A Prepper Looks Back – 10 Years of Prepping Lessons

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Cliché alert!!! – Someone once said (don’t really care enough to google who) that “You should only look back to see how far you have come”. A lot of what we do in the world of prepping is a comparison and contrast. We look at what the guy writing the blog has and turn to look at our own survival preps and judge some of our worthiness/readiness on how we add up. It’s a different take on keeping up with the Joneses but I think most of us still look to others as a yardstick to see how we measure up.

I know that I certainly looked at the stated supplies of others when I first began to get into prepping and maybe that is a natural trait of us humans – some extension of our social or survival instincts. Imagine a caveman walking around and he sees his buddy walking around with a new saber tooth tiger pelt wrapped around his hairy butt and thinks to himself, ‘hey, I could use one of those’. Then somebody thought of putting Molle pouches on that pelt to hold the caveman’s fire making stones and Boom, the survival market was born.

And maybe there is nothing wrong with comparing yourself to other people, at least as long as you don’t feel inferior if you don’t have what someone has or covet what they have in order to take it from them. I personally see gear I would like to have all the time and have since I started prepping, but I don’t compare myself to other preppers as much anymore. I don’t feel like I have anything to prove when I discuss my personal preps. Maybe it’s because I know you can never win that game.

Lessons from a Prepper

I thought of this topic today, like I do so many other topics in a completely random fashion. Sometimes I have to ponder several hours or days for an idea. Other times, like today, they just pop into my head walking down the hallway. I thought that maybe it might be of some value to share some prepping lessons that I have learned in my personal preparedness journey that hits 10 years old this year. It is my hope that some of these lessons will resonate with you and give you comfort, ease any disquiet you have or maybe a laugh. If all else fails, you can look at how silly I am and feel better about yourself. Caveman!

The world is not ending tomorrow

Preppers and survivalists (small S) come to this site and the subject of Preparedness/Self-Reliance for a lot of reasons, but I will propose that most reasons for prepping have Fear at their root. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t consider fear a bad thing at all. We are given the gift of fear so that we will be cautious when we need to. We have a sense of danger that warns us and I have relied quite successfully on this many times in our life. I prepare because I don’t want bad things to happen to my family. Now, that doesn’t mean I walk around scared but it did prompt me to action. You should take whatever motivation you have and act on it, but relax more often that you are uptight. I lived with the near certain expectation of doomsday, economic collapse or government tyranny for the first few years and guess what? We are still here. Don’t get so wrapped around the axle that you alienate family or make bad decisions. Chances are you have plenty of time to get ready.

Unless it does

But, now that I have said that – it’s easy to fall into Analysis Paralysis. For those who don’t know what that means, it is taking too long to make a decision or take decisive action. You have to poop or get off the pot. I know some preppers who have made extremely lengthy and detailed spreadsheets with tabs broken down in all the categories of their prepping supplies – hundreds of rows long. They have calculated the difference from one item to the next in price (shipping included) over 4 vendors. What’s worse is they keep this spreadsheet updated frequently but never purchase any of those prepping supplies. They know what they need to start with, but can’t seem to pull the trigger. The prepper that has nothing but a really great plan won’t be much better off than the person who is caught completely by surprise in a disaster. I recommend starting small, but obtain the basics you need to weather bad events and build as you can. You don’t have to purchase 3 years of freeze-dried food on day one, but don’t sit there and wait for that awesome survival knife to drop another 55 cents. You need to ensure you have the basics.

‘Two is One’ is a clever saying to get you to spend more money

And since we are talking about purchasing prepper supplies – you have all heard this one before: Two is One and One is None. That just means if you only have one of something, let’s say a headlamp, and that goes out or is lost, you have nothing to fall back on. Logic says, that makes sense, right? Redundancy is another word we love to throw out there which means essentially the same thing and I am not saying you don’t need redundancy, or even more than one headlamp. What I am saying is that you shouldn’t apply this to your bug out gear. I have a YouTuber that I really like who shall remain anonymous, but his bug out bag weighs 65 pounds!!! Why? Well, for one thing he has A LOT of redundancy in there. Many knives, saws, clothes, methods of food preparation, etc. Use your judgment on this.

Your Bug Out Bag does not have magical properties

And speaking of Bug Out Bags, they are not a get out of disaster free card. A bug out bag in a best case scenario just gives you options. Simply having a bug out bag doesn’t mean you get to live and everyone who doesn’t have one dies. I fully expect many preppers to have their bug out bags taken off their lifeless bodies because they got cocky, or just unlucky by some opportunistic soul if the worst happens. Bug Out Bags are a means to an end, not the end all be all. Prepare with them, but take their life-saving properties with a grain of salt. They can only hold so much and real disasters suck no matter what you have on your back.

You will never have enough stuff

I wrote a post a while back titled, Are you Ready for the End of Prepping. It’s basic message was that no matter how much water you have stored, how many pallets of MRE’s, tins of survival seeds or cans of Beanie Weenies you have stocked under your bed – eventually it all runs out. If we really go through a real-deal SHTF incident, your supplies are only going to last so long – so the smart money is on planning now to live without all your food storage, electrical tools, generators and anything else you won’t be able to maintain without the assistance of outside help. Yes, start prepping with the basics you can purchase at the store. Begin with a week, but I don’t think you need to sink a year’s salary into food. Start planning a garden instead or look at taking that money and buying a piece of land far outside of the city.

Prior military service doesn’t necessarily make you better qualified to survive

And this is coming from someone who is ex-Army. Yes, when you enlist in the service you get different types of training and much of this has ties into the world of prepping. Depending on the Service Branch, you learn marksmanship, weapons maintenance, team tactics, first-aid, navigation and how to generally break stuff and blow it up. That doesn’t make you a survival expert and doesn’t make you a natural leader. I know some preppers who like to lean on their past service and we aren’t all created equal. Would you give someone who never saw combat the same authority on ambush tactics for example as someone who did 4 tours of Afghanistan? No. But on the flip side, that soldier that did 4 tours (thank you) might not survive any easier than the single mom who is prepared. Different skill set? Absolutely, but that doesn’t guarantee survival or that they know everything. Now, would I love to have 4 Navy seals in my personal circle of friends if SHTF? Of course, but don’t believe for a second that you can’t survive because you have now “official” training. Personal will is a HUGE factor in survival. If you have that, you are in good shape.

Plan on self-reliance, but don’t turn away help

The Lone Gunman is the image a lot of you think of if some disaster happens. You will walk stoically out to the small clearing overlooking the smoldering ruins that used to be the city you live in, taking in the scenery you will turn and walk into the bush – those fools didn’t know what hit them. It’s a good movie plot, but as a society we survived by banding together. Yes, you can survive on your own for a while, but in order to thrive you will need others and it’s better to learn to start playing nice now. Think about how you can survive with as many people as possible. You will be stronger, more capable and you will have more people to talk to when the internet is gone.

You will never know as much as you should and maybe that’s OK.

If I was independently wealthy and didn’t have a wife or kids, or a dog I could devote myself to learning every day. There are so many subjects I wish I had the time to learn. Maybe it’s an excuse, but with a job and simple responsibilities of mine, free time is a luxury I don’t get much of. But, just because I can’t take Krav Maga classes 5 days a week, compete in a CrossFit marathon, learn Morse code and small engine repair while I practice the finer art of leatherworking and blacksmithing in between classes for my EMT certification – that’s OK. I have a pretty good bit of life ahead of me and I have time to learn as much as I need. I won’t get hung up on what I don’t know because I won’t compare myself to other survival experts.

I have said it before and I’ll say it again. Prepping is a lifestyle, not a destination. You can never be Prepared as if that was a mythical position you could obtain. Can we all be more prepared for a wider array of things? Yes and can that mean the difference between life and death? I think so. But you can’t buy the complete package of Prepping on Amazon. It’s a journey we are all waking and it will take forever to get there.

I’m glad you are with me. Let’s keep looking forward.


  1. GregChick

    May 19, 2017 at 10:21 pm

    Back many yrs. ago I was homeless, some of that time I had a VW bug. Other times I had a 4X4, or a Pick Up, and sometimes a motorhome. I was a grad of the Phoenix Fire Academy, I had served as a medic on a Fire Dept, Search n rescue, you name it. The clever things I learned still work. One is just standing in the rain naked and using Dr. Bronners soap and showering. Another was picking rose hips from wild bushes for tea. Poaching fruit and drinking from a stream. Never needed a gun, always needed my wits, was often cold. What is left with me from my days is a sleeping bag, water jugs, small stove with pot and pan and ice chest. Even if I had no ice, the chest is useful. A poncho, good shoes, good jacket, hat, gloves, knife/hatchet tool set. I have a back pack, and a water filter, as well an understanding of where I am at all times. This is a needed fact to use for where you could go if needed. Urban settings are totally different from rural and still different from the boonies… AKA BFE. I fear the unknown, not the wild country or the Urban Zombies. That then is what makes prepping so hard. Prep for what? My answer is physical warmth dryness, water, good shoes. I call a bivy a body bag and that is also a good ting regardless of the outcome of your disaster…

    • Pat Henry

      May 20, 2017 at 2:56 pm

      Thanks for reading @GregChick:disqus !

      I always say that if you have food, water, shelter and security you have everything you need, regardless of the disaster. Less about the what you should prep for and more about the how to keep living.

    • GregChick

      May 20, 2017 at 5:47 pm

      In many ways being homeless and close to broke is what it is like in a disaster because in a disaster the stores are empty and banks closed and internet down and your home is gone… As a broke person the money you do not have means it matters not if those things exist because they do not exist for you. Make sense? Really, broke means all those things are un available so they may as well not exist. One big difference is in a disaster if you HAVE money you may not be any ahead of those who do not have money… Point being in a disaster money may not be a prepper commodity instead a cool head would be. So practice for a disaster by living out of a bag, no money and in a foreign place…

  2. Mikey Likey

    May 19, 2017 at 11:02 pm

    About 25 years ago, I passed through Seattle. There seemed to be a large number of homeless people. I’m pretty sure they weren’t weekend warriors from Microsoft, they really looked homeless. But, to a person, they all had very sturdy and comfortable looking boots.

    • Pat Henry

      May 20, 2017 at 3:07 pm

      They are still there MIkey and it’s worse in San Francisco. Shoes are given out at the shelters and you want good LPC’s if you are walking all the time. Sore feet can just about cripple you.

  3. Flattop

    May 20, 2017 at 9:47 am

    I also have been pepping for several years, and one thing I have discovered, prepping can be a bottomless money pit. I finally arrived at the conclusion that I will prep to the level I feel comfortable. However, my level of comfort will be different from others, so I do not compare myself. I feel confident I can face whatever comes

    • Pat Henry

      May 20, 2017 at 2:58 pm

      Sound advice Flattop!

    • BobW

      May 24, 2017 at 2:56 am

      Right on. Millionaire or pauper, its the mind game that’s important, not the acquisition game.

  4. The Deplorable Cruella DeVille

    May 20, 2017 at 10:08 am

    Some good thoughts here, in particular the “lifestyle” sentence.
    In many ways I find the entire concept behind prepper, prepping, and all the other related terms as a discrete activity somewhat disingenuous, for lack of a better word.
    If you have your wits about you just “are” prepared.

    I hate biographical tracts but what the heck… I was raised on a working farm, mixed dairy and beef, with the usual add-ons. But our father was also a chemist with a real live day job he commuted to every day. So with Mom and five kids it was all hands on deck every day to run the farm. The house itself was a roadside inn 100 years past, at the halfway point of a horse drawn journey between two important county seats. And typical for it’s time, equipped with a 10K gallon cistern in the basement that collected rain water from the entire roof, (a familiar concept?), multiple ug wells with hand pumps, heated with oil/hot water, coal or wood, a small working sawmill on a creek, that could be switched over to mill grains. The barns, (amazing construction and features!) were filled with the implements of an earlier period, and they all worked – horse draw thresher, combine, hay wagons for loose hay, everything needed to survive and thrive without external supplies or assistance for the most part.
    My father, being the wise man he was, ensured we all knew how to run everything needed for any job on the place: using our modern tools, AND using the original, historical implements now seen only in farmers museums. (Ever miked 50 head by hand?) Our mother, an RN, was the same: treat wounds or infections, slap on a butterfly or pull stitches as needed, set and plaster a broken arm. Help the cows during a difficult delivery. Did you know pine sap is an antiseptic? And the girls could run a hay bailer, fix the tractor, or their cars, and hunt game, as well as I.

    My point to this blather is that Prepping is a mindset. Anything you do that is not pure entertainment should be done with “Always Prepared” in the back of your mind. Whether it’s forming the habit of filling your vehicle fuel tank at the 50% mark, to the other extreme of attending force-on-force tactical training programs – everything you do should be done with an eye toward an OH S*** event occurring in the next 10 seconds and how can your actions allow you to survive and thrive post event.

    • Pat Henry

      May 20, 2017 at 2:59 pm

      Thank you @disqus_WFMElcgytp:disqus! Yes, we seem to equate the Doomsday Prepper/Gas Mask type of scenario as Prepping when it is so much more than that.

  5. NRP

    May 20, 2017 at 12:11 pm

    Excellent article Pat, some GREAT sound advice.

    This quote “Prepping is a lifestyle, not a destination” is what 99% of what Peppers/Survivalist/Doomsday-Prepper types/Whatever you want to call yourselves do NOT UNDERSTAND! and probably never will unless you let go of those foolish ideas that conger up ideas of If/When TSHTF you’ll be just fine with your ‘stuff’, your $150K BOV, ten full-auto ARs, 300K of ammo, the BOB and all the rest of the BS that ‘some’ describe as the cure all to out last the Zombies (sorry had to toss that in there HAHAHA).

  6. BobW

    May 24, 2017 at 3:02 am

    I’m disappointed in your pig skinner collection, Pat. Not a single Samurai sword in the group.

    But seriously, as my personal philosophy evolves, I’m thinking long, edged weapons as fall back positions provide balance between the assumption that there will always be enough bullets, and…well, the stone age.

    • the Deplorabel Cruella DeVille

      May 25, 2017 at 12:52 pm

      I have a number I can loan him…
      Although if I had a preference I would probably prefer a US Cavalry Saber from immediate post Civil War. This implement was about 41 inches long, a decent pommel guard, a grip useful for about 320 degrees of rotation, and although curved, was straight enough for use as a traditional fencing weapon.

    • R. Ann

      May 26, 2017 at 7:42 am

      I know it’s not quite as cool as Braveheart and all, but instead of a sword you might consider:
      – machete (traditional/GI or one of the curved types)
      – Woodsman’s pal (love mine; prefer the original style blade and stock)
      – ax, with or without a metal handle replacement (with a grinder you can always modify the blade and they come in a wide variety as-is; a wedge axe is also an alternative to some of the heavy cavalry-stopper spears of the past with a little work done)
      – pick ax or maddox (can sharpen more later)

      They have a lot of practical uses now and especially later if/when we turn to clearing more land and trails by hand and collecting more wood.
      Many/most have histories of being turned on others as weapons even in the tool-not-war configurations, and a lot of machetes – while thinner, and with increased “stick” potential and less BFT due to that – are not much shorter than things like artillery swords of the past.
      A sword, war hammer, battle ax, and saber are for the most part only tools of war, which means for an awful lot of disasters, lives and lifetimes, they’re only going to sit somewhere.
      It also takes a fair bit of time and training to be good with a lot of swords, especially longer swords. Maybe the other guy doesn’t have that, maybe he does, or maybe he just swings for home with a metal ball bat or steel pipe and then jerks the butt under or reaches past while the heavier momentum buys him a heartbeat.
      Rebecca Ann

  7. Frank Rojas

    May 28, 2017 at 11:05 am


    Great article and really, a bit of a wake up call as I fall into the Analysis Paralysis group. There’s a lot I have researched and a ton I have planned but I haven’t pulled the trigger. As a family man as well, kids and a dog I should at least start with the basics to protect and care for my family.

  8. JD

    May 28, 2017 at 12:16 pm

    I remember back in 1997 after I bought my first issue of the american survival guide magazine, I went out and bought a mini 14 1000 rounds of ammo and jungle clipped my mags together. I had a large Alice pack and a kbar, and thought I was ready for the apocalypse. Lol! Some 20 years later I’m still not where I want to be, but I’m light years ahead of where I was when I was a 23 year old rookie.

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