As someone who has been prepping for six years, I have learned a lot along the way. During these six years, my survival skills, food and water storage, and general knowledge have grown exponentially to the point where I have grown comfortable, if not complacent, with my preps.
Alas, the world has changed a lot since 2010. Things I prepared for on day one are now far less important in the big scheme of things than the things I prepare for today. Things I prepare for today are more far-reaching than issues associated with geographic isolation, the next big earthquake, or a regional food shortage. What I now prepare for is a Venezuela-type economic melt-down, or a Cyprus-like seizure of bank assets and depositor bail-in. I also prepare for an extended power outage lasting a year or longer.
There is something else. I am older and I am tired. I do not have the energy I did when I first started to prep, and I want to enjoy life more. I also have had a couple of health related issues to gave me pause for concern. Finally, for six years, much of my free time has been spent learning skills and searching out tools that will come in handy if forced into survival mode. It has been a rewarding, but exhausting and oft-times expensive experience.
So what happens next?
It makes no matter whether you have been prepping for a year or for six years. Everyone who preps needs to assess what they are currently prepping for and why. They need to inventory their preps on hand (skills and stuff) and determine what is lacking. Equally important is to come to terms with what needs to be let go. And by let go, I mean “it ain’t going to happen”.
That’s right. I said let go. Life and circumstances change and some preps that were vital and necessary a few years ago, may no longer apply. They may be taking up physical space that can be better used in some other fashion, or may be burning up brain cells that can be put to better use enjoying and experiencing life.
On the other hand, many preps do stand the test of time and can be used, if not day to day, then on occasion when a small disruptive event, such as illness or a power outage, occurs. Those stay and become the foundation for new preps, whether they be skills or stuff.
Below you will find two lists that include many of the lessons I have learned during my six years of prepping. One is a list of keepers and the other is a “let it go” list. I should note that some of the items on these lists have has fallen out of my upcoming cross-state relocation, where tough decisions had to be made relative to both time (do I really need to practice that?) or the expense of carting things around.
For some, these lists will be heresy. For others, they will be a jump off point for forming your own lists. You be the judge.
Hits and Misses: Lessons Learned After Six Years of Prepping
8 Prepping and Survival Hits
1. Medical and sick room supplies: Trust me, even if you are the poster-child of good health, at one time or another, you will become injured or sick. Having a robust first aid kit, a stockpile of prescription drugs, and sick room supplies should be a given for every prepper. Medical and sick room supplies should be front and center right along side food and water.
2. Having an evacuation kit is not optional: There is always a teeny tiny chance you will need to evacuate. Have the necessities ready to go. Having an adequate evacuation/bug out kit is more important than having someplace specific to go to when the SHTF. When life and limb are on the line, you need to be ready to get out of dodge. While you are at it, keep a good pair of well-fitting boots and socks ready to go as well.
3. When space is precious and even when not, multi-taskers rock: Whether it is duct tape, honey, hefty-bags, or something else, acquiring supplies that have multiple uses will save time, money, and space.
4. Planning for short term emergencies of a month or less should be a top priority: I see it often. Prepper wannabes outfit themselves with all of the latest gear but don’t have a month’s supply of food, water, and cash. Start your prepping by ensuring that your short term needs are taken care then expand beyond that as time and budget allows.
5. Solar panels to charge electronic devices is not a waste of money: Staying in touch and being entertained are two important components of preparedness. Inexpensive solar devices can be used to keep your gizmos running if for no other reason than to access your eBooks, audiobooks, and music. With some advance planning, you can download movies and store them on your device or a flash drive/smart card, giving you hours of entertainment if the grid goes down.
6. Cooking from scratch is a basic skill that should not be shortchanged: When I restock my food storage pantry, canned goods will take a less prominent position. By storing bulk foods, you get more calories per cubic inch of storage space. That said, make sure you know how to cook using bulk foods. That usually means cooking from scratch.
7. Freeze dried food is a necessary luxury: Freeze dried food, if properly selected, can be both tasty and economical. The key is to purchase small quantities at first, and run a taste test before committing to a large purchase from an unknown vendor. I personally have my favorites (Legacy Foods from Buy Emergency Foods and Mountain House) but I had to kiss a lot of frogs to get there. Purchasing the individual ingredients as well as meal pouches will give you the most options. As I have learned, the very best part of freeze dried foods is they have a long shelf life and are easy to transport when compared, weight-wise, to their canned brethren.
8. Sewing and mending by hand will keep your clothes and other soft goods in good working order: With some practice, you can learn to mend rips, tears, and holes in clothing, blankets, towels, and other items that tend to wear out. Honestly, it is not that difficult. The hardest part is threading the needle and a magnifying glass will solve that problem.
7 Prepping and Survival Misses
1. Survival trinkets are a waste of money: I am a both embarrassed and ashamed to have promoted such items in the early days of blogging. A credit card tool, for me, proved useless. So what if it only cost a few bucks? That is just one example of from the pile of “survival” junk I have tossed.
2. Certain canned foods are not worth storing: Canned foods are heavy and take up a lot of space. I totally agree that canned goods have their place, especially when preparing for short term emergencies. That said, don’t store canned goods unless they meet the following criteria:
Have a high water content to supplement stored water supplies. Soups (but watch the sodium levels) and canned fruits and vegetables are good. Canned ravioli? Not so much.
Provide significant protein. Canned meat, chicken and seafood are good examples of protein sources.
3. Junk saved for barter: Storing items to be used in a barter economy is a good thing. Good examples are first aid supplies, fire-making tools, toiletries/personal items, and warm blankets and socks. Plus food, of course. Not so good is pure junk. While cleaning our my storage area, I could not believe the discarded junk I had accumulated just for the sake of barter. You will be better served by getting rid of junk that is really garbage, and storing items for barter that you may actually use yourself some day.
4. Ten water filtering bottles per person are five too many: What was I thinking? It is good to have some redundancy but do keep track of what you have and fill in the gaps in your preps with additional items and not more of the same.
5. Rotating water is a waste of time and effort: Water does not go bad but it can become contaminated, Dumping perfectly good water is a waste of time. First of all, make sure the containers you use for water storage are clean and all contaminants are removed. Second, if unsure, use “old” water for hygiene, cleaning or flushing purposes.
6. Spending a lot of time and money on bug-out strategies: If bugging out is not going to be an option except in the most extreme cases, quit worrying about saving for an underground bunker in the middle of nowhere. Instead, have a solid evacuation plan you can put into place if your home becomes unsafe. Make a deal with friends or relatives to stay with them if you must avoid Camp FEMA and do your darndest to figure out how you will get there. Then let it go.
7. Radio and communication gear is useless if you don’t know how to use it: It does not matter whether it is a crank up emergency radio, FRS/GMRS two-way radio,or Ham radio. If you don’t use it regularly, you won’t know how to use it in an emergency. What I have found is that using radios every few months is not often enough. Monthly or even weekly is the only way you will learn. You need muscle memory with all of your emergency devices.
A Word About 12 Months of Prepping, One Month At a Time
I still believe in 12 Months of Prepping, One Month At a Time. In 12 Months of Prepping, I lay out strategies that can be embraced at a slow place so that at the end of the 12 months (you can start anytime), you will be well-prepared for a short-term emergency. It is not a comprehensive plan, and was never meant to be more than a jump off point for longer-term prepping strategies.
All that being said, 12 Months of Prepping is due for a major update so it incorporates current thinking as well as special preps for special needs, whether for senior preppers, the disabled, or young families with infants.
The All-New 12 Months of Prepping promises to be the Backdoor Survival opus for 2017. But in the meantime, it is not to be missed by anyone wishing to prep but not knowing where to start.
The Final Word
Prepping can be lonely. It can also become an obsession. Coming to terms with these two facts is going to help you become better prepared.
We all know that old habits are difficult to break. Still, with a bit of perseverance and fortitude, you should be able to step back, take inventory, and evaluate where you are with your preps. What’s good and what’s not? What stays and what goes? What worries you the most and keeps you up at night? Figure these things out and when the time is right, refocus and begin anew.
Once you do, you will become a better prepped, and better prepared. I can pretty much guarantee it.
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.
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.
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.
Midland 36-Mile 50-Channel FRS/GMRS Two-Way Radios: These are the handheld radios that I own. There are lots of good uses for the these radios. Handy while hiking, traveling, or simply keeping in touch with your partner while out shopping. They have a decent range and are waterproof – qualities that I feel are important. Plus, in addition to using the included rechargeable batteries, they can use regular AAs in a pinch. Just be aware that getting a 36 mile range out of any handheld FRS radio is a myth. 4 to 6 miles is more likely.
Baofeng or Pofung UV-5R Ham Two Way Radio: The Baofeng/Pofung UV-5R is a compact hand held transceiver providing 4 watts in the frequency range of 136-174 MHz and 400-480 MHz It is a compact, economical HT that includes a special VHF receive band from 65 – 108 MHz which includes the regular FM broadcast band. Dual watch and dual reception is supported. About $30 – often less.
Here is the antenna I ordered along with the programming cable: NAGOYA Antenna for BAOFENG UV-5R and USB Programming Cable for Baofeng UV-5R UV-3R+. Need help with setup? Read How to Set-Up and Master Ham Radio Without Going Crazy.
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.
Choetech 19W Solar Panel: This lightweight and compact solar panel works great. The two integrated USB ports are both rated equally so you do not have to fiddle around to see which one will work with your device. Learn more: Charge Your Devices With the Choetech Portable Solar Panel.
Maelstrom TAC FORCE 8″ Tactical Boots: You will just have to take my word about these boots. Most colors and sizes come with free returns so there is really no risk. Lightweight and comfy, I wear these even though the stuff has not hit the fan. Not yet, at least.
LifeStraw Personal Water Filter: The LifeStraw contains no chemicals, no batteries and no moving parts to wear out. It features a a high flow rate and weighs only 2 oz. It works quickly, taking roughly 3-5 seconds of sucking to start the flow of water through the filter. It’s ultra-light and inexpensive but effective. There is also the LifeStraw Family that will purify up to 12 liters per hour.
How to Sew a Button and Other Nifty Things Your Grandmother Knew: You are going to love this book. It is charming and and timely and filled with good-natured humor and the loving spirits of grandmothers everywhere.
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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.