Essentials of Preparedness, Part 1: Tools and Tangibles

Posted on Feb 23, 2012 in Emergency Preparedness & Survival, Featured Articles, Urban Gardening, Farming & Homesteading

Kevin Hayden –

Source: Southern Plains Consulting by Mark Smith; Edited by Kevin Hayden

Like so many generations before, it was my father who first taught me about tools as I was growing up.  The names of the tools, their uses, how to properly care for them, and what not to do so I could avoid injury were all part of the lessons he ingrained in me.  Early in my adult life, I spent eight years in the military repairing fixed-wing jet aircraft and later, helicopters.  After my time in service was over, I spent several years working in the emergency services sector, including wild land fire fighting and emergency management.  Tools have been a big part of my ability to earn a living and play a vital role in my prepping, my ability to rebuild infrastructure after a disaster, gardening, and homesteading.

Hayden’s Note:

I talk many times on about investing in tangibles for both wealth protection and bartering.  Quality tools are an integral part of those “tangibles.”  Read on to learn which ones you need!

Tools can be the difference between surviving and not surviving.  If you want to grow food, do you not need a shovel, rake, and hoe?  At the very least, some small hand tools would sure help the process of gardening!  Without tools, you can not repair vehicles, fix plumbing problems, or construct buildings.  Even the old mountain men and early pioneers had a collection of tools that would often mean the difference in having food and shelter, or dying, as some jobs simply can not be accomplished without them.

Tim Allen, a comedian who often focuses on tools and other “guy stuff,” said, “I don’t know what it does, but it sure looks good on my pegboard!”  While humorous, it doesn’t convey the seriousness of the issue.  You need tools; you need to be able to identify them and understand their purpose.

So what kind of tools should a person have?  Here is a list that I feel as though represents some of the core tools that should be in your garage, at your retreat, or in your shop.  Please feel free to leave comments, and add to the list. I have broken the listing down into several sections: Essential Pioneer Tools, Additional Tools, Electrical/Large Shop Tools, and Consumables.  I have bolded some items to denote that these should be the first on your shopping list under their respective headings.

Essential Pioneer Tools

  • Axe – various types
  • Coping saw
  • Duct tape
  • Hammers – claw, ball peen, roofing, sledge, mallet, deadfall
  • Hacksaw
  • Drills – either hand operated, or cordless (but requires charging capability!)
  • Gloves – leather, mechanic’s, neoprene, gardening
  • Hand saw
  • Hoe
  • Nails, assorted
  • Screws, assorted
  • Needle nose pliers, both regular and angled
  • Pick-axe
  • Post hole diggers
  • Pry bars – assorted sizes
  • Punch and chisel set
  • Rake, both leaf and garden variety
  • Rasp
  • Screwdrivers – Standard, Phillips, and micro sets
  • Shovels – spade, squared, and trench, among others
  • Socket set – standard, metric
  • Wire – steel, electrical, etc.
  • Wrench set – standard, metric

Additional Tools

  • Allen wrenches
  • Assorted “C”clamps or grips
  • Chalk line
  • Channel lock pliers
  • Chipping hammer
  • Crow’s feet sockets
  • Diagonal cut pliers
  • Eye protection – goggles, glasses, etc
  • File set – regular & fine jeweler’s type
  • Inspections mirror
  • Snap ring pliers with attachments
  • Socket set – ¼, 3/8, and ½” drives with extensions
  • Staple gun
  • Tap and die set
  • Tarps
  • Telescoping magnet
  • Torque wrenches – foot, inch pounds
  • Vise grip pliers – assorted sizes
  • Wheelbarrow
  • Wire brushes
  • Wire strippers
  • Wrench set – standard, metric, box end, offset, line, ratchet, offset ratchet

Power Tools / Shop Equipment

  • Air compressor
  • Cement mixer
  • Cordless Drill, with bits (preferably 18v, but 12v can be recharged from car battery, though not as powerful)
  • Corded Drill
  • Drill press
  • Flammable items storage locker or similar
  • Grinder
  • Impact wrench and tools
  • Hand truck (or dolly, as it’s called in some parts of the world)
  • Hydraulic press
  • Jig saw
  • Lathe
  • Lighting units – portable, various wattages available
  • Miter saw
  • Oxy / Acetylene torch
  • Part bins
  • Radial saw
  • Sander
  • Soldering gun with flux and solder
  • Storage shelves
  • Table saw
  • Timing light
  • Tool box
  • Welder
  • Work benches


  • Electrical tape                                                                        
  • Teflon tape
  • Duct tape
  • Nails, assorted
  • Screws, assorted
  • Nuts, assorted
  • Bolts, assorted
  • Washers, assorted
  • Cotter pins, assorted
  • Springs, assorted
  • O-rings, assorted
  • Roll pins, assorted
  • Solder
  • Flux
  • Electrical wire, all sizes
  • Electrical connectors, assorted
  • WD-40
  • 3 in 1 oil
  • Grease – assorted weights, tube, can
  • Rags
  • Pipe joint compound
  • Steel wire, assorted
  • Zip ties, assorted
  • Tooth brushes
  • Hand cleaner
  • Welding rods
  • Parts cleaner
  • Chalk – stick and powdered
  • String
  • Rope – assorted
  • PVC – pipes, connectors, joints, caps
  • Paint of some sort – spray paint, cans, buckets, brushes (for protecting surfaces)
  • Cement – either bags of instant, or excess piles of sand, rock, etc.
  • PVC cement
  • PVC cleaner
  • Cutting torch gasses
  • Sandpaper – various grits
  • Staples
  • Saw blades (coping, hacksaw, jig)
  • Assorted hardware – hinges, hooks, hasps, turnbuckles,
  • Electrical boxes, conduit, fixtures, switches, outlets,
  • Plumbing – washers, o-rings, valves, pipe, repack kits, tubing, faucets, spigots

So, why would we want all of these?  First and foremost, I am not saying that you need all of the items listed above.

So why include all of these items if I don’t need them?  The intent of this article is to provide you with a checklist, of sorts, so that you can work towards obtaining the essential items, and continue to expand as time and money permits.

Another fact to consider is that the lists above are in no way complete.  There are a number of items that could easily be added to all of them. The largest omissions are the specialty tools, such as brake pliers or hydraulic line wrenches. The lists are there to give you an idea of what is available and useful in a general manner.  Perhaps you are building an off-grid homestead and have no use for anything but traditional pioneer tools.  There are another 25 or so tools that could easily be added to that sort of list, such as tools for discing, cutting foliage, and much more.

Trying to balance the lengths of the lists against the truly essential items can be tough, and boils down to personal choice.  One of the goals of preparedness is self-sufficiency, and in order to get as close as possible to that goal, tools of all sizes and types play a role.  If you discover one day after it hits the fan that you need to repair your eyeglasses, an eight pound sledgehammer, while useful, isn’t going to be much help in keeping your glasses on your face.  It is a balance between needs, skill, storage space, and financial resources.

How do you get the tools you need without bankrupting yourself?

It is important to buy quality tools.  Brands such as Craftsman, Snap-On, S & K, Husky, and MAC are among the best. Does this mean it is going to cost you a fortune to outfit a decent tool box?  No necessarily.  Start out with a decent tool kit from Sears, Wal-Mart, Home Depot, Lowe’s, or many other places.  A good starter tool kit should contain at least a selection of sockets and the ratchet attachments, several screwdrivers, three or four different styles of pliers, and a hammer.

Another great way to help keep cost down is to visit garage sales.   Many times you can find single tools and items for pennies on the dollar!  Another place to consider is a second hand store, pawn shop, or consignment store.

In regards to pawn shops, a number of name brand tools can be found on the cheap side.  People will pawn some really nice things in order to raise cash to pay their electrical bill, and often times never, ever return.  The tools you find at pawn shops might be a little dirty, or rusty, but that can be easily fixed and for a whole lot less than retail price!

One other important factor to consider when mulling over the need to purchase tools, and that is bartering.  In the case of disaster, the ability to construct and repair items could be of immense value in a barter economy. When the opportunity presents itself, are you going to be prepared to help out or barter?  if not, someone else will certainly fill that void and you’ll miss out.

And last but not least, always clean your tools when finished with them.  This helps lengthen their lifespan, reduces malfunctions, and makes your life much easier, not to mention saving you money in the long run!

Take the time to invest in the purchase of quality tools; it won’t be a failed investment.

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