Tutorial Tuesday

Blogging & Writing Tips

Writing the Apocalypse

Have you heard the term before? Bug-out bag? It’s a key term in survivalist lingo. I’ve had a bug-out bag for years and didn’t know what it was called. Everyone in New Orleans should have one, at least during hurricane season. It’s the bag/box/kit that you grab and go if you have to get the hell out of dodge quickly. The term, survivalists use is the verb, bug-out. Leave your residence and go on the move. The bug-out bag is what you will bring with you. When an apocalypse hits, you either bug-in, stay and survive in place, or bug-out, leave and go on the move to find a better place to survive.

When you are crafting an apocalypse your character will either bug-in or bug-out. If they stay in place, whether they are in a mall and have to stay and survive, they need certain essentials to survive, but it’s easier to find these things when you establish them at a place with “stuff.” But, when your character is on the move, it’s a different story. Whether you are moving your character from one location to another, or starting them off in a location that isn’t safe…here are the things they might want to find or have in their possession so they can realistically survive. I listed the most common and what kind of “character” would generally have these on hand and how they can be found.

Writing the apocalypseWater

  • Standard water bottles
    Water bottles and plastic water bottles for filling are easy to find, most people will have these. This would be realistic to have in the car, or just find in any store. Remember, though, that you can’t just drink from a stream or river. Drinking from an unfiltered water source can lead to sickness and death.
  • Water filters / Purification System
    You can find these in camping stores, WalMart’s outdoors area is a good place to go. Most people will not have these hanging around unless they have camping gear on them.
  • Water purification tablets
    You can find these in camping stores, WalMart’s outdoors area is a good place to go. Most people will not have these hanging around unless they have camping gear on them.

347_1_hiresFood & Energy

  • Protein bars
    These are very common, you can find these at any store. A lot of people carry them around in their purse or car. Realistically can find a protein bar anywhere.
  • MREs / Dehydrated Meals etc.
    These are not common, even a soldier will not have a handy MRE lying around. MREs are distributed by the National Guard during a crisis so you can reasonably have your character go to FEMA distribution center and get a case of water and MREs. They are hard to find and you can usually only order them online. Some stores will sell freeze dried meals, usually in the camping areas.
  • Utensils
    How will they eat their food? Fingers? A spork is recommended from survivalists, but a plastic fork, knife and/or spoon is good to have around. Realistically you can have this in your glove box or in a purse.
  • Cooking Equipment
    From can openers to cooking pots and portable stoves, your character is going to need these things if they don’t have a kitchen. Find a can of peas on the shelf – how are you going to open that can? How will they warm it up? All questions you have to have answered before that action. If not it won’t seem real. And they can’t just find this stuff, all of these would have to be found and portable cooking is only found in larger stores that sell camping equipment or stores that sell catering equipment (sterno).


  • Jacket
  • Rain Poncho
  • Warm Socks
  • Change of underwear

Most characters will only have the clothes on their back, but what happens at night? Is the temperature going to drop? They’ll need outerwear, maybe a rain poncho, change of underwear (that would be gross after awhile) and maybe gloves. All will need to be found. All of these can be found easily if the character is a “normal” size, but not too easily. They’ll have to go to a retail store. If your character is oversized – a huge man, or amazonian woman – it will be much harder.

Tools & Weapons

  • Knife
    It is reasonable to have this on hand, in a car, or near a person.
  • Multi-Tool
    It is also reasonable for someone to have this on hand and can be very useful in the long run.
  • Machete, Sword, Hatchet etc.
    It is not reasonable for a character to be hanging around with a machete or sword, they will have to find this.
  • Handgun
    It is reasonable that a character, if a permit holder, to have a gun on their person, or in their purse. This would be a person that is licensed to carry and knows how to shoot. A regular citizen without gun training will not be walking around with a gun in their purse or one in their car though.
  • Pepper Spray
    It is realistic that a female character will have this in their purse or attached to their key ring.
  • Rifle
    It is not realistic that a character will be walking around with a rifle or high caliber ammunition stuffed in their pocket. They might have one in their vehicle if they are a hunter or a police officer, or planning a terrorist strike on the country. I can’t think of another reason, well maybe a serial killer.
    writing the apocalypse
  • Duct Tape
    Can be useful and realistic that a character has this lying around.
  • Sewing Kit
    For the ingenious survivor. It is also reasonable that they have this lying around.

Shelter / Sleep

  • Tent
  • Sleeping bag
  • Warm Blanket

All of these will need to be found. You have to ask yourself: Where will your characters sleep? Realistically you can have them sleep in the back seat of a car, but what if it’s long term? A lot of the time authors forget about letting their character sleep realistically. They’ll have their characters fall on the floor, sleep and then be fine in the morning. How do you feel after sleeping on the floor? Not read to take on a horde of the undead. No indeed. Your characters could realisitically find a sleeping bag, a tarp, or maybe a blanket and use it for sleeping. Have them raid a store and get a tent and they’ll be in even better shape.schrade-axe-scaxe2-firestriker-large


  • Lighter
    Your character can realistically have a lighter on them and they don’t even have to be a smoker. We keep a lighter to light candles.
  • Tinder & Fire starter
    This is a less believable action. How does your character know how to start a fire by using a few twigs and some tinder? A lot of camping gear will come with a knife with a fire starter in the handle – this is a believable object to have on hand. In fact I have one that I keep in my vehicle, it’s a tactical tomahawk with a fire starter in the handle. It would be used to break the window if I was submerged (a common fear in low-lying coastal regions) or chop someone’s fingers off if they tried to carjack me.


First Aid

Your character just fell off a cliff and landed in a pine tree. They are going to need a band-aid. It is believable that they have a first aid kit in their car, or they find one in a house they loot.


  • Wet Wipes
    Reasonable to have this on hand
  • Hand Sanitizer
    Reasonable to have this on hand
  • Soap
    They will not have this in their pocket, they will have to find this.
  • Toilet Paper
    Your character will have to use the bathroom, this could be messy. If you want to be realistic they’ll need to find a way to remedy this situation.
  • Toothbrush & Toothpaste
    Some characters might have this in their purse or makeup bag if they are resourceful, it’s believable to have this on hand.

Have you read an apocalypse novel where the character “finds” survival stuff that isn’t realistic? Or survives without necessary gear?