The One Long Term Survival Tool Everyone Forgets

Guest post by Mark M., a prepper in Great Britain.

OK, the SHTF big time, and it is going to be a very long time until things settle down. You, as a prepper, have your food, medication and fuel stores, your guns and ammo, your water and power needs sorted out and your retreat. You have even arranged allies amongst your neighbours. You are set to ride this thing out until things slowly get back to normal. Your garden is growing, and the odd intruding deer, raccoons and rabbits that fancy a free lunch are making a welcome addition to your meat stores.

image by o5com

You have probably forgotten all about the major tool for serious long term survival.

Entertainment. After all, there are not going to be any TV shows or movies for a while. Talk radio is off the air, and the HAM radio is used for contact first, gossip second.

Books are not just for information but, more importantly, entertainment. A musical instrument or two, if you or one of your party are blessed with musical ability. Songs, as anyone who has had to do a route march knows, makes even the most mind numbing tasks bearable. Music in general, as there is nothing more pleasing than listening to music of an evening.

For books, my family has a mix. Some are just paper and ink, mainly the how-to manuals and the repair manuals for every piece of machinery we have. At the insistence of my wife, one inclusion I should mention is a good vegetarian cookbook, for the summer months. The ability to trot out into the garden, grab some veggies and make a truly tasty and interesting meal without digging into your meat store is not to be sneezed at, yet, like most preppers, it was a blind spot for me.

We have three Kindles, and a hand cranked charger that will charge them and our MP3 player. A hand crank charger is dirt cheap, easily repaired if it breaks and takes up almost zero room (as usual, I am not affiliated with this site or product in any way, merely a happy customer). Two of the Kindles have yet more manuals on them, with duplication of the vital ones

image by basykes

like the Bible, Gray’s Anatomy, the Handbook of Medicine, various gardening books and, oddly, several law books. One of the things to be considered in a community after TSHTF is law, which a lot of people don’t consider. American readers might want to add the constitution to their list, though I would bet that most preppers can recite that by heart! The third Kindle though, is the most important one. Stuffed with books, both classics and modern, children’s and adult, fantasy and biography. Many of these are free.  We already have the habit of reading to each other in the evening, which is surprisingly entertaining, and is a good habit to develop.

Music, well, there is the MP3 player, as mentioned. Three of them, in fact, each with SD card slots. Our entire music library (something I am REALLY going to regret losing when TSHTF, but it is simply too bulky to move) is all on SD cards. A battery powered docking station, with a solar charger, lets more than one person listen at a time. Instrument wise, we have 12 sets of guitar strings – bugging out with a guitar on your back is, shall we say, impractical. I can make a guitar or a dulcimer easy enough, but the strings I cannot make. Drums are easy enough to make and provide a good beat for evening singalongs.

Prepping is for survival. This I understand and approve of. Simply surviving, though, is not living. I have added maybe 3 pounds to your survival preps with this post, but have added a huge amount to your quality of life.

Lisa’s Note: For those of you over 45 or so, don’t forget to stock up on a few extra pairs of reading glasses!

There may be links in the post above that are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission, which does not affect the price you pay for the product. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. 

© Copyright 2011 The Survival Mom, All rights Reserved. Written For: The Survival Mom
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I'm the original Survival Mom, and have been helping moms worry less and enjoy their homes and families more for 5 years. Come join me on my journey to becoming more prepared to handle everyday emergencies and worst case scenarios.

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  1. JBB says

    Absolutely! And not just for long-term situations, either.

    A few years ago, the power went out along the Northeast Corridor, where the Amtrak trains run from Boston south through NYC, Philadelphia, Baltimore, DC…

    When the power went out, I was on a train about a mile into the tunnel between Baltimore City and Baltimore Airport. We sat there a loooong time, made longer by the fact that the emergency lights don’t last that long.

    But the worst of it was the way everyone seemed so stressed. You could hear it in the absolute stillness in the train. Everyone’s breathing seemed very loud. I had an impish urge to scream, just because I knew if one person did everyone else would likely start too. :) I resisted.

    But even in that situation, some form of entertainment is helpful.

    In my always-with-me supplies, next to my water, space blanket, etc., I have five dice and a deck of cards. That plus knowledge of a handful of games can keep you entertained a long time.

    When Hurricane Irene was heading right toward us, someone asked me what quick tips I could give her for what was likely to happen. I suggested a car charger for her cell phone, water in bottles and some of them in the car too, etc., and then said “And what will you do day after day with the power out? No Netflix, no internet…” and told her about my dice and cards. She said no one had ever suggested that to her before.

    I’m glad to see you thinking about it — it’s more important than a lot of folks realize in a situation where there’s just not much (relaxing) to do.

  2. Christine says

    Thank you!

    Whenever asked about out preparations, I’ve always included what you call ‘entertainment’. We simply call it staying sane.

    Having gone through several hurricanes, our longest time without power was after Hurricane Andrew. We didn’t have much afterward, but family picked up books, cards, dice and a few boardgames and brought them to us, along with clothes & food. It truly did help us keep our sanity in the aftermath.

    Most don’t think about it, but I can say from first hand experience, any type of normalcy that you can do really does help bring a peace of mind and help to get you through another day. Sometimes even another minute.

    Musical instruments would be great, because it means active participation.

    Overall, good info, just don’t forget to have hard copies of those books and manuals, not just on your electronic devices.

  3. says

    Out of curiosity, do you have any form of protection for your Kindles in the event of an EMP? I can see the value of having many books in light, portable electronic form since you've wisely included a hand crank charger, but I'd be concerned about losing it all should the trigger for a SHTF situation being an EMP. Interested to hear your thoughts!

    • Tia says

      Jamie, this is a problem I have spent a lot of time thinking about. I have so many free books downloaded onto my nook it isnt even funny. I also have so many pdf files for my crochet patterns, cookbooks, and well anything I can get in pdf format. I am also filling memory cards with music since my nook can also play music files (I have no clue if the kindle does or not) So what I have thought about is having back ups in a faraday cage. I am lucky that I was given 2 nooks recently so one of them is back up and the other is day to day use. The memory cards are easy to fill and put up. I am trying to figure out how to get my hands on a back up laptop and external hard drive to put away as well. Then of course there is the battery chargers to go with it.

    • Mark M says

      All our small electronics live in a cabinet when not in use. The cabinet is a modified metal office cabinet, so is basically one huge faraday cage already.
      You can easily make a Faraday cage if you don't fancy an earthed metal cabinet sitting in your home!

  4. Jane says

    We also have a Sane box in our supplies. I have crafts, books, coloring books, crayons and colored pens, as well as how to game books about cards. We stock up on how to make stuff books for all ages. Anytime there is a sell I always try to buy things to go in the box. We have started buying board games for all ages and a couple of decks of cards. We even keep extra pocket knives and soap to teach whittling. My children are to young for that right now but it will come in handy in the future. I think I will look for a couple of books on how to make musical instruments now.

    This box came in real handy back in Feb during the ice storms in the south. I am also going to look in to solar powered ways of making the TV , DVD and VHS player to work. I had never really thought about Solar until this year so off to more learning.

  5. says

    We're so wired (whether you think so or not) it will be a difficult adjustment to find entertainment outside of electronics. I would assume my kids will have the most difficult adjustment but, in all likelihood, it will be us adults.

  6. GoneWithTheWind says

    Goodwill and Salvation Army sell books cheap. I can usually get a hard copy of my favorite author for $1 or so. I take these books with me when I fly someplace and when I'm done I leave them in the hotel or other public place people might get to reuse them. I prefer a paperback for the size and convenience but the hard cover book is easier to read in poor light and stays open better on my lap. I have about ten books waiting for my next trip.

  7. Morghan says

    I’m seeing build quality complaints about the crank you linked to. I have solar, but a crank generator would be nice for overcast times, think I’ll look for something more substantial than that one though. Still, for that price, it pays for itself even if it only cranks one charge before breaking.

    • TheSurvivalMom says

      There's a more expensive one on Amazon, but the one in this link is close to the one recommended by the author. I agree that it would be a handy item to have. Quality counts, though.

    • Mark M says

      It's a balance. We have a solar USB charger too (well a pair, cause you know what they say on doubling up!) and one that plugs straight into the generator too. The hand cranks are for when the sun doesn't shine (frequently) or for when the gennie isn't running. At 5 bucks a pop, we have laid in 4 of them total.
      Most of the build quality concerns are on the casing and the crank handle – both fairly easy items to fix should they break.
      I'll be looking for a more robustly built one in the next few months, or, failing that, will buy another of these 5 buck ones, dissect it and build my own.

    • LizLong says

      I bought a hand crank / solar powered emergency radio, etc at the Boy Scout store. (It's like a Swiss Army knife – it does a WHOLE BUNCH of stuff.) It includes a plug in the back to solar / hand crank power anything you can plug in through the USB port.

  8. rightwingmom says

    Excellent article. I've been inspired to begin downloading books on my android phone's Kindle app. (It's addictive!)

    Another choice for hand crank / solar chargers is the American Red Cross. My mother gave me the Eton (with an extra charger) for Christmas. It's awesome! The unit contains a flashlight, AM/FM radio, and cell phone charger all run off hand crank OR solar. It's also small enough to pack in my BOB. I've only tinker with it, and not had to put it to serious use…yet. That said, it seems reasonably durable.

    It runs around $35.

  9. D T says

    Can't afford a Kindle or a Nook or to buy the ebooks for them, but we can make a trip to the dollar store to buy:

    Playing Cards
    Pencils, Crayons
    Sudoku, Crosswords, Word searches
    Small toys for multiple children

    We can also usually pick up quality books (for less than a thrift store sells them) at yard sales.

    • Mark M says

      Spot on, and if your survival scenario includes staying put, I applaud and am all in favor! My own survival scenario involves staying put and staying silent for anything other than a nuke.

      We use the kindles as adjuncts to the physical books. Sometimes, we are going to have to run, that is a given in a TSHTF situation. Having an entire library on three items that weigh less than two pounds is a life saver.

  10. LizLong says

    The Kindle and Nook have free apps you can download onto your desktop. They also have a lot of free (public domain) books.

  11. Sierra Dave says

    Great information.

    It was mentioned to get spare guitar strings. IMHO, spare strings will be a huge trade item. Musicians are uncommon, but when a community cannot get some decent strumming because a string broke. Demand will be much greater than one person's need.

  12. Janet says

    With this issue in mind, and imagining the worst case scenario (hunkering in the basement until the nuclear fallout clears away) I assembled five "entertainment boxes". One holds interesting and inventive jigsaw puzzles (removed from their boxes and placed into ziploks for space saving purposes.) One hold "brain games" such as crosswords, word searches, trivia games, and sudoku. One holds small needlecraft projects such as cross stitch, embroidery, and needlepoint. One holds really interesting books (I skipped the Bible and Shakespeare) such as Tolkien, "The Narnia Chronicles", Stephen King's "The Green Mile", and a series of classic adventure stories. And one holds a large collection of small games such as Yahtzee, Uno, card games galore, and a copy of Hoyle's. Then I also have a box with art projects for kids, mostly consisting of blank paper and crayons and colored pencils. Nobody in MY basement bunker is going to be bored!

  13. skulz fontaine says

    The One Long Term Survival Tool Everyone Forgets, should include the extended works 'The Wit and Wisdom of Mudbone'. It is after all, a must have. For surviving the long interminably long dark cold nuclear winter nights that are surely our fate. Well and, the complete works of Douglas Adams. 'The Long Dark TeaTime Of The Soul' is a keeper. 4 certain.
    Several 'quick-load' shotguns should also prove invaluable.
    peace out.

  14. theora55 says

    I have lots of books. Put your bookshelves on an outside wall, and they’ll help insulate a bit. Playing cards, board games from Goodwill, and books of music & lyrics, because singing is fun, good exercise, brings people together, and lifts the spirits. Read books aloud; it takes kids (and adults) time to re-learn to really listen, and it’s a good way to be together.
    It’s a terrific gift to play an instrument – with a guitar, fiddle, drum, and other instruments, you’ve got the start of a band. People always want to get together, and music is a big part of that.
    Puzzles are easy to find at thrift shops, yard sales, etc. Great idea.
    Learn to tell stories. Print pictures for the family album, and tell stories about Nana, Grampa, The Day You Were Born, How Mom & Dad Met, etc. If you’re religious, read the Bible and the books of your faith aloud.

    Start now. Stop relying on the commercial movie and music industries for entertainment with values that may be against your values. Time spent as a family is a true blessing.

  15. Scott Brown says

    Yes, life is more than survival, it is about thrival!
    *Thrival is my made up word, but I think you get the point.
    Ephesians 3:20
    Thank you!

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