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What You’ll Need

Survival tips and handy gadgets for the busy post-apocalyptic lifestyle

by Erin Pihlaja on December 20, 2012

Crank away: Eton's man-powered radio.

If the Mayans got it right, this may be the last time you pack a bag to go anywhere. But, if tomorrow really does mean the end of the world as we know it (literally or metaphorically), we still don’t quite know what that means. Will it be hot or cold? Monsoon or desert? If the prophecy is true, there’s bound to be some important decisions facing anyone who makes it. Pack light, princesses, we know it’s your industrial-strength hair dryer and we’re pretty sure that no matter what, you can live without it.

The most essential thing for survival is water. You’re probably going to need to purify any water you find while you are migrating to higher ground/warmer places/zones free of zombie packs. If you don’t have a handheld water filtration pump—there are many options sold at sporting goods stores and they usually run a couple hundred dollars—you’ve got a few other options. There’s the “backcountry” technique for the granola set. This involves fashioning a funnel out of tree bark, or from a plastic bag (we humans have been stockpiling these little beauties for decades), and layering charcoal, sand, and rocks (in that order from bottom to top) before running your life-saving agua through. For the modern minimalist there’s a teeny device called the Lifestraw. This little guy looks like a large drinking straw, weighs practically nothing and allows a survivalist to drink directly from a water source. It costs around $20 and one unit can filter around 264 gallons.

You can always boil any questionable water, which brings us to our next survival necessity: fire. That Man Vs. Wildguy likes a flint fire starter, but if you can’t get a hold of one you still have a chance. There’s the old rub-two-sticks-together friction plan. It may not easily yield a fire, but it’s sure to give you super hot jacked-up forearms. There’s also the serial-killer-in-the-making plan, which has been enjoyed by disturbed little maniacs for eons. Picture that odd neighbor boy playing on the sidewalk. He’s holding a magnifying glass under the sun’s rays and waiting. Finally, under the focused beam of light the ant colony he’s intent on destroying bursts into flames. Success! This works with any type of lens, even a piece of ice shaped the right way. Substitute a tinder nest for insects and you’ll be cooking in no time.

Survive with comfort: The BioLite camp fire stove.

Once you’ve got fire, you’re well on your way to civilization. If you managed to secure the BioLite camp stove and USB charger ($129 retail) before evacuating your old life, your new society will be the coolest. With just a handful of sticks for fuel, you can cook your food, boil your water, and charge a device with a USB port all at the same time. Hope you brought your iPod and your end-of-the-world playlist.

There are other ways to create a charge, and they all need blood, sweat, and tears. Well, definitely sweat, the blood and tears are optional. It’s all about hand cranking in the apocalypse. That’s right, man-powered gadgets will rule the new world. You can find a slew of flashlights for under $30 that charge up in about a minute and hold power for a few days depending on usage. Another option is Eton’s American Red Cross brand crank radio. It features a LED light, a USB port, and is under $100. You probably won’t need the alarm-clock option as most of the good jobs and will likely be obsolete when certain doom strikes. The radio part might be useless too, but we’ll just have to wait and see, right?

One of the most awesome (gotta keep up with the neighbors if there are any left) shelters is the Cocoon Emergency Shelter designed by John Moriarty. You just hang this puppy from the nearest tree or street sign and you’ve got an instant house that keeps you safe from the elements. Shaped like a tear drop when hung, your new home is light and practical. Sure there are other shelter options, but this one is funny. Crawling out of a cocoon every day is bound to put a smile on your face, and even post-apocalyptic survivors need a good chuckle every now and then.

Obviously once you’ve got the basics squared away, it’s time to start planning your end-of-the world look. While it’s easy to draw inspiration from movies like Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome (think big shoulder pads, and super textured hair), you may want to consider functionality over aesthetics. Get motivated by the three Philadelphia design students who debuted their clothes-as-shelter line at the So Re Fa eco-fashion show in 2009. Does your shrug transform into a pop-up tent? It should. Don’t get caught up in vanity, most of those down-filled designer coats sold at department stores look like sleeping bags anyway. Apocalypse mantra: Wearable shelter is the new little black dress.

It’s hard to tell what will ensue tomorrow but if shit goes down and you manage to make it out, your Klout score or the fact that you were the mayor of the YMCA on Foursquare definitely won’t save you. With a little luck and some preparation, maybe these tips will.