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Prepping basics: How to scavenge and forage for supplies after SHTF
By Zoey Sky // Mar 20, 2024

If you are looking for alternatives to finding resources in a post-SHTF world, you might benefit from learning how to forage and scavenge for supplies safely. This ensures that if you run out of certain items, you can find more supplies for your stockpile. (h/t to Survivopedia.com)

In ecology, scavengers consume other creatures that have died. But within the context of modern survival, scavenging implies the exploitation of resources for reuse or recycling like dumpster diving or reusing parts and fuel for abandoned vehicles.

In the ecological context, foraging is the acquisition of wild resources, primarily food. Like with scavenging, in the context of modern survival, people may forage for resources other than food inbuilt or urban terrain and the wilderness.

Looting refers to the act of stealing by force. Looting often occurs when looters believe there is insufficient security or police presence to prevent the crime or insufficient will on the part of the government to hold them accountable for it.

Looting may be more common during and after natural and manmade disasters, riots and other events that temporarily exceed the ability of police and security forces to respond to property crimes. Looting may be considered a war crime.

However, looting means you may be at greater risk of being shot in the aftermath of a disaster.

Here are some of the things that you may find useful if you want to forage or scavenge for supplies in a survival scenario.

Entry kit/lockpick set

For survival purposes, there are two types of entry: non-destructive and destructive.

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With practice and a few lightweight lockpicks and bypass tools, you can get past most locks without destroying them.

Note that cutting locks and prying open doors usually involve heavy tools that are harder to conceal and will invite suspicion after SHTF.

Direction sampling searches

Direction sampling searches refer to a systematic way of learning the terrain and identifying nearby resources.

First, scan the horizon and use optics if you have them. Try to identify possible resources, like a cluster of tall cottonwood or sycamore trees in the desert. Get your bearings and head in that direction for a predetermined amount of time. Gather resources and take notes and draw a map as you go.

Once your time is up, return to your camp or fixed site. Then pick another direction and do it again.

Doing this several times will help you get an idea of what resources are within half a day’s walk. It can also help decrease the chances that you will miss some important resource near your home or camp.

If you plan on scavenging, you may find useful supplies in the following locations:

  • Abandoned stores.
  • Abandoned farms and orchards.
  • Distribution centers or warehouses.
  • Marketplaces.
  • Processing factories.
  • Supply lines for autos, trucks, trains or ships.


Scavenged medicines involve some challenges, like identifying unmarked pills, understanding their dosage and usage information and knowing if they are dangerous to you once they are expired.

Remember that taking medicine that isn’t stored in sealed bottles can be dangerous. However, not taking medicine for certain diseases and health conditions can also be dangerous.

If you or a family requires certain medication for some health conditions, get a detailed nursing guide and drug reference books with photographs of common pills from thrift stores. You may also want to buy a Physicians' Desk Reference. These reference books will help you identify medicines and when to use them safely.

Wood, wood stoves, solid fuels and firestarting supplies

If you're worried about a scenario like your heaters not working in cold weather, you may need to burn various things to stay warm or cook food.

Figure out how you plan to heat your home, cook and boil water after the grid goes down.

You can try building a rocket stove out of cinderblocks and run a stove pipe out of a stove jack installed in a window. Plan this carefully so you don't burn your home down on accident.

You also need to gather firewood and haul it from where you find it to where you store it until you need it. Make things easier for yourself by getting the right tools and a handcart or equipment to skid logs.

You can also use tools like pry bars, saws or other demolition tools to break up furniture, flooring and framing for firewood and fuel.

Liquid and gas fuels

Getting gas out of vehicles is easy if you’re not worried about damaging somebody’s fuel tank or causing an explosion if you create a spark that punctures a tank full of fumes.

To scavenge for fuel, you need tools like a hose, a siphon pump and sturdy gas cans. (Related: Prepping tips: Scavenging in the city when SHTF.)


If you lack access to reliable wells or live in communities with end-to-end gravity-fed municipal water, access to water can be a challenge in a post-SHTF world. And even if you do have a reliable water source, you still need water storage and a backup water source.

Try to find the nearest water source and find out how you can haul it to your home or bug-out location. You also need to find several ways to make it drinkable if it needs purification and filtering.

Some tools that can help include barrels, hoses and a pump to fill containers. You also need ramps, rope and pullies to load water containers into a truck to move them. Without the truck, you may need a handcart or wheelbarrow and smaller, rugged containers like military-issue water cans.

Use a short drinking water hose with a universal faucet adapter and a shower head adapter to fill water containers.

Watch the video below for some tips on scavenging and guerilla gardening.

This video is from the Cahlen channel on Brighteon.com.

More related stories:

Foraging tips: 17 Wild foods to forage for your winter stockpile.

Tips for responsibly and safely foraging and hunting for food.

Foraging 101: 10 Wild nuts to forage every Fall.

Sometimes survival means scavenging (but not looting).

Sources include:




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