Idaho preppers face many of the same threats as anyone else in America: civil collapse, EMP, natural disasters, etc. However, Idahoans have unique challenges than preppers in other states. What makes sense for a prepper in Alaska may not make sense for a prepper in Colorado.
This applies to Idaho as well. This article will focus on Iowa from a prepper’s perspective. What specific challenges does the state face from a historical perspective? What are the threats given the state’s geography? Where should Idahoans prioritize their preps?
NOTE: Do you live in Idaho? You know your state, so let us know in the comments section how this article can be improved. What did we miss? What did we get right?
Idaho Overview – Prepper’s Perspective
Known primarily for its abundant natural beauty, Idaho is often the haven every prepper wants to get to. As a central state in the western region of the US, Idaho is the 13th largest in the nation, but the 39th most populous. Stretching from the middle of the country all the way to the border where it shares a 43-mile-long border with Canada, Idaho is a beautiful wilderness that much of America flocks to on vacation.
It is no wonder that so many people choose to escape to Idaho on vacation. In total, the state has 18 ski resorts, including Sun Valley Resort, which was ranked 2nd in Western North America in 2015. More than any other state in the nation, Idaho boasts 3,100 miles of river and offers water sports like kayaking, white-water rafting, and parasailing. If there is an outdoor activity you would like to pursue, Idaho likely offers it.
However, what is beneath the ground in Idaho is nearly worth as much as what is above it. Nicknamed the “Gem State,” Idaho has an unmatched amount of precious stones. With 72 kinds of precious stones that can be found and mined there, Idaho residents enjoy a hearty and steady revenue from the state’s natural resources. Additionally, Idaho is credited for 19% of the total discovery of gold during the rushes of the past century. This effort is estimated to be worth more than $50 million.
Even with Idaho’s distance from the Pacific Ocean, the maritime influence is still felt in the state. The influence has a profound moderating effect that makes this wild state a very livable and enjoyable Eden in the mountains. Idaho only gets around 18 inches of rain per year, and 47 inches of snow. This is an optimal amount as more would prove dangerous and less would be nothing more than a parched desert.
While many think of Idaho as a land of extreme weather, the summer high in July only reaches 85 degrees F. In winter, residents can expect to see a moderate low in January of a mere 17 degrees F. Combined with the moderate rainfall, the temperature allows Idaho to grow and flourish without the threats of extremes
Food and Water
This ideal climate and low population allow for optimal agricultural production. As a result, the state grows nearly a third of America’s potatoes. Idaho preppers can take some comfort knowing that potatoes are a great survival food.
While potatoes are definitely what Idaho is known for, the state also grows other crops. Lentils, wheat, hay, and barley are only some of the exports to other states. Though there are very few people in Idaho, especially when you consider its size, they manage to feed a significant portion of the country including themselves.
Idaho gets its water from surface water, but that only accounts for around 5-10%. The majority of the state’s water consumption comes from the massive aquifers underground. This leads to the state having more abundant and cleaner drinking water than much of the West.
Idaho is notoriously a red state. Both the governor and the senators are members of the Republican party and proudly so. The state has recently passed a constitutional right to hunt and fish as well as a ban on abortion. With this conservative-leaning, Idaho has become a popular place for conservative-minded people to move to. However, as the population grows, many Idaho natives fear the political norms of the state will shift as well.
One of the key features of Idaho for the prepper is its low population. Much like its neighbors, Idaho boasts large tracts of wilderness with no now to inhabit them. The state’s total population is 1.8 million, less than 1/4 the population of New York City for perspective. While this is an attractive attribute for many, it is not without its challenges.
With men making up 50.1% of that and women 49.9% the genders of the state are fairly equal. The racial makeup of the state is mostly White (82%) and Hispanic (12.5%). Other races make up the balance but are in such short supply they barely require mention.
Idaho is also a slightly older state, which speaks to its conservative leanings. The mean age in Idaho is 36.8 and about 52% of Idaho’s people are part of the Christian faith. The balance of people largely declares no faith of some sort.
Your chances of becoming the victim of a violent crime in Idaho is 1 in 415. The murder rate is 0.02 per 1000 people, below the national average. The rape rate is above the national average at 0.45 per 1000 people. The robbery and assault rates are below the national average at 0.09 per 1000 people, and 1.84 per 1000 people respectively.
The chances of becoming the victim of a property crime in Idaho is 1 in 91. Idaho’s property crime rates of burglary, theft and motor vehicle theft are below the national average. The burglary rate is 2.03 per 1000 people. The theft rate is 8.06 per 1000 people, and the motor vehicle theft rate is 0.96 per 1000 people.
Idaho Natural Disasters
In Idaho, wildfires and flooding are the most common disasters. However, many don’t realize that the state also experiences earthquakes, damage from volcanic eruptions, and man-made disasters. For as much as James Wesley Rawles talks about this being a safe space – the American Redoubt – it sure does have its share of troubles.
Massive flooding, earthquakes, wildfires, locust storms, and Mt St. Helens all prove to show this place can be rather dangerous. While there are some commonalities between the different disasters, they also demand their own unique responses. Therefore, a prepper should be ready for a variety of different disasters that can happen in the state.
1) The Big Burn (1910) – After a lightning strike hit an area that hadn’t received any rain for quite some time, a brushfire was ignited. Soon the small bushfire spread into an enormous wildfire thanks to heavy wind. It continued to grow until it reached apocalyptic levels. The result was the largest wildfire in American history. It kept burning until a heavy rain finally put it out. By that point 87 people had already died and 3 million acres had been burned to the ground.
2) The Teton Dam Collapse (1976) – The Teton Dam was doomed from the beginning. Construction crews routinely found leaks throughout it. It seemed that no matter how much they patched it up, the dam continued to deteriorate. In the end, the dam burst as expected. While most were able to be evacuated, the collapse of the Teton Dam resulted in the deaths of eleven people,16,000 head of livestock, and an estimated $2 billion in property damage.
3) The Eruption of Mt. St. Helens (1980) – The largest volcanic blast in American history killed 57 people and caused irreparable lung damage in many more. The volcano left 2” of ash on the entire state. While all other natural disasters are mitigated or avoided by simply going to an unaffected region, there was no such safe haven from Mt St. Helens. Since the volcano primarily affected the air, its path of destruction went where it pleased and was completely uncontrollable.
4) The Borah Quake (1983) – Many do not associate the state of Idaho with earthquakes, but Idaho made international headlines with this one. At 7.5 on the Richter scale, this fierce quake ended up killing 2 and causing $2.5 million in damages. This could have easily been much worse had it not happened in the middle of an unpopulated area. What is especially unique and terrifying about the Borah Quake was the type of earthquake it was. Normally, earthquakes cause the ground to move from side to side. However the Borah Quake caused the ground to move up and down. This made it especially destructive.
5) The Salmon Flood (1984) – Most floods occur when the ground is saturated by excessive rain. The Salmon River flood, however, came from the river flows being obstructed. During the winter of 1984, a mass of ice blocked off the Salmon River forming a makeshift dam. This caused the river to back up and flood the nearby town of Salmon. The result was unanticipated mass evacuations as icy the floodwaters rose and threatened life and property in the region.
6) The Plague (1985) – Most states have disasters of common types. Riots, weather, and earthquakes are standard fair for the emergencies people will face over time. However, in Idaho, bugs get added to the list. In 1985, a grasshopper swarm descended upon Idaho and began rapidly moving its way throughout the state eating everything green in sight. More than 6 million acres of land suffered severe crop damage. While nobody died, the grasshoppers did cause $11 million in damage.
Idaho Prepping Challenges
The challenges of Idaho are basically fires, floods, and isolation. With sufficient home hardening and preparation, fires can be dealt with. By simply choosing the right place from the beginning, floods can be avoided altogether. However, the isolation of Idaho is something that should not be taken lightly.
While Idaho is one of the premier destinations for vacationing, hunting, and escaping to, it would be very wise to remember it is still a vast, untamed wilderness. This can be a very positive feature of the state, but it is not for the faint of heart when disaster strikes.
Idaho Prepping Strategies
Idaho has fairly standard challenges for the prepper. For the most part, standard prepping strategies and prepper supplies will serve Idahoans well.
One of the great challenges of living in Idaho during a disaster scenario is acquiring food. While Idaho is known for its hunting, the elements may prevent days afield chasing after deer and elk. Therefore, it is advisable to have an alternative food source that is safe from the weather, pests, and animals.
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Ranging from a simple tent set up to advanced aquaponics, a greenhouse can provide a substantial amount of food year-round regardless of weather conditions. This feature gives someone bugging in a distinct advantage over the conditions.
Find the Right Elevation
With most states, it is enough to just advise getting to high ground. However, Idaho offers high ground that can be deadly. Therefore, it is important to emphasize moderation in selecting a home location. Select a location that has good access to water, but no threat of flooding your home if it rises to several times its natural depth.
Being just above the treeline is ideal as that will ensure protection from fires due to the lack of fuel and thin air. However, in a state with rapidly rising real estate prices, large swaths of public land, and rugged terrain, this may be a tall order.
Be Ready to Be Alone
Idaho is a frequently sought-after state for preppers, survivalists, and those that simply want to disappear. Idaho’s wild lands and sparse population offer people with the desire to live free from the trappings and burdens of modern society an opportunity to self-actualize. However, during a disaster situation, the dream of living alone and free can very quickly turn into a nightmare.
Many parts of Idaho could easily become cut off from the rest of the world for an extended period of time. This means being cut off from advanced medical care, specialty supplies, and maintenance. In order to effectively and safely bug-in in Idaho demands methodical preparation of your training, infrastructure, mindset, and social needs.
One of the most important pieces of equipment for any prepper planning to bug out is to have decent maps of their state. Having an identified bug out location is crucial. All preppers in any state should begin their bug out plans with a paper map of their state. Nothing is better for all-purpose use than the DeLorme Atlas and Gazetteer.
Idaho is nearly two-thirds public land. The majority of that is undeveloped wilderness. This means that there are not many places for cell phone companies to place towers. Once you have ventured away from a populated area, phone service will be nonexistent. It is so big that even ham radio is insufficient to communicate with. Therefore, when bugging out make sure that you have a GPS on hand.
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Luckily, today there are many phone apps that allow for maps to be downloaded so that your phone’s internal GPS can be used. Apps like OnX and Avenza Maps are just two examples of mapping apps that should be on every phone in the state.
Always Have Fire In Mind
Idaho, like all western states, is highly prone to wildfires. The majority of Idaho’s wildfires go unnoticed or even get no response at all as the majority of the state is devoid of civilization. However, in a bug out situation, it would be very easy to accidentally end up in the middle of a forest fire. Always have water and hand tools available to put out embers and cut a fire line around your vehicle. A Pulaski and water can in an easily accessible spot can save your life.
Be Ready to Be Cold
All of Idaho is either alpine wilderness or desert. In both environments, it gets very cold year-round. Ensuring that you have layered your clothes appropriately and have extra layers in your bug out bag is essential to survival. Start with merino wool or polypropylene base layer and progress to insulating layers topped by a shell against the elements. It does no good to leave your home so that you can die of hypothermia in the mountains.
Further Reading for Idaho Preppers
This article just scratches the surface of what Iowa preppers need to know. The following links could held educate you more on prepping in the state.
PrepperNet Nampa – Prepper group in Nampa that meets to exchange ideas and build a prepping community.
North Idaho Preppers and Self Sufficiency – Facebook group geared to creating a community of preppers in North Idaho.
Twin Eagles – Survival, permaculture, and other types of courses geared to help you be self-sufficient in Idaho.
Northwest Survival Course – Learn everything you need to know in order to survive and thrive in the Idaho backcountry
Idaho Fire Map -A real-time fire status map by Idaho Game and Fish.
Idaho Emergency Management – State website concerning updates, training, and preparedness for disasters.
The same can be said for western Montana. Abuts up against Idaho, everything you said can also apply. With the exception that if Montana goes back to the weather patterns of the 50’s and 60’s, we had occasional severe cold in the -50’s and high snowfall/blizzards, long periods of below 0, on our side of the Rockies. But the whole area of the two are truly God’s country.
Even in the 70s we had some of those sustained month long below zero snaps. And we still get some crazy weather patterns now. Like this cold, wet spring that gave us freezing temps overnight into June. It makes it tough to garden & one has to learn to love cold weather & short season crops. I never even try melons, most peppers, tomatillos, or anything with a longer than 90 day harvest projection. Spinach, chard, kale, zucchini, radishes, lettuce, carrots, etc. are my garden mainstays. I have a small hothouse built out of my old house windows where I grow tomatoes & some peppers.