Ok, let us say you have your survival equipment under control. You have everything you think you’ll need, or at least you have a list and a plan on how to fill the list. You are ready for come what may, right?
Maybe not. Don’t get me wrong; having the right equipment and supplies for a situation will increase your odds of getting through that situation alive and unharmed. But there are a couple of problems with “stuff”.
First of all, stuff is at risk. From theft, use, destruction, expiration, wear, acts of God (or Government) and so on. This does not mean you should have no stuff, just that you must be prepared in case you find yourself without it. Next, stuff does not “use itself”. Just because you have something does not mean you can use it, or use it to its full effectiveness. Thirdly, stuff is stationary. If you and the stuff are where you need to be, no problem. If you are here and the stuff is there, problem. If you and the stuff are here and you both need to be there, potential problem.
Thus knowledge and skills are as important as equipment and supplies. Each can compensate somewhat for a lack of the other, but if you want the greatest chance of survival, you will diligently build up your supply of both.
First, and hopefully obviously, you must be completely familiar with every piece of equipment you get, as soon after you get it as is practical. Know what it can do, and how to make it do it. Then PRACTICE with it. Under the worst conditions you can practically arrange. When you plan to get something which can wear out or be used up, get extra for practice.
Let’s take a fairly trivial example, starting a fire with a pocket Fresnel lens. These are cheap, small and you’ve got one in your wallet, right (if not, why not)? “Everyone” knows how to start a fire with a magnifying glass, right? Actually, everyone knows how to char paper (or ants) with a magnifying glass, but charring paper does not always lead to fire. I wrestled with this for a disturbing length of time and found out it was not as trivial as I assumed. And learned that having dark glasses when trying it is important, ending up a temporary “hole” in my vision before I achieved fire.
In particular, make sure you can make tolerable meals from any food items you stock, without electricity or refrigeration. It would be most distressing to have plenty of food which you can not bear to eat or which you cannot prepare.
Second, learn how to accomplish the same task if the equipment is not available or stops functioning. If you need fire and don’t have a magnifying glass (or other source of fire), how about eyeglasses, or even a “water lens”? Or a friction technique? For food, hunting and snaring and identifying local edible plants. Again, don’t just read instructions, TRY IT.
Following this principle, you will maximize your chances of survival whether you have equipment and supplies or not. But there is an additional step to consider. If the disaster you are attempting to survive is not “local” or “short term”, you may have to adopt a different lifestyle. What if credit cards don’t work, your paper money is worthless, there is nothing to buy with your gold and silver, and nobody, not even the government is giving you anything? It would be best if your head was crammed with knowledge and your hands with skills which would be of value to others in such an environment. Computer hacking might be fun, but animal husbandry and tanning hides might be more marketable skills after a disaster. Look at the skills needed back before electricity, and acquire as many of them as practical. In addition, consider acquiring whatever skills are needed to keep your equipment working or to fix your or other people’s equipment when it breaks or wears out.
If you envision a period of lawlessness, you will want to be able to protect yourself as much as is practical. This does not mean “buy a gun and ammo”. It does not even mean “buy a gun and ammo and go to the range a lot”. In addition to target practice, you want to study basic small unit tactics and practice them. Combat competition is a fun and useful way to do this, getting you used to drawing, reloads, use of cover, movement, time pressure and dealing with malfunctions under stress. Even better would be if the targets are “shooting back”, that is, paintball or air soft matches.