Emergency Clothes: A Capsule Wardrobe for the Apocalypse

Emergency Clothes: A Capsule Wardrobe for the Apocalypse

Sometimes I think about Laura Ingalls browsing the calico fabrics in town so she can have one new dress, and I get a little bit jealous of her lack of decision fatigue. Buying clothes is easier than ever, but it’s also very confusing, which makes buying emergency clothes extra difficult. It’s hard to know which lightweight clothes are high quality pieces that will last, and which ones are just garbage. It’s even harder to know which clothes are expensive because they’re durable and which ones are expensive because humans love branding. What’s a modern gal to do?

Large closet GIF
I don’t think it’s all going to fit in the Go Bag.
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Protecting ourselves from the elements is essential, and that means picking the right emergency clothes is an important part of our preparations.

A poor selection of clothes during a disaster probably won’t be a dealbreaker if the first responders have things under control within 24 hours, but it could absolutely mean the difference between life and death in a survival scenario. When we think about the possibility of living without modern conveniences (e.g. central heating or a solid roof) the efficiency of our clothes starts to mean a whole lot more to us.

If you’ve ever wondered what Apocalypse Chic would look like for you, you’re in the right place. We’re on a mission to maximize durability and versatility, so you can stay comfortable regardless of the weather, pack light, and look great while you size up your next thunderdome opponent. We’ll also keep those meltable synthetics to a minimum to avoid third degree burns in a world without Emergency Rooms, and feel good about keeping our share of microplastics out of our fellow humans’ bloodstreams.

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Essential Emergency Clothes

Some minimal, high-impact basics like these need to be in your Go Bag, no matter what. Pack an extra layer, even if you have limited space.

Base Layer

If you learn nothing else from this list, take this with you: a 100% wool base layer will serve you very well in the outdoors, whether you’re in hot or cold weather. Wool wicks sweat to help keep you cool, washes and dries easily, and is very warm when it needs to be. You can put this in your Go Bag to wear under your regular clothes in the event of an emergency, and you’ll be 1000% better off.

Merino.tech Merino Wool Base Layer Set

Socks

Consider wool socks part of your base layer. No socks will ever serve you better in a bad situation than 100% wool socks. Make sure you have multiple pairs in your Go Bag so you never have to endure wet feet.

Smartwool Everyday Crew Sock

Hat

Hats are essential emergency clothes because they play a huge role in defining your personal style, which is integral to determining your character niche in the apocalypse narrative. Maybe equally importantly, they also protect your head. You’re going to need a hat! Well, probably two hats. A lightweight wool hat is a must for the same reasons a base layer is a must. A brimmed hat is a must to protect you from the sun. Leather is very durable and flame-resistant, in case you have to run through a wall of flames.

Minus33 Merino Wool Ridge Cuff Beanie

More of our favorites:

Boots

If you’re wearing a wool hat, you sure as heck better be wearing some leather boots. Having a pair of comfortable, sturdy boots to carry you down the road during nuclear winter will make your destination feel closer than ever, even if you’re not sure where you’re going. These options are great for everyday wear before the apocalypse, as well, if you’re looking for the one shoe that will completely eliminate your decision fatigue. You think we’re lying, but those CATs are very cute with a cocktail dress.

CAT Echo Waterproof Steel Toe Work Boot

More of our favorite emergency boots:

Comfort Emergency Clothes

Go above and beyond! Get some extra pieces into your Go Bag to make sure you are ready for the elements, especially if you live in a colder climate.

Pashmina

Pashmina is multi-tasker, and should rank high on your list of emergency clothes. It’s a blanket, a scarf, a skirt, a shirt, a dress, a turban, a baby sling, a sun shade, a bindle bag, and so much more. Putting both a wool pashmina and a wool base layer in your Go Bag will multiply your comfort and safety by twofold. If you’re doing the math, that makes you 2000% better off than you’d be without them. Who can argue against those numbers? 

RIIQIICHY 100% Wool Scarf Pashmina Shawl

More of our favorites:

Monogarment

If you’re not yet the owner of a monogarment, prepare to be amazed. Whether you prefer a functional dress, coveralls, overalls, or some other workhorse onesie, there’s no better time than the apocalypse for a monogarment. Belts? Who needs them? Our buttcracks will never see the light of day. A durable, easy-to-clean uniform might just give you the kick in the full-body pants you need on those hard days at the end of the world. 

Dickies Long Sleeve Cotton Twill Coverall

More of our favorite emergency clothes:

Hooded Wool Coat

Let’s assume you’re going to be living more or less outdoors. You’re going to need a good coat. Synthetic coats are the modern norm, and they’re great, but they’re not always practical. They can be difficult to repair if they’re damaged, and they do pose a significant melting danger if your overnight fire gets out of control. Stick with the natural fibers (again, wool won’t let you down), and always go for a hood.

BGSD Women Mariel Wool Hooded Long Coat

Long Down Vest

When you want to make sure you have a little extra warmth, a down vest that covers your butt is a great idea. This is one of the only meltable synthetics on the list. That’s because you can wear it under your coat made of natural fibers! The down layer will also reduce the possibility of the melted nylon reaching your flesh. 

ELFJOY Ultra Light Long Down Vest

Hoodie

If you’re not into integrated hoods, it’s time to let go of whatever turned you against them. Hoods are not for disaffected youths. They are for everyone with a head. (If you don’t have a head and you’re still reading this, please get in touch.) The shell of a person you will become in the harsh landscape of the apocalypse will appreciate your foresight when she pulls her nice, warm hood over her ears and eyes to steal a little rest before the next battle begins. We like a thick cotton option for cozy everyday comfort, but you know we think the wool option is the way to go for real prepper functionality.

Aran Crafts 100% Wool Long Hooded Side Zip Coat

Another favorite:

Pants and Shorts

I hate to say it, but pants aren’t what they used to be. Am I old, or are modern pants just not very good? ¿Por qué no los dos? All I know is that my fashionable pants don’t fare well when I put them to the test by falling down, snagging them, or finding myself in a wrestling match. Here, we’ve got some heavy duty options that will take all of the abuse the end of the world can throw at them, and some lighter weight loungewear that will keep you comfortable without all the pesky polyester that makes our favorite yoga pants a melt hazard.

Dickies Duratech Renegade Pant

More of our favorite emergency clothes:

Tops

If you’ve got a collection of 100% cotton tees, pick the one you like the best! Everyone’s got some hanging around. Throw it in your Go Bag. If you want a shirt that looks a little nicer and will travel well on the trail, tencel, flannel, and linen are all great choices. A wool tank adds nicely to your base layer collection and can be worn in the blazing hot sun that awaits us all in our inevitable climate change hellscape.

Daily Ritual Tencel Oversized Short-Sleeve Button-Front Shirt

More of our favorite emergency clothes:

We’re stronger together.

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Luxury Emergency Clothes

You might need to shunt some cans of food to make these fit, but we’re not here to tell you how to live your life. We’re just here to give you options.

Lighter Outerwear

You probably have at least fifteen clothing items in your capsule wardrobe for the apocalypse at this point, but if you’ve got room for more in your bag, you might want a jacket that splits the difference between winter and summer. A cardigan without a hood would be a luxury during the end times, but if you’re not going to wear the Pendleton classics during the apocalypse so you can be recognized as a real one by fellow real ones, when will you get the chance?

Levi’s Cotton Four Pocket Hooded Field Jacket

Another favorite:

Dresses

Dresses can be polarizing, but many of them are functional monogarments. If you are pro-dress, knowing you have a more formal costume in your back pocket may be the very thing that keeps you tethered to reality for a few more days. You’ll look ravishing when you pair it with a trailberry blush and charcoal smokey eye. 

ECOWISH Ruffle Cap Sleeve Summer A-Line Midi Dress

More of our favorites:

If you’re still on the fence about fully preparing for disasters, maybe moving your wardrobe in the direction of durable, apocalypse-friendly simplicity is just the baby step you need. Whether you’re fully into the prepper lifestyle or you’re dipping your toe in the water, avoid fast fashion, try to buy more of your clothing second-hand, and keep your eyes open for non-melting fibers like cotton, wool, cashmere, alpaca, linen, leather, hemp, silk, lyocell, tencel, and rayon.

Rule of Thumb

Get some silk and cashmere in that bag! Let your fancy emergency clothes comfort you in your time of greatest need.

Seriously, plastic clothes will melt to your body! Don’t underestimate the likelihood that you’ll have to walk through a wall of flame on a weekly basis once the water wars begin. At least we’ll be able to say that we warned you.

About the Author

Writer, editor, and professional joker with an environmental science background. Like most trivia nerds, she's an ardent admirer of Only Connect competitors, but more at home on the QI field.

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