9 Mistakes Typically Made by Preppers

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Are You Guilty of These Prepper Mistakes?

Once upon a time I was a novice prepper and there are days that I still feel that way.  Having chosen the prepper lifestyle, I always find myself in search of that next greatest thing – whether it is a piece of gear, a new type of freeze dried food, a fabulous new prepping book or a DIY survival skill.  No matter what it is, there always seems to be something out there to capture my attention.

Another Great Article Update from Backdoor Survival 470

While I do believe that is it worthwhile to be looking forward, it is also good to reflect on past prepping mistakes, to learn from them, and to move forward with a new sense of resolve.   Today I am going to share some common prepper mistakes.  Many of these – especially those at the top of the list – I have made myself.  Others – through luck or planning – I have managed to avoid.

Whatever your personal situation, take some time to review this list and if you find an area where you are remiss, consider the past a learning experience and do what I do – make adjustments and move forward.

9 Mistakes Typically Made by Preppers

1. Failing to inventory stored food supplies.

Guilty as charged.  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 or pantry full of stuff but no clue as to what is inside.  In my case, I have some well marked buckets of food but no master list.  I know I have 30 pounds of coffee beans – or is it 40?  And #10 tins of freeze-dried meats, fruits and veggies?  They are packed away in carton boxes and I know I have lots of cartons but just exactly what and how much?

I have been storing food for so long that I can not rely on memory alone to know what I already have and what is still needed.  This is my number one mistake and one that I plan to remedy in two ways.  First of all, everything new that I purchase will be inventoried right away.  This is what I call my going forward plan.  Then, as time allows, I will methodically inventory everything else.

The key, of course, is not to co-mingle the old with the new.  Sure, I may end up with some duplicates but that is better than being so overwhelmed than to do nothing at all.  Your plan may be different given the dynamics of your space and your time.  All I can say 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. Identifying the most likely risks and prepping for those first.

When I first started, I went off willy-nilly preparing for all sorts of calamities.  Earthquakes, terrorist attacks, pandemics, nuclear melt-downs, civil disobedience – you name it, I tried to prepare for it all.  These days, I recommend that one of the very first steps that you take when prepping is to evaluate the most likely risks in your area and within 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.  Add to this an assessment of your location.  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.  A good place to start is 12 Months of Prepping – The First Year which is a recap of monthly supplies, skills and tasks to get you started on the road to preparedness.

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 in 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 $21 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.

evacuateWhen 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 an alternate route as well.

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

I am guilty of this one as well.  I have a Kaito emergency radio as well as some Midland FRS radios.  Sure, I know how basically to use them but what if I needed to use some of the more esoteric features?  My bad.  I also have a hand held compass – a nice one at that – and yet in these days of GPS navigation, would I know how to use it?

Get out the gear two or three times a year and put it through its paces.  Not only do you need to know how to use it, but you need to make sure 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.

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

7. Buying stuff while ignoring the need to develop skills.

Buying stuff is easy.  Save up 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?

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

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.  But why not learn proper storage methods to insure maximum taste and nutrition.  The following articles on Backdoor Survival will help educate and there are plenty of others elsewhere on the internet including YouTube.  A few hours of your time is all that it will take to make you a food storage expert.

Food storage and Beans: Using Mylar bags and a Food Saver
Food Storage Part I : A Primer on Oxygen Absorbers
Food Storage Part II: Unraveling the Mystique of Mylar Bags
Food Storage Part III: Food Grade Buckets, Lids and Gamma Seals
Food Storage Mistakes and Goofs

9. 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 on my own 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 plus 1 will definitely add up to more than 2.

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!

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Bargain Bin: In the spirit of today’s article, let’s stick with  the basics.  Of course there is the Backdoor Survival Portable Pocket Kit.  Heck, for as little a $5, you can purchase a single item in the kit or for about $50, you can put the whole thing together yourself. Something to think about, anyway.

There is a good list of items in the article Survival Gear Checklist – 15 Items to Get You Started.   You might want to pick up a few things with your holiday gift money.  Then of course, are some of my favorites below.

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.

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. About $7.

Paracord Survival Bracelet:  Why a Paracord Bracelet? So you always have some of this useful cord on your person!  About $7.

Windstorm Safety Whistle:  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. About $7.

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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9 Mistakes Typically Made by Preppers — 23 Comments

  1. While I was reading your article, I almost felt like I wrote it! As to your food storage rotation issue, consider investing in a Harvest can rotation system; they’re expensive but are well worth it for this very problem.

  2. I try to keep a list of what I’ve bought, when I bought it, and it’s expiration date. There is nothing worse than wasting food.

  3. The chances of surviving a Pole Shift would require persons to be protected
    in high altitude deep bunkers suspended on shock absorbers. They would
    require filtering for air, sewage and water as well as supplies for a least
    five years. They would also require adequate provisions for restarting
    civil institutions, agriculture and industry.
    I myself have prepared a Go bag with a four days of provisions and
    clothing, and have a safe place to retreat to in case of societal and
    utilities breakdown. Checkout Denver Airport bunkers on YouTube.

    God help us?
    John Berbatis

    To: president@messages.whitehouse.gov
    Subject: Attn. Pres. Obama. Mt Fuji erupting is a prelude to a Pole Shift.. how & why.
    Date: Fri, 10 Jun 2011 09:55:41 +0800

    Dear Concerned Earth Lovers,

    The eruption of Mt Fuji will indicate that an east/west fault line has fractured, allowing Northern Honshu to slide into a 6500 metre ocean trench. Earthquakes of the past 90 days in the eastern side of Japan has weakened it’s foundation, a porous sub-structure; a land of a volcanic substance. The resulting tsunamis’ will wipe-out millions of humans in the Pacific region as well as severely destabilizing the Earth’s crust, resulting in the dislodging of the Western & Eastern Antarctic ice sheets. This massive loss of weight from the continent of Antarctica will result in an asymmetric rotation of the Earth and so cause the isostasy (Balance of the Earth’s crust.) to become unbalanced. Crust displacement at Magnitude 12+ will then occur until the Earth’s crust reaches equilibrium, while at the same time hundreds of volcanoes will erupt, lands will disappear and have an extreme destabilizing effect on the climate patterns.

  4. If you are worried about matches or having to rub to sticks together to start a fire – think about a small, 2″ diameter, magnifying glass (a glass one – not plastic).

  5. The #1 thing you.ve missed is to not store everything in the same place even if you are ‘bugging in’. I lost my home & all it’s contents to a fire on Christmas Day. All my dehydrated (by me plus bought stuff) jars & cans are gone, along with stuff I’d been saving…dog food, bleach, baking soda etc. Luckily I’d stored a little bit in the {untouched} detached garage. I mean a wind storm or flood could cause the same devastation. Just wanted to add that because it’s not something you think about. I know I didn’t til it happened.

    • Youre right Patti, many dont think of that. i didnt know that until i saw the show Doomsday Preppers, and they how they have multiple places they hide stuff.

      one of the families had a hidden bunker, where they hid all of their supplies and ammo. it was found, and they were robbed of $35k of supplies and weapons.

  6. ” Underestimating other humans as a threat.”

    I think most people completely underestimate what people will revert to. I spent many years working in the inner city and the folks there act like fools once summer rolled around and it got hot.

    Add a couple days without electricity, some food shortages and watch how bad it gets.

    Look at what happened in New Orleans during the hurricanes.

      • Debra – Thank you for the kind words. We all started and were new at one time or another so stay with it and slowly you will build up your supplies and skill set. I hate to say it but prepping does become addictive.

        • How true. Told a friend who we just found out her bf just started prepping. He started with water and she was whining about it. They still really don’t know we prep ( not close friends). But I told her the water was just the beginning. It only gets worse, better get used to it. Lol

  7. lOVE this site !! as a ‘ prepper ‘ in a country without guns i have a ‘ go kit ‘ that includes a broken piece of a spark plug so i can break any window eg of a car or a shop window so i can get supplies or weapons , should the shtf

    • damn it i forgot to click on rely by email ( please reply to this comment as i will get a notification of your reply

  8. I live in a small country town in Australia.
    In 2011 we had the biggest flood in history.
    I am outside of town on a farm.
    I managed to get to town to get some fuel for my generator and was shocked to see how a few of the people had reacted.
    Cleaning out the supermarket of bread ,milk etc.
    It was not a real emergency.
    The water went down in under 30 hours.
    But people panicked.
    And once some start to panic,more follow.
    If it had of been something major like massive disease outbreak or invasion.(and that is always on the cards)it would have been chaos.
    That is when I started to prep.

  9. I am a fan of the dollar store. Having been hit by a car while walking across a street by a nut on a cell phone. I have continuous pain in my back and gets worse on wet days. Enough of my aches. I use the stick on pain patch that works and gives relief. It is the container however that I want to talk about. it is made of aluminized mylar and cutting off the top it has a resealing edge. I have tried the seal with a cracker under water for a week and it kept it dry as a bone. It is also light tight and recovered film my camera ate and put it inside to have a man with darkroom develop them. the package has a smell of menthol but if left open dissipates in a few days. This package can provide waterproof flat storage for anything so I thought all might like to try it. The patches are also good for sprain’s as well. If you don’t think it isn’t worth it you are out a dollar. go to dollar tree where all is a dollar. No advertisment intended.

  10. I would suggest wasp and bee killer instead of pepper spray, you have to get fairly close with pepper spray. The wasp/bee spray is good for about 15 feet and will do about the same thing. Plus it’s about a buck.

  11. Owning a cabin in a resort town gives the well to do an upper hand. When things get uncomfortable (too hot days in Florida for example) they head out for cooler places like Oregon or Washington). Sometimes younger grown children live year round at these second homes while attending out of State University or they may just have young family’s and parents who gave them huge down payments or the like. Such arrangements benefit all. If you think and act as the wealthy do, you don’t have to think like a bug. I have seen poor people spend thousands of dollars on weddings, even birthday’s, they could ill afford; when they might have provided their children and themselves a place to go for vacation, or, for other reasons.

  12. Such great advice! Especially #5 (Having the gear but not knowing how to use it) and #7 (Buying stuff while ignoring the need to develop skills).

  13. I would like to add, buying too much of something at one time. I have lots of water and food stored. Toothpaste, soap, qtips and such. How much medical and bandaid? NONE. Make a list most definitely. But include stuff you HAVEN’T BOUGHT yet. Checkmark items you have with the amounts. Also I have 3 non bullet weapons and have a 4th on the way. A regular size crossbow (with a broad head it will penetrate any class of body armor) A pistol crossbow which is actually more powerful than the large one, but you can’t get broad head for them. They will however penetrate 3/4 pressed plywood particle board. Good for human threat or rabbit get. A wrist rocket slingshot with “hunting” rubbers and I’m waiting on a new item called a “Pocket Shot”. It’s a new type of slingshot that self centers the ammo. You can fire almost twice the ammo in the same amount of time. All 4 will be valuable to be quiet during the first month. After the hordes have been thinned, noise from a gun will bring less attention.

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