You know how it is. There you are, pottering about, minding your own business and… boom. It’s the end of the world.
But you’re not just going to sit there and take it in a graceful and ladylike fashion. Oh no. You’re tougher than that. So your first thoughts when the warning sirens go will be, “What do I need to pack?”
Starting with the basics: your bag. There’s a coin-toss here between size (you now carry your life in this bag. Having the right thing in there may, quite literally, mean the difference between life or death) and portability (following on from previous statement: your lifespan may depend on your ability to run with said bag, and you’re going to be carrying it for the immediate future). All things considered, a medium-sized rucksack is probably going to be your best bet.
Next: clothing. Nuclear winters are hellish cold, so let’s look at layers. Natural fabrics are going to work better for base layers: think cotton, bamboo, merino, silk. Vests, t-shirts & long-sleeve tops in these options are always going to work. Performance fabrics and fleeces make good outer layers, especially topped off with something wind & water resistant. Don’t forget a hat (if you’ve only got space for one, go for something with a brim like a baseball cap. Who knows what’s going to happen to the atmosphere…), gloves and a wide scarf. Or – god help us all – a snood.
A blanket of some kind will prove to be immensely useful, as will a generously sized plastic sheet. Between these two, you’ll be able to keep yourself warm, dry and collect rainwater. In a crisis, strips of blanket can make excellent improvised bandages. Even if you’ve got a waterproof coat, if you have to walk through a monsoon, wrapping your rucksack in the plastic will ensure that your things stay dry too.
A water bottle; preferably two. Once they’re empty, you might be tempted to dispose of them to save space – don’t. You’re going to need something to fill up once you find that sole remaining unpolluted stream.
A knife. Yes, you’ll want your weapons chest and that’s a whole other story, but we’re talking a bog-standard folding knife here: the kind useful uncles tend to have in their garden sheds. Cutting food, cutting rope, cutting people… whatever.
Speaking of which: rope. We’re channelling our inner Sam Gamgee. Deal with it.
Pen. Pencil. Paper. You never know when you might need to sketch a rudimentary map or leave a note.
Toothbrush & toothpaste. No, we’re not kidding. Surviving isn’t going to be any easier without teeth.
A small torch. Preferably wind-up.
A pocket radio – also wind-up.
A small bar of soap.
A spoon. (Everything else you can improvise. Find an old can & sling it over a fire to cook in, use a twig for a fork – and of course, you’ve already packed your knife. But a spoon? Tricky to fake. Don’t be tempted down the spork route. It’s a fool’s compromise….)
Hairbands. Sounds crazy, but if there’s a post-apocalyptic gale blowing, you’re going to want to tie it back. What’s that you say? You have short hair? Great. Don’t you plan on surviving long enough for it to grow a bit…?
Shoes: wear boots. Proper boots that you can run in, climb rocks in and kick people with. These are your new best friends. If you can fit a pair in, flip-flops are a handy back-up to throw in your bag: that way, when your boots get soaked, you can take them off, tie the laces together and sling them round your neck to dry… and you’ve still got something on your feet.
Your passport. You never know: you may need to prove who you are in order to get on that last transport to safety.
A book. Any book. Because you have to have something to hang on to. And anyone packing their Kindle, stop. Right now. Yes, you. Go stand in the corner and think about what you’ve done.
Things to loot as you leave town: hit your local outdoorsy-camping shop for water purification tablets, thick socks, compass, OS map of the surrounding area, waterproof matches or a firesteel, high SPF sunscreen.
This is by no means an exhaustive list. There are things that will be forgotten, left behind, abandoned. That’s the nature of it. But this will at least get you started.
You have 3 minutes. What do you take?