Everyone makes a few mistakes while they’re gearing up to prep and for that reason I’ve compiled a list of prepper tips I wish I’d heard before I started prepping. No one does everything right the first time they do it, so learn from my mistakes!
In this article you will learn to avoid the most common prepper mistakes. Avoiding these pitfalls can save you time, money, energy, or in the most dramatic case, your life! These are easy to follow tips that will make your prepping journey, and your prepping outcome, much more efficient. Even if you are an experienced prepper you still need to read this list—you may have overlooked a few things in your cache!
1. Don’t Store All Your Goods In One Place
If a flood wipes out your basement with all your disaster preparedness goods, you’re sunk too. It’s a good idea to keep your supplies spread out not only around your house, but around your property or even around town if you can.
Make sure your supplies are also stashed in different types of environments. That is, don’t just put all your stuff in different root cellars that belong to your family. You may find that the conditions like the humidity in root cellars still ruin all of one type of food.
You may also consider keeping some basic supplies—or even a full bug out bag– in each of your vehicles. You can read more about bug out bags here:
Keep a list of where all your items are, as you will forget over time where you put some of your items.
2. Brush Up On Skills As Well As Goods
Being a prepper means more than just having canned goods stored up. There are a lot of survival skills that should be practiced before you actually have to deploy them in an emergency. These skills could include:
- First Aid: It’s never a bad idea to know how to stop bleeding or splint a fracture.
- Gardening: Yes, gardening takes time, but if you have a garden started when emergency hits, it may provide excellent sources of fresh variety to your diet.
- Camping skills: If you do end up needing to bug out, make sure you know how to pitch your tent and use your camping stove.
- Car repair: Knowing how your vehicle runs might be crucial if your normal mechanic is out-of-pocket.
- Basic household maintenance: Knowing how to fix a busted pipe or replace a fuse are incredibly useful skills, but the types of things we normally either pawn off on our spouses, a handyman, or the internet.
3. Store Important Information In a Written Format
When stuff goes sideways your ability to think clearly and remember details will be heavily taxed. Make it easier on yourself by writing down or printing out all your most important information. I also keep a few survival and first aid books on hand for a more complete reference manual.
Better yet, make two copies of each and make sure your spouse or oldest child has the other copy. These things can include:
- Names, phone numbers and addresses
- Directions on how to operate certain equipment
- Locations of all your cached goods
- First aid guides
- Deeds, wills, or vehicle registrations
4. Save Money and Store Cash
Having some financial wiggle room may not be the first thing preppers think to do, but it is still important. It’s common for emergencies to cause the price of the most-needed items to go up. If this is the case you’ll want to be able to shell out for that one thing you need. In situations where society as a whole is still relatively intact, you still may need to pay for a trip to the emergency clinic.
If society is not totally intact you may find yourself in a situation where credit cards can’t be used, so also make sure you store some emergency cash with your prepping goods.
5. Don’t Buy All Your Prepper Gear At Once
Being truly prepared for a long term emergency takes a ton of research. More than you can do in a few days or even weeks. You’ll get a better grasp of what you need after you have more experience talking with other preppers. If you buy everything upfront you’ll likely end up with a bunch of stuff you don’t need.
Plus, if you go slowly you can wait for expensive items to go on sale.
6. Have a Large, Reliable Source of Water
You can live much longer without food than water so be sure you have plenty of it! You will go through water more quickly than you realize. For drinking purposes you need one gallon of water per day, per person. But this doesn’t factor in handwashing, cooking, dishwashing, etc.
Do not store water in any container that is not originally designed for water. It may seem thrifty to use old juice or milk jugs, but those jugs are hard to sterilize and the tiny amounts of the previous liquid can spoil your water.
Another component of having a reliable water supply is to have a water purification method. Think about natural potential sources of water near you, and then buy the type of purification you would need. For example if there’s a river near your town but it’s very muddy and silty, you’ll need a system that filters out high levels of sediment load in addition to a system that kills viruses, bacteria and protozoans.
7. Buy Food You Will Actually Eat
It doesn’t matter if it’s on sale or has a super long shelf life if it’s not something you’re willing to stomach. If you do find some bargain canned goods you just can’t pass up, try using those goods in a recipe you make beforehand. Go ahead and find tasty ways to combine Vienna sausages and artichoke hearts!
Good food is a great morale booster during an emergency so make sure yours tastes good.
8. Buy a Wide Range of Shelf-Stable Food
Don’t just stock canned goods! Having freeze dried and dry food will add much needed variety for your actual disaster situation. You can check out this article about the top survival foods at the grocery store for more ideas.
9. Stock Hygiene and Medication Supplies
Don’t forget that your ability to stay clean or even wash hands may be limited in an emergency. And as the pandemic has taught us, sometimes staying clean is a matter of life and death.
When it comes to stocking medication I’m not just talking aspirin, although absolutely include a fully stocked first aid kit. I’m talking about the special medication you or your loved one needs to survive like insulin or portable oxygen.
10. Swap Out Old Stocks
Everything you stock has a shelf-life, including your medications and even your water. Keep a spreadsheet of shelf-lives of your items and rotate them out when they’re past their prime. There’d be nothing worse than spending a ton of time and money only to find that much of your stuff has gone bad when you need it.
Swapping out your stocks is also a perfect time to try new recipes with your emergency rations. You can make this a fun family activity and then have a special meal to look forward to when disaster does strike.
11. Maintain Physical Fitness
Realize that in an emergency you’ll likely be required to be more physically active! Whether it’s simply moving those big water jugs out of the attic so they can be used or performing a manual repair on the house, being in shape will never be a bad thing.
Even if you don’t have to physically lift and carry big items during your emergency, you may suddenly have to walk long distances or simply stay awake for longer than you’re used to.
12. Remember That Pets Have Needs Too!
Will having your pet with you give you a source of comfort or will it add to the chaos? Think about this ahead of time. Keep a supply of pet food as well as a pet carrier and any vaccination records you have for them. Regardless of what you decide about keeping your pet with you, have a backup plan for where you can safely leave your pets if you cannot take them with you or vice vs.
This is a good item to make sure your entire family is on board with. Pets have such a huge amount of sentimental value. Make sure everyone agrees to a plan so that there’s not a huge fight during your emergency.
13. Get Your Family Involved
Make sure you have a pre-determined rendezvous spot if disaster strikes while you’re away from your family, and make sure everyone in the house knows where to access your prep stocks.
Not only should everyone be on the same page for these basics, but other members of the family should ideally be involved with prepping and have their own skills to bring to the table as well. This takes the pressure off one person to be the “leader” in an emergency, which is important if something happens to that leader. It also means that your family members could be fairly self-sufficient on their own if they get separated from you.
14. Don’t Adopt a “Me Against the World” Mindset
I see it all the time on prepper websites: “Don’t tell anyone about your stash of food because if you do people will be begging at your door and you won’t have enough for yourself.” I can’t think of a worse mentality to adopt in an emergency. Are there crooks in the world? Yes. So don’t be a fool. But don’t be a miser either.
Knowing how to get along with others could be the most important lifesaving strategy you adopt. You may exchange a jar of peanut butter now for a trip to the ER in your neighbor’s truck tomorrow. A little kindness, especially during a crisis, could go a very long way.