Most of the civilized world has come to rely on a myriad of electric tools to complete most repair or construction projects, whether battery-powered or corded. We are so comfortable with the ease in which these tools operate and the power they generate using mechanical advantage, that we forget that some of the greatest achievements made by mankind were made without them.

For hundreds of years, sailing ships were made with tools that, by today’s standards, were crude at best. Christopher Columbus didn’t set sail on boats made using DeWalt tools, and the Wright brothers didn’t have their toolboxes filled with Milwaukee’s newest lithium-ion-powered gadgets. The fact that such men undertook dangerous endeavors with things made without “modern” science and tools should show that sometimes simple things work best.

During any sort of disaster or emergency recovery, you most likely won’t have access to a fully functional power grid, so a complement of manual tools should be high on your list of prepping items while “bugging in.” Even if you say you have a generator, using manual tools when you can will help conserve precious fuel. A basic list of manual tools should consist of the following.

1.) 16-ounce hammer

I like Estwing Manufacturing’s E3-16S hammer, specifically, because its made in Rockford, Illinois and has been since 1923. It also features impressive full-steel forged one-piece construction. Tip to tip, the whole thing is solid steel. A vinyl-covered handle provides shock relief for the times you miss-strike something. Those kinds of blows might shatter inexpensive plastic or wood shafts, but this baby will keep on swinging and probably outlive both of us.

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2.) Hand drill

A simple, quality-built hand drill will save your arm strength and make life easier. Available in two sizes, the German-built Schroeder Hand Drill is made with steel cogs and a quality wood handle. The smaller 9″-long model is widely available and can accept up to 1/4″-diameter shank drill bits.


3.) Handsaw

The Stanley I have shown above is a great saw with a lifetime warranty. With a blade that is 15% thicker and has only a 15″ long blade it wont take up much space and was designed to be used easily by one person. Stanley Tools claims their “Smart Cut” technology leads to up to 50 percent faster cuts with less binding and when time can be critical that is a nice advantage to have.

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4.) Utility bar

Stanley Tools’ FUBAR pry bars are exactly what they sound like: a tool you can use in recovery operations, construction, or self defense. Measuring 18″ long and weighing five pounds, it is perfect for the ripping and tearing of any material in your way. It features pounding and gripping surfaces opposite the pry tip. Tested to 975 pounds of bending momentum force, it’s a serious tool in your prepping toolbox.

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5.) Screwdriver set

It is completely up to the individual to select what type of screwdriver setup to keep in their manual tool kit—there are thousands of choices. Just make sure your selection is a well-built set from a reliable company such as Craftsman, Snap-On, Stanley, or Channellock. The important thing is to have various lengths and types to cover all screw varieties. I personally use both traditional screwdrivers and driver bit sets so I can use my manual drill to also put screws into wood.

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6.) Respirator

Few people understand the need for a respirator until they cough up strange-colored phlegm or boogers after painting or demolition work. Nuisance masks are better than nothing, but for repeated or prolonged use, it’s cheaper and easier to get a high-quality respirator with replaceable filters. Filters are designed to catch hazardous particulates from chemicals, dust, mold, and asbestos. Quality masks can be purchased at most home centers, but if you can, try them on before purchasing to ensure a comfortable fit.

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7.) Socket set with both metric and standard sizes

Sockets and ratchets are invaluable during ordinary times while repairing homes and equipment, so this will be magnified during any contingency. Like the screwdriver sets mentioned earlier, it is important to select a quality maker and a kit that has a full selection of both regular-depth and deep-length sockets. Make sure the ratchet heads match and the individual sockets match. Common-size socket drives come in 1/4″, 3/8″, and 1/2″ shafts.


8.) Leather work gloves

Tactical gloves (such as Oakley’s SI Assault Gloves) are great for shooting and tactical situations, but construction or rebuilding is not tactical. Choosing the right tool for the right job is important. Leather gloves are built to withstand the abuse of demolition and construction-related operations. Protecting your hands isn’t something that should be considered trivial. With damaged fingers or hands, defending yourself, or helping your friends and family recover and thrive in a post-disaster world, is greatly hampered—not to mention painful. Quality leather work gloves should have palms that offer both protection and dexterity. Check for multiple lines of stitching around stress or flex points. The tips of the fingers should also have enough material to ensure protection, yet let you grasp small objects such as screws or bolts.

Words of wisdom

While some of this gear may seem obvious, you have to remember that not everyone has knowledge about construction or industrial operations. I oftentimes have to take time to remind myself of that now that I have over 20 years of experience dealing with mechanical and industrial equipment and repairs.

It didn’t use to be that way, I assure you. When I was a brand new 18-year-old U.S. Air Force Civil Engineer trainee, I knew nothing about tools or mechanics, and it took people with patience to show me and help me grow. In time, I grew and learned the skills of damage assessment and repair, and mastered “the tools of the trade.” Trust me when I say I have caught myself on fire multiple times and have learned a lot of things the hard way. Passing along knowledge and helping other develop skills is what makes prepping great.

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