**Before you start, try taking the Prepper Quiz to assess your knowledge!**
Let’s face it there is no shortage of information about prepping out there in the world. Books have been written, movies and television shows have been made, companies which specialize in prepper supplies are thriving and there certainly is a proliferation of websites and forums which ooze advice on just about every topic imaginable. Go ahead and type in “best SHTF gun” or “food storage” into google or YouTube and you’ll have 20 hours of reading ahead of you. The point I’m trying to make is that this site should just be considered one source of information if you are just starting your journey as a prepper. The information I am about to relay to you is based on experienced and should solely be considered my opinion. If there was such thing as a P.H.D in prep-ology I would probably consider myself someone who got their undergraduate a few years ago, with a decent amount of experience in the field. Please use my experiences/information as building blocks which hopefully contribute to success in your prepper journey. What you truly should realize is at the end of the day you have to make your own decisions on the best way to prepare yourself and loved ones.
If you are someone who is at the starting line or just a few miles into the journey of prepping you could definitely benefit from reading the basic information provided in the list below. Additionally I would ask if you read this article and have more useful information to provide please do so in the comment boxes. This list is not all inclusive but will help you to understand some of the basic concepts and methodologies involved in prepping. You will notice that I avoid certain topics (e.g. alternative energy, farming, canning, precious metals). These are topics that I have dabbled in but do not feel qualified enough to give advice on. Consider this “Prep 101” if you will. With that said let us begin.
So you want to start preparing yourself and family for uncertain times in this world but you have no idea where to start. I’ll go ahead and give you a brief high level view of many of the topics you will begin to explore on your prepper journey. After reading this article move on to Prep Tips for further advice, after that watch this website daily for more information on where to buy prep supplies and links to other well written articles which will keep you informed.
Prepper: Congratulations this is now you even if you haven’t yet spent a dime. You have made the mental choice to do something after waking up and realizing the world isn’t what you thought it once was. You feel the need to somehow become more self reliant in order to improve your chances of success when faced of any number of possible situations which would lead to societal upheaval. Preppers are sometimes referred to as survivalists even though the terms do not share the exact same definition.
Water: You can live 3 days without water and then you perish. Of all the items in the prepper inventory water ranks at the top of the list of “must haves.” Water is tough to store because volume/weight/shelf life are your enemy. Your typical one gallon container of water in a jug could probably be stored for at least a year in the basement, if kept off of the concrete floor to prevent leaching. You can also buy larger storage containers and add chemicals to them to increase shelf life for up to 5 years, but at around 7lbs per gallon those things can get very heavy and take up quite a bit of space.
The average person needs at least a gallon of water per day (more if you include hygenie) so quickly the need for clean water becomes apparent in a survival situation. Besides having a modest amount of water storage on hand it is advisable to find ways to filter water, many systems like the Berkey are great and affordable ways to accomplish this task. When looking for filter systems try to find out exactly what they claim to filter (the bad stuff), how many gallons the filters are good for, and how user friendly the systems themselves are.
Food: Yet another prepper staple is the food storage supply. This is a huge topic with many variables so I will try to glaze over it but still give you the basics that you need to know. First of all and probably most important is no matter what type of food you store (dehydrated, freeze dried, canned, MRE, cans from the local store) it needs to be food that you are willing to eat. In a best case scenario you would have a stockpile of food that you continue to rotate slowly through once the shelf life comes to an end for a certain item. Why buy 50 cans of SPAM if you have no intention to ever eat the stuff? You’ll spend money on items that you will eventually just throw away which amounts to setting fire to money or flushing it down the toilet. There are lots of food storage options and the retail outlets that sell products like food buckets, dehydrated/freeze dried meals, grains and legumes can go into detail much better than I ever could about the specifics.
I will tell you that your storage should be diverse in type and more importantly you should know exactly how much you have on hand to feed your family for various time periods. By diverse I mean nobody wants to eat the same 4 meals over and over again for a year, you would eventually reach food fatigue. By knowing exactly what you have on hand I am referring to knowing exactly how many calories you have to serve your family, and subsequently how long that will last you (based on a 2,000 Cal/day diet). Avoid buying items based on “number of servings” as serving size could vary depending on the manufacturer. At the end of the day if you can look at your food storage supply and say that you have enough food in a decent variety to feed 2,000 calories to each person in your family for 30/60/90 days or even 1 year, you will have succeeded in doing more than 99% of the average population.
Guns and Ammo: This is probably one of the most popular topics out there, with 50 different opinions out of 50 different posts on any given forum you find out there in cyberspace. The most important thing you need to know about guns and ammo is this: one gun that you know how to use well is better than having a safe full of guns that you couldn’t shoot and hit a barn with at 100 yards. Knowing the capabilities and limitations of your gun(s) are very important as well as knowing how to employ them under various conditions and how to get them up and running again once something (e.g. jam, doublefeed, misfire) goes wrong. So many people have a pistol with a box of 50 rounds next to their bed that they have only shot once or maybe never even shot at all. What a shame. In a best case scenario you could have an assortment of guns (rifle, pistol, shotgun) of various calibers which could be used under different circumstances. Maybe the pistol is used for concealed carry provided you are legally allowed to do that. The shotgun makes a great home defense weapon and the rifle could be used for hunting or just plinking at the range.
One thought about purchasing ammo for prepping, it is almost always cheaper to buy in bulk (500 to 1000 rounds per order). If you plan on shooting a lot to stay fresh buying in bulk is certainly the best way to go. Shop around online before settling on a retailer, quite often there can be a pretty large price disparity between retailers on the exact same item. Finally, I can’t stress enough that becoming familiar with any guns that you own is of utmost importance because this relates directly to being able to use and store them safely.
Medical Supplies: So you have a first aid kit in the back of your pantry? That’s not enough my friend, it’s time to step up your prepper game. The type of medical supplies you have on hand can greatly vary in scope and size, what you need to know is that you should familiarize yourself with all of the items that you have on hand in case you have to employ them. The standard bandaid/burn gel/alcohol wipe kit might be good for very minor situations but what about deep lacerations or a broken bone? Do you have a way to stop an arterial bleed (think deep red blood pumping out) to keep your loved one alive long enough to get them to a hospital? How about a splint to use in order to stabilize a compound fracture? What about Quik Clot to stuff into a gunshot wound? Think about those scenarios for a minute and how they might occur. They don’t have to happen during some kind of zombie attack or Russian invasion, they could happen while chopping wood or while out shooting at the range. It is very important to have a good stash of medical supplies on hand and like I said you should know how to use them. What good is it to have a field surgical kit with IV bags and needles if you have no idea how to employ them? Become familiar with what you can and identify the closest medical treatment facilities in your area if for some reason medical help could not come to you. Trying to perform surgery on your loved one (because you watched a Youtube “how to” vid) will most likely end up hurting more than helping.
Hygiene Supplies: In a situation where you were not able to wash your hands for quite some time how long do you think it would be until you got sick? We never stop having to use the bathroom and that requires close contact with our nether regions. Hygiene products are hugely underrated when it comes to prepping. You can’t sanitize your hands with gunpowder, nor can you wipe your butt with freeze dried food. If you are a woman how long would your current supply of “feminine napkins” last if you were not able to buy more? I hate to speculate as to what you would have to use as a substitute. Lest we bring up the grossest thought of all, going weeks without brushing ones teeth! It doesn’t take much at all to stock up on a few extra toothbrushes and a couple cases of toothpaste. Think about all of the hygiene products you use on a daily basis and then think about what life would be like without them. Things would not only get inconvenient but you would be putting yourself at serious risk of getting sick or like in the toothpaste example, exposing yourself to painful dental complications. I tallied how much toilet paper my family used in one month and it was over 30 rolls, your results may vary. I only include that to emphasize the point that the extra pack of 8 rolls you have in the closet quite simply is not enough.
Grid Down Supplies: If you are looking for advice on how to go off the grid with solar or wind power you are looking in the wrong place, remember this is Prep 101! I will address a more plausible scenario here, for example a grid down situation for a period of a few hours to a few days caused by an ice storm or hurricane. Yes folks I realize the threats related to the aftermath of EMPs (Electromagnetic Pulse) or Solar Flares (Coronal Mass Ejection) are real and the subsequent carnage could be catastrophic but I’d rather leave that for another day. Right now we are talking the basics like having ways to light your home and stay warm when the power is out or ways to cook/power the essentials (refrigerator, sump pump, home alarm).
Right off the top of my head I can think of three things I would want to have for a grid down situation: solar/hand crank weather radio, candles/flashlights, and propane. You could use to solar radio to charge your cell phone and keep current on what’s going on in the news. Candles and flashlights are self-explanatory although I will add as a caveat that you should be careful lighting your home up at night if you are in an extended grid down situation where less than desirable types could be roaming the area looking for signs that people are home. Finally propone is great because you can use it to “power” multiple devices all which greatly increase survivability during a power outage. Indoor friendly propone heaters are great to stay warm with IF USED PROPERLY (propane can be super dangerous indoors especially if there is no ventilation). Propane generators can power devices like your sump pump or fridge to keep the food from spoiling, and you can obviously use propane to cook with. It stores easier and has a longer shelf life than gasoline which makes it much more desirable. Finally it would probably be much easier to go down to the store and pick up a couple cans of propane versus trying to get gasoline during a situation where the public was trying to prepare for a possible disaster.
BugOut Supplies: BugOut supplies should not be confused with BugOut location. Bugging Out is a term which describes getting the heck out of your home, most likely in a very quick fashion. A BugOut location would optimally be some remote retreat nestled up in the hills with access to natural water, easily defendable and with a large area to grow crops. Did I mentioned it would already be stockpiled with 5 years worth of food, have underground tanks filled with gasoline and the most sophisticated security system known to man. This would be optimal and most of us (myself included) don’t have anything close to that type of situation going on.
Being able to conduct a quick and efficient Bug Out could save your life, so it is important to take the steps necessary to prepare yourself and family for this type of situation. If a local Sheriff knocked on your door right at this moment and told you that you had 1 hour to evacuate your home, what would you do? What would you take and what would you leave behind? Do your cars even have enough fuel to take you a couple hundred miles away from your home if necessary? How would you bring food and water along, or do you have any at all? These are all very important questions which have to be addressed. If you don’t think this type of situation is even possible think about all of the folks who had to evacuate out west due to the fast moving wildfires. Or recently those who had to evacuate because of rising flood waters associated with Hurricane Isaac. Don’t live out west or near the coast, all it takes is one overturned tanker truck/train filled with chemicals near your area and you’ll be forced to evacuate as well.
So what should the plan be? How about having all of your BugOut supplies consolidated in one location, say a shelving unit bought from a local hardware store. In your BugOut kit you have all of the essentials packed which will help sustain you and your family for a minimum of three days. Food, water, changes of clothes, hygiene supplies, medical kits, cash, backups to computer hard drives, essential documents etc. The list goes on and on but you should balance the importance of what you take with the feasibility of moving all that stuff. Pack as if you might never be able to return to your home again (flood/wildfire) and then decide what is important to you. Large backpacks combined with organized Tuff Boxes or Storage containers are great. Once you have everything you think you need, try loading in up into your vehicle to make sure it all fits. Realistically you should be able to snag everything from your BugOut stash and be able to leave your home within 20 minutes or less (easily).
Again please note this list is not meant to be all inclusive but serve as a starting point for those who are just starting their prepper journey. If you have more to add please comment below or send me a note and I’ll try to get it up on the site. Thanks!