Prepping Basics: Best Prepping Like a Pro Guide (2023)

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Hey there, fellow preppers and preparedness-minded people! Are you ready to take control of your destiny and be prepared for whatever life throws at you? If so, you’ve come to the right place. In this guide, we’ll delve into the exciting world of prepping—the art of being proactive, confident, and self-reliant in the face of any crisis.

Prepping isn’t just for conspiracy theorists or extreme survivalists—it’s for everyday folks like you and me who want to be prepared for both big disasters and life’s little curveballs. So, are you ready to gain peace of mind like never before and start prepping?

If so, strap in because we’re about to embark on a journey that’ll give you the A to Z on prepping. Here we go!

What is Prepping?

Prepping is the actions and efforts preparedness-minded people take that empower them to become more safe, confident and self-reliant so that they and their families are prepared to face any crisis, minimize their unwanted struggles, and live their best possible lives. 

As such, prepping involves taking the proactive steps necessary to identify and manage potential risks by increasing one’s capability to thrive in any situation. Contrary to the belief of many, that doesn’t only apply to survival situations. Instead, it applies to all of life’s challenges. Prepping prepares people to deal more effectively with job loss, medical problems, car troubles, family issues, and the occasional SHTF disaster. 

The Definition of Prepping

I define preparedness as:

All the efforts taken to ensure survival, minimize unwanted struggle, and live the best possible life.

Why Should a Person Be Prepared for Emergencies?

In today’s unpredictable world, being prepared for emergencies is crucial. Being unprepared can have severe consequences, whether a personal crisis or a larger-scale disaster. Fortunately, by investing effort into emergency preparedness, individuals can enhance their safety, confidence, and self-reliance during times of crisis. Given the current risks posed by various potential calamities, financial problems, wars, societal upheaval, crime, etc., there should be no question as to why a person should prepare. 

Preparedness Equals Freedom

There are two primary reasons why preparedness-minded people prepare: worry and a desire for self-sufficiency.

Worry stems from concerns about future danger and uncertainties, such as natural disasters, economic collapse, civil unrest, and more. To that end, preppers want to be prepared to care for themselves and their families without relying on outside help. After all, as past disasters have shown, there are limitations when it comes to the assistance one can expect to receive during emergencies.

Next, becoming self-sufficient provides the confidence that comes with being able to rely on yourself when it matters most. Becoming self-sufficient means that you’ll be the one who is better able to rise above when times are at their worst. You’ll also be the person others, such as family and loved ones, can look to and depend upon when they are in crisis.

Ultimately, decreasing our worry and becoming more self-sufficient increases our freedom. As such, preparedness frees us to live better, happier, more fulfilling lives, free from the apprehension and dependency that those who don’t prepare often struggle with.

Emergencies and Crises are Unpredictable

Understanding the need for preparedness involves recognizing the unpredictability of emergencies and their potential impact on our lives. It’s well-known that being unprepared can lead to dire circumstances, especially when emergency services and aid organizations are overwhelmed. As such, self-reliance and personal responsibility are vital to guaranteeing our well-being and that of our loved ones.

Prepping is the Thin Line that Stands Between Survival & Catastrophe

With that, prepping for our survival and safety is the thin line between survival and catastrophe. To that end, having the necessary knowledge, skills, and resources to face any emergency empowers us to protect ourselves and our loved ones when it matters most. In other words, by investing time and effort into our prepping, we can foster resilience and adaptability, ensuring that we are ready to confront and overcome the challenges that life may throw our way.

Emergency Prepping Reduces Stress and Anxiety

Emergency preparedness also reduces the stress and anxiety on ourselves and our loved ones by providing a sense of control and peace of mind. As a result, it enables us to approach disasters with strength, confidence, and a positive can-do attitude. This proactive mindset not only increases our chances of survival but also fosters a sense of unity and cooperation among family members and communities, which is crucial during challenging times.

Stressed Out About Prepping: Learn How to Manage Stress & Anxiety in Preparedness

Prepping Can Help Your Self-Defined Community

Ultimately, if we choose to do so, our preparedness can extend beyond our personal safety to being a proactive member of our self-defined community. That’s important because a prepared community is a resilient community. And, in the end, it’s by fostering a culture of preparedness that we are best able to become more capable, confident, and self-reliant, which not only benefits ourselves but our families and communities as well.

The Goals of Preparedness

As discussed in the definition, the goals of preparedness are survival, minimizing unwanted struggle, and living the best life possible.

  • Survival involves avoiding massive trauma and maintaining homeostasis.
  • Minimizing unwanted struggle involves reducing difficulties in life, such as health problems, financial difficulties, disasters, personal loss, relationship issues, addiction, etc.
  • Living your best possible life involves experiencing love and belonging and proactively pursuing personal growth and happiness.

In short, the purpose of prepping is to succeed at the goals of preparedness by positioning oneself to minimize problems while maximizing opportunity.

What is a Prepper?

Preppers are individuals who actively prepare for potential emergencies, both natural and man-made. They focus on self-sufficiency, self-reliance, and the independence to thrive in any circumstances.

Being Prepared Does Not Make You a Prepper

Unfortunately, many newcomers to preparedness are often hesitant to become better prepared because they are concerned with becoming labeled a prepper. This concern arises from the negative stereotypes perpetuated by the media and others in society that equate preparedness with being extreme and fringe.

Fortunately for those who want to become better prepared, doing so does not mean embracing extreme beliefs or accepting the prepper label. Instead, becoming better prepared simply involves taking positive steps to enhance the safety, security, and resilience of oneself and one’s family.

On that point, I like to remind people that:

while every crazy prepper is into preparedness, not every preparedness-minded person has to be a crazy prepper.

So, rest assured that doing what’s right and in the best interest of you and your loved ones does not make you a prepper. All it does is make you better prepared to overcome the adversities of life that we are all guaranteed to face.

Preppers Approach Preparedness and Life as Individuals

While the fundamental aspects of preparedness Mindset, Situational Awareness, Survival, Safety, and Self are set in stone across the preparedness world, the approach to preparedness varies from person to person. The fact is that we all have different wants, needs, and goals in life. Therefore, we all have unique needs and perspectives when it comes to prepping.

In turn, this means that the prepping community is comprised of individuals from all walks of life, demographics, cultural backgrounds, political leanings, etc. In other words, you don’t have to be a pro-Second Amendment, former Army Ranger and paramedic with a degree in security management like me.

Instead, all you have to be is someone who feels it’s important to be personally responsible for yourself and your loved ones and who, rather than being part of the problem, wants to be a dependable part of the solution when your world goes sideways.

What Do Preppers Do

Preppers incorporate resiliency into their lives by working to meet the goals of preparedness through learning survival skills, developing preparedness plans and survival kits, reducing their dependence on modern conveniences, stocking up on food storage and emergency supplies, etc. They strive to be prepared for both micro and macro disasters, which include preparing for a job loss, a family medical issue, or a significant disaster.

Misconceptions About Preppers

The prepping community continually faces inaccurate and demonizing misconceptions and stereotypes. These misconceptions and stereotypes often paint preparedness-minded people as fringe, extreme, or paranoid. As a result, the stereotypes often set the unprepared up for failure by discouraging them from taking steps to ensure their survival and well-being.

Contrary to the stereotypes, prepping doesn’t require one to be extreme or paranoid. Instead, the prepper community includes a diverse range of individuals, with most preppers being ordinary, practical people preparing for personal disasters or emergencies. In that vein, preppers are often well-educated and knowledgeable about potential risks, focusing not only on their own preparedness but also on helping others.

Here’s Where I answer the Question: Are Preppers Crazy?

The Factors of Success

The key to achieving these goals is to maximize the controllable factors of success, which are mindset and ability (knowledg+skill+resources), and minimize our reliance on the uncontrollable factor of success—luck.

What Are the Basics of Prepping?

The basics of prepping can best be summarized as the fundamentals of preparedness. The fundamentals of preparedness are mindset, situational awareness, survival, safety, and self (M4S). Together these fundamentals provide an easy-to-remember, step-by-step guide for managing your prepping.

The M4S system of preparedness fundamentals is helpful for seasoned preppers and those just now ready to begin preparing. By using the M4S prepping system, you’ll be sure to cover everything from your most basic prepping needs to creating quality emergency plans to help yourself and your family members survive multiple weeks or more on your own and unassisted.

Here’s a Deeper Dive into the Fundamentals of Prepping (Click Play and Listen In!)

The Rule of 3 Survival Pyramid

The survival pyramid helps beginners and experienced preppers prioritize efforts and resources for emergency situations. As such, understanding the Survival Pyramid, an expanded and refined version of the classic rule of threes, is crucial for effective preparedness. That’s because grasping our survival priorities can lead to increased effectiveness when dealing with everything from large-scale disasters to personal crises.

The Importance of the Survival Pyramid

The Survival Pyramid is an essential framework for prioritizing survival needs, ensuring effective preparation, and overcoming emergencies. It offers a straightforward, easy-to-follow, holistic approach covering physical, mental, and societal aspects. Key benefits include guiding decision-making, adaptability to various scenarios, and promoting education and preparedness, ultimately enhancing resilience and improving one’s ability to overcome difficult events.

The Mind4Survival Factors of Success

Mindset: The Foundation of the Survival Pyramid

Mindset, the foundation of our approach to everything in life, is crucial for preparedness as it shapes our relationship with reality, our mental attitude and motivation, and the influence of perspective on our decision-making. It forms the basis for awareness and is impacted by our biases, life experiences, fears, etc. As a result, acknowledging our mindset’s role in preparedness and survival allows us to cultivate it, enhancing our ability to navigate life’s challenges by building a solid foundation for our prepping.

Here’s Information on Overcoming Common Prepping Struggles and Build Resilience

Level 1: Situational Awareness (.33 Seconds)

Situational awareness (SA) is vital for avoiding or minimizing threats with split-second decisions. Situational awareness involves our ability to be in tune with and observe the world around us, analyze what we observe, and then, based on that analysis, make effective decisions, which eventually lead to our actions. In other words, SA powers our interface with the world and leads to the effectiveness of our decisions and resulting actions.

Learn How to Increase Your Everyday Situational Awareness

Level 2: Immediate Action (3 Seconds)

Level 2 emphasizes the need for immediate and effective action in rapidly evolving scenarios. While trained and experienced individuals can react almost instantly, the average person takes longer, making the three-second rule a realistic starting point for dealing with developing issues.

The key is to act faster and more effectively than the threat itself. That’s because swift and accurate reactions increase a person’s chances of success and survival. Ultimately, it’s important to remember that in a life-and-death struggle, you may have three seconds or less to take the most decisive action of your life!

Level 3: Oxygen to the Brain (Three Minutes)

When oxygen flow to the brain ceases, irreversible damage occurs within three minutes, and death will follow soon after. The two most common issues causing an interruption of oxygen to the brain are heart issues and massive bleeding. To counter these potentially life-ending problems, everyone should take the basic steps of learning CPR and emergency bleeding control—then be prepared to put them both into action if needed.

Lifesaving Information: Prepping for Massive Bleeding Emergencies

Level 4: Environmental Protection (Three Hours)

Next is protecting yourself from environmental threats like extreme temperatures, predators, and the other aspects of Mother Nature that can cause you harm. Hypothermia occurs when core temperature drops below 95°F and can kill within hours in the right circumstances. Likewise, the opposite end of the thermometer can be just as deadly with heat injuries that can progress from heat cramps and exhaustion to heat stroke and death. With proper preparedness, you can avoid the survival-impacting aspects of the environment. In the end, while nature is amazing, it is also unforgiving—prepare for and respect it accordingly.

Read This Article on How to Fortify Your Home

Level 5: Hydration and Sleep (Three Days)

Bodies naturally lose water, making hydration essential. If we don’t have enough water to replace what we lose, we gradually become dehydrated, which can impair our cognitive and physical abilities. If dehydration goes on long enough, it will move beyond a general decline in functional and cognitive ability and eventually lead to death, which can occur within three days.

Proper hydration requires drinking adequate amounts of water—13 cups/day for adult males and 9 cups/day for adult females. Our water intake requirements vary depending on age, activity level, and environment. An excellent point to remember is that becoming thirsty indicates that you’re already behind on your water intake. With that, an essential aspect of prepping is to ensure that you have a survival kit that includes supplies and skills to locate, gather, purify, and store water.

Learn How to Calculate Your Daily Water Consumption Needs


While many preppers disregard its importance, sleep is an essential preparedness concern. Going without sleep for over three days can cause mental impairment, hallucinations, and poor decision-making. After 24 hours without sleep, impairment is similar to having a 0.10 alcohol level. Even worse, two days without sleep can lead to uncontrollable “microsleeps,” which last 30 seconds and can happen regardless of what you’re doing—like trying to survive. After 72 hours, sleep-deprived people can experience severe concentration, perception, cognitive issues, and hallucinations, making survival efforts difficult, if not impossible.

Level 6: Nutrition (Three Weeks)

The body needs energy from food to function. Without nourishment, it consumes itself, causing weakness, dizziness, low blood pressure, and organ failure—potentially leading to death within 21 days. However, while a lack of food will eventually lead to death, in a survival situation, going without food for several days can dangerously degrade your performance and result in you not being your own best advocate when overcoming the adversity you are facing. You can address your nutrition needs by knowing how many calories you need daily and preparing to meet that life-sustaining goal.

Want to Learn What Prepping Foods to Stockpile? Read This Article!

Level 7: Society – Three Months

The going-it-alone approach to long-term preparedness is not a viable option. That’s because, at times, we all need the support of others. That can apply to having someone keep watch when we’re sleeping, helping us when we’re sick and injured, etc. Therefore, building or joining a community of like-minded people is essential for long-term prepping. 

Fortunately, though, we can define what is the best community for us. A community can be as small as two or larger if we choose. As such, while creating our society and what that looks like is up to us—it is a long-term survival need that must be prepared for.

Objective Risk Management

Risk Management, the process of objectively managing your risks, is essential for achieving a balanced approach to preparedness. By objectively assessing the risks associated with what you want to protect, you can determine where to focus your preparedness efforts.

The Three Risk Management Questions

Risk management can be summarized by asking yourself these three questions:

  • What do I have to protect? (This will tell you the assets/things you are protecting)
  • What do I have to protect it from? (This will tell you your threats)
  • What do I have to protect it with? (This will tell you your vulnerabilities)

The objective risk management process involves quantifying the impact of potential losses, the ability of threats to cause harm, and the level of vulnerability of each asset. By using these risk factors as inputs into the risk formula, you will be able to calculate a risk score specific to each asset (a thing you value). 

Then, with your risk scores calculated, you can easily rank which assets are at the greatest risk, providing you with an objective and holistic view of your overall risk profile. This objective data and holistic understanding of your risk profile will help guide your decision-making process with regard to the allocation of your resources, such as time, money, and supplies.

Spurious Risk Management

Without a structured risk management approach, decisions become subjective and emotional, leading to what is known as spurious risk management. By prioritizing areas of higher risk based on objective analysis, you can mitigate vulnerabilities and improve your preparedness in a logical, well-thought-out manner. In the end, objective risk management decreases your overall risk and enhances your ability to avoid and handle emergencies as effectively and efficiently as possible.

Here’s the M4S Guide to Understanding Risk Management

Common Prepping Terms

1. Bug-Out Bag (BOB)

Bug-out bags are emergency kits that you design to provide essential resources in a sudden evacuation or crisis situation. These bags can be thought of as a person’s prepper kit and typically include everything someone needs to meet the requirements of the Survival Pyramid: self-defense weapons, first aid supplies, clothing, water, food, and other necessities to sustain an individual for a short period, allowing them to quickly “bug out” and reach safety.

Other types of Bug-Out Bags that preppers refer to include:

  • 72-Hour Bag: A Bug-Out Bag designed to sustain a person for 72 hours, also referred to as a 3-Day Bag.
  • Get Home Bag (GHB): Smaller than a bug-out bag, this bag is designed for use while close to your home or other safe haven. 
  • Go Bag: Same as Bug-Out Bag
  • INCH Bag: I’m Never Coming Home Bag. This bag is a step up from your bug-out bag and is for situations in which you plan to live out of your bag for extended periods—possibly indefinitely. 

Looking for Some Bug Out Bag Ideas: Here’s a List of the Essentials

2. Bugging In

Bugging In refers to the strategy of staying at one’s own home or primary residence during a crisis. The decision to Bug In is based on the assessment that remaining in place is safer and more advantageous than attempting to evacuate the area (see Bugging Out).

Bugging In involves preparing one’s home to be self-sufficient, secure, and capable of providing shelter, food, water, and other necessities for an extended period. This includes stockpiling essential supplies, fortifying the property against potential threats, and developing security, communication, sanitation, medical care plans, etc.

Read the M4S: Guide to Bugging-In

3. Bugging Out

Bugging Out is the strategy of quickly leaving (evacuating) one’s home or primary residence during a crisis or emergency to seek safety and shelter elsewhere. This decision is based on the assessment that staying in place is too dangerous or unsustainable, and evacuating to a different location would be the best course of action. In the prepping community, Bugging Out is also known as Get Out of Dodge (GOOD). 

Bugging Out typically involves having a predetermined Bug-Out Location (BOL), such as a remote cabin, a friend’s house, or a designated community shelter, where individuals or families can find relative safety and resources away from the immediate threats. To execute this strategy effectively, people should have a vehicle or Bug-Out Bag (BOB) prepared with essential supplies, tools, and equipment needed for the journey and initial stay at the BOL.

The Bugging Out process requires careful planning, including establishing evacuation routes, understanding potential hazards, and coordinating with family members or friends. The primary goal is to reach the BOL as safely and quickly as possible while minimizing the risks associated with travel during a crisis.

Can’t Decide When to Go? Here Are My Thoughts on Bugging-In vs. Buggin Out

4. Bug-Out Location (BOL)

A BOL is a predetermined safe haven that preppers plan to move to in case of a crisis, disaster, or SHTF event. The purpose of a BOL is to provide a secure and sustainable place for an individual and their family to reside when their primary residence becomes unsafe or uninhabitable due to unforeseen circumstances.

A well-chosen BOL typically has access to essential resources such as a clean drinking water supply, emergency food storage, and shelter and is securely and strategically located away from potential threats or high-risk areas. It may be a remote cabin, a friend’s house, or another location that you prepare to allow everyday life to continue as normal as possible during an emergency.

Are Bug-Out Locations Too Expensive? Check Out This Budget Friendly Option

5. Everyday Carry (EDC)

Everyday Carry (EDC) refers to the essential items and tools that an individual carries on their person daily, ensuring they are prepared for various situations or emergencies that may arise at a moment’s notice. The purpose of EDC is to act as an essential aspect of personal readiness, safety, and efficiency in day-to-day life.

EDC items typically include practical and functional objects such as a pocket knife, flashlight, multi-tool, personal defensive items, etc. People typically customize their EDC based on their specific needs, preferences, and lifestyle.

Here’s a How-to Article on Everyday Carry Essentials!

6. Grid Down Event

A Grid Down Event is a large-scale disruption or failure of the electrical power grid, causing widespread power outages. Possible causes include grid failure due to disrepair, Coronal Mass Ejections (CMEs), Electromagnetic Pulses (EMPs), High-Altitude Electromagnetic Pulses (HEMPs), and terrorist attacks on power company resources and weak points within the electrical grid. CMEs are massive solar bursts, while EMPs and HEMPs result from nuclear explosions or non-nuclear devices.

Because modern society must have electricity to function, an extended grid-down event will prove catastrophic. Think about everything you use that requires electrical power. Homes will go dark. Electric stoves won’t heat (got a camping stove?). Gas pumps will not operate. Hospitals will not be able to function. City lights will go out. Life as we know it will cease to exist—TEOTWAWKI. 

Read a First Hand Grid-Down Experience: Grid Down Lessons: 5 Days With No Power

7. Individual First Aid Kit (IFAK)

An Individual First Aid Kit is a compact and portable basic-level medical kit specifically designed for emergencies. This basic first aid kit provides essential medical supplies and equipment for immediate self-treatment or treatment of others in case of injuries or health emergencies when disaster strikes.

These kits typically include trauma bandages, tourniquets, gauze, chest seals, nitrile gloves, and nasal pharyngeal airways. Additionally, many preppers will add additional medical gear to their kits, including antiseptic wipes, adhesive tape, pain relievers, and other supplies that they determine to be a critical aspect of their survival kit.

IFAKs, which are also known as “Blow Out Kits” and “Personal First Aid Kits,” are indispensable pieces of prepping gear.

8. Mutual Assistance Group (MAG)

Mutual Assistance Groups (MAGs), also referred to as Mutual Aid Groups, are organized networks of preparedness-minded individuals who collaborate and support each other during emergencies and crisis scenarios. These groups pool their knowledge, skills, and resources to enhance their collective preparedness, resilience, and ability to face challenges together.

MAGs often focus on various survival aspects, including food and water storage, medical care, self-defense, communication, and shelter. By forming a close-knit community based on mutual values, trust, and cooperation, members of Mutual Assistance Groups can, when done correctly, better address potential threats, share responsibilities, and improve their overall chances of survival and well-being in adverse situations.

Need Help Deciding on a Prepping Group? Read This Article on Groups vs Going Solo 

9. Shit Hits the Fan (SHTF)

Shit Hits the Fan is an expression preppers, the military, and others use to describe a critical situation or turning point when societal order breaks down due to a crisis, disaster, or catastrophic event.

SHTF scenarios can range from localized incidents like riots, power outages, or natural disasters to large-scale events such as economic collapse, pandemics, or nuclear war. In these circumstances, routine services and systems may become unavailable or unreliable. That will lead to chaos, lawlessness, and a need for individuals to rely on their resources, skills, and preparedness to survive and navigate the challenges that arise.

Read This Article: SHTF Meaning: The What and Why of SHTF Prepping

10. The End of the World as We Know It (TEOTWAWKI)

TEOTWAWKI is a prepping term used to describe a catastrophic event or series of events that lead to a complete collapse of society, infrastructure, and government systems. This concept encompasses various scenarios such as natural disasters, pandemics, economic collapse, nuclear war, or any situation resulting in the breakdown of society and a significant shift in how humans live and interact.

11. Two is One, One is None

“Two is One, One is None” is a popular saying in the preparedness community. It emphasizes the importance of redundancy and backup systems. The phrase means that if you only have one critical item or resource, you risk having none if that item fails or gets lost. Having at least two of each essential item creates a safety net in case one becomes unavailable or unusable. That is critical in situations where resupply isn’t possible. 

How to Have Fail-Safe Prepping: Why ‘Two is One, One is None

The Bottom Line on Prepping

So there you have it, an overview of prepping! Prepping isn’t about being a doomsday prophet or becoming an extreme survivalist. It’s simply about being smart and ready for whatever life throws your way.

Sure, it may feel overwhelming at first, but take it step by step. Start with the essentials and grow from there. There’s no need to do it all at once. Rome wasn’t built in a day, and neither is your prepping stockpile.

And remember, prepping is more than just survival—it’s about peace of mind. Knowing you’ve done your part to protect yourself and your loved ones is priceless. So, stay informed, practice your plans, and keep evolving as a prepper.

Now let your prepping empower you to face any challenge with confidence. So when the unexpected knocks on your door, you can confidently say, Bring it on! Prepping—your ticket to living your best possible life, no matter what comes your way.

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Prepping Basics: Best Prepping Like a Pro Guide (2023)

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