Those new to prepping, and even those more experienced, will often find themselves overwhelmed with not only information that is often conflicting but with tasks. “Where do I even start?” is a common question. It is my intention to help you become less overwhelmed and more organized in what you will soon realize is a marathon journey rather than a sprint. In doing so, I will attempt to keep my particular opinions to a minimum and just provide helpful information to the readers.
Failure to Properly Assess Your Situation
There’s an old saying, “If you fail to plan, then you plan to fail.” This could not be truer than when it comes to survival. Failure to assess your individual situation from the beginning can and most likely will leave you more unprepared than you would like to believe. If you are new to prepping and just getting started, the first thing on your list should be a complete assessment. If you have been prepping for a while and have not done a proper assessment of your specific needs, then now is a good time to do so. Some of the things to consider are:
Bug In, or Bug Out?
A lot of people have Bug Out Bags and plan on bugging out in a crisis but lack any type of clear destination. If you are bugging out, have a destination with a pre-planned route, preferably with two alternate routes. Determine what preps you can preposition at your retreat. The less you have to load up in a bug out scenario, the better. Pay particular attention to the storage climate of your preps. Having a year’s worth of supplies stored in a remote cabin that experiences temperature extremes will invariably shorten the storage life of the items you are storing.
Bugging in has just as many considerations. How close are you to a major thoroughfare or metropolitan area? Being too close to a heavily populated area greatly increases the potential threat to you and your loved ones. What is your neighborhood like? Would your neighbors be an immediate threat or are they like minded and potentially an asset in a crisis? You don’t want to have to figure this out at the onset of a major crisis.
Available Storage Space
Regardless of whether you are bugging in or bugging out you will soon be faced with the confines of your available storage space. There is a lot of information on creative storage to be found online that can be adapted for use with survival preparedness. Properly assessing your storage situation at the onset will give you additional time for implementing creative storage solutions that you find helpful or a secondary location to store a portion of your preps. (This should be done anyway, whenever possible. Don’t keep all of your eggs in one basket.)
Your family’s particular needs for a week, a month, and even a year
This is often where new preppers begin to feel overwhelmed. Sit down and make a list of your family’s needs for a week, including food, water, medications, et cetera. For example, a four person household would require three meals per day multiplied by four people; that’s 12 individual meals per day. One gallon of water per person, at the bare minimum, comes out to four gallons of water per day. For one week that amounts to 84 individual meals and 28 gallons of water. For one month, you would need 357 meals and 119 gallons of water (based on 4.25 weeks in an average month).
You can quickly see how the available storage becomes very relevant. A note about calculating your meals: Pay little to no attention to the serving size listed on the product packaging. If a box meal says it has six servings in it and you normally have to prepare two boxes to feed your family of four, then it has two servings per box. Serving sizes on retail food are often unrealistic and are made smaller to reflect a lower calorie count per serving, which brings me to my next point. Do pay attention to calories of meals. If you plan three meals per day but those meals only amount to 700 calories combined, you’re going to be going to bed hungry. In an extended crisis, you will likely be burning many more calories than you do working in an office now. Account for that. I also feel obligated at this point to explain that box meals, like I used in my above example, have a very short shelf life and should only be used for a well-stocked pantry that is easily rotated and used to prevent loss.
Failure to Have a Well-Balanced Approach
Having a year supply of dried foods in mylar bags and sealed in 5-gallon buckets won’t do you a lot of good if you don’t have water to cook it or to drink. Having a well-stocked pantry and a reliable water supply won’t matter much if you depend on life saving medication and have only a week’s supply on hand. When performing your initial assessment, keep in mind that you will need at the very least:
- Clothing (exposure to harsh weather can kill you within hours)
- Necessary medications
- Hygienic supplies (toilet paper, toothpaste, and soap, and, for the ladies, you’ll also need feminine hygiene products)
- Means of defense (to prevent someone from taking what belongs to you)
When I help people get started, I always suggest starting with a week’s worth of supplies, utilizing a well balanced approach. (To many of the readers that may sound silly, but you would be surprised by how many people do not have enough food on hand to last their family one week. It is truly astonishing.) From there, it becomes easier to establish a month’s worth of supplies. Then, while maintaining a balanced approach and not weighting any necessity heavier than the other, begin working on a three month supply. So on and so forth. You are only as well prepared as your weakest preparation. If you have tons of food and water but lack critical medication for your survival, then you are only providing yourself and your family with a false sense of security. You may have 30 various guns and cases of ammo but only a week’s supply of food. If that’s the case, then you’re only prepared to endure a crisis for a week. If survival is your goal, then there is no other way to look at it. Every critical item is equally important. Avoid the temptation to store three months worth of food and not have a means of defense in order to protect yourself from thieves. Don’t be tempted to buy a new gun for which you can’t afford to also purchase an adequate supply of ammo; otherwise, all you have really purchased is an overpriced Billy club. You cannot possibly be prepared for every situation, but don’t let that stop you from preparing for the ones looking you right in the face.
Practicing Poor Opsec
When you first begin prepping, you quickly realize what an enormous peace of mind comes with it, especially once you hit your first major milestone of having a complete 30 days of supplies on hand. Knowing that you can be at home and not have to leave for anything during and following a crisis is a feeling of independence that is nearly indescribable. You will want to tell everyone you know to do the same and what all supplies you have and how you and your family store food, water, et cetera. Don’t do it. This could be a fatal lapse in operational security for you and your loved ones. Resist the temptation to discuss this aspect of your life off the cuff with just anyone. More often than not, the typical person’s response will be something along the lines of “Well I know where I’m going if things get bad– your house!” The average person is too naïve and or too lazy to even think about anything but today. I feel it is my duty to help anyone who is willing to help themselves. There are probably a million ways to strike up a conversation and get around to the subject of being prepared without disclosing the extent of your family’s preparations. I often discuss being prepared with people during the winter months under the pretext of the possibilities of a bad winter and how the stores in our area are picked clean as soon as winter weather makes it into the forecast. This opens up a lot of doorways to discussions about how relatively easy it is to have a 30 day emergency pantry stocked. If they have any interest at all in being prepared, they will ask questions or ask for help. If they don’t, I quickly shift the conversation by saying “Then again, winter may not be bad at all this year” and change topics to something else. That’s just a singular example.