Prepping is a term that covers a wide range of activities geared towards preparing for an uncertain future. For some, it may conjure images of doomsday bunkers, someone running around in a gas mask and stockpiling supplies. But prepping doesn’t have to be extreme.
In its simplest form, prepping is about being prepared for what’s next- whether that’s an unexpected natural disaster, emergency situation, winter storms, or simply ensuring you have the supplies and knowledge you need to weather a prolonged power outage.
This Prepping 101 guide will cover the basics of what prepping is, why it’s important, and how to get started with your own preparations. By the end of this guide, you’ll have a better understanding of what prepping entails and be on your way to being better prepared for whatever comes your way.
So, let’s get started with this guide to prepping!
Table of Contents
History of Prepping-
Prepping is nothing new. Humans have been prepping for years. My great grandparents had enough food to last for many years. They canned, smoked and salted their food to protect it from spoiling. It wasn’t weird, it was normal life back then.
Only recently with a few television shows and the mainstream media, has prepping become a topic of conversation. And most of the information presented in western countries is made to make preppers look like psycho conspiracy theorists and anti-government.
That’s not what prepping is. It’s about people taking responsibility for themselves and their family members. It’s a sort of freedom of worry and an insurance policy for unplanned life altering events.
One of many reasons to start prepping is natural disasters. Depending on where you live, you could be subjected to a natural disaster.
These could be in the form of earthquakes, tornados, hurricanes, tsunamis, mud slides, floods, volcanic eruptions, forest fires and extreme weather including hail, ice and snowstorms.
All of these have the potential to destroy infrastructure, including the electrical grid and water supply treatment and delivery systems.
When natural disasters happen, they suck. The suck-fest is a whole lot worse when you’re not prepared. Emergency preparedness is the key to reducing the pain.
When Man-made Disaster Strikes
Man-made disasters are another reason to begin prepping. These can range from terrorist attacks on people and infrastructure to full out war.
Some can even be caused by governments with poor economic policies and accidental release of nuclear, chemical or biological materials.
Another crippling disaster that could ruin everyday life is the loss of power due to an overtaxed and under maintained electrical grid.
Getting Started Prepping
Getting started prepping is not that hard. There’s a pretty good learning curve, but this guide will give you an overview of prepping basics so you can start prepping.
The Most Important Tool-
The most important tool you’ll ever have in your prepper kit is your mind. Unlike other tools, you don’t have to spend money to upgrade it. With the ability to learn and grow through experience, it’ll get stronger until it’s downright tough.
There was a saying in the military, “you have to live hard to be hard!” It has stuck with me, and you can use it too. It’s all about being mentally tough. Developing your mind into a positive can-do mentality will get you through anything, regardless of problems that you’re faced with.
Assessing your situation
- Family needs and priorities.
When assessing your current prepping situation, take into account the needs of your family. Do you have older family members who aren’t as mobile? Are some members required to have certain medications? What about allergies?
Enough to last at least two weeks? What about a long term disaster?
These are just a few things that need to be considered. Take a realistic look at your family and start brainstorming more questions. Answering these questions will help you prioritize everything else.
A good assessment of your family will help decide things like sheltering in place or bugging out to a survival retreat. Any special needs and considerations will also prioritize items to your prepper list.
Also, talk to your better half about the need to prepare for emergencies. It’s a lot better to work together because everyone has to be on board. Especially when finances are concerned.
- Budget considerations
Take a good hard look at your financial situation as everybody’s financial situation is different. Don’t worry about what others are buying. Worry about your priorities from the the section above and what you can afford.
Don’t be forced into panic buying for the sake of having something. Just because a blogger, or media personality says you must have something. Just because they said it, doesn’t mean it’s true. That includes us. You know your budget and your needs may be different than ours.
Things like survival gear, nice to haves, first aid and self-defense items will have to be purchased, but most everything else can be manufactured at home with a little elbow grease.
Bottom line, if you can afford it, buy it. If you can’t, manufacture it or be resourceful.
- Availability of resources
Where you live will decide what is important when you start developing your prepping plan. If you live in a desert, water will be a priority; however, if you live in the arctic, fuel will be a priority to stay warm. If you’re trying to survive in a jungle environment, your needs will be different from someone trying to survive in a desert environment.
Every location has it’s pros and cons to living. When it comes to survival, every location either has the resources you need or it doesn’t. It’s the availability of resources that will guide your action plan.
If you plan to shelter in place, you’ll need to store the needed supplies that your location can’t offer. This could be fuel, water reserves or more food.
If the resources are so limited and you’ll be competing due to a higher population, you may be better off grabbing your emergency supplies, bug out bag and hitting the road in your bug out vehicle to a relative’s house that has greener pastures.
Setting your goals and priorities
Don’t be fooled into believing that you can prepare for every possible scenario. Look at the potential threats that are likely to occur in your location. What are the natural disaster situations that are more likely to occur in your location?
Even if you just prepared for that one scenario, you would be better off than most people. Frankly, a lot of the basics apply to a multitude of situations. Remember the panic buying of toilet paper during the Covid pandemic?
Don’t be that person during the next pandemic that affects the entire world!
Short-term vs. long-term
After performing your assessment, develop a short-term goal with your preparations. When you set your goal, make sure it’s realistic and actually obtainable. Whatever your no later than date is depends on your budget and ability to obtain your supplies.
When you are just starting out, we recommend stockpiling enough food and water to last at least two weeks.
Once you’ve reached that milestone, you can continue to increase your stock and upgrade your gear. What this plan looks like will depend on your needs.
Essential vs. optional items
No matter what your plan is, stick to the essentials first. You can always add optional items later.
- Medic supplies
- Optional items depending on your needs.
You might be excited to get all of the cool items bought, but they won’t look so cool when you’re dehydrated, starving or bleeding out! Be disciplined in your approach to checking off the items on your prepper’s list.
Another must have is organization to your process. You don’t want to purchase an item only to misplace it or have your better half order something you’ve already purchased. There’s nothing wrong with having spares, but only after you’ve acquired all of the bare bones minimum supplies that you developed in your assessment and plan.
Building Your Kit
Emergency & First Aid Supplies
Water is an absolute must to stay alive. FEMA recommends storing 1 gallon of water per person per day for drinking, personal hygiene, cook food and washing dishes. You’ll need to plan for additional water per person per day for older members, women breastfeeding and children.
You can use this bottled water storage calculator to convert the cases of water into gallons. It’ll calculate by bottle and case size to determine how many gallons you have and how many days you have stored for the number of people in your party.
If you do use bottled water, ensure that you rotate it out every 6 months to prevent it from going bad. Storing your water in a cool dark place will help it to last longer.
We recommend having at least two weeks prepped ahead worth of water.
2. Non-perishable food
During a crisis, your emergency food supply will be what you have stored. It’s better to store more food than you think you’ll need, because you can’t predict how many calories you’ll need until you see how much work is required or how cold it gets.
However, if you lose power, all your fresh food and frozen food will start to go bad.
Depending on the foods, you could get food poisoning from them. It’s best to store non-perishable emergency foods with a long shelf life.
When you buy food, get things like canned goods, dried beans and freeze-dried food for your food storage plan. There are ways like pressure canning to store meats and other perishable foods without power, but that’s a skill that needs to be practiced.
Your emergency food storage should be well organized, dated and in a cool dry place that is critter proof.
3. First aid kit
When a natural disaster strikes, emergency response teams will be overwhelmed. It may be days before you can get professional medical care.
You should have some medical supplies in your bug out bags. First aid kits with band aids are the bare bone minimum for your emergency kits.
We prefer to have a dedicated medical bag set up with a trauma kit. The rest of our bug out bags have medical supplies in them in case we lose a bag. We’d like to think it wouldn’t happen, but stuff does.
We also have a suture kit in two of the bags. You don’t have to pack like we do, but at least have some way of performing basic steps of care. You may want to pack Tylenol or something similar along with an oral pain relief for tooth aches.
4. Light sources
Your bug out bag should have a survival flashlight or chem light. Not only are these good to have when trying to operate at night due to power outages but come in handy when trying to flag down rescuers.
There are several quality flashlights on the market. Some are manually regenerated, while others operate on batteries and can be recharged by solar.
If you are sheltering in place or have a bug out location, you can use candles or lanterns for lighting. Anything that burns, consumes oxygen so you’ll want to keep that in mind.
No matter which way you go, make sure you have extra fuel or batteries for your kit. Remember, disposable batteries have a shelf life like food.
5. Warmth and shelter
If the power grid goes down or you lose your home, you’ll need to have shelter to protect your party from the elements. The situation is already a terrible one, but being cold and wet will quickly kill the morale of the group.
Your emergency supplies at a minimum should have a survival tarp with parachute and bungie cords. If you can have a lightweight tent or large one if traveling by vehicle, you’ll be set up well.
Each person should have an emergency blanket or sleeping bag. You should also store them in a dry bag or trash bags to keep them dry. Nothing like a wet sack to kill your moral.
Tools and Equipment
Another great item to have in your gear is a quality multi-tool. A multi-tool can be used for a ton of different tasks. They’re a pair of pliers with skills!
These tools are often capable of the following.
- cutting (knife, wire and scissors)
- opening a tin can, cracking open a bottle
- screw driving Phillips head and flat head.
Whether you’re in an urban or wilderness survival situation, these tools can be priceless. Some can be quite expensive. With tools, sometimes you get what you pay for. The most expensive is not all ways the best option though. Part of prepping is staying with in your budget.
We always recommend purchasing the best quality multi-tool that you can, without blowing your budget. You’ll probably keep it on you, but never hurts to have a spare in your bug out bag if you can swing it.
2. Fire starter
Having a warm fire is a nice luxury to have. When it comes to survival, it can be the difference between seeing tomorrow or not. A fire can be used to dry clothing, warm yourselves, making ash, boiling water, bathing and sanitizing.
A good fire starter is just as important as the rest of your cooking supplies, because without fire, you’re limited in how much food you can cook and how you can prepare it.
There are several good survival matches, and survival lighters but we prefer to have a backup starter like a magnesium or flint type fire starter. There are several great fire starter kits. Choose one that you’re more comfortable with but know how to use it before you need it!
3. Radio and communication devices
Radio and communication devices are crucial tools for prepping, as they allow you to stay connected with others in the event of an emergency. Whether it’s a natural disaster or a societal collapse, having the ability to communicate with others can mean the difference between life and death.
One popular option for preppers is the handheld two-way radio. These devices are small, portable, and easy to use, making them a great choice for on-the-go communication. They are also typically affordable, which makes them accessible to preppers on a budget. However, their range is limited, so they may not be the best choice for communicating over long distances.
Another option is the ham radio. Ham radios are more powerful than handheld two-way radios and can transmit over longer distances. They also have a larger range of frequencies, which allows them to pick up more signals. However, they require a license to operate and are more complicated to use than handheld two-way radios.
In addition to radios, there are other communication devices that preppers should consider, such as satellite phones and emergency beacons. These devices are designed to work in remote areas where traditional communication methods may not be available.
While they can be expensive, they are essential for those who plan on traveling to remote or dangerous areas. Overall, having reliable radio and communication devices is an essential part of any prepping plan.
4. Self-defense options
Self-defense is a critical component of any prepping plan. In the event of a disaster or societal collapse, individuals may be forced to protect themselves and their loved ones from threats such as looters, violent mobs, and wild animals. There are a variety of personal defense options available, each with its own set of advantages and disadvantages.
One option for personal defense is a firearm. Firearms are powerful and effective tools for protecting oneself and one’s property. They come in a variety of sizes and styles, from handguns to shotguns to rifles, and each has its own set of advantages and disadvantages.
However, firearms require proper training and handling, and they can be dangerous if not used properly. Additionally, in some areas, owning and carrying firearms may be illegal or heavily regulated. Check your local laws.
Another option for defense is non-lethal weapons such as stun guns, pepper spray, and tasers. These weapons like pepper spray are designed to incapacitate an attacker without causing permanent harm and give you time to evacuate the danger zone. They are typically easy to use and do not require as much training as firearms.
However, they may not be as effective in some situations and may not be legal in all areas. With the proper permitting, they could be included in your everyday carry bag.
Finally, defensive training and martial arts can be effective for defending oneself in close quarters combat situations. This type of training focuses on teaching individuals how to use their bodies to defend themselves and can be an effective way to protect oneself without relying on weapons. This type of training requires significant time.
Personal Hygiene and Comfort
1. Hygiene supplies
Hygiene supplies are often overlooked in prepping plans, but they are essential for maintaining good health and preventing the spread of disease. In a disaster or emergency situation, access to clean water, soap, and other hygiene supplies may be limited.
Having a stockpile of hygiene supplies can help individuals and their families stay clean and healthy in these situations.
In addition to drinking water, it’s important to have water for cleaning and hygiene purposes. This can include water for washing hands, cleaning surfaces, and bathing. Water purification tablets or a filtration system can also be useful for ensuring that water is safe to use for hygiene purposes.
Another essential hygiene supply is soap. Soap is important for keeping hands and surfaces clean and preventing the spread of germs. It’s important to have a good supply of soap, as well as hand sanitizer, to ensure that individuals can maintain good hygiene even when access to clean water is limited.
In addition to water and soap, other important hygiene supplies you should include in your bug out bag is toothbrushes, toothpaste, feminine hygiene products, toilet paper, and women’s sanitary products.
2. Sleeping gear
Sleeping gear is an important component of any prepping plan. In an emergency situation, having a safe and comfortable place to sleep can be essential for maintaining physical and mental well-being. There are a variety of sleeping gear options available, each with their own set of advantages and disadvantages.
One option for sleeping gear is a tent. Tents are portable, easy to set up, and can provide shelter from the elements. They come in a variety of sizes and styles, from small backpacking tents to large family-sized tents. However, they may not provide as much insulation as other options and may not be as comfortable for long-term use.
Another option is a sleeping bag. Sleeping bags are designed to provide warmth and comfort in a variety of environments. Sleeping bags are lightweight and easy to pack, making them a great choice for preppers who need to be mobile. However, they may not provide as much protection from the elements as a tent.
Finally, you may choose to use cots or air mattresses for sleeping. These options can provide a more comfortable and bed-like experience, and they can help keep you off the ground.
Overall, the best sleeping gear for prepping will depend on your specific needs and the situation you are preparing for. It’s important to consider factors such as portability,
3. Clothing and footwear
In an emergency or survival situation, having appropriate clothing and footwear can mean the difference between comfort and danger. There are a variety of clothing and footwear options available, each with their own set of advantages and disadvantages.
One option for clothing is to focus on layering. Layering allows individuals to adjust their clothing to changing conditions and can help regulate body temperature.
This approach involves wearing a base layer to wick moisture away from the body, an insulating layer to trap heat, and an outer layer to protect against wind and precipitation.
Synthetic or wool materials are often recommended for layering because they dry quickly and retain warmth even when wet.
Footwear is also important for prepping. In a survival situation, you may need to cover long distances on foot or navigate rough terrain. Sturdy hiking boots or work boots are often recommended because they provide support and protection for the feet and ankles.
Waterproof or water-resistant boots can also be useful for protecting against wet conditions.
Additionally, you may want to consider having clothing and footwear that blend in with your surroundings. Camouflage or earth-toned clothing can help individuals blend in with their environment and avoid being seen by potential threats.
However, it’s important to note that wearing camouflage clothing in some areas may be illegal or suspicious, so it’s important to research laws and customs before making this choice.
Skills to Acquire
Basic survival skills
Besides buying things to stock your own bug out bag, the greatest investment you can do is go to school. Devour and learn as much as you can about the basic survival skills.
One of the most important tools for land navigation is a map. A map provides a visual representation of the terrain and can help individuals plan a route and identify potential hazards. Topographic maps are particularly useful because they show elevation and terrain features.
It’s important to have a map of the area you’ll be traveling in, as well as the skills to read and interpret the information on the map.
Another important tool for land navigation is a compass. A compass can help individuals determine direction and stay on course. There are a variety of compasses available, from basic models that simply point north to more advanced models that include additional features such as a clinometer to measure slope. It’s important to have a basic understanding of how to use a compass and to practice using it before an emergency.
In addition to maps and compasses, other tools and techniques for land navigation include GPS devices, celestial navigation, and dead reckoning.
The best approach to land navigation is to use a variety of tools and techniques and to practice using them in a variety of conditions.
I prefer the good old-fashioned map, compass and pace count!
Your emergency food will run out. You need to learn to forage.
Foraging is a valuable skill, as it allows you to find food in the wild when traditional food sources are unavailable or limited. Foraging involves identifying and harvesting wild plants and animals that are safe to eat.
However, it’s important to note that not all plants and animals are safe to eat, and it’s essential to have a basic understanding of foraging before attempting to find food in the wild.
One of the most important aspects of foraging is plant identification. There are a variety of plants that are safe to eat and can provide valuable nutrients, but there are also many plants that are poisonous or otherwise unsafe to eat.
It’s essential to have a basic understanding of plant identification and to be able to distinguish between safe and unsafe plants. Foraging guides, classes, and online resources can be helpful for learning about different plant species and their characteristics.
Another important aspect of foraging is animal trapping and hunting. In a survival situation, protein can be a valuable source of nutrition, and hunting and trapping can provide a means of obtaining it. However, it’s important to note that hunting and trapping laws vary by location, and it’s essential to research laws and regulations before attempting to trap or hunt animals.
It’s also important to have the necessary skills and equipment for hunting and trapping, including knowledge of animal behavior and habits, proper weapons and ammunition, and traps and snares.
3. Water purification
In an emergency or survival situation, access to safe drinking water may be limited, and it’s important to have the knowledge and tools necessary to purify water.
One of the most common methods of water purification is boiling. Boiling water for at least one minute will kill most types of bacteria, viruses, and parasites, making the water safe to drink. However, boiling may not be effective against all types of contaminants, such as chemical spills or heavy metals.
Other methods of water purification include using water filtration devices, chemical treatments, and ultraviolet light. It’s important to have a basic understanding of these methods and to have the necessary tools and supplies on hand for water purification.
4. Shelter building
Shelter building is a critical skill for preppers, as it provides protection from the elements and can help individuals survive in challenging environments. In a survival situation, access to traditional shelter options such as homes or buildings may be limited, and it’s important to have the knowledge and tools necessary to build a shelter.
One of the most important considerations in shelter building is the choice of location. It’s important to choose a location that is safe and offers protection from potential hazards such as flooding, falling debris, or wild animals.
Once a location has been selected, the type of shelter will depend on the available materials and your skill level. Natural materials such as branches, leaves, and grass can be used to construct a variety of shelter types, from simple lean-tos to more elaborate structures. It’s also possible to use man-made materials such as tarps, blankets, or plastic sheeting to construct a plow point shelter.
In addition to the physical construction of the shelter, it’s important to consider other factors such as ventilation, insulation, and fire safety. A well-constructed shelter will not only protect you from the elements but will also provide a comfortable and safe place to rest and recover.
Having the necessary tools and supplies on hand for shelter building can help you increase your chances of survival.
5. Food preparation
In a survival situation, access to traditional food sources may be limited, and it’s important to have the knowledge and tools necessary to prepare food in a safe and efficient manner.
Food may be contaminated with bacteria or other pathogens, and it’s important to take the necessary precautions to avoid illness. This may include cooking food to a certain temperature, avoiding cross-contamination, and using proper storage techniques.
Another important consideration in food preparation is efficiency. In a survival situation, time and resources may be limited, and it’s important to have the skills necessary to prepare food quickly and efficiently.
In addition to traditional cooking methods such as boiling, baking, and grilling, you may also consider other methods such as dehydration or canning. These methods can help extend the shelf life of food and make it easier to store and transport.
First-aid and medical skills
1. CPR and first-aid training
In an emergency or survival situation, access to traditional medical facilities may be limited, and it’s important to have the knowledge and tools necessary to respond to medical emergencies. CPR and first-aid training can help you respond to injuries, illnesses, and other medical emergencies with confidence and skill.
CPR, or cardiopulmonary resuscitation, is a technique used to restore blood flow and breathing to individuals who have experienced a cardiac arrest or other medical emergency.
First-aid training covers a variety of skills, from treating minor cuts and bruises to managing more serious injuries such as broken bones or severe bleeding.
These skills can help you provide effective medical care in a variety of situations, from minor injuries to life-threatening emergencies.
In addition to the skills themselves, CPR and first-aid training can also help you develop the confidence and presence of mind necessary to respond to medical emergencies.
By practicing these skills and scenarios in a safe and controlled environment, you can feel more prepared to respond to emergencies in the real world.
2. Understanding basic anatomy and physiology
An understanding of the human body and how it works can help you recognize signs and symptoms of illness or injury and respond appropriately.
Basic knowledge of anatomy and physiology can also help you make informed decisions about your own health and well-being.
Anatomy is the study of the structure of the body, while physiology is the study of how the body functions. A basic understanding of anatomy and physiology can help you identify the different parts of the body and understand how they work together to maintain health and well-being.
This knowledge can also help you identify signs of illness or injury, such as changes in pulse rate or blood pressure.
3. Knowing how to use your first-aid kit
What good is having medical and evacuation kits that are stocked with all of the essentials if you don’t know how to use them. Watch YouTube, read a medical book (EMT 1 Training book is a great resource), or get some help from someone you know that has the skills to teach you.
1. Understanding basic self-defense techniques
During power outages and people start looting or rioting, personal safety can be a concern, and having the ability to defend oneself can be critical. Basic defensive techniques can also help you feel more confident and in control in potentially dangerous situations.
Defensive techniques can include a variety of skills, from simple physical techniques such as striking and blocking, to more complex strategies such as situational awareness and de-escalation. By understanding the principles behind these techniques and practicing them in a safe and controlled environment, you can develop the skills and confidence necessary to defend yourself and others.
In addition to physical techniques, preppers may also consider other forms of self-protection, such as carrying a non-lethal weapon or learning how to use common objects as improvised weapons.
2. Improvisation and creativity
Your ability to improvise in a hurry will help you solve problems at light speed. You have to have a creative mind that can think outside the box in order to pull it off.
Some people are really good at improvising, naturally. Others can develop this skill through exercise and experience. The more you work that side of the brain, the faster you’ll be able to solve your problem.
The key to this is staying calm. The calmer you are, the slower the world will get around you, while your brain will be able to outrun your problems.
Regular maintenance and updates
- Checking expiration dates on supplies
Have a sheet of paper with a list of items that have expiration dates so that you can keep track of your inventory and use them before you lose them.
- Replacing worn or damaged items
As you train and prepare, some of your items will get worn or damaged. You’ll need to replace or repair them as needed.
- Reassessing your situation and goals
You’ll need to keep up with the ever-increasing threats and trends so that you can be prepared. Communities change overtime.
- Local and national emergency plans
You can sign up for alerts to be sent to you at Ready.gov. Radio and television are also another way to stay informed because they are required to broadcast the emergency broadcast messages sent out.
- Monitoring the news and weather
Monitoring the news for updates on weather patterns in our area will give you a descent amount of time to react.
- Staying informed about potential threats and hazards
For national threat levels, you can check out the National Terrorism Advisory System for updates. Also, local law enforcement usually has a way of sending out alerts. Some are by text, and some are through social media. You can check for options in your local area.
Practice and drills
1. Testing your gear and supplies
You need to use your gear and practice with your supplies in order to work out any bugs you may have prior to an actual SHTF scenario. Testing your gear will build confidence and trust between you and your members.
When it hits the fan, you’ll have enough worry on your plate than to add the thought of “will my gear work and I hope I know how to use this stuff.”
Testing vehicle upgrades and performance to find weak links before a scenario arises, will allow you time to upgrade or repair as needed.
2. Practicing emergency scenarios with your family
There is an old saying in the military that “you have to train as you fight, and an ounce of sweat spilled in training will save an ounce of blood when it hits the fan!” I firmly believe it and try to live by it.
Run through tabletop drills and run through scenarios with your team. Task organize all of the members and equipment involved and make sure everyone has their tasks and expectations understood.
Cross training will help everyone in case of equipment loss or members getting separated from the main body.
At its core, prepping is simply being equipped and knowledgeable enough to handle whatever life throws your way- whether that’s power outages for a couple of days or an earthquake that causes outages lasting months.
Preparing for anything and everything, no matter the size, can help you stay safe and even save money in the long run.
This Prepping 101 guide has provided you with all the information needed to get started – from assessing risks to stocking up on supplies – so that you can be ready for whatever comes next.
Hopefully this guide to prepping has given you the confidence and knowledge to take control of your own preparedness plan. Remember that there is no “one size fits all” approach when it comes to prepping, so make sure you tailor your bug out bag and plan based on your unique needs.
Start with emergency food and water preps and work your way to other supplies. As you get time, take a wilderness survival course to get some skills.
Don’t forget to keep learning more and researching best practices in preparation. Being informed is key! It’s never too late to start living a more prepared lifestyle – regardless of which level of prepper you want to be.
So go out there and get started on your prepping journey today! If you think of something we’ve missed, let us know in the comments below!