A Basic SHTF Wardrobe List

What to wear, oh, what to wear?  Ever heard that coming from your wife’s closet?  It is not as though the next potential SHTF Top Survival Blogis going to be like dressing for a party or anything, but frankly I never read any prepper advice on what clothes to take.  Perhaps the concept simply sounds too rudimentary to be worthy of much discussion, but like many other prepping topics, this is one we might gloss over too quickly.  I mean clothing is an essential part of what we do everyday so it should be pretty important for a SHTF, too.  Don’t you think?

By Dr. John J. Woods, a contributing author to SHTFBlog & Survival Cache

Environmental Conditions

Global warming conspiracies aside the first thing you need to get a handle on are the general seasonal weather and Top Survival Blogtemperature trends in your area as well as any location where you are considering a Bug Out option.  Is it hot, cold, standard four seasons, lots of rain, snow, super dry or what?  You have to know the conditions you are most likely to encounter before you can pick clothing to best suit it.  What you need are year around clothing choices for comfort, protection, and durability. Withstanding and outlasting any kind of a SHTF whether a Bug In or Bug Out plan execution, you have to think long term.  I prefer to think of it in terms of the four seasons, and have something to wear for all four types of conditions.  Here is one list of clothing categories to consider for any SHTF.


Might as well start with the base layers and work our way out so to speak.  I am old fashioned and as a male I still like cotton Top Survival Blogunderwear, briefs, too if you must know.  They don’t offer much protection or warmth, but they are comfortable, and easy to wash.  Assess your family’s preferences, and have enough to “cover” you for a couple weeks without having to start rotating them through a wash routine.  I don’t like undershirts but will wear heavy duty t-shirts over my torso (see Carhart) and for wear under outer shirts.

Also Read: Footwear When TSHTF

The women and kids need to have what works for them, too.  Without my having to repeat their needs in each of these categories, just take their essentials in mind as well.


Pack socks for every weather cycle and mix them up to handle relaxation, everyday wear, work, hunting, for light shoes or heavy boots.  Cotton socks are comfortable but provide no warmth.  Wool socks are best for really cold conditions.  You might be able to settle on just these two general types.  I do like a mid-range hiking type sock as well.  Some like a silk liner in the winter.  At least they are lightweight and don’t take up a lot of packing space.  During a SHTF I see no need for any kind of dress sock.

A good pair of socks under normal wear conditions seems to last about a year before they really start wearing out in earnest.  I recommend a minimum of six pairs of each kind, more if you can afford the carry space and storage at your Bug Out locale.  If you Bug In, then stock up whatever you like in reasonable redundancies.


Also Read: Do You Have Seasonal Clothes In Your Bug Out Bag

I know some preppers that are stocking up on military surplus camouflage or hunting camo.  Some of these patterns are excellent for low key hiding.  Be careful though what brands of hunting garments you buy.  Some are not up to par in terms of long term durability.  Some are outright cheap and poorly assembled.  Generally speaking real military surplus garments are well made and durable.


My primary choices for SHTF pants are (1) Carhart, (2) Redhead jeans, and (3) Duluth Trading Company Fire Hose Pants.  To be honest I have not tested the Duluth Trading pants in hopes they might send us some to evaluate, but they have a good reputation for wearability and durability.  I wear the other two types extensively in addition to standard hunting camouflage pants from Mossy Oak, Realtree, Longleaf, and Muddy Water.  What you want most in good SHTF pants beside fit and comfort is long term durability.  Forget the designer jeans or some of the common trade named jeans that simply do not hold up over time.  They just wear out too fast.

Jackets & Coats

Again, weather trends rule here.  I recommend at the very least you take one lightweight jacket or rain suit jacket and one SHTF Jacketsheavy insulated coat with a hood as an option.  Durable work coats make good choices as do many winter hunting coats.  The options are obviously endless in this category.  Buy jackets and coats with heavy duty zippers and even snap or button over closures like some Browning 4-1 hunting coats.  These have inside liners that can be worn as a stand alone jacket or zipped into the outer coat as an insulation factor.

Miscellaneous Clothing Items

Naturally in addition to these basic categories of clothing for SHTF consideration there are other items to consider adding to your soft goods stock.  These would include hats, stocking caps, scarves, gloves for work and warmth, sweaters, vests in goose down and/or wool, rain gear, belts, shoes, boots, maybe even waders.  Consider also coveralls and bib-overalls for around SHTF camp work and wear.  What else?  As mentioned before in all the clothing categories, buy for fit and durability.  If we go into any kind of an extended SHTF we may wait a long time or forever to be able to buy new clothing items or much else.  Once the 18-wheeler supply line goes down, don’t look for stores to have anything to sell.  That’s in a best case scenario.

All Photos By: Dr. John. J Woods

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29 comments… add one
  • James February 16, 2015, 8:23 am

    I like to stick with my normal camping gear, dark green fleece and my khaki army top and a pair of black cargo pants with my boots. They don’t stick out in urban (not too tactical, which looks odd in my country) or in wilderness environments (it’s not fluro green either)

    Thanks for the good post.

  • irishdutchuncle February 16, 2015, 9:07 am

    a possible SHTF, gives you a whole new perspective on dressing
    “for success”. but it’s mandatory.
    as soon as I was out of diapers, I was put into whitey-tighties, and never gave it any more thought until I hit my fifties. one early autumn day, up in the mountains, I decided to go for a walk…
    it was still too warm to take a deer, that would have been wasteful.
    I thought my boots were adequately broken in…
    didn’t bother with liner socks. by the time I made it back to the “cabin”, I was badly chafed, and had huge blisters on both heels.
    if that had been the first day of a SHTF, instead of a vacation day, I would have been in deep doo-doo…
    I’m thinking that some “performance fabric” under drawers might be worth the expense. definitely not white cotton briefs, any more.
    I’m cutting those up for char cloth, or bore patch material.

    • DocMontana February 16, 2015, 8:52 pm

      Years ago while planning a rainforest trip, I read that the best underwear for that environ was the speedo swim suit. It was comfy, held little water, washed up easily and dried as best as anything could in a rainforest. Ever since then I have opted for synthetic undies, and swim trunks and river shorts as undies for intense outdoor activities.

      Honestly IDU, I think the main reason so many folks have a rough time outdoors is that their wardrobe fails them miserably. Way back when kids wore two pairs of Levis when it was cold, we never pushed our luck or strayed far from home. But with all the high tech fabrics and fundamental philosophical change in everything from nutrition to hydration to the realistic limits of a human whether kid or elderly, the challenges we can face outdoors and the duration we can tolerate is magnitudes beyond the traditional “Boys Life” outdoor adventure. (I actually blame mountaineering and triathlons for knocking our old ways on their ear!)

      But still I see parents dress their kids in cotton and bulk with cheap boots (often too tight with all the wool socks stuffed in there cutting off the circulation), poor diet, dehydrated, sleep deprived, wet, cold, and generally uncomfortable. What better way is there to teach a distaste for the outdoors than by making kids suffer without loving the adventure.

      Frankly, kids and parents benefit from the same fabrics and layers. Adults might sweat more, but overall, if it works for you it will work for them. But I agree that spending a hundred and fifty bucks on a kid’s coat is painful. Until you see them smiling on the top of the mountain, that is.

    • irishdutchuncle February 17, 2015, 2:46 am

      what do serious athletes wear as under garments these days?
      that seems like something maybe to emulate as a SHTF base layer…
      survivalism is kind of like an extreme sport I think.

      • Pineslayer February 17, 2015, 3:41 pm

        hey irish, synthetic materials are the undies of the pro’s. UnderArmour is the mainstay, but most manufacturer’s of outdoor gear have offerings. I picked up some Pearl Izumi years ago, 100% Polyester, and they feel great, wick moisture, dry quickly and are lighter. I still love my cotton base layers, but in my BOB, they have no place.

        • irishdutchuncle February 19, 2015, 6:27 am

          well, are boxer briefs, or
          “compression shorts”, better than a “jock”, for some reason?
          I can see where a bug-out could easily be
          confused with triathlon…
          and what should I suggest for the women? sports/ jog bra naturally.
          it was the leg openings in the briefs that caused most of the chafing I experienced… is there a women’s equivalent for boxers?

          • Anonymous July 18, 2016, 11:25 pm

            jockey skimmers.
            great women’s boxer type undies, or bike shorts.

  • Leon Pantenburg February 16, 2015, 9:08 am

    Great selections for outdoorspeople – but what about the urban people who need to blend in to either get home, or get out of town? Here are some clothing selections for the townies: http://www.survivalcommonsense.com/urban-camoflauge-blend-in-if-you-have-to-walk-home-after-a-disasterfeed/

  • j.r. guerra in s. tx. February 16, 2015, 1:46 pm

    I have two types of Duluth trading company pants, the Fire Hose and lighterweight summer pant. Both of them are tough comfortable pants – the Fire Hose earn their reputation, I really like them. Bought them in neutral desert so they fit an office environment well, yet perform well in the field too. Not many of my pants can do that.

    The minus – the price, but I look at if they last twice as long as other pants, they’ve earned their keep. Especially if you are looking at a situation where ‘no longer available’ is the rule.

  • Duder McGruder February 16, 2015, 4:18 pm

    Sweats, shorts, and lounge pants. Gotta be comfortable. The past 10 years I’ve put on some serious weight. I saved some clothing from each of the different stages. I figured I would probably lose some weight in a SHTF situation…so I’ll be covered.

  • Pineslayer February 16, 2015, 7:04 pm

    Dang it Doc, you beat me to the punch. I was putting together a similar list.

    Duder, I would recommend that everyone start collecting a size smaller in clothing, maybe 2 sizes. If nothing else you could help others or trade them.

    • Duder McGruder February 16, 2015, 7:57 pm

      Right on, Slayer.

  • srsk662000 February 16, 2015, 7:51 pm

    I would stick to general earth-tone clothing. All that camo is going to be a bullseye when the DHS goons go hunting.

    • laura m. February 17, 2015, 3:53 pm

      srsk: You make a good point. Solid earth tones tops and bottoms, dark gray, green, navy or black pants. We live in an urban area near the edge of the city. I really like the synthetic blend socks (climalite by Adidas; store brand @ Academy Sports, also @ Dicks), also wear to bed as they do not fall off and more comfy than cotton and drys fast. The poly t- shirts are comfy esp in warm weather. As for shorts in warmer climates- mosquito problems so be careful as new insect carrying diseases are emerging from cruise ship passengers returning, and cargo shipped in from central America, etc. Roger: I too gotta have arch support inserts in my shoes.

    • irishdutchuncle February 18, 2015, 3:27 am

      … but if there’s any possibility that you will be spending time hiding out in the woods, make sure to avoid white items: like a handkerchief, black items…
      blues, reds, browns,
      ANY color that makes you look like a deer or a turkey to a hungry, inexperienced hunter.

  • Roger February 17, 2015, 1:09 am

    I would like to add to your list the following: gel or felt boot liners, the felt ones are warmer but harder to find. Unless you’re a endurance athlete, after SHTF, especially in a bug-out situation, you’re feet are bound to suffer from overuse! Also, knee and elbow pads (or shin guards) will be worth the weight especially in woody or rocky environments. I prefer a heavy poncho to rain gear since it can also be used as a quicky shelter if necessary or a makeshift backpack. Last, don’t forget those sunglasses and/or protective/ballistic glasses with side shields as well as extra prescription glasses because getting even dust in your eyes can be a serious problem! And a little off the subject but a blaze orange hunting vest can be used as an effective signaling devise or maybe as a way of determining whether a stranger is friend-or-foe by stuffing it with debris and propping it up by the fire, a decoy (don’t forget a hat); if they attack/shoot it, then they’re not your friend and you just got a tactical advantage, don’t waste it! Good Luck!

  • Jon February 17, 2015, 7:06 am

    If you want your clothing to last make sure you have a way to clean them. The dirt will act like sandpaper and wear your clothing out quicker. Just my 2cents!

  • BamaMan February 17, 2015, 8:40 am

    The following last a really long time/highest quality:

    Patagonia/Arctyik/OR/Mountain Hardwear $$$$$
    Mountain Kaki $$$$
    North Face/Browning/ $$$
    Carhart $$ (now sold at Wal Mart so on the decline)
    BassPro/Cabela’s/ect…Mostly cheap stuff $

  • javelin February 17, 2015, 9:49 pm

    Good advise. be ready for all possible conditions. and have at least 1 full set in your BOB. As far as pants give a good look to Wrangler Riggs work pants. Ripstop material, good colors wear like iron. and they come in both carpenter and cargo style. a little less than 1/2 the cost of firehose pants.

  • Steve suffering in NJ February 17, 2015, 11:23 pm

    Redwing boots, carhart clothing and jackets have never let me down. Anything by smartwool, awsome neck gaiters and socks. OR makes some really good hats for cold and rain. And lots and lots of work gloves.

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  • Matt February 27, 2015, 11:13 pm

    I recently picked up a cheap pair of green cargo pants on Amazon, and they look promising so far! They even have lower leg pockets, though I’m not so sure how practical they will be in a survival situation. Maybe a few .22LR in them or something! (kidding!)

    On another note, has anyone else seen the new Leatherman tool bracelet coming out? I don’t think it is for sale yet, but it looks promising.

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  • Wcr3650 March 9, 2015, 12:09 am

    Two problems I see with this article:

    1 is the camo. There’s a select few situations where camouflage clothing would come in handy: hunting, reconnaissance and watch standing. Outside of these, camouflage might be more of a liability, due to raising suspicion of law enforcement/DHS/National Guard (especially military camo and ESPECIALLY Multicam). You’re asking at a minimum to be detained, and at worse be arrested and have your gear confiscated. Worse still, you might stick out amongst the unprepared who might view you as a target. The ideal concept is referred to as “grey man”. Be the guy who no one notices. Think about it. If you’re a cop or even an unprepared citizen and you see someone with camouflage on (even civvy camo like mossy oak) your first thought is likely to be “if anyone has a gun, it’s probably that guy”. Whereas someone in earth tone clothing doesn’t really attract much attention. Earth tones can be used to hide just as well as camo, if you’re careful.

    Personally, I try to be adaptive. I have a black MOLLE backpack for my BOB and I keep a blue Walmart backpack rain cover in the top flap to disguise the military styling of the bag if I’m around other people. Also in the bag is a MARPAT camo Poncho and tarp that can be lashed on as a rain cover if I need to make myself scarce. It’s not ideal for every situation, but it’ll do alright for most.
    Second is the huge reliance on cotton. This might not be a big problem for bug in and day-to-day, but it’s a huge liability for bug out. Cotton holds moisture in and has a hard time drying. This will lead to hypothermia. Most outdoors trainers/guides won’t take you on a hike if you’re using cotton because of this.

    I would recommend that you have a fully synthetic base layer (under armor shirt and underwear, panty hose or poly pro sock liners) at all times. This way you can at least stay in those while your cotton stuff dries. Synthetic pants and over shirt would be preferred as well, and would be almost mandatory for bugout.

    I’ve worn synthetics on a 30 mile hike and I was skeptical of the whole “Thou shalt not wear cotton” thing, too. We got soaked through the first night, while still hiking. Putting on my rain jacket and continuing to hike to the camp site for the evening, I was mostly dry again by the time we made camp, just from body heat. It really does work.

    The flip side to this is that synthetics melt when exposed to extreme heat and are thus dangerous to wear around flames, because it will melt and stick to your skin, worsening any potential burns. There are flame retardant base layer alternatives that still wick moisture like synthetics, but they’re pricey and you’re not likely to find them locally.

    Jeans are rugged and make good work pants. For work around the homestead, what you suggested is fine, but mind the limitations of your gear.

  • keebler March 9, 2015, 8:59 pm

    I do have (2) orange t-shirts & cap i’ll keeb for if I need to be seen & rescued,,,other than that, everything will be darker, for NON visibility. I have lots of clothes ready for what ever, rolled up tight for less space.

  • Rucksack Rob March 12, 2015, 8:38 pm

    OK… this from a old timer who’s been prepping for almost 40 years with 24 years as a paratrooper in the Army, everywhere from Alaska (Recon) to Afghanistan (Special Forces)… and then retirement in the Great Lakes region
    I don’t have a ‘Bug-Out-Bag’, but I do have a ‘Get-Home-Bag’ (not much difference), I travel a lot for work with my shortest commute being 90 miles (one way). I live in the country so I plan on ‘Bugging-in’, but if at work, I have to get there first. So in my GHB, I have earth tone colored field clothing with synthetic underclothes. (either summer boxer-brief shorts and t-shits or winter long johns), I’m not to concerned about fireproof material (frog or nomex) as I’m not on flight status or fighting house or wildland fires. (Jus’sayin.) My trousers are a 60/40 blend for both durability and toughness (either 5.11 or Blackhawk in OD or Dark Earth color, and no I’m not some wanna-be “operator”, I got one pair for free and one pair brand new w/ tags still on them at a thrift store for $5.00. too good to pass up). I would under NO circumstances, wear a denim or Carhardt / Deluth Fire Hose pant as my field trousers, (unless that was all I had and yes, I do own all three), they are A) primarily cotton, B) Heavy, twice as much as my primary field pants C) even heavier when wet, and D) take too long to dry. In the summer, wet pants on a long ‘hump’ (hike) will cause you miserable chaffing (be sure to carry foot powder or Gold Bond as part of your field kit) and in winter they can cause you miserable freezing and add to hypothermia and maybe your life. With that being said… Around the homestead, they are great! Durable, comfy when broke in, great protection from field work, firewood cutting/splitting, animals etc. (and great winter trousers when you’re close to home to change into something dry and warm, should you have some bad luck.) I wouldn’t think of NOT owning numerous pairs for farm/ homestead/ retreat trousers.
    Just my 2 cents worth… (with lots of time in the field AND cold weather.)

  • Rowena April 30, 2015, 10:16 pm

    Another thing to mention is to have neoprene wraps/ braces for any joint of yours that has a tendency to “go out”. My family (and my group) already has these set in store, planning for at least 2 per joint. Yes an ACE bandage will do in a pinch but nothing beats having support and heat that the neoprene provides. Now in an ideal world these weaker joints are already rehabbed through physical therapy (or as a last resort, surgery) but if you have a chronic injury you know how debilitating that can be.

    And yes I think it belongs in the personal wardrobe category, you can even share underwear but I wouldn’t unless I had to. Its nice to know I have the support for my poor wrist and shoulder if I need it. Imagine stress injuries without a good way to treat them and no rest for the strained injured parts. Its part of taking care of yourself and what you may need so you’re not a burden to the others in your group.

    My group tries to focus on what we call “Soft Tactical” high quality, easy care clothes in earth tones. They look good on most people and wear well.

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