We have all done it – made a mistake with our preps that was either a stupid use of our time, a waste of our money, or both. The good news is that with a couple of years of prepping experience behind you, you will begin to recognize those things that are worthwhile and those that are folly.
I say this from personal experience. This year I have completely overhauled my bug out bag, started over with my pocket survival kit and EDC, and have shifted my focus on food storage from anything and everything, to a more select group of products that are good tasting and simple to prepare.
And here is the big one: I recognize that while it is important to grow food, for some of us, growing enough to sustain ourselves is impossible due to space, climate, or other factors. It is far more reasonable, for example, for some of us to focus on herbs and especially medicinal plants.
Fortunately, it is rare that any one person will make all of the mistakes in this list, but chances are you have made one or two. Check them out; they are in no particular order.
11 Prepper Mistakes and Goofs
1. Creating a 3 Day Kit and ignoring the long term
The government, the media, and the Red Cross have been promoting the 3-day kit for so long that it is safe to say that the term “3 day kit” is now common vernacular. Not surprisingly, the 3-Day Kit has also become a marketing phenomena.
The good news is that the more that people jump onto the 3 day kit bandwagon, the better for the rest of us. That is three days we will not have to reach out and help them.
On the other hand, something as simple as a winter power outage can last far longer than three days. And a cyber-attack, pandemic, or earthquake? Two weeks, a month,or even a year of emergency supplies would be much better.
2. Not knowing how to use your gear
Who hasn’t been guilty of getting out that combination battery, wind-up, and solar emergency radio and forgetting to use it? (There is a little doo-dad inside of mine that has to be switched over to change modes.)
Or how about the Sun Oven? If it sits in the box and never gets used, how will you know how to place it in the sun to cook your food or boil your water when the sun is the only source of power you have.
Similarly, do you have copies of your gear manuals tucked away in case you need them? Storing them on a laptop or flash drive is a great idea but only if you have some way to power your devices when the grid goes down.
3. Failing to learn how to cook using food storage items
This is another way of saying “not knowing how to cook from scratch”. Most of us store bulk foods to supplement our freeze dried food. We would be broke if we didn’t.
Do you know how to cook rice and beans? How about making a soup or stew without opening a single can? As you plan your food storage, keep your habits in mind and if you don’t already scratch cook, at least learn the basics.
4. Having a comprehensive first aid kit but not knowing basic first aid skills
Many communities offer free or low cost classes on first aid. Now might be a good time to check them out.
5. Not keeping your set of emergency documents up to date
This is probably one of the most common mistakes and is one that I am guilty of. It takes quite a bit of work to gather the documents, scan or copy them, and store them in your designated spot. In my case it is on a flash drive on my survival key ring.
A good time to go through this process of updating might be the annual switch to daylight savings or whatever date you set aside to change the batteries in your smoke and carbon monoxide detectors.
While you are at it, think about storing current pictures of family members and pets as well. You just never know when they will be needed to help locate loved ones following a disaster or disruptive event.
6. Putting together plans to bug-out in the wilderness when, in fact, your bug-in plans are incomplete
I have been known to get on my soapbox over this one but come on! Isn’t it plain old common sense to stay put in your own home if you can? That is where your food, water, and medical supplies are, along with emergency sanitation supplies, flashlights, clothing and almost everything else you might need.
Sure, do make a contingency plan for evacuation purposes but do not ignore your bug in plan. Unless your home is not safe, plan to shelter in place at home rather than take your chances in the wilderness.
7. Not inventorying your stuff!
You are walking around the local outdoor emporium and see a fantastic deal on tactical knives. Great, you can never have too many knives. Unless, of course, you are spending money on your 5th knife but do not have a portable lantern.
See what I mean? You should keep a list of what you have and what you need so you do not accidentally spend money where you do not need to do so.
8. Storing all of your preps in one location
This is tough for many especially if you only have one home and do not have close relatives or friends where you could stash some stuff. Still, see if you can put together a suitcase or duffle bag with some emergency items and store them at your office or at someone else’s home.
Set up a barter: I will store yours if you will store mine. That sort of thing.
If an alternate location is not practical, consider storing items at various locations around your home. Not everything needs to be on shelves in the basement. Spread things out so that if the basement gets flooded, you still have dry items in the upstairs bedroom. Use your imagination and don’t forget to do the very best you can to package everything so it is resistant to moisture and pests.
9. Feeling smug in thinking your prepping journey is over
I have been prepping for close to 6 years and believe me, there is still so much I want and need to do. Let me re-phrase that a bit. There is much that I want to refine and improve so I am better at this business of prepping.
The risks you prepared for last year may not be the same risks you would prepare for today. You have done a personal risk assessment, right? If not, think about doing so now. While you are at it, be honest about your health, your finances, and your ability to get by for an extended period on your own.
Let me break it to you. After doing a personal risk assessment, you will no longer feel smug.
10. Throwing comfort to the wind
There is no reason you need to treat prepping as your own personal reality show. In most cases, surviving with bare bone basics will not be necessary if you do a bit of advance planning. As you set things aside, consider basic comfort items such as flannel sheets, grooming supplies, and chocolate. Heck, even some M&Ms or hard candies will be unbelievably comforting following a disruptive event.
11. Believing everything you read on the Internet
Check your sources and use common sense. If something seems off, investigate before taking what you read at face value. That includes what your read here on this site. I do my best to be credible but honestly? Sometimes even I make mistakes and have to backtrack based on new research and knowledge.
Use your head and you should be fine.
The Final Word
This list was compiled last month on my birthday. I tend to get reflective on that day, and came up with this list as I was thinking through some of my own prepping mistakes and goofs. After the fact, and after this article was mostly done, a light bulb went off. Haven’t I covered this ground before?
Have you made some of these mistakes? Or have your mistakes been different? One thing I have learned is that we all learn from the mistakes of others. Curious minds want to know!
Enjoy your next adventure through common sense and thoughtful preparation!
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Bargain Bin: Below, for your consideration, are items mentioned in this article plus a few of my personal favorites.
iRonsnow Emergency Solar Hand Crank AM/FM/NOAA Weather Radio, LED Flashlight, Smart Phone Charger & Power Bank: This $20 unit has it all in one portable package. It can be also be powered using 3 AAA batteries. This is a great value.
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.
Sunferno Flintstone Portable Solar Panel with Rechargeable Battery Pack: This sturdy solar power pack is lightweight and small enough to be used in an EDC kit. I especially like that it has 2 USB ports.
Tac Force TF-705BK Tactical Assisted Opening Folding Knife 4.5-Inch Closed: This is a great knife that is currently priced at about $7 with free shipping. Not only that, it is ranked as the #1 best seller at Amazon 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.
Ultra Bright LED Lantern – Collapsible: This nifty lantern uses 30 different LEDS and is powered by 3 AA batteries, including rechargeables. Instead of a switch, you turn it on by extending the lantern from its collapsed condition. With a lifetime warranty and over 1,350 close to perfect ratings, I can see why this is popular. I love mine.
BIC Classic Lighters (12): A dozen full size BIC lighters at a bargain price with free shipping. Don’t forget to test them to ensure they work!
Lavender Essential Oil: This is the Swiss army knife of essential oils. My favorite lavender oil is from Spark Naturals. Enjoy a 10% discount with code BACKDOORSURVIVAL.
LifeStraw Personal Water Filter: Too large for a pocket kit but important to have with you is the Lifestraw Personal Water Filter. At only 2 ounces (in weight), the LifeStraw is suitable for a backpack or bug out bag. It is easy to use and requires no chemicals to remove a minimum of 99.9999% of waterborne bacteria. For more information, see my LifeStraw review.
Need something from Amazon (and who doesn’t)? I earn a small commission from purchases made when you begin your Amazon shopping experience here. You still get great Amazon service and the price is the same, no matter what.
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