Humans are creatures of habit, and we're easily conditioned to expect that something bad won't happen because it hasn't happened yet. This phenomenon is known as normalcy bias — in other words, a bias to believe that things will always function the way things normally function. This is one of the biggest hurdles to overcome in order to be adequately prepared for emergencies. Often, it takes a jarring event to snap us out of our normalcy bias and force us to reevaluate the likelihood of something breaking our routine.

Sleep is one of our most routine behaviors — you probably go to bed around the same time every night and wake up at a predictable time each morning. Unless you have a newborn baby or work an on-call job, it's rare for this cycle to be broken, and even rarer for it to be broken by something catastrophic. One of our readers who goes by Mountain Goat recently emailed us about a lesson he learned when his sleep was interrupted:

“Recently, a dogfight occurred in the middle of the night outside my house. During the eternity it took for me to find my clothes, get them on, and tie my boots, a quick-thinking friend broke up the fight. This impressed upon me the need to have some clothes in the bedroom that are always where I can find them. These should be quick to put on and hopefully somewhat weather-appropriate.

If you should need to confront an unexpected guest, fight a fire, evacuate, or break up a dogfight you'd probably rather not do it totally naked.

If you run outside in your skivvies during an emergency, you may be stuck wearing them.

If you run outside in your skivvies during an emergency, you may be stuck wearing them.

In my case, this quick-access clothing is bib overalls hanging on a hook just inside the bedroom door. Also there is a medium-weight hooded jacket, a dark-colored rain shell, and a pair of slip on boots. A good call is for the boots to be one size too small, that way without socks they don't fit sloppily.

Clipped in one pocket of the bibs is a folding knife; in another pocket there's a flashlight. It might also be a good idea to photocopy the important cards from one's wallet and put that into the pocket of the emergency clothes along with some cash in case of evacuation. Of course, then you have to worry about a burglar getting that important info if you're burglarized while not at home. So the dangers need to be weighed against each other. I'll probably do it.

Bibs (left) and coveralls (right) can be combined to provide better cold-weather protection.

Bibs (left) and coveralls (right) can be easy to access in an emergency and provide plenty of warmth.

Another option is for pants, insulated bibs, coveralls or the like to be kept ready slipped down over the boots firefighter-style. I tried the firefighter technique, but the stuff got kicked around and wasn't always right there! So I think for me hanging on a hook by the door is best.

Duck hunting waders with attached boots combined with a jacket might work, but keep in mind that they could melt or burn if exposed to heat or flames. It should also be noted that walking in waders can be noisy and clumsy, so probably not the best if you're trying to sneak up on an intruder. Not to mention the difficulty of convincing one's spouse of the importance having them in the bedroom. But they could be handy in wet weather.

Weather conditions will dramatically affect your SHTF clothing needs.

Weather conditions will dramatically affect your SHTF clothing needs.

Whatever a person decides will work is probably OK. The important thing is to have something! Whatever it is, you have to be able to lay your hands on it on very short notice, possibly in the dark.”

This strikes us as a valuable lesson. In warm climates, a pair of shorts, trail shoes, and a sweatshirt might be sufficient. For those in the Great White North, warm layers should be prepared in such a way that they're easy to put on, as well as insulated waterproof footwear. These items will of course be supplemented by gear in your bug-out bag or get-home bag.

So, what's your take on quick-access clothing for nighttime emergencies? Let us know in the comments, or you can continue the conversation with Mountain Goat via email at

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