Are You Guilty of These Prepper Mistakes?

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Are You Guilty of These Prepper Mistakes? | Backdoor Survival

Webster defines an expert as a person “who has a comprehensive and authoritative knowledge of or skill in a particular area”  That being said, when it comes to preparedness, is anyone ever really an expert?

Let’s be realistic. Every prepper, myself included, was a novice at one time or another.  Along our journey, we have consulted books, websites, blogs, and various government publications in our quest to learn abut preparedness in general and the prepper lifestyle in particular.  Were any of the indivdual authors of these sources experts?  Perhaps they were but if that were the case, why does our search continue?

Are You Guilty of These Prepper Mistakes? | Backdoor Survival

Having chosen the prepper lifestyle, we continually find ourselves in search of that next best thing,  whether it is a piece of gear, a new type of freeze dried food, a fabulous new prepping book or a masterful survival skill. No matter what it is, there always seems to be something out there to capture our attention.

While I do believe that is it worthwhile to be forward-thinking when it comes to prepping, I feel it is equally beneficial to reflect on past mistakes.  Learning from prepper mistakes is an important part of the process and allows us to to move forward with a renewed sense of resolve to do it better “the next time”.

In this article I share some common and not so common prepper mistakes.  I have made many of these myself, while others, through dumb luck or planning, have been avoided.  Are you guilty of any of these prepper mistakes?

14 Common and Uncommon Prepper Mistakes

1. Failure to inventory stored food supplies

It is easy to amass a sizable supply of food in a short period of time.  This is especially true if you tend to purchase a little bit extra each time you shop.  Before you know it, you have a closet, pantry, a basement full of stuff but no clue as to what is inside.

Creating a master inventory is only half the battle.  Adding to the list as new items are purchased and removing items from the list as they are rotated out takes diligence and perseverance.  My own efforts in this area are  embarrassingly poor.

My best advice in this regards is that if you are fairly new to prepping, don’t let this one slip by.  Keep track of what you have from the get go and save yourself a lot of grief down the road.

2. Failure to perform a risk analysis and prepping for the most likely disruptive events first

When first getting started, it is easy to go off  willy-nilly preparing for all sorts of calamities.  Earthquakes, hurricanes, tornadoes, terrorist attacks, pandemics, nuclear melt-downs, civil disobedience; you name it and the call to prepare will be out there.  I can guarantee that this will drive you crazy!

I recommend that the very first step you take when prepping is to evaluate the most likely risks specific to your geographical area and your personal domestic situation.  Most, if not all, city, county and state governments will have emergency management websites that will help you sort through the most likely disasters to occur in your area.  Take advantage of these public resources.

Don’t stop there.  Take a hard look at demographics.  Are you in a city where gangs, mobs or terrorist attacks are likely?  Do you live in a remote area where the failure of transportations systems or the lack of fuel will cut off you off from supplies from the rest of the world?  Is your employment situation tenuous requiring that you build up some cash reserves to get you by just in case the job goes away?

Clearly, at the beginning, some choices will need to be made regarding the best use of your prepping budget.  Just remember that food, water and first aid supplies should be at the top of everyone’s list.  After that, assess the most likely risks and plan accordingly.

For ideas, take a look at 12 Months of Prepping: One Month at a Time. Here you will find links to articles that take you though the process of gathering what you need in terms of supplies, gear, tasks, and skills to set you on a positive path of preparedness.  It may not seem like a lot, but at the end of the year will will be better prepared than 95% of your neighbors.

3. Preparing mostly to bug out rather than bugging in

We all talk about having a bug-out-bag and without question, having your most basic survival items in a pack that you can grab and go if you need to get out of dodge in a hurry is important.  But beyond that, over and over I see people acquire all sorts of gear for surviving on the run –  perhaps in the woods or bush at a remote location.

I know that in my own case and also with the majority of the readers on Backdoor Survival, hunkering down and bugging in will always be preferred to taking off into the unknown with our stuff.  For many, the choice to bug in has to do with family, health concerns or financial considerations.  That, plus the availability of stored supplies makes bugging in – or staying at home – the choice when a disaster strikes.

At the end of the day, take care of your bugging in needs first and foremost.  Plan for outdoor cooking facilities (perhaps an existing charcoal grill?), supplemental lighting (like this $20 Dorcy Wireless Motion LED Flood Lite), stored water, and a portable generator now.  Later, down the road, you can expand your supplies to include the essentials for truly bugging out.

That said, pay attention to mistake number 4.

4. Failure to evacuate at just the right time

When the storm of the century is heading your way, know that it is time to evacuate.  Load up your vehicle and go.  As much as you feel that your are better off in your own home, if the authorities tell you to leave – and even if they do not – get out of harm’s way as a precautionary measure.  Do so while you still have the ability to load up your vehicle with supplies and fill the tank with gas.

Sticking around when there is at least a 50% chance of a disaster occurring (hurricane, flood, landslides, tsunami,wildfire) is just plain silly.  Remember mistake number 2, failure to evaluate the risks?  Part of your planning should be to determine the trigger point for evacuation as well as identification of an evacuation site and a route to get there.  Better yet, plan multiple alternate routes as well.

5. Having the gear but not knowing how to use it

This is more common than you might think.  How many of you have a closet that represents a survivalists dream?  Emergency radios, compasses, propane stoves and lanterns, tactical knives, firearms, cross-bows, hand tools, solar kits and more lie idle and unused and untested in more homes than you might think.

Every single one of these items needs to be put through its paces two or three times a year at a minimum.  Not only do you need to know how to use your gear, but you need to ensure that your gear is in good working order.  Blades need to be sharpened, batteries need to be charged and skills need to be refreshed.

6. Underestimating other humans as a threat

In a perfect world, we would all get along and go about our business in a mild-mannered way, not bothering anyone or causing others harm.  Alas, as humans this has never been the case.  From biblical times forward, man has opposed man.  There have been and still are warriors, and armies, soldiers and dictators, enemies and foes.

As mass shootings have revealed, mental illness or drugs can make good people go bad.  Add the uncertainly and chaos created by an unstable society and the potential for human threat becomes a major cause for concern.

Whether you embrace firearms or shun them, you still need a way to defend yourself, your family and your property.  Consider pepper sprays, martial arts, and other defensive mechanisms in addition to traditional firearms.  It is foolhardy to believe that having some means of defense is not needed because “there is no one out to get you”.  Don’t be naive in this regard!

Desperate people are dangerous people.  And the lack of food, water and supplies will turn ordinary people into desperate people in a heartbeat.

7.  Spending your entire budget on gear instead of on food, water, and medical supplies

Shopping for new gadgets, gizmos, and gear is both fun and addictive.  Who wouldn’t want the latest $150 tactical flashlight or that set of high tech night goggles to use in spotting bad buys before they see you.

Purchasing survival gear is a necessary part of the prepping process but it should not be done to the exclusion of food, water, and medical supplies.  The exception to this rule is water purification and fire-making tools both of which can be acquired for very little cost.  (Consider pool shock for water treatment plus a magnesium fire tool and dryer lint for fire-making.)

Over and over again, I learn of families that have thousands of dollars invested in gear, including an arsenal of firearms and ammo, but have less than thirty days worth of food.  Not only that, the food they have is poorly packaged and is therefore subject to spoilage or an infestation of pests.  (See mistake #8.)

When developing a preparedness budget, pay close attention to the day to day needs you will incur following a disaster or disruptive event.  Doesn’t it make sense to take care of those needs first?  The gear will come in time so ensure that you are not gear rich but food poor.

Make a concerted effort to avoid impulse purchases and you will be fine.

8. Lacking the knowledge to properly store your food supplies

There are six enemies of food storage:  Temperature, Moisture, Oxygen, Light, Pests and Time.

Okay, some might say there is a seventh enemy: namely the two legged type that gets into the tastier items (such a cans of brownie mix) and eats them without telling anyone.

Seriously though, storing food for the long term, meaning five years or longer, does take some care.  Brush up on the basics of food storage and set up an active rotation program.  You don’t necessarily have to store food for 10 years or longer but what you do store, even for a year or two, should be protected to the best of your ability.

One thing to keep in mind that except for the problem with pests, most food will still be edible even if it is not stored at optimal temperatures in a moisture and oxygen-free environment.  Learn proper storage methods to insure maximum taste and nutrition.

There are many food-storage articles on this website (such as this one, Food Storage Mistakes and Goofs) as well as others (type “food storage” in the search box at the upper right hand side of the page).  In addition, consider “Prepper’s Guide to Food StorageAre You Guilty of These Prepper Mistakes? | Backdoor Survival” as an all in one resource available in both e-book and print form.

9. Buying gear and supplies while ignoring the need to develop skills

Buying stuff is easy.  You save your money, select your merchandise and go to your local outdoor emporium or Amazon and make a purchase.

On the other hand, learning new skills (or practicing old ones) takes time, patience and bit of study.  Do you know how to start a fire without matches or a butane lighter?  Do you know how to take advantage of natures bounty by knowing how to fish or hunt?  And what about growing your own food?  Could you do it if you had to?

Developing skills to become self-sufficient are every bit as important as having a closet full of the best gear money can by.  Remember that.

10. Relying only on yourself and ignoring like-minded members of your community

When I first started prepping, I did not mention my new little “hobby” to anyone.  You know, OPSEC and all that.  But about a year into it, I realized that I could not do it all on my own.  There were things I was having trouble grasping and I needed help.  As I tip toed around the edges of my community, I found some like minded people and much to my surprise, I found that I had skills and knowledge that they lacked.

The mutual exchange of skills and knowledge ensued along with some informal agreements to team up if circumstances required us to be on our own for any period of time.  This included teaming up for shelter and food as well as defense.

The importance of having a peer group of like minded comrades in my own community was strengthened as I read R. P. Ruggiero’s Brushfire Plague and continues as I explore other truer than life survival stories,.  How you decide to expand your community contacts is up to you but be advised that when it comes to survival 1 + 1 will definitely add up to more than 2.

11.  Just because someone else does something does not mean that you should do it to

There is an unspoken rule of the road in boating:  just because the other guy is doing it does not mean he is right or knows what he is doing.  Personally I have been there and done that and nearly ended up on the rocks.

The same rule applies to prepping.

As someone who reads a lot on the internet, you have likely come across many authorities with “expert” advice on one topic or another.  This is where the gray matter between your ears becomes the most important tool in your box of prepper skills.  Think it through before you unilaterally apply someone’s expertise to your own situation.  This is includes advice and suggestions from this website!

Go back to the beginning and do a risk analysis.  Examine your budget; can you afford it?  What are your living conditions?  What is the likelihood that a hurricane (or earthquake or wildfire) will threaten your home?  Are you physically up to the task of bugging out on foot?

Every step along the way you should be asking yourself these questions and more.  You are unique.  Recognize and embrace the fact that with preparedness, one size does not fit all.

12.  Falling victim to prepper procrastination

You have read the best books out there and  spent the wee hours of the night reading every website you can find that teaches and preaches preparedness.  You should be ready to embark upon your preparedness journey but remain a lurker.

There is no other way to say it but this:  just start.  Select one small task or one small project and see it through to completion.  Take some baby steps and spend an hour, perhaps two, and get something done.  The results will be worth it.

Even if you are just an occasional victim of prepper procrastination, you should go back and read Learning to Overcome Prepper Procrastination.

13. Obsessing about behind behind the curve-ball

Read this carefully then read it again.  You will never be done.

There will always be stock to rotate, supplies to purchase, and skills to learn.  Being worried and obsessed about getting every thing done at once will only increase your stress during an already stressful period in life.

Get over it!

14.  Forgetting that there is a life beyond prepping

Of all of the prepper mistakes, this is perhaps the most difficult to overcome. 

For many, the call of prepare becomes a full-time avocation.  Living and breathing preparedness becomes the norm, disrupting work and family activities as well as the personal quiet time we all need to recharge our internal batteries.  Sleep becomes elusive as you fret about being ready.  You live in a perpetual state of stress.

Hopefully, this has not and will not happen to you.  Trust me, though, it does happen and at one time this happened to me.

Above all, remember that regardless of what you think about the future, you still have one precious life to live.  You can not stop the clock of time so unless you feel an imminent danger, continue to live your life as normally and joyfully as possible.  Attend family celebrations and continue to take vacations.  Have fun and learn to play.

  Isn’t life itself the reason you are prepping and surviving in the first place?

The Final Word

These days I feel fortunate that I have come so far with my prepping activities.  Moving beyond obsession, the prepping way of life is now a part of my core.  It is “what I do” as well as being a hobby and a passion.

Indeed, I have made some mistakes along the way and many of them are listed above.  There will surely be others down the road but I know that will be okay since they will afford me an opportunity to learn and grow.  At the end of the day, life is all about growth, opportunity and the ability to take care of oneself physically, mentally and spiritually.  To me, that is what prepping is all about, mistakes and all.

Enjoy your next adventure through common sense and thoughtful preparation!
Gaye

If you enjoyed this article, consider voting for me daily at Top Prepper Websites!  In addition, SUBSCRIBE to email updates  and receive a free, downloadable copy of my e-book The Emergency Food Buyer’s Guide.

Bargain Bin: In the spirit of today’s article, let’s stick with  the basics, none of which are expensive.

LifeStraw Personal Water FilterAre You Guilty of These Prepper Mistakes? | Backdoor Survival:  The LifeStraw is considered the most advanced, compact, ultra light personal water filter available. It contains no chemicals or iodinated resin, no batteries and no moving parts to break or wear out. It weighs only 2oz.  making it perfect for the prepper. For more information, see my LifeStraw review.

DryTec Calcium Hypochlorite, 1-PoundAre You Guilty of These Prepper Mistakes? | Backdoor Survival:  This is 68% Calcium Hypochlorite.  As of this writing, the price is under $10 with free shipping.  I purchased Ultima Pool ShockAre You Guilty of These Prepper Mistakes? | Backdoor Survival which is 73% Calcium Hypochlorite.  For more information, read How to Use Pool Shock to Purify Water.

Kershaw OSO Sweet Knife:  This “oh so sweet” knife is solidly built, stainless steel knife that comes razor sharp right out of the package. It will pretty much cut through anything the price is amazing. About $23 although occasionally on sale for about $19.

Streamlight Nano Light Keychain LED Flashlight:  extremely small and light weight yet it will throw off a decent amount of super-bright light. At just .36 ounces and 1.47 inches long, the Streamlight Nano Light Keychain Flashlight will take up a minimum of space in your pocket or bag.

FordEx Group 300lm Mini Cree Led FlashlightFAVORITE! Here we go with another flashlight.  At the time of this writing, this one is only $3.80 with free shipping.  It is super mini sized, bright and waterproof.  Plus, it uses a single, standard AA sized battery.

Are You Guilty of These Prepper Mistakes? | Backdoor Survival

Paracord Survival BraceletAre You Guilty of These Prepper Mistakes? | Backdoor Survival:  Why a Paracord Bracelet? So you always have some of this useful cord on your person!  About $7.

Dorcy Wireless Motion LED Flood Lite:  Don’t let the $20 price lead you to think this wireless flood light is wimpy. I have two of these and feel that these lights are worth double the price.  The D sized batteries last about a year; I use rechargeables.

Windstorm Safety WhistleAre You Guilty of These Prepper Mistakes? | Backdoor Survival:  This particular whistle can be heard a long distance away and above howling wind and other competing sounds. About $7.

Swedish Firesteel:  Using this basic pocket fire-starter, you can get a nice fire going under almost any conditions. This is a small, compact version. About $11.

Pepper Spray:  It is always good to have some form of defense that will temporarily halt a bad guy that is in your face.

Emergency Mylar Thermal Blankets:  These come in compressed packets small enough to fit in a pocket or wallet.  You will be surprised at how warm these will keep you. About $8 for a pack of 10.

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Comments

Are You Guilty of These Prepper Mistakes? — 14 Comments

  1. Gaye, were you staring at the Prepper Husband with brownie crumbs all over his shirt as you wrote item #8? LOL. My dear wife empathizes with you.
    Seriously, even though I thoroughly enjoy all of your articles, this one has especially resonated with me on two fronts…
    My OCD side has often obsessed over the years about my prepping to the point of actually hurting my progress. See items #12, #13, and #14. Yes, you CAN procrastinate in an OCD manner! As you brought up, you can study study study to the point where nothing actually gets done. A favorite saying of mine is that “I hate do-overs”. I’d rather thoroughly examine a situation and do it right the first time instead of taking four tries to get it right. But that often accomplishes exactly what I’ve suggested…nothing.
    My ADD side guiltily raises a hand to item #2. In the beginning (and who’s kidding who…many times since) I’ve looked at the vast variety of possible disaster scenarios that might happen and tried to prepare for ALL of them.
    But this is a situation where we can achieve a lot through a simple ranking system. If we prepare for the far most likely disaster to strike us (for me it’s a tornado or extended power outage during winter time since I live in Alabama in the infamous “Dixie Alley”), we will find a pleasing truth…we will generally be prepared for many of the other types of disasters on our list by default, already.
    Of course we’ll always have to add in other items or systems to flesh out for disasters further down the list, but the point is that in looking at this thing as a series of integrated steps, instead of seeing a blocky list of twenty-odd completely different scenarios, we will be encouraged rather than discouraged.
    As I said earlier, I really appreciate this timely post. It has resonated with my prepper soul on many, many points…thank you for your efforts.

    • I’m the opposite of you in a lot of ways! I like to experiment, even if means doing something wrong, as I learn a new skill, because that means I taught myself and found my own way to do it.

      Expert advice isn’t always as expert as we’d like to believe. There have been many times when I tried to follow how-to advice, only to get frustrated that I can’t seem to do what they did, or I sometimes figure out a more efficient method on my own anyway. This is especially true for the prepper lifestyle. When the internet started exploding with prepper advice a few years ago, most of the bloggers and self-proclaimed experts were learning as they go along with their readers.

      It’s also important to understand that even an expert may be unable to help a student. I can watch Bear Grylls survive in the wild all day, but I’m not that strong or that big. I couldn’t do most of the stuff he does even if I tried. I have to find advice that is relevant and useful for me as an individual.

  2. The one thing which hits home to me is a reminder to keep following what Frank Herbert wrote in his Dune series. “Fear is a mind killer.” A little fear helps motivate but we, humans, seem to overdo even or especially in our emotions. Whether it’s the ‘net’ or the news, it seems people want to push that fear button to motivate others. So now when it happens, I teach people to take 3 deep breaths in and out s l o w l y. This allows the dino rational self to catch up with the emotional lizard. Having experienced a few ‘events’ in life. This had helped me through. Thanks for the list. Am going through these as an evaluation ;) and reminder.

  3. once again a very beneficial read. I for one am and have been “guilty” of many of these, but in your usual thoughtful and optimistic way, you didn’t make me feel dumb or degraded but rather encouraged. ~thank you

  4. I don’t speak ‘Pintrest’ well, but would there be a way you could make these articles Pintrest friendly? That way I can ‘pin’ the ones I want to share with friends.

  5. Last week our electricity went out for several hrs. We discovered that our oil lamps that had been sitting on the shelf for yrs and yrs, didn’t have oil in them – oops – Not much good with out oil in them. It was cold and snowing, so really didn’t want to walk to the garage (not attached and about 100 ft) to get some. We did have candles and flashlights. We decided we liked using the headlight type of flash light the best – so are picking up a few more. I can make my cell phone into a WiFi spot, other wise there is no connectivity if your system is down. Yes there isn’t much to do if you don’t have TV or your computer – yes we are spoiled. We are lucky that we have a propane heat stove as well as a propane cook stove. So we weren’t cold, and we could have a cup of coffee. Was a good reminder to have things ready.

  6. thanks for the reminders! yes, i’ve been guilty of several, starting with #1…on the other hand, i’ve come up with some novel ways to disguise my food stores, so maybe that makes up for some of it. the weapon thing is the hardest; been struggling with that for a while with no solution in sight. but, one step at a time. #13!

  7. I’m always amused by preppers who are ready to survive an unlikely Martian landing but don’t want to talk about the obvious and far more likely threats of being laid off of having a cancer scare. Are you going to bug out and pull your children out of school because your income dropped?

  8. Great read, but #14 in my opinion is not good. Why is it always the prepper in the family that has to compromise? Prepping is not a number one priority, it is the only priority. There is nothing but prepping. It is not a way of life, it is life itself. What good will prepping do anyone if they are away on vacation when the lights go out or a nuclear blast occurs? What good is anything connected with survival if it is not with you 24/7/365.25? One window of opportunity is all an intentional or happenstance enemy needs to cull a prepper. Life is life and death is death and their is no inbetween. A little bit of further advice on bugging out, if you will allow. All this bogus info about bug out bags, bug out vehicles, and bug out locations is just a ton of suicidal bs as far as survival goes. Any bug out bag a person can reasonably carry will not provide enough food to last more than 60 days. We have tried this and dehydrated food is the only feasible plan one can have for lengthy time driven bugging out. Canned food is good, but extremely heavy. Dehydrated food and lifestraws will put you light years ahead of the pack{We dehydrate our own vegetables, fruits, and meats]. Vehicles will only get you killed so how do you take enough supplies to last a year or more. Well, the lowly wheel barrow works tremendously well. With or without a few homemade alterations, such as side bodies, the ‘Texas dump truck'[wheelbarrow] will carry an enormous amount of supplies and is easily hidden while we scout out an area or forage for food or the best drinking water. The wheelbarrow, in effect, is our bug out location. Whereever it is, we will not be far away.One person alone can carry a lot, a whole lot, and if you have two or more people the possibilites are almost unlimited. Make sure the inflatable tires are replaced with solid rubber if possible. We had no trouble in finding solid rubber replacement tires but if you do then get a hand pump and several tube repair kits. Garden utility wagons also work well. Even for carrying infants and small pets the wheelbarrow/garden wagon works great. Admittedly I do not live in the mountains and don’t really know how functional a wheelbarrow would be in that terrain, but it works great in the flatlands and hills. For the small amount of money invested and the positive results achieved a wheelbarrow is the way to go when shft. thanks and God bless.

  9. What a timely article for me. I have the worst problems with #4 and #10.

    #4 Knowing the right time to G.O.D is an ongoing struggle for me. I know there is no pat answer to this one. Rather, it takes observation and that “sixth sense” or “gut feeling” we are all born with but don’t always rely on. In fact I’m infamous in my family for saying, “You’ve just got to trust me on this, I’ve got a gut feeling”. Have saved myself & family from a few unpleasant issues with my “gut feeling”. It’s that whole idea of not leaving too soon but yet not waiting too long either that I struggle with.

    #10 Wow, who to trust and how to meet those “truth worthy” people?? This one hit home. Due to various experiences with people from ever walk of life and every religious persuasion I’ve become a very distrusting person. So to even consider trusting someone, these days, I don’t know with the lives and safety of my family would be nothing short of a MAJOR miracle. Anyone else like me?? How do you over come that natural mistrust??

    Ideas???

    • afraid i haven’t. my experience has been that the average person will resort to lying, stealing and often violence at the first sign of trouble. there are exceptions, of course, but i haven’t found any reliable way to identify them before the shtf. even longtime friends can turn on a dime; and relatives…well, just consider what happens when some well-heeled person in the family dies! wish i could be more encouraging, but i just don’t see it that way.

  10. Purchase some thermometers from local home repair stores like Lowe’s, Menard’s, Home Depot, etc. I use one outside to see the outside temperature year round, one in the garage just to see where we stand year round and one in my storage area in the lower level (basement)of the house. Check them on a regular basis. Last winter was so cold and hubby wanted the temperature raised a little more in the house (he is a little older than me and I am going thru the change)but I was worried my food supplies might get too warm or there would be too much up and down changes of temperature. So every day I would go to the lower level (basement), open the door to the storage area and see what the thermometer was reading, if it was too cold I would leave the doors opened a bit and close them back when my readings stayed consistent. There is no heat pumped into this area only what may drift in under the door from the outer area that is heated or air conditioned. I try to keep my food supplies stable around 58 to 62 degrees year round.So far this temperature range is working, the canned food is still maintaining flavor, color and passes the smell test. No signs of critters either. Next step will be to add gallon buckets of food items and I will take into consideration all that I have read from all of you on things that did not go according to plan. Happy Thanksgiving to everyone! Keep on prepping.

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