Being prepared isn’t just a slogan for scouts. In a world of unpredictable challenges, from natural disasters to geopolitical crises, prepping becomes a way of life. Like any journey, prepping comes in stages. As an experienced prepper, I’ve been through the ropes and have seen many make the same mistakes. Let’s break down the three key stages of prepping, and help you navigate them.
Stage 1: Beginner
As with any new venture, the initial stage of prepping can be both exciting and overwhelming. Remember, every experienced prepper once stood in your shoes. The key is to prioritize, keep it simple, and build a solid foundation that you can expand upon as you advance.
Goals: Grasp the essentials and establish a 72-hour emergency kit.
1. Assess Your Needs:
- Geographic Considerations: Understanding your environment is crucial. For instance, if you’re in a tornado-prone region, you’ll have different needs than someone in a flood-prone area.
- Personal Needs: Do you have medical conditions? Infants or elderly family members? Pets? Tailor your emergency kit to suit the specific needs of every member.
2. Create a 72-hour Kit: This starter kit is meant to sustain you and your loved ones for three days, the average time it may take for help to arrive after a major disaster.
- Food: Non-perishable items like freeze-dried meals, energy bars, and MREs (Meals Ready to Eat) are excellent. Always keep a manual can opener in your kit if you include canned goods.
- Water: Aim for a gallon per person, per day. This accounts for drinking and minimal hygiene. Long-term storage water pouches are a good option and provide portability.
- Shelter and Warmth: Compact emergency blankets (sometimes referred to as space blankets) retain heat well. A small tent or tarp and some rope can offer protection from elements.
- Tools: A reliable multi-tool, a flashlight with extra batteries, and a battery-powered or hand-crank radio are essentials. Consider adding a whistle and a small notebook with a pen.
- First Aid: Purchase a pre-made first aid kit and augment it with personal medications and a manual.
- Documents: Keep photocopies of vital documents in a waterproof bag – think passports, driver’s licenses, medical records, and insurance documents.
3. Educate Yourself: Basic knowledge can be a lifeline in emergencies. Start with:
- First Aid: Join a course to understand basic wound care, CPR, and other essential skills.
- Local Hazards: Attend community meetings or liaise with local emergency services to understand prevalent hazards in your area.
- Community Resources: Familiarize yourself with local shelters, medical centers, and evacuation routes.
Scenario: Unexpectedly, a massive snowstorm blankets your town, causing power outages and making roads impassable. While others panic, your 72-hour kit keeps your family fed, hydrated, and warm. Your radio keeps you informed about the situation outside, and your knowledge helps you assist a neighbor with a minor injury. You’ve turned a potentially dire situation into a manageable one.
With your foundational knowledge in place and a 72-hour kit ready, you’re already miles ahead of many. As you progress in your prepping journey, you’ll find that the peace of mind it brings is invaluable. Remember, preparedness isn’t a destination but a continuous journey of learning and adapting.
Stage 2: Intermediate
Goals: Prepare for longer-term disruptions, strengthen your foundation, and expand your survival skillset.
1. Expand Your Supplies: As you transition from short-term to longer-term prepping, think about lasting at least a month without relying on outside resources.
- Water: Invest in water purification tablets, portable filters, and larger water storage containers. Consider rainwater collection systems.
- Food: Diversify your stockpile with canned goods, rice, beans, and long-life dairy products. Add a rotation system to ensure freshness. Consider a portable stove, fuel, and a fishing kit.
- Power: Solar chargers, backup generators, and hand-crank radios can be vital for communication and maintaining power. Invest in rechargeable batteries and a solar-powered battery charger.
- Safety and Security: Think about reinforcing your home’s entry points, investing in a good quality firearm (if comfortable and legal), and learning basic self-defense techniques.
2. Develop a Bug-out Plan: If you ever need to evacuate quickly, you should have a strategy. This isn’t just about a location but understanding the most efficient routes, having a packed ‘bug-out bag’, and knowing potential risks along the way.
- Transport: A sturdy backpack, durable footwear, maps, and a compass.
- Shelter: A lightweight tent, sleeping bags suited to your climate, and a compact cooking system.
- Communication: Satellite phone, walkie-talkies, or a ham radio for long-range communication.
3. Advanced Medical Prepping: While basic first aid is crucial, now’s the time to learn more about treating injuries and illnesses when professional medical help might be delayed.
- Medical Kit: Sterile bandages, sutures, antiseptics, prescription medications, and a comprehensive first aid manual. Consider attending advanced first aid courses or wilderness survival courses.
4. Skillset Enhancement: Your journey shouldn’t just be about hoarding resources; it’s about gaining skills that can replace them or make their use more efficient. From learning basic car repairs to practicing outdoor survival skills like building shelters or identifying edible wild plants, your hands and brain are the best tools you have.
- Books: Survival manuals, edible plant guides, and bushcraft handbooks.
- Courses: Wilderness survival, urban survival, or even self-defense training.
Scenario: A massive grid failure has rendered electronic communication useless and local grocery stores have been stripped clean. With your expanded supplies, you’re comfortable at home for the immediate future. Your ham radio allows you to communicate with other preppers, giving you an edge in gathering information and pooling resources. As weeks go by and food becomes scarcer in the city, your knowledge of edible wild plants allows you to forage safely, ensuring you stay nourished.
Navigating the intermediate stage is about building on the foundation you’ve set in the beginner stage. You’re not just reacting; you’re anticipating. With every skill you gain and every item you procure, you’re ensuring a safer, more comfortable existence for yourself and your loved ones in unpredictable circumstances.
Stage 3: Advanced
Goals: Achieve self-reliance, anticipate multiple scenarios, and prepare for long-term disruptions.
1. Sustainable Living:
The idea is to minimize dependency on outside resources. This doesn’t mean living in isolation but being able to sustain oneself and one’s family for extended periods without external aid.
- Gardening: Heirloom seeds guarantee future plantings. Consider compost bins for organic waste recycling and drip irrigation systems for efficient water use.
- Preservation: Beyond canning equipment and dehydrators, vacuum sealers can extend the shelf life of foods.
- Livestock: Research sustainable fish farming, or raising chickens and rabbits. Beekeeping can provide honey and pollination for gardens.
2. Fortify Your Location:
Defense is often overlooked. Whether it’s from wildlife or other threats, having fortifications can be crucial.
- Physical Barriers: Fencing, reinforced doors, and windows.
- Surveillance: Security cameras, motion sensors, and alarms.
- Firearms and Training: Only if you’re comfortable and in line with local regulations. Remember, safety first!
3. Community Networking:
While independence is key, interdependence within a trusted community can be a strength. Form or join local prepper networks or groups.
- Shared Resources: Pooling can lead to better equipment or more supplies.
- Diverse Skillsets: One person can’t know everything. Community members can offer skills you lack, and vice versa.
- Security: There’s safety in numbers.
4. Advanced Training:
Dive deep into specialized courses and workshops that might not seem immediately relevant. The broader your skillset, the more scenarios you’re prepared for.
- Medical Training: Beyond first aid, consider wilderness medicine or even paramedic courses.
- Mechanical Skills: Learn to repair vehicles or vital equipment.
- Off-grid Communication: Morse code, ham radio operation, or even signaling techniques.
5. Continuity and Legacy Prepping:
Think about the long term. What if something happened to you? Ensuring that your family or community can carry on is vital.
Steps to Consider:
- Documentation: Keep a secure, detailed record of your prepping resources, plans, and protocols. Make sure trusted individuals know where to find it.
- Training: Regularly educate and train family or group members. Make prepping a shared responsibility.
- Legacy Kits: These are caches of knowledge and tools intended for future generations. Think about what knowledge and tools will be essential in 20, 50, or even 100 years.
Scenario: A global pandemic has forced people into isolation and strained resources for an indefinite period. Thanks to your sustainable living practices, you can produce food and purify water. Your fortified location ensures safety, while community networks allow for resource sharing and collective security. Advanced training means you can address medical and mechanical issues, and your continuity plans ensure that even in your absence, your family continues to thrive.
Prepping isn’t about paranoia; it’s about peace of mind. As you navigate from a beginner to an advanced prepper, remember that every stage is a building block to the next. Every skill learned, every product bought, increases your ability to adapt and overcome. It’s not just about surviving, but thriving, no matter what challenges come your way. Happy prepping!