Sep 20

The Prepper Pyramid

I was out for a bike ride today and pondering a good way to get across how to prioritize while prepping.  Personally I see nothing wrong with excel spreadsheets sorted and filtered for results, but those are just boring.  How could I come up with a simple graphic which quickly gives the reader a snapshot of the point I’m trying to make?  Then it hit me, the food pyramid!  Everyone remembers that while growing up, the poster your parents referred to when making their point that you should eat shredded wheat cereal instead of fruity pebbles.  All I had to do was model my pyramid after that framework and I would be good to go.

When I got home from  my ride I typed the words “prepper pyramid” into google and of course, someone had already made one.  I guess I shouldn’t be all that surprised.  It seems like there really is no new information out there, it’s all about how to package and deliver it.  I was slightly discouraged but the good news was that the other pyramid did not reflect what I had in mind to create, which is what you see below.

Prepper Pyramid from Prepper-Resources dot com

As you can see there is a hierarchy, from bottom to top according to relevance.  Additionally I chose to add a ring around the pyramid which reflects three tenets that really do not have a ranking because they are always important.  What follows is a breakdown of the pyramid and the three 3 tenets.

The Prepper Pyramid

Shelter:  Some would argue food and water should be at the bottom, or the most important.  I think shelter gets the nod for the foundation because if your homestead is where you want it to be and fully functional, everything else should fall in line.  Why do you think people put so much time and effort into moving to the redoubt, places like Idaho or Wyoming.  If your shelter (homestead) is good to go food and water naturally should follow. You will hopefully have a well on site (or be able to access one) and you’ll be able to grow food and raise animals.  It all starts with shelter.

Food and Water:  Next up the pyramid are your life support items in the form of food and water.  If you are prepping you need to put special emphasis here, especially considering what is going on lately with the drought and the possibility of soaring food prices.  Having a stockpile of food is essential to survival when times get tough and I doubt anyone would argue against the importance of having fresh water to drink and cook with.

Protection: Guns and ammo!  Probably one of the most popular prepping topics even though it is not the most important.  Remember protection isn’t always about defeating a threat with firearms, it’s also about detecting and deterring that threat.  Operational Security (OPSEC) is crucial in helping you protect your loved ones.  Be careful who you share information with and who you choose to trust.

Medical & Hygiene:  Often overlooked in many prepper stashes are medical and hygiene supplies.  An untreated infection or illness caused by poor hygiene is more likely to kill you should the SHTF versus some gun toting looter.  Having lots of supplies to treat multiple types of wounds/injuries can only be seen as the smart thing to do.

Barter:  If you have made progress in all of the other categories on the pyramid it might be time to start thinking about barter items.  Of course you can trade anything on the list to others who might find them valuable, but your bartering stash should include a few other essentials.  Alcohol would make a nice item to trade for example.  Think about what people in your area might be willing to trade for and stock up on some of it.

Gold & Silver:  I am not a huge fan of stockpiling precious metals but I cannot deny the popularity of it.  If you choose to keep gold and silver on hand I would make it the lowest of your priorities, as indicated by its place at the top of the pyramid.

The 3 Tenets

Skills:  Having all of the items listed on the prepper pyramid will only ensure that you last a bit longer than those around you should things get crazy.  You truly need skills to survive.  Knowing how to grow your own food, how to hunt, how to split wood, how to fix a car, stitch a wound, and the list goes on and on.  The importance of having skills cannot be stressed enough.

People:  In keeping with skills, people or community are always an important consideration no matter where you are in your prepper journey.  I’ve said it before, you have to sleep sometime and there is no such thing as a one man army.  Getting to know your neighbors and finding like minded individuals will greatly increase your chances of survival in a post SHTF scenario.  More people with more skills can only be a good thing.

Health:  Often overlooked, this is such an important category.  Over 2/3 of the USA is considered overweight.  That’s shameful at best.  Being healthy is a daily task which permeates through all stages of preparedness.  It’s not just about being physically strong and being able to run 5 miles, it’s also about not being dependent on medication or machines (if possible).  If resources become thin once treatable illnesses or conditions might become fatal.  Putting in the work to stay healthy is another responsibility of a prepper and should not be ignored.

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    • Ranger W on September 20, 2012 at 9:13 PM
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    I like the prioritization. It is good to remind real preppers that gold and silver have no place for a survivalist. I have plenty of supplies but I wouldn’t even think of trading for gold bars.

    • Lola on September 20, 2012 at 9:40 PM
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    I liked the pyramid and agree with how it’s prioritized. I’m a big believer in food and water. When I say food I don’t mean crap food but good nutritional food that can help keep your immune system healthy and ways to filter water to have clean water available at all times. As humans we need food and water, if there is a shortage no gold, silver, or diamonds can make me give up the essentials.

    • HalfKin on September 21, 2012 at 1:04 PM
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    Hello PJ!
    Saw your link over at the SHTFanclub!
    Will be coming back to visit, good work.

    • PJ on September 21, 2012 at 9:15 PM
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    Thanks everyone for the comments, and I’m glad you all appreciate the work I put into the pyramid. Also – Halfkin thanks for coming over from the other site, hope to see you around here more often.


    • Capt Crunch on September 24, 2012 at 9:34 PM
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    Excellent article. Love the emphasis on knowledge and skills as one of the foundations for surviving, and perhaps even thriving, in a SHTF environment.

    • PJ on September 24, 2012 at 9:45 PM
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    Thanks much CC, the kind words are appreciated. I hope you share it with your friends! Skills and knowledge truly are some of the most important assets in any SHTF situation.

    • Doug Bergstrom on November 21, 2012 at 7:25 PM
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    This is a bit late getting to you-all – with a comment – but, maybe you and/or someone will read my note.
    I did a search for the other pyramid and found it (the focus there-in is different) – and you are right = to me it does not even come close to the pyramid you created.
    do have to say that what you presented put my mind in a better focus – in that shelter being the foundation is and has to be the critical and key and primary support for all of the other issues. What you indicated about the need for shelter being primary is so true – with out an effective and adequate shelter all of our preps would/could be useless.
    What you say – “I think shelter gets the nod for the foundation because if your homestead is where you want it to be and fully functional, everything else should fall in line” ,,,, may-be best altered a bit and indicate ‘everything else will fall into line” (if – as you indicated “It all starts with shelter”).
    Thanks for all you do – keep up the good work – have a wonderful Thanksgiving! /s/ doug

      • PJ on November 22, 2012 at 6:59 AM
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      Thanks much for the comment and observation with regard to the statement I made. While there are various opinions on what weight we should put on all of the categories, I think the important thing is to simply get people started. Thanks for reading and I hope you continue to come back!


    • Lyn Robison on November 30, 2012 at 9:55 AM
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    I like this diagram. It illustrates the “hierarchy of needs” quite well. However, I think there is something missing. What are people (preppers) going to do for a living after they survive the chaos of the collapse? How will they get the resources they will need to sustain their lives and provide for their families after their one or two years of stored food runs out? The world is going to be a different place, and they will need to make living in that new world, or else they will die as soon as their food is gone.

    For example, in my current career, I am an IT industry analyst. In the new reality, I suspect that I won’t be able to provide for my family as an IT industry analyst, because the world will no longer need them. As I have thought about my post-collapse career, I have tried to think about what the world will be like post-collapse. Some people think that we will go back to life in the 1800s, but I suspect we will go back to life in the early 1900s instead. IOW, we won’t be all horses and blacksmiths — work will be mechanized and manufacturing will be possible, and vital. In addition, we will hopefully retain a some of our ability to produce high technology. So I have decided to train myself to be a machinist (machinists are the ones who put the blacksmiths out of business around 1899 or so).

    Anyway, the development of a new way to support yourself long term after the collapse seems to me to be the pinnacle of prepping.

      • PJ on November 30, 2012 at 4:50 PM
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      Great points you’ve made there and something I have neglected to write about. Post collapse, once it has been all said and done what will our “careers” look like? I like the idea of being a machinist or similar. Agriculture will be huge, transportation, medical professions, law enforcement (on the local level), moonshiners, like you said early 1900’s style. Great stuff and thanks for sharing.


  1. This is excellent. There is so much info out there these days regarding prepping and survival it is hard to know where to begin. This simple pyramid easily illustrates the hierarchy of the whole prepping activity and how to get started. Thank you so much for the info. I have the first layer down and perhaps some of the third and working on the second and others.

    • Old Sarge on June 13, 2013 at 9:29 PM
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    Good concept in that it essentially brings the “rule of 3s” into to equation. Rule of 3s: you can survive…3 minutes without air; 3 hours without shelter (clearly this situation/condition dependent; 3 days without water; 3 weeks without food. (At least this is the way I remember it!
    We are set for about 90 days of bug-in time. But, I have a van that will hold the two of us, our dogs, and supplies of (already packed and ready to go) food and water.
    What do you think?

      • PJ on June 14, 2013 at 9:21 AM
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      90 days is outstanding, well above and beyond what most families have on hand. I also like the idea of having your van stocked and ready to rock, really helps to get out of town when time is of the essence…just look at the wildfire situation in CO right now as an example. What’s your plan once the van runs out of fuel? Do you have wilderness (camping etc) supplies on hand?

    • MikeC on June 18, 2013 at 9:45 AM
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    When we first stared prepping it was all so overwhelming. There is so much to do and so much to buy…
    My wife is in charge of the food and she has found a great time and $$ saver. Go to and get a discount account, then use the food storage calculator to estimate what foods you need for your family based on caloric intake, age, etc. Once that’s done and you deleted the stuff you already have the company sends you some of the items on your list each month up to your budgeted amount. They call it “THE Q” , it’s great! All you need is 15 min. to set it up and now our food storage is on auto pilot! Each month we get a delivery right to our home. Now we have more time freed up to work on gardening and getting our chicken coop set up.

      • PJ on June 20, 2013 at 1:50 PM
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      Thanks for the tip, let us know how the chicken coop comes along.

  2. Now that’s what I’m talking about. Balance is the key to everything, both prepping and nonprepping, as well as everything in between. Nice job. Concise and informative.

      • PJ on August 18, 2013 at 9:58 AM
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      Thanks man, appreciate the kind words!

    • Grayhawk on October 14, 2013 at 10:39 PM
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    I ran across this doing a google search. I’ve never seen a pyramid on survival before. I grew up with my grandfather (who his dad came from soviet Russia) saying that they are moving towards communism everyday. and my father who echoed those sentiments.
    I agree with shelter being the most important. Running around the woods with no stash place isn’t a great idea.
    I’ve brought around my wife to the idea of a possible SHTF scenario. and with your pyramid we can prioritize. Thank you for creating such an image. I do hope I can find this site again.
    Keep up the good work PJ.

      • PJ on October 14, 2013 at 10:41 PM
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      Thanks for the kind words and for sharing your experiences. Hope you can stick around for a while, take care.


    • Dutch on January 18, 2014 at 7:22 AM
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    I do keep some gold and silver. There are always going to be some greedy people more than willing to part with their stuff for some shiny metal. I’ll be the one getting it.

    • Jennifer on February 20, 2014 at 11:42 PM
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    Hi all, great sight. I’m just beginning…two questions…one, I’m a single mom. I have two boys. 16, and 7.
    Being a single mom is a concern for sure, yet I believe we could be an asset to a community. My skills are varied, I am a heavy equip op, master gardener, etc…I’m very funny and optimistic.. My boys are responsible for themselves, and are very socially mature. Am I kidding myself about women being assets to camp? I’m wondering your thoughts on a single woman with kids linking up with a community.
    Also, I’m trying to be brave and realistic. Is that an oxymoron?
    Thanks, Jennifer

      • PJ on February 22, 2014 at 9:29 AM
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      Here’s my take on it. If there was a camp which was staffed with only type A personality hard chargers…I would NOT want to be part of it. Sure they might fight well and physical strength would be there but there would be no diversity or opposing points of view. Remember survival and thriving isnt only about actions on contact or how far you can walk with a BOB. Communities need all types to thrive, women and children included. Your perspective, skills, optimism and maturity will be a huge asset in almost every circumstance. 🙂

    • The Maj on February 22, 2014 at 3:36 PM
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    I concur with PJ, Jennifer. Everyone adds value in some manner or another. Your strength may be my weakness and vice versa. Any community that does not have a good mix of skills, attitudes, and personalities will eventually fail. An all Type-A personality community would probably tear itself apart quicker than any other.

    • Hold Fast on September 30, 2014 at 8:13 AM
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    Having managed federal COOP, COG, EM,,CERT, team training, etc., for over ten years my pyramid is somewhat different and based on input from many expert sources. First I use the rule of threes

    This is from the bottom up, and begins with the basics. These are milestones, not hard and fast rules.

    -Oxygen: Dead in 3 minutes without it.
    -Situational Awareness and Protection: Your life span without these two, to include concealment, could be 3 seconds, 3 minutes, 3 hours, 3 days, maybe 3 weeks, depending on situation. Situational Awareness and multiple response options will keep you alive longer than weapons. Go to ground.
    -Shelter: Dead in 3 days without it depending on weather and climate. Includes clothing, Even sunburn in a moderate climate will kill you.
    -Water: Dead in 3 days without out. Shelter and water go hand in hand.
    -Food and Sanitation: Dead in 3 weeks without it.
    -Health: Dead in 3 months without it, maybe sooner.
    -Recovery: The above have been survival. Recovery means establishing a sustainable lifestyle to include some form of community, government, harvest, long-term water sources and sanitation, etc. It won’t be the “old way” of life, but it will be life. Suicides will increase in this phase.

    We ran scenarios ranging from sandbox, table-top to drills. All validated the above.

      • PJ on September 30, 2014 at 9:17 PM
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      Thanks for your input and obviously tested/validated data. Great stuff man!

    • almcng on August 1, 2015 at 9:15 PM
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    Thank you all. I have only recently found myself thinking of all this. You have all given great ideas and helped me. Thank you again.

    • Major Dad on October 7, 2015 at 9:20 PM
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    Just a quick note to say ‘good article’ and to make a comment about preparing for life after teotwawki. I have yet is see a good concise article about how preppers should transition into ‘producers’ after things fall apart. Many plan on living on their preps, but fail to think through what will happen when the preps are gone.

    Barter is listed on the pyramid, but unless one has stored up a whole lot of stuff they do not plan to use in order to barter it away, we need to plan right now on what we plan on making / producing in order to have something to trade/barter/sell.

    Most often the only skills mentioned is ‘gardening (growing food) and animal husbandry (raising chickens, rabbits, goats, etc.)
    I think somewhere on the list of priorities there ought to be something about a plan to become a producer rather than just a consumer.

    Personally I’m working on learning about being able to produce food by gardening, raising chickens and keeping bees so I can eat, trade eggs and honey and honeycomb.

    I’m not sure where becoming a producer would fit in – but I’d be interested in people’s opinions on it.

    Again – good article.

    Major Dad

      • The Maj on October 8, 2015 at 9:27 AM
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      I believe it fits into several different areas on the pyramid. You mention gardening and animal husbandry – that fits in “Skills” but it also provides food and Barter items in the pyramid and touches on “Health” as well.

      I really do not think many people think that far ahead unfortunately but you are right, being able to produce something or offer a skill will eventually come into play post-SHTF. You mentioned gardening, which is certainly something very valuable post-SHTF and many preppers are planning on gardening – how many actually garden today? how many have saved seeds before? how many bought one of those nifty “seed banks” that has about a 35% stand on average but are saving it for post-SHTF (very bad time to find out about a 35% stand btw)? how many know how to can or preserve vegetables post-SHTF (its not like things are going to stay on the vine year round)?

      The issue is, in order to be a producer post-SHTF, you really need to have the supplies and skills necessary as part of your preps now AND you really need to have practical experience making your product / providing your service as it would be done post-SHTF now. Taking classes, reading books, etc are all great but practical application is where most are going to fail miserably. I am a big proponent of skills and I believe everyone should be learning as many as they can as fast as they can but I am also a bigger proponent of putting those skills into practice on a routine basis.

      Another “skill” you hear a lot is “hunting” post-SHTF. Granted, it is viable but if someone has been hunting twice in their life and never dressed an animal, I wouldn’t expect much success from them post-SHTF. However, knowing how to hunt, butcher game, and preserve meat could be very valuable for both personal consumption and production post-SHTF.

      You hear food related production talk in the prepping world more than anything else but there are a whole host of skills that will become almost as valuable post-SHTF: blacksmith, carpentry, seamstress / weaver, tanner, cobbler, potter, mechanic, distiller, apothecary, gunsmith, coopersmith, candle maker, soap maker, etc, etc… The list really is never ending and some will be more practical than others but one thing is for certain no one will be able to acquire all the skills they need which necessitates the need to trade for what they need.

      One good way to get an idea of skills more critical than others, take a look around your house are perishable items or items that typically require some type of maintenance and ask yourself “if this runs out” or “if this breaks” or “if I need this piece” “how will I be able to acquire it post-SHTF?” Sometimes the answer will be scavenging, other times it will be through barter, and if you have the skills you will be able to say “I will make it”.

    • Jay Dorrell on January 5, 2016 at 12:47 PM
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    My wife and I are 67 years old and we have put together enough supplies for about a month post SHTF. We may be overly optimistic, but I believe, truly hope our country will not totally disintegrate when the SHTF and things will return to some semblance of normalcy after a fairly short time. With this optimistic view, my greatest concern is my neighbors and nearby urban areas filled with folks who have no clue how bad things might get. If all these folks who buy just the food they need for a few days or a week run out of food they will come looking for it where ever they think they can find it. I really do not want to shoot anyone and I have no plans to “bug out” as we really have no where to go that is any safer than where we live now, so “keeping” what I have without shooting folks is my greatest fear post SHTF. Great article with the pyramid. Thanks for sharing this very good information. Hope you can give me some ideas regarding my concerns.

    • Tim on January 21, 2016 at 1:12 PM
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    Iv been getting into the early stages of prepping and my plan is to all out homestead. I wanted to know your opinion on New Hampshire or Maine as a base of operations.

  3. Even though many of you have your own personal opinion of what belongs on what line in Maslow’s Pyramid of Hierarchy…transposed into the preparedness mine field of understanding of what goes where…let me add this to your way of thinking…If a man or a woman is chasing you down the street with the intent of taking your shadow…and has a machete or a shotgun etc…are you going to stop to drink, eat, bathe, take your medications, build a shelter, put on the proper clothes to face the weather outside ETC. I doubt it! We here at Beyond72review have been asked that question a 1000 times and when it all get thru the washing machine, the most important of the basics for preparedness is BEING SAFE…without it you have a very very small chance of needing ANY of the other basics for survival…Think about it…and let it set into your collective mind…with or without a family…you cannot place personal safety anywhere but on the bottom line.

    • Stephanie Jones on September 4, 2016 at 4:33 PM
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    I am leaving so-Cal next year (legal issues prevent me from going right now) for the Olympic Peninsula of WA state. I just got back from a two-week “reconnaissance mission” where I scoped out different self-sustainable properties up there. It will be such a relief to be out of so-Cal.

    Thanks for putting your Pyramid here for everyone to see…it’s a keeper.

    • Jon Snow on September 27, 2016 at 10:34 PM
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    Savvy suggestions . Speaking of which if others are interested in a IRS W-2C , I filled out a template version here

    • Mellis Man on November 15, 2016 at 8:53 AM
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    Great work PJ. That’s an excellent summary.
    What’s more it’s a simple representation of a complex subject!
    We could argue endlessly on relative priorities, but I don’t see much point in that.
    My only amendment would be to change “skills” to “your brain”.
    Because the most important element of survival in my experience is to be able to recover from the shock fast, get over grieving fast (you may have lost loved ones), take stock of the situation, and react appropriately.
    “Your Mind” includes the ability to pick yourself up when everyone else is ready to lay down and die, to develop plans and enact them when you find your previous plans are no longer viable, to overcome adversity when everything you’ve collected is lost, and of course your SKA (skills, knowledge, and attitude).
    Despite this small difference, I think you’ve done well.
    Great work!

    • Dave on August 27, 2017 at 11:39 AM
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    Your post was first put up in 2012, it is now 2017, and the list does have a sense of timelessness to it. I most appreciate the “under certain conditions” clauses. Under certain conditions protection could become significantly more important than the rest of the list, shelter could be more important than food, etc. etc. Here in Minnesota the weather changes hourly so shelter would be a basic foundation and a top priority. The general population in this state could possibly sustain anarchy or social/political chaos and a segment of its people would probably bond together for the good of the community but…..there’s always that unknown variable of what would actually happen? So security has a very high position on the totem pole. The bottom line is being prepared BOTH physically and mentally will provide a big payoff in terms of weathering a crisis situation. Thanks for your sharing this info.

      • PJ on August 27, 2017 at 10:46 PM
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      Thanks for the feedback, glad you like the post. Time flies by

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