My Initial Rant
Regardless of why you are prepping (your purpose), all prepping mindsets have the same end state; initial survival, followed by sustainable living or waiting out the storm. Regardless if you are preparing for an EMP, hurricane, zombies, or financial collapse, your daily minimal requirements are centered around regulating your body temperature, eating nutritious foods, and consuming water; if you desire to stay alive. And, you will need to accomplish those primary tasks day after day.
I often laugh while watching episodes of Doomsday Preppers. Each segment starts with a person saying, “I am preparing for: blah, blah, blah,” which could include financial collapse, the New Madrid earthquake, eruption of Yellow Stone’s super volcanoes, or insert your fear here. In reality, we are preparing to regulate our body temperature so that hypothermia or hyperthermia does not kill us, ensuring we have access to clean water for drinking and hygiene purposes, having enough food to last however long we deem necessary, and having ways to protect your family; maybe with a faraday cage or bunker on the side.
Doomsday Preppers, and others profiteering from the Preparedness movement, often expose the radical side of preparedness, and while some Preppers are perhaps radical, they do not depict the entire movement. Most non-Preppers, to include the media, believe we are a bunch of gun-toting, ammo hoarding, anti-government, paranoid, societal rejects. However, if we take a step back from the negative connotations of preparedness, primarily the terms Prepper, survivalist, or anything involving doomsday, and we approach preparedness from a humanistic viewpoint, we arrive at the point where everyday people - are doing the things necessary - so that they can live their lives - if the system were to collapse. Collapse could range from a power outage that lasts a few days, to the end of the world as we know it.
Our preparedness lifestyle makes sense; regardless it is not socially acceptable. The US government encourages us to have 3 days worth of food and supplies for emergency preparedness. We, as Preppers, just exaggerate the time period. Forming a Prepper Group is no different than being on a school board or forming neighborhood watch. Most Preppers are even focused on giving back to the community, whether now by volunteering within the community as an advocate of preparedness, or post disaster by developing plans to assist in the rebuilding process.
Before we get into what I see as priorities, let me first discuss a few things that I constantly see on forums and preparedness websites.
1. Prepping Purpose: The reason why Doomsday Preppers opens with, “I am preparing for…” is because that is how most of us think. As adults, we need something to motivate us so that we remain engaged in whatever we are doing. This is what we call our Prepping Purpose; a motivating factor that we decide to prepare for. Once our purpose is defined, we invest time, money, and effort into achieving that goal. If you wanted to become an architect, you wouldn’t attend medical school (waste of time, money, and effort). I also believe that the primary reason why we prepare is due to fear; the fear of not having the things necessary to provide for our family, and fears of natural or manmade disasters or societal collapse altering the world as we know it. I would never fault someone’s beliefs, regardless if I agree with them or not, and I do not understand why others try to fault people they do not agree with.
2. The Government is out to get you: I personally do not believe this, unless you are openly breaking the law. However, I do not rule out the possibility.
3. People will see me as being crazy: Possibly. I think Preppers are viewed this way due to the media, but more importantly due to non-Preppers’ beliefs that a collapse or major disaster will never happen. It is a defense mechanism; they cannot accept that our society is fragile. In their defense, nothing happened during Y2K, we recovered from 9/11, and the Mayan calendar was wrong. However, people’s lives were altered in the Gulf Coast (Hurricane Katrina), Joplin, MO (tornadoes), Japan (Tsunami / nuclear meltdown), and more recently on the East Coast (Hurricane Sandy). While these disasters did not lead to societal collapse, having basic preparations would have gone a long way; while others were struggling waiting for handouts, it may have been a minor inconvenience for the Prepper.
4. It can never happen to me: Read the above paragraph.
1. Information Overload
As you start Prepping, you will be influenced by many different viewpoints, whether from a friend, group member, TV show, YouTube video, blog, forum, or by us at Prepper Link. Your first step is to understand that every source of information, is just that; a source of information. You will have to determine right from wrong, or find a great source that is fairly accurate. Bad information and contradictions add several more layers of confusion. Also, please understand that another person’s priorities may not be your own; although someone may be a great speaker or can shout the loudest, has cool videos, or a well laid out website, doesn’t necessarily mean the information they are passing is correct. Your best ally is to read product reviews and read comments to forum posts, articles, videos.
2. Prepping on a Budget
Prepping can be achieved on any budget. While having deep pockets makes the prepping lifestyle a lot easier, prepping goals can be accomplished by any one. That bunker may not be attainable, but having enough food for your family is within reach. The budget conscious Prepper has to find items which accomplish multiple tasks, or repurpose things that can be used for a task that it was not designed for.
Your budget will drive the types of purchases you will make, and will identify how long it will take to achieve your goals. Therefore, set realistic purchase goals before you jump into purchasing items. A practical example of a new Prepper’s priorities involves building a Bug Out Bag (BOB), right? Almost every prepping resource recommends having a BOB, there are countless BOB videos on YouTube, and websites push BOB products all the time. However, your BOB will do you no good, if you do not know how to live off of the land. Instead, purchase a month’s worth of food, or more, and have a water filtration device, or multiple devices, before you get into the gear side of prepping. And, invest in outdoors skills and survival knowledge. If you have all of these accomplished, then look at purchasing a BOB.
Most websites, and many YouTube posters, follow trends on what is popular. BOBs, for example, are always popular due to everyone needing, or at least wanting one. We [content creators] recommend products that can fill a place in your BOB, so that you will click the ad link. If you purchase, sometimes even if you do not, the website may make a few cents to a several dollars from your click or purchase. This is advertising, and is how Google makes its billions, and how websites like Prepper Link generate revenue. Now, there is nothing wrong with the process. However, do not let media and advertising trends influence your priorities, especially if you are on a budget.
When dealing with storing food on a budget, do not feel pressured to purchase freeze dried meals. While freeze dried meals have a long shelf life and take the effort out of meal preparation, they are expensive. Instead look to stock up on the basics; grains, rice, pasta, flour, beans, sugar, salt, and canned meat and vegetable products (read our Top 10 Food Staples article). After you have stockpiled a month or more, then look to purchase a dehydrator or canning equipment, or start buying freeze dried meals. We will address food again later.
Another trend is having items for barter. If you are on a budget, forget about it. Bartering is one of those things that most preppers believe is a priority. However, if you do not have several months of food, a water storage plan and filtration devices, a way to protect yourself, and medical supplies; then do not even consider purchasing random items specifically intended for bartering. In the worst case scenario, you could use some of your basic, although necessary, items for bartering. However, if we revert to a barter based society, you should strive to be in a position where you do not have to barter; meaning you already have the necessities in your stockpile. Bartering should be last resort, or because you have an abundance of perishable goods.
3. Your Water Plan and Access to Clean Water
In the Law of 3’s (3 minutes with oxygen, 3 hours without shelter, 3 days without water, 3 weeks without food), water is just as important as anything else. Whenever new Preppers ask me where to start, I always recommend water. Why? Water is going to ensure you stay hydrated, but just as important; it is going to allow you to conduct personal hygiene. Being a member of the US Army during the 2003 Iraq invasion, I know firsthand how the lack of clean water can impact a group of people. Besides the obvious issue of not having water (dehydration), a lack of water clean water for personal hygiene can lead to diarrhea and Dysentery (extreme diarrhea). No water, you cannot wash your hands or clothes or flush your toilet, if you cannot do those, well, you get Dysentery. And, once you get Dysentery, you are ineffective; you will be limited in the amount of daily tasks you can accomplish.
Your water plan should include a minimum of one gallon of water, per person, per day. It would be hard to store a year’s worth of water, so instead start with a month’s worth of water. Realistically, you should plan on have three gallons of water, per person, per day so that you can conduct proper personal hygiene. On three gallons a day, you would be hard pressed to have a shower each day, but you could ration your water by taking bird-baths, and maybe a shower each week. For more information, please read our Water Filtration and Purification Guide.
4. Food Storage and a Sustainable Food Plan
Having a solid food storage plan should be a major priority. Get your food squared away before you worry about purchasing firearms for personal defense (if you do not already have firearms), although hunting firearms should be a priority. Building your food reserves can be a very overwhelming. However, I think some people put too much confidence in their food storage plan. Don’t get me wrong; having stored food is important. But, having a plan to replenish your reserves, i.e. hunting, fishing, and growing your food is just as important.
For stored foods, purchase items that you currently eat and ensure that you have a variety of foods. Personally, I have gone the dehydrated food route, where I dehydrate the majority of my stored fruits and vegetables. Some individuals can their own foods. Some purchase freeze dried and dehydrated foods, and some buy canned goods. There isn’t a wrong way of doing it; regardless what you may read on different blogs. However, you need to be cautious of shelf life and you must ensure that you rotate your food storage.
Having the knowledge to hunt or catch your own fish are both important traits to have. If you think you are going to run into the wild, BOB strapped to your back, take down a deer with a slingshot bow or a snare, and have a feast of venison with your group members, well… You should be practicing this right now. Even if you are lucky enough to kill a deer, or any animal for that matter, you will also need to know how to properly butcher the animal. In addition, you will need to know how to preserve the meat.
Catching a fish is not always that easy either. I am constantly teaching people basic fishing techniques, even ones that have been “fishing their entire lives”. And, catching enough fish to supplement your families, or group’s, diet is an extremely difficult task. To be successful at catching fish, you need to understand seasonal patterns; meaning fish act differently depending on the time of year, and this changes depending on where you live and the types of waters you are fishing. Sometimes they are shallow, sometimes they are deep, sometimes they are in large schools, and sometimes they are scattered. In the fishing world, we call these patterns, and if you are unable to establish a pattern, you will not catch enough fish to survive. I also recommend learning how to use a cast net and gill net, and stockpiling an abundance of fishing supplies.
In addition to your food storage reserves, hunting, and fishing, you should also learn how to grow your own foods. This is a no brainer right? Well, it can be more difficult than you think, and if you do not have this experience you need to plant a garden. The excuse I often hear is, “I do not have enough land to grow a garden.” While this may be true for conventional gardens, most people can grow container gardens, or convert deck space to garden space. The key to gardening is to experience different methods, so that you can find which method is most compatible with you and your land. Available space, and cost, will determine which method you chose.
Having a solid seed bank is also important, however you need to find seeds that are compatible with you region. I do not get too lost in the heirloom vs. hybrid debate, and I recommend having a variety of both, please read our Seed Stocking: Heirloom vs. Hybrid article. In addition to seeds, you will also need fertilizers, insecticides, and the tools necessary to till your garden and/or build grow boxes.
Lastly, you should understand which wild edibles are available in your area. While I believe this is a necessary skill to have, there are some drawbacks to eating wild edibles. Eat the wrong ones you can get sick and die. Eat too many of the right ones, and you can upset your stomach. Our diets are not built around eating wild edibles, so chances are you will upset your stomach. If you are not comfortable selecting and preparing wild edibles, I highly recommend finding a guide in your local area and to start learning from them.
5. Tools, Tools, and More Tools
In our modern society, if something breaks we call the repair man, or go purchase a replacement part or device. However, if the grid collapses, this may not be that easy. In a grid down society, we will be our own repair man/woman and we will fabricate our own thingamajigs. Therefore, we will need our own tools, and tools are one of the hardest things to replace in a grid down situation (it is difficult to make them). I recommend, at a minimum, having general household tools, to include: a hammer, multiple screwdrivers, powered drills, drill bits, and a socket set. Additionally, you should have several shovels, axes, hoes, rakes, and other gardening tools.
In addition to your tools, you need to have an abundance of nails, screws, nuts and bolts, and electrical tools. Remember, there may not be a resupply. Even if you do not know how to use your tools, or plan on using these supplies, you should store them. Hopefully, someone in your network will know how to use them.
While there are countless guides and resources out there, they are not always applicable to your situation. As Preppers we need to determine which courses of action we need to take at an individual level. While modeling your system around a series of YouTube videos is a great starting point, more than likely you will need to adjust the system to fit your needs. Do not get too lost in the marketing campaigns, or what you watch on TV. Instead, get out there and live the life, learn from your own experiences, and adapt from there.