Life in Missoula, Montana.
If things hit the fan, certain tools can save your life. You need to get tools that are well made and durable. If you stop and think about it, you can probably list dozens of tools you'd like to have for a long tern survival situation, but I'm going to focus on the five basics that are absolutely necessary. Here's my list of five essential tools for the apocalypse.
1. Pocket Multi-Tool. Okay, imagine that the world as we know it is ending. No lights, no electricity, no cell phones. All the little things you take for granted are gone, or not working. That includes electric can openers, power tools, and so on. You need a good multi-tool like the Swiss Army Huntsman by Victorinox ($35). It has two sizes of knife blades, plus both kinds of screwdrivers, a can opener, bottle opener, wood saw, wire stripper, hole punch, and a few other tools. If you're bugging out and on the move, these handy tools are way easier than carrying all those bulky tools individually. Plus, Swiss Army Knives are guaranteed for life. Another option is the Leatherman Sidekick ($32). It has most of the same tools, plus a built-in set of pliers. It's only guaranteed for 25 years, but both Victorinox and Leatherman are known for quality. Beware of cheap quality multi-tools. Some are poorly designed and frustrating to use. Others may fail you when you need them most. These two tools will serve you well. They're a great option for EDC, for a bug out bag, or to keep in your tool box.
2. Heavy Duty Knife. Okay, your multi-tool has a small blade for normal little cutting tasks, but you'll need a bigger, beefier knife if you're going to survive an apocalypse. When you're looking for a good survival knife, there are a few things you want to look for. Carbon steel holds an edge well and is relatively easy to sharpen. Most important, carbon steel is very durable and very tough. It will stand up to hard tasks much better than stainless steel or lesser materials. When looking for a heavy duty knife, look for carbon steel. Another thing you'll want to be aware of is the thickness of your blade. Get something 1/4" thick or more for strength and durability. A blade of more than 5" is recommended by many, including the Pathfinder Survival School. Smaller knives often don't provide the leverage you need. Lastly, get a knife that is full tang. For those unfamiliar with the term, full tang means that the knife is one solid piece of steel from its tip to the end of the handle. Again this ensures that your knife won't break when chopping or prying. While I don't have the room to list all the great knives that will serve you well in a bad situation, here are a few that I have used and trusted. They have the attributes listed above.
The Grayman Mega Pounder 7.5 ($255) is a beast of a knifel. It's 13.5"( total length) with a 7.5" blade made of 1/4" thick 1095 High Carbon Steel. These are tough knives made to work, and capable of standing up to tough tasks without breaking. For years, Grayman sold exclusively to soldiers and law enforcement officers, people whose lives often depend on their knives. Now they are available to anyone. You can cut, chop, and dig with these knives. Want to make a shelter, pry open a crate, or dig a hole? These knives will face every task, and never let you down. The maker claims you'll never break it, but if you ever do, it's guaranteed for life. Another option is the First Strike by Fehrman Knives ($400). It also has a 7.5" blade, though its overall length is slightly shorter (13"). It is made of CPM-3V Steel. It can chop small trees, split wood, and cut like crazy. As the Company motto says "When your situation turns ferocious, you want tools that are just as fierce. You want tools that you can depend on in trying circumstances. Fehrman makes just such tools, tools that will not fail you when you need them most." In short, Fehrman knives are guaranteed not to fail ... for life. Both these knives are tough, dependable tools that will take a great deal of punishment and come back for more.
Both Grayman and Fehrman make other knives and all are extremely solid. Many custom knife makers, such as Fallen Oak Forge, make a great variety of well-designed, top quality knives in carbon steel. The advantage of working with a custom knife maker is that they can make a knife that conforms to your tastes and needs. For the budget minded, Tops Knives makes a variety of great knives in the $200 range. Most conform to the standards outlined above. Check the specs for each to make sure you're getting what you need.
3. Dead On AN18 Annihilator Utility and Wrecking Bar. As the name says, the Dead On Annihilator($30) is made to be a wrecking tool. At 18" long and 3.6 lbs., the Annihilator is a serious tool, and since it costs around $30 you might just need one. It's a demolition hammer, a tile ripper, a nail puller, and a serious pry bar. It has a hammer at one end and a razor sharp steel spike on the other. It even has a bottle opener. In the apocalypse, you'll likely find lots of uses for a tool like this. Trapped in a building? Take out a wall and escape with the Annihilator. Need to build a shelter from old building materials? Use the Annihilator. Want to smash through a door to loot a building? The Annihilator. Need to bash the occasional zombie on the head? It's good for that, too.
4. A Serious Tomahawk. Tomahawks have been used for centuries as both weapons and tools. U.S. soldiers have used them in every major war since the 1700s. Today's top tactical tomahawks are still made with soldiers in mind. A soldier today can't carry a different tool for every task. They have to carry tools that do a variety of things, and that won't break or fail under stress. When you're in the field, a faulty tool can't be replaced. It's the same during a SHTF situation. You want to carry a tool that is also a weapon. And it has to be tough. The Hardcore Hardware BFT01 Tomahawk ($430) fits the bill on all counts. Made for the soldiers of Australia and New Zealand, the BFT01 is made of one piece of teflon coated D2 tool steel from its head to the end of its handle. At 18.5" and nearly two and a half pounds, the BFT is no toy. The blade and spike can be put to a variety of uses, and the pommel has a chisel point which allows it to be used for prying. According to the company's website "some of the tasks we expect you'll use our BFT for include the following: chopping, hammering, digging, cutting, as a climbing aid, defeating locks, smashing windows and windshields and raking out their frames, puncturing steel radial tires, smashing steel clad doors, and breaking through walls including those made of brick." In short, this tomahawk does it all, and the tough D2 steel holds an edge even after lots of abuse. For combat, the axe blade is useful against zombies and other opponents. It can be used to slash, chop, or hook. The spike on the other end is designed to penetrate kevlar helmets and body armor. Another option would be any of the fine tomahawks made by RMJ Tactical. They are made in America, similarly designed for both tough use and combat, and their price range is similar.
5. A Dependable Blade. In any post apocalyptic scenario, a sword or other big blade is almost a necessity. You'll need it for major chopping tasks, and possibly as a weapon. After all, bullets will be in short supply, and you'll need something to deter other survivors who are eyeing your gear and your food. When it comes to apocalyptic weapons, you should be looking at Missoula's Zombie Tools (www.zombietools.net ). They make everything from Katana style swords to machetes, tomahawks, and everything in between. All are handmade, full tang, from American steel and wrapped with Montana leather for the grips. They are the baddest blades around. I recommend a Vakra (kukri) or Hooligan (machete/sword) if your blade will be doing double duty chopping wood and other items. If you'd prefer a two handed weapon, the Deuce II ($400) can't be beat. Check out the video on their website where they use a Deuce to chop a truck hood in half, destroy a TV, bisect an air hockey game, cut several phone books, and take a few whacks at a concrete highway divider before the blade finally fails. That is one tough blade, the kind you can depend on when you need it. Another fine maker of knives, swords and other blades is Miller Brothers Blades. They make everything from functional katana swords and Jungle choppers to smaller, edc knives. Customers have a choice of steel types though all are of exceeding quality and durability.
So there are your essentials for the apocalypse. Do you need all five? Well, that depends. If you'll be on foot, you may not want to carry all five. If you'll be in the woods you may choose some tools, while if you're in an urban environment you may choose differently. If your budget is an issue, you may decide that having all five is overkill. Just be careful of substituting cheap tools for the ones listed. Cheaper means less durable and breakage could mean your life.