Prepper Project Suggestions, by R.H.

I have compiled a list of possible projects that can be accomplished by people of average skill with the usual tools and supplies. This list is just to get you thinking about what you might need and what you could use in the event of an emergency. Luckily, we currently have the Internet to easily find plans for these projects. Print the plans now and start a “to-do” list. The Internet is great but also have some how-to books on hand. The time is upon us.


In keeping with preparation priorities, let’s first discuss water projects. One of the first things to consider should probably be some sort of rain water collection system. You may live in an area in which rain water collection is illegal so check before you implement such a system. That being said, you could probably still go ahead with the assembly of materials and even construction as long as the system is not used. After a critical event, law makers and enforcers will likely have bigger fish to fry than someone who is utilizing rain water for gardens, orchards or water to flush toilets.

One simple method of rain water collection involves one or more large plastic trash bins that can be purchased at the big box stores for about thirty dollars. I have had good luck with Rubbermaid Brute® containers which hold 32 gallons of liquid. With some fall and spring cleaning and maintenance, mine have lasted more than five years without any signs of failure. Stock extra “O” rings and faucets for the tanks. Recycled poly drums or intermediate bulk containers (IBC tanks) are good, sturdy and cheap alternatives if you know what was previously stored in them.

One may simply let a down spout flow into a hole cut into the lid for collection. The addition of a hose bib near the bottom of the trash bin allows for running an irrigation line to the garden or filling a bucket or other container. Construct a strong frame to elevate the trash bin in order to have clearance for a bucket or watering can. If your 32-gallon trash bin is full of rain water, it will weigh slightly more than 267 pounds so plan ahead and secure the bin with ratchet straps so it won’t tip over.

Once you have water, you may have to filter it. Short of a purchased water filter, you may consider a do-it-yourself one with one of many plans available on the web. I have constructed a gravity filter from a leftover water cooler bottle. Include many layers of sand and activated charcoal under a cloth filter that can be changed frequently.

Heat (Energy)

If you are a country dweller or maybe live in some suburban areas, you probably have access to at least some quantity of firewood. If you need to depend on that firewood for warmth or cooking fires, it will have to be dry. You may want to consider constructing some sort of wood shed or wood rack with a roof to be able to keep at least some of the firewood dry and ready for use.

For about a hundred dollars worth of pressure-treated lumber, an open air wood rack with a roof can be constructed in a weekend. If you have access to pallets or salvaged scrap, use that lumber for the build and save a lot of money.

Another ongoing project is the selection, cutting, splitting and stacking of firewood. Fuel in the form of firewood is vital for heat and cooking in a grid-down scenario, so be prepared. In addition to obtaining a good supply of firewood, have chainsaws, bow saws, axes, splitting mauls and wedges accumulated and ready for duty. For the chainsaw, don’t forget stored gasoline, two cycle oil, bar oil, spare chains, extra spark plugs and sharpening files.

How about a fire pit? Many plans exist for DIY fire pits and they have become quite common in the backyards of America. Build them with an eye toward having to cook your everyday meals and boiling lots and lots of water, not just roasting marshmallows.

Many internet plans exist for constructing a rocket stove. Consider building one to rapidly heat water to sterilize and to cook with. Better to have one and not need it . . .

I was concerned about safely storing treated gasoline inside my outbuilding, so one of my recent projects was to construct a small, locking storage box for my metal jerry cans. It allows for ventilation and keeps the sun and rain off of the containers.


Do you have a garden? If not, start now. You can fully expect food prices to rocket and availability will likely be limited. Every gardener will tell you that there is a leaning curve with growing your own food. In addition, what grows well in Pennsylvania may not do well in Idaho.

Start a gardening project by either planning and cultivating a part of your yard or building a container garden. I live on a rocky hillside with poor soil so I built garden containers out of one inch and two-inch lumber stock. Since my garden is small, (I am trying to get the most food out of the least space) I’ve even built a vertical strawberry plant rack.

With practice, a small container garden can produce an amazing amount of food, but get ready now. You must have lumber, hardware, seeds and soil material (and the garden itself) ready to go before a critical event removes these supplies from your grasp.

How about building a cold frame for starting plants in winter? If you are an apartment dweller, you could build a small vertical greenhouse that would fit on your balcony or in a south-facing window. Would the building owner allow a small rooftop container garden?

Build some sturdy tomato cages now, while materials are in supply. Don’t forget an arbor or trellis for vining plants like grapes, beans and squash. A related project is the enclosure of the garden. This is a must to prohibit animals from feasting on your labors. (See Security)

A small chicken coop or rabbit hutch would be a worthy project for a weekend and would pay off in fresh meat and eggs. The side benefit (manure) is great for your garden. Keep the project small and thereby portable so the “side benefit” can be spread around where it is needed. I utilized wheeled boat trailer jacks on my chicken tractor to aid its mobility.

A compost pile or bin may be a must once you get involved in growing your own food. The web is loaded with information on composting. I personally use a rotating drum to quickly create compost to invigorate and amend my garden. These can be manufactured by the homesteader from salvaged scrap. Again, plans can be easily found on the internet.

You may wish to construct a gambrel with which to hoist an animal that you need to butcher. I have a gambrel attached to coated wire cable which is threaded through a series of pulleys. The mechanical advantage of the pulleys allows me to lift a field dressed deer by myself to begin processing the animal in my outbuilding.

Larger projects like cattle sheds or farrowing pens can be started even if you are not ready for livestock yet. The structures can always be used as storage buildings until the opportunity (or need) arises.

Food storage racks and shelves can be built easily by a novice. I’ve built a couple of racks that can hold cans on their side so they roll to the bottom. This allows me to use older cans first as the new stock is placed on top of the older cans, first in-first out.

You may also want a drying cabinet with open air shelves to dry onions, potatoes, turnips, garlic, winter squash and other garden produce. An old garage sale beverage cooler filled with damp sand can keep your garden carrots edible for a surprisingly long time.

Along those same lines, a homemade food dehydrator rack is another project idea. The only power needed to preserve your meat and vegetables come from the sun.


So you have water and food, now you have to keep it! Consider security lighting in the form of solar motion sensitive lights placed at key areas of your house, outbuildings and garden.

Driveway alarms, sensors and security cameras are all force-multipliers and should be installed before they become necessary. Keep in mind that you may not have electrical power, so choose battery powered units with plenty of back up batteries and a way to charge them.

Fencing can keep pests out of the garden that you are going to need to survive. Other fencing projects can funnel “visitors” on a route that you choose or provide separate pasture areas for different animals or allow for rotation of grazing herds.

Concrete revetments can be utilized to slow vehicle access to your property to allow for observation and your reaction time to visitors. If you need to reach other areas of your property quietly, consider cutting and removing trees and brush from strategically located “fire lanes.”

While we are on this topic, remove brush and other fire load materials from around your house and outbuilding in case of wild fire. Special attention should be given to areas like gas tanks and your supplies of firewood. Can you supply water to all corners of your house? Have hoses and nozzles at each exterior hose bib and consider heavy duty, portable water sprinklers that can be used if wild fire danger threatens your home. Remember that you may not have anyone coming to help you.

If you have firearms, research any potential problems with your particular model(s) and order any replacement parts you may need. Think about springs, pins and other stuff that can and will break. Stock solvent, gun oil and cleaning supplies while they are available. Frankly, if you don’t have enough ammunition stocked by now, you are already behind the curve.

Now is the time to prioritize these and similar projects. We currently have the information and most of the materials to complete many of these tasks. If you can, stock up on the tools you will need and the consumables (nails, screws, bolts, lumber, paint, etc.) that will make your prepper projects a reality. It will be better to have some or all of your needed projects completed before another event happens. After the event, you will likely be devoting all your energy toward staying alive.

Try to stay positive!


  1. Under security and maybe food production use raised beds to slow down access by vehicles as well as doing cuttings (worth research friends) to plant thorny blackberries and roses (dried rose hips vitamin C as scurvy is a horrid disease) to “Help” folks find the paths YOU desire them to travel.

    BTW raised bed soil is not cover for center fire rifles, packed sandbags doesn’t grow food. Do a two person range walk around your property from each defensive point. One records the card noting everywhere the walkers knees are hidden. Plan on ways to keep those areas “interesting”.

    Figure out communications like whistles and laminated code cards. A gunshot is a poor warning system. Maintain 360 degree thinking as a few noisemakers over there is a classic way to get the real shooters into your home from the other side.

    Teamwork, not lone wolves. Even in the Great Depression families that gathered together to WORK Together did far better than those who tried to maintain that social “I’m not living like a *fill in your poor persons of choice here*” attitude. Better sharing a homestead between many WILLING Working people than several families who lose their homes to the tax man and “Bad Luck”.

    Note I keep saying working together, that’s important as lazy Larry has no value aside from eating and drinking and maybe betraying your family to the Socialists at the time of troubles. 2nd Thessalonians 3:10 “If you don’t work you don’t eat” as even the early Christian Church had lazy eaters leeching off the rest.

    1. Hi Michael,

      Concur 100%. A few families, related or not, working together, are far stronger than an individual homesteads. It can take years to develop these relationships. If their properties are adjoining, remote, or isolated from the larger community in a region, even better. Gee, that kinda of resembles the Amish, armed Amish, that is. :O)
      Don’t mess with these Amish!

  2. Excellent suggestions. Since I’ve been furloughed, I’ve been getting many of my ‘back logged’ projects completed…
    Started a second garden plot, planted 10 fruit trees and some perennial’s such as Asparagus, more grapes, Strawberry’s and Blueberry’s (I have horrible luck with blueberry’s but I keep trying), tore down 1 acre of old fencing, set up a pistol range, the DW stacked the remnants of last seasons left over firewood, borrowed a small Bobcat (skid steer in these parts) and mucked out my recently purchased barn which hadn’t been cleaned out in over 17 years, now have lots of aged manure (and I do means a lot!), started replacing outside stairs that were 140 years old (that project is still in progress), etc. etc.
    Although we have a very good well with good sweet water, one of my priorities is to get a rain catchment system going
    When your farmstead is over 140 years old, there’s ALWAYS projects to do…and I do mean Always (lol)

  3. My house rain spouts are about 40 yards from the gardens. How high do I have to get the water barrel to have the pressure to get the water that far? I also have a sump pump hose that is closer. Possible problems are getting that water to go uphill for the barrel. It isn’t coming out strong at the end. Thanks for any help.

    1. Forty yards to the garden toting water may be your new exercise routine!

      Low pressure valves are available but I don’t think they would help at that distance. Mine is a cascading system that is connected by PVC pipe near the top of each barrel but it’s on a downgrade so gravity gives it a bit of pressure.

      Might want to research “low water” gardens and ollas. I’ve had good experiences with ollas throughout a dry summer. Water is heavy! Good luck.

      1. Dan, I have an IBC container on a scaffold. It’s 4′ off the ground. Using 5/8″ garden hose, I can water my garden 100′ away. The tank can be down to 1/2 full and we still get decent flow. I’ve never had it below 1/2 full when using it for watering. It took 2 of us to get the IBC onto the scaffold and the scaffold must be rated for the weight. The scaffold we used was rated for 3,000 Lb. The system is over 10 years old and works well. Good luck with your project.

        1. Investigate ram pumps and solar pump setups.

          Contrary to popular opinion ram pumps (which require no outside power source) can handle pumping water up a reasonable grade. Volume is not great enough to supply pressure for sprinkler devices but you could set up a ram pump to send water from one source (a rain barrel, cistern or stream) to a second container (garden barrels on low stands) that then feed water into a drip irrigation system. You can build your own ram pump or buy them. There is some basic math involved in determining the pump size you need to move water over X distance and Y rise, and you do need some elevation to work with on the inlet side to provide pressure. I’ve long been fascinated by ram and pulse pumps for their simplicity and utility but they are not very efficient.

          A solar setup can provide on-demand water from one source to it’s destination rapidly and efficiently during daylight hours. You don’t need a battery bank for this, just the panels, a contoller, a switch and the pump. These are highly configurable to meet specific needs. If I wanted to move water rapidly from say a rainwater catchment system near the house to a garden water storage system some distance away this is probably setup I would want. You can also set up your system to turn on only when your water supply in the receiving container is low, or when the supply in the sending container is high, or both. Pretty cool stuff.

    2. Hi Dan, as far as gravity feed goes, your question is hard to answer without more specific information. The rule of thumb is, the bottom of your rain barrel must be at the same level or higher than where you are trying to transfer the water so it sounds like you have to raise your rain barrel.

      The bottom of my rain barrel is only a foot lower than my garden. My rain barrel is 35″ tall so let’s call that 3 feet. If I want to transfer it to another 3′ tall barrel in the garden, then the bottom of my rain barrel has to be 4′ higher than the barrel in the garden. 4′ because I need it to be another foot higher to account for the garden being a foot higher, and another 3′ higher to get it to the top of the garden barrel so I can fill it. Therefore, I must raise my rain barrel 4′ by building a small tower or platform.

      In my case, I would use 1″ pipe to transfer it from the rain barrel to the garden barrel. I could even bury the pipe and because water “seeks it’s own level” the water will go down, and then come back up again to the top of my barrel in the garden. When the rain barrel runs dry, that pipe will still be full of water so you will “lose” that amount of water, but only on the first time you use it. Every time after that, since the pipe is already primed and full of water, you will end up with the full amount in your garden barrel that was in your rain barrel.

      If you have a transit level, you can figure out the height difference between your rain barrel and your garden. If you don’t have a transit level, and don’t have a friend who has one, you can jury rig one with a carpenter’s level that will probably be accurate enough.

  4. While reading this it was nice to say “done” to most of these or “in the works”. I want to stress R.H.’s point about having the supplies to complete these projects on hand. You never know when, oh let’s say a pandemic, might happen that disrupts world’s supply chains. I like to have materials for future projects on hand so that if I happen to have time I have the stuff ready to go. Putting away supplies for future projects also help in budgeting your projects, buying a hog panel here and there beats buying them all at once. Something else to consider is leveraging free financing. We have a Lowe’s Credit card and when we use it we make sure we spend over $299 so that we can get 6 months interest free deal. So I often buy extra 2×4’s, nails, screws, fittings etc knowing that I have future plans that will require them. I can’t tell you the number of times having my own stash of on hand 2×4’s and plywood have saved me from taking a trip in town to get just a 2×4 or something small.

    Something you might want to consider is solar projects like having some planners that can recharges some 12 volt batteries, a solar water heater, and even a solar air heater (for small spaces). Working on plans now for an outdoor shower that will use rain water. I have gone just about a month without a shower or bath and I can tell you I did not enjoy it nor do I ever want to do that again. Being able to take a shower in a grid down environment will help keep you healthy but it will also do wonders for your morale.

    1. 3AD Scout!
      Took special note of two points you made which were especially insightful.

      1) Have the supplies you need… Even experienced preppers will discover now and again that not all supplies are on-hand as needed. During this time, it’s a good idea to consider gaps in preps, and to fill those. Also to practice creative sourcing, and to learn about substitutions.

      2) Consider the addition of solar systems… Solar systems do not have to be large or expensive. There are smaller scale solar projects that may turn out to be especially helpful. Among these are the examples you shared covering battery charging systems and a solar shower.

      All good thinking, and very helpful!

      1. Telesilla of Argos,

        Thanks- in reading the discussions of moving water way not consider a few small DC pumps that can run off a battery with a solar panel to keep the battery charged. I have a few that I got from Harbor freight when I was considering how to get water in a grid down scenario from my pond to the garden. I don’t need a heavy stream since it will be to feed a drip irrigation system. My plan is to pump the water into 55 gallon drum and then using the head pressure from the barrel to feed the drip irrigation. That plan is now a back up plan since we have a 1500 gallon tank in order for collecting rain water off our barn roof. Have the supplies materials on hand and when SHTF get the group to build this projects.

  5. Rabbit hutches are absolutely a wonderful way to provide food. Rabbits are quiet, easy to care for, they grow quickly and breed prolifically, and they are easy to process. They are probably one of the best animal investments I have ever added to the farm.

  6. I would like to be able to catch water from our roofs. Our problem is the snow we get would rip gutters off of the roof. Has anyone figured out a solution to that?

    1. Teresasue,

      Are you talking snow or ice? I live in an area that sees between 88” to 100” of snow in a season and we have no problem with gutter coming down. Ice on the other hand is a different story but even then it is still not that common.

    2. Thanks for the input y’all. First, I’m not sure about attaching them temporarily. We have metal roofs. We live in a bit of a snow belt, the first winter here we were only a couple of inches shy of having 11 feet of snow. Sometimes it is icy snow that comes off the roof and it comes off with a LOT of force.
      I’ll check those links out, thank you so much.

  7. Thank you, RH! Your suggestion for vertical growing was especially excellent.

    There are lots of ways to accomplish this goal. Among our own applications… We use arched cattle panels for cucumbers and tomatoes. The cattle panels are well secured to raised bed structures on either side. Since the panels are under some level of tension, we paid close attention to being sure that one end could not release suddenly (risking injury). These are also good for pole beans and peas.

    We are also looking into the idea of a wooden palette (or palette-style) grower for vertical strawberries.

  8. With cheap and effective water filters readily available you should not resort to homemade water filters. Mostly they do not work and will likely cause you to get sick at the worst possible time. A minimum would be a 0.1 micron filter. They can be had for $20 or less and they claim you can filter 100,000 gallons of water since they can be back flushed. I have half a dozen of these type filters kept in strategic locations so they will be there when I need one.

  9. Some thoughts,,,first off ice and snow and gutters , we used a heat tape layed in the gutter and down the down spout ,turned it on when needed also gutters were hung lower than normal so ice sheets would go over them ‘metal roof’

    Every foot of elevation is half PSI water pressure

    We used a swiming pool sand filter when we pulled water out of a creek in the bush in Alaska ,it was about 35gallon size from a real full size swiming pool , worked on giardia,test came back safe

    Need to filter and treat roof water bird poop can make you sick

    Tea and chocolate

  10. Was going to add ,,,,a wood fired hot water can be improvised using a gas or propane water heater and a rocket stove under it ,only drawback is you must tend the fire and keep a eye on things but nice hot showers inside are worth the trouble .we had ours in what looked like a outhouse up next to the cabin ,didn’t have room in side ,,

  11. This may seem a little odd: I have these wild grape vines growing on one side of my garage. This is the second year. Last year’s grapes were teeny-tiny little things. Since it’s there, I thought it might be nice to encourage the production. Any suggestions would be appreciated. If it’s a waste of time to put in the work, I may just get rid of the vines. I’d rather have useful grapes than useless vines.

    1. Wild grapes can be good eats. Make sure they get water regularly as lack of water can be the cause for small grapes and reduced yield. Another trick is to prune off half of the grape clusters early in the spring and this might allow the grapes to grow better too.

    2. You don’t say what part of the country you’re in, but we have wild grapes called muscadines in Texas; they’re used mostly to make jams, jellies, but they can be eaten like regular grapes, although their skin is tough; they don’t ripen until August/September. If allowed to grow, they make great arbors, and can turn your bare hurricane fences into privacy fences, but will get into nearby trees, telephone wires, etc. unless you keep them pruned back.

  12. Your idea about using a “beverage cooler filled with damp sand” to keep your carrots edible longer—would that work for other root vegetables like beets, turnips and rutabaga?

    1. Yes. YMMV but I use mine for root vegetables. Carrots seem to last the longest but there are many variables, mainly the moisture content of the sand. Experiment now for success later.

  13. Charles K you could try giving them a fertilizer that at least mentions being good for grapes on the bag. Also, make sure they are getting somewhat regular water now and then, esp. when grapes are showing.

    Dan- each 18″ vertical will give you 1psi. So, in addition to the rain barrel being higher than the garden barrel to create a little hydraulic head the vertical difference will give you some additional PSi. That means you can about fill your lower barrel even if the top overlaps the bottom elevation of the higher rain barrel. Gravity! Its free

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