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Friday, January 16, 2009

SHTF: Scavenging 101

In the post-SHTF world, there are a number of ways to have stuff and stay alive.

Produce - grow vegetables, fruit, dairy, meat.
Hunt - animals for food, skins, etc.
Trade - your goods for someone else's stuff.
Buy - you pay for stuff with gold or junk silver.
Scavenge - you search and salvage.

Scavenging is not looting, stealing or raiding each of which is illegal, wrong and dangerous. For a few quick definitions..

Looters - exist immediately after law and order has broken down or is in the process of collapsing. Looters target businesses, stores and homes which have things they want and will take. Generally, looters avoid violence and direct confrontation depending instead upon mob mentality, confusion and panic to get what they want.

Bandits, thieves and robbers - Lie in wait along well traveled areas and target passersby. Bandits rarely travel far from where they make their living and will only move on when confronted with a larger and more deadly force.

Raiders - move and steal, killing and raping as they go. Raiders burn through food, fuel and ammo and have to constantly travel and raid to find more stuff. The worse of the post-SHTF vermin, the raider must be dealt with before they find your retreat.

But let's talk about scavenging. Scavenging is both a bottom feeder mindset but also a resourceful, adaptive past time. Scavenging means to search for and accqure goods and resources which have been abandoned, lost, left behind or overlooked by others.

The scavengers motto is "lost and found, finders keepers". Scavengers will go through the looted grocery store, warehouse or office park long after world has collapsed and the property owner has migrated or expired. Scavengers research and observe a potential find or area and verify that it is not inhabited or otherwise in the possession of others. Scavengers never kill or use force to take, only to defend what they have found and worked for.

Where the scavenger works

The scavenger works from a base of operations, his retreat, urban or rural. He has to have a central location where he lives and stocks his supplies.

The scavenger will target locations for salvage such as..

Retail stores
Warehouses and storage facilities
Gasoline stations
Businesses and offices
Government facilities, buildings or bases.
Interstate highways and roads for abandoned cars, trucks or other vehicles for fuel and cargo
Abandoned homes, farms or ranches

Tools of the trade

Scavenging typically means traveling light. While it is advantageous to have some sort of vehicle, powered or not, to carry large loads, the typical scavenging run means generally entails carrying as little as possible to the job and leaving with just what you can carry.

The scavenger needs the following tools:

Some sort of bag. A good backpack works, as well as having a few cloth or mesh bags for extras. Trashbags are OK for light salvage, pillow cases work as well.

A crowbar, multi-tool and knife.

Gloves, face mask and goggles are useful, especially the gloves.


Alone or in a group?

It is always best to buddy up when scavenging, for safety, communications and for effort. Whether it is to lift a heavy object or cover a large amount of space in a short time, going with more than one scavenger as a team is the best solution.

What to look for and where to look

Grocery stores - food obviously as well as anything else carried in a grocers. Check under the shelves, any piles of boxes or displays, the back of the store, and loading dock. Always remember that most grocers have offices and areas generally off limits to shoppers.

Gasoline stations - sure the tanks, but don't forget the store, closets, garage, out back and in any storage containers.

Offices, buildings and office parks - break rooms for vending machines, coffee, paper products, the refrigerator. Employee desks (most people keep food or snacks in desk as well as other goodies), storage closets for supplies and giveaways.

Highways and roads - Abandoned cars for fuel and goods left behind, trucks for fuel and cargo (most trucks are contract and unmarked), any highway or DOT storage warehouses or depots.

Abandoned houses - naturally food and supplies inside, but also check the garage, basement, attic, and outside for garden or fruit/nut trees.

In every building and vehicle, search for hidden storage spaces, compartments and trunks. Almost every place has a hidden storage area that other scavengers may have overlooked. Check under furniture or fixtures which seem too heavy to move. In air ducts and fireplaces. In bathrooms.

The good scavenger can have a profitable day no matter where he searches if he knows where to look, what to look for and how to do his job.


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