The world has changed dramatically in the last few weeks. We find ourselves in a global pandemic and over half the population of the world is now in lockdown as a result of the rapid spread of the COVID-19 virus.
Many of you may find yourselves here as you realise just how unprepared you are. The important thing is NOT to panic. When people panic, the resulting actions are generally not very helpful.
In an age of increased dependence on technology, sophisticated infrastructure and a stark lack of basic survival skills, it becomes ever more important to have a plan of action to deal with local, regional and national disasters which could potentially affect you and the ones you love.
This article is a comprehensive guide on how to start prepping. So, take a deep breath and let’s have a look at some things you can do to be proactive about how to start prepping.
Why should I start prepping?
We are living in an age of incredible prosperity and opportunity. With that comes a certain level of complacency.
However, if recent events are any predictor of the future we can anticipate an economic slowdown, the bubble bursting, and potentially many other big changes to our way of life. However, it’s really important to know that this too shall pass.
The silver lining is we can take this opportunity of ‘wokeness’ to stop thinking of preppers as that crazy bunch who prepare for the zombie apocalypse and take a controlled, measured approach towards having an emergency preparedness plan. In other words, we’ve now seen how quickly and dramatically our lives can change and there’s no better time than the present to get ready to deal with the unexpected.
The first step to becoming a prepper is acknowledging the extent of our domestication and realizing how vulnerable we would be to the forces of nature if it weren’t for the current construct of our society.
The next part is making a plan of action.
The problem is not everyone has the time to master the art form of living off the grid. Learning skills like:
- advanced medical care
- wilderness survival
- security training
- gardening, hunting
- and even amateur radio and off-grid communications
If you can at the very least start with a 72-hour kit you’re in a much better position than most people.
From that foundation you can begin to develop more advanced preparedness skills.
Strategy – how to manage the most high risk, potential disasters within your region
Although the information in this article is universally applicable regardless of where you live, it’s up to you to be pragmatic about your prepping strategy. That means evaluating the potential disasters for the region that you’re in.
For example, if you live in the desert, having ten different ways to purify water is fine, but if you don’t have any way to store or collect it, you’re pretty much screwed! Or, for instance, if you live in a northern climate, six months out of the year it’s going to be ruddy freezing, so including warm clothing in your prepping is essential.
Some other variables of your particular region that might influence your preparedness strategy are things like:
- population density
- high risk weather events
- the climate of your region
- socio-economics and politics
- availability of public use land areas (potential bug out locations)
- natural resource availability: water, wild edibles, small game
- military installation nearby
- nuclear power plant nearby
- brush fires
- dust storms
- ice storms
- hail storms
- hospitals nearby – in health epidemic this becomes extremely important
Knowing what you’re prepping for, will help guide where to start. You want to have effective strategies in place that are relevant for you and your loved ones.
This will save you a lot of time and make your strategy far more effective. Being prepared for a ‘full-blown-end-of-the-world-doomsday’ scenario is fantastic but this is an incredibly expensive and time consuming task and definitely overkill when you’re starting out.
TIP – remember that it’s wrong to have a fixed ‘emergency’ plan that will solve all problems. Whether a situation requires you to leave home in a hurry, or hunker down and ride it out, you will need to prepare for both scenarios.
Let’s look at the areas you should focus on when you’re first learning how to start prepping:
- Physical fitness
There is lots of debate about how important these different aspects are but in reality it’s impossible to say that one is more vital than the other especially considering the range of potential situations you may be preparing for.
Instead think of it as a balanced approach and consider all of these factors when putting together your plan to get prepared.
An extremely important aspect to consider when preparing is your physical fitness. Being able to cope physically with tasks in a survival situation is vitally important.
Certain circumstances may require you to travel on foot for long distances, defend yourself and your loved ones from an attacker, or carry large amounts of weight. Think of how much hard work is involved in camping and hiking but that your life depends on how physically fit you are.
In an ideal world you would want your level of physical fitness to be as good as possible. This includes:
- and stamina
There are many chronic health conditions that people have that are completely outside their control, but there are always better life choices we can make to make the absolute most of the attributes we do have.
We don’t need to all be elite sports people but we should aspire to the best physical condition possible, no matter what our age or physical difficulties.
Spending thousands of dollars on prepping equipment and being physically unhealthy makes little sense.
Strength training, martial arts and cardiovascular exercise are great places to start your fitness journey to being more prepared. Cardio will help ensure you can be mobile, strength training for keeping a good body composition and ability to comfortably perform tasks and martial arts for defense.
Included in physical fitness is your general health. If you have work that needs to be done like surgeries or dentistry try not to put off getting work done.
We are currently in a lockdown situation here and one family member has managed to lose a filling while flossing! Needless to say it’s been an eon since he’s been to the dentist. Thankfully he’s not in pain as all dental appointments have been put on hold here. But it’s a great example of why it’s important not to postpone medical upkeep.
If you need over the counter or prescription medication, try and stockpile as much as possible because in a SHTF situation they may be hard to find. If you wear glasses or contacts, make sure you have several backup pairs. Don’t be stuck out there blind as a bat.
The next thing to consider is your survival tools. This can be one of the most daunting areas for people to explore as there are so many variations of equipment and preppers can have differing opinions on what’s best to buy.
A good principle to stick to is to invest in good quality tools from the start and then master them. Try not to get carried away by cheap junk just because it looks like it might be useful.
Getting good quality gear (within budget of course) is always sensible.
TIP – It is far better to a have a few good quality items than a bunch of crap from the Dollar Store that will fail on you when you need it the most.
This doesn’t mean you should panic and run up masses of credit card debt in an urgent attempt to prepare for the SHTF. Be sensible with your spending and do your research always with your particular circumstances in mind.
We’re going to think of our survival gear in three general classes of tools – small, medium and large.
Small tools are lightweight, portable and are essential to get you through short term survival scenarios, perfect for your bug out bag.
Medium tools are for riding out a short to mid-term disaster. These are larger items which are meant for stationery use and their purpose is to help you continue life at home as ‘normal’ as possible or bug in.
Then there are large tools. These larger tools are designed more for you to not just survive but to thrive. They are built for long-term survival situations in grid down predicaments of six months and beyond.
Small tools are built for foraging and scavenging. They are portable, light and perfect for a bug out situation.
Medium tools are for preparedness and built for bugging in and living off the energy that you’ve stored.
Large tools are all about regeneration, growing your own food and harvesting your own energy. Think homestead survival.
Let’s use water purification for an example of how it fits in here. The small tool version of water purification would be something like the Lifestraw portable water filtration system. The medium version might be something like the berkey water filter which is a 12 litre water filtration system.
The large version of water procurement could be a rain catchment system. This will allow you to collect as much water as you need. This level requires the biggest commitment of time and resources. It’s also worth mentioning that if you live in an urban environment, many of the large tools might be something for a future project.
Regardless of where you live, starting at the small tools level makes good sense as you can learn from the ground up at an affordable pace to familiarize yourself with the fundamentals of survival. Also, everyone needs a bug out bag.
TIP – When assembling your BOB, keep the rule of 3 in mind. This will help you prioritize your needs: The Rule of Threes states, humans can survive three weeks without food, three days without water, three hours without shelter, and three minutes without oxygen.
A bug-out bag is an excellent place to start. Also known sometimes as the INCH bag, emergency kit or go bag. The idea of a bug out bag (BOB) is to have a bunch of stuff ready in a bag if you have to leave your home at short notice in order to escape an emergency situation. These are small, portable, practical items that will allow you to survive for a few days away from home. They will also contain lots of useful things to help you in a bug-in situation.
Here is a list of the basic types of items we want to include in a bug out bag:
- heating and cooling (depending on the season in your location)
- personal protective equipment
- medical supplies
- communication equipment
- energy eg small solar panels
- important documents, phone numbers & cash
Remember that everything you include in a bug out bag shouldn’t be too heavy as you want to be able to carry it comfortably.
TIP – Don’t buy premade bug out bags. They are usually horribly overpriced and most importantly don’t cover your specific needs with regards to your specific circumstance.
Next consider home food storage and how you can start to stockpile long life foods that would be sufficient for you to stay at home for 3 to 4 weeks. Make sure to choose products that you LIKE to eat. Fingers crossed you won’t ever need it in an emergency so you’ll want to rotate them out once the expiry dates dictate.
Also think about foods that can be eaten with absolutely no cooking and are nutritionally dense.
Best foods to stockpile:
- White rice
- Dried beans & lentils
- Canned meat such as tuna, salmon, chicken and turkey
- Canned vegetables such as beans, carrots and peas
- Peanut butter
- Canned soups and chili
- Nuts and trail mix
- Power bars and granola bars
- Dried fruit
- Sports drinks
- Sugar, salt and pepper
- Powdered milk
- Coffee / Tea
If you live in a winter climate absolutely one of the most important things to do is find a way to heat your home. The more advanced preparedness products like:
- Geiger counter
- gas masks and
- hazmat suits
Those are built for lower probability events and as such they can wait till after you have your basics covered.
This section is all about your territory; where you’re going to live, a bug out location and how you’re going to shelter and protect yourself once you get there.
One of the first things you should do when planning for territory is get good maps of your locality and nearby wilderness areas. You’ll also need a compass.
Detailed topographical maps that include information about all landmarks and resources are best. The types of maps and who produces them vary from country to country so research the best maps for your area.
TIP – GPS satellites become about as useful as a chocolate teapot without constant calibrations in a matter of weeks. Having some offline maps on your phone is a great addition but printed maps should be your priority.
Once you’ve had time to have a good look at your local maps, you’ll need to think of an evacuation plan which should include a destination and a means of transportation to get there. This should also include a meeting point if you get seperated from family members and you don’t have a means to communicate. This may mean having a set bug-out location.
A bug-out location is essentially somewhere to go if it’s not safe to stay at home. For some people this might be staying with their Aunt who lives in a rural location or getting a hotel somewhere out of the city.
In a more severe emergency it may mean camping outdoors in a place where other people are not. You should have a safe place to retreat to if you live in an urban environment.
TIP – remember that if a hotel is part of your plan, if you are evacuating from a densely populated region, vacancies may fill up quickly.
When it comes to the options available in an emergency, if at all possible, the best idea is to stay at home. You have everything you need there, in addition to the obvious security and protection, so it should only be exceptional circumstances that would require you to bug out.
Let’s now consider the basics of preparing your home. You should aim to have complete self reliance in your home for a period of at least 2 weeks. That includes; electricity, water, heating, medical and communication.
- Check all doors and windows have secure, functional locks.
- A home surveillance system and alarm which will deter criminals.
- Deterrent – if home surveillance is not an option, consider putting notice up that you do have one. Also, warning about a dog could be a great deterrent.
- Place fire extinguishers in your home and have a fire escape plan that you discuss with your family.
- Food storage – start to slowly add some extra items each time you are at the store that have a long shelf life and are perfect for an emergency food supply. You should be able to eat cold or heat by boiling water.
- Water – consider your options for filtering/ purifying water at home. 15 gallons (57 liters) per person is a 2 week supply.
- Light – Flashlights, headlights, candles, lanterns.
- Fire – lighters, matches,
- Heating and cooling – this will of course depend on your climate. Propane fuelled heater like this https://www.amazon.com/Mr-Heater-F274830-Indoor-Safe-Portable/dp/B01DD6C4TC and USB fans are very versatile.
- Power – power bank, batteries (all sizes you might need), device chargers, solar panel.
- Self defence – this will depend on the legalities of firearms in your location and also your personal views. Other options are tasers, pepper spray, baton, crossbow, axe, samurai sword, etc. You may also think about protective clothing here; respirators, goggles, body armour etc.
- Communication – a NOAA radio with wind up or solar function and 2 way radio with a decent range – check out our article on ham radio https://apocalypseninja.com/what-are-the-advantages-of-ham-radio-during-a-disaster/
- Cash and valuable documents/phone numbers – birth certificates, deeds, maps, photos. Have them in both paper and digital format.
- Entertainment – think of things you can do without power/ tv. Books, board games, playing cards etc. This part is often overlooked but can be so important.
TIP – ‘’The best time to prepare is when the sky is clear and your weekend is free, not when local officials are telling you to board up windows and head for higher ground.’’ – New York Times
Unfortunately many won’t get this far in their preparedness journey as it takes an investment of time and money. However, knowledge weighs nothing – once you have acquired skills and knowledge, they are your ultimate EDC. Survival skills can come in many forms and it’s a good idea to check off some basic life skills first.
A lot of basic life skills can be overlooked when considering ‘survival skills’ but as our school systems are severely lacking in teaching most of these skills, it’s a valuable exercise to take yourself through the list and make sure you are competent at these important life skills.
- Learn to swim
- Drive a car
- Ride a bike / motorbike
- How to clean
- How to cook
- Basic sewing
- Home repairs – wire a plug etc
- Better communication/ negotiation skills – most of us think we’re great at this.
- How to read a map, use a compass
- Basic car repair – change a tire etc
- How to budget
- Self care, sleep & hygiene
Hopefully you should already have a good grasp of most of these, but if not they are a great list to start from as these are important life skills that will serve you well regardless of whether or not you need to use them in an emergency.
Now for more specific survival skills. This might include taking courses on:
- First aid / CPR
- Self-defence – there are many disciplines to choose from, pick one that interests you.
- Amateur / Ham radio
- Wilderness survival
- Hunting and animal processing
- Basic farming principles / growing your own food
At this level you start to develop the skills to survive a multitude of different SHTF scenarios.
Take them on as hobbies, involve your family and have fun learning. Many of these ‘survival’ skills were just ‘skills’ but in the last 100 years our day to day life has changed dramatically and we rely so much on modern society to keep us safe and warm. We have essentially forgotten 250,000 years of life skills in just 100 years!
After you’ve begun to develop new preparedness skills and knowledge it’s important to work on your own character so you’ll be emotionally balanced to apply those skills when the time comes.
Having mental toughness, a balanced temperament and temperance is something that comes second nature to some, but for the rest of us, we need to try and work on it.
Try to challenge yourself regularly to push your comfort zone. Learn to manage your emotions and anxiety in stressful situations using meditation, mindfulness and motivational material. There are more advanced forms of training which will condition you to keep your cool while under extreme amounts of stress and these are well simulated in the combative arts.
When it comes to temperance, try to abstain from the over consumption of drugs and alcohol or doing anything excessively. These will drain you physically, mentally and emotionally. Furthermore, irresponsible use of substances increases the likelihood of you ending up in dangerous situations.
There may be some in the Prepper community that will advise against sharing your preparation with others because of the risk associated with people knowing that you are prepping and therefore could be a target.
However, it is now recognized that the advantages of working together with family, friends and neighbours far outweighs those risks. If you’re planning on surviving long term you’ll certainly benefit from having the company of as many skilled people as possible.
It’s so important to have diversity of specialised skill sets in a long term grid down situation. Everything from a doctor to a mechanic will help communities rebuild and thrive. Everyone will have different skills to offer in the SHTF situation and regardless of what your current profession is, it’s extremely likely that this would change in a long term grid down situation.
Have a look at the following list and consider what transferable skills you have that could be useful. Also think about your friends, family and neighbours – what skills do they have? Is it a diverse enough group?
Some occupations that would be vital for functioning communities when SHTF:
- Leader – people with good negotiation, diplomacy
- Soldiers / Security
- Farmers / agriculture / butcher / cook
- Trade workers / carpenters / plumbers / handywo/men/
- Mechanics / repairing modes of transport
- Medical expertise / doctor / nurse / vet
- Weapon smith / blacksmith
- Tailor / seamstress / cobblers
- Childcare / teacher
- Entertainers / brewer / musician
- Communications / ham radio operator
- Spiritual / Church / religion
Last but certainly not least is philosophy. In times of disaster where the rule of law is not being enforced, it’s important that you maintain a strong moral compass. The time might come when you have to make ethical decisions which impact your own and other people’s lives. This oversees all of our actions in our day to day lives.
I hope that you found some of the information in this article useful and should help you on your way to start prepping.
Having the sudden realization of how vulnerable we actually are when starting out is normal. Try not to rush out and buy oodles of gear as fast as possible, take it slow, young grasshopper. Start out by working on an emergency food and water supply in a bug-out bag and branch out from there.
If your journey into becoming prepared takes a while, it’s not the end of the world. Getting started is the main thing and hopefully this guide on how to start prepping will help you make an initial plan that should immediately start putting your mind at ease.
Remember – don’t be scared about sharing your new hobby with others…grab this opportunity of the recent pandemic to talk to others about their plans and get a plan that takes you further than rushing to the store to buy 100 toilet rolls.
What stage are you currently with your prepping journey? Has your attitude to prepping changed in recent times?