It’s time to start prepping. We have put together this guide of all the things you need to know to get started with prepping. This is not a guide for experiences preppers or survivalists. This is specifically designed for beginners.
We’re going to go over the basics. Why do you need to prep? How do you prepare for worst case scenarios? What do you do first? What do you need to know? What supplies do you need to survive?
We’re going to answer all these basic questions you have about prepping in this article.
Keep in mind that prepping is not what you see on TV. Prepping does not mean setting booby traps in your yard, boarding up the doors and windows, and having a bomb shelter in the backyard full of cans of beans (although we are fans of beans). Prepping just means that you are prepared for any eventuality.
Survival Prepping for Beginners: A Guide to The Basics
Anyone who pays attention to history knows how quickly things can unravel. And it seems like no matter which decade it is, the country is always on the brink of some kind of catastrophe. Nuclear war? Economic collapse? All around the world, various countries are going through various crises over and over. The time and place changes, but history repeats itself.
Even in modern times, just think of it – The Great Depression then World War 2, then the Cold War, then about 10 years of relative calm before September 11th. Then the financial crisis, and now a global pandemic and recession rolled into one.
Nobody knows what the next thing is or when it will come. A rise in criminal activities and homelessness, a new war, a food shortage, a water shortage, a natural disaster? Nobody knows!
But you, as a prepper, will be prepared. This is the entire point of being a prepper. And while many people will ask what exactly you’re prepping for, there is really no specific answer. You should ideally be prepared for anything and everything. But this requires a lot of steps and a good amount of work.
Today we will be talking about general survival. This means prepping so that you can survive no matter how brutal the situation in your homeland. Civil unrest, collapse of food supplies, internet crash, new great depression or another Civil War. If the worst that you’re expecting is a bad hurricane or earthquake, those apply to. The whole idea is to prepare for both common and uncommon scenarios.
There are some basic steps you can take to protect yourself from all these situations.
We will break this down to three parts: Preparing Your Home, Preparing for Evacuation, and Preparing Yourself.
Prepping Your Home for “Bugging In”
The first step is to be prepared for an emergency situation where you could be locked in your home for prolonged periods of time. The best example of this is the recent coronavirus disaster, where people all around the globe were locked in their homes for months at a time. For preppers, this was a walk in the park.
You need to have your home prepared for a long live-in situation. While some people may be stocked with food and water for a week or two, you want to be prepared for the worst possible situation. Think about a global pandemic – but one more deadly than the one we’re currently living through. Imagine a virus where just leaving your house opens you up to the possibility of death – because it spreads so quickly and is so deadly. You need to prepare your home or your survival space for at least 6 months of hunkering down (a year is even better).
This means food, entertainment, supplies, medicine, water, and essentials. The first step to prepping is to have your space fully prepared for survival. A lot of this will depend on your type of property. Unfortunately, those living in apartment buildings, modular homes, or even renting spaces in someone else’s home are going to have a tough time of this. You can only stock so much food and water inside an apartment. And to be honest, an apartment building is not a great place to be when it comes to survival. Too many people (people are one of the biggest threat vectors in a survival situation), too little space, and too much vulnerability.
How to Prep: Things to Stockpile
For the sake of this article, we are going to assume you have a bit of room to stock up supplies. Non-perishable food items are a must. Forget comfort food and taste. This is about survival. You would be surprised how much food you can actually fit just underneath your bed. Crackers, granola bars, dried fruit, canned meats (tuna, salmon, turkey, chicken), canned vegetables (beans, carrots, peas), and trail mix are all great. See our list of survival foods to stockpile for a clearer picture of what you should get. Even in a small apartment, stockpile a solid amount of these foods, ideally enough to last 6 months to a year if possible.
Water doesn’t go bad provided it’s stored correctly. Stockpile gallons of water, enough that you can drink half a liter a day. If you’re surviving indoors, you won’t be sweating or getting dehydrated, which is good. It’s still important to stockpile water. Make sure you know how to safely store water long term – some containers (typical plastic bottles you find in convenience stores) leak chemicals into the water over time. When things get hairy, fill the tub, the sink, and all your pots.
It’s doubtful that you’ll get seriously injured inside your home or survival shelter, but nonetheless you should keep a few survival first aid kits or at least a surplus of first aid supplies. Also, you should know how to use them. Have an understanding of basic first aid, just in case. You should also have a general assortment of medication. Prescription stuff is difficult (and illegal) to get your hands on, but there are plenty of reasonably effective over the counter drugs that could come in handy. This won’t take up much space and it doesn’t cost much money. It’s also worth having a small stockpile of vitamins so that you get the required nutrients when in lockdown, but this is less of a priority.
Clothing is extremely important, for the simple reason that the heat could be shut off. You should have enough blankets in your house to stay warm even if it gets below freezing. You should also have jackets on hand, some spare shoes, lots of socks, and a general variety of different clothes. Hats, bandanas, gas masks, and other accessories can also come in handy if you need to venture outside.
If you have a lot of property, invest time in growing a survival garden. Also, if you want to best prepare yourself, it’s worth it to invest in some livestock and learn how to care for them (chickens are pretty straightforward). Install solar panels to keep your electricity running. Be self-sufficient as much as possible. Have your main survival area inside your house and a secondary survival shelter in a discreet underground cellar or outdoor shed if you have the space and the budget for a secondary survival area.
The final thing to stock up on is going to be stuff that will be useful (but not strictly required to survive). Things like flashlights, candles, copies of your important documents, survival gear, tools, weapons, ammunition, maps, a water filtration system, a radio, walkie talkies, hygiene products, razors, condoms (if need be), entertainment supplies (books, puzzles, cards, portable electronics + solar chargers). You don’t “need” any of these things to survive – all you need is air to breathe, shelter and warmth, and food and water… but the items listed above will go a long way towards making your life easier and therefore improving your chances of surviving.
At the end of the day, you will know better than anyone the things you need inside your survival shelter to live for a prolonged period of time. Just don’t forget the basics: food, water, weapons, clothing, medicine.
“Doomsday”: Prepping to “Bug Out” and Evacuate
The hardest part is over. Now you have a safe place to hunker down in with lots of food, lots of water, and all the tools and gear you’ll need to make your life easier if you need to stay in “lockdown” mode for months. This is the most important part to being a prepper.
But what if you need to evacuate?
Once your home/survival shelter is prepared, you should have a system for getting from wherever you might be (like at work) to your house so that you can lock that door and hunker down when you need to. You should have a plan that revolves around you, your family, and whichever friends you will allow into your shelter.
For example, you should have an escape plan from your work or other outside location where much of your time is spent. This means you need a “get home bag” with you at all times. Even if you work in an office, have a backpack full of stuff that will help get you home safely.
We have a pretty in depth article about what should go into your get home bag, but at a basic level this could include: something to make fire (matches + lighter), a survival blanket, a quality blade, basic first aid items, a radio, a spare smartphone w/ portable charger, a flashlight, cordage, a self defense weapon of some sort, and a small bit of food to last a few days. Your get home bag could mean the difference between managing to find your way home alive or being overrun in the chaos of whatever is happening.
You need a predetermined route to take from your place of work to your home already memorized and practiced. If you have family, a wife and/or kids, they should be included into the plan. Everyone should have a meeting point so that you can move swiftly to their locations, pick them up, then to your survival location. Whatever your specific situation is, work it out with your family members and make sure everyone knows what to do to get home safe. Basically, you need a family survival plan that will get you all home and in one piece.
The other kind of evacuation to think about is one where you aren’t going home because it’s not safe. Regardless of where your starting point is (office, or school, or your home) – in some cases, your home might no longer be safe due to a disaster. One common example of this is in a hurricane where mass evacuations are ordered because a large amount of damage is expected in a specific area. So you need a plan for this kind of evacuation as well.
Planning Your Exit Strategy in Advance
Something catastrophic could happen in which there is no chance of you getting home. In this case, hopefully you have your vehicle and your escape plan already set. You should always have a plan on how to get out of the city when things go down, and where you will hide once out of the city. Scout a place beforehand and memorize the route there. As always, include your family and their special parameters into your plan. This plan needs to be equally effective whether you’re evacuating from a super-storm or you’re fleeing martial law.
As a sensible prepper, ideally you want a big vehicle with lots of space. At least some portion of your vehicle should be dedicated to food supplies. In the same way you stockpile food and water and other supplies in your home, you want to do this in your vehicle. That way if you need to leave straight from work or from your house to get out of the city to your secret pre planned location, you only need to get in your car and drive. Basically, you’re going to need what we call a bug out bag in your vehicle. You can learn more about bug out bags here.
Preparing Yourself: Skills for Beginner Preppers
Now that you have prepared yourself for the worst, it’s time to start your training. Your home has been transformed into a survival shelter in which you and your chosen survivors can thrive for six months or even up to a year. You have an escape route out of the city from all your most popular points, and you have a bug-out bag prepared and with you at all times which is in turn loaded with enough food and water. Plus you have a enough extra fuel to get you somewhere very far away if needed. Now it’s time to learn.
Believe it or not, preparing your mind for survival situations is the hardest and most time consuming part of becoming a prepper. You can continue learning survival skills your entire life and still not know everything about survival. Anybody can stock their house with food and supplies, fortify their property against bandits, and plan an escape route from work into the wilderness. But not everyone can learn the knowledge required to survive in difficult conditions.
Here we will break down the most important skills to learn. Health, food, self-defense, and survival itself.
First Aid/Medical Skills
First aid is super important in any survival situation. To stay alive in a new, harsher world (one without doctors or nurses) it’s important that you learn how to stitch yourself back together if it becomes necessary. Without emergency services, paramedics, or nurses, your health is up to you.
Do yourself a favor and learn some basic first aid at minimum. Learn how to properly bandage wounds, how to sterilize, how to stitch, how to save someone else’s life using CPR, and other useful skills. By having a basic knowledge of first aid, you will not only save your own life, but you can help others as well – and the “others” who need help might end up being members of your family.
Then there’s your own health. If you really want to be a survivor, you need to have a healthy body. Cars might not be available, so you might need to travel long distances on foot. Both fight and flight responses require a high level of physical fitness to be successful. Try to stay fit by working out/training regularly and eating a reasonably healthy diet. Most experienced survivalists fall into the “lean and mean” category when it comes to body type, not overly muscular, certainly not overweight, just wiry and tough as beef jerky.
It’s also worth learning a handful of home remedies for simple illnesses, such as ways to deal with a possible lack of nutrients, stomach trouble, possible infections, colds, and and other “everyday” health issues – remember, no pharmacy means no allergy relief, no painkillers, no sleeping pills, and so forth. You’re going to have to find alternatives to any OTC or prescription medicines you use.
You don’t need to be a chef, but to survive you definitely need to be able to cook. More specifically, you need to know how to approach survival cooking. You can probably boil an egg and make pancakes and bacon, but what do you know about the various methods of cooking over a fire? What do you know about preserving foods?
Once food becomes scarce and stores and shops are all gone, the only food is going to be what you can forage and what you can catch for yourself.
You will need to learn the basics of preparing raw animals. Deer, squirrel, bird, fish, and even big insects and snakes can all make a healthy and nutritious meal. But you must learn how to properly prepare and cook it. Talk to some hunter friends and get their advice, watch online tutorials, and spend a few weekends out in the woods practicing. It’s better to get sick now on your poorly cooked meat than later when your survival depends on it.
You will also need to learn about food preservation. Once you have all this meat, you will want to save it for later. You can’t eat everything off a deer in two days. Learn and practice how to preserve food so that you can not only prep better, but so that you can survive realistically when the food runs out. Knowing how to preserve vegetables is also important. To the extent that you manage to forage wild plants to eat, you’ll want to make the most of them by extending their edible lives as long as possible.
Lastly, learn how to forage. Take a wildlife course and learn which local plants are edible and which are poisonous. Learn what you can eat, what season it becomes ripe, and how to prepare teas and soups using organic materials found in your local forests. This will keep you alive and keep you busy later on.
There are bad people out there. And if you want to be prepared for a total collapse, you’ve got to be realistic – in such a scenario, crime will only go up. In a world without rules, you think the people who are criminals now would have any hesitation in performing even more heinous, harmful ‘crimes’?. To defend against these kinds of people who aren’t held back by ethics or morals of any kind, it’s important to learn how to protect yourself. If you can get your hands on firearms, you should have them, store them safely and responsibly, and know how to use them. You should also have other self defense weapons as a backup. But you should never have weapons in your house that you don’t know how to use, so a certain amount of learning is involved here as well.
Spend some weekends at the range learning how to shoot, and learn all there is to know about maintaining, firing, and cleaning your firearms (we have an article about the different parts of a gun, or “gun anatomy” elsewhere on this site.. It also wouldn’t hurt to take an actual self-defense class to learn the effective methods to protect yourself in hand-to-hand combat.
Beginner Prepper Tip: Wilderness & Urban Skills Both Matter
Things escalate. Even as a prepared survivalist with a shelter stocked full of food, medicine, water, and everything else you need, the situation could still escalate. You could be driven from your home, you could run out of food eventually, or you could be blocked from your home when it all starts and be forced into the wilderness.
Whatever the case, you need to invest time in both wilderness survival and urban survival – both sets of skills need to be sharp. Staying in an urban area means potentially more access to food, medicine, and so forth – on the other hand, it’ll be much safer in the forest if there’s a deadly virus or civil mayhem. Because of this, you need your survival skills to be impeccable. Becoming a prepper is all about learning about both wilderness and urban survival skills, and the best way to learn these survival skills is by practicing them when you get the chance.
You should learn how to navigate (even without a compass), how to start a fire without matches or a lighter, how to forage for food, and how to signal an SOS (in a lost situation). You can learn how to build a shelter in the wild, how to find water, how to trap animals, how to track, and so much more. We highly recommend signing up for wilderness survival training with an expert if you have the time and resources. This kind of hands on experience with a “pro” survivalist will fast-track your learning.
Then there is urban survival. You will need to learn how to mend your own clothing, repair mechanical systems, tinker with your car’s engine, siphon fuel, how to barter, how to be a “gray man” and blend in, how to harvest rainwater, and so forth. The list goes on.
To prep for survival, prepare your home, prepare to evacuate, and prepare yourself.