17 Prepper Tips I Wish I’d Known Before I Started Prepping
by Dan W
Following is a mixture of philosophical comment and several practical tips that I hope will help you to fill in some of the blanks in your prepping. It’s a bit long but I hope you find it all informative. No matter what advice you may be offered, the key to being prepared is diligent planning and follow-through. Remember thought without action ……. and action without a plan ……. Well, that’s just wasted effort.
Getting Started & Making Your Plan
For you folks that are in the beginning stages of prepping ………… don’t get discouraged. All of us were where you are at some point in our journey to be prepared! You may be far from well prepared right now, but the fact that you have decided to begin prepping is a major step toward improving your odds for surviving.
But, what type of negative event will you prepare for? I’ve heard countless people talk about a specific catastrophic event that they fear will turn their world upside down.
They then base their planning around that event. There are too many things, manmade or natural, that could severely disrupt our/your way of life. To be able to pick just the right one is a long shot. Basing your preparations on only one or two of these occurrences will likely leave large gaps in your overall plan.
When we first began prepping and started to accumulate our cache of goods we did not focus on a specific type of event to determine what we would need. Instead, our early stage prepping focused on the basics of survival: Water, Food, Self-defense, and a secure place to ride out the event.
These four basics formed the backbone of our prepping plan. Of course, we knew that there would be a lot of other supplies to gather, but unless we were alive, those wouldn’t matter. For example, it wouldn’t do us much good to have a complete armory without an adequate supply of water and food.
We then made a prioritized list of what we wanted to have on hand; those items we thought would most help us to ensure we survived the initial few months of off-grid survival topped the list. We prioritized without regard to expense.
After we filled our cache with those initial high priority items we began to add other items to our list.
When the event happens do you plan to leave your current site (Bug out) for a different location? If so then you will need to have two plans: One plan to cover your needs while in transit and one for when you are at your new location.
Obviously, this type of planning is more complex yet the same four basics apply.
Early stage prepping requires a lot of cerebral activity to produce your own custom plan. Start planning using the four basic groups and expand your preparations and supplies as you can. Once you’ve got the basics covered, you can begin to address those items needed to cover other contingencies.
Unless your budget allows a steep ramp-up of purchasing supplies, it will take you some time to obtain all of the items on your list. Be patient and just keep plugging away at filling your list. Don’t make the common mistake of overreaching ………… start with a simple list and then grow it as time allows and current events dictate.
Your plan is a dynamic thing. Stick with it, but do not be afraid to modify it as time passes and conditions change.
If you don’t have one …………. Make one! I have a tendency to harp on this issue to every person that is a member of our planning group. I don’t think that this topic can be stressed enough! Everything you have, or still need, should be on your list.
If you try to depend on your memory to let you know what you have put away you’ll be sure to forget or miss something. Categorize the list by item types, quantities, location, date purchased, and the price paid. For those items that have a limited viable lifetime (foods, medicines, etc.) be sure to add that information to your list.
Indicate if the item is on hand or needs to be purchased. Save and update your list with each change (addition, deletion, quantity upgrade, etc.) and print it out after you update it.
Don’t depend on being able to go to your computer to find your list. Manage your inventory list as you would if you were running a small business and you will be more effective in your prepping.
Planning to Survive
In military circles, it is well known that no battle plan survives intact once combat is engaged. There are just too many unknowns throwing variables in the way! This is also true for all of us as we try to prepare for the SHTF.
That being said, it would be wise if you thought through a few scenarios to establish how you will react and what you will do to handle the “what-ifs”. Play yourself in these scenarios and be honest. Few of us are Barney Fife, but even fewer are Rambo!
Don’t sugar coat situations but play them out using best/worst case examples. Advance planning does not restrict you to a particular course of action, but it does allow you to address those things that are not a part of your normal life.
Confronting a variety of hypothetical scenarios now will give you an edge if you are actually faced with something similar later. Mental role-playing will help you to identify the contingent options that may be available for each event.
This is especially true if what you must face is beyond your realm of experience. Set up scenarios where you must react quickly to be able to survive; pre-play potential events whose impact would be modified by your particular situation, environment, and expertise.
Not all of these hypotheticals will necessarily be a life or death scenario. But, by thinking them through, you will begin to see holes in your planning and prepping.
Could you, would you, kill another human if necessary? When you find weaknesses in yourself that that might threaten your survival, or are insurmountable, work out a solution that you can accept ………. and live with.
Off The Grid
What does this mean to you? I remember when the term “off the grid” referred to being disconnected from the local electrical, telephone, natural gas or other commonly available utilities. For us, and I think most all Preppers, off the grid, now carries a different connotation. I think the best Prepper definition for off the grid is “Self-Sufficient”. Images of “the little house on the prairie” come to my mind.
A successful Prepper can go off the grid and survive …………. they are prepared for almost any contingency.
I mention this because I think that coming up with your own definition of what “Off the Grid” means to you will help you to more precisely define your planning. If you are an apartment dweller living in a large city your prepping needs will be different than a person living in a small town off the beaten path.
Your plan to survive, will of necessity, be very different from anyone else’s …….. and it should be. The blueprint for your preparations has to be yours and yours alone. Grab all the tips, info, ideas, and knowledge you can from a multitude of sources and then adapt them to your circumstances.
Speaking for myself, I manage to find a wealth of new ideas and tips from other Preppers. Not all of them are necessarily suitable for our situation, but each one starts me to thinking “what-if”.
Do you have good detailed maps of your home or base area? Even though you might think you know your locale very well, navigating effectively during a time of crisis may force you into areas you are unfamiliar with. Maps are a cheap and good investment.
Another very good source for navigational information is Google Earth. This free online app will allow you to print out a detailed street, topographical and satellite images of virtually any area. The images can be zoomed to show you the topography (including dwellings and roads) for your area of interest.
Once you’ve got an image you like, print it out and keep it for future reference.
How many of the things that you’ve accumulated over the years or recently as a part of your prepping supply will eventually need some kind of service or repair? Do you have maintenance and operator manuals for each one? If the SHTF, and it’s a really big event, the likelihood of finding replacement parts will decrease.
Even if you can’t get the part, a manual could possibly help you to make one. How about your weapons, generators, solar or wind charging systems, or other devices? One of the things I’ve done is to print out the manual for each such item I have in my prepping supplies.
Don’t think that you will be able to go online to get this information later. Find the manuals online now, print them out and store them in a binder for future reference. Dig out the manuals you already have and keep them all together in one place. You might never need them, but there is peace of mind in knowing you’ve got them nearby if you do.
Preppers Reference Library
Buy “How To“ books. Your prepping library should contain books on the basics: Gardening, Animal Husbandry, Basic Electricity, Game Harvesting, Canning, Dehydrating and Food Preservation. Water Treatment, How to Make and Use a Still, Communications (CB, Short Wave, Antennas). I have found that garage sales are a great source for these types of books.
M.D. Creekmore has a CD Rom called The Bullet Proof Survivor that has all of this and more… you can find out more about it by clicking this link…
More books are better than fewer. Identify your skill set(s) and then supplement your weaknesses with written knowledge. Pay heed to using the internet to find the information you need (see Manuals above).
Perimeter Warning for Defense
How do you establish an Intruder early warning system for your base? There is a product on the market named “Voice Alert” (click here to check price and availability on Amazon.com) that will allow you to set up a perimeter defense around your fortress.
It is sold by Amazon and Costco online and through many other retailers. I believe that this product was originally designed to be used in a commercial environment, but it works just as well for what I’m doing with it.
You can read the specific details regarding its specifications and features online. This wireless system has a base station with remote wireless sensors. The base station has the capability to monitor six individual zones of detection. Each zone is monitored by a battery operated wireless sensor (Zone Sensor) that sends an alarm signal to the base station when triggered.
The advertised range is 1000’ (300’ through walls). My home is log construction with 10” thick walls and it works fine. When a Zone Sensor is triggered, the base station identifies the zone and plays an audio warning. You can program what the alarm says in your own voice.
For example; Zone 1 could say “Alert, South side of house” while Zone 2 might say” Warning, Driveway Intrusion”. I’m sure you get the idea. While there are only 6 Zones, the number of sensors you can add to each zone is only limited by your budget (they are a bit expensive).
Two sensors come with the base station to get you started. Each sensor operates by sensing either motion or temperature change, or both. Since the Zone Sensors are not waterproof, I have them mounted inside a small custom wood enclosure that keeps the rain and snow off them while providing an unobstructed sensing path.
I made the enclosures to match the cedar on my home so as to blend in and not be obvious at first glance. The Zone Sensors use a 9 vdc battery and the base station has a 120 vac to 9 vdc transformer.
The current draw under idle situations (most of the time) is so small that a standard deep cycle 12 vdc battery (using a 12vdc to 9vdc converter) would power it for a very long time (weeks) without the need to be recharged.
Add a solar battery charger for the battery and you’re all set. I have 12 exterior sensors (set to IR mode) surrounding my home, garden, and a detached garage. While the initial installation requires a bit of work to get set up, the finished perimeter warning system works great!
There is a simple way to protect your more sensitive electronic devices from the adverse effects of an EMP or other electromagnetic pulse. Consider purchasing a metal storage cabinet (any metal box will also work). I chose a cabinet due to the size and quantity of items I have that need to be protected.
Cabinets are readily available at Office Supply stores and used office equipment dealers, etc. The cabinet you choose should have metal screws or bolts holding the panels together, not plastic snaps.
The cost of a cabinet or box might be a factor when compared to other homegrown Faraday Shield devices but only you can decide if what you’re trying to protect is worth the additional expense!
Grounding the cabinet or box
Attach an insulated wire to the cabinet using a metal bolt or screw. Connect the other end of the wire to a known ground source (metal water pipe, house ground rod, etc. Your storage unit is now a Faraday Shield enclosure and will shunt electromagnetic induced current to ground.
An alternate method of grounding is possible: I strongly suggest that your understanding of basic electrical theory is adequate before grounding the cabinet or container using the following method.
- Buy or find a 120 vac power cord (be sure it is not defective and that the insulation is in good condition) with a standard three prong plug on one end.
- Remove several inches of the outer insulation from the non-plug end of the cord.
- Use a meter verify which of the three wires is connected to the ground pin of the plug (if they are color coded it should be the green one).
- The other two wires (Neutral and Hot) will not be used.
- Verify that the unused wires are not shorted to the ground wire.
- These unused wires must be taped or otherwise shielded with heat shrink to prevent any potential for them to be shorted to the ground wire or cabinet.
- Attach the green wire to the cabinet using a bolt.
- Before proceeding use a meter to measure continuity, verify that the plug ground pin is a short to all of the cabinet’s component parts before proceeding.
- Locate the cabinet near an outlet and plug it in.
- Using your meter, verify that the cabinet is not HOT (voltage on the surface relative to ground). If HOT, do not proceed until this fault condition has been corrected!
- Your GROUNDED cabinet or box is now a Faraday Shield enclosure.
- Be sure that the devices stored in your cabinet or box is further protected by not allowing them to come into contact with the metal of the shelving, etc. Use cardboard, rubber sheeting, plastic boxes or some other non-conductor between the stored goods and the cabinet metal.
Click here for plans on How to Build Your Own Faraday Cage…
Water from a well without electricity
My well is 310 feet deep with a static water level of 280’ in an 8” casing. I wanted a way to draw water from the well that didn’t require a large generator to power the deep well electric pump. Using a “pipe bucket” was one method.
But for that to work, I would have to remove the existing electric pump and 310’ of metal pipe. Finally, I found a solution. It’s the “Simple Pump” https://www.simplepump.com . As its name implies, it is a very simple manual water pump that can be installed and maintained without a lot of special dedicated tools.
The company was somewhat reluctant to specify how much water their pump would deliver from the 290-300 foot depth, but told me it should/would work. I took a chance and had a system installed. It is installed within the original 8” well casing alongside the existing electrical pump pipe and wires.
Now we have dual capabilities to produce potable water. Once primed, the pump produces about a ½ quart of water for each pump of the handle.
Not exactly a gushing flow but it works! The shallower the water source the more water you should get with each pump stroke. Now we have the most important aspect of our prepping in place ready to go if needed! No worrying about a source for potable water, hauling water from a distance, or any power other than a healthy set of arms to work the pump.
The pump supply tube is has a drain hole that allows water to drain back to 7’ (drilled when the last pipe is installed) from the surface preventing a frozen pipe. In our area 7’ is below the frost line so it’ll produce water regardless of what the outside temperature happens to be. No frozen pipe!
Water, Water Everywhere
Once you’ve solved the problem of having fresh water readily available from your well, consider creating a large volume reserve supply. Our “root cellar (as we call our inside insulated storage room) has five 55 gallon water barrels. Not only does this give us a substantial water reserve, but their thermal mass helps to keep the temperature of the room more constant.
We figure that the 275 gallons these barrels hold would last us about 137 days at 1 gallon/person/day. That’s roughly 4 ½ months if used only for drinking! I have several more empty barrels stored away for future use if needed. We add a little chlorine (Clorox) to each barrel to ensure it stays potable. Before winter arrives we empty and refill the barrels for another year of standby.
We’ve also added gutters and water barrels on every possible roof line to take advantage of rainwater. Five of these barrels are close to our garden and on stands that are high enough so that gravity flow can be used to water the garden.
In our northern climate, the outside barrels would freeze during winter so we empty them before cold weather begins. Then, once signs of warmer early spring weather appear, we refill them using our electric well pump. That way they are filled and in reserve if needed.
Read M.D. Creekmore’s detailed article on water by clicking here…
Gardening with Medicine in Mind
Knowing that the availability of drugs will be nil after the SHTF, we decided to add medicinal herb seeds to our supplies. We chose which ones to buy based on the meds I must take, and those we thought would be good to have. These herbs correspond to manufactured drugs and have specific medicinal value beyond the realm of aloe or other common beneficial plants.
After verifying that they would grow in this far northwestern region of the US (our greenhouse allows us to grow plants that would otherwise not survive our northern climate extremes) we purchased the seeds. An excellent online site is: https://www.horizonherbs.com/pilot.asp .
Our seeds are stored in sealed containers. Using the internet we printed out instructions for the preparation and use of each herb (to complement our reference book in our Preppers library) and made sure we bought non-hybrid herbs.
If we are faced with a financial or societal collapse, all exchange of all goods will be by bartering. We have made room in our storage area for barter goods. After much consideration, we decided that grain alcohol (Ever Clear) and pints of Whisky (any cheap brand) were the two best things to have readily available as trade goods.
They are easy to store, don’t go bad over time, and may be used for things other than drinking. If you have a reliable source of potable water (such as our well) you can always use drinking water for bartering if things get that bad.
Clean water will be very valuable and probably scarce. Of course there are many other things that you can reserve specifically for bartering, but why spend a lot of your funds in anticipation that you will need a diversity of goods to trade? After all, everything you have is potentially in your barter bag ……….. It’s all about “needs and wants” that makes a bartering economy work.
Click here to read M.D. Creekmore’s article on barter items for preppers…
Solar Lighting for Inside
There is a great source for very cheap solar lighting that can be used within your home. Solar Powered Walkway lights make a great chandelier! You’d be surprised at how much light a few small walkway lights will put out in a closed area.
Make a frame, drill holes that fit the base of the light (without the extension tube). Install the lights with one set-screw through the side of the frame holding each light in place, and hang it where ever you want a light. Typically these lights have rechargeable batteries that will last for more than a year before needing to be replaced.
When fully charged, these lights will run for 4 -6 hours. Design your holder so you can easily disconnect it and take it outside each day to recharge the lights for that night’s use.
Reduce the variety of batteries you need by using battery adapters. These simple sleeves can be purchased and will allow you to use AA batteries in devices that normally require C or D cells. The AA battery does not have the current output of a larger C or D cell but, if you are using rechargeable AA batteries (with a solar charger), this becomes a non-issue. Check out “Battery Adapters” on Amazon.
Pressure Cooker Still
As I said in an earlier paragraph, buy a book about making and using a Still. There are dozens of them available and will be a valuable addition to your library. You can use a pressure cooker for the main pot to cook the mash.
Get some copper tubing and a compression fitting that will screw into the pressure valve on the lid of the pressure cooker. Connect the tubing to the compression fitting. Make several loops in the tubing to create the condenser and feed the outlet to a jar.
Without a lot of additional parts, you have a very simple basic Still. Pressure cookers are perfect as they are stout, have a fixed overpressure relief valve, are readily adaptable to a condensation tube, and can be used on virtually any source of heat.
Garage sales are a good source for pressure cookers …… buy more than one if you have the chance! Figure out what you need to make your Still operational and get those items while you can.
Cleaning your home & clothes
While cleanliness is always a good thing, it will become even more important in an off-grid situation. Being able to clean yourself, and your clothing is not only a good idea from a psychological standpoint (you’ll feel better if you’re clean) but from a medical standpoint as well. Infections from minor cuts, rashes from toxic natural and man-made substances are easier to manage if the body is clean.
Clean clothes, clean body, and a clean living environment are not only healthy but allow a person to maintain a positive outlook and a good self-image. I have a double deep sink with an old-fashioned double roller all ready to be put into action to clean our clothes.
A manual agitator and old style scrub board are good additions and available from Lehman’s Store or elsewhere. We’ve stored multiple large containers of liquid laundry detergent, bottles of hand cleaner with lanolin (the type used by mechanics to clean their hands of grease), shampoo, and a lot of bar soap.
This stuff keeps forever and doesn’t take up a lot of room. We’ve also purchased several solar heated shower water bags.