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Hits and Misses: Lessons Learned After Six Years of Prepping

Avatar for Gaye Levy Gaye Levy  |  Updated: August 24, 2021
Hits and Misses: Lessons Learned After Six Years of Prepping

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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.

Lessons Learned After 6 Years of Prepping | Backdoor Survival

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.

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!

If you enjoyed this article, consider subscribing to email updates.  When you do, you will receive a free, downloadable copy of my e-Book, The Emergency Food Buyer’s Guide.

You can also vote for Backdoor Survival daily at Top Prepper Websites!

 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.

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.


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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45 Responses to “Hits and Misses: Lessons Learned After Six Years of Prepping”

  1. Great Article. On the topic of two way radio. What models can be charged with folding solar panels. Also do you recommend any extra (add on) items for the radios. We have a small group, should everyone in the group have a radio.

  2. Gaye, Is there a link to your Facebook page on your webpage? I don’t use Facebook, but I’d like to view your Facebook page daily, now that I found out that you frequently link to free prepping eBooks on Thank you!

    • Here you go. //

      I do try to post a free or almost free eBook daily. I screen all of them in advance to make sure they are worth your time. There is so much junk out there. For example, a 20 page book on “How to be a Prepper”. Ridiculous. Many of these junk eBooks are also link bait. On page 2 or 3 there is a big ad requesting you to sign up (give them your email) and from then on you are spammed with ads for overpriced junk. I get very made and upset when I see this happening which is probably why I spend so much time vetting the good stuff.

    • Thank you. I get your daily newsletter email with a link in it to finish reading the day’s entry on “this” blog webpage. Is it possible to add a Facebook link on “this” blog webpage near the “Prepper’s Guide to Food Storage” heading or near the “Home” heading?

  3. You make some very good points in this article. I too have been prepping for about 6 years. My eldest son and I began prepping on a large scale shortly after my husband passed away. I know we made many mistakes along the way. We do have long term and short term preps. My daughter and her husband, my son’s pregnant girlfriend and her teenage daughter now live here as well. Last year my elderly mother was diagnosed with colon cancer .I moved in with her for 9 months while she took chemo treatments. So my preps to a back seat for a while. I have learned how to make apple cider vinegar,and my own sourdought starter.In the beginning I bought a manual grain mill and now wish I had gotten one that could be used with power also. We also stored beans and rice in the large 5 gallon mylar bags with o2 absorbers then placed in 5 or 6 gallon buckets with gamma seal lids. We should have used the smaller mylar bags. (lesson learned).We bought things like tomato powder,butter powder,cheese powder and peanut butter powder. The only thing we do not like is the peanut butter powder. Never have been able to make it taste like peanut butter. Guess we can use it in cookies or give it away. Now I am in the process of storing spices and freeze dried herbs, as beans and rice will get quite boring after a while. I pressure can meats and have some long term canned meats. My grandfather once told me ‘never stop learning new skills’. So to that end, I have learned to garden, sew, pressure can,dehydrate fruits and veggies, grind my own flour,make soy milk,make candles, make apple cider vinegar and sourdough starter. I am also teaching these skills to my children and grand children.

    • Don’t throw out that peanut butter powder Judy!!! I’d hate to see you rid yourself of an excellent protein source. You can make it better than store bought, you just can’t use the directions given. I use the Emergency Essentials brand. To make it taste great, pour some oil (veg or peanut oil) in a container to cover the bottom (size of container depends on how much you want to make. Add a sweetener-I have used raw sugar and agave at different times. Add the powder until it is the consistency you want. The powder is only powdered peanuts. You have to make it into peanut butter. Just play with it until you find the recipe you want. Hope that helps!

    • I do have the emergency essentials brand peanut butter powder. I will try making it your way. I Have tried doing it as directed, and like I said it was not good.Thank you for sharing your method.

    • My website and email newsletters are full of a ton of free information, including articles, DIY, product reviews and probably more giveaways than any other blogger in the niche. In addition, almost daily I post a link to a free eBook on Amazon that is personally reviewed for quality.

      I do not charge for this and I refuse donations. All of this takes time plus, the website, email service, hosting, security apps, and even the giveaway software have expenses attached to them. These expenses are offset by commissions I make on various products but there is never any pressure at all to make a purchase. I understand you may be unable to make a purchase and that is okay. On the other hand, you criticize me for wanting to be compensated for my own time and expense in bringing this information to you. Feel free leave this site and visit one peppered with popup ads selling dubious products and beg-ware asking you to make a monthly donation.

      I for one, will continue to hold my head high knowing that what I offer is free for the taking with no strings attached.

    • I (and I suspect most of your visitors) really appreciate all you’ve done for the prepping community. I much prefer visiting this site over some of the other sites that go political in practically every post, it’s a breath of fresh air and very useful info without distractions from the cause of being prepared for as much as we can. Thanks Gaye!

    • You have been an inspiration to many.That person was obviously new to your website/blog. Prepping can be expensive.But it can be done even on limited income. I myself am on disability. I often have to save up to buy the more costly items. But you can fit prepping into your budget .I have bought items you have suggested.I look forward to you emails as I always find them to contain some very good information. I also suggest those new to prepping start by adding an extra bag of beans , flour, sugar, pasta,etc. each week. You can get buckets and gamma seal lids at home depot and lowes. I call it preparing to prepare.




    • PenuryPaul-Nothing in life comes for free. I am on disability and help to support 8 people, have fostered kids on top of that (without any state or federal aid of any kind) and manage to add slowly to preps.
      Why would you say this to Gaye who has never asked for anything from you or anybody but support for her blog on best blog vote? It doesn’t cost you anything to read this blog. You have access to tons of the best advice on the internet here. You should be ashamed of yourself.
      I have managed to put away some special solar equipment. It took time and patience and a willingness to save up for what I wanted. Instant gratification is not for real Preppers. It takes work to make it happen. Grow up soon if want to survive.

  4. I really connected with what was said here, with regard to rational prepping and remembering to live life while we have it..but then a sharp turn in logic occurred in the ‘misses’ category..
    to wit:
    “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.”
    Now that is just foolish….this is the same as a bugout plan…figure out the W’s (who, what when..etc..)the set it aside…
    one of the most ignorant things I’ve ever read is ‘you’ll forget how to listen to the radio..’
    Over the years I have had occasional use for two way radios..and much to my surprise…I was (and am) still capable of communicating effectively with zero ongoing training and exercise…
    It was even fun when we moved from Minnesota to the east coast using frs as the main comm line between the vehicles. We did use that to train the kids about proper radio etiquette…the batteries made it through the whole 3 day drive through wisconsin, canada, vermont new hampshire and Massachusetts…
    fun times indeed…

    • I am really a dunce when it comes to radios. Using them does not come naturally, and I know for a fact that there are others like me. On the other hand, I am a guru when it comes to computers and computer software. We all have our strengths and that is mine 🙂 I an envious that you can pick up an emergency radio and use it without having to practice.

  5. Great article to get thinking about what we really need in a disaster. I’m lucky in that we have lots of storage space, but that means hard choices if we have to bug out and have more than a few minutes (if we have 5 minutes or less, then it’s grab the backpacks, the buckets of extra food and head for the hills) since we have enough to fill a UHaul small panel truck if I grabbed everything…
    Anyway, I have to disagree about the soup vs ravioli thing…clam chowder cans have about the same level of liquid as ravioli, and I stock both in my can rotation rack as part of our short term preps. They make great quick lunches for when we’re pressed for time or not feeling well, but can also be easily heated on a sterno stove if we’re forced to hunker down with no utilities and no access to the outdoors. Hot food is such a morale booster, it’s worth the extra weight, but frankly if we’re bugging out I’d be hard pressed to fit all our FD food and 5 gallon buckets in our BOV let alone the “fresh” canned foods.
    My next purge of junk will be the garage storage so that I can move our less used (once or twice a year) kitchen gear out to the unconditioned space leaving more room for food and medical preps in the conditioned spaces of the house.

  6. Hi everyone, and Jan, your prayers for both of us are much appreciated.

    Really love reading about everyone’s prepping journey. If someone told me on day one that I would make so many re-evaluations and changes along the way, I might not have started.

    Here are the most valuable items (to me) that I started storing on day one and will continue to store. Some need more rotation and some need better packaging, but they are my basics.

    Plain raw almonds. They are slightly pasteurized but still sold as raw. Fine by me.

    Dried figs. Need really good packaging. I buy top of the line golden figs from Amazon.

    Canned fruit in juice. Gaye already talked about the value of canned fruit. I only like peaches and pears.

    Canned artichoke hearts. Kalamata olives in jars. Okay, I have expensive taste but Gaye did say to store what we eat. Jars MUST be protected from light.

    Canned Sockeye salmon.

    Rice and lentils.

    Notice that the only things on the list that must be cooked are the rice and lentils.

    I have a ton of other stuff, but if I had only five minutes to grab food and leave by car, this would be it.

    If I had to grab food and go on food, almonds, figs, rice, lentils and water.

    I also store sea salt in small empty plastic vitamin bottles. I tuck it everywhere.

    Forgot. Honey and coconut oil. Along with salt and rise, four basics that keep forever.

    What do I regret? Feel free to blast me for this, okay? My firearms and ammo. I will never be able to carry it. I don’t want dead bodies all over my yard, with their relatives coming back in gangs to take me out. And my bug out strategy is stealth and hiding. I want to carry more food and water to make the transition to living in the woods.

    That’s where cacheing comes in to play. I intend to bury a lot of food and tools. Thanks for listening to me go on and on. I had taken a step back from prepping but with my new freedom comes new energy!

    I appreciate Gaye, her Survival Husband and each and everyone here.

  7. Good article. One of the things I’m learning is not to over-buy. Last year I bought a bunch of flour on sale, then got busy and forgot to store it in mylar bags with oxygen absorbers. The result? Lots of buggy flour and wasted money. I’d have been better off buying a grain mill and wheat berries.

  8. Are you moving to Arizona? Or will you have two locations? I can’t move because of work, but plan to retire where my daughter lives. I am not very organized with prepping and think mainly in terms of hurricanes. I do have prepper friends. Prepping is expensive and most of what I’ve prepped will go swiftly. What items would you definitely discard? (So I don’t bother with them)

  9. On a separate topic, Tricia was asking about radios. I own two Yaesu ham radios and have had my license for 10 years. I participate in local communication group exercises to keep my hand in, and for help when I wanted to construct an antenna in the trees in the back yard. Although I live in a suburban area in Virginia, it’s not a large town and emergency response resources are limited. The ham radios and the group of people I practice with have already proven their value, helping me out of difficult situations and keeping our net apprised with real-time weather information through our Skywarn contacts. There is no pressure to become a hobbyist, just to keep your skills sharp and your equipment ready for emergencies. I am a member of ARES (Amateur Radio Emergency Services) in order to assist with communications during disasters and emergencies. I highly recommend taking the test and getting a license to use the ham radios. Not only do you learn a useful and life-saving skill, but you become connected to a group of people who are like minded and dedicated to helping to provide communication in those circumstances when traditional methods may not be available. I am 67 and teach Community Emergency Response Training to my community. I hope you decide to make ham radio a part of your preparations.

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