People — being people — have all kinds of reactions to “prepping.” Some get it. Some think they get it. And some consider themselves too sophisticated to “prep” because that implies the system will fracture; so to them preppers are “extremists of doom.”
I’m not a prepper; I’m just a Dad responsible for a family. And once you wrap your mind around that, you’re already down that slippery slope of being a “prepper.”
Prepping Begins in the Brain
I have life insurance, like any middle class salary man. I pay for it every month. I don’t think I’ll die in any one of the months I pay for it. But I’m a financial prepper because I’ve prepared for the very low likely hood of my own untimely death. Does that make me paranoid, or responsible?
Your number one Prep is your brain. If all you have to “prep” is a brain, that’s 90% of what you need. Prepping is about foreseeing challenges, however unlikely, and making preparations for them. Foreseeing possible challenges will not drive your life any more than buying life insurance does and buying Life insurance doesn’t mean you have a death wish.
But you’ve got to use that gray matter and do some war gaming.
You Can Practice Prepping Before You Are Prepared
You want to know how to practice prepping? Go Camping. Camping is not an “extremist” activity.
Camping, not glamping. No running water. No sewer. No hot and cold tap water. No central HVAC. Can’t shower every morning and no TV or internet. You cook your own food, make your own heat, set up your own shelter and learn to carry the basics of life with you.
Being a good camper begins with using your brain. What will you need? Think about prepping as preparing for a camping trip. It’s nice to be dry and warm. It’s nice to have a heat source. Eating is wonderful. Sanitation is imperative. Where will you go to the bathroom? Can you tie knots? Can you cook on a Coleman stove or over a fire? (Can you cook at all?) If you camp in bear country, what kind of camp security do you have? A hard sided camper? Bear spray? A dog? Or just good luck? Prepping assumes your luck could run out and asks you to think about “what then?”
Prepping Your Brain
No camping list or prepping web site can prepare your brain. Your brain has to do all this work all by itself. Once you start working that gray matter between the ears, “prepping” web sites may spur your imagination, but it is no substitute for you actually doing that thinking.
Not Prepared to Go Camping? That’s Okay
Camp in your back yard. Don’t have a back yard? Camp in your living room. Use a propane stove on your porch to boil some potatoes. Use some food that does not need refrigeration. Don’t use tap water — use whatever bottled water you have. Make a fire in the fireplace. No fireplace? Cook over a Hibachi at the Park, then go home and roll out some blankets with your kids on the floor. Where are you going to the bathroom? (Five gallon bucket with kitty litter could work). Got any neighbors who are going to freak out under these conditions? What are they going to do on day three of no food? (They would be the bears mentioned above — they get hungry and grow a gnarly temperament to match). Got any friends who like to camp? Maybe you should develop that side of your social life.
Even thinking abut camping forces the mind to address all the issues that may come up when you can’t just press a button and have all the conveniences of modern life. (No toilet? What’s the backup plan? )
I’ve been talking to my family for years about things I see coming down the historical pike. And what I see coming makes the corona virus look easy. But even if the future is rosy, learning how to camp is a pleasurable way of preparing, and a healthy activity for your family. It all begins in the brain.
Okay you’ve managed to camp in your living room with your kids and your dog. I’ll bet money your children had a blast. The dog, too.
Take it up a notch. Camp in your back yard. Don’t have one? Think about where you could camp outside for the night. Safely. A friends house? Might as well make it a social event. We all need reliable friends in bad times.
Then, go to a state park and set up a tent for two nights. Cook on the camp stove or over the fire. Set up your bedroll (you don’t need a sleeping bag — blankets or a quilt work just as well). You’ll find that having a mattress makes life easier. Make your own coffee in the morning. Teach the kids knots and how to make a fire. Go on a day hike. Pack and carry your own water and sandwich. Bring a pocket knife because . . . well you just never know what you might want to use it for. That’s the point of “Prepping.”
Ready for the next step? Spend four nights in a tent. You’ll come back changed. Usually about four nights is the point it which you think “hmm, I think four days is plenty for me.” But it will force you to think through the “what ifs” of a longer stay.
Now You Are Prepared for a Bigger Challenge
Go camping in the fall or spring. Maybe there is frost on the ground. Maybe some cold rain. It complicates things.
Next, go backpacking. Just for a night. Walk a couple of miles with a bag on your back and enough to get you through a couple of days. You will either have to get in shape, or the hiking will push you into getting in shape. You may be forced to practice first aid. Ranger Rick won’t be down at the end of your campground. Cuts, scrapes, blisters and bug bites. You’ve got some basic medicines, right? Aspirin? Band-Aids. Disinfectant. Again, this forces physical health and it forces you to think through the “what-ifs.” Because no one is there to pick up the slack for you yet you aren’t really that far out in the woods.
Hungry for More?
Now it’s time to add another factor to your camping. Go camping with a firearm. (It’s called hunting, but don’t let that scare you). Spend a week in the woods in the autumn and walk around — safely — with a firearm. Not bear hunting — just searching for birds with a shotgun or rabbits with a .22 rimfire rifle. By now your camping skills should be pretty well honed — this layers an additional safety skill.
Before this trip, you need to be safe around firearms. There are two easy ways to get it. First, take a hunter’s safety course. Most likely your state will require it before you can buy a hunting license. The knowledge you will gain is incredible even to those who never want to hunt. Send your older children, too. It is that important and educational.
Second, take professional firearms training. Don’t skimp and don’t work with the first guy you find. Female? They have classes taught by women, for women. If you can’t find anyone, then check out NRA.org. Even if you never ever want to carry a firearm, consider a“concealed carry” course. It will allow you to work through the issues surrounding firearms and teach you how to be safe without committing you to ever carrying a firearm. The goal is not that you become a shooter — the goal is that you and your family are safe around this all too common item.
You can’t keep your kids away from water — so you teach them to swim. And it is very likely you and your family will encounter firearms — it is wise to know how to properly handle them and to know when others are mis-handling them. Wishing the problem away is not a good approach.
Firearms a No Go for You? That’s Okay
Even if you do not get any kind of training, memorize the rules below and teach them to your children. Telling them to “never touch a gun” may not be any more effective than telling them to never go near a pool, or never drive in a car.
Basic Rules of Gun Safety:
- Finger off the trigger until you are ready to fire.
- Always treat every weapon as if it were loaded, including the toy gun you are practicing with.
- Never aim a weapon at anything you do not want destroy — even a toy weapon.
- And know what is in front of and behind your target.
Want to take it up a notch? Here’s a free tip: You don’t even need to own a gun to begin. Carry a toy pistol or rifle with you at home (when the neighbors aren’t watching) and practice the above until it is ingrained and automatic.
And then think again about professional training. You send your kids to driving school, right? Send them to a firearms class, too. It’s not about shooting — it’s about safety. That is the beginning, middle, and end of every firearms class. You probably didn’t buy your kid a car when he got his license, and you don’t need to acquire a gun just because you took the safety training.
Remember those bears I talked about at the begging of this article? You can’t control what the bears do. You can only control what you do. A firearm is not an answer — it is an option. A firearm, safely wielded, may expand the options you have in dealing with belligerent hungry bears. Or half a dozen angry dogs. Being that groceries may be scarce, animals can get pretty crazy. Your are an adult. You read. You know what can happen.
But maybe you do go on camping trip and someone brings a dead rabbit to camp. Maybe it was dispatched with a slingshot, maybe with a bow, maybe with a firearm or maybe with a trap. Now it is time to prepare your dinner! Know how to disembowel a rabbit safely? YouTube is helpful, but there is nothing like doing it yourself.
Your self-confidence will soar when your family can kill, prepare, cook and then eat game from the woods. You will believe that you can make it through hard times. Maybe you will think about raising chickens or rabbits in your own backyard once you get your fingers dirty — that’s just a bonus.
Don’t want to gut a cute furry mammal? Then go fishing and clean your catch. It’s the same goo and slime, but cold and not so cute.
Now it’s graduation time. Join a late fall deer hunt. In the snow. Deal with frozen water and daily hikes over unmarked territory and the requirement (if you are successful) of moving a hundred pounds of meat back to camp. You will learn to camp in cooperation with others. (Guess what? You’ve already found your first prepping community whether they realize it our not.) You don’t even need to be the hunter.
If you can to this, you’ll be prepared for anything. And you will be a different person. It is immensely rewarding and an unbelievable journey in self confidence.
All this is about working that gray matter between the ears, forcing it to adopt new neural pathways and training your mind to work through “what if” scenarios. That is neither extreme nor foolish — it is simply the exercise of due diligence by someone responsible for more than their own life. Singletons owe it to others not to be a burden if things go south, and you may even be a great help to others. Then watch out — you will find your friendship in high demand.
Even if you never hunt or shoot, you have already re-arranged neural pathways by finishing this article. Prepping should not be a burden and there is no finish line — it is a state of mind. If you approach it right it will be fun, rewarding and an incredible boost to your self-confidence. And, it might just come in handy some day.