How to Learn Handy Skills

In the spirit of apocalypse planning, let’s talk about really long-term survival strategies. In a zombie outbreak or other cataclysmic event you may find yourself needing to build or repair structures without the help of a construction company. While building a simple survival shelter will keep you alive in the short-term, the comfort and convenience of buildings can’t be overlooked. This is why it can be a good idea to learn the basics of carpentry, or even stonework, prior to an apocalypse.

Seek Real-World Guidance

The internet has hundreds of thousands of resources to help people learn how to use tools and build. If you are serious about learning more than just the basics, however, seek out a course or mentor in your area to learn. There’s nothing like in-person lessons for physical skills – especially ones with potentially dangerous power tools!

Photo by Jana Sabeth on Unsplash

Learn Both Power and Hand Tools

I LOVE my power tools. Nothing beats the convenience of drilling a hole in seconds or sawing through a piece of wood without breaking a sweat. Practical, time-saving know-how like this can come in handy in everyday life. Keep your skills and tools sharp and maintained in case you still have access to a generator in an emergency. However, electricity may not always be available, so practice with the non-powered alternatives too.

Don’t Stop at Tools

Once you know how to saw wood in two and hammer a few nails, you’re done, right? Wrong! There’s a reason people go to school for years to become tradespeople. In the apocalypse you probably won’t need to have your Journeyman’s ticket in a trade (though it can’t hurt!) but you need to know a little more than just basic tool use.

Choose a few small projects to build and find plans that look simple to follow – or ask your teacher/mentor for good places to start. This will help you get a feel for how to fit pieces together in a secure way and create solid corners and joints. You also get something neat to show off to your friends and family!

Practice, Practice, Practice

The fastest way to learn any skill is to practice using it and learn from your mistakes. Once you have the basics down, choose more ambitious projects and keep using your skills. The more you learn, the better off you’ll be in a post-apocalypse.

Know Where to Find What You Need

Have a route planned to your local hardware store and lumber yard. Even if you don’t have the space or resources to keep your own tool-stuffed workshop, if the world ends, you can likely borrow or trade for some tools and materials to get you started.


Hopefully, we will never see a world like those portrayed in Mad Max, Water World, or Robins

on Crusoe where we will need to build our own shelters without the help of a community. Still, it never hurts to be prepared, and the ability to build your own shelters and furniture is useful in day-to-day life as well.

If you’re like me and need your power tools when it comes to carpentry, check out our line of Goal Zero solar generators so you never need to be without your beloved drill or table saw!

This article was written by Zenia Platten – Author and emergency preparedness professional

How To Make Your Clothes Last in Emergencies

In a world where fast fashion is the norm, fewer people learn how to make repairs to their clothing. Have you ever thought about how important clothing is to our survival? It’s the most basic form of shelter humans have. It keeps us warm in the cold, keeps us safe from sunburns, and offers protection from bugs, wind, and scrapes. But what happens in the apocalypse when there are no boutiques or department stores to shop in? What do we do when we only have the clothes on our backs? (Or in our wardrobes?)

In this Tips for the Apocalypse article, we’ll go over how you can make your clothes last. As with our other articles in this series, these tips can be practical for your day-to-day life too. Just think back to the start of the Coronavirus pandemic in 2020—sewists the world over could hardly keep up with the demand for handmade cloth masks. You never know when your new skills will come in handy!

Where to Start and What to Learn

The most important sewing skills to learn in case of a long-lasting emergency are:

  • Making repairs
  • Sewing garments
  • Hand sewing
how to make your clothes last in an emergency; photo is of spools of thread side by side.

Photo by Benigno Hoyuela on Unsplash; text elements added by Total Prepare.

What Supplies Should You have?

It also helps to keep a small stock of supplies to work with. Most sewing supplies (especially for hand sewing) are small and therefore take up little space. Our top suggestions are:

  • Fabric scissors (don’t cut paper or other materials with them!)
  • Sewing needles
  • A seam ripper
  • A measuring tape
  • Spools of thread in various colours, like black, white, and brown
  • A pincushion with pins
  • Chalk or a water-soluble white pencil

Your local dollar and craft stores will carry most or all of these materials. And if you don’t have the funds or space for these, even a tiny pocket-sized sewing kit is better than nothing!

Making Repairs

No piece clothing lasts forever. In a catastrophic emergency, you’ll need to know how to get the most out of your wardrobe, no matter how extensive it is. But if you know how to make repairs and repurpose fabric into other items, you’ll have a valuable skill critical for long-term survival. This is especially true in situations where you might be doing more physical labour, like farming your own food or building shelters.

Clothes will generally have either a rip or a hole in them when they break. Rips can often be recovered by simply sewing the edges back together with good, strong stitches, if they have torn cleanly. For ragged rips and holes, however, it is important to invest the time and practice into sewing patches onto clothing to reinforce the cloth.

There are all kinds of great places to learn these skills: parents, grandparents, books, and the internet all come to mind, but check your local sewing stores for potential courses and workshops too.

Sewing Garments

When I sewed my first garment (a tunic for a renaissance fair), I was amazed by how simple yet difficult the process was. In an emergency, it is unlikely that you will have pre-printed patterns lying around, but that’s okay! With a little practice you can actually use clothes you already have and like to model your DIY versions from.

Clothes are made from panels of cloth, and because of the way people bend and move, it is often more complicated then just cutting out two ‘t-shirt shapes’ and sewing them together. You need things like gussets and that’s a whole different ball game.

If you have a simple piece of clothing you want to replicate, take a good, close look at it. Where are the stiches? How many panels of cloth are used? What shapes are they? How are they joined together, especially where more pieces meet?

A Basic Overview of Sewing a Garment

Ideally, you will also have giant pieces of paper handy. Trace each panel of cloth as best you can onto your paper, or if you have no paper, directly onto your fabric using chalk or pen. In an emergency you may be using bedsheets, curtains, towels, etc. for makeshift fabric. Leave an inch or so of extra fabric around the edges of each panel to leave room for stitching, also known as a “seam allowance”. Keep track of which part of the garment you’re tracing. It wouldn’t do to accidentally sew together mismatched panels!

If using paper, cut out the panels and lay them on your fabric until you find a configuration that allows you to cut your fabric efficiently with the least possible waste. Trace the pieces and cut out your new panels.

Thread a needle and sew the panels together in the same configuration they are in on the original garment. If you have pins handy, these are great for holding the pieces together and helping the sewing to stay even. If you make a mistake, unpick the stitches and try again. You can do this by inserting your needle underneath the thread and pulling it up to get a better grip on it.

You won’t be making designer outfits with this method, but you should be able to create some basic clothing to keep you covered in an emergency.

*Note—try to pick fabrics and garments that are made from similar materials. Trying to imitate a stretchy t-shirt with inflexible curtain fabric will not have a good result.

sewing by hand

Photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash

Hand Stitching

We’ve mentioned before that power may be hard to come by in a long-term emergency. Because of this, it is a good idea to learn how to sew by hand, in case you are not able to access (or simply don’t own) a machine. If you happen to have one of those antique, pedal-powered sewing machines, that would be a good option (and cool) option.


Sewing is one of the top apocalypse skills to learn. It helps you to keep clothes in good condition and to make new ones when the old are beyond repair. Due to a potential lack of electricity, it is good to practice stitching by hand, as well as with a machine.

Thank you for reading! If you liked this post, or are enjoying our ‘Tips for the Apocolypse’ series, follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest, or join our mailing list below to make sure you never miss an article!

This article was written by Zenia Platten – Author and Emergency Preparedness Professional



how to make emergency bread feature image

How to Make Emergency Bread

What happens when disaster strikes and you have to stay home, but the power is out? It can take days or even weeks for everyone in a region to have their power restored after a mass outage. Some emergencies may require us to stay indoors, leaving us without access to a working stove or our usual shops. And any shops that are open would only be able to accept cash, if they stay open at all. Most homes are well enough stocked that this isn’t a problem if it lasts a few days, but it can quickly become worrisome if it continues.

How to make emergency bread; with picture of chapati bread

Photo by Usman Yousaf on Unsplash; text elements added by Total Prepare. Click here to pin this article.

So, what do you do if this happens to you? Look to what our ancestors ate, of course! I’m talking about bread. It’s one of the staples of civilization and is made in different sizes, shapes, and techniques across the globe. Bread is high in carbs and calories—perfect for a quick energy boost or to add bulk to proteins, fruits, and vegetables. Plus, who doesn’t love bread? (Okay, some people can’t eat bread—but they’d probably like it if they could!)

Find Your Basic Bread Ingredients

The most basic bread recipes involve just flour and water. Salt is excellent to add some flavour, but in an emergency it can be left out as needed. Wheat flour is easiest and (in my experience) creates the best results, but you can use cornmeal in a pinch or for a gluten-free diet.

If your oven is working and you’re just getting low on foodstuffs—or you just want some excellent bread—here is my favourite bread recipe of all time. For this article, however, we’re going to assume that you have: flour, water, and access to your kitchen, but not your oven.

Including a bit of yeast generally makes for nicer, fluffier breads, and you don’t need to buy it from the grocery store. In an emergency (or if you are making sourdough) you can actually capture yeast from the air by mixing water, flour, and a pinch of sugar or a few drops of honey, and leaving the mixture covered at room temperature for at least 24 hours. This isn’t necessary but can lead to a more enjoyable result.

How to Make Bread Without Power

We’re going to avoid measured recipes for this post for two reasons: 1) You might not have measuring cups on hand, and 2) precision is not as important for emergency bread – we’re going for calories, not artisanal awards.

Begin by adding your flour to a bowl. If you’re not confident about eyeballing the amount, 2 cups, or 2 coffee mugs is a great place to start. Slowly add water a little at a time, mixing as you go. For emergency bread, you’re aiming for a thick, clumping dough – which in most cases uses only 1/4 as much water as there was flour. If you have salt, add a generous pinch.

Knead your dough for 5 minutes, and then leave it covered for 25 minutes. Once it’s had a chance to rest, separate your dough into walnut-sized balls. Sprinkle flour on a clean, flat surface and use a rolling pin to flatten each ball as thin as you can make it.

Making sure you’re in a well-ventilated area, use a camp stove, barbeque, or open fire to heat a pan and cook your emergency bread one piece at a time. Cook the bread on both sides. Continue until it forms blisters and/or it curls up at the edges. It may inflate and become balloon-like, which is fine. Keep an eye on it so it doesn’t burn. Depending on your cooking time, the end result may be crispy and crackerlike. This is totally fine! Just make sure you have water with it because it might be a little dry.

Making chapati bread

Photo by Usman Yousaf on Unsplash

Cultural Names for Bread

While I know this bread as ‘emergency bread’, in writing this article, I have discovered that it is also known as chapati and is a common staple in the Indian sub-continent. While technique and ingredients can vary somewhat, similar breads are known as roti, rotli, safati, sabaati, phulka, and roshi.


If you have flour, water, and heat, you can feed yourself in an emergency. That being said, for those of us that don’t want to worry about finding food in an emergency, there are lots of solutions to add to our emergency kits, including self-heating options, and food with 25 year shelf lives. Check out all our emergency foods out here!

This article was written by Zenia Platten – Author and emergency preparedness professional.

4 Tips for Growing Your Own Food For an Emergency

While most emergencies are resolved within 72 hours, it is possible for a disaster to knock a community out of ‘normal’ for weeks or even months. In the last few articles of this series, we discussed how to catch and prepare fish to eat. Fish are a great source of proteins and nutrients in an emergency. However, humans need a more balanced diet to thrive.

Gardening and agriculture are great ways to bulk out your long-term food supply. Fruits, vegetables, legumes, and tubers can all be grown in Canada. As anyone who has killed a few dozen house plants will tell you—it’s harder than it looks! Here are our top tips for growing your own food in an emergency.

Blog feature image for 4 tips for growing your own food for an emergency

Photo by Jonathan Kemper on Unsplash; text elements added by Total Prepare. Click here to pin this article.

1) Do your research

Plants need 4 basic things to survive: sun, water, nutrients, and air. Different plants will need a different balance of these components. Search online or go to your local garden centre to see what plants will grow in your area, and in your specific garden. As a general rule of thumb, most edible plants like full sun (7+ hours of direct sunshine).

2) Practice

Dandelions might be able to grow through a crack in the sidewalk, but most plants are a little bit pickier. Practice developing your green thumb by planting your own garden or potted plant and trying to make it grow. You’ll find some plants suit your gardening style better than others. Try different options to see what will work for you. Personally, I tend to over-water my plants, so I have the most success with thirsty plants like berries and tomatoes.

3) Buy Your Seeds & Keep Them Current

Not all seeds are created equal. Many dollar stores will sell plant seeds, but in my personal experience a significant percentage of these ‘budget seeds’ are already dead and won’t sprout. I recommend sticking to those from your local garden center and keep an eye out for “Heirloom Seeds” as these are generally of a higher quality.

Seeds have varying shelf lives, depending on the plant. Seeds for beans, carrots, celery, chard, eggplant, peas, pumpkin, and squash can last up to five years if stored in a cool, dry place. Rotate your seeds after enough time has passed and replace them, or keep your garden blooming to have ready-access to grown foods.

4) Prepare for the growing time

Plants take time to grow. It will usually be several weeks before you can use them as a practical, sustainable food source. Be sure to store enough food to get you through this initial growth period. Cans of food, dry foods, and regularly rotated pastas/ready meals are great ways to bulk up your pantry. Don’t want to worry about changing out your expired food on time? Visit our Emergency Food Storage pages and pick up some XMREs or freeze-dried food. Some options have shelf lives of up to 25 years!

How Many Plants?

So how many potatoes does one person need to survive? Or carrots? Or lettuce? How do we know how many of any individual variety to plant in order to keep ourselves fed in an emergency?

Well, you can cultivate a garden for many years, carefully documenting how much it yielded in each season and whether you needed to plant more or less of each plant in the next year… OR you can check out this helpful chart from Garden Gate Magazine, where other people have done all that hard work for you.


Like so many other skills in life, the best way to become good at growing your own food is to practice doing it. Develop your skills, tools, and seeds BEFORE you need them. It’s always the best choice when preparing for an emergency situation. So, head on down to your local garden centre and bulk up your food storage options and you’ll feel ready for anything in no time!

This article was written by Zenia Platten – Author and emergency preparedness professional.

Photo is of a person holding a fish with its gills splayed. Only the person's arm is visible, along with part of a fishing rod. There is water in the background.

How to Prepare a Fresh Fish

Last week, we wrote about the different ways to catch a fish in an emergency situation. But once you have used your pole, trap, trotline, or spear to catch a fish, how do you get it ready to eat? As it turns out, it’s a little more complicated than picking up a filet at the grocery store – but not by much.

*Disclaimer – this article contains the steps and descriptions for gutting a fish and may be unpleasant for some readers.

Back view of a person pulling in fishing nets to a boat.

You’ve caught a fish, now what? | Photo by Fredrik Öhlander on Unsplash

Gutting the fish

Congratulations! You have conquered nature and caught a fish. Your ancestors are smiling on you and your hunting prowess. Now it is time to get that fish ready to eat!

Preparing the fish is best done with a knife, but it you don’t have one handy, skip to the cooking section of this article.

While experienced anglers will sometimes filet their fish without gutting it, it is recommended for those new to fishing. Happily, it’s not rocket science. Here are the steps:

  • Make an incision in your fish from its anus, along its stomach, to the bottom of its jaw. Be careful not to cut too deeply, as the organs will be easiest to remove if they are intact.
  • You can remove the head completely, but cooking will be easier if you leave it on. Sever the tissue connecting the digestive tract and lungs to the head.
  • Reach in near the head and begin peeling out the organs. They should come out without much difficulty.
  • Once the body cavity is empty, wash the fish out with water.

That’s it! You now have a fully gutted and cleaned a fish. From here the fish can be filleted (separating the meat from the rest of the fish) or cooked as-is.

Photo is of a person holding a fish with its gills splayed. Only the person's arm is visible, along with part of a fishing rod. There is water in the background.

Photo by luis arias on Unsplash

Cooking the fish

A new angler in a survival situation probably isn’t going to be filleting their fish, but cooking it whole. This avoids waste and minimizes the chance of cutting yourself if you are unused to handling a knife. There are three main components to cooking a fish in a survival situation: the fire, the stick, and the actual cooking process.

The fire

While it might be more satisfying to cook over an open flame, it is also the fastest way to get an unevenly cooked—or worse, burnt—fish. Instead, let your fire burn down to coals. Coals produce a more even heat for cooking. Want to learn more about making a fire, or see some tools to make it happen? Check out our other article on safely starting a fire and our hottest fire-starting products.

The stick

Find a stick that is small enough in diameter to fit through the fish’s mouth, but large enough to support the weight of it. It should be long enough that you can hold it over the fire without risk of burning yourself. Sharpen the end to a point. That’s it!


Insert the stick through the fish’s mouth and push it straight towards the tail. Poke the pointed end just slightly through the back of the fish, just above the tail. Hold the fish over the coals, rotating occasionally to avoid burning.

The time it takes to cook your fish will vary depending on the heat of the coals, how close your fish is to them, and the size of the fish, but 15 minutes is average. When you check the fish it should be hot, and the skin should peel from the meat without issue. If either of these things aren’t true, increase cooking time.

If you weren’t able to gut your fish, you can still cook it and pick the meat off but beware that the organs can house parasites and other undesirables. The organs will also slow your cook time. For both reasons, it’s important to cook your fish for a lot longer if you can’t gut it first.*

*Total Prepare does not encourage anyone to eat ungutted fish, but we understand that in a survival situation, choices may be limited. If you’re going to do it, we want you to understand the risks and ways to make it safer.


In a survival situation, fish are an excellent source of nutrients and calories. If you missed our previous article on how to catch them, you can find that here.

Thank you for reading.

This article was written by Zenia Platten – Author and emergency preparedness professional.

An image of the fishing weir exhibit at RBC Museum in Victoria, BC, Canada.

How to Catch Fish for Survival

If you are stuck in the wilderness, fish can be an important source of protein and nutrients in your diet. These tips and techniques to catch fish for survival are intended for emergency situations only. We do not recommend using them in your regular outdoors experience as some methods are illegal in certain areas.

Image of seagull on rocks next to ropes and fishing traps. Text reads Tips for the Apocalypse: How to Catch Fish for Survival. Image has the Total Prepare logo at the bottom.

Photo by Meritt Thomas on Unsplash. Text and other elements added by Total Prepare.

When harvesting fish in a survival situation, your goal should be to collect live fish in an area so you have them on hand for meal time. You’ll be most successful if you implement multiple strategies at once. Passive techniques are best as they allow you to work on other things (e.g. building a fire or finding shelter) while the fish do all the hard work.

1) Set multiple lines

Depending on how you wound up in this situation, you might have had the foresight to pack some fishing line and hooks. You might even have something as handy as a folding shovel that comes with a length of line and a few hooks hidden in the handle.

You’ll want to put as many lines in the water as you can to maximize your chances of getting a catch. The lines can be attached directly to overhanging branches, or to makeshift fishing poles made from strong sticks or reeds. Don’t forget to bait the hooks – worms work best and are usually easiest to find!

If you happen to also have some paracord or rope around, you can skip the pole and run a trotline across a body of water. Hang multiple fishing lines from the trotline, making sure they hang at least a few inches into the water.

2) Spear fishing

If you have to do some emergency fishing, you may as well look cool while you do it. Naturally, this means wielding a spear. You can make a spear from any strong length of wood, metal, etc. Sharpen the tip or attach a sharp point. It is best if you can have a barb on your spearhead so the fish don’t just slide off again once you have them speared.

Watch for where your shadow is falling, as it can scare the fish away. Lastly, light refracts when it hits water, making things appear a little higher than they actually are. To counter this, always aim for just below where you see the fish.

3) Funnel traps

Passive funnel traps are a wonderful tool for survival fishing as you can be doing other things while the trap does the work. To build a funnel trap, find a container to use as your holding compartment. Create a funnel into the container with an opening large enough for the type of fish you hope to catch. These are similar in nature to pop-bottle wasp traps – the fish can swim in, but have a hard time finding the exit again.

If you don’t have any good funnel materials, you can often achieve the desired effect by tying/weaving sticks together.

(*Author’s note: if you find yourself in Victoria, BC, our Royal BC Museum has some excellent examples of fish traps and weirs in their First Nations exhibits.)

An image of the fishing weir exhibit at RBC Museum in Victoria, BC, Canada.

Photo of the weir exhibit at RBC Museum by Blake Handley from Victoria, Canada, under a CC BY 2.0 licence, via Wikimedia Commons

4) Fish weirs

The last method of survival fishing we’ll cover is a fish weir. A weir is basically just a wall with holes in to let water pass through. Build a weir from piled stones, or by driving stakes side-by-side. The weir should stretch from one bank to the other, with the only gap leading to where you want them to go. This is most likely directly into your funnel trap, or into a blocked off pool for later capture.


If you liked this article and want to learn more about survival fishing techniques, check out Angler’s original article here. And if you’re building a go-bag or wilderness survival kit, don’t forget to pack those hooks and lines! They take up very little space and make a BIG difference in an extended emergency.

Thank you for reading!

This article was written by Zenia Platten – Author and emergency preparedness professional.

An image of a log covered in moss. It has the words "tips for the apocalypse: how to find shelter in the wilderness" overlaid on top, as well as the Total Prepare logo.

How To Find Shelter in the Wilderness

An image of a log covered in moss. It has the words "tips for the apocalypse: how to find shelter in the wilderness" overlaid on top, as well as the Total Prepare logo.

Photo by Harlow Kasprak – on Unsplash. Text and other elements added by Total Prepare.

Extreme conditions can quickly move “find shelter” to the top of your priority list, even above food and water. In many parts of Canada, freezing to death is a very real concern for those lost outside—even in the summer. I fondly remember a camping trip to Banff, AB where we woke up to the sound of snow collapsing our tarp… in June. It was a very rude awakening to us soft Victoria kids, and it made me wonder: How would we have fared without the tent? Read on to learn how to find shelter if you get yourself into a similar situation.

Where to Look

Your ideal shelter site should have:

  • Materials nearby for building
  • A water source nearby
  • Wind breaks (trees or rocks usually)
  • No danger of flooding
  • No danger of landslides

Finding Natural Shelters

The outdoors is full of natural shelters that can be used in an emergency. Keep an eye out for caves, hollows, or even hollow, dead logs that might fit your body. Be aware when scouting out these locations—they may already be occupied. Look for scat on the ground nearby, if it is warm go elsewhere. If you find a good spot, try to light a fire at or near the entrance to ward off any wild visitors.

Keep shelters small. The smaller the space, the easier it is to heat. Take care to watch for holes, steep drops, and other hazards while searching, especially in hollows and caves.

View from inside a rocky forest cave looking out onto bright green trees.

Natural caves can provide most of the protection you need. Photo by Jacob Kopplin on Unsplash.

How to Use Tree Wells

Tree wells may be one of the easiest locations in which to find shelter. Look for large trees with roots that create a sheltered depression. Enlarge the tree well and use tree limbs or—if available—a tarp or spare emergency blanket for a roof. If you are doing this in snowy conditions, be aware that tree wells in snow can be very deep and it can be easy to fall into them. In these instances, you’ll want to use a snow cave instead.

How to Build a Snow Cave

Most regions in Canada offer opportunity to even find shelter in snow- not so much on Vancouver Island however. Find a snowbank at least five feet high and dig a tunnel into it. At the end of the tunnel, create a chamber that you can fit comfortably inside, and poke a few holes in the roof for ventilation. If conditions are not right for a cave, or if you’re worried about collapse, dig a trench in the snow instead and create a roof from tree limbs, a tarp, or a spare emergency blanket.

Bare trees during winter with snow banks beneath.

If the weather turns sour, dig a snow cave for shelter. Photo by Joe Wong on Unsplash.

How to Construct a Lean-to

Lean-tos are a staple of survivalists everywhere. They are simple to build and a popular choice for those in need of a quick emergency shelter. Use logs or rope to build a frame and fill in the walls with sticks, branches, bark or whatever else is to hand that will do the job. The easiest shape to build is a triangle, so don’t try to get too fancy with DIY log cabins or tipi-style shelters. (Unless you have experience and can do it well, of course.)

Find Shelter in the Wilderness

Once you have found shelter, ideally, you want your shelter to be small, low profile, and hard for curious animals to spot. However, this will also make it difficult for rescuers to see you. Therefore, light a fire if you are able, or leave a written message for searchers nearby with arrows to your hiding place.

Happy trails, and thank you for reading!

This article was written by Zenia Platten – Author and emergency preparedness professional

A forest background with text overlay that reads Tips for the Apocalypse: How to find your way in the wilderness.

How to Find Your Way in the Wilderness

It’s easy to lose your way in the Canadian wild. Do you know how to find your way in the wilderness? Whether you’ve taken a wrong turn on an adventurous hike or wandered too far from your campsite looking for firewood, here are some survival tips to get you back to where you need to be.

A forest background with text overlay that reads Tips for the Apocalypse: How to find your way in the wilderness.

Photo by Michael Krahn on Unsplash. Text and other elements added by Total Prepare. Click here to pin this article.

How to Prepare Ahead

If there’s a chance you may lose track of your campsite, trail, or your companions, make sure to bring a compass and map with you. However, for the purpose of this article, we’ll assume you are in the wilderness only the clothes on your back.

You’re Lost: Now What?

If you believe you are lost, stop. Don’t panic. Take deep breaths, and don’t go anywhere until you can think clearly. If you run—even for a little bit—you will only disorient yourself further.

How to Mark Your Trail

Create trail markers as you move. You could go Hollywood and use torn scraps of clothing, but scoring trees with a rock (or a knife, if available) is generally a better idea. You’ll really appreciate the extra sweater if you need to camp out overnight.

Leave markings frequently and indicate which direction you are heading. This will help rescuers to find you and make it easier to retrace your steps.

Find Your Way: What’s The Safest Way to Retrace Your Steps?

Once you have marked your starting place (make this one distinct from the other markings), try to retrace your steps. If you know you were only off the trail for 10 minutes, don’t walk for more than 15 minutes in any one direction. If you don’t find the trail in that time, follow your markers back to your starting place and try again in another direction. Keep this up until you find the trail.

What Should You Do Next?

You’ve retraced your steps in every direction with no luck. Now it’s time to strike out on your own, following moss trails and communing with the land to find your way in the wilderness to get home, right? Wrong.

Your mission—should you choose to accept it—is to stay as close to where you originally were as possible. If you have the tools available, build and light a fire—carefully—for warmth and light, then hunker down. In most cases, you are probably not far from where you should be, and someone will find you quickly.

How to Assist Search and Rescue

If you were travelling with a group or if you’ve been missing for a long time, you likely have people looking for you. Use markers to make yourself easy to find. Be sure to make noise. Call for help, whistle, and create markers that can be seen from the air. Unless you need to take shelter from the elements, stay out where search teams can see you. You don’t want them to miss you if they come through the area.

A river and small waterfall in a forest.

Move downhill until you find water, then follow it until you find civilization. Photo by Holly Riley on Unsplash.

Tips and Last Resorts

If you really must strike out on your own, or if no one is likely to report you missing, here are a few things to keep in mind when navigating in the woods:

  • The sun rises in the east and sets in the west. If you know where civilization is relative to your hiking spot of choice, use the sun to head in that direction.
  • Walk downhill until you find water and walk downstream. The going might be tough at times, but you’re more likely to find a community along a waterway or in a valley.
  • Take advantage of any viewpoints and scan for signs of people/civilization. This could be as small as a gap in the treeline that might indicate a road.


If all goes well, hopefully you will never get lost and need to remember how to find your way in the wilderness. Tell someone if you’re leaving for a hike, where you are going, and when you expect to be back. At minimum, bring water or a way to filter water, as well as a compass, map, and knife if you’re able.

Thank you for reading, and happy hiking!

This article was written by Zenia Platten – Author and Emergency Preparedness Professional


Tips for the apocalypse: Hoow to Build a Fire

How to Build A Fire

Learn how to build a fire with Total Prepare’s quick how-to guide so you can stay warm and dry when you need it most.

Despite how easy it is to start an accidental fire in your house or the forest, it is infuriatingly difficult to light one on purpose if you don’t know how. There is a lot more to it than simply throwing a lit match into a pile of timber and hoping it catches.

A campfire with text which reads Tips for the Apocalypse - How to Build a Fire

Photo by Benjamin DeYoung on Unsplash. Text and elements added by Total Prepare. Click here to pin this article.

Why do I need a fire?

Whether you are forced to shelter in your backyard in winter or you get lost out in the wilderness or stranded on a lonely highway, fire can save your life. It creates warmth, light, and is a good way to cook food. It can stave off hypothermia and predators while attracting rescuers. When handled safely, fire is an excellent—even fundamental—survival tool.

What are the first steps in building a fire?

The first two points to consider are location and materials. Look for a place that is dry, out of the wind, and has nothing overhanging it, such as trees or buildings. The last thing you want is for a stray spark to create a whole new emergency to deal with.

You will need different types of wood to burn:

  • Logs will provide the bulk of your fire. Aim for pieces that are around a foot long with a diameter a little wider than your hand. Logs that are too large are more likely to burn out of control and can be difficult to gather. Pieces that are too small will burn quickly and require careful watching to avoid the fire burning out.
  • Large kindling, like one- or two-inch-thick sticks, will help the fire grow and catch onto your logs.
  • Fine kindling, fire starter, or newspaper will provide the fuel you need to get the flames going. They burn quick and hot, hopefully catching to your larger pieces and giving the fire a foothold. Many fire starters can be improvised: hand sanitizer, cotton tampons, and pinecones can all be used to get a fire started.

Make sure all burnables are as dry as possible—you won’t have much luck getting wet wood to light. Naturally, you will also need a way to create the initial flame or spark. A lighter is the easiest method (be sure to keep one in each of your emergency kits!), but matches, flint and steel, or certain multi-tools are great options too. If you are new to fire-starting, aim for sources that give you a flame to work with, rather than a spark.

How to get your fire started

Clear a wide area around where you plan to have your fire. Anything that you might pick up as kindling—stray branches, pine needles, etc.—can also be ways for your fire to accidentally spread out of your control. Create a ring of rocks to use as a makeshift fire pit and to clearly mark your intended boundary for the fire—around 2 ½ feet diameter is ideal. This will also help to contain it. If it is windy, building your wall higher can create a shelter for your flames. If possible, have water on hand to put out the fire if it starts to get unruly.

Once you have your fire pit in place, here’s how to build a fire you’ll be proud of:

  1. Place your fine kindling, fire starter, or crumpled newspaper into the center of your circle.
  2. Create a square around your fire starter with your larger kindling, layering each piece to leave airflow.
  3. Use a few pieces of smaller kindling to create a teepee-shaped triangle over your newspaper, but within your square pieces.
  4. Light your newspaper.
  5. If needed, gently blow on your fire to feed it oxygen and help it grow.
  6. Once your fire gets burning, layer a few more pieces of large kindling on top, slowly using bigger pieces as your fire gets stronger.

Be careful not to smother your fire. It needs air to burn, and piling too much fuel on top can starve it of air and cause it to smoulder out. Monitor your fire carefully and add more wood as required to keep it burning at your desired size.


Fire is one of the key tools that put humanity on the map. With a few tricks and tools, you can learn how to build a fire for an emergency with this simple guide. Keep warm, stay safe, and be sure to practice when camping! (Mmm… marshmallows…)

And while you’re here, check out some of our fire starting tools to get you (and your fire) started!

This article was written by Zenia Platten – Author and emergency preparedness professional.