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6 Questions Every Prepper Needs to Ask and Answer

Avatar for Gaye Levy Gaye Levy  |  Updated: November 30, 2021
6 Questions Every Prepper Needs to Ask and Answer

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Every once in a while, it is important to take a back seat to the process of prepping and do a little planning.  I say this because things change and life evolves, requiring a re-examination of the who, what, and why of prepping.  Let’s face it. You probably remember why you started to set food, water, and supplies aside, and why you began to bone up on off-grid skills.  But in the flurry of preparedness activities, have you ever taken a look at your original plan and made circumstantial changes?

If you are saying “what plan”,  join the crowd!

Today I am going to challenge all preppers, new or experienced, to take and hour or so to think about “the plan”.  I will do this by asking a few questions.

Six Questions Every Prepper Needs to Ask and Answer | Backdoor Survival

An Introduction to the Who, What, and Why of Prepping

We all know about the successful reporter’s rule of thumb:  determine the who what where and how for every story.  Let us take the “where” out of the equation and begin with the who, what and why of prepping.

1.  Who Should Prep?

There is only one right answer:  Everyone!

The differentiator is the extent of one person’s preps over those of another person.  Person A may define being prepared as having a three day plan to soldier through a winter storm when the power is out.  (Of course I will try to encourage that person to prep for a week or two at a minimum, but ultimately, three days is considered a decent starting point.)

On the other hand, Person B may not consider himself adequately prepped until he has the supplies, tools, and skills to manage for a year or more on his own.

It all gets down to a matter of perspective.  Like a broken record I will say it again; there is no right and no wrong when it comes to preparedness.  If you prepare enough to ally your fear of a disruptive event, you will have done enough.

2.  What is Prepping?

Let us get this one out of the way quickly as well.  Prepping is being able to survive a disruptive event if not in comfort, then at least with a minimum amount of stress. It also means having the ability to survive on your help without relying on the assistance of the government or a trip to Camp FEMA.

3.  Who Are You Prepping For?

Now we start to get into the nitty-gritty of your plan.  It is important to understand who you are prepping for.  Is it just yourself and your partner (if you have one), or an extended family?  Are there infants or toddlers involved?  What about physically challenged, or elderly members of your family.  Don’t forget about the family dog or cat, and your farm animals.

As you prepare a strategy to meet your prepping goals, things can get out of hand quickly.  It takes money to prep so even though you may want to take care of everyone, doing so can put a huge strain on the family budget. If you are lucky enough to have family members who are on board with prepping, you can ask them to participate, even if all that means is they clean and repurpose soda bottles so they can be filled with tap water and stored for an emergency.

At the end of the day, though, you must be realistic and remember that having the time and resources to live your life in the here and now is important too.  Go slowly as you expand your preps to include others.  Do not cannibalize your own life for the sake of something that may or may not happen.

4.  What Are You Preparing For?

Are periodic power outages your concern, or is it the the big earthquake that is past due along the Cascadia Fault?  Is it a hurricane or is it global economic collapse?  If you are a prepper newbie, I tend to recommend that you initially focus on disruptive events that are geographically specific to where you live.

If you are new to an area and even if you are not, your county will have an emergency services department with plenty of information describing the types of disasters and freaks of mother nature that can occur in your community.  Take advantage of this information.  You can start with a Google search for “Emergency Services in Name Your County and State”, substituting your own location, of course.

5.  Where Do I Start?

Getting started when you are at prepping ground zero can be overwhelming.  I get that. That being said, the fact you are reading this article is a good start.  Something that has been useful to many readers is working their way through my 12 Months of Prepping Series.  Although written a number of years ago, you will find the month by month prepping a activities still apply, are easy to follow and, for the most part, budget friendly.

Beyond that, get your water, food and first aid supplies in order, as well as a stash of cash for those times when the ATM is not working.  Here is some suggested reading:

Survival Basics: Water and Water Storage
20 Items to Kick Start Your Food Storage Plan
14 Common Food Storage Mistakes and Goofs
20 Steps: The Ultimate Guide to Becoming a Prepper
How to Build Your Own Perfect Bug Out Bag
How to Create an Emergency Ammo Can First Aid Kit
Survival Basics from Backdoor Survival

6.  How Long Do You Want Your Preps to Last?

This is another reality check.  Although it would be nice to say “forever”, unless you have a self-sufficient farm and everything that goes along with it, a forever goal is not realistic.

Why not start with a week, then expand to a month?  After you have met that goal,, decide whether you would prefer to prep for more people, or perhaps to extend the period to three months or a year.  Have a discussion with yourself and decide what is right for you, your temperament, and your feelings about the likelihood of a major disruptive event. occurring in the near future.

The Final Word

It is easy to say “plan first, prepare second”, but even planning can be overwhelming.  I know that when I first started to prep, I armed myself with a 20 page checklist to use to begin the planning process.  After an hour, I set it aside and chartered my own course.  Thus was the beginning of Backdoor Survival and my own common sense approach to preparedness.

Further that point, if my internal radar is correct, an entirely new crop of preppers has recently joined the Backdoor Survival family.  I know this because I read all of the comments both here and on Facebook.  There are a lot of newbies seeking answers that are straightforward easy to incorporate into their daily lives.  Needless to say, I am thrilled.

As a call to action, it is time to revisit the basics.  The moment is now.

Enjoy your next adventure through common sense and thoughtful preparation!

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 Below you will find  the items related to fire-making skills plus some other perennial personal and reader favorites.

Survivor Outdoor Fixed Blade Knife with Fire Starter: This knife has measures 7 inch long overall, has a full-tang stainless steel blade, is equipped with thick green cord-wrap handle, and has a nylon sheath plus a magnesium-alloy fire starter.  How does it work?  This is not a Kershaw, Gerber or other high quality blade.  On the other hand, the fire starter works great (better than great).


Light My Fire Swedish FireSteel:  This “Scout” is the one I own. Using this basic pocket fire-starter, you can get a nice fire going under almost any conditions. This is a small, compact version and is my personal favorite.

Magnesium Flint Firesteel Fire Steel Starter: This magnesium flint stone fire starter is about two bucks with free shipping. How to use it:

1. Place the flint on ground upwardly, and put the scraper vertically to the flint, then scrape some magnesium powder on inflammable material like paper or branch

2. Place the flint on ground at about 45° and 2.5 cm from the magnesium powder scraped just now, then scrape the flint fast to produce spark so as to light up the inflammable material

Magnesium Fire Starter:  This Campers’ Magnesium Emergency Fire Starter.

Zippo Street Chrome Pocket Lighter:  Zippo has been creating virtually indestructible, windproof refillable lighters for more than 75 years. The Zippo Street Chrome pocket lighter is no exception. This lighter features a classic textured chrome finish and carries the same lifetime guarantee–to either work or be fixed by Zippo free of charge–for life.  All wearable parts including flints and wicks are replaceable.  Every prepper should own at least one Zippo!  Learn more about Zippos in the article What You Need to Know About Zippos and Lighter Fuel.

Diamond GreenLight Kitchen Matches – 3 Pack (Strike anywhere):  Our local supermarket in Friday Harbor told us that they do not stock the strike-anywhere matches because they self-combust.

100 BIC-style Lighters Disposable Classic Lighter:  Running about 16 cents each and free shipping, these are great to have on hand for both survival and barter use. Want fewer than 100.  You can also get a pack of 50.

Coghlans Waterproof Matches 10-pack: There are 10 boxes of 40 matches each for about $5.  That is a good deal for 400 waterproof matches.

2 Pack Survival Kit Can Opener, Military, P-51 Model:  These can openers makes great addition to any survival, fishing, hiking, or camping pack. They are lightweight and robust and they just work.

Paracord Planet Mil-Spec Commercial Grade 550lb Type III Nylon Paracord:  This makes a great clothesline! An ideal all-around utility cord in the field, paracord is tough and long lasting. It is made from 550-pound test nylon and features a seven-strand core for maximum strength. Also, it is manufactured in the United States.  Note that some colors may be more expensive than others.  Need ideas? See 44 Really Cool Uses of Paracord for Survival.

12 Color Pack Bandana – Assorted Colors:  This is the #1 seller in the bandana category.  I love these bandanas and you will often see me wearing them in photos here on the website. Be sure to read How to Use a Bandana to Save the Day.

Tac Force TF-705BK Tactical Assisted Opening Folding Knife 4.5-Inch Closed: FAVORITE! This is a great knife with free shipping.  Not only that, it is ranked as the #1 best seller in both the camping and hunting knives categories.  The reviews raved about this knife so I bought one, used it, and and can recommend it.  See The Inexpensive Tac-Force Speedster Outdoor Knife.

Note:  the price can vary by color so if you are not particular, scroll through the colors and safe a couple of bucks.


Third Edition:  The SURVIVAL MEDICINE Handbook

A frequent question I get on Backdoor Survival has to do with healthcare matters when there is no doctor around. This is the definite source of survival medical information for all Prepper’s and is my go-to bible for survival medicine.

Survival Medicine Handbook 2016

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10 Responses to “6 Questions Every Prepper Needs to Ask and Answer”

  1. Good questions! I think #4 ‘What are you preparing for?’ is particularly important. If we don’t define the scenario/s which concern us most, we tend to take too scattered an approach. That leads to way too much of some things, not enough of others.

    My inclination is to ask what the most likely events are where we live, and what are the most dangerous events. They may be the same, but not necessarily.

    My guess is that the vast majority of ‘most likely’ events are short term and not terribly dangerous. Things like a blackout lasting an hour to ten or twelve hours. These are unlikely to be life threatening unless one is dependent on medical equipment which requires power, but if you are, then prepping for it should be pretty high on the list.

    Far less likely events like a massive earthquake (in some areas a slam dunk 100% certainty in the very long run, but not in any given year) may be worth serious prepping because while they are low probability they are very high consequences events. Like having fire insurance on your house even though you reasonably expect your house to never burn down, even decades after you have sold it.

    Here in Honolulu the government officially urges us to be prepared for a week off grid after a hurricane. However, talk with the front line responders like police and firefighters, and they will tell you we should be prepared for at least a month without power, food, municipal water, medical help, or police.

    Apparently the official ‘one week’ time frame is so short because they believe if they tell the general public to prep for a month -or more- almost everyone would be so overwhelmed at the prospect that people who can be persuaded to prep for a week won’t do anything. The government figures people are better off somewhat prepared than not at all.

    If we define the scenarios which most concern us, either because they are high probability or high consequences, we can then ask ourselves what we should do to prepare for those specific events, and decide how long we want to prepare for.

    • I prefer canned chicken and have never had a problem with the Costco Kirkland brand. I find canned chicken to be very versatile for use in sandwiches, soups, salads, stews, or even directly from the can. That said, canned meat is a matter of taste and preference. For example, I refuse to eat Pacific seafood (for example tuna) post-Fukushima. That, however, is my own personal bias. As long as you examine the cans carefully before opening them, in my opinion, you can ignore the “use by” dates. They are a myth.

    • i like canned chicken of various brands, and i’m kinda squeamish about chicken. i love the canned beef that the government gives out through food pantries–but not their chicken. my question is: are the “pop-top” cans as well-sealed as the solid ones? i have found out that a cat can smell the contents of a sealed pop-top can, but can’t smell what’s in a solid-top can, so i assume some molecules are getting out of the pop-top can. that implies that some are also getting in. i haven’t seen any studies on how long food in pop-top cans stays fresh, but i’d sure like to.

    • As I recall, you have mentioned these flip tops in the past and indicated you could not find any credible research or information on their long-term viability. I also could not find any information that I felt I could trust. Coincidentally, I watched a YouTube video last week where the author said the same thing. His consensus was to take a pass and I tend to agree. When Tucker (the awesome wonder dog) gets within three feet of a tin of Little Cesar, he goes nuts so you know he can smell it. Something is getting out which means that over time, something may also get inside (bacteria).

    • Re: pop-top cans. I haven’t noticed any problems with pop top food tins, but they don’t sit around a long time past Use By dates. However, on multiple occasions I have gone through a case of older soft drinks and and found multiple cans per case which had lost anywhere from a quarter to probably 95% of the fluid without any other indication the seal was bad. A couple weeks ago I threw away some regular Coke cans which a friend left when he cat sat for us a year or so ago. Out of a dozen cans, six of them had leaked, One was almost empty.

  2. I want to comment on the Strike Anywhere matches self-combusting. Well, if you happen to stick a couple in your jean front pocket and decide to take off running, don’t be surprised if you feel “sudden heat” on your leg because…your pants are on fire! Lol! Been there, did that only once! Have a burn mark the size of a quarter on my leg from it too. BUT, they didn’t Self combust – it was operator error.
    I am enjoying your website and all the information here.
    A year ago we had an unusual high wind come through Eastern Washington and we were without power (living in the city) for 7 days. My husband is now fully on board. He is paralyzed and uses an electric wheelchair which usually is charged overnight – try to keep that charged with no electricity! Thankful for his wheelchair van and a converter, but hitting the freeway for 4 hours everyday was rather tiring. Also thankful that the roads were dry and the snow hadn’t arrived yet. So, we now have a stationary generator that is hooked up to natural gas. Yes there is the possibility that even that could go wrong, but it’s a start. 🙂

  3. 1. i followed the “fema camp” link to mr. hodges’ website; all his links led me to pages that no longer exist or laws authorizing military budgets (except for the aclu’s security project page). can someone direct me to some actual information about the possibility of fema camps? mr. hodges seems to think that fema camps are something president obama dreamed up, but i know this idea has been around longer that that.
    2. those “survivor” knives are good. i got the tanto point one (shown) for my bff, who has slender hands, and the drop-point version for myself, since the grip is big enough for my size 8 1/2 hands. they aren’t very sharp out of the box, but a little work with my whetstone fixed that, and the fire starter is indeed very good.

  4. Once again, thank you, Gaye! It’s always good to be reminded that each of us is prepping for something different and there’s not a one-size-fits-all plan that will work for everyone. For folks just starting out who might feel overwhelmed, I recommend the list of articles under #5, especially “20 Items to Kick Start Your Food Storage Plan.” It was the first thing I read when I discovered Backdoor Survival 2.5 years ago. Whether you’re preparing for a multi-day weather event and power outage (I live in southwestern Pennsylvania, where major snow/ice events aren’t uncommon) or a long-term disruptive event, we all need to ensure that we have several days’ (or several weeks’, if you have the storage room) worth of food and water for ourselves and our families, as well as off-the-grid ways to prepare said food. Everything else comes after that.

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