The internet is a wonderful resource. It allows us to instantly retrieve free information on almost any subject, from medical procedures to knot-tying to horticulture. But in the grand scheme of human history, the internet is also a new development, and we’d be foolish to become over-reliant on its conveniences. If a major disaster — whether natural or manmade — wipes out communications infrastructure and/or the electrical grid, we’ll have to revert to information recorded offline. After considering this situation, an Offgrid reader named Zack came up with a DIY solution which he calls The Knowledge Pantry. Much like the food stockpiled in a traditional pantry, The Knowledge Pantry is an offline digital stockpile of a huge variety of useful information for emergencies and survival situations.
What is The Knowledge Pantry?
On his web site, TheKnowledgePantry.com, Zack explains the premise: “My family preps. We have pantries for food, stored jugs of water, and power generators on standby, but we never planned for what we’d do if we needed to learn something critical (such as how to treat a wound) in the case we couldn’t get online or contact a doctor. A few months ago, I thought it would be a good idea to start pantry-ing up on videos and articles that I might need to have handy in a crisis and put them somewhere portable that I can always access, even without an internet connection. That’s where the idea of the knowledge pantry came from.”
In order to cover a wide range of topics and store as much knowledge as possible — including articles, books, maps, video guides, and much more — it made sense to keep everything in digital form. Zack writes, “At first, I stored all my information on a thumb drive. I thought that would be good because it works on most devices, is easy to copy, and it’s portable. However, a thumb drive would always need another device to read it, so I thought I’d be better off with some kind of “all in one” solution so things couldn’t get lost or separated. What I ultimately did instead was put all my info on a 256-gigabyte SD card and loaded the card into a cheap tablet.”
The tablet he used was an Android device that cost about $150, and he paired it with a protective case and a small USB battery bank with an integrated solar panel. This ensures that even if the power is off indefinitely and his generators fail, Zack will be able to keep using the tablet as long as the sun is shining.
Here’s a quick list of what Zack’s tablet contains:
- Nearly a thousand videos of common DIY topics (including First Aid, Gardening, Livestock, Cooking, Communication, Handiness, and Survival Skills)
- A full Atlas of the United States, including detailed roadmaps and hospitals in every state
- All of FEMA’s emergency guides for what to do during a national disaster (flooding, tornado, forest fire)
- A library of detailed eBooks that include recipes, medicinal guides, and training books on an array of specific knowledge
- Every Wikipedia article in existence (6.5 million articles)
- Every WikiHow article in existence (over 230,000 articles)
- Every WikiBook article in existence (3,458 books)
How to Make Your Own Knowledge Pantry
Zack could have easily kept this information to himself, but he decided to publish a free guide on how to make your own Knowledge Pantry. He writes, “This site is my own way of fighting back against our times of supply and utility disruptions that have continued to make me worry about my family’s well-being. It’s brought me some peace of mind to have this, so I wanted to share with others feeling the same.”
On TheKnowledgePantry.com, you’ll find a list of the following, all completely free of charge:
- Recommended categories of information to archive
- How to choose a device and keep it charged
- How to tailor the information to your learning style (e.g. biased towards plain text, pictorial guides, or videos)
- ZIP file download with 250 useful eBooks
- Instructions on how to download and save videos, plus a custom Python script to do it automatically
- ZIP file downloads of high-res road maps and hospital directories
- Organization and formatting tips
Zack recognizes that not everyone will want to go the DIY route, so he also offers pre-built Knowledge Pantry devices. These come in the form of an Android tablet with 512GB SD card ($399) or a portable 500GB solid-state drive to use with your PC or laptop ($99). There’s even a custom option if you’re looking for information on specific topics.
If you have questions or need advice, Zack says he’d be happy to help. You can reach him directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.