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Ask any non-prepper on the street what’s needed for survival, and you’ll probably get the answer, “food, clothing and shelter.” I’m not sure where that idea started, but I’ve heard it all my life. The sad thing is that way too many people think that it’s true, and while those three things are actually needed for survival, that little line leaves off some of the most important items — especially water.
Yet it does include clothing, which is something those in the preparedness community normally leave off a list of the highest survival needs. Instead, we use the term “homeostasis,” which refers to maintaining our body heat. Clothing is one of the things that helps us do that, in addition to shelter and fire.
We shouldn’t minimize clothing as a necessity for survival… yet we often do. You rarely find clothing listed on anyone’s list of things we need to stockpile, nor do you find it included in most bug-out bag lists. But it should be in both. Whether you’re bugging out or bugging in, you’ll need something to wear.
Of course, you could just say, “I have clothing, no problem” and I wouldn’t be surprised if you did. Considering that clothing is a durable item and that we all have closets full of the stuff, it really doesn’t seem much like an issue. But again, it is.
There are two ways that clothing could become a major issue in a survival situation. The first is that most of the clothing we own isn’t appropriate for survival. The second is that our children will easily outgrow their clothing if we find ourselves in a long-term survival situation.
Is Your Clothing Appropriate?
Let’s look at your closet first. Most survival situations are hard on the body, and therefore hard on the wardrobe, too. Yet the vast majority of the clothing in most of our closets is there because it is attractive, not because it is rugged. How much of it can you actually wear while hunting, gardening, digging a hole for an outhouse or trenching cross-country on a bug-out?
Unless you work in the construction trades, or some other job where you wear rugged clothing all the time, your wardrobe is probably lacking in that sort of clothing. Oh, you’ll have some blue jeans and T-shirts, and you’ll probably have some flannel shirts or sweaters for cold weather, but do you have enough?
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Even worse than your clothing, how are your shoes? About the only shoes that you might have which will be appropriate for survival are tennis shoes, unless you have some hiking boots somewhere.
If you are forced to bug out, you’ll need both rugged clothing and rugged shoes. The stuff you wear to the office every day just won’t do. For that matter, I’d hate to try cutting firewood in work clothes and shoes. I wouldn’t even want to do it wearing tennis shoes. I’d want something that would protect my feet — hiking boots or some good work boots.
The good news is that it won’t take much to rectify the problem. Buy some rugged clothing and some good rugged boots. Either hiking boots or work boots will do. Make sure that you take the time to break them in, though. The last thing you need to do is head out on a bug-out with boots that you’ve never worn.
And Then There’s the Kids
The bigger problem really isn’t your clothing; it’s that of your kids. As we all know, kids go thorough clothing like crazy. They either get holes in it or outgrow it. Either way, they are in regular need of new clothing. That definitely could be a problem, especially in a long-term survival situation.
Of course, your kids will need rugged clothes and boots, just like you do. You really don’t want your kids trekking through the woods on a bug-out without some sort of footwear that will give them ankle support. Kids are just too prone to accidents.
So, how do you deal with the issue of clothing for your kids? Whatever you buy them, they’ll outgrow. It would seem you’ll never get ahead in this game, yet there is a way to get ahead, especially when your kids are smaller and less likely to complain about their clothing styles.
Here’s what my wife and I did: When our children were still children (they’re adults now), we bought their clothes ahead of time. In other words, we didn’t buy the clothes they needed now, we bought the clothing they would need in two to three years. We started this when they were babies and outgrowing their clothes every few months. We just kept it up as they continued to grow.
Part of what made this possible was that my wife is a world-class champion garage-saler. When our children were small, just about all their clothing came from garage sales, especially our girls’ party dresses. There was one time that each of the girls had over 30 fancy dresses they could choose from, in their wardrobe, as well as less elegant clothing. All of it came from garage sales, at a fraction of the original price.
As they grew older, less and less of their clothing came from garage sales. It seems that the older that kids get, the harder they are on their clothing, especially boys. They also wear it longer, so it has more time to wear out. Nevertheless, we kept the system going, switching from buying their clothing at garage sales, to buying their clothing at whatever sales we could find.
Clothing has the highest retail markup of nearly anything, often in the 80 percent range. That means that something you pay $100 for in the store is really worth $20 at wholesale. This huge markup explains how clothing stores can have such incredible sales and still not go out of business.
If you’re buying ahead of time, there’s no problem waiting for the sales. You’ll be able to find what you want, at prices that won’t break the bank. Then you can stash it away, in the attic or basement, in boxes marked by sizes. When it’s time for new clothing, all you have to do is take out the next size box rather than rushing to the store.
Running a system like this, you can have two to three years worth of clothing on hand for your kids at all times, without spending a ridiculous amount of money. Granted, the clothing you’ve bought ahead of time may not be the latest style, but they’ll have clothes to wear. You can always buy them a couple of “in things” to add to that, rounding out their wardrobe.
More importantly from a survival point of view, if a major disaster happens, your kids will have enough clothing to keep them going for several years.
Let’s Go One Step Further
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Merely stockpiling clothing will go a long way toward ensuring that your family has what it needs, just like stockpiling food and toilet paper will. But let’s take that one step further. If we assume an event that requires long-term survival, your stockpiled clothing probably won’t be enough. In that case, it would be a good idea to be able to make your own.
Now, I realize that few people make their clothing anymore. It’s just not all that practical in our modern world, with so much commercially manufactured clothing available.
But learning to sew isn’t all that hard. I recently had to learn how to do it, because I was making a couple of bullet-proof vests. With a little knowledge and a sewing machine, you can make just about anything. Granted, you’ll also need a few other things, like fabric and thread, so you should probably buy some of them, as well (especially thread). You can always get fabric by cutting apart clothing that’s too big, to make clothing for smaller people.
Remember, we’re talking survival here. In such a situation, your children’s complaints about style won’t matter. They’ll need something to wear, regardless of what it is. I seriously doubt that their friends will keep pressuring them to wear the “in” brands when everyone is trying simply to survive.
One final point. If we assume a long-term event, then we’re probably going to be without electricity. That means that a sewing machine isn’t going to do you much good, unless you have a means of creating your own electricity. The other option is to buy an antique treadle machine and have that for your survival sewing. Turn it into a decoration in your home, and nobody will know that it’s actually a part of your plans.
What advice would you add on stockpiling clothing? Share your thoughts in the section below:
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