them. Think colors.

8. Extra batteries

Energizer AA Batteries (48 Count), Double A Max Alkaline Battery

I’m an Energizer loyalist. They work, they last, and the drum-beating bunny is wearing sunglasses. Keep going.

But wait, there’s more.

And as bonus 9th and 10th basic supplies, I am going to recommend two important items not on the DHS Emergency Kit list, but are on mine. And now in my possession. First, you should seriously consider getting a…

9. Camping stove

Coleman Gas Camping Stove | Classic Propane Stove, 2 Burner

I was firing on both burners when the obvious hit me: if we have to stay home due to combination of a pandemic and a power outage lasting days, we’ll need to cook. Or at least heat. The Classic Coleman Propane Stove served my family well when I was a kid – we would camp for weeks at a time, and my parents made three hot meals a day on it. My goals are no longer so epic: I just want to heat a pot of tea on our patio. Or cook some beans.

This reliable, wind-blocking baby can run up to one hour on high on one 16.4 oz. propane cylinder (sold separately.) I have no need to cook anything that long. On the other hand, I might have to use it to fill a hot bath some night, so. (Thinking ahead.) Set-up is easy, learning curve is low. Is a camping stove a bridge too far for disaster thinking? Well, the next time there’s a power outage, and you want a hot cup of tea: see me.

10. Backpack

How to wrap this all up? (Not this article, though there is that.) How to wrap your kit up? How to encapsulate and preserve the emergency supply kit you have so wonderfully assembled? For ease of “we-gotta-get-out-of-here-now” portability, I recommend a backpack. In fact, I recommend this one.

SwissGear 5358 USB ScanSmart Laptop Backpack. Abrasion-Resistant & Travel-Friendly Laptop Backpack Exclusive Bundle with Lock

SwissGear packs have adorned my backs since college. They are wonderfully designed and almost indestructible. The version I currently use for my business ­– back when I went places for my business – has bells and whistles inside the bells and whistles. Putting most of your supplies (minus the stove, natch) in a ridiculously sturdy, lacked backpack like the 5358 means you are guaranteeing its safety. And yours.

“Abrasion resistant,” the Amazon page for it says. That’s absolutely true. I’ve shoved my SwissGear packs under airplane seats and rental car trunks and every nook and cranny imaginable. They bear no wear. Oh, to be a SwissGear pack so I, too, could show no wear.

We’ll be okay, I say. These sturdy supplies help us face the thousand natural shocks the flesh is heir to.

And help us abide their abrasions.

Walt

2020 Update: Additional Emergency Supplies Recommended by the Department of Homeland Security

In April, 2020, the DHS added to its website this list of additional emergency supplies and tips on maintaining your kit. I repeat them here as a public service.

Consider adding the following items to your emergency supply kit based on your individual needs:

  1. Cloth face coverings (for everyone ages 2 and above), soap, hand sanitizer, disinfecting wipes to disinfect surfaces
  2. Prescription medications
  3. Non-prescription medications such as pain relievers, anti-diarrhea medication, antacids or laxatives
  4. Prescription eyeglasses and contact lens solution
  5. Infant formula, bottles, diapers, wipes and diaper rash cream
  6. Pet food and extra water for your pet
  7. Cash or traveler’s checks
  8. Important family documents such as copies of insurance policies, identification and bank account records saved electronically or in a waterproof, portable container
  9. Sleeping bag or warm blanket for each person
  10. Complete change of clothing appropriate for your climate and sturdy shoes
  11. Fire extinguisher
  12. Matches in a waterproof container
  13. Feminine supplies and personal hygiene items
  14. Mess kits, paper cups, plates, paper towels and plastic utensils
  15. Paper and pencil
  16. Books, games, puzzles or other activities for children

Maintaining Your Kit

After assembling your kit remember to maintain it so it’s ready when needed:

  1. Keep canned food in a cool, dry place.
  2. Store boxed food in tightly closed plastic or metal containers.
  3. Replace expired items as needed.
  4. Re-think your needs every year and update your kit as your family’s needs change.

Kit Storage Locations

Since you do not know where you will be when an emergency occurs, prepare supplies for home, work and cars.

  1. Home: Keep this kit in a designated place and have it ready in case you have to leave your home quickly. Make sure all family members know where the kit is kept.
  2. Work: Be prepared to shelter at work for at least 24 hours. Your work kit should include food, water and other necessities like medicines, as well as comfortable walking shoes, stored in a “grab and go” case.
  3. Car: In case you are stranded, keep a kit of emergency supplies in your car.

More at ready.gov

Okay, America. Get ready. To get prepared.

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