10 Tips for the Beginning Prepper

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Like many of you I started prepping with a huge sense of urgency and a lot of questions but not much in the way of guidance from anyone I knew and trusted. It is probably my personality for the most part because when I do get interested in something new I will dive right in at the beginning. This usually leads to some mistakes along the way as I go it alone and find out what works and what doesn’t. As a beginning prepper I didn’t really have anyone I could turn to for advice that I knew and relied on my internet research ability for the most part to learn as much as I could.

This worked out OK in some cases and in others it didn’t. If I could have chosen how I would like to learn all about prepping it would have been with someone who had gone through some of the same things I was thinking of. I would have the benefit of a sounding board of someone who had considered some of the same things I was concerned about.

This is part of the reason why I started the Prepper Journal and that is to share information with people who were new to Prepping. The articles we publish aren’t written for Special Forces operators, our focus is regular people who live regular lives who have regular families and regular problems. I strongly encourage anyone who has questions to leave them in the comments below, or better yet post them in our new prepper forum. With your help this site can continue to grow and reach people with the shared goal of getting as many people prepared for those unexpected events in life as possible. The more voices that join in the conversation the better the information will be for everyone.

In addition to that I wanted to write out 10 tips for the beginning prepper to answer some questions I have been asked about how to start prepping.

  1. Think about who you are prepping for – For me this seems to guide my decisions in a lot of things because if you know who you are making preparations for, you will know what prepper plans make sense. For example, if you have 3 small children you are going to need to make plans appropriate to their abilities in some regard so some decisions that work great for a single guy or gal will need to be modified to a single mother with small children. In addition to perspective, your preps themselves will change according to who you are planning on taking care of. If the grid goes down you will not only need baby formula and diapers, but as they grow do you have shoes and clothes that will fit them?
  2. Identify the most likely scenarios you foresee – This is the easiest thing to do for some people and for others it is the most difficult. If you live in tornado alley, I would imagine that during certain times of the year your only concern is for an F5 ripping down the street. Likewise if you live near a fault line you would probably be thinking about surviving through an earthquake. The good news is that for almost any survival scenario, the things you need to keep you alive and safe are practically the same. What your aftermath is going to look like will be different though in some cases. For those who don’t necessarily live on a fault line, near the coast or adjacent a chemical plant there are other events to prepare for that aren’t man made. Again, to prepare for almost anything you need similar supply considerations. Food, Water, Shelter and Security.
  3. Analyze where you will likely need to prepare the most – This can go a couple of different directions but your location matters greatly when it comes to how to start prepping. Do you live in a big city or out in the rural countryside? That alone will greatly influence what you have to worry about in a survival situation. Once something does happen, where will you be? Will you bug out to the country to live with family or do you plan to cordon off the neighborhood and defend your home with a small survival group? If you live in a desert your primary concerns will be water which might be difficult or impossible to find outside of city services. Do you live in a climate with a short growing season? That will make gardening more difficult or at a minimum will define what you can grow.
  4. Build food and water stockpiles – Regardless of where you live, humans need water and food above all other things to survive. No matter if there is a depression caused by economic collapse or Godzilla destroys your town, you will need food and water so these are the first things you should consider stocking up on. We have a food storage calculator spreadsheet in our resources that will help you determine how much you need to store for the number of people in your family. Knowing the amount of people you are prepping for comes into this tip as you have to plan for your family and anyone else you anticipate coming to stay (in laws, friends, and neighbors). This process does not need to break the bank and you don’t necessarily have to purchase freeze-dried foods. Simply adding to the regular food you already eat will give you an additional supply of foods your family likes. This along with a disciplined food rotation plan will ensure that you have enough food to last small disruptions at the beginning and longer term events as your stores increase.
  5. Create a plan for your end goal – What are you trying to accomplish by prepping? What would your perfect scenario look like? Let’s say you live in Kansas and tornadoes are what you are prepping for. You have a small family of 3 kids and 2 adults plus one dog. A plan could be that when a tornado appears you and the family would bug out to the tornado shelter you have in the back yard that is filled with a week of food and water for all of your family members (and the dog). If that is your plan, it is easy to gauge where you are along the arc of prepping for that eventuality. Visualize your family surviving and write down what that looks like. Then take a look at everything you are prepping for, the purchases you make and skills you need to bring this goal to reality. Does the food you’re storing meet that goal? How far to reaching that goal do you have to go?
  6. Create Lists – I started writing a list almost from the beginning and I would add to that as I went along. My list has the following categories: Power, Shelter, First Aid, Water, Food, Garden, Tactical, Livestock, Misc. Under each of those categories I wrote down what I thought I needed to take care of under each item. Under Power for example I had Tri-Fuel Generator, Solar panel system, Method of securing the generator to the house, transfer switch, 30 Gallons of fuel, 4 quarts of engine oil. Each category is different and the list helped me compile my thoughts around each issue I was prepping for. When I was able to check off one of the items I had a sense of accomplishment that one part of my goal was met. Also, it helped me make decisions when I needed to purchase something. If I had a generator for example but still lacked the solar panel system and was considering another purchase I knew by what was on my list which categories I was lacking the most in.
  7. Learn skills/research – One of the great things about the internet is the wealth of information at your fingertips. Take time now to learn as much as you can. Acquire books on prepping that will teach you skills and be a resource when the internet isn’t available. Take a course on first aid or maybe electronics. Make sure you are proficient with your weapon if you have one and plan on relying on that weapon to keep your family safe.
  8. Start building up slowly – This is more directed to people who plan to throw thousands of dollars of prepping gear on their credit cards. I don’t think you should get into financial trouble to become prepared. Start with food and water and make sure you can keep everyone you are prepping for fed and hydrated for a month. 30 days’ worth of food will make you more prepared than 98% of the population and can be done incrementally. I have said before that Prepping is a lifestyle, it isn’t a destination. Most of us can’t blow $20,000 on a years’ worth of food for 6 people, the most tricked out Bug Out Vehicle and fancy .308 rifles for everyone in the house. If that is you, great but the average prepper doesn’t have a bank account like that.
  9. Don’t lose site of the end goal/Don’t give up – One of the problems with any thing that goes on too long is fatigue. You can get tired of doing fun activities just as easily as you can with prepping. Many people will quit prepping if nothing happens and instead of getting defeated you should let that animate you. Prepping is a journey of life-long self-reliance. You should be glad that nothing goes wrong instead of upset. You are prepping for an event you hope never happens so how counter-intuitive would it be to sell all your preps and give up when the end of the world doesn’t happen by this time next year. Remember that you started prepping to take care of people and nobody knows when tragedy will strike or an emergency will present the opportunity for you to do just that.
  10. Keep your eyes open – We talk about situational awareness and I think this is very important. It is great to have food and water and the best survival gun out there, but if a crisis catches you with your pants down you won’t be any better off than anyone else. There are a lot of prepper resources you can turn to for news and current events.  Not only do you need to be aware of your immediate surroundings, you need to keep an eye on what is happening elsewhere in your state, region, nation and world to be in the best position to take advantage of your preps and act early to avoid disaster. Don’t spend years of time getting prepared only to not know when some calamity is moving down the street toward your town. Pay attention to the news. If you are worried about the weather, have a weather alert radio and monitor the forecasts. For some things like an earthquake you can’t really do anything. For social uprising events like Ferguson you can monitor the events and be prepared to take action to save your family.

Hopefully these gave you some ideas if you are just now beginning prepping and are looking for a place to start. If you have other ideas of your own, please add them to the comments below or create a topic in our prepper forum and we can continue the conversation in there. Good luck!


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  • Lawrence Black

    Great article as usual, Pat.

    Very timely. Many of us who have been interested in prepping for awhile sometimes lose sight of our reason for beginning to “prep” in the first place. Thanks for the remedial!

    • Thank you very much Larry! Hope you are doing well.


      • Lawrence Black

        Quite well, considering this Obama economy (politics is a different forum).

        I needed to be reminded of my reasons for preparing and to refocus. It’s far too easy to get sidetracked by the latest prep fads and end up scattering my time, money & resources in a dozen different directions.

        Keep on doing what you’re doing.

        OT, anything new from the Captain? Or has he and his family already set sail?

  • Andi

    Great artical like always, i read and i”m sign up for email to your web-site since a long time, a lot usefull tips and great reading stuff.i’m a regular dad who has trouble to sleep at night in worry about my familie.I love the files for downloading.I basically follow every tip you have i can’t keep up or reach the goal of everything but i read enough on here that i know this is NOT the goal :).Maybe you could put the list that you mention above POWER,GARDEN,SHELTER……and and and out so we can get some ideas ? example, it maybe sounds ridicules to a lt reader here but i never heard about a tri-fuel generator ! what actually makes sense, know i heard about know i research 🙂
    OK thanks for your time and the web-site,LOVE IT !
    (sorry for the grammar)

  • Nicole

    As a city dweller, the more I read through these tips (which are great and very helpful) and the more I get a better understanding of the situation at hand, the larger my concerns become about being able to prep even the basics properly. The size of apartments for those in large metropolitan areas limit one’s storage options, especially when taking situational awareness and OPSEC/Gray Neighbor matters into consideration.

    Where my goal was to one day be a homeowner and debt-free, it seems like now learning about the importance of prepping and all that goes with it has me realizing that I’m at a huge disadvantage on so many levels and may not likely, if ever, make it to the other side of my objectives…especially where being prepared is concerned. As it stands, I’m starting think that investing time and resources into acquiring more skills is one of the more attainable preps that are within reach more-so than others. I wonder if learning about gardening, herbal remedies and treating/gathering/filtering water may help to compensate for the lack of storage options available in the city…and of course, even those skills might only be useful to a certain extent.

    One moment I’m hopeful and pumped to take actions toward increasing my chances of survival, and then the next moment, I’m thinking that I’m just doomed due to location and limited resources.

    • Pat


      Thanks for commenting and don’t give up! Your words mirror a post I have in mind that I might compose later this week. There is too much to worry about that if you aren’t careful it can sap all your motivation. We just have to spin how we look at things and you are on the right track so keep going. There is no perfect situation but any steps you make in the right direction will not be wasted.