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Ever found yourself pondering over the latest news story on a war or conflict, where chaos reigned and you wondered – “Am I prepared if all hell breaks loose?” That’s when your thoughts turn to the concept of an SHTF loadout. But what do you really need?

Imagine being armed with more than just your wits. You’ve got tools for self-defense, survival gear that outlasts any disaster, and resources tailored to keep you going long-term.

In this post, we’re peeling back the layers of an effective SHTF loadout versus a combat one; identifying essentials that make sure you don’t fall short in a crisis; offering tips on packing efficiently; maintaining its relevance over time – and even sharing some real-life accounts of needing a SHTF loadout!

People frequently make mistakes when assembling their SHTF gear, and we’ll lead you through some of the best methods of constructing an SHTF loadout.

So load up and let’s roll.

building a shtf loadout

Understanding the SHTF Loadout

When everything goes awry, you must be ready. This isn’t about becoming Rambo overnight; it’s about smart preparation. That’s where a solid SHTF loadout comes in.

TokatorRamboGIF 2

A SHTF (Shit Hits The Fan) loadout is more than just a fancy backpack filled with gear. It’s your lifeline when disaster strikes and survival becomes priority number one. Unlike a combat loadout which focuses on war, the SHTF setup leans more towards self-defense, sustainability, and long-term survival.

The problem is a lot of “preppers” or those who consider themselves prepared for a SHTF event, often go all in on the tactical side of things and build a combat-only SHTF loadout because it’s cool and fun. They forget about a real preparedness plan for any SHTF event.

The reality is your combat gear, fitness level, or even manhood won’t mean much if you can’t hack it mentally or don’t have enough food or water to last for a few days in an emergency. So going forward, forget some of the flashy tactical gear that looks cool but adds unnecessary weight and may not even be helpful.

Don’t get me wrong I love my tactical gear, but we are talking about survival here and not only combat. We must keep that in mind going forward.


The Core of Your Survival Kit

The real meat of any effective SHTF loadout lies within practical tools for survival: a reliable water filter like a Survivor Filter, nutrient-dense foods such as energy bars and canned goods; essential first aid supplies including bandages and antiseptics.

Beyond these necessities lie communication devices such as radios for keeping up-to-date with news alerts and coordinating efforts with other survivors – this could be lifesaving information at your fingertips.

Additionally, you need to have some sort of shelter plan to keep you protected from the elements.

Beyond survival-oriented gear, there is always a need for self-defense in an SHTF scenario so let’s look into it.

SHTF Loadout Versus Combat Loadout

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A SHTF loadout and a combat loadout are pretty similar, but they serve different purposes. While both are about survival, their uses differ significantly.

A combat loadout is designed for war scenarios. It’s heavy on weaponry and ammo because the primary goal is to engage with an enemy in battle and win the fight. There are typically resources available for longer-term survival and you potentially have the support of the government behind you if you are talking military combat.

On the other hand, a SHTF loadout prepares you for long-term survival situations where self-defense and sustainability matter more than engaging in combat. So it balances tools, food supplies, and water purification methods alongside defensive gear.

In a SHTF loadout, you don’t have the support of large militaries or governments for yourself, your family, or your group. You are on your own.


Different Purposes Call For Different Gear

Your choice between these two loadouts will depend on what situation you anticipate facing: prolonged disaster recovery or direct conflict. Knowing this helps tailor your gear selection effectively and I’m well aware that you are probably preparing for both types of scenarios.

You wouldn’t want to be bogged down by unnecessary weight if you’re hiking miles every day after a natural disaster. On the other hand, being under-armed during civil unrest or a hostile enemy invasion could put your life at risk too.

That is why building a SHTF plan is so important.

Balancing Survival And Defense Needs

In truth though – any well-prepared man needs elements from both types of loadouts. Balance is key here. You’re going to want to mix the self-defense capabilities from combat kits with long-term sustainment items typical in SHTF packs.

Check out our full guide on building a bug-out bag and get home bag for a full detailed list on what gear you could pack in your bags.


Essential Gear For A SHTF Loadout

The heart of your SHTF loadout is made up of key items that address the most immediate threats to your life. These are crucial for survival when everything goes south.

Carrying Your Loadout

In a SHTF scenario, the way you carry your gear can make all the difference. Tactical options like a plate carrier vest, chest rig, survival backpack, and battle belt offer ways to distribute weight and keep essentials within easy reach.

urban prepper gear for a shtf loadout

Plate Carrier/Chest Rig 

Opting for a means to carry essential gear on you within reach is a smart move. A plate carrier or chest rig will help you do just that.

Going for a high-quality plate carrier gives you the option to add body armor to your SHTF tactical loadout but will weigh you down some.

A decent chest rig is the same concept but doesn’t offer any protection from bullets.

Both methods will allow you to carry more magazines full of ammo and other essential gear on you at all times.

The choice depends on personal comfort, mobility needs, and how much equipment you plan to carry.

Related Reading:
Top 5 Best Plate Carriers In 2023 [Proven And Reviewed]
Best Chest Rigs of 2023 [Proven and Tested]

Survival Backpack and Battle Belt

Body Armor Vest for shtf loadout

Additional means of carrying your gear are going to be necessary. You will want to carry all emergency gear on you at all times and if we are talking about a SHTF loadout then a proper battle belt set-up is essential. This will carry your handgun, additional mags, ammo, medical kit, tourniquets, knife, and any other gear you need in a pinch.

All other gear that you will carry can be stowed in a high-quality backpack that can be ditched at any time to become more mobile.

Best Battle Belt Setup: A Beginners Guide To The Essentials
The Ultimate Bug Out Bag Essentials List: Be Prepared for Anything

Tactical Knife and Essential Survival Tools

A reliable survival knife is one of the most important tools in any loadout. It serves multiple purposes – from cutting rope to preparing food, shelter building, or self-defense. I recommend a quality fixed blade and this is my go-to for a solid American-made knife that doesn’t break the bank and you can get it for a discount with code “STRENGTH”.

gerber strongarm shtf loadout
Gerber StrongArm Fixed Blade Knife

Other essential survival tools include fire starters, compasses for navigation, water filters for clean drinking water, and flashlights for visibility at night. Each tool has its own purpose that contributes significantly towards survival in tough situations.


Self-Defense Tools In SHTF

In addition to tactical knives, other self-defense weapons such as a semi-automatic rifle like an AR15 rifle, and a handgun with sufficient ammunition are crucial elements of a combat-oriented SHTF loadout.

A Person Reloading a Rifle shtf plan and shtf loadout

Picking Your Survival Rifle

In your SHTF loadout, you are more than likely going to pick up an “assault rifle” for self-defense, hunting small game, and any other reason you’d feel the need for one. You should consider choosing among the best AR15s with a sight accessory because they are plentiful in the U.S., are the most practical, and you want them to work when you need them most.

Related: Discovering the Best AR 15: The Best Choice For You

SHTF Self-Defense Handgun

shtf loadout

In addition, you’ll likely want another SHTF gun and that should be one of the best handguns out there so it can take the beating of a SHTF scenario. Handguns provide protection in a smaller, lighter, and more concealable package.

Adding these tools to your loadout rig provides protection against potential threats during survival scenarios where help will not be readily available.

Related: Best Handguns for Beginners in 2023: The Top 10 Performers

Carry Ammo

Ammunition in Close Up best place to buy ammo online for a shtf loadout

Of course, you’ll need to carry ammo for your chosen weapons. The amount you carry is entirely up to you and the amount of weight you can practically carry.

A standard combat loadout is 180 rounds of 5.56 in 6 magazines and 52 rounds of your handgun so you can start there.

As of publishing this, ammunition prices are set to skyrocket coming into 2024 so it’s best to build your ammo stockpile now.

Here are the best places to buy ammo for the best deals online.

Proper Survival Attire

Your clothing choices should protect you from various environmental conditions and you could also have some degree of ballistic protection if necessary. This could mean investing in weather-resistant apparel, body armor, and even bulletproof helmets depending on your anticipated challenges.

Medical Kit

No matter how prepared we might be physically or mentally for an emergency situation; injuries can still occur unexpectedly hence having medical supplies becomes a vital part of any preparedness strategy.

This should include items to treat common injuries, infections, and combat-related wounds.

You should carry an IFAK (Individual First Aid Kit) or TFAK (Trauma First Aid Kit) on your belt in addition to a more comprehensive kit in your loadout bags.

🧰Resource: Visit MyMedic and get 15% off all medical supplies with code “Strength15”
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Nutrition & Hydration Essentials

nutrient survival bars on seat for a shtf loadout

No SHTF kit would be complete without a food supply and water provisions. Pack a water bottle, as well as portable filtration systems like the Sawyer Filter, Lifestraw, or Survivor Filter for clean drinking water wherever you find yourself stranded. Also having water purification tablets on hand is not a bad idea at all.

Additionally, your food prep needs to be taken into account for an extended period. You can only carry so much so I recommend something like the 72-Hour Bug Out Kit from my friends over at Nutrient Survival. I’ve got a sweet deal with them if you use discount code “STRENGTH15”.

When it comes to food prep, they have everything you need. Read my review of their stuff here.

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Nutrient Survival

The standard for survival food. Food should free you. Not fail you. Browse their emergency food kits, everyday performance foods and BrainCare products.

Other Critical Tools & Supplies

A quality multi-tool like the Leatherman Wave+ is another extremely useful item. It’s an entire toolbox in one compact package that lets you fix things on the go.

Durable rope or paracord should be next on your list because it has multiple uses: making shelter, setting traps, and even medical emergencies.

In addition to a handgun and a great rifle, a great addition to your SHTF gear list is pepper spray for close-range encounters with bad guys.

You’ll also need fire starters and tinder. The ability to make fire can mean the difference between life and death, providing warmth, purifying water, or signaling for help.

mira safety cm-6m. shtf plan and shtf loadout

Gas masks are a completely viable piece of gear that would be a dire need if the situation for it came up. This is the one that I have and I’ve proven it as a great option.

Lastly, the more extreme SHTF preppers will decide to equip themselves with night vision. This can prove invaluable and allow you to own the night more safely. Keep in mind that it is becoming a more prudent tool because more and more people are buying these pieces of gear and you don’t want to be at even more of a disadvantage.


Communication Gear

Last but not least is communication gear. In a SHTF scenario, having the ability to communicate with others or receive important updates can be lifesaving. This could mean carrying handheld radios for short-range communications, satellite phones for long-range connectivity, or even simple signaling devices like whistles.

For more serious combat loadout you could opt for a full comms setup with a PTT and headset for your tactical helmet setup.

Related: Best Ballistic Helmets [Ultimate Dome Protection Guide]

Customizing Your SHTF Loadout

Your personal needs, environmental factors, and potential disaster scenarios play a key role in customizing your SHTF loadout. This isn’t about having the fanciest gear; it’s about being practical and prepared while having the right tools for the task at hand.

To start, consider your physical condition. A hefty pack might not be ideal and would slow you down, especially if you’re not as fit. Make sure you’re comfortable carrying what you need on foot over long distances and make sure you’re working on getting in shape to become more capable.

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Preparedness is more than just buying false senses of security. You have to actually be able to move and have the skills to survive.

You also need to think about where you live or where you’d likely go during an SHTF event. Urban preppers must take into account diverse needs compared to those residing in rural areas. You’ll learn that urban environments call for compact, discreet items while rural settings may demand more survival-focused tools like fishing kits or hunting equipment.

Finally, envision potential disaster scenarios specific to your region – hurricanes? earthquakes? civil unrest? Tailoring your kit and building a preparedness plan based on these factors ensures that when the time comes, you won’t just survive – but thrive.

Practical Tips for Packing a SHTF Loadout

When it comes to packing your SHTF loadout, every inch counts. Take only what you need without packing too much. Easier said than done huh?

shtf loadout

Prioritize Your Needs

Your first step should be listing down essentials: water, food, shelter, and defense tools. These are non-negotiables. From there, consider your specific situation and environment. Do you need more medical supplies? Navigation tools? Ammo? Etc.

Tactical Arrangement

The next part is all about how things fit together in your bag or on your person (also known as the art of Tetris.). You’ll want easy access to crucial items like weapons or first aid kits. This is where your plate carrier, battle belt setup, and bug-out kits come in handy.


Regular Checks and Updates

Last but not least, remember that preparedness isn’t a one-and-done deal. Performing regular checks ensures everything’s in working order when you need it most. You should always reassess your personal loadout rig so you’re not restricting mobility but still including essentials like combat weapons.

Maintaining Your SHTF Loadout

Just like your body, your SHTF loadout needs regular check-ups. But why is that important? Imagine running a marathon without training or eating right. You wouldn’t make it far, would you?

Your gear isn’t much different. It’s not enough to just get the right stuff and pack it away for when disaster strikes.

Regular Check-ins

Regularly inspecting all of your items from time to time helps you make sure they are functional. From flashlights to firearms, batteries can die and mechanisms can jam over time if not lubed well.

This is especially true if you have perishable items like food or medicine in there as well; those expiration dates aren’t just suggestions.

nutrient survival shelf life and shtf loadout
It’s always a good idea to inventory your supplies every so often. Nutrient Survival 72 Hour Kit (STRENGTH15)

Cycle Through Supplies

A good rule of thumb: Rotate your supplies when needed to ensure they stay fresh and prepared for use.

If possible, rotate through these supplies as part of everyday life – an excellent way of maintaining practical knowledge on how each item works while keeping tabs on their conditions too.

The Most Valuable Tool In Your SHTF Loadout: A Real-Life Account of An SHTF Experience

The most efficient way to acquire knowledge is often from the experiences of others. Let’s take a look at one of the most real SHTF accounts that actually goes deep into the reality of dealing with the chaos and horror of a true SHTF scenario.

urban prepper rioting and shtf loadout

The Dark Secrets of SHTF Survival: The Brutal Truth About Violence, Death, and Mayhem You Need To Know To Survive” is a raw, no-holds-barred tour into what real survival looks like when everything goes south. Written by Selco Begovic—who lived through the Balkan War—it’s chock-full of lessons from his own account in a war-torn city with no utilities and with enemy combatants and gangs everywhere.

Here’s the deal: When things get really bad (like, ‘the world as we know it has ended’ kind of bad), normal rules fly out the window. There’s no law enforcement to help you.

What you’re left with? A whole lot of chaos, violence, and lawlessness on overdrive. This is a perfect example of how quickly things will decline in a collapse.

I write all of the content I do to help you prepare but surviving isn’t just about hoarding cans of food or being able to light fires without matches. It’s more about being mentally ready for some really nasty stuff and still keeping your cool…and your humanity intact. 

Selco talks about stealth moves to stay safe, bartering when money becomes useless paper, and even staying clean because germs and infections can be as deadly as guns.

shtf screts and loadout
If you’re a prepper, this is required reading.

And trust me; he doesn’t shy away from painting the grim reality either. He forces you to picture kids getting hurt, elderly folks caught up in fights, and women being taken for “you know what”… 

It is all harsh to read but it shows us that we need to build emotional armor and resilience during these crises and even beforehand.

I believe it is our role as men to be able to best handle ourselves to better serve others in times like these as well as daily life as we currently know it.

Selco also dives deep into how important our buddies are in these scenarios—he says finding reliable pals is a lifesaver but also warns against trusting anyone blindly because desperate times make people do awful things for their own needs and desires…

All said and done—”The Dark Secrets of SHTF Survival” serves up some much-needed tough love and, not only reveals how ugly life can get post-apocalypse but also dishes out real practical advice straight from someone who’s been there and done that.

Long story short: the horrors you will encounter will stop you dead in your tracks. The sooner you can work through the “frozen in fear” phase to help others, the sooner you’ll become an asset to survive. No one is exempt from it and knowing this ahead of time is essential to being prepared for the chaos.

Common Mistakes in Preparing a SHTF Loadout

When it comes to preparing for the worst, we often see some common blunders. One big mistake is overpacking. You’re not going on vacation, you’re surviving. Lugging around excess weight won’t help when speed and agility are key.

Avoid packing items based solely on their ‘cool factor’. Yes, that tactical gear looks neat but ask yourself – is it practical? Will it significantly improve your survival chances?

The lack of medical supplies in many loadouts can be shocking too. When disaster strikes, having access to first aid essentials like bandages and antiseptics could mean life or death.

urban prepping shtf loadout

Failing to personalize your SHTF gear list is another misstep we’ve seen often at Men of Strength USA. A generic loadout might get you through a day or two, but for long-term survival situations, tailoring your gear list to your needs becomes crucial.

Neglecting maintenance also lands folks in hot water. Your equipment needs regular checks and upkeep so that they’re ready when needed most. You wouldn’t let your faith falter; don’t let your gear do the same.

Finally, failing to acknowledge the real horrors of SHTF will take you out of the game instantly. Knowing this you can begin to prepare your mind to handle what it really will be like with the right resources like “The Dark Secrets of SHTF Survival“.


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Surviving a real crisis is no small feat. But with an effective SHTF loadout, you’re steps ahead of the rest.

You’ve learned the difference between a combat and an SHTF loadout, grasped why each item in your kit counts, and understood how customization makes it work for you.

Packing efficiently? You know that’s vital. Regular maintenance of your gear? Essential.

The real-life account we looked at gave you some practical insights into how real it gets in a true SHTF event. I recommend investing in that resource.

Avoiding common mistakes when prepping? Now you can sidestep those pitfalls like a pro.

In essence, it’s not solely about possessing things; it’s also about being prepared for unexpected challenges. Put all of these elements together and you are on your path to being better prepared for SHTF.

“Get ready; be prepared, you and all the hordes gathered about you, and take command of them. After many days you will be called to arms.”
-Ezekiel 38:7-8

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