How to Begin Prepping | by Pete Orndorff
So you think you should learn how to begin prepping for potential emergencies, you look online, check out social media, and browse some websites. And you go into sensory overload. Lists here lists there, got to have this to survive the coming apocalypse, have to have this other thing to make your life in the woods bearable. You’re wondering what you have gotten yourself into. All this stuff and the expense. But hold on.
You don’t need all the stuff.
You need food and water. And any medications you are on. But guess what, you have everything else already, most likely.
Everyday items you already own can be used in a pinch; they may not be thought of as “survival tools,” but they will work. You’ve been using them for months or years already, why should they suddenly become obsolete when an emergency happens? So, take a walk around your home and garage. What kind of stuff can you use in a pinch, not as a hack, but as the product was meant to be used as? Those everyday items you don’t really think about will help you get through those emergencies that pop up.
Do you need a $300 bush crafting knife, or even a $30 one? Look in your drawer or knife block; you have knives already. Are they perfect, nope, but will they work in a pinch, yep. Will they hold up over a long period of time? It all depends on how you treat them, use them, and maintain them. For the average person, they will last quite some time. Grandpa’s 55-year-old Buck knife he gave you on your 16th birthday that you tucked away in your drawer, yep, it’s still there, sharpen it up and put it to work. You don’t need to depend on purpose made items to get you through a scrap, specialty knives included.
OMG, how will you start a fire without six months of dryer lint and petroleum jelly? Or a Ferro rod or the knowledge of how to make and use a bow drill? You will. You probably have matches or even a couple of lighters stored away somewhere. Many will argue you need a specific skill to make fire. Yes, you should eventually learn how to do it without modern tools, but a good old lighter or match will work. And for a little extra tip here, maintaining a fire is as important as getting one started, if you can maintain a steady burn and use your coals correctly, you may not have to light it again for days or weeks. So, round up those matches and lighters and get them organized.
Is a lightweight backpacking cook set absolutely needed for your survival, not in my book? You have pots and pans. Are they big and bulky? Yep. Will they work? Also yep. Start a fire wherever you can—inside a grill, in your landscaping using some blocks, out in the middle of the driveway (be careful with asphalt). Remember, this is for survival; it does not have to be pretty to work. Grab a rack from your oven. Use over the flame or preferably the coals, once the fire dies down and get to cooking some of that now defrosted meat you have plenty of at the moment. Call the neighbors over to the house; make it a good time in the middle of a crappy one. YOU do not need the latest ultra-lightweight cook set. You have just what you need already.
Bug Out Bag
The most talked-about item or tool, the one pushed aggressively on just about every survival/prepper group, page or website is the BOB or Bug Out Bag. Should it be a top priority for your well-being and safety? Not really. You don’t need a fancy BOB, filled to the brim with survival gear first thing. Why not? Well, I look at it this way, have I ever needed one yet, in my entire life? I have not, and most likely, neither have 99% of people. I’m not including professionals here, those who have to leave on short notice for their profession. What about the regular everyday Joe and Jane Doe? You probably have a suitcase, a duffle bag, or an empty backpack lying around. So, use it. There are very few reasons why you would need to take off in mere seconds from your home. And unless your BOB is by the door or in your car, you’d probably forget it anyway. So, right now, make a mental list of items you’d need to take off for a couple of days. Think along the lines of a three-day weekend at a hotel. You probably don’t need to include a bathing suit, but if you want to, go ahead. What about those survival items pushed by survival gear sites—the water purifier, fishing kit, shelter, and 550 cord? Are you going to need them, right now, next week, next month? Probably not. Should you get them at a later date? When all the stuff you have been bombarded with for the last couple of weeks dies down, sure. But take your time; get the right items for you and your potential situation. Next, there’s one more tip about bags. Gather your items together and measure them. Get a cubic inch amount and go look for a bag just a little bit larger than that figure. Do not buy a bag and fill it. You will end up with lots of stuff you won’t need. And make that bag the right tool for you at the right time. So forget about rushing out and buying all the best survival equipment money can buy, just to toss it in the corner.
Free First Aid Kit
A first aid kit or even a partial trauma bag is something you should have, but like most of the items already mentioned, you probably have quite a bit of the content of one already on hand. The items just may be spread out all over—from the hall closet to the bathroom drawers and cabinets or even the car. So, collect together what you have, take stock of it, try to get it all into one space or two (you should have something in the car). Then go out and get what you are missing. As far as training, this is one area you should not skimp on. Find a basic First Aid class in your area, learn CPR, or do some of it online, but do get the basics. Collect up those first aid items and put a little kit together. And learn how to use those items properly.
As you discuss with others what life might be like following a breakdown of society, you will undoubtedly hear about the possibility of having to barter items. Forget about that for now. No one understands bartering really, they are guessing for the most part. It would make no sense for you to stockpile items to trade to a stranger at a later date when you don’t even have the basics for yourself covered. It’s just a bad idea. So put away the idea of stockpiling goods to barter, possibly forever.
Instead, slow down, take your time, and figure out what to have on hand to make any situation EASIER on you and yours. Figure out the most likely scenarios you’d face. And here’s a hint, it isn’t war, famine or governmental collapse. Think real life, not fantasy. Stuff that happens every day by those around us. Things like loss of a job, long-term illness, a house fire, or adverse weather. BUT, if you prepare for job loss, power outages, and potential loss of your home, guess what, you are significantly better prepared for those fantasy situations we all discuss, or pretty damn close. So relax, take a breath, and don’t lose sleep over worrying about tomorrow.
Now, let’s look at what you do need: food and water. Some general rules of thumb are used here. You can only live 30 days without food, three days without water, and 3 minutes without oxygen. We aren’t worried about oxygen at this time, but 30 days without food isn’t living to me. Probably halfway through that or even sooner, you’d be a hurting unit. Don’t test it. Three days without water, the same thing. Now to set this straight, by water, they mean liquids that replenish the body. I don’t drink much “water,” drinking instead milk, juices, pop (yes, I know), and a few other things. Alcohol can count somewhat, but it’s best not to use that for all the bad it can do to you in a time of stress, lack of nutrition, and the like. And it does have a dehydrating effect on the body as well. You can also get those liquids from the foods you eat. Is it enough, doubtful, that’s why the cup was invented. The biggest concern you should have is food and water; all others won’t matter if you aren’t eating or drinking.
Now, what are the foods you should store? Ideally, you should be storing the foods you eat every day. You are used to them, you like them, and your body won’t go, “Whoa, wait a minute, what is this crap you are feeding me.” And it won’t decide to shut you down or accelerate the expulsion of your bodily waste. Both of which are very important, not only in your daily life but especially during times of high stress and the unknown. Do you need “survival food”? No, not really. It might be light and premade, but it’s also expensive, high in sodium for the most part, and low in calories. And unless you eat them occasionally, thus taking away from your precious survival stash, your body will probably revolt against you once you do start eating them. And if you do, eat them regularly, you are spending lots of money to replace that stock. So the best recommendation for your primary food storage is the basic everyday items you already consume. Stock what you eat.
There is one problem with this premise of storing what you eat. Americans like a lot of readymade food, stuff from the freezer usually. If your diet revolves around frozen pizza and microwaveable “TV dinners,” you are giving yourself a few extra steps to maintain that lifestyle, albeit for a short time, before you run out. You’ll need power. Thawed out pizza doesn’t last very long, and neither do the other entrée type things. They aren’t made to last, but instead, they are made to be frozen right up until cooking time. Canned and dry goods are the best bet for maintaining a regular diet and are easy to store. Soups, stews, pasta and sauces, vegetables, fruit, and condiments are in a lot of people’s diets. And they are just sitting there on the shelf to purchase. Plus, they have pretty good shelf lives, most around the 2-year mark. And canned meats, vegetables, and sauces give you a good mix for variety. You can make multiple tasty meals from the same ingredients if you use different spice blends. So that means along with your food, you should have a tasty variety of spices. It will help with not getting bored with the same food over and over. So get away from that readymade frozen food and get some shelf-stable canned and dry goods in your cupboards and pantry.
Now, does this mean you absolutely shouldn’t buy all that specialty survival equipment? If you feel the threats to you are minimal, then sure, the stuff you already have on hand should get you through what you may face. If the threats you are preparing for could potentially last a long time or push you to the limits, then you should eventually start adding more specialized tools, built to be used more aggressively and for long periods of time. But take your time, look around, choose wisely, and really think about whether you need one item over another. Look at quality gear, the expense may be an issue, but remember, you already have that item covered, you just want something now that is a bit more rugged. Build those kits for you and your family based on your skillset and their abilities. Get the right equipment for you.
Prepare for you. Only you know your needs, wants, and desires. Help others by keeping your cool and by helping them maintain theirs. Stuff is stuff, stuff is cool, and I like stuff. But make sure you have plenty of the basics before you go crazy on the others.
Food and water are the only stockpiled items you need to work on currently.
And go from there.
Never forget, you’re just one prep away.
If you have any other thoughts or questions about how to begin prepping, please leave a comment below.
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