How to be a Prepper – A Few Things to Consider


Since when did being prepared for something become a bad idea? Would planning for retirement outside of social security make you a “conspiracy theorist”? So why is it a bad idea to be prepared for the numerous reasons presented yearly? As many have finally figured out, it’s probably not a bad idea for everyone to become a prepper on some level.

Let’s be real for a moment. The government appears to be extremely confused when it comes to its own policies. You have some parts of the government telling you to prepare for all kinds of disasters, but other departments call people who do prepare “domestic terror threats.” That is what intellectuals refer to as a “mixed signal.” Of course, the correct direction is likely much clearer now.

The biggest misconception regarding being prepared is that everyone who prepares thinks that the world is coming to an end or believes that the zombie apocalypse is upon us. That is not the case at all. Preparation (or prepping) is all about understanding the cycles, understanding the threats, and recognizing the opportunity for things like Grid-Failure or disease (like a pandemic) to occur. It simply means understanding that things are not always perfect and that it is always a good idea to be prepared for the worst-case scenario. Perhaps it means listening to the FEMA announcements being broadcast on late-night radio or the numerous government agencies already warning of such disasters and telling us that we would be idiots not to be prepared.

However you want to look at this, we must remember that during a crisis, those who were prepared are usually the ones who live to tell the story of how so many others suffered and died. People who are prepared generally do not think of it as preparing for the end of the world. Instead, it ensures their stability through a situation so that they will be around after the crisis.

There are three primary ways to go about “prepping “for a disaster scenario. One is prepping for a shelter-in-place scenario, the second is to prep for a “bugout” scenario, and the third is to prep for both.

Shelter-in-place” means to take immediate shelter where you are—at home, work, school, or in between. It may also mean “seal the room;” in other words, take steps to prevent outside air from coming in. This is because local authorities may instruct you to “shelter-in-place” if chemical or radiological contaminants are released into the environment. (CDC— preparedness/shelter/) Perhaps you got the news a little late and are trapped in an area where society has completely broken down. Your opportunity to bug out has passed, and you need to barricade yourself in the house. Knowing how to do this and having the supplies to wait out the crisis is key because going outside might kill you.

Bugging out “means leaving your immediate area. If you are bugging out, the best places to bug out are usually locations with few human inhabitants. In other words, you would seek a location well outside any population center. This alludes to the idea that you might need to be well-practiced in the bushcraft or camping lifestyle. Well-practiced is the phrase used because during the crisis is not the best time to start learning how to do things required for survival. When you plan your bugout, it is best to figure out four locations you could go to that do not rely on the same routes to get there. This is because roads can sometimes be blocked or destroyed.

It is imperative that you make your decisions quickly and wisely regarding bugging out or sheltering in place. Hurricanes, disease, earthquakes, floods, chemical leaks, societal breakdowns, economic collapse, terrorist attacks, or World War III are all possibilities in your future, and making (or not making) a decision could mean life or death.

Something to keep in mind: if you are prepared and live in a highly-populated area, you are a target. The best of neighbors can easily become an enemy if they are not properly prepared, but they know you are. This is also a hint of getting them on board and getting their preparedness in order. The scenarios listed above should change the plan of action. For instance, if a deadly disease is ravaging the area, the last thing you probably want to do is get out and expose your family to it. Shelter in place would more than likely be your best bet. On the other hand, a societal breakdown or economic collapse might be a good reason to bug out. This is where being smart and thinking ahead is vital.

The hardest concept for many to visualize is the start of such events. It will not be only you trying to survive, and it will likely not be like what you have seen on TV. Imagine the chaos of thousands of people attempting to evacuate the area simultaneously. Imagine the thousands of people who were unprepared trying to gather resources during a crisis. Riots and chaos can spring up in a minute, so you must be ready ahead of time.

While it is important to keep up with current events, we have seen time and time again that the government is not to be relied upon when it comes to your safety. They will usually not be able to tell you something is wrong until it is too late because, undoubtedly, they are finding out about the same time you are. If you are caught in the middle of whatever crisis may occur, they probably will not be able to get to you for a while. One need only look back at 9/11, Katrina, Sandy, etc., for evidence of this. Their priority is to contain the situation, not necessarily save you. Yes, this is not comforting news, but it is true.

Many things can kill you in a disaster scenario. However, it is safe to say that death among victims in a disaster scenario mostly occurs by indecision, dehydration, starvation, the elements, and being completely unprepared for the issues they would face.

The last thing you want to do is to begin buying emergency food and water supplies once you hear the news talking about a possible threat. When the military and police start hitting the streets in mass, it is safe to say that something is going on. The best thing any prepper can do is be aware of your surroundings. Pay attention. Long lines at banks, grocery stores, gas stations, hardware stores, etc. These are signs that something serious is about to go down. Joining these lines is a dangerous proposition and one that is not recommended.

You must have already made your decision and either be loading your supplies into your vehicle or buttoning up your house during this time. Mentally, I am sure you can already visualize the benefit of being prepared ahead of time. While the community is panicking, you can already be in motion.

Prepping is not something you should put off until tomorrow. As demonstrated, these events are a reality of life, and some more severe events seem ever more likely in the coming years. What you do now could save the lives of yourself and your family. So think . . . and act!

There are many resources available on the internet when it comes to prepping. There is no “correct” way to “prep” short of the idea that you are addressing indecision, dehydration, starvation, and the elements. These are the big ones and the ones you should focus on. In other words, you can probably get by without a Ham radio, but you can’t without water.

Indecision—You can help overcome indecision by being prepared to both shelter in place and bug out. This is because when you have the supplies, the question is no longer “what do I need?” it is simply “which is the wiser?” You will save yourself an incredible amount of time by simply having what you need where you need it. You will not be in some line surrounded by highly stressed out and dangerous people who thought it could never happen to them.

Dehydration—Water is vital for life. It is said that a healthy sedentary adult should drink 1.5 liters of water per day. This amount will increase if your activity is increased due to stress or workload. Water provides many vital functions in our body. It carries minerals, vitamins, and glucose to our cells, it removes waste products, including toxins, from our organs, it transports nutrients throughout our bodies, and it regulates our body temperature and is vital for proper brain function. Having the ability to acquire or clean water is crucial. This is number one on many lists; it should probably be number one on yours.

Starvation—Food is pretty important as well. Having food ready to eat when you need it will keep you moving and keep you thinking. Health begins to break down when you do not provide the body with what it needs. A solid nutritional base will keep you going stronger and longer. If ready-to-eat food is not an option for whatever reason, having the ability to hunt for it becomes critical.

Elements—The cold and heat can kill you. If you are not prepared to warm your body, or you do not have what is needed to shield yourself from the sun, you increase your potential for an untimely death.

Cost—There are several different ways to look at the cost element of preparing yourself. One way to look at it is that it can be expensive, and you can wait until something major occurs before you start. This is, of course, a really naive way to look at it because, by the time these things are truly needed, they will be priceless and more than likely unavailable for purchase.

The second way to look at this would be as an investment. Understand that everything you purchase in preparedness can and will likely be utilized at some point. You can always drink water, you will always need food, and you will always need clothes. Regarding the extra gear, you will be practicing your skills with friends and family, so you’re not out of anything there, either. It will be utilized.

Preparing on a Budget

Below is a list of suggested food items to store. You can store these in basic black truck boxes found for under $20 at your local big-box store or just store them in your pantry. The truck boxes tend to be a better idea because they are transported easier, and they are at the ready. This is a personal choice, though.

The following items are usually easily acquired by spending roughly $5 extra each visit to the store. Simply pick up one or two items listed each time you go. Remember, ANYTHING you get now will be a great help during a crisis. Be mindful of things you would actually be able to cook and be willing to eat though. If you do not like rice; you probably should not buy rice. If you do not like wheat, you should not buy wheat. If all you like is peanut butter and oats, then a mixture of salt, peanut butter, oats, and honey will be great! Just think about what you are willing to eat and go from there. This is not an overly complicated process.

Special Note: If you have a cell phone, you must understand that service may or may not be in place depending on the crisis event. That being said, it would be a good idea to have a charged phone just in case, so a mobile charger is a great recommendation.

Salt—Salt is vital for life, and so is iodine. Pick up iodized salt and make sure you have plenty of it. 1/8 of a teaspoon twice a day for each person.

Raw Honey—This keeps for a very long time and can be used for its antibiotic properties and wound healing.

Alcohol—Whiskey, Vodka, etc . . . —Optional but not a bad idea.


  • Hard Grains such as millet, spelt, or wheat may not be a bad idea.
  • Soft grains such as quick oats are great and keep easy.

Beans such as pinto, kidney, lentils, black, and blackeyed, etc., are great and can actually be used as seeds to grow more. Of course, this means bagged, not canned.

Here are some more things you might consider picking up:

  • All-Purpose Flour
  • Pasta
  • White Rice (up to 10 years)
  • Coconut oil—Coconut oil has one of the longest shelf lives of any kind of oil. It can last for over two years and is a great item to add to your survival food supply list.
  • Canned Tuna
  • Canned Meats
  • Canned Vegetables & Fruits
  • Peanut Butter
  • Coffee
  • Tea
  • Ramen Noodles
  • Hard Candy
  • Powdered milk
  • Dried herbs and spices
  • Lighters
  • Toilet Paper
  • Soaps
  • Bottled Water
  • Vitamins
  • Medicines
  • Bandages
  • Peroxide
  • Lighter fluid
  • Charcoal
  • Duct Tape

Understand that what was given to you there was a basic budget prep list that will get you by in a shelter-in-place scenario. This could be considered a basic starter list for those simply trying to get SOMETHING squared away. Some of it will also work in a bugout scenario, but you will need some other items. Now we will get into a more comprehensive list of things you may want to consider acquiring when you can. The list is comprised of numerous lists from across the prepping community. You will find lists with more, some with less, if you search “prepper lists” or “bug out lists.” Remember, these are just suggestions and things to consider while you prepare. Only YOU will know what is best for your situation.

The first thing I stress here is that in a crisis situation, you may be stuck in a “without the rule of law” situation. You must prepare yourself accordingly.

  • A quality pack—(ILBE, backpack, ALICE Pack, etc.)
  • A quality knife (Survival Knife)
  • Sawyer All-In-One Water Filter
  • A Bandana
  • Energy / Protein bars—a few days’ worth.
  • Multi-tool, quality construction
  • Portable capability to pre-filter /purify/disinfect water for an additional 30 days or more
  • Firearms
  • Ammunition—no less than 500 rounds for every firearm
  • Spare mags and clips
  • Cleaning tools for all firearms
  • Solar Powered or Crank Light
  • 100 ft 550lb Paracord
  • Sewing Kit
  • First Aid Kit
  • Maps of the surrounding area
  • Three to seven complete changes of rugged clothes for all members
  • Three complete changes of sleep clothes for all members
  • Seven changes of underclothes for each member
  • One or two pair of rugged, waterproof  boots for each member
  • One pair of comfortable shoes (sneakers, sandals, etc.) for each member
  • Several Outer gear sets (boots, gloves, mittens, scarves, hats, etc.) for all climates (cold weather, rain, etc.)
  • Quantity of various materials for repairs and creation of clothing
  • Handheld radio (FRS, GMRS, Ham, CB, etc.), transmit and receive, with extra batteries or solar charger
  • CB Radio
  • Crank powered AM/FM radio.
  • List of Contacts
  • List frequencies
  • A security system that monitors the home perimeter
  • Fire extinguishers
  • Add laminate to exterior windows (resists break-ins, etc.)
  • Pay one month of bills with cash on hand
  • Supply of hard currency (silver, gold, etc.)
  • Supply of barter goods
  • Block Sun UV rays
  • Insect Repellent
  • 30 days of life-saving prescription medications
  • 30 days of OTC and “maintenance” medications
  • Dental Hygiene Tools—Tooth Brush / Toothpaste
  • Flatware—spoons, knives, forks, etc.
  • Stored food for 30 days
  • Stored water for 90 days or more
  • Portable capability for minimum-prepared  foods for 14 days
  • Tools for gathering more food (hunt, fish, trap/snare, gather wild plants, etc.)
  • Cookware that can be used over an open fire (pots, pans, kettles, etc.)
  • Equipment to cook over the fire pit (grates, tripods, hooks, etc.)
  • Forms of entertainment (games, books, pens, paper, cards, football, frisbee, baseball/throwing ball, soccer ball, etc.)
  • N100 or P100 masks/filters
  • Nitrile gloves
  • Contact Cleaner/Holder
  • Two pairs of eyeglasses, both with a current prescription
  • Eyeglass repair kit
  • Eyeglass retaining straps
  • Denture care
  • Floss
  • Nail trimmers
  • Comb/brush hair
  • Razors
  • Deodorant/antiperspirant
  • Lotions
  • Tweezers
  • Cotton Swabs
  • Feminine hygiene items
  • Compost garbage and waste
  • Spare buckets
  • Lots of plastic trash bags
  • Pet care needs, special medications, food, toys, etc., for 90+ days
  • Tent(s)/Tarps, enough space to contain all members and gear
  • Sleeping   bag   or   other   bedding   (for   sub-freezing temperatures)
  • Ability to make a fire in, at least, three different ways
  • Spare sheets and blankets
  • Pillows (as needed)
  • Alternate heating source for home
  • Shelter repair supplies:  plywood, wood strips,  plastic sheeting, screws, nails, etc.
  • Tools—Basic  screwdriver  set, Hammer,  Supply of nails, screws, parts & tools to repair critical plumbing items
  • Heavy Tools—Shovel, ax, saw, etc.
  • Twine, Rope, and wire
  • Scissors (need several pair for different tasks; a good set of scissors is indispensable)
  • ‘Fix a flat’ or Slime
  • Self-vulcanizing plug kit and/or a bottle of Yarrow
  • Air compressor (12 VDC)
  • Hose clamps, various sizes (or hose wrap or duct tape)
  • Siphon hose
  • Funnels (keep in mind that a funnel for your fuel tank will probably be different from the ones that you use under the hood)
  • Full-sized spare tire
  • Maps already stored in the vehicle
  • Basic spare parts (hoses, belts, sparks plugs, fasteners, etc.)
  • Extra fluids (oil, coolant, transmission fluid, washer fluid, etc.)
  • Tool kit, stored in the vehicle
  • Jumper cables
  • Recovery strap/tow rope
  • Ability to gather large quantities of water for cleaning (rain, etc.)
  • Dedicated “dirty water” containers (waste)
  • NOAA weather radio
  • Store a couple of 5-gallon gas cans (full, of course) in your garage or shed. This will eliminate your need to wait in line at the gas station. Also, be sure to rotate use the gas and replace it from time to time.
  • And if you have the money – A generator with enough capacity to power critical needs for 14+ days and enough fuel to power it. There are solar options that are good to consider for this.

The idea is to work yourself up to about one year’s worth of food, in any combination of every day, minimum-prepared, and long-term storage foods, with the experience and equipment to prepare it. You should also have a portable capability of minimum-prepared foods for 30 days or more (for traveling). What I personally recommend is to detail out what you eat and just start buying extra. It does not have to be a huge bank-busting endeavor.

If you have the means and want some guesswork eliminated, you might be interested in looking at the following on Amazon. These won’t cover everything listed, but they are definitely better than nothing.

In closing, remember to keep your plans and your supplies quiet. Once again, if you tell everyone about what you have, then they will know where to go if things get bad. You become a target because you have told everyone that you are. Teach your children not to talk about your preparedness plans, equipment, or supplies as well, and always keep your important documents in a fire-resistant safe.

It would also be a good idea to have a defense plan for your entire property, an inventory list for quick reference, and a written plan for your actions for all conceivable events. These become more solid when you write them down and are more easily refined when conceptualized on paper. This will also help you determine what plans need to be activated by specific event criteria such as disease, terrorist attack, etc.

I hope this helps. Once again, the above lists are suggestions as found throughout the internet. There are many more comprehensive lists and ideas for sheltering in place and bugging out. Some people prefer much less and what they refer to as the bare essentials. That is fine, too.

The biggest key to being a prepper is getting started doing something (anything). Even if you could only secure another week’s worth of food, you have just given yourself another week’s worth of opportunity to survive.

The biggest tip on being a prepper is to not stress out about this process. One step at a time will get you what you need. Seriously! One step at a time.