Strap into your booster seat because this is going to be a long one. In my years of prepping I’ve come across a lot of information, some of which is good, most of which is bad. Lot’s of prepper guides go far too deep into the tin foil hat zone and these guides quickly unravel from the reality of a realistic situation. Plus, many guides are far too short to provide any decent information about what it actually takes to start prepping in a sensible way. They fail to answer basic questions and leave the reader worse off than they were before.
At best, you come out of the guide thinking “okay, I guess I should just buy food and ammo.” This is the advice typically thrown around the internet.
In this guide however I’m going to cover in great detail the exact steps you need to take to start prepping. If you follow this guide and take action you will be prepared for well over 98% of possible disasters.
The preppers mindset
It is important to discuss the key mindset of a prepper in order to move forward. With the wrong mindset every action you take will be wrong. With the wrong mindset you may very well descend down a rabbit hole of paranoia, essentially digging your own grave with negative thoughts and unreasonable expectations.
The mindset of the prepper is one of rationality and reasonable caution. The prepper does not give in to self defeating or self destructive thoughts. He does not believe the man on the street corner who shouts about the end of the world. His steps are measured and his actions are backed by research and reason. He has a life outside of his preps. His preps do not consume him. He makes his preps and then leaves them alone, occasionally refreshing his memory of the overall plan.
He does not worry himself by watching the news everyday nor is he toxic with his words. The prepper is a man living under his own rules and laws, never allowing the toxic environment of mass media to inform his decisions.
This does not mean the prepper is a blind folded fool. He knows the world is full of risks. He knows that governments collapse, food runs out, supplies run low. He preps for these situations without letting these potential risks rule his mind. He doesn’t even call himself a prepper because even that is taking it too far.
He is a man of reason who is simply preparing for the safety of himself and his family. As a provider and protector he feels this sense of duty.
At the core of the prepper is a strong sense of self sufficiency. Prepping is all about becoming totally independent from the system, grid, or however else you want to refer to the modern world. The majority of society goes to the grocery store for their food. They live in stacked apartment complexes in major cities. They haven’t a clue about how the water comes out of the faucet but lo and behold there it is everytime they need it.
It is the duty of the prepper to understand the process of becoming self sufficient. He knows that one day he might not be able to count on the modern system. He knows that relying on the government is a recipe for disaster. You see, most people have been so conditioned by the first world there is little chance they would make it without the system.
Like a muscle, their self sufficiency has atrophied because they haven’t been exercising. Has your sense of self sufficiency atrophied? If you’re reading this guide chances are it has. Don’t worry. The muscle might be weak now but one day it will be strong. You will become strong overtime as your familiarize yourself with self sufficient habits.
Prepping for the small things
It’s very unlikely you will ever experience something as catastrophic as an EMP blast or even a full scale riot. I understand the prepping community loves to preach doomsday, but the facts are that experiencing anything on that level is very unlikely. A true prepper knows when there’s a snake in the grass. How many preppers go full blown doomsday mode without making sure they have a spare tire in their car?
How many preppers hardly make enough money to buy every doomsday widget that comes out, but they do it anyways? Many of you reading this are one, maybe two paychecks away from going completely broke. Do you think financial security should be part of your preps?
It’s counter intuitive but I say that yes, having money to sustain yourself for at least a year without work should definitely be part of your overall prepping plan. Do everything you can to put away as much currency as possible. Prepping is not about blaming the man or the government for your lack of financial security. It’s about finding opportunities and putting in the work to secure you and your families future.
Prepping OOP (Order of operations)
It only makes sense to prep for the common situations first and then move your way up to the less likely but more disastrous scenarios. There are 3 major situations to prep for, the first being the most common and the last being the least likely to occur:
- Personal scope situations – These are situations effecting only you and your immediate situation.
- Regional situations – Scenarios effecting your local town or city.
- Global disasters – True SHTF scenarios effecting the entire human population.
Almost everybody in life loses their job at one point. Unemployment is not a flashy aspect of prepping yet it’s the most common scenario and the least discussed in the community. Are you prepping for an alien invasion but don’t even have a fallback job in place or secondary source of income?
Almost everyone will experience mechanical problems with their car or have a major household appliance take a complete dump. Do you have money to fix these things when they break? What would happen if your car broke down today? How would you get to work, pick up the kids, or otherwise get to the places you need to be? Is there alternate transportation? A secondary car? These are the things you need to be thinking about. That way when something happens you already have a plan in place. This is the essence of prepping. It’s preparing for a situation in advance so you know exactly what to do. Prepping gives you peace of mind knowing you have what it takes to see a situation through.
Doing some research and identifying the local bus routes could help you in case you run into car problems etc. Think about other tiny yet probable situations that could effect your daily life operations. Money can solve most of these minor problems so make sure finances are at the top of your priorities. Money makes the world go ’round and solves a lot of little bullshit problems that crop up. That’s just the way it is!
Regional disasters are next on the list. While they do have an effect on more people than global disasters, they are still an uncommon occurrence unless you live in a disaster area. For most people a regional problem is no worse than an extended power outage. Storms ranging in severity will have an effect on local power and whether or not you can drive through the main roads. More serious occurrences such as hurricanes, floods, earthquakes, and hurricanes effect only a small population living in specific regions. If you live in a major city such as NYC you can add protests and the occasional riot to the list of probable situations to prep for.
Global disasters occur every few centuries and are very unlikely to have an effect in our lifetime. In fact, there isn’t much you can do to prep for a global disaster. Just ask the dinosaurs!
It is up to you to take stock of where you live and prep for these types of scenarios. In the next section I will give you a few general pieces of advice you can apply to many situations.
How to prep
80% of prepping is using your creative faculties to predict probable problems in your life and then having a plan set in place to correct the problem. The other 20% is having the right gear around to help you through these situations and ones you couldn’t predict. The following is the bare minimum of things you should have on hand at all times.
At the bare minimum you need 72 hours worth of food and water for yourself and your family. Most situations will resolve themselves in 3 days. The power can go out, you could get trapped in a nasty storm etc. This tiny bit of padding can see you through a rough patch. I recommend keeping this gear in a bug out bag in case you have to leave. A bug out bag is a great idea from a tactical standpoint – you can easily throw the bag on and get out of dodge at a moments notice.
What should you pack in a bug out bag? Here’s a quick and dirty list of some essential bug out bag gear:
- Backpack (I recommend the Rush 72)
- 3 days of food and water (Clif bars, fruits and nuts, peanut butter, tuna packets, Mountain House pouches, etc)
- Important documents (ID, Passport, etc)
- Map of your local region
- Medication (Any serious medication you take)
- Change of clothes (Especially socks and underwear)
- Lighters, matches, other fire starting gear
- Hygeine kit (TP, toothbrush, toothpaste, etc)
- Chargers for your smart phone
- Spare cash
- A good knife (Check out my guide to choosing a good one)
- Stainless steel water bottle (for both boiling and storing water)
- First aid kit
Read my post on creating the ultimate bug out bag.
What to keep around the house
Yes, at the bare minimum everybody needs a 72 hour bug out bag. Once this basic precaution is in place you can begin to expand your preps into the long term. To start, keep a weeks worth of food stocked. When a food item is about to go bad you can eat it and rotate with fresh supplies. Since food is perishable it’s a good idea to look into freeze dried or canned options. Freeze dried foods can last up to 25 years and retain most of the nutritional properties of the original food. Canned foods also hold up for a long time.
You can freeze dry your own food. However, because freeze drying is an expensive process most opt for a pre packaged solution. Companies like Mountain House and Wise Foods offer affordable long term food options. Simply purchase a kit and you’re good to go. These packages implement advanced technology to seal the food from moisture and air. You can purchase kits and store them away for many years.
Food for thought…
Think about items which would come in handy during a power outage. Think about how you would get by without power. Since the lights won’t work you’ll need some kind of lighting. These can be as basic as tea candles or advanced as a generator system. I recommend you start with a few flashlights and spare batteries. These are a cheap and reliable way to navigate in the dark. Headlamps are a good idea especially since you’ll be working with your hands a lot. I don’t like candles because they pose a fire hazard. However, they can be very effective and add a little ambiance to your situation. Be sure you get the unscented type so you don’t become nauseous over time!
How will you cook your food? No electricity means no source of heat and definitely no microwave. Have a pantry well stocked with non-perishable foods and snacks. Things like Clif bars, nuts, MRE’s, and canned foods are good stock to keep around. If you want to cook you can use a portable hiker stove or keep a couple propane tanks around to fuel a barbecue or propane powered stove top.
Get a 5 gallon buck to refill your toilet tank. Very basic but necessary preps indeed.
Best prepper foods
Certain foods lend themselves well to long term storage. The ideal food for the prepper not only has a long shelf life but includes a dense nutritional profile containing lots of carbs, proteins, and fats. I’ve created an entire post on the best prepper foods but will include a shortened list here for your convenience.
- Grains – barley, oats, quinoa, corn, wheat, etc
- Canned foods
- Flour – a staple ingredient for making bread and a bunch of other things
- Rice – there’s a reason rice is consumed across all cultures. It’s a staple. Can be stored up to 10 years.
- Coconut oil – useful for cooking. Most cooking oils have a shelf life of 2 years but coconut oil is good for 3. The oil can also be used to make shampoo and for oil pulling making it more versatile than traditional oils.
- Peanut butter – Lots of calories and very tasty
- Coffee – Just because THSHTF doesn’t mean you have to give up your daily fix! Coffee is not only a great source of immediate energy but it lifts the spirits and enlivens the mood. It can also be bartered in the post Apocalypse.
- Ramen Noodles – This classic powerhouse meal from the college days finds a secondary use as a great food for preppers. The noodles undergo a dehydration process making them ideal for long term storage.
- Seasonings – A little salt and pepper goes a long way. Many of these bulk food items taste God awful without an extra kick.
- Powdered milk – Stores up to 20 years and has most of the nutritional value found in normal milk.
- Whey powder – whey protein powder provides a lot of nutrients to the body in the form of protein and fortified vitamins. Bodybuilders have been using this stuff for years to provide their body with everything it needs to repair itself.
- Honey has an indefinite shelf life and boasts a number of benefits. It provides the body with quick energy in the form of glucose and mixes well into many foods and drinks.
- Vodka – Vodka is another survival item with a variety of uses. You can disinfect wounds, cook, drink, and barter Vodka. You can easily stock up in the cheap stuff.
- Crackers – Saltine crackers last up to a year and add a tasty crunch to many of your canned food and ramen meals.
- Chocolate – Don’t forget something sweet to take the bite of boring survival food!
Prepackaged foods like Mountain House make great supplements to your standard stock. In fact, many of their freeze dried foods are downright tasty and heavily consumed by hikers and backpackers. Simply add hot water and you have yourself a tasty feast fit for a king. Check out one of their 3 day supply kits to sample the goods.
The skills you and knowledge you acquire are far more valuable than the gear you own. In fact, you’ll need a certain level of skill to use a lot of the equipment you’ll gather over time.
Here’s a list of skills you should become familiar with:
- Finding / purifying water – water is a crucial resource for human survival. Finding water and learning to purify water are fundamental survival skills. I’ve written a short guide on this here.
- Firemaking – Learning how to make and sustain a fire is another critical element of survival. Fire purifies water and cooks food. The original foreman grill!
- Shelter building – In extreme conditions a lack of shelter can kill you faster than anything. You don’t need to be an expert bushman but at least learn how to rig up a tent and tarp.
- Gardening – Not just for the ladies anymore. Knowing how to grow your own food is a valuable skill – especially when the food trucks stop running.
- Hunting and fishing – Sounds like a no brainer and it is. Prepare to spend a considerable amount of time learning the habits of the animals you’re hunting and properly using a fishing pole or rifle. Master this skill and you’ll never go hungry again.
- Plant identification – Many plants, even in urban areas are edible. The berries and leaves from many plants and trees can sustain you from completely starving. However, be sure not to eat the wrong ones!
- Self defense – Know how to protect you and your family even if it only means learning how to use a firearm correctly.
- Food preservation – So you have all this food now how do you store it? If you have lost power you’ll need to explore alternate methods of preserving food long term without a freezer.
Don’t get overwhelmed. You don’t need to master these skills overnight nor do you need to master ALL of them. Pick one that interests you the most and become proficient over time. Making fire and purifying water are actually the easiest skills to master on this list. From there, pick one of the others and get cracking. In a years time you’ll be more than capable of surviving basic survival scenarios.
Conclusion + Extra Resources
Researching about prepping can be an exhausting endeavor if you let it. So many people have their own opinions and some preppers make you think you can’t prep unless you have a 1000 acres of land and a tractor. Not true. Keep it simple. Start with a 72 hour bug out bag and then work on keeping a steady stock of food in the house. Gather the basic supplies as outlined in this post. Learn a couple skills and sit back. Remember, the best thing you can do in any survival situation is keep calm! Don’t panic and know deep down everything is going to work itself out. After all, this is what you’ve been prepping for!
If you want to learn more I recommend pickup up a couple books and reading various survival materials. I have a post on the best survival books as well as complimentary guide to bushcraft books. Read a few of these and slowly begin exposing yourself to the world of prepping and survival.
There’s also a number of online resources you can learn from. One of my favorite sites is gray wolf survival. This guy is a former counterintelligence special agent and combat veteran. He sheds a lot of survival insight based on his experiences in the military. Very cool stuff and extremely knowledgeable.
Thanks for reading and best of luck to your continued education into the world of prepping and survival.