Once upon a time I was new to prepping. Although I had a few emergency supplies on hand, it was not until I did a personal risk assessment that I realized how exposed I was in the event of a true emergency.
Being located offshore the mainland US, and being subject to the whims of the Washington State ferry system, I knew that our island community would be stranded if there was a major disruptive event in the Pacific Northwest. The type of event would not matter. We would be cut off if there was an earthquake, terrorist attack, or nuclear event. And that was only the beginning.
And so I became a prepper, figuring things out as I went along. This was in early 2010 and a lot has changed since that time. Back then, people who prepared were called survivalists and were pigeon holed as a stereotypical weirdo who preferred living a solitary life away from modern conveniences and the social milieu of friends and community. Like I said, that was the stereotype.
Today there are hundreds, if not thousands, of prepper websites. Some are quite good and offer a range of articles and free information covering everything from basic food and water preps, to survival medicine, homesteading, gardening, and off-grid living. This site is just one of the many and one with a more generalized focus, covering the the nuts an bolts of preparedness as well as the more touchy-feely aspects of the prepper lifestyle.
This introduction leads me into today’s topic which is how to become an amazing prepper. Some of these steps you will find familiar while others may be new. In addition, some may seem redundant but deserve to standalone if for no other reason than the nuance of context.
Regardless of whether you are new to preparedness or have been getting ready for years, browse this list and perhaps you will find something that will help you become more amazing and awesome than you already are.
23 Steps to Become an Amazing Prepper
1. Plan and prepare for both short-term and long term disruptive events.
Unlike others, I do not disparage the value of a three-day kit. After all, a three-day kit is better than a no-day kit, right?
On the other hand, only planning for the extremely short term is foolhardy at best. In the case of a natural disaster, first responders are going to do their best to get to you but even so, that may be days if not weeks. Remember Katrina?
In addition, some of the events we prepare for are medium to long term simply by the nature of the event. A cyber attack could bring the grid down for an extended period as could an EMP. If you have any doubts, pick up a copy of Ted Koppel’s Lights Out or William Forstchen’s One Second After. These two books alone will change the way view preparedness.
2. Know how to use the items in your emergency kit.
You have done your research, scrimped and saved, and finally have a well rounded emergency kit. But wait, have you learned how to use those items? Those military-style can openers are great, and for a buck or two, they take up almost no room, but have you practiced using them? How about that rocket stove or fire steel? Or emergency radio?
With flash drives and memory cards being so inexpensive, consider downloading electronic versions of all of your equipment manuals and keeping them available for use without having to lug around a lot of paper. True, if the grid is down you may need to rely upon a solar charger to read your devices, but these days, portable solar charges are quite affordable.
3. Keep you equipment in good repair.
Keeping your equipment in good repair goes hand in hand with knowing how to operate your gear. A good way to test you equipment is to plan an off-grid weekend or to go camping. You can make an adventure of it and have fun while learning how to cope without modern convenience.
4. When it comes to food storage, store what you like to eat.
This might seem obvious but in the thrill of snagging a bargain, you might be tempted to stock up on certain foods that you have never tried before. You have no idea whether they taste good and have no idea how to cook them.
There is nothing wrong with trying new things and especially food items that can be purchased on sale at bargain prices. Even so, be modest with your initial purchases. Learn to cook using wheat, for example. Or sample products from some of the food storage companies before spending thousands of dollars on products you may not enjoy. Don’t panic, go slow, and make informed decisions when it comes to food storage.
5. Identify sources of water in your community and have a way to get it.
You have stored water and lots of it, right? But when your water supply is exhausted, what are you going to do? Where are you going to find additional sources of water? And how are you going to transport that water to your location.
Living in the desert these past five months and taught be not to be complacent about sources of water. It took some diligence but I did find an accessible reservoir that I could hike to. It would be slow going and my buckets would be heavy, but I could do it.
Where will you get water when your stored water is gone. Think about it and plan for it. Starting now.
6. Do a risk assessment specific to your geographical area and prepare for those events first.
When it comes to prepping, risk assessment is something that tends to get shoved to the back burner as we move in a frenzy to learn new skills and purchase “stuff”. I know that in 12 Months of Prepping, I stress the importance of evaluating specific and inherent risks, but you know the saying, out of sight is out of mind.
Until something bad happens.
When a disaster or other disruptive event occurs, we scramble to catch up by looking at our own lives and our own situation and formulating a plan specific to unique, geographical and familial needs. But why wait?
Research the types of disasters that are common to your geographical area. Virtually every city and county will have an emergency management department or website that will educate you and help you prepare for those events.
7. Assume your home will be destroyed along with everything you own.
This weekend, I learned that a blogging colleague’s home was completely destroyed by fire. Her family escaped unscathed and first responders rescued the family pet. Still, she was left with nothing but the clothes on their backs.
Regardless of whether you plan to bug in or bug out, assume that something could happen to render you homeless. Keep an emergency kit off site along with extra food, clothing, water and cash.
There is nothing sexy or glamorous in writing about home fires but did you know that fire is one of the most common emergencies in the United States each year? It only makes sense to keep basic supplies somewhere safe, just in case it happens to you.
8. Renew, refresh, and replenish.
There is a commonly used idiom, “don’t rest on your laurels”. What that means is do not sit back and rely on past accomplishments to get you by. Things can and do change as do circumstances.
This is where living the preparedness lifestyle comes into play. Being prepared is not set it and forget it. Learn something new or renew your skill set by coming up to speed with newer or more advanced techniques.
Check up on those items that were stashed away years ago. Ensure they are still usable and in terms of clothing, that they still fit. This is especially true if you have children.
Have you used some of your food and water storage? What about the items in your first aid kit? Don’t forget to replenish those used items so they will be there for the next time.
9. Take care of your medical needs.
Taking care of your medical needs require a two pronged approach. First, become as healthy and fit as you can now, before the emergency, disaster, or disruptive event turns your live upside down.
Second, and by far the most difficult, is to plan for a time when conventional medicine and medical care may not be available. If you can, stockpile traditional medications and antibiotics even if you have to pay for them out of pocket and not with insurance. Learn about alternatives such as herbal medicines you can grow yourself and essential oils.
10. Prepare to survive without power.
One of the most common emergencies does not need to be an emergency at all if you are well prepared. I am referring to a grid-down, short term power outage. Something as commonplace as an automobile hitting a power pole can bring the local power grid down for hours or even a day. No power means no internet, no computers, no refrigeration, and no lighting for anywhere from a few hours to a full day and sometimes longer. I know, because it has happened to me.
Learn to cope with plenty of light sources as well as adequate outdoor cooking facilities that do not require electricity. Save for a backup generator or practice doing without. Mostly, be aware that extended power outages do happen and will happen. It is best to be ready.
11. Skills trump stuff.
Like a broken record with a skip in it (does anyone else remember records?), all the fanciest gear will never trump having survival skills. What are those skills? Starting a fire, cooking from scratch, performing CPR, making your own soaps and cleaning supplies, sewing, gardening, canning, and more.
Not everyone will be good at everything, nor will everyone have the space or stamina to perform every single survival and preparedness task. That is 100% okay. Learn to do 10 things and become passionate about 5. Then tackle the next 10. Before long you will have mastered self-sufficiency and will be able to barter those skills for stuff down the road.
Don’t stress too much about the stuff. At the end of the day, your skills will prevail.
12. Create an archive of critical documents.
Make a copy of critical documents and keep them safe. In the event of disaster, you want proof of who you are and what you own. You want copies of marriage licenses, deeds of trust, passports, titles to your vehicles and more.
Make paper copies and keep them off site, but also store electronic copies on a flash drive of smart card. These days, scanners are ubiquitous but if you don’t have one, or don’t have access to one, take photos with your smart phone then store those photos someplace safe.
13. Know how to cook from scratch outdoors and have the right food preps to do so.
Common sense dictates that you should have the means to cook outdoors. You can do this on a BBQ grill, fire pit, rocket stove, or solar oven. Regardless of which method you choose (and I would choose two at a minimum), you are still going to need fuel, fire starters, and the right type of pots and pans to cook with.
You are also going to need to stockpile various kinds of foods which are conducive to outdoor cooking. I happen to be a fan of freeze-dried meal pouches that only require water. Over the long stretch however, the meal pouches will run out and you will need to get back to the basics of cooking from food storage.
Learn to cook beans, rice, oatmeal and other pantry basics outdoors. Make this a part of your preparedness adventure, trying out different seasonings and condiments to add some variety to this very humble fare.
14. Understand and plan for the disposition of sewage and waste.
Have you given any consideration of what you would do if your basic sanitation system was not available following a disaster? As unpleasant as this might seem, not having a viable sewer or septic system, or even an outhouse, could pose a problem if you have not given it some thought a head of time.
Think through how you will deal with a sewer or septic system that is no longer viable. Be prepared with both a plan B and a plan C and by all means, stock up on sanitation supplies.
15. Keep an inventory of what you have.
Time and time again I have purchase supplies only to find out later that I already had plenty of whatever it was I purchases. Redundancy is part of the one is none, two is one theory of preparedness by seven or eight? Okay, am being a bit facetious, but really, how many solar chargers does a person need?
This is one particular area where I am not amazing and not awesome. I do not have a good inventory that is up-to-date. Do as I say and not as I do.
16. Learn self-defense but don’t be a hero if it means risking your safety.
If you are going to be an amazing prepper, you are going need to be alive to do it. Check the heroics at the door.
Learn to defend yourself and your home. That may or may not include firearms and that is okay. There are plenty of other ways to defend yourself and your loved ones. Whatever you chose, do train, and become proficient.
The caveat, and it is an important one, is this: hiding or fleeing to escape danger is not being a coward. There is no law that says you have to become a Rambo at the slightest hint of trouble.
17. Set aside an emergency cash fund.
If you have ever been shopping and realize that you left your credit card at home you will understand the need to have some spare cash on hand. But what about the bigger emergencies? Perhaps the car needs to be repaired, or you are faced with an $800 refrigerator repair bill.
The need for an emergency fund goes beyond short-term cash needs. Unemployment and a medical crisis may also require you to dip into emergency funds. Equally dire is an attack on the power grid, rendering cash machines, cash registers, and all forms of electronic banking and commerce inoperable.
In that situation, cash in the form of small bills may become invaluable.
Building up an emergency fund when you are barely scraping by may be difficult but it is not impossible. Go slowly and you will be surprised by how quickly those dollars add up.
18. Be part of a like-minded community even if it is small.
The challenges of living a self-sufficient, prepper lifestyle can be overwhelming when attempting to do it all yourself. If you are lucky, you have a spouse or partner on board to share both the work and the joys of self-reliance. On the other hand, I know from the many comments and emails that I receive that a good percentage of you are on your own.
Some carry the torch alone due to circumstance but others soldier along without assistance because family and friends scoff and consider them loony tunes. Believe me, I feel your pain.
Why is a community important? Not only for moral support, but for an amalgamation of skills. Having everything from a healthcare profession, to teacher, to cook and chief bottle washer will be important to the community as a hole. One skill will not be better than another, only different.
For the short tern, being prepared is something you can do on your own. For the long term, survival will require the diversity of a community.
19. Think through a bug-out scenario even if you plan to bug-in.
If a disaster strikes, I plan to hunker down and bug-in. I have no interest in going to a shelter or to Camp FEMA. Ideally, even if there is a pandemic, I will be ready. I have thought about this and planned for this. Have you?
It is easy to say you are going to stay home no matter what, but have you considered the ramifications? Medical assistance may not be available and fresh supplies of food and water may be few and far between. Then there are safety considerations. If you live in a dense, urban areas, will the gangs and thugs come after you and your precious supplies?
These are important considerations that require a lot of soul searching. Not everyone can afford a bug-out retreat and even if you do have such a haven, there is no guarantee you can get there.
20. Practice what you know and learn what you don’t.
It is easy to become complacent in your knowledge of how to do things. Even though you have confidence in your mental muscle memory, we are all human and we do get rusty. Has it been five years since you have been hunting or fishing? It is time to brush up.
Did you sow seeds a few years ago but now enjoy the convenience of getting starts at the local nursery? Grab a package of seeds and plant them, just to stay current. Perhaps come up with a new method that ensures a higher percentage of germination.
Be curious. Take the extra step to learn to do something in a new way. This will add to your skill set and make the same old boring task a lot more enjoyable as you engage your brain in a positive matter.
21. Budget for some amusements and comfort items along with your other preps.
I get that we want to be prepared for a time when conditions are austere if not downright Spartan. Does that mean that there is no room for fun and enjoyment? Not by my book.
Live, love, and laugh is coming up more and more on this site and for good reason. We prepare because we want to live. That means we must make room in our preps for those items that will enhance our living experience. For most of us, that will be a combination of books, games, and food items.
Be creative and endeavor to add comfort items to your preps monthly. As with your emergency cash reserves, they will add up quickly.
22. Build up a stash of items to barter but not to the exclusion of your other preps.
Much has been written about the need to stockpile items to barter for use during hard times. This is a good strategy and an important strategy but only if you can afford to do so. Unless you are willing and able to peruse thrift stores and the Dollar Store, barter items can blow your prepping budget out of sight.
Be smart about your barter items and acquire those items that serve double duty. Make sure that they are items you can also use yourself if circumstances dictate doing so.
23. Live a strategic life.
Living strategically, by my own definition, means living a life full of abundant adventure while embracing the tenants of simplicity and sustainability. It means being healthy and reaping the benefits of bounteous friendships and caring relationships. It means living a life full of happiness and readiness, without the burden of wanting to be someone else or someplace else. It means liking yourself and moving forward with this business of life with animated spirit and optimism.
As bad as things may be, and as angry and tired as we may feel, it all gets down to a living a strategic life filled with meaning, compassion, and relevance. It is why I am here and, in my opinion, is a necessity for being an amazing prepper.
The Final Word
Although I feel well prepared, there is still a lot I need to learn to feel really comfortable in my own prepper shoes. It is quite humbling, actually, and often tasks become chores. Realistically speaking, my best guess is that if I feel that way, you do to.
I will not be smug and call myself an expert because I am not. Like you, my prepping is a work in progress and will probably continue for a long, long time. And so, along the way, I hope to grow personally and to hone that all-important survival mindset.
We continue to live uncertain times. There is strength in numbers. Let us continue to learn, and to survive, together.
Enjoy your next adventure through common sense and thoughtful preparation!
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Bargain Bin: Below you will find links to the items related to today’s article.
GI P38 & P51 Can Opener Combo Pack: This is one of the army’s greatest tools. They can be used for dozens of jobs: opening cans, cutting a straight edge, cleaning grooves, screw driver, fingernail cleaner, seam ripper and many, many more practical uses. For a couple of bucks, they are a good deal for very little money.
One Second After: For many, the novel “One Second After” was a game changer that convinced them of the need to be prepared. It is a story in which one man struggles to save his family and his small North Carolina town after America loses a war based upon an Electro Magnetic Pulse (EMP) used as a weapon. It could happen. If you have not read this book, you really should.
Lights Out: A Cyberattack, A Nation Unprepared, Surviving the Aftermath: The hallmark book, by award winning journalist Ted Koppel, will hopefully educate the sheeple and motivate them to embrace the message of preparedness. For the rest of us, there is much to learn about the state of preparedness, or lack thereof, at the highest levels of our government. Read more: Prepper Book Festival 10: Lights Out by Ted Koppel.
Fight, Flight, or Hide. The Guide to Surviving a Mass Shooting: This is the book that taught be that hiding or running away does not mean you are a coward. As a matter of fact, doing so can be an act of courage.
Kingston Digital DataTraveler Flash Drive: I much prefer these metalized flash drives because the ring will not break. Been there, done that. These flash/thumb drives have really come down in price and are great for storing important documents.
RAVPower 15W Solar Charger with Dual USB Ports: This compact, three panel, solar charger will charge two devices at once, including tablets, smartphones, Kindles, and even AA/AAA battery chargers. Value priced at about $50. For more information, read: Gear Review: RAVPower 15W Solar Charger with Dual USB Ports.
LifeStraw Personal Water Filter: FREE SHIPPING! 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 2 oz. making it perfect for the prepper. For more information, see my LifeStraw review.
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