Everyone’s level of prepping is not the same. Some people prepare for the occasional storm, power outage, short-term hardship or numerous other emergency situations. However, at some level, the need for preparation will apply to everyone. We all have to decide what “prepping” means to us and to what extent we want to pursue it.
For me, it goes beyond preparing for your average three-day power outage caused by a storm. I believe that we live in a world with unsustainable practices and lifestyles. To that end, it is my belief that I need to be in the mindset of being self-reliant long term. So, what is long term? My definition of long term would be a minimum of one year to, well, pick any number.
Research Your Gear!
In terms of gear, most of us get lost in products deemed tactically cool. It is easy to find yourself bookmarking pages of badass knives or falling into the trap of feeling the need to own a product in order to complete your bug out bag.
In fact, for the first several years I embarked upon this lifestyle, I was on this path. When I first began prepping, I primarily concentrated on gear and wanted what everyone else was saying was the “best”. The most important thing to remember when it comes to gear is DO YOUR RESEARCH. I cannot stress enough how important it is to research the gear in which you are interested. Sometimes the cheaper gear is better than the more expensive gear and vice versa.
Also, consider the specific use of that gear for YOUR purposes. The first knife that I purchased was advertised as a survival knife, but turned out to be a combat knife. Most knives that are labeled as survival knives are not truly the kind of knife you want for a survival situation. Almost all of the knives out there that are labeled this way are combat knives and not knives that will effectively cut wood, process game, slice vegetables, or clear brush. They are for self-defense, period. There is not one tool that will do it all, but there some that can quite a bit.
Most other gear I obtained – including food, tents, sleeping bags and other tools – I quickly picked up at local stores or online. I purchased them after reading a few good reviews. I did not properly assess their purposes or durability for my family. I got the gear to have the gear. Now, is it better to have these subpar items than not to have them? Mostly, my answer to this question is yes. Will the brand name sleeping bag I bought at the big box store work in my home when the power goes out? Yeah it will. Will it work out doors when it is twenty below zero? Is it worth staking your life on a piece of gear that will not perform its intended purpose? This is the question you need to ask yourself when purchasing a piece of equipment.
After acquiring friends in the proper circles and participating in extensive discussions, I finally found the path that I needed to be on. My first suggestion is to find someone who has vast life experience in the military, the outdoors, or in the survivalist field and ask lots of questions. Next, decide for yourself how to utilize and employ the combined knowledge you have gleaned from those more experienced than yourself. By limiting yourself to skimming some online product reviews, you may be unintentionally gambling with your family’s future survival.
Also read: Networking After TSHTF
The other piece of advice I have regards what you are prepping for: It seems to me that there are a lot of people out there that prep towards one specific end. In the last several years, combat-related prepping has become the most popular and talked about. While you do need to be able to defend yourself, there are more important things to consider than what accessory is best for your firearm.
To me, it is obvious to prep first for the dangers most common in your region. It does you no good if the main event you are prepping for is an EMP if you live in Tornado Alley. It does you no good to spend all your time and money stocking supplies to bug in with no plans to bug out if you live on a major earthquake fault line. It’s akin to investing your money in the stock market: you want to diversify, and not place all your eggs in one basket. Concentrate on your local threats first and expand from there.
Upgrading the SHTF Arsenal
When it comes to firearms, I know people who prep strictly with high caliber AR’s and pistols or with obscure calibers or with just hunting rifles. All of which will get you into trouble unless you diversify. You shouldn’t have ten AR’s with thousands of rounds in stock. You shouldn’t have just a .22 caliber and expect to get by.
Ideally you need to have a few AR’s, pistols, and hunting platforms. Just like the knife I spoke of earlier, every tool has a specific purpose and there is not one tool that will do everything. It is not wise to hunt for rabbits with a large caliber rifle or pistol and you don’t want to have to defend yourself with a .22 caliber platform. You will also want to invest firearms with the most common calibers available.
In times of desperation, this will make finding reloading supplies and ammunition much easier. You don’t want to be stuck with a firearm you cannot use because ammunition is no longer available due to it being an uncommon caliber. Again, you need to do what is going to work for you and the people with you. If you only have large caliber platforms, a smaller stature person might have difficultly firing it. Also please be realistic in your choice of platforms. I cannot tell you how many times I have heard and seen discussions concerning accessories and scopes someone needs to be hitting “targets” at a thousand plus yards. I am so sick of hearing this.
I will respond to these people with, “Have you had any military or law enforcement training? Have you trained with someone who was or is in that field?” Most of the time it is people that are talking out of their “you know what” and they have no business having those kind of expectations of their “skills.”
The way one of my friends explained it to me was that if you are not prepared to live like the pioneers or how people did several generations ago, then you will not make it. This is why for me, my purpose is to obtain the knowledge and skills necessary to live and survive without any outside help.
Yes, you will always need gear and supplies, but knowledge above all else. This doesn’t mean relying on a year’s worth or twenty year’s worth of MRE’s or other long term food. It doesn’t mean relying on the latest and greatest military style rifle and a stock of twenty thousand rounds of ammunition. It doesn’t mean relying on solar or wind energy to power all your tools and appliances.
Do I want alternate energy tools like solar? Of course I do. Do I stock extra food and have firearms for hunting? Of course I do. However, all of these things will run out, wear out, and break. My ability to have as many possible solutions to one problem is the key.
Beyond Beans, Bullets, Band-Aids, and Braggadocio
If a major event happens, the likelihood of resupply exponentially decreases with time. So even though you have your year’s worth of bullets, beans and band aids, what happens after that if the situation is still bad? Here are some of the skills and the knowledge I believe you need to obtain: basic maintenance, building, plumbing, and electrical know-how. What if your house, a friend’s house or some important building is damaged? What if you need to bug out and the area you are in long term doesn’t have a decent permanent structure? Being able to frame up a small structure for living or a larger building like a barn, and a way of containing livestock, is paramount in your ability to survive and grow. Creating a garden and working the land is vital to your survival for food and other important raw materials.
Most people grow small gardens in their backyard or on their balcony, but could you work a larger plot of land? What tools would you need for a full acre or larger food plot? What is the proper way to work it and maintain it? Do you know about crop rotation, fertilizers, watering, weeding, harvesting, and seasons for different varieties of crops? Do you know the difference between GMO seeds and heirloom seeds?
GMO seeds are crops that are created to have a much higher yield in crop but don’t produce as many or productive seeds for replanting. Knowing how certain crops can complement each other is also extremely important. Take the Three Sisters planting method, for instance. This is where you closely plant corn, squash and climbing beans. The corn provides a structure for the beans to climb, the beans will provide the nitrogen needed for the other crops and the squash will spread out blocking the sunlight which will help in the prevention of weeds.
Also read: Garden Basics – Weeding 101
Man up! Sewing isn’t just for females. Long ago, I learned basic sewing practices for fixing holes in my clothes. Recently I have started to learn to use a sewing machine to complete more complicated tasks. I have been using these skills to make my own belts and rifle slings. I have also been learning about patterns and hand sewing. Obviously this helps in maintaining and making clothes but it also aids with other projects like creating belt holsters for tools, pouches, bags for carrying and storage, etc. This is an important skill because there might come a time you can’t buy more clothes. You also might not be able to depend on someone else to repair your clothes for you. I suggest investing, quite cheaply by the way, in a variety of needles and some spools of thread. I have found that if you go to a fabric store the employees there are very helpful in finding exactly what you need, rather than shopping at a big box store.
Practical medicine. I can’t stress this enough! I have talked to a lot of people that have these huge and expensive surgical kits but they don’t have the knowledge to use 90% of the items in the kit. Why do they have it? Because it looks good and they have everything just in case. Again, it is probably better to have some of these items than not to have them, but how is it going to help you if you don’t know the proper technique? The average person does not have a need for a fully stocked surgical kit because they do not know how to use it.
When it comes to first aid, the majority of us will be dealing with common issues and not taking out someone’s appendix. This is a waste of money and precious space. What the average person does need is the knowledge to treat common ailments and injuries. You need to know how to treat sprained ankles, burns, small cuts, how to stop bleeding, dental care, how to suture, natural remedies as antibiotics, etc. Being able to stabilize someone is also extremely important.
These are just a few areas in which I believe most people overlook and need to beef up their knowledge and skill base. The benefit of taking this route are that the skills and knowledge that you learn will help you out in daily life, in addition to an event. Whereas, buying all the tools and food needed for a zombie apocalypse might look cool on the wall and make you feel good with a puffed-out chest, but they don’t necessarily serve any other purpose.