How to Start Prepping: Prepping for Beginners

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A lot of people wonder how to start prepping. And, as any experienced prepper will agree, the first step to prepping is deciding to prepare. Once you decide, it’s time to start your journey of getting prepared for whatever life might throw at you.

While preparing for everything is challenging, certain steps will help you get ready if disaster strikes. And, it’s getting started prepping that will make you feel more safe, confident, and self-reliant so that you can better protect yourself and your loved ones when it matters most!

With that, let’s get into this article on how to start prepping.

What Do I Need to Know About How to Start Prepping?

Understanding the Fundamentals Preparedness

Building a more prepared life is like building a home. Every home that is built to withstand the test of time and Mother Nature is constructed on a solid foundation.

The Fundamentals of Preparedness

The Fundamentals of Preparedness are:

  • Mindset
  • Situational Awareness
  • Survival
  • Safety
  • Self


The first thing you need when starting is a good mindset.

A positive mindset, which is the foundation of survival, is crucial because it helps you think more clearly and make better decisions.

As a result, a good preparedness mindset will also enable you to make better decisions and stay calm and level-headed when things get tough.

This is especially true in a crisis, where having a good mindset may be the difference between life and death.

Situational Awareness

Situational awareness is the act of understanding your relationship with your surroundings, which I call your personal environment.

While situational awareness is essential for everyone, it is a requirement for people who plan to spend time in potentially dangerous environments. And, if you’ve made it this far, you’re probably planning on possibly encountering hazardous situations. So, tag you’re it, and you need to do your best to get your situational awareness locked in.

That’s important because the information we take in from our personal environment is used to feed our decision-making process, which results in the actions we take.

Therefore, to maximize our opportunities, we must do our best to be aware of what is happening in our environments. When we do, we will be better able to make more effective decisions that result in more beneficial actions.


Survival is where we address all of the things that can kill us.

When it comes to survival, I remember and prioritize the various things that can kill us, humans, through my variation of the Survival Rule of 3s. My variation is The Survival Pyramid.

How to Start Prepping – The Survival Pyramid

The survival pyramid provides a hierarchy of what can kill us first based on the time we go without it. For example, as the foundation of preparedness, a good mindset will lead to good preparedness.

Similarly, a bad mindset leads to poor preparedness, making achieving the preparedness goals more complicated than necessary to succeed.

The goals of preparedness:

  1. Survival
  2. To minimize unwanted struggle.

Following mindset, poor situational awareness minimizes your ability to respond to opportunities and risks effectively. After all, if you don’t see an opportunity or risk coming, you can maximize or minimize the impact will not be as effective as possible.


Next, the remainder of the survival pyramid focuses on our bodies maintaining homeostasis.

Homeostasis is our body’s need to maintain a relatively constant state. In other words, our bodies need a continuous and fairly specific amount of oxygen to survive.

Likewise, we must maintain a somewhat constant temperature to run optimally. We must also keep our hydration and nutrient levels set to live effectively.

For example, the human body holds about three minutes of life-sustaining oxygen to keep our brains alive. Suppose the average person goes longer than three minutes without air. In that case, they will begin to suffer irreversible brain damage and eventually death.

With our oxygen needs met, we must next meet our shelter needs. Without the protection of adequate shelter, we run the risk of struggling and perishing from environmental exposure. Examples of environmental hazards that can kill a human in under three hours include threats such as severe weather, fire, and flood, along with animals and insects.

Next, we must account for our sleep and hydration needs. That’s because, without water, we’ll become dehydrated, degrade, and can die within three days.

Likewise, lack of sleep can lead to poor situational awareness and hallucinations within 72-hours. In the end, sleep matters when life and death decisions hang in the balance.

We also can not survive very long without food. Some people have gone two months without food. However, our effectiveness will quickly degrade without taking in the nutrients and energy that food provides and will likely result in death within a few weeks.

Lastly is society. We need society. Society includes the people who help us overcome problems, such as friends, doctors, and others. Without society, a person is on their own.

And, without support, there is no one to help build the shelter. There is no one to rely on when illness or injury happens.


With our survival needs met, we can focus on other needs that help make ourselves secure. Safety is when we can focus on the second goal of preparedness, struggling less.

It’s during safety where we focus on making a secure and more comfortable home. Likewise, we work to keep our loved ones safe. It’s also where we work for financial security and care for our health and fitness needs.

Safety is the phase when we do most of what we do as preppers. Safety happens after we’ve done our best to meet our survival needs.


The last of the fundamentals of preparedness is self. Self is when we can work and focus on ourselves and what makes us feel good.

Self includes establishing and nurturing relationships. It also includes doing what we do to feel good about ourselves. And, self is where we work on becoming better versions of ourselves.

What to Prep For

Now that we understand the hierarchy of preparedness fundamentals let’s talk about what to prep for.


We prepare for two types of disasters. The disasters we prepare for are micro and macro disasters.

Micro disasters are situations that an individual or family unit can deal with. These disasters impact everyday life.

Micro disasters can appear as vehicle problems, job loss, and illness. Micro disasters comprise the vast majority and are the most common type of disaster.

Macro disasters are situations that exceed an individual or family unit’s capacity to overcome effectively. These disasters typically require the assistance of private and governmental organizations to overcome.

Macro disasters can include disruptions to the power grid, financial collapse, civil disobedience, food shortages, large-scale natural disasters, and any number of other calamities.

SHTF Events

SHTF stands for: “Shit Hits the Fan.”

An SHTF event is a macro disaster that exceeds the capacity of EVERYONE to respond to. Examples of SHTF events include Hurricane Katrina and the 2004 Indian Ocean Tsunami.

Because these events exceed the capability of individual, family, and community response efforts, the people impacted should expect to be on their own.

As a result, this is why the most basic unit of disaster response, you, the individual, is so important.

In the end, because the potential for an SHTF event exists, the possibility also exists that you may find yourself on your own during a disaster. 

Therefore, the only person you can rely on during a disaster is you. And, as a result, any help you receive during a disaster should be considered a luxury and not counted on.

What to Prepare For

Survival Needs

Survival needs encompass everything we need to survive in the moment. Surviving in the moment means taking the actions necessary to avoid a situation that ends your self-defense ability.

Whether it’s massive trauma or something else that ends the ability for self-defense, we must avoid IT at all costs.

After all, taking proactive actions on one’s behalf is needed to ensure survival. Without that, our survival is in question.

Survival Skills

Everyone needs to know the survival skills to make it past the next hurdle for our survival.

As a result, we must have the ability to self-advocate and for self-defense or, if we’re in a struggle, we’re coming up short.

Everyday Carry (EDC)

We accentuate our skills by carrying the tools necessary to maximize our ability. Therefore, it’s essential to think about what you carry with you every day. Everyday carry is a vital preparedness consideration.

Whether you just carry a few things in your pockets or mini survival kits, having the needed tools is a bright idea.

When it comes to my emergency kit, some of the things I carry on me are:

  1. Knife
  2. Lighter
  3. Small flashlight
  4. Glasses

First Aid Kit

I may carry a small individual first aid kit with me, depending on what I’m doing. It is crucial to have the ability to render first aid, especially when it comes to life-threatening injuries, such as massive bleeding.

First Aid Training

Massive bleeding impeds oxygen flow to the brain and can kill within minutes. Likewise, respiratory and cardiac arrest can stop oxygen flow and kill quickly.

With that, attending training and knowing how to stop massive bleeding and perform CPR is crucial for any genuinely preparedness-minded person.

Some low-cost training courses you should consider are:


Exposure to nature can kill us within hours. Therefore, the ability to find or create an improvised shelter should be at the forefront in people’s preparedness-minds.

Yes, severe weather such as hypothermia can kill within hours. However, insects and animals can also be deadly and debilitating.

So, always consider options to protect yourself from the outside world.

As shelter focuses on protecting oneself from nature, the ability to create a heat source is also essential. Therefore, carrying fire starters such as a small lighter is always necessary.


So, we can only go for three days without water. I know in my case, if it’s warm and I’m active, I can’t make it a day without water before I begin feeling the effects.

If you want detailed information on your daily water requirements, I have this article on calculating your daily water consumption needs. And I go with a simple rule of one gallon of drinking water per person each day.

When it comes to water storage, if I have the space, I prefer my water supply to consist of cases of bottled water. Basing the foundation of my water supply on cases of bottled water allows me to store water that is easily stackable and moveable should the need happen.

If you store water in reusable containers, make sure you sanitize them properly and keep an eye on your water storage. In the end, water gone bad does you no good.


Sleep is one of the most important things we can do for our health and survival. It’s also something that many people don’t get enough of.

Lack of sleep can lead to depression, anxiety, and health problems. Even worse, three days without sleep will result in poor decision-making and possibly hallucinations.

The fact is that an extended lack of sleep, especially in survival situations, can prove deadly.

Due to the deadly nature of sleep loss, you must account for it in your preparedness planning. And no, planning to sleep may not be glamorous or fun, but it is necessary.


As disasters such as the Texas Ice Storm and Power Outage point out, everyone should have extra food stores on hand. Unfortunately, many people’s idea of a food supply is not enough.

The unfortunate reality is that modern conveniences such as making a trip to the grocery store may not last through a natural disaster. Therefore, having more than a few days of food is mandatory for anyone genuinely concerned with their readiness.

I believe a foundation of at least two weeks of food is reasonable to begin prepping. While I wouldn’t call a two-week food supply an emergency food stockpile, it provides a person with enough food to get past almost every recent disaster.

In the end, two weeks of food offers a great buffer against lean times.

Food Storage

Having your own food storage stocked up with costly freeze-dried food and dehydrated foods isn’t necessary. Instead, focus on getting your 20 cans taken care of.

You can start your emergency food of by purchasing 20 cans of:

  1. Vegetables
  2. Canned meats
  3. Fruit
  4. Other canned food items
  5. 20 pounds of rice

Make sure you get what you like to eat when you buy food. Also, don’t forget to have a reliable can opener stashed away as well.

Finally, I always make sure I have an extra means of cooking available. So, include a small camping stove or something if my electric or natural gas stove isn’t usable.

Lastly, if you lose power, make sure to cook any refrigerated and frozen foods before they go bad. Eating food that may go bad will extend the life of your canned foods.

Don’t forget, canned goods go bad, so make sure you rotate new cans in and use or donate the old ones before they expire.

Safety Needs

With your success in meeting your basic survival pyramid needs, it’s time to make sure we not only survive but thrive.

Again, safety is where we expand upon our basic survival needs to make ourselves more secure, more comfortable, and better able to face any adversity that comes our way.

We expand upon our basic survival needs by focusing on the areas of preparedness. It’s the areas of preparedness that, together, build upon our survival requirements, rounding out our safety needs.

How to Start Prepping in the Areas of Preparedness

Mindset and Fundamentals

Mindset and fundamentals are the foundation of everything to do with preparedness.

Fortunately, improving one’s self-reliance and emergency preparedness mindset is 100% free and is precisely what most people need.

The fact is people who focus on continually refining their mindset can make steady progress toward eliminating the same mistakes that those who don’t focus on mindset and fundamentals make.

So, if you want to level up your emergency prepping and you’re on a tight budget, don’t worry.

Instead, focus on how you think, and you’ll be one emergency prep closer to serving and thriving today than you were yesterday.

Current Events and Information

As the past few years show us, staying current on the latest events and information is critical for any preparedness-minded person who hopes to be on top of their game.

While it’s not the end of the world, normal life doesn’t seem so ordinary anymore. Because of that, many people realize the need to find quality information.

Health and Fitness

Health and fitness is the next area of preparedness that demands your attention.

That’s because without being as healthy and fit as possible, you’re capability to maximize your chances of surviving and enduring less unwanted struggle is reduced.

With that, I know many people have physical limitations, and that’s okay. Unfortunately, old age and circumstances, in the end, are unavoidable and impact all of us.

The point is, we all can not have the physical ability of a mid-20’s athletic stud. However, we all can be as capable as possible, given our set of circumstances.

So, do your best and plan for your shortcomings, and that’s all anyone can ask for.

One health and fitness preparedness area that many ignore is regular check-ups with their doctor. This is often especially true when people know they have an issue.

And, while some people don’t have the means to visit their health care professional regularly. However, if you have health insurance, you should be using it.

Medical Supplies

I place medical supplies under the health and fitness area of preparedness to ensure I’m ready to deal with any medical issues.

With that, some supplies I feel everyone should have on hand are:

  • A supply of prescription medications
  • Over the counter medications that you use regularly
  • Vitamins
  • Band-aids
  • Alcohol, hand sanitizer, and hydrogen peroxide
  • Colloidal silver
  • Blood pressure cuff, pulse oximeter, and other diagnostic equipment
  • Ace wraps and other supplies that are sports injury related
  • Cardboard or other improvised splinting materials
  • Baby wipes for keeping clean when water is limited

Personal Protection

As discussed, personal protection and self-defense keep us alive long enough to meet our other fundamentals of preparedness needs.

The ability to protect oneself as much as possible is essential. Therefore, we all should do what we can to learn personal protection strategies and skills.

Gear and Clothing

Gear and clothing are one area in which most preppers thrive! Our reality is one that we LOVE gear.

The fact is that gear and clothing are significant force multipliers for our fundamentals of preparedness. The right gear can help us defend against predators and assailants. 

Likewise, proper clothing helps with our everyday carry and provides shelter against the elements. 

So, whether it’s a flashlight, new Morakniv Knife, or extra fluffy toilet paper, gear is something we usually go all-in on.

First, when it comes to gear and starting on your preparedness journey, you may already have a lot of what you need. So, don’t go out and break the bank or stress that you’re coming up short.

Here’s an article on how to start prepping with what you already have to get help jump-start your preparedness.

Shelter and Environment

Shelter and environment is the next area of preparedness to consider. That’s because shelter not only provides physical protection but it also provides peace of mind.

Whether your emergency shelter is a poncho bungee-corded between trees, a debris hut, or your fortified home, shelter both protects and helps us feel more safe, secure, and confident.

Food & Water

I’ve already discussed what you can do to get your food and water set. With that, your emergency supplies of food and water must be well maintained, easily accessible, and not obvious to others.

While it may sound paranoid, food and water are essential survival commodities. And, unfortunately, during times of need, others who did not plan as well as you may become desperate enough that they are willing to take what is yours.

So, do your best to be the gray man. The gray man is the person who looks unassuming, who blends in, and who doesn’t become the focus of others.

The gray man doesn’t advertise what they have or how prepared they are.

Energy & Technology

Energy and technology cover the areas of preparedness we need to keep us powered up, in touch, and on top of the technological heap.

Powering our electronics, communications, fires for cooking, and keeping our cars running all fall under energy and much of it under technology.

One of technology’s significant advantages is in the area of information. That’s because whether it’s learning how to use ham radio or simply understanding how to gain knowledge from podcasts, energy and technology are super important.

On that note, I am a fan of survival podcasts when it comes to gathering the latest information. They’re free and flexible, meaning you can listen to them whenever and wherever you want. 

With that, I wrote this post on the best survival podcasts that walk you through many of the top prepping and survival podcasts. It also explains some of the tech involved.  

And, don’t worry if you haven’t quite figured out what podcasts are or how to use them. That’s because I’ve created a 100% free course for those new to the world of survival podcasts.

Just click on this button, and you’ll be off and running in the world of podcasts:

Free Course Button

Family & Finance

Next, we’re at one of the personally most essential areas of preparedness: family and finance.

After all, most of us place the protection of our family members and loved ones above all else. And, as I’ve shown here, the fundamentals of preparedness dictate that to maximize our family’s chances of survival, we must first address other survival needs.

The reality of disasters is that if we don’t first protect ourselves, we may not be around to protect others, including another family member. I cover this concept of why your safety ALWAYS comes first in my article and podcast episode on Safety Third.

One aspect of caring for ourselves, family, and friends is financial. And, when it comes to financial preparedness, while we hope it doesn’t happen, we must prepare for challenging economic times.

The past, such as the great depression, has shown that financial collapse can happen without much warning. Therefore, to protect against economic collapse, we should do our best not to go into debt, save money, and work within a preparedness budget.

That doesn’t mean we have to put money into a low-interest savings account. However, it means we should be responsible for our money.

When focusing on your finances, it’s a good idea to remember that our society hasn’t ended and isn’t likely to end anytime soon. As such, getting into debt and going broke to prepare for something that may not happen is not a good idea.

So, when it comes to finances, be smart, responsible, and do not let fear of an uncertain future wreck your present day.

SHTF & Disasters

Now that we have our areas of preparedness taken care of for our day-to-day needs, it’s time to focus on one of the things preppers love to learn about and plan for. It’s time to focus on SHTF events and disasters.

SHTF events and disasters include those unleashed by Mother Nature and the destruction unleashed by humans, such as nuclear war.

When it comes to SHTF events, it’s good always to consider that just because something hasn’t happened, that it won’t happen. Therefore, everything is on the table when planning for SHTF events and major disasters.

SHTF events include:

  • Electromagnetic pulse (EMP) attacks
  • Coronal mass ejections (CME).
  • Pandemics with high lethality.
  • Anything else that can disrupt or destroy society.

It’s essential to know and reinforce that emergency services may be non-existent or non-effective during SHTF events. Because of that, and as I discussed previously, we should all plan to be on our own.

When planning to be on our own, we also must be ready to spring into action at a moment’s notice.

Bug Out Bag

One way that we can be ready to take action is by having a bug-out bag set.

For those new to prepping, bug-out bags are always a popular and hot-button topic in the prepper community.

A bug-out bag is a bag that you assemble with an emergency supply of whatever it is that you need to get by for several days.

Here are some things I keep in my bug-out bag:

  1. Water Filter / Purification
  2. Flash Light / Head Lamp
  3. IFAK (Individual First Aid Kit)
  4. Fire Starting Kit
  5. Food for 72 Hours
  6. Water in a Single-Walled Metal Container
  7. Firearm or Other Personal Defense Item
  8. Knife with Sharpening Stone
  9. Shelter or Tarp with cordage
  10. Rain Gear

Your bug-out bag is crucial should you become stranded away from your home. Likewise, having your bug-out bag set if you need to evacuate your home due to fire, flood, or another disaster is also essential.

Because your bug-out bag contains whatever you feel you need to get by for several days, it should always be readily accessible, secure, and regularly maintained and inventoried.


So, now that we’ve addressed our basic survival needs through the fundamentals of preparedness and the areas of preparedness, we’re ready to work on making our lives complete and rewarding.

It’s in the self area of preparedness where we work to establish and maintain relationships with friends and family. We focus on our desires and become the person we hope to be during self.

And, while self is not specifically a survival need, it is nevertheless a need.

After all, a life without personal fulfillment, is in my opinion, an incomplete life.

The Bottom Line on How to Start Prepping

The bottom line when it comes to how to start prepping is to take it one logical step at a time. That’s because doing something that does not address your most immediate needs may cause you to come up short should a need arise.

In the end, focus on the goals of preparedness and work to meet those goals sensibly.

With that, what are your thoughts on how to start prepping? Tell us in the comments below.


Stay safe,

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Brian Duff

Brian Duff

Brian Duff is a former firefighter-paramedic, Army Ranger, diplomatic protection specialist, and international security director. Brian’s preparedness experiences range from his time as a paramedic in Southern California and his service with the 75th Ranger Regiment to spending over a decade overseas, eventually managing the U.S. Embassy security forces in Baghdad, Iraq. Upon returning to the U.S., he directed a $1.25 billion government security program. As a lifelong preparedness advocate, PTSD survivor, author, and founder and host of the Mind4Survival website and podcast, Brian draws on his lifetime of near misses, close calls, and lucky mistakes to advance his crusade for empowering people to become more safe, confident, and self-reliant.

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