Nobody starts out as an expert prepper or survivalist, all of us make mistakes throughout this journey. Regardless if one is new to the game or a grizzled old vet we will still occasionally screw things up because none of us are perfect. Our goal should be to learn from those mistakes, to grow from them and to hopefully not repeat them. By taking this approach we can continually refine our prepping strategy, or to put it another way: keep sharpening the sword. What follows is a list of common mistakes made by preppers, some of which I have made myself and others I have been witness to.
Trying to play catch up. This occurs when a new prepper has their eyes opened to the reality of the situation which we face. They understand for the first time just how important it is to prep for uncertain times, they see how volatile and fragile our world truly is. This can be very overwhelming at first and sometimes induces a certain level of panic, and so they go on a spending spree trying to play catch up. This usually results in quite a few bad decisions and a basement full of stuff a more experienced prepper would not have purchased.
Buying on credit. This can occur when a new prepper is trying to play catch up, or even when an experienced prepper gets caught up in this mantra: “Just a few more essential items, because by next month the S could definitely HTF.” Maxing out credit cards or taking out a home equity line of credit to purchase supplies (or that storage container for an underground bunker) is never a good idea. If SHTF fails to manifest itself and the financial sector is not completely wiped out, the monthly statements will continue to roll in like clockwork. People can easily paint themselves into a corner when it comes to credit and one should avoid acquiring more credit if at all possible, even if the end seems to justify the means.
Not prioritizing. This *should* occur at all levels but is very important in the beginning stages of a prepping strategy. Instead of buying up tons of stuff based on what a few blogs and anonymous screen names on survival forums have to say, a better option would be to come up with a personal prep strategy. Sitting down and prioritizing based on individual needs, family needs and personal goals. Listing out everything and then ranking in order of precedence. Exercises like this can really help bring things into focus and make achieving goals much easier.
Tunnel vision. While prepping is a worthwhile pursuit one should avoid becoming consumed by it and subsequently forsaking all others. It is very easy to get tunnel vision, to view prepping as the only thing worth doing. No more spending time with family, no pursuit of other hobbies and no vacations. This can lead to several unintended consequences, most notably family and friends who start to resent prepping because of all the attention that is lavished upon it by the “offender.” Achieving balance is crucial, or being able to integrate prepping into one’s life without falling victim to tunnel vision.
Not shopping around. There are plenty of places to shop for prep supplies and the list doesn’t start and end with what you see typically listed on most websites. People can make a few purchases with one company, develop a little brand loyalty and then miss out on deals available elsewhere, even some in their local area. It pays to shop around online and at local retailers, the cost savings can be quite significant.
Neglecting hygiene. I like to refer to this as spending too much time on the big three: Food, Guns, and Ammo. More often than not a shortage of hygiene supplies will be the leading cause of discomfort if SHTF happens, as opposed to getting grazed by a bullet while shooting it out with looters. Having a year’s worth of food on hand but only 15 rolls of toilet paper and 2 tubes of toothpaste seems disproportionate, and it most certainly is. Being able to stay clean and germ free after SHTF increases survivability rates simply because it keeps morale high.
Catching guns & ammo hysteria. We have seen this phenomenon occur most recently after the November elections. While having personal protection is important it should not happen at the expense of acquiring other more relevant (and necessary) preps. Does someone who has 4 AR15’s and 5,000 rounds of 5.56 really need 2 more AR15’s when they have no way to filter water? People like this can often be lulled into a false sense of security, a feeling can develop which leads them to believe that because they have a good amount of firepower they will simply be able to confiscate what they need once T-SHTF. This is a deadly misconception as nothing could be further from the truth.
Lack of redundancy. Two is one and one is none. Redundancy in any plan, whether it involves how to store food or how to bug out, is absolutely critical. Storing additional preps in multiple locations is a good way to ensure that there will always be a backup plan in place if it becomes necessary.
Not reaching out to friends. There is no such thing as a one man army, everyone has to sleep at some point. In any long term SHTF situation communities will have to be forged in order to sustain life. Reaching out to friends and family who express interest in prepping is a good way to start this process. People often approach problem solving differently, listening to various opinions before making a decision can often help to avoid potential heartache and conflict in the future.
Maintaining OPSEC. Reaching out to a few trusted friends or family members is one thing, posting about a prep supply or strategy on Facebook (to include pictures) is very unwise. “Hey everybody, look at the new assault rifles I just purchased. I’m posing with them in front of $4,000 worth of freeze dried food which is stacked neatly in my basement! I want all of my 500+ “friends” to see this so they can tell me how awesome I am!” No bueno.
Leaving wisdom (and prepping) at home. Having an awesome prep stash at home will be of no use if SHTF occurs while on vacation, 1,000 miles away with nothing more than a suitcase and debit card. Care should be taken to travel with certain precautions in mind, whether it be the daily commute to work or the long journey to relatives for the Holidays.
Failing to test plans, equipment. Visualize this: A $250 bugout bag packed to capacity with lifesaving supplies sitting in the corner of the basement having never been worn. It happens more than one would like to imagine, the user never having attempted to walk a mile or two with the bag on, having no idea if the straps are set up correctly or if the bag itself even works. The same can be said about food, water filtration systems, fire starting equipment, weapons, tools etc. The time to figure out how to chop down a tree or how to use a rocket stove is not after SHTF occurs. The time to find out that a planned bugout route includes a closed bridge is not after SHTF occurs. Plans and equipment need to be tested, rehearsals need to be part of the prepping strategy.
Not doing enough research. Lots of great information out there to be had with respect to survivalism and prepping. Books have been written, forums are full of people with years of knowledge who are willing to share, blogs and YouTube videos related to prepping are all over the Internet. One should search far and wide to access as much information as possible, to be a sponge and soak it all up. Research and staying informed most definitely will be a contributing factor to any successful prepping strategy.
Forgetting about skills. Quite often the skills portion of prepping is neglected in lieu of something more sexy. Knowing how to raise crops, how to hunt and trap animals (and prepare them), how to turn winter wheat into bread, how to stitch a wound, how to move through the woods tactically….and the list goes on and on. Skills are paramount to survival and should not be neglected. Nobody should be expected to master every skill that there is but time should be set aside to learn a few basic ones. Everything from knowing how to build a fire to how to fix a clogged drain will benefit your prepping in the long run. Additionally groups should seek out individuals with post SHTF “high demand” skills, i.e. mechanics, carpenters, doctors, nurses, and farmers (to name a few).