Top 20 Things You Need To Grab Before The SHTF Journey

Do you have unprepared or under-prepared loved ones who will be journeying to your survival-ready home or compound after the SHTF? I don’t mean all of the friends and co-workers who have relentlessly mocked your prepping habit but your adult children, teens away at college or siblings – perhaps even a favorite cousin?

If your adult and college-age children are planning on coming to your home during a doomsday disaster, they need to have not just a detailed plan A, B, and C for getting there, but also an organized plan to exit their home quickly with a list of items to bring with them – or perhaps attempt to stop and buy or grab on the way there.

Some preppers are part of a highly-organized mutual assistance group of fellow active survivalists. But, many of us prep in more of a tribe type environment – especially if you grew upcountry. In our rural haven, so many folks are essentially already “preppers” but either doesn’t know it or never really thought of applying the label to themselves. They hunt, trap, grow and preserve their own food, can find their way in the woods, and fix or build about anything they need on their homestead.

Enlisting relatively like-minded people in your community to be a part of your bugging in plan because of the skills they can bring to the group could be a very good idea. A nurse, EMT, police officers, vet, a former member of the military, are just a few examples of the types of folks that could be of value during a SHTF scenario even if they are not survivalists with a stockpile of preps – but they also need a plan to get from where they are to your retreat and know what to bring with them as well.

Earlier this week I quizzed one young couple that we have been survival mentors to for several years. The couple and their two young children know to come to our place when the world goes pear-shaped.

Being 20-somethings with two toddlers, they do not have much of a budget to invest in prepping stockpiles, but they are hard-working and continuing to enhance their survival skills on a daily basis. Two extra able bodies with some skills and a determination to do what it takes to protect their boys will definitely be an asset when the time comes to hunker down and ride out the apocalypse.

When asking the wife what they needed to bring from their home when bugging out to our place, I realized I had neglected to cover this aspect of preparedness more than I should have – or assumed too much about the thought process that would occur when the urge to grab your children and flee hits.

The wife hit all the basics, food, first aid supplies, clothes, and blankets. If we had not had the conversation at the end of a work detail at our place, a massive amount of valuable materials would have been left behind.

Preppers love lists, and it’s time to add one more to your survival to-do binder! Make a detailed list (make a poster board photo array list if necessary!) for your under-prepared tribe members and adult children so they can have a constant and visual reminder of what to grab when the SHTF.

Top 20 Things Your Adult Children And Tribe Members Need Grab Before The SHTF Journey To Your Prepper Retreat

1. Food – This one should be a given, but still deserve a spot on the list as a reminder. Salt, baking soda, baking powder, and spices should be among the first things to go into the SHTF relocation food boxes.

2. First Aid Supplies – Yes, another given, but remind your tribe members that honey has medicinal properties, to bring every pair of scissors they own, and to pack their sheets to be cut up for extra bandages, if necessary, as well. Tissues, chapstick, and sunblock also should not be left behind.

3. Cleaning Supplies – You cannot ever have enough germ-fighters! Illness and disease will spread quickly during a long-term disaster, especially with so many people living in tight quarters. Keeping the home clean on a daily basis will be the best way to prevent the spread of infection, flu, or debilitating case of the common cold. Vinegar, rubbing alcohol, witch hazel, and lemon juice should be considered cleaning supplies and included in what your off-site tribe member brings with them.

4. Clothing, Socks, Shoes, Boots, and Gloves – The apocalypse will not be a fashion show, but ample clothing for all seasons must still make the journey to the survival retreat. If the tribe members include your grandchildren or other children, do not forget how quickly they grow out of clothes, shoes, and coat, when preparing to bug in. It will be easy for a panicked “kinda prepper” to forget to grab their thermal underwear, gloves, and scarves if the SHTF in July, address this with them now before it is too late.

5. Batteries – Every size that the tribe members have; along with all of their flashlight and solar landscaping lights – they make superb “flashlights” as well; need to be packed into the car.

6. Toiletries – All toothpaste, dental floss, a roll of toilet paper (making a bidet out of a clean pesticide spray will work better long term) shampoo, soap, etc.

7. Laundry and Dish Soap – Cleanliness will help prevent the spread of germs when it comes to clothing and cookware as well.

8. Photo Albums – Photos of your loved ones could be lost forever if you do not take them with you.

9. Documents – A fireproof box filled with your property deed, insurance documents, financial documents, and copies of your driver’s license, Social Security card, etc. should be kept handy at all times and packed up to go to the prepper retreat as well.

10. Tools and Hardware – All hand tools, boxes of nails, screws, and as many power tools as can fit in the vehicles making the journey to the prepper retreat, should be packed up as well.

11. Fluids – All the cans of gasoline, propane, kerosene, fuel stabilizer, 2-cycle oil, brake fluid, and even fix-a-flat, need to be taken to the survival retreat. All off-site tribe members should store enough gasoline to get them from where they are to you at all times, Counting on a gas station being open, reachable, and still have fuel left in the pumps could cause the demise of your loved ones on day #1 of SHTF.

12. Maps – The GPS and cellphones should not be relied upon for guidance during a doomsday disaster. Even if your tribe members known one or two ways to get to your retreat by car; those roads might be clogged or otherwise impassable – or car travel no longer possible because of an EMP. Maps of the surrounding counties, including topography maps, should be kept in the fireproof box of the bugout bag as well.

13. Comfort Items – Each child should be allowed to fill up a single backpack with comfort items to help make the SHTF relocation and new home at little less traumatizing.

14. Extension Cords – If generator power is going to be used; both indoor and outdoor extension cords will come in handy. Even if you have these stockpiled at your retreat, more is always better and the extra ones can be used as repair parts if necessary.

15. Pet Food – If you are bringing your pets to the prepper retreat; do not forget their food, dog beds, etc.

16. Glasses and Contacts – The off-site loved ones will probably remember to bring their one pair of glasses, contacts in an open box, and saline solution, but that will not be enough vision gear to get them through a long-term disaster. Convince your tribe members to invest in a year’s worth of contacts, saline, and at least one extra pair of glasses and several repair kits. If the off-site retreat members are your adult children or grandchildren, purchase these items for them and store them at your bug in location. Sunglasses should be a part of the eye care grab and go list of items as well.

17. Plants and Gardening Supplies – If your tribe members were growing any crops, herbs or medicinal plants at their home, they need to come with them also. If their crops were grown in containers, make space for them if possible.

If space is not available or the plants were growing in the ground; pick them all and put them in a laundry bag for the commute. This way, seeds can be harvest from crops that are not yet mature and the leaves, roots, or stems of medicinal plants and herbs can be dried and preserved.

18. Insect Repellent and Bug Spray – Every bit of buy spray your tribe members have needs to come with them. Sprays that are for the skin and for spraying to get rid of hornets, ants, etc. around the home will be needed throughout the disaster.

19. Writing Materials and Spray Paint – Leaving messages for each other and saving information will not likely be able to be completed using text messages or a note jotted down on an electronic tablet.

Paper, pens, pencils, markers, and spray paint (for permanent signs or emergency warnings) will be needed during the doomsday disaster for messaging, project planning, and educational classes for children.

20. Camping Gear – Tents, battery, propane, and solar-powered lanterns, camping stoves, etc. Even if the prepper retreat is top-notch and have multiple off-grid power options, having a backup plan for shelter and other essentials only make good sense. If the trek to the survival compound takes days or weeks and not hours or day like planned; or an evacuation of the retreat one day becomes necessary, having a stockpile of extra camping gear will likely save lives.

Prepping For Your Arrivals

I routinely pick up clothing in all sizes for all seasons at yard sales and church rummage sales where everything you can fit in a grocery store sack is only $1 or $3. Many folks in our tribe have young children or are of child-bearing age. During a long-term disaster, children will grow and babies will be born; the need for a variety of sizes of clothing, shoes, socks, and coats will surely arise.

I stock up on extra outerwear, including shoelaces, for adults as well. Rugged use of outerwear, work gloves, and boots will cause them to wear out far more quickly. I never throw away damaged clothing or leather boots. Stained or torn clothing can be cut apart and sewn into clothing for a child, used as rags, or become patching or stuffing for pillows, quilts, etc.

Leather boots that you have worn out beyond repair and leather from old tack can also be repurposed into a saddlebag, patching for worn gear, a satchel for toting foraged material; fish; etc.

Storage and Living For Your Prepping Arrivals

Storage space inside your bugging in home or prepper retreat will be at a premium when everyone arrives. Use each available space to the best of your advantage.

  • Pick up some old dressers at yard sales; put caster wheels on the bottom; and turn them into under the bed storage.
  • Ditch the dressers; they take up too much floor space. Build shelving units into the closet so every inch of space can be used and mount shelving to the wall so clothing and shoes can be stored. The area can be covered with a curtain mounted around the shelving unit; to create a more attractive and “at home” look; if desired.
  • Put hook on the closet doors and the back of the room too to hold coats; a mounted shoe rack; or a hanging fabric shoe holder to store toiletries; toys for the children; and other small items. Hanging shoe racks can also be hung from the bunk beds for additional storage.
  • If you home has tall ceilings; build a loft in each bedroom to increase either sleeping or storage areas – or both.
  • Turn the bedrooms in your home into family living quarters. A queen bed and a set of bunk beds should be able to fit into almost any standard-size bedroom. A sleeper sofa could be used instead of a queen bed to provide a seating area so the family or couple can have a bit of privacy in what will likely be an over-crowded home.
  • Saw a wood table in half and mount it to a wall with a bracket that will allow it to fold flat or be propped out without taking up floor space except when needed. A chair or two can sit flush against the wall table until needed.
  • If there will be multiple children living at the survival retreat; devote a room to their care. Yes; an entire room – build one onto the home if necessary. The apocalypse will be tough on everyone; especially the children. Creating a special place for them to spend their time when not doing chores; will help restore a sense of normalcy and allow a homeschool area for engaging in basic and vocational/survival education activities. An elderly or inform member of the group; or a teenage; can be placed in charge of the child care area and tend to babies and toddlers and to teach the older children on a daily basis so mommy and daddy can do their part with more essential chores. Paint a chalkboard wall in the room for both playtime and educational purposes.

Grab And Go Store Items

Getting out and getting out now; should be the only true priority of off-site loved ones who are trying to get to your retreat. Failure to act fast could trap them right where they are for the rest of their lives – which could unfortunately be a drastically shortened amount of time.

Ideally; there will be no stopping between the rapid exit of the home and the survival compound for your off-site tribe members. But; if an area is deemed safe to stop; doing so could be highly advantageous.

All of our prepping and under-prepared loved ones have a “store list” based upon their geographic location. If feasible; they know where to stop and what to grab. Because we live in a rural area; the concern about immediate marauding hordes is little to none. We do not need them to stop and buy or barter for extra supplies; but if safety allows; a brief stop could bolster the level of supplies even more.

Depending upon the nature of the disaster; the tribe members will use all of their available cash (they have been trained to keep ample cash on hand – as well as gold and silver reserved for emergency situations and long-term barter only) and to even max out their plastic; to garner supplies.

Typical panicked buying items will disappear quickly; but there will likely be copious amounts of valuable supplies left on store shelves because the unprepared and under-prepared will not realize their value.

SHTF Shopping Mega Stores

  • Walmart; Kmart; Target; Costco – These stores have a little but of almost everything – that is why the hordes will hit them first; making them among the most dangerous places to stop. If you do stop; go to only the sections that do not involve food; booze; ammo; and medication – there will be nothing left unless you are an extreme early arrival; the crowds will likely become violent; and food; ammo; and medications should already be stocked in abundance at the prepper retreat.
  • Tractor Supply; Rural King – Agriculture store like these will probably not experience any increased traffic during the early SHTF panic stage. If you have a trailer on your pickup truck or other means of pulling non-essential items you packed from your home; grab as many bags of livestock feed and care items as possible; tools; hardware; boots; outerwear; comfort items; and even any snack foods that are place in the impulse buy section near the checkout counters.
  • Family Dollar; Dollar General – The mini-Walmart type stores are likely the only places besides a small grocery store (two if you are really lucky) to purchase food in rural counties. They will be jam packed with panicked people as well; but aisle that serve as smaller sections of the big box stores selling automotive supplies; office supplies; cleaning supplies; etc. exist here too and will not be a priority for frightened non-preppers with no loved ones waiting for their arrival at a survival compound.
  • Tourism Shops – These stores will not be on the radar of the marauding hordes until all groceries and outdoors stores have been looted. Tourism stores; campground stores; and state park stores typically sell sunglasses; bug repellent; sunblock; sunburn protection; clothing; shoes; etc.
  • Hardware and Automotive Stores – Bartering items gallore will be waiting for you at these stores. People with food and self-defense on their minds are not thinking about screws; nails; and oil changes. Unless the SHTF event is a super tornado or hurricane; there will not be any competition for goods at Home Depot; Lowe’s; or Menards.

The items on the last minute grabs list will also be great bartering materials

1. Hardware – nails; screws; hinges; nuts; bolts; glues; hand tools; plastic zip ties; wire; fix-a-flat; ratchet straps; WD40; liquid nails; sandpaper; caulk; caulking guns; etc;

2. Gardening Supplies – seeds; gardening gloves; knee pads; seed starting supplies; canning jars; lids; and rings; planters; potting soil.

3. Cleaning Supplies – bleach; scouring pads; mops; brooms; buckets; etc.

4. Solar Lights – The landscaping lights will make great flashlights; as noted above.

5. Sewing – Small travel size sewing kits; thread; needles; buttons; straight pins; and safety pins.

6. Mouse Traps – These can also be used as an early-warning off grid warning system around the perimeter of your property – or around a vehicle if the off-site tribe members are forced to camp in their vehicle while traveling to the retreat. Simply tie a glow stick to the trap; affix it to a tree or branch driven into the ground by the vehicle; and set it.

7. Cotton Balls – When secured to the skin with medical tape; or even duct tape (grab some of that too if you can find it!) they will work as a makeshift bandage on small wounds. Cotton balls can also be dipped into wax or petroleum jelly and used as a fires starter.

8. Bags – You won’t ever have too many garbage bags; food storage bags; or aluminum foil.

9. Rope and Chain – Any gauge or type; could come in handy.

10. Automotive Supplies – Funnels; fuel filters; oil; anti-freeze; etc.

11. Comfort Items – No; these are not essential and definitely not worth risking your neck to get; but imagine how much of a morale booster a bottle of fingernail polish; small toy; hair dye; slippers; perfume; etc. would be for your loved ones during an apocalyptic Christmas; anniversary; or birthday. The marauding hordes will likely skip the cosmetics aisle and after shave aisle completely when looting every store they pass searching for food; drugs; and weapons.

12. Witch Hazel – It has many cleaning and natural alternative medicine uses.

13. Essential Oils – Any and all should be grabbed; there will be time to sort them out later.

14. Fire Extinguishers – You will not be able to call the fire department after the SHTF.

15. Pet Medications – Some preppers plan on using livestock and fish medications and first aid supplies during a long-term disaster. If you are considering doing the same; a store like Tractor Supply should be on your “stop and grab” if we can list.


When preparing for off-site loves ones to bug in at your retreat; map out sleeping areas and a work schedule in advance to avoid confusion during the early days of the disaster. If everyone knows their role and where they will be bunking; the level of stress which is already heightened; won’t be enhanced further.

The entire tribe should be equipped with 2-way long range radios so they can communicate as soon as they are near enough to the survival compound. A system for rotating channels and a simple and covert communication code should also be devised – do not assume others will not be picking up your conversation; as well.