The Cycle of Prepping: One Man’s Approach, by Steve in Wisconsin

Although I’m sure far wiser people than I have said it before, I certainly subscribe to the notion that prepping is a road, not a destination.  In other words, although the pace may vary, I’m continually prepping and always will be.  Possible exceptions to this rule, to one degree or another, are the folks who have the means to simply take one of the “list of lists” available and write a big check to cover virtually all of their needs, but even that will require some ongoing maintenance.  I am certainly not in that camp and I think it’s clear that most other people are also not in that camp.  So for those of us who have to move in a more incremental fashion, I submit what I call the cycle of prepping.  For people who are just starting their prepping journey, getting started can be a daunting task and I believe this approach helps to chip away at the mountain that prepping is.  I’d imagine others have come up with similar philosophies, I certainly don’t claim to be the first, but this is my take and my approach.

My “road” of prepping is not a straight road where each priority is taken care of completely before moving down the road to the next.  My road is a loop that I go around and around, addressing each of my priorities bit by bit.  I take this approach because I want to have some of everything rather than all of only some things.  In other words, I don’t want to get totally squared away on one priority before even addressing other priorities at all.  This may not be that important if I knew how much time I had before I’ll need my preps, but I have yet to find a reliable crystal ball, so just in case I need my preps tomorrow, I want to make sure I have, at least, the basics of each of my priorities.

I’m using the rather general term “priority” to describe the various types of preps, and although I will use more specific examples of priorities below, your priorities may, and likely will, be different.  It is not the point of this essay to espouse the relative importance of any priority, general or specific, each of us must decide that for ourselves, it is simply a framework for addressing your priorities, whatever they may be.

For this example I will use three tiers of priorities, the first very general, the second more specific and so on.  You can add additional tiers or rearrange these as you like, remember, this is only a framework, use it with your specific situation in mind to come up with the final result.  For this example, tier one priorities are:

  • Shelter
  • Sustenance
  • Security
  • Other

If we apply the cycle paradigm to this list, we would procure some of our Sustenance priorities, then when able, acquire or enhance some of our Shelter-related priorities, then address some of our security priorities and finally some other priorities which will bring us back to Sustenance.

Adding in the second and third tiers of priorities might look something like this:

  • Shelter
    • Primary House
      • Heat/Fire
      • Waste Management
    • Retreat
  • Sustenance
    • Water
      • Backup Well Pump
      • Rain Water Collection
    • Food
      • MREs
      • Freeze-dried Food
      • Bulk Staples (rice, wheat, etc.)
  • Security
    • Firearms
      • Battle Rifle
      • Shotgun
      • Handgun
    • Ammunition
      • Caliber 1 (depending on weapons choices above)
      • Etc.
    • Edged Weapons
      • Combat Knife
      • Utility Knife
  • Other
    • Medical
      • First Aid Kit
      • Reference Books
    • G.O.O.D. Bag
    • Communications
    • Books

It is important to note that your specific version of this list will grow as you iterate through it.  Do not try to make the perfect list before taking action.  You risk paralysis by analysis and other potentially disastrous delays.  Get your top 2-3 tiers roughed out and get moving.  As time goes by, the list will flesh itself out.  Be flexible!  Don’t be afraid to add items to tier levels, for example, you may want your G.O.O.D. Bag(s) to be a tier one priority.  Everyone is different based on many factors such as where you live, how many (if any) dependants you have and what you believe to be the major threats or causes of a collapse.  Some priorities may be hit multiple times such as ammunition.  You may purchase some of the same type for multiple cycles, which is fine, or you may skip something in a cycle which is also fine.  In each cycle, when you arrive at a given priority, you simply have to decide what is most important at that time.

The important thing to remember about this approach is the cycle.  Marshal your resources and keep your iterations tight.  You will see progress and that can be very motivational, keeping you going for more cycles to come.

The information above covers the theory, now I will run through several iterations that are loosely based on my situation.  I’ll stress once again that your situation and priorities will be different, this is done to illustrate how to take the framework and overlay one possible set of specifics on top of it to achieve a result.

I am a mid-40’s single parent of a pre-teen son.  Although, as you will see, I have several other possible dependents, my son and I are absolute so my preps focus one the two of us.

Iteration #1:

  • Shelter – I’ve owned my own home in a rural/suburban area for many years.  It is not the ideal house/location, but I’ve deemed it serviceable (at least with a few upgrades) so that is where my Shelter priorities started.  One of the hard limits I had for my home with regard to it’s post-collapse viability is having it’s own well and septic system and my first priority was making sure I could use both regardless of the situation.  To this end I purchased a hand pump for the well and had it plumbed right into the system allowing my to pressurize my system by hand.  This went a long way to addressing both my water and waste removal priorities.
  • Sustenance – Luckily for me, the well modifications above also helped address my needs for water as it relates to sustenance (drinking and cooking) so for this iteration I usually make a trip to a big box for food or if I have the money, order some freeze-dried storage food.
  • Security – Firearms and ammunition for my son and I are the top priorities for each of these iterations.  For the first iteration, the purchase of one of my chosen battle rifles (with several, but not enough, magazines) was made.
  • Other – Although bugging out is something I hope to never have to do and won’t do unless absolutely every other option has been exhausted, I certainly didn’t want to be unprepared for that possibility so getting our G.O.O.D. bags squared away was at the top of the list.  For my first iteration, I bought ALICE packs for both of us.

It is worth emphasizing again that you can and should be flexible with this framework.  For example, when I bought our packs, I also bought a bunch of first aid-type supplies.  If you’re in a given priority and are not ready to move to the next, don’t.  Get that priority to a point you’re happy with and then move on.  This is especially applicable in early iterations when you need many things.  Later in the process, more and more basic needs will be fulfilled and you will be able to do fine tuning.

Iteration #2:

  • Shelter – I have shelter, the means to relieve myself and water for cooking, drinking and bathing.  Granted, bathing with cold water would suck, but if it came to that, I doubt there would be many complaints.  So now if came to heat.  For this I bought a wood-burning stove with both a cook-top and small oven.  I would’ve settled for just the wood-burner for heat, but was fortunate to be in a position (after selling some collectible I had) to spend the extra money for a stove that provided the extra bonus of being able to contribute to food preparation.  It is worth noting at this point that you can do some things in parallel.  For example, during this time, some friends and I were acquiring firewood (traded for the labor of felling and cutting up the trees in question).
  • Sustenance – Again here I looked at my current stock and compared it to my “sub” priorities under Sustenance and simply acquired this next items on my list.
  • Security – Again I just looked at what I had, what I needed and decided what I thought was the next most important need.  Perhaps the shotgun or the sidearm.  For some it may be additional ammunition or magazines.
  • Other – Early iterations of this priority were focused on our packs and other medical/first aid supplies.

By now you should have the idea as well as an estimation of whether or not this approach will work for you.  Finally, just a word on later iterations; even though I feel I have many basic needs addressed, I have never even come close to feeling done or “ready”.  My current iterations consist of adding to my consumables (food, ammunition, etc.) along with starting to prepare for some of my potential dependents.  My parents are in their 70s and although they are very good at keeping some extra food around, they do not have the means to do what I’d consider serious prepping.  I take this possibility seriously and my current iterations reflect the eventuality of having to care for them post-collapse.

My final point will be to, once again, stress the nature of this approach as a framework.  Apply your specifics to it in order to obtain the desired result.