No matter how much experience you have, prepping is a wide and deep topic. There are tons of different topics to cover – many of which require hours of research on their own. However, there are a few prepping tips that will provide a firm foundation for new preppers or expand an experienced prepper’s warehouse of knowledge.
I’ve written tons of guides on prepping, as well as spending years prepping myself. Along the way, I’ve come across several common themes that are recommended for just about everyone who wants to be prepared for disasters.
It is very easy for prepping to feel overwhelming. You have to consider all your needs, including food, water, and shelter. You also have to think about all of the different disasters that may occur in your area. That doesn’t even touch on your family’s needs (prepping with children is much more complex).
Luckily, with these tips, you can easily start prepping or fortifying your current preparations.
1. Have a Plan
Having a stupid plan is better than having no plan at all. A bad plan can be fixed and updated. However, if you have no plan at all, then you’re walking in a random direction with no end in sight.
The easiest way to make a plan is to grab a piece of paper and write down whatever stands out to you while you read this article. We have many guides on this website written by our wonderful team that has hours of experience in the field. If a topic stands out to you, then read the guide more in-depth and flesh out your plan as you study.
Planning can be overwhelming and difficult. Therefore, I recommend starting with a very small time frame. Every family should have at least three days worth of supplies ready. If you’re in a hurricane-prone area (or somewhere with similar natural disasters), then you may need to have even more.
Don’t plan to go out and live off the land at this point. While that is often associated with prepping, true preparedness starts with food and water storage.
2. Store Water (And Plan to Purify It)
Water is one of the most important parts of any survival plan. If you only take one thing away from this prepping tips list, it should be this one. You need about a gallon of water each day per family member. Preferably, you should have sterile water stored somewhere in your home to get your family through at least three days.
Water can take up a lot of space. However, it is essential. You should prioritize storing water over other prepping gear, even if it isn’t the funnest prepping item.
Purchasing water storage containers is the easiest way to get this done. Simply fill up the containers and store the water somewhere. These storage containers can be stacked, making them easier to store. They are technically more expensive than just purchasing plastic containers, but you shouldn’t skimp on your water.
You’ll find some suggestions to just use regular plastic jugs. However, these are often not designed for long-term storage. Plastic containers not designed for storing water can leach chemicals into the water, affecting the taste and safety of the liquid. They can also leak (it has happened to me!)
You should also have a plan for collecting new water and purifying it. There are many ways to collect water. I recommend using what you have around you. If you have gutters and drainage around your home, you can adapt these to store water. An empty plastic trashcan positioned under a gutter can be extremely useful. However, this requires having an extra trashcan available.
You’ll also need to have a way to purify the water. You can use water purification tablets or boil the water for this purpose. See our guide on how to boil water without electricity.
A water filter is a more sustainable purification method for most water in smaller quantities. Purification tablets are recommended more for urban settings, though. Filters will not remove some diseases from the water, while purification tablets will.
You don’t have to do everything at once. Instead, plan to store three days of water and then work up from there.
3. Store Food
Next, you’ll need to store food, too. Just like water, you’ll need to have several days worth of food stored for even minor emergencies.
There are many ways to go about this. We have a whole guide for strategies on building a 3 month food supply and what food to store for long term survival. Start with maintaining at least three days worth of food in your home. While this is not difficult, it does take a bit of planning to ensure that you have enough food that can be prepared without electricity.
Once you move up to storing up to 3 months worth of food, be sure to switch it out regularly. Otherwise, the food can go bad. Rotating food before it expires helps keep your pantry fresh.
Know how to cook the food you store. Having a bunch of canned foods stored is great, but you need to know how to prepare them. See some of our Survival Recipes and make sure you have an emergency stove.
For an easy option, consider freeze dried food. Check out our full Nutrient Survival Review for our thoughts on their emergency meals along with some other options.
4. Don’t Forget Your Mental Stores
If you don’t have the will to survive, you aren’t going to survive. Mental strength is vital for all preppers. You may have stockpiled food and water. However, surviving is still hard. We have a lot of modern comforts that won’t be available after a survival event.
The best way to develop mental strength is to devoid yourself of modern comforts – at least for a time. Study a few emergency preparedness, survival guides and bushcraft books. Camping is a great way to get back to your roots and live without electricity for a few days.
Being able to think “I went camping for three days; I can live without electricity for a few days” can make things much easier in an actual survival situation.
Philosophical or spiritual ideas can help you mentally prepare, as well.
5. You Don’t Need Expensive Solar Panels
Getting power in a survival situation is challenging. Solar power is the easiest way to accomplish it in many situations. However, most people mistakenly believe that solar panels are expensive. There are many smaller solar panels that are affordable. You can purchase these to charge your phone or run a small electric device when you don’t have power otherwise. Also consider a small power station to pair with the panels.
Don’t feel like you need to go completely off the grid. You can easily purchase a backup solar panel for when the grid goes down. For your home and most critical devices such as radios, consider EMP Protection.
6. Get in Shape
Survival situations are really survival of the fittest. If you aren’t fit, you’ll have a much harder time surviving. While we don’t recommend bugging out unless you have to, you may be forced to leave your home on foot. If you are out of shape and cannot ruck miles down the road, you’re going to have a harder time than a fit person.
Now is the time to get in shape. Otherwise, you risk injury later. Plus, the last thing you want is to get sick while in a survival situation. Being fit and healthy can mean the difference between life and death when it really matters.
Many of the illnesses we can treat now may not be treatable in a survival situation – even if that situation only lasts a few days. Starting a simple exercise routine can make all the difference.
7. Get Some Friends
Many people mistakenly try to be the “lone wolf” when preparing. However, in practically every situation, this isn’t going to work. No matter how trained and prepared you are, a group of armed stragglers or looters can easily overtake a single person. Even if there isn’t any armed opposition, getting injured can spell the end if you’re by yourself.
Having someone there to take care of you when you’re sick is essential (and yes, you will get sick).
Furthermore, having a group of people to practice survival skills can help you grow more than you can by yourself. Plus, you cannot know everything. Having friends prepared with you can take the burden of doing everything off your shoulders.
Of course, it’s finding like-minded friends that’s often the challenging part. Social media can help you find like-minded people to bushcraft with you and plan in case a disaster strikes. Many people are looking to be more prepared these days.
8. Build a Bug Out Bag
In an emergency situation, our recommendation is not to bug out. Don’t make that your default plan. However, there are many situations where you may be forced to bug out. If there is a localized disaster, fleeing to an unaffected area may be the smartest thing.
Certain Bug out bag essentials come in very handy in these situations. If an evacuation occurs, many people will spend at least an hour packing. However, after that, the traffic will be incredible. If you have a bug out bag, you can leave right away and miss some of the traffic jams that occur in an evacuation.
Furthermore, bug out bags are extremely useful for other situations, too. If you need to leave your home, you may not have much time to pack. Having a bug out bag ready ensures that you don’t have to – and that you don’t forget anything in the moment.
9. Be Prepared to Defend Yourself
I highly recommend that everyone purchase a handgun and know how to use it. We should prepare for emergency situations that are most likely to occur. Active shooters or other dangerous individuals are far more likely to happen than most SHTF situations discussed on survival sites.
Conceal carrying is recommended in places where it is legal. However, we highly recommend learning how to use your gun before carrying it. Many people who aren’t experienced with handguns often think shooting one is easier than it really is. In an emergency, using your weapon should be like breathing. See our full Concealed Carry Guide for everything you need to know.
For home defense, an AR-15 or shotgun may be the best option. Purchase ammo that will not go through walls (use soft nose and not full metal jacket), as you don’t want to accidentally hurt someone else in your household. You only want to hit what you mean to hit – not for the bullet to keep going though walls.
You can choose other defensive weapons if certain firearms are illegal in your area. However, we highly recommend not just settling with an EDC knife if you can purchase a firearm. Don’t bring a knife to a gun fight if you can help it.
You may want to have a backup knife or other weapon on top of your firearm. Having a knife for when someone gets too close for you to draw your weapon is extremely useful. However, don’t rely on this weapon instead of a gun.
Investing in defensive fortifications isn’t a bad idea, either. Door armor and similar improvements are recommended for most homes. You don’t have to install these until an emergency occurs, but you should have them on hand.
Know how to build a few defense barriers and prep them as you need to. A guard dog for your home is also a good idea.
10. Don’t Forget the Basics
When many people start preparing, it is easy to get caught up in SHTF situations. However, there are many other more dangerous situations that are much more likely to occur than the grid going down and martial law.
For instance, more than 400 people in the United States die from CO poisoning each year – and yet most households do not have a CO monitor. Furthermore, many homes don’t have a fire extinguisher. Get these basics in place to prevent tragedies that are far more likely to happen than nuclear war.
Check your fire alarms regularly. Make sure your family knows what the alarms sound like and mean. You should have a plan in the case of a house fire or other common emergencies.
11. Learn to Garden
Sadly, many people don’t know how to garden. While many of our grandparents grew their own food, many people no longer garden. You don’t have to have a large yard to garden. You can grow some plants in boxes on your windowsills. You don’t have to grow tons of food, either. Consider this practice for later.
Furthermore, learn what to do with the items you grow. Canning is potentially life-saving in a survival situation. Get the supplies now and learn how to use them.
12. Learn Forgotten Skills
In a SHTF situation, forgotten skills are worth a lot. Sewing, weaving, predicting weather, making candles, and similar skills will be essential in any major (and minor) emergency. However, you won’t have the time to learn these skills when a disaster strikes. You need to learn them now.
Choose a few and learn them. You can practice many of these in your daily life, and they can be a great asset in survival situations.
13. Learn Basic First Aid
Even in very minor emergencies, you need to learn basic first aid. In a localized emergency, first responders may be unavailable or not expedient. Therefore, serious emergencies may need to be treated by you. Minor emergencies may be able to be put off for a bit. However, even very minor cuts and scrapes can become infected.
You should have first aid supplies available, but you should also be able to use them quickly. You need to know how to stop bleeding, including severe bleeding. Using a tourniquet is essential for major injuries. You should also have gauze for wound packing and know how to pack a wound.
Have these supplies at home, in your car, and in your bug out bag.
Seneca wrote, “Everyone faces up more bravely to a thing for which he has long prepared himself, sufferings, even, being withstood if they have been trained for in advance. Those who are unprepared, on the other hand, are panic-stricken by the most insignificant happenings.”
I listed having a plan as number 1, and this is a process that every individual must go through themselves in order to be properly prepared. Simply using a checklist made by someone else will not mentally prepare you for emergencies and disasters. Thinking through situations, visualizing them, and creating your plan for your unique set of circumstances is the best way to be prepared.