The Survival Binder

“What is a Survival Binder?” you may ask.  The answer to that is quite simple, a survival binder is all the pieces of paper that make up your life and the lives of your family, along with other information that may prove useful in an emergency, together in an easily accessible place .

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You may not have much warning if you ever need to bug-out, and when moments count you don’t want to be caught rummaging through a filing cabinet for those documents that you think you might need.  A Survival Binder is just as important as your Bug-Out-Bag is to your survival post-TEOTWAWKI.

Getting Started

Some things you will need to make your binder:
A 2″ 3-ring binder
Plastic page sleeves
Subject dividers
Waterproof flash drive memory stick
2 Loksak element proof bag (1 for originals and 1 for back up)
3 Hole Paper Puncher

After you have gathered the above materials your first task is to gather together all those things that hold critical information and Flash drive of your personal filesmake copies of them (physical and digital).  After you make your physical copies, return the originals to a water/fireproof safe or safety deposit box for safe keeping.  Store the originals/copies inside a loksak bag for safe keeping in case you have to transport your binder outside of your lock box or safe (never store the originals and copies together).  Copy the digital images of your records over to a water proof flash drive and store in a 3rd separate location.  Now you have a back up to the back up (Two is One and One is None – Three is even better).

Some things you may want to include are:
birth certificates
marriage certificate
stock certificates
life insurance policies
personal contacts (name, phone, address, email address)
loan documents
articles of incorporation and other business documents
savings bonds
business contracts
bank records
credit card info
tax records
utilities info
power of attorney
appraisals of precious goods or antiques
immunization records
school transcripts
veterinary records
medical records
blood types
family pictures

Now that you have your info together insert your subject dividers into the binder. Here are some ideas for your categories:

Back Up Files
Animals: (This is the section to keep important info about your pets, farm animals and veterinary records.)
Contacts: (Keep up to date contact info for your emergency contacts here.)
Finances: (Self explanatory)
Firearms: Maintenance, Reloading and Repair
Food: Storage, Preservation and Cooking (see LDS Preparedness Manual – it is free)
Medical:  Basic first aid, dentistry, emergency medicine, naturopathic
Misc. Skills & Knowledge:

If you have more ideas please share them below.

Photos by:
Rah Rah

Written by Josh

Josh is a Boy Scout and an avid outdoorsman. He specializes in knives (and other such tools), various knots & lashings, traditional skills such as blacksmithing & woodworking, bushcraft and fire starting. Read his full interview here. Read more of Josh's articles.

46 thoughts on “The Survival Binder”

  1. Makes good sense, I've got originals in the fireproof safe and copies like you said, in a filing cabinet. I've been trying to get this done but family can be uncooperative. Good article.

  2. Great Post, this is one of the few areas that I am proud to say I am 99% done (I don't think we are ever 100%). I don't use a binder though, just some dividers in a waterproof mailing document pouch…thing I found at Office Depot. Want to keep the weight and bulk down, so just the basics.

    I didn't see in the list, but I also keep copies of Driver's Licenses, my Concealed Carry License, retired military ID's (front and back), credit cards, hunting/fishing licenses, and other "wallet items" in case of lost wallets. Needless to say, this file and flash drive MUST BE PROTECTED CAREFULLY.

    Another thing I do is, for each family member, I have a 1-page medical document that lists complete medical snapshot including past illnesses, surgeries, allergies, current prescriptions and dosages. I also keep a copy of this document on my phone in case of an emergency room visit–and I have used it. Additionally, I keep 5 copies of good headshot photos of each family member in case I need to walk around and ask "Have you seen…?"

    • I agree, this is a great article! I need to get our stuff better organized. A SHTF scenario is more likely than an EOTWAWKI so a few items I included are:
      A copy of family trust, all qualifications and licenses, and a resume folder with letters of recommendation. Have same stored on laptop. I plan on sending a copy to my sister (executor of our trust) for safe keeping 3000 miles away.

  3. One consideration; the binder in and of itself is great, I have compiled one with all the above mentioned documents, but……..
    To alleviate unnecessary wasted time when the balloon goes up, I put it along with a bunch of cash, pistol and ammo in a fireproof case inside my firesafe. So, as I'm grabbing the big guns on my way out the door, everything super important document-wise is already there waiting to be grabbed in a fireproof-lockable container. The pistol is there in case I am forced to open it under duress. There are a billion combinations of gear, ideas, techniques, etc. that may or may not help, so this is mine.

  4. This is a very good idea and have thought about it alot and though a binder is the probably one of the cheapest ways to go and is also nice to have a hard surface to write on i'm not sure if I would good that way. The only reason being that if you are running around and climbing and evading the binder is going to be moving around quite a bit and those three holes are going to stand up to it. Then you are going to have important documents that are loose and you might lose. I think a slightly and a bit more pricey way to go that would also keep bulk down is to take an extra step and take all these papers to a stationary store and have them but an actual binding ( like a spirl plastic piece) that runs the entire length of the papers. Then this would easily fit into a water proof bag like a ziplock. Yes you wouldn't be able to remove the documents but I don't think in the situation I would want to be handing them over to ANYONE. Again, thanks for the great post and keep on prepping forward.

    • I have a binder that is canvas bound with a zipper running around 3 sides. You can get them at Duluth Trading, pretty heavy duty stuff. A little pricey but worth it, for important stuff.

  5. I use a zippered binder, like a Trapper Keeper. It has pockets and a zippered bag inside it to hold various "office" type products (ie ruler, pens, pencils, compass, protractor etc). Also a calculator built in. I have also laminated most of the Important papers for extra protection. Not that expensive of an endevour, around $35 for the laminator and 50 extra sheets. It also helps with what Tinderwolf talks about above, it reinforces the holes and makes it harder for the paper to tear and fall out. I reduce some of the documents and am able to fit 2 pages on each page, then do a front/back, reduces the amount of actual paper greatly. I also have blank sheets for future needs. Colored sheets for various subjects. I also have included alot of "How to's" in my binder. Some just as reminders of how to do something, others for first time stuff(making butter etc). In a SHTF fan situation your mind may be working overtime and you could forget basic stuff, but it just escapes you for a little bit. Also, you may not make it at the time of the Bug Out, good info for your family to use in your absence.

    • Flashmiester, love your last sentance that most people don't mention or may not think of. In case we, the ones who know all this information don't make it what is our family going to do? As disinterested as my wife is in outdoor matters I really do try once to teach her a few things and try basic exercises like using a fire striker. Definitly have information in your binder on how to do stuff and write it out so ANYONE can follow, not just short hand for you.

  6. i like the idea of the hard copies in a folder, the whole usb stick always made me uneasy because there so easily stolen. but a binder i can deal with.

    great article!

  7. Great article Josh! Those are great ideas that are often overlooked. One document that is very important for veterans is the DD-214! It is neccessary for many different things!

  8. Haven't done any of this yet…I feel dumb now. This does get me thinking though. What about dogtags for everyone in the group? Name, D.O.B., hometown, religion. It sounds morbid to think about however, If TSHTF, people could die that you care about. Wouldn't it be insurance for a proper burial? I would like to think that if my group was safe and i found a deceased stranger, i would be decent enough to bury them. By the same token, if someone in my group were to die seperated from us, maybe some decent person could bury them. What's the opinion on this?

    • It does seem a bit morbid, especially if you are asking your little one's to wear them. But at the same time it is understandable and makes sense.

  9. Good post, Josh. Thank you.

    EdfromtheOzarks and Tinderwolf,
    The number of "unclaimed" bodies after events like Hurricanes and Earthquakes does add credence for the need for dog tags. In this age of DNA there are usually ways to find out IF you have some idea of who it might be. With a few thousand bodies, probably isn't going to happen. I have my medic alert bracelet in lieu of dog tags but same idea. If you have medical allergies and you go the dog tag route, I'd add the allergic to "…." if there was room.

  10. Thank you for this article. This is an excellent resourse. Sometimes people forget about having
    a plan for their important papers. I think having a list of names, phone numbers and contact information would be useful as well.

  11. One other item that might not be bad is dental records. I worked numerous missing persons cases as a Detective where I had to obtain them for ID purposes. With them they can also be entered into the national database for matching unidentified remains.

  12. I know this might go without saying but I'll say so anyway. One item I am making sure to put in my binder is a detailed photographic section on wild edibles, ESPECIALLY for the area in which I live. Alot of survival books cover generals plants for most of the US but I know there are more in my area than what I have found in those books. Pictures are a must because some plants look almost identical to others that you cannot eat.

    • Damn Tinderwolf…. Thats a good idea! I'm also going to throw in a photo set of all snakes, spiders and scorpions in for quick identification as well as your idea. I'm in Australia so the identification of plants thing is a bit of a concern around here.

  13. Um,… I may be having a little trouble with this idea.. When the SHTF, won't all these documents become useful only as toilet paper (not the glossy ones, ok). What kind of survival event does this cater for? I suppose it's good if your house burns down and you have an off-site copy of your stuff but when it all falls appart, waving a document at someone in a lawless world doesn't quite say "Go away" like a gun. I have gleaned alot of usefull stuff from this site and have just put together a Get Home Bag in case of a 9-11 style event but isn't this a domestic concern like a filing cabinet? I would like to see more links to things like how to make a fire, hunting tips, re-handling knives, the benefits of a good sling shot and maybe even excepts from the Bear Grills Survival guide. When the SHTF, who cares about a birth certificate? The system is means something too no longer exists right? Where can I find advice on setting traps and snares to catch food after TEOTWAWKI? This stuff is only relevant to the world as we currently know it.

    • The idea behind this is that even after TEOTWAWKI society can rebuild, The government has its own safe guards to information and its impossible that all of it would be lost. At the time in which society DOES rebuild (and society will eventually rebuild) you are then covered.

      Or even past that, think of a more local EOTWAWKI like featured in the book Alas, Babylon.
      To THEM the world was completely decimated and it would seem there was no reason for the trivial things like birth certificates and such, but at the end they find out that it wasn't the entire country, just certain parts, and that the government is still thriving. Imagine if that happened and you didn't have proof of who you were?

      • Your all very correct. I suppose I'm always expecting the very very worst world wide case and as has been said it might only be a local event with the rest of the world carrying on. I will definately read this book starting on the bus to work tomorrow too. Thank you for the explination guys. I do actually have all (and I do mean all) my documents on everything in a set of two fold up series of pockets that hangs on the wall and they fold up in an instant to just over A4. I think I'm paridoid already hey. I'm in Australia and I'm an avid archer. I have a hide set up in a good remote spot near a damn where I also catch loads of freshwater crayfish. Would you guys have any advice on this area of thinking?
        Is it a good sort of place to be for a sustained period or would others come? I have also built myself a recumbant trike and trailer that I can pack up all my camping kit into including the bow, and hit the road not dependant on petrol. I think I'm a prepper…

    • I do agree with you somewhat on the information on this site, however something that I really like about survivalcache is the diversity in their topics.

    • Everything else in the binder aside, look at the birth certificates as invaluable pieces of family history. At some point down the road, someone in your future family line is going to want to know who came before them and if you're not around anymore to pass along the information then there would at least be those birth certificates. I am including the detailed family tree information (with pictures) in my binder because it's important to us to remember those who came before us…Native Americans, Revolutionary war hero, farmer – that's our blood, our history.

    • I keep copies of my kids birth certificates with current pictures of them, copies of my husbands and my drivers licenses, and current pictures of us as a family. Sure my 11 year old will be able to tell someone that yes, I'm his mother, but my 1 year old won't.

  14. I completely agree with Tony on this. Yes you are right Steve that if it is truely TEOTWAWKI (world wide) than these documents don't really matter much, because society would most likely take longer to rebuild past your lifetime. However, like Tony pointed out if a 9/11 type event happened locally or even nation wide than you can grab the binder and have all your important information available if you have to leave your town, state or country. I'm sure if you were trying to get into another country than all this information would be important to the country you are trying to enter. Plus, it good to have information just for the purpose of your family knowing these things.

  15. I have also added a copy of the Declaration of Independence, Bill of Rights and the Constitutions of the US and of my state. I may also add the Constitutions of the states around me in case there is a big out situation. Also, current carry laws. I have these electronically on the flash drive and once I am satisfied with my overall package I will probably print them out and stick them in the binder if there is room.

    • I would also include these items. However, as much as it may upset you in certain situations none of these will be followed and it could be every man for himself

      • It would mostly be used for an after the chaos is done for templates for new ones. Of course, it all depends on how bad things would get. The Carry law In total meltdown, not a whole lot, except maybe for wiping, but for smaller incidents could be useful.

        • I know alot of people say that as a joke but I would never do that because of the respect I have for those documents and the men that wrote them…the only ones who have are wiping with them are government officials

  16. Taken from "Off Grid Survival":
    ■Maps, Evacuation Routes and Bug Out Locations
    ■Medical information and first aid instructions
    ■How To articles
    ■Pictures of edible plants
    ■Communication frequency charts, notes and antenna diagrams / formulas
    ■Primitive Skills & instructional materials
    ■Trapping Diagrams
    ■And anything that you may have a hard time remembering

  17. I'm new to most of this, but i have always been interested in survival and everything about it, i am reading everything i can and have started a binder and need ideas of what i else i should do, like skills to lean, ect. I am already studying electricity, botany, automotive anatomy, and other things. Thanks you

  18. A very good article – be prepared. If you don't come home tomorrow, who is going to care for the kids? Where is your life insurance policy(ies)? Where are all of your investments? Bank accounts? Being secure is part of the challenge – but being able to have those you love find it without you is just as important.

  19. Steve,

    This kind of preparation lends itself more towards real-life SHTF situations like hurricanes, earthquakes and the like. Where the world around you goes to shit, and even if you make it out, you still have to wade through more shit thanks to government red-tape.

    Ask anyone who evacuated during Katrina. Most of them were forced into what amounted to concentration camps and were treated as almost non-persons due to lack of basic documents such as birth certificates, photo id's, etc. Your dog or cat may be taken from you and put down because they don't have proof that it has been immunized.

    This isn't a beans, bullets and band-aids prep. You aren't prepping against the zombie horde with this one. You're prepping so that you don't suffer at the hands of big government if you make it out of a local nightmare, or the zombie apocalypse ends up not being so permanent.

    To me, prepping scissors to help me survive the government red-tape is just as important as prepping guns against zombies or antibiotics for infections.

  20. Cloud storage is a great idea anyway, but make sure you don’t outsource your prep for times of strife. You have to have those documents with you.

  21. I use my USB back up as an everyday carry… mostly because of computer viruses – I always have back ups of my documents… but for my BOB, I'm also doing a CD-RW in case of an EMP type of event (localized of course or anything electronic won't help).

  22. Electronic copies, or photocopies of your important docs, are not official, and can not be used for official purposes, such as proof of identity etc. That being said, a copy is better than nothing, and a notorized copy is better still, and can be used for official purposes in some cases. After a disaster, the peon whose job it is to help you work through the red tape may relax the criteria for use in official purposes, if he sees that you have made the effort to help yourself by obtaining a notorized copy of your I.D., birth certificate, vehicle title, etc. Have two binders one with originals and one with copies. Store separately. Use the plastic document protectors and run a peice of scotch tape across the top to make them water proof. This keeps you from having to hole punch your docs, and keeps them from tearing out, but isn't a permanent seal, and is easily replaceable. I have a thumb drive with electronic copies, but it's only good if you can find something to plug it into. Better bet in my opinion is to have the electronic copy as an image on a micro SD card in your phone, tablet, or some other device. Once again these electronic copies are not official, but they're better than nothing.


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