I know what crosses your mind when the term "prepping" is used. Obviously, as you're reading this on a website created for the sole purpose of helping people prepare for the worst, you're thinking of preparing for “Dooms Day”. I know what I think of when I hear, see, read, gander at, and think of the word "prepping." Just a few short years ago, the only thing that was on my mind was the day-to-day. I was a new mom, married to an Army soldier, paying a mortgage, trying to complete my Bachelor's degree, and working a full-time job as a barista at a local bookstore. Life was stressful, mainly because I was alone with my then 18 month old son, while my husband was gone on his second deployment. One evening, while my son was asleep upstairs and I sat at home trying to complete a smidge of homework for one of the many Criminal Justice classes I was taking, I stumbled upon a forum on the Internet committed to prepping. At that time I didn't think anything of it. Honestly, at 21 years old, I thought the forum was full of a bunch of loonies, barricaded in their basements scared of the world. Cocking a "whata buncha weirdos" eyebrow, I continued on with my homework research, never imagining that I'd be where they are one day.
It's funny how some things happen in life that completely changes your outlook on "the big picture." We thought we were untouchable. We were young, had our own house, two vehicles, nice things, a healthy son and seemingly all the money in the world (or so my naïve brain thought). Unfortunately, my family and I were victims, more or less, of the financial crisis of 2008 and 2009. After my husband decided to transition from Army to civilian life, his job prospect fell through, and we lost everything. I won't go into too much detail, but it was a big slap in the face for us. After our bankruptcy was discharged, we began to work on rebuilding our credit and get back on our feet. We were blessed with another child (a girl), and my husband went on his third tour with his Reserve unit. At this time, we thought it best to live with my parents, so I could have a bit of help with the kids and put some money into savings. This is where I had hoped and prayed for a new beginning.
The number one unwritten rule amongst military spouses, whose other halves are deployed: Don't watch the news. It'll scare you to death. Still, I couldn't shy away from some of the articles that began to circulate on the Internet. No, not about the goings-on in the Middle East; well, okay, maybe a little. What scared me the most was how the recession was still, in fact, going on, an even more severe collapse was imminent, and how this collapse was on a greater scale than even the Great Depression of the 1930s. From what I read and researched, a total economic collapse was on the horizon, and there was nothing any of us could do about it. I'm sure this information was around before late 2012, but I hadn't really read or heard of it until then. My husband and I knew what it was like to have no saved money and live paycheck-to-paycheck, barely getting by on how little unemployment paid. However, we didn't (and don't) know what it's like to be without food or water, watching our children starve or having to beg for even half a day's worth of work just to get the basic essentials for our family. Suddenly, I didn't think those loonies were so crazy. Suddenly, they were the sanest people in the entire world. So, in early 2013, we began to prep. We began to prep for a total economic downfall.
Imagine for a minute, if you will, a world without jobs, without money flow, without all the frivolous pleasures, such as eating, that we as Americans take for granted. Now imagine the recession of 2008-2009, and then triple it. At that time about 15 million people were unemployed. Statistically speaking, that's 10% of the total population. During the Great Depression of the 1930s, unemployment reached 25%. What would you do if it was 30% or 40% or even 50-60%? Now imagine if the government wasn't there to attempt to bail you out. I believe that there will be layoffs within government agencies, such as in the unemployment and food stamps offices, so claims will take months instead of weeks to process, if they are processed at all. And what happens when people realize that no government assistance means that they get no money, which equals no basic necessities for their families? There will be a sharp increase in theft and burglary. Civil unrest is bound to ensue. This, my friends, is how our fledgling preps will, hopefully, save us in the event of total economic collapse.
Food and Water Storage
The first thing any prepper will tell you is to store food! If you don't have enough money to cover the inflated cost of a loaf of bread, what are you going to do? Bake it yourself, of course. What if you don't have the money to buy the flour? You can either store flour in 5-gallon food-grade buckets, or buy a grain mill and grind wheat berries yourself! The seeds of plants (such as whole corn kernels and wheat berries) tend to store better and longer than the pre-made stuff anyway. THE best book that I've found on food storage is Julie Languille's "Prepper's Food Storage: 101 Easy Steps to Affordably Stock a Life-Saving Supply of Food." She lays out each type of food staple in order of priority, how to store the food, and even how much you need for each individual. Flour, for instance, will store for up to 10 years as long as it's stored properly. My experience with buying food is that I always buy food, canned foods in particular, that have at least a two-year expiration date from the date that I bought it. That way I know that I have food stored that's good for at least two years, and I rotate to ensure that I always have "fresh" food available for consumption.
This little tip may be a "DUH," but I need to address it. Walmart's all fine and dandy to go to for single items, but when you're prepping, you want to buy in bulk. I have a Sam's Club membership and very soon hope to have a Costco membership; I've heard great things. Having a membership to one of these big box stores (literally a store selling big boxes), I believe, is essential to building a food supply.
Gardening and canning are also extremely important for food storage. I start an indoor garden around mid-February to early March every year. I plant everything from lettuce to corn to squash and from strawberries and blueberries to herbs. We always end up with a very successful garden, which I am very proud of (though not without trial and error, of course). In order for our hard work to not go to waste by rotting, we can what we are unable eat at once. There are a lot of sources on the Internet on how to can your veggies and make jellies from the fruits you produce.
In addition to food storage, you also need to think about water storage. A general rule of thumb is to have one gallon of water per person per day stored for emergencies. Personally, I think it needs to be more than that. In an economic collapse, assume you won't have the money to pay your water bill. You'll need extra water for bathing and cooking. I store three gallons of water per person per day. Just be vigilant of "best by" and "expiration" dates. The water I have stored is good for a year, so I rotate like I do with my canned goods. In addition, I have an emergency all-in-one water filter on hand that is guaranteed to filter up to one million gallons of water. It was a bit pricy at $69 from Bass Pro Shops, but, in a survival situation, it is $69 well spent.
Protecting Your Loved Ones
During the recession, not only did my city cut its budget by $300,000, but they took volunteers to quit from the police and fire departments before they had to start laying people off. If there are few or no police and fire crews available to help you in a crisis, what would you do in a tight spot? There are plenty of preppers out there that will tell you guns are the number one form of protection. While I do agree, there are many other options out there to protect your families and home from thugs; some don't require ammo.
As said in the previous paragraph, guns are essential to your protection. It is our Constitutional right to bear arms and use them if the occasion arises. In the event of civil unrest, this occasion may, unfortunately, become commonplace. Personally, we have three (and want to add more), and we make sure to keep plenty of ammo on hand. After Obama announced the limited number of rounds a magazine could hold, ammo started disappearing off the shelves. Some is still really hard to find unless you want to pay double the price at a “mom and pop” shop. So, what would happen if you ran out of ammo?
Knives are an integral part of a prepper's hoard. I can't tell you how many knives and swords my husband collects. Many of them are deadly, others are just for show, but survival knives are essential in all areas. Not only do they offer protection, but they can help you hunt, cut things, make things, and so forth. I personally have a Gerber serrated Big Rock. Thankfully, I haven't had to use it in a survival situation, but it sure has come in handy during camping to cut twigs and fishing line. If it came down to it, though, it would be the perfect weapon to protect myself, my kids, and even my husband.
Pepper spray is a girl's best friend. I purchased my first pepper spray canister in 2008 when a girlfriend and I went on a cruise by ourselves. We drove out to California, took our cruise, and then stayed in Vegas for two nights on the way back. There was no way I was going out there without some sort of protection. Thankfully, I didn't have to use it, but I did test it before we left. It's powerful stuff. It's definitely enough to startle and distract an attacker long enough for you to get away. Along the same lines is a personal stun gun. There's a great direct-selling company out there called Damsel in Defense. They have a large selection of personal stun guns. Again, while I've never been in the situation to need to use mine, I have it on me at all times. The voltage is enough to put an attacker on his (or her) ass long enough for you to get away. These are non-lethal ways to protect yourself and your loved ones, not only on a daily basis but in a crisis situation. I have never used any weapon to protect myself. I've never been in a situation that required it. However, when the economic collapse occurs (especially if it's worse than the Great Depression), then people will become scared. Fear leads to violence. Protecting yourself and your loved ones becomes a very real scenario that you must be prepared for. I would definitely take shooting classes and go to the range often. My brother has land just east of the city where we live, so we try to go out there twice a month to shoot.
No one really wants to think about what you'll do in a situation in which you are evicted or lose your home to foreclosure. In an economic collapse, that possibility is very real. Having some experience in dealing with a foreclosure and my mortgage company, I can tell you that it can take anywhere from 3-4 months or even years before the bank will force you out. Our bankruptcy has been discharged for nearly three years and our mortgage company still hasn't foreclosed on our house. That's a different story for a completely different day. The point is you should have your house for a few months at the very least. Do you know where you will go once they finally do kick you out? You need to have a plan in place. Do you have a nearby relative you can stay with? Do you have a secondary location you can go to? What if the economic collapse goes further than just the economy? What if a deadly pandemic occurs or a fidgety enemy decides to launch off some nukes? You need to have a bug out place in which to go.
Recently, I attended an online seminar about survival. One of the speakers talked about picking out the best bug out location. If anyone reading this has watched "Doomsday Bunkers," the first thing someone's mind goes to is an underground bunker. Yes, I want one, too, but let's be real here for a sec. I don't have $450,000 to spend on an underground luxury resort. You want to try to find a place that's within a 75-miles radius of your main location and try to find an alternate route to get there. You want to avoid major highways and interstates because, in a bug out scenario, everyone will be taking the main roads. Another presenter spoke on bug out locations, and she stressed the importance of being as far away as possible from large cities and major highways. The reasoning is that rioting, looting, burglary, and all crime in general will occur in areas with large populations. You don't want your location to be a target to desperate people.
I'm lucky to live in an area with friends and family close by. In the event that I was to lose my home, I know I would be able to bunk with them. Also make sure your bug out location is prepped. It's not exactly a safe location if your bug out retreat isn't stocked with the basic necessities.
Bug Out Bag/Vehicle
Another thing that is often discussed and considered one (or two) of the more important items to have in a crisis scenario is a Bug Out Bag (BOB) and a Bug Out Vehicle. It's essential that you have, at the very least, 72 hours worth of survival gear, if you have to bug out on foot. You need to make sure that you have aBOB for each member of your family-- even kids, toddlers, and infants! Bug Out Bags, like your Every Day Carry (EDC), is personal in nature and varies from person to person. While I won't go into serious detail about what I carry in mine or what I've packed in my children's or what my hubby has in his, I will name some basics that you want to include:
Food. You'll want at least 72 hours worth of food. This could literally be anything that you enjoy eating, as cheap or as expensive as you want it to be. Recently we priced Mountain House freeze-dried meals. For my family of four at three servings a day for three days, it would cost about $160 for individual packages, including breakfast, lunch, dinner, and even some dessert. We did find a bucket (29 servings) of Mountain House entrees for $55 on Amazon.com. So, it definitely pays to shop around. Right now, we have individual packets of oatmeal, Ramen Noodles, energy and granola bars, beef jerky, two or three freeze-dried packets of Mountain House, and a few others items. Whatever you choose, try to get at least 2,000 calories per person per day. If you're on the run, you'll need them.
Water. My husband is in love with his Camel Back, so we do have two that we keep next to our BOBs. What about water filtration on the go? We carry water purification tablets, but they typically only purify 16 ounces of water per tablet. So, try to keep a portable water filter packed away, too.
Change of clothes and comfortable shoes. In my mountainous region, comfortable, broken-in hiking boots are a necessity, as is a change of WARM clothing. There's a running joke here that we experience all four seasons in one day, which actually isn't far from the truth. We've gone from rain to snow to 70 degrees in one day, so you want to be prepared for all types of weather.
Knife and another weapon(s). We actually carry a couple of different weapons and instruments. Knives are an invaluable must-have that you'll regret not having. As said before, I like to keep a Gerber Big Rock tucked away in my BOB. It may also be wise to pack a multi-tool-- the ones with screw drivers, knives, little cork strews, and so forth. We also have several guns with holsters that we will be carrying.
On-the-go shelter. We do carry a lightweight backpacking four-man tent with us. I mean, this thing is tiny compared to the bulkier, pricier, fancier versions. I'm not looking for comfort in a crisis; I'm looking to survive. They have one-man tents, two-man tents, and four-man tents. There may even be a three-man lightweight tent, but I haven't seen any) available at my local Bass Pro, Dick's Sporting Goods, or REI. We chose a four-man tent because, well, we have four people in our family. While my children are still quite little, if we're bugging out for an extended period of time, they will grow bigger, and we'll need the extra space to accommodate them. I've heard of people packing tarps for a make-shift tent, and it's actually not a bad idea to have a back-up or camouflaged shelter.
I would like to include a note here: I have only researched BOBs; I have never actually had to use one in a life-and-death scenario. I have brought my BOB hiking, and let me tell ya, it gets heavy. My backpack is a NorthFace Women's backpack actually meant for backpacking. The shoulder straps are comfortable, but when you're packing everything you think you'll need in a survival situation, you realize very quickly (especially if you're running) how every ounce matters. I would suggest packing your BOB and taking it on a walk, a jog, or even a run. See how it feels. If it's comfortable for you, great! If not, reevaluate and pack lighter. I learned that I had to pack lighter, but not necessarily give up some of the things I thought we'd really need. Get creative with it. Hint: Those itty bitty TSA-approved travel containers have been a life-saver.
I would like to also point out here that hubby and I are planning a 72 hour STHF scenario. We will be going up into the mountains and surviving on what is only in our BOBs. (If you want to do something similar, make sure you research whether or not you'll need a permit.) The only real way to test and ensure everything works the way you need and want it to is to actually test it out. Now, I've been camping, but this will be the farthest extreme I've ever taken it. If I want to survive and I want to protect my children in a survival situation, I need to know that everything in my BOB works. I need to know if we've packed enough food, appropriate clothing for the weather, and things like that. I would suggest you do, too. People tend to say, "Oh, that's easy. I can go camping," or "Oh, that's easy, I can garden for my family's survival." I personally thought gardening would be easy, but, no, it's not. Half my plants didn't sprout my first go around and then the other half didn't make it in the actual garden. I was left with practically nothing. The old saying is true: practice makes perfect.
The next item on the agenda is a Bug Out Vehicle (BOV). Hubby has a nice Ford F-150 with 4-wheel drive. It's perfect for us. It's not too big, not too small, and perfect for my family of four. In my climate, a 4-wheel drive vehicle is necessary. We have chosen it to be our BOV in the event that the crisis occurs before he upgrades this Fall. While the gas mileage isn't the greatest, it has everything we need. I also have a little Dodge Avenger that we could fall back on in case we decide that the Ford's lack of MPGs is not advantageous. Again, I'm upgrading to a family SUV in the Fall, but if SFTH before then, these are our options. You want to keep your BOV stocked (and both my vehicles are). My husband has a Craftsman tool box in the bed of the truck that is stocked with rope, axes, and tools. You want to make sure that you have the basics necessary for car survival-- blankets, water, extra food, and anything else you think you'll need if your car is stuck.
My experience with the financial crisis has taught me a lot. It has taught me how living within your means is essential. It has taught me to never take anything for granted. It has taught me to live simply. It has taught me to prepare for the worst and pray for the best. I hope this article has been somewhat informational to all you preppers out there-- beginners and advanced.