How to Survive SHTF Without a Stockpile

by Tommy Grant

If a SHTF scenario were to happen tomorrow, how prepared would you be? Whether from widespread economic and political disturbances, EMPs, or some other chaotic event, how long could you survive without a stockpile of water, food, and basic supplies?

If you find yourself unprepared when a crisis strikes, it’s important not to panic. There are a few important survival rules to remember that will help keep your head clear and your priorities straight in a SHTF emergency — one of these is the “Rule of 3s”.

According to the rule of 3’s, the average person can survive three minutes without breathable air, three hours in extreme heat or cold, three days without water, and three weeks without food. Remembering important survival rules like these can help you create a last-minute emergency plan to fit your survival needs.

Related: $100 Walmart Bug Out Bag

Even for those who do not have a bug-out bag or stockpile set aside for emergencies, the following pieces of advice may give you a better chance at surviving a SHTF crisis.

Shelter / Protection From Elements

The first thing you will need to decide in an SHTF crisis is whether you want to shelter in place or bug out. If your home is secure and relatively unaffected, sheltering in place may be the most familiar and safe option. Plus, there’s a good chance you have more valuable resources at home than you realize.

However, in the worst-case scenario, some people may be forced to seek out alternate shelters or hide until the worst is over. Of you must leave your home with no stockpile or bug-out bag, finding adequate shelter is of the highest importance. Your stockpile or bug-out bag would have likely contained a tarp for building a shelter. However, since that’s no longer an option, it’s important to know how to build at least one type of simple survival shelter before SHTF happens.

A “lean-to” shelter is considered to be one of the easiest survival shelters to build. Lean-to shelters only require a “ledge” (like a large tree or rock) that is tall enough to stack branches, leaves, and other debris against to create a small sleeping structure.

Remember, keeping a low profile is crucial for survival as strangers may be attracted to your campsite. For this reason, it’s a good idea to seek out concealed areas with a lot of natural cover. Adopting a “leave no trace” or “hidden in plain sight” approach can help you maintain a defensive advantage. Avoid open areas with little cover. Additionally, deciding on a second camping location as a backup site is a smart way to ensure you’ll always have shelter when you need it.


Water is the second thing you need to get squared away after deciding on your shelter. Ideally, your camp won’t be too far from a water source — However, even if you are near a water source, knowing how to clean and filter the water for use is critical for survival.

Still water sources like ponds and lakes have a higher probability of housing parasites, viruses, and other dangerous bacteria. So, if you have running water somewhere near your bug out site, consider yourself lucky! Still, even if you find water, how do you ensure it’s safe for drinking?

The best way to make sure you have clean drinkable water is to build your own water filter in under 30 minutes, using this guide and a few basic materials and tools.

Sanitation / Infection Prevention

How to Survive SHTF Without a StockpileWhen you have a shelter and water source secured, you may begin to feel some sense of security.

Unfortunately, you’re not quite out of the woods yet. Not having adequate first-aid, sanitation and waste management can very quickly lead to infection, sickness, and death.

I learned from here how to fight infections and many more life-threating conditions in times of crisis, when access to medical care is scarce.

Even if unsanitary living conditions don’t kill you right away, they can quickly attract pests, unwelcome guests, and other potential threats, especially if you’re bugging out in the great outdoors.

If you’re outdoors, it’s extremely important to keep all forms of human waste at least 200-300 feet (60 – 100 meters) from your campsite and water sources. Doing this can not only help prevent the risk of water contamination, but it can also help keep your location hidden from predators and strangers.


Whether you’re bugging out or sheltering in place, the phrase “one man’s trash is another man’s treasure” becomes even more relevant when stuff hits the fan.

What was once considered refuse are now useful tools for survival. Glasses, bottles, plastic containers, and other rubbish can be used to filter water, cook, clean, build things with, and more.

Related: How to Repurpose Old Items Into New Projects for Your Backyard

Plus, if you don’t have a stockpile, you may be able to slowly assemble one with trash and discarded items found while foraging. While foraging for food, there’s always a chance you may find other useful items including first aid equipment, tools, and more.

Food/ Foraging skills

How to Survive SHTF Without a StockpileWhen sheltering in place, there’s a good chance you might already have some type of food available to eat where you are.

If you do, create an itemized list of the non-perishable food items you already have.

This way, you will be able to have a better idea of how to ration it.

Suppose you don’t have enough non-perishable food items in your pantry. In that case, you should be able to locate seasonally available edible plants, flowers, weeds, and roots growing.

Having a general working knowledge of the edible plants (and poisonous lookalikes) in your area is an important and practical survival skill.

Foraging isn’t just about finding food, but can be an opportunity to locate stockpile materials too. Things like rocks, sticks, and even trash left behind by other people can be used to your advantage.

However, as always, pay attention to your surroundings and weigh your risks. If there is a large debris area, you’ll want to assess how long ago people were there and whether or not you’d be placing yourself in danger by getting a closer look.

When trying to survive SHTF, it’s best to be prepared. Having a bug-out bag and stockpile is one of the best things you can do now to be ready for future emergencies.

However, if you find yourself unprepared, it’s important to stay calm, alert, and resourceful. If you follow the rule of 3s, don’t panic, and keep a positive outlook, you may be able to survive SHTF even without a stockpile.

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