How To Survive The Apocalypse on $20 and the stuff in your apartment

Written by Tom Price

This is your prep list for the How To Survive The Apocalypse..for just 72 hours. Our goal is just to get you to First Base—a grab and go kit that will take care of you for the first three days. Why do all earthquake prep kits say to plan for that amount of time? Think about it like this: even without an earthquake, if RIGHT NOW the National Guard was ordered to assemble materials and deliver food/medicine/water/health care to the City of San Francisco, it would take them AT LEAST three days to get that together. It just takes time to pull out the stuff, load the trucks, decide where to go, get set up, etc etc. And in an earthquake of any size, likely SFO, OAK, and the Bay Bridge will be out of operation. And the electrical grid. Oh, and fires—you get the idea. But after three days things will start to sort themselves out.

So, don’t be surprised if it’s not the end all be all; it’s not supposed to be. But it will be a strong foundation. And has been learned from countless disasters, planned and unplanned ( ie: Hurricane Katrina, Burning Man), those people who have done even the tiniest bit of preparation are SO much better prepared mentally to deal with what’s happening. Once you have even a basic kit together, you’ll find yourself adding to it, and mentally patting it ( like checking for your wallet ) anytime you get a twinge of anxiety. Trust me, it’s a good feeling to have. In three days, you’ll be able to stay warm, dry, clean, and focused, and help build the communities of people taking care of each other, which are so key to survival. Because really, it’s going to be people who just step up, not the people who are “supposed” to be in charge, who’re really going to make the difference.

As an aside, you may enjoy reading Rebecca Solnit’s phenomenal new book, “A Paradise Made In Hell: the extraordinary communities that arise in disasters.”


Again, let’s focus: you can save your ass for just $20, and the stuff already in your house. Don’t believe me? Try this: Go through item by item, and put all this stuff in a pile. Then, put it in a backpack. Turns out, you already have almost everything you need squirreled away somewhere. For about $20, you’ll be able to get all the key items that you don’t already have. Put it together, keep it in the hall closet or someplace near your way out the door. Done. There, doesn’t that feel better?


A $3 backpack from Goodwill. Because once you have one of these, everything else just falls into it. Seriously, it’s like some kind of energetic law of nature—when the vessel arrives, so does the water.


Backpack (school size)

Space Blanket


20’ String or Rope

Ski Hat

Flashlight—preferably wind up, or an LED one



Metal pan to boil water/cook in

Plastic plate

Coffee mug


Pocket knife

Battery-operated or wind up radio

can opener

zip ties

duct tape

deck of cards


We’re aiming for 2,000 calories per person, per day, and it has to be in a form that will keep for a long time. Familiar foods are important, so use this as a rule of thumb, not something set in stone.

Can opener

Cans of tuna

Canned fruit

Cans of soup

Dehydrated meals

Macaroni and Cheese

Energy Bars

Energy Gels

Packets of Instant Coffee (6)


Chewing gum

Packets of salt and pepper

Cans of Sterno—REI has them, as to all hardware stores

Three feet aluminum foil


This one is surprisingly easy. Put a single two liter bottle of water in your backpack—that’s it. Here’s a secret: every single house and apartment in SF comes with a built in 30-gallon supply of water, earthquake proofed. It’s called your hot water heater, and each has a little tap to get at that clean, filtered H20 right on the bottom. Each is also required to be anchored to the wall, so it’s unlikely to be damaged in a quake.

Here’s another secret tip—ever see a circle of bricks in SF in the street, and wonder what it’s for? They were put in after the 1906 quake and fire—they’re underground cisterns, full of water; enjoy.


FRS radio, with batteries. You’d be surprised how many have them—and how handy they’ll be when your iPhone doesn’t work. Make a plan with your friends NOW about what channel to use Whistle Sharpies—use to write on the outside of the place you live a note to friends/loved ones, saying WHEN you went and WHERE.


Here are general basics to get you started. Split up loose items into ziplock baggies. Include any medicines you use, and a few spare pair of contact lenses.

Band Aids-all sizes.

Adhesive Tape, a couple feet

Gauze Pads

Triangular Bandage, Non-Sterile

Antacid, Calcium Carbonate

Ibuprofen (200 mg), Pkg./2

Acetaminophen (500 mg), Pkg./2

Antihistamine (Diphenhydramine 25 mg)

Aspirin (325 mg), Pkg./2

Cold Medicine Pkg./2

After Bite® Sting and Itch Relief Wipe

Anti-diarrhea medication



Germicidal hand wipes or waterless alcohol-based hand sanitizer.

Hydrocortizone Ointment

CPR Barrier, Shield

Surgical Gloves



Safety Pins, #2


1 tube of superglue—superglue was designed as a first aid tool; just dump it in any small cut, smoosh closed,

and done.


Toilet paper roll


Plastic garbage bags, ties (for personal sanitation uses)


Household chlorine bleach

Soap, Shampoo (you know all those samples you keep picking up and bringing home from hotels? Now is the

time to clear out your stash).



Grab your sleeping bag and pad from your camping gear—when you go camping, get it FROM your disaster kit, not the other way around.

Next, go find that lame tshirt you don’t like wearing, and a thin jacket, and a pair of undies, and some socks, and put it in there. Shazam: you now have a clean change of clothes. Do the same for your partner/kids.

Advanced Class

Now that you have all that sorted, here’s a few extra items to consider. We keep a 5 gallon can of fuel stashed outside our house—that’s enough to give us 100 miles of range. Also, since we’re burners, we have a 1000W Honda Wisperwatt generator outside—cause what good is a disaster without a string of Christmas lights and some beats? We also put out a chainsaw, because you don’t want to go through a 2×4 with a hand tool. And we

also have a full disaster kit in the trunk of our car, because just looking at the odds, we’re equally likely to be away from home as at home.

But all that comes later. First things first—go to Goodwill on your way home. Get a big packpack, and start packing.

See you at the afterparty!

8 thoughts on “How To Survive The Apocalypse on $20 and the stuff in your apartment

  1. Patrick

    I would add honey to the list, if you cannot find any thing for a wound. My wife is a nurse and they have used it on diabetics that have bad skin ulcers that will not heal and honey worked. Any honey will do the job.
    Honey is an ancient remedy for the treatment of infected wounds, which has recently been ‘rediscovered’ by the medical profession, particularly where conventional modern therapeutic agents are failing. There are now many published reports describing the effectiveness of honey in rapidly clearing infection from wounds, with no adverse effects to slow the healing process; there is also some evidence to suggest that honey may actively promote healing. In laboratory studies, it has been shown to have an antimicrobial action against a broad spectrum of bacteria and fungi. However, further research is needed to optimise the effective use of this agent in clinical practice.

    1. Biff Biffington

      Ah, yes. Clostridium botulinum endospores, rubbed directly into an open wound. Just what a person needs, right in the middle of a natural disaster. Excellent idea, hippy.

      1. BrandyG

        I agree to add honey to the list, for the simple reason that it has properties that stop it from going bad, just because it crystalizes doesnt mean its bad, so it will last for a very long time if kept sealed and uncontaminated (this may vary by brand and bee diet, I’m not sure if this applies to all honey, so double check).

        However, even though there is evidence of some honey being very useful on some kinds of wounds, its a very specific kind of sterile honey that comes from specific bees eating a specific plant in a specific area, unfortunately the specifics escape me at the moment, that has been shown to be very helpful and having no side effects found, but the kind of honey most people have at home is likely not that kind, because it is expensive and the very small quanitiy in production is being snatched up by medical people and manufacturers.

        It is being sold in a form that is similar to a gooey bandaid or a leg waxing strip, but Ive never been able to find any for sale to private buyers myself, that doesn’t mean it cant be found though, and may be found in other forms too, thats just the kind Ive seen.

        And as I am not a doctor by any means, simply a very sick person whos spent alot of time researching medical stuff, I’m no expert, but I would advize, based on my limited knowledge, to attempt all other forms of wound cleansing possible first, and only use table honey as a last resort where the person would die without treatment either way, you know what I mean, at least that way its only used when more harm cant really be done… because its not likely to work, and can be contaminated or the person could be allergic, and it might make them worse…

        When I heard about the medical honey I got very excited too, but the sound bite most people got doesnt cover the “core” of the facts…

        I encourage you not to take my word for it and do some research for yourself, as always, think for yourself and question everything you hear and read, it can only help you.

  2. BG

    Topical application of honey is beneficial in the treatment of wounds and burns, according to a review article in the Journal of Wound, Ostomy, and Continence Nursing (2002;29:295–300).

    Don’t go off half cocked before you have the facts.

    1. Biff Biffington

      There are plenty of “alternative” medical journals pushing this sort of clap-trap. I’m sure with a 15 minute Google search I could find articles advocating ground spider legs as a cure for Hodgkin’s.
      Feel free to kill your patients any way you like. I’ll stick to evidence-based medicine, and therapies which actually work.

      1. Dave in VA

        Sounds pretty serious, Biff. Have you heard of an adult dying from topical application of honey to a wound? If so, where and when?

  3. Max Entropy

    May I add a pistol and a couple of boxes of ammo. This is for when looters, hooligans, thugs, gangsters or your neighbors, who weren’t prepared come calling. A shotgun works also and the noise that it makes when chambering a shell is an effective deterrent.

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