Selco’s Guide to Looting and Scavenging When the SHTF
by Selco Begovic
Through the media, we have gotten a picture of scavengers, so there are movies and book about guys who ride motorcycles while wearing helmets with horns. These guys are looting and scavenging after the SHTF. And then, in this fantasy, there are good guys who do not do that, except maybe to get some interesting book or similar.
The interesting thing is the fact that guys who “scavenge” somehow through all those movie and book cliches are understood as bad guys and psychos. Through the news, we see folks who loot as a mindless mob who drag out big-screen plasma TVs while floods are coming.
It would be cool if we could try to form our opinion and adopt some knowledge and strategies without those images from above.
It is nearly impossible, but let’s try.
Let’s try to form our strategies about looting and scavenging through the following topics.
First, remember that curiosity killed the cat.
One of my favorite sayings is that “curiosity killed the cat” and I think I survived many times during my SHTF situation thanks to the fact that I kept it on my mind all the time.
We are living in the times where we simply we “want to see and understand”, or even better where we want to have that feeling of “amusement”, moments of excitements.
We read about how people get killed or injured just because they want to check how dangerous something is, or just because they wanted to have selfie photo in some dangerous place.
Horse playing has become our culture, and a lot of people do stupid things just because “it looks cool”.
A real SHTF event has much higher stakes, so you need to have the thought constantly in your mind that says: “Do I really need to do that?”
If you do not need to do that then just simply do not do it.
Do not go out into riot just because it looks cool, do not lift objects from the debris just because it is shiny and weird, do not check abandoned house because you saw it happen in movies.
The examples are numerous, and it is a bit hard to transfer examples to your own settings, but once when SHTF please use the question, “do I really need to do that?” all the time and keep in mind that curiosity did kill the poor cat.
And yes, that goes along with looting and scavenging.
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Yes, looting and scavenging is a part of prepping and survival.
Prepping at its core is about having enough items to overcome some hard disruption in the system around us.
There is nothing wrong with that if we are talking about shorter SHTF events like a temporary collapsing of law and order and system from events like storms, electricity failure, rioting, etc.
But if we are talking about a really prolonged absence of the system, then we should include more actions in our prepping. We should have more plans to solve some problems.
One of those actions is looting or scavenging.
Based on the event (or kind of SHTF) that you will experience you need to understand what kind of level of SHTF is happening around you. How hard did it go?
Based on that information., you have to switch your mentality to a new level. You will have to adopt a new set of rules.
It sounds metaphysical but it is very simple.
It means that if there is no more system, which means there is no more law and order and especially that there is no more distribution of goods, maybe now you need to adapt to the new reality that going into the mall to take food is no longer stealing. It is simply obtaining the goods.
It is a decision that each one of you has to make while again, keeping in mind that curiosity kills the cat.
I am talking here mainly about looting. This includes taking goods from stores, malls, and similar.
Do you have to loot?
The answer is that I do not have clue, and it is completely up to you and the event that is happening around you.
- How well you are prepped
- How big your storage is
- How long the event is gonna last
- How dangerous it is
- What your personal opinions about looting are
All that comes into the equation.
I know from my personal experience that I did not loot enough. In other words, I was not smart enough to loot enough while there was time for that, simply because I did not understand there were new rules and how big the event was.
What should you loot?
Now I can give you some suggestion on WHAT to loot if you decide to loot. And no, I am sorry but it is not gonna be in the form of “100 items that you need to loot”.
It is not gonna be because of two reasons:
- You are a prepper probably so it is insulting if you do not know what items are important for survival when SHTF
- The list of needed items is way too long
There is a big advantage here, thanks to our modern society. You should, as a prepper and survivalist, go and loot items that most people around you who are looting will not be interested in.
While other people look for money from cash registers, TVs or stereos, or whatever is popular to loot at that moment, you will look for batteries, tools, lamps, lighters, stove fuels, matches, tarps, canned food, and seeds.
I mentioned this often: when SHTF happens here, there is a small parking machine right next to my building, and it is operated on small coins. When I see people trashing it in order to take coins from it, I’ll run there to take the small solar panel that sits on top of it and the battery from it while they are looking for money.
Nobody will even notice that solar power, but there are a lot of coins inside.
F**k the coins.
You see the analogy here?
Scavenging is very often the art of recognizing what to take from what looks like a pile of junk.
As the situation deteriorates around you and as your prep storage goes down, and as things in your house including your tools, clothes, and similar deteriorate, you will be forced to scavenge more and more, and you will learn to recognize what is useful and what is not.
One example is that we first went and chopped all the trees around our homes for wood-heating and cooking. Then we moved to parks and small forested areas. Then, when that disappeared, we took apart wood frames and furniture from abandoned or destroyed houses. Then we pulled up wood floors etc.
As a result, I learned what kind of floor burned fast or slow, how much I needed to boil water, whether it was wet, how long it was under the rain, and how that impacted the quality of fire, etc., etc.
Wood is one example only.
Over time, pieces of wire from burned houses became important to use as a rope, for example. Pieces of gutters were useful for wood collection, etc.
I am talking here about the other side of scavenging and what you can repurpose.
You are a prepper so there is no need to tell you that you definitely need to scavenge every bit of fuel possible from the abandoned cars in your area or to look for means of alternate to transports goods like carts or bikes.
Here also you need to look for the stuff that most people will not look for, at least they will not look at that particular moment. You as a prepper have to always be a few steps ahead.
Again the examples are numerous. If we are talking about a pharmacy people might look for addictive drugs and narcotics, while you will look for antibiotics and drugs for existing medical conditions in your family.
Also, being a few steps ahead here means that you should be able to find and recognize drugs quickly that you want to take.
It is not a movie. You are not gonna be the only guy around scavenging or looting. Other people means possible danger, so minimize the time and interaction by having a plan where the stuff is that is interesting to you.
The other thing that I did a lot in my time is keeping info where interesting the stuff is around me in my area when S did hit the fan. (There’s an article about that right here.)
I usually carried a piece of paper and I wrote down on that paper where I saw something interesting in town during the collapse on my way somewhere. That way I had an idea where possible things of interests are (if I did not want to take it at that moment or I could not do that for some reason).
My main tool for scavenging was a combination of an ax and a crowbar, and I find it as a very good tool for SHTF because it is a weapon also.
A scavenging and looting plan is part of prepping
Good prepping usually just postpones the moment in a serious SHTF event when you have to go out and take stuff through other means, by trade, scavenging, looting or whichever way.
That does not mean that you cannot have a plan and info on where that stuff is and how to take it.
Selco survived the Balkan war of the 90s in a city under siege, without electricity, running water, or food distribution. He is currently accepting students for his next physical course here.
In his online works, he gives an inside view of the reality of survival under the harshest conditions. He reviews what works and what doesn’t, tells you the hard lessons he learned, and shares how he prepares today.
He never stopped learning about survival and preparedness since the war. Regardless of what happens, chances are you will never experience extreme situations as Selco did. But you have the chance to learn from him and how he faced death for months.
- Read more of Selco’s articles here.
- Buy his PDF books here.
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- Learn the inside story of what it was really like when the SHTF with his online course One Year in Hell.
Real survival is not romantic or idealistic. It is brutal, hard and unfair. Let Selco take you into that world.
About the Author
Daisy Luther is a coffee-swigging, globe-trotting blogger. She is the founder and publisher of three websites. 1) The Organic Prepper, which is about current events, preparedness, self-reliance, and the pursuit of liberty on her website, 2) The Frugalite, a website with thrifty tips and solutions to help people get a handle on their personal finances without feeling deprived, and 3) PreppersDailyNews.com, an aggregate site where you can find links to all the most important news for those who wish to be prepared. She is widely republished across alternative media and Daisy is the best-selling author of 5 traditionally published books and runs a small digital publishing company with PDF guides, printables, and courses. You can find her on Facebook, Pinterest, Gab, MeWe, Parler, Instagram, and Twitter.