Many of us that have been prepping since before the Internet have welcomed all the new information, knowledge, and interaction with our fellow preppers. But for someone who is just starting out, it can all be overwhelming. So overwhelming that they don’t know where to start. The sad part is that many of them don’t start. They feel that they have to spend so much money at one time to get all the gear that the experts say they need, that they just can’t do it. This is in large part due to shows like Doomsday Preppers. While I watch these shows regularly, and enjoy them, they are, in my opinion, a two edged sward. They have made many people aware of the need to start preparing for _______(fill in the blank), but they also go so far beyond the basics (where we all started) that they leave the new prepper with the wrong idea of how to start.
None of us started out with everything we needed. For some of us, we had no idea what we would need. We knew we had to prepare, maybe we had a vague idea what we were preparing for, and a kernel of a plan in the back of our minds. Before the Internet came along, we had to search through stacks of books and magazines for information. If we were lucky, we found a survival school nearby. We slowly built up our supplies, made a Bug Out bag, practiced our skills, and continued the search for information, gear, and more skills.
For those that are just beginning, I am glad you found this site. It will offer you many tips and suggestions. The gear, gadgets, and most of the advice have all been tested. The advertisers have all been vetted, so if you choose to purchase their products (and I hope you do as they help keep this site up and running) you can be assured that they will deliver on their promises.
I hope that with a few tips, the new prepper will continue to become prepared and will continue to seek knowledge to help them and their families become more self reliant. The tips and suggestions I offer are based on my own experience, I do NOT consider myself an expert. In fact I learn more each and every day. I have had to replace my bag a few times, often on a very limited budget. These suggestions have helped me through the years, that is why I offer them to you. These suggestions are for a bug out kit, not a bug in kit. (although it can be used for both)
By way of introduction, I am 44 years old and I have been prepping since I was in my teens. I took my first survival course at 16 in the Sierra Nevada mountains. I am a Nurse and an EMT, I have also been a volunteer fire fighter and a storm spotter. I have been through ice storms and tornadoes in Oklahoma, and earthquakes and forest fires in California.
When you pack your bug out kit, think of the five priorities you have; Water, Food, Heat, Shelter, and Security. Everything you need in your bag falls into one of these five categories. You need to try to have at least three days worth of supplies. Of course, if you can’t have that at first, remember that something is better than nothing.
A source of water would be your first criteria for your bug out location. (I will talk a little about this later). The recommendation is one (1) gallon of water per person, per day. So you would need 3 gallons of water for your own use. That would be about 24 pounds (8 pounds per gallon, approximately). Since most people can not carry more than 50-60 pounds for more than a short time, I suggest carrying two liters and having a way to purify or filter the rest. (search You Tube for your best choices on how to do this)Two liters should last you through most of one day’s drinking requirements. I prefer to carry mine in military style canteens, with a military style canteen holder and canteen cups. An alternate method would be using 2 one liter bottles or a two liter bottle such as a clean soda bottle.
In my bag I usually carry three MREs, three dehydrated meals I made myself, a few food bars, a jar of peanut butter, M&Ms, and several pieces of hard candy and gum. Hard candy can provide sustained energy by keeping your blood sugar up while burning more calories than normal, but can also keep your mouth moist when exerting yourself. If you carry canned food, which is heavier but easier to come by when first packing your kit, make sure to pack a can opener. Also make sure you pack eating utensils. You would be surprised at the number of people who forget these.
Remember to check your food often for expiration dates. I do this by setting my e-mail ca lender to send me reminders a few days before I go shopping at the beginning of each month. That way I can check everything and add it to my shopping list as needed. Anything about to expire gets eaten or donated so nothing goes to waste.
Like me, many of you have watched the various survival shows and watched while they made a fire out of whatever is handy. Building a fire this way is a great skill to have. You may need it, and if nothing else it builds your confidence. But, as my first instructor told me “It’s easier to flick a Bic than rub a stick”. That’s the reason I never leave the house without a lighter and a pocket knife. Disposable lighters are easier to dry than matches, or even a Zippo lighter, if they become wet. I carry all three of these with me in my bag or on my person. The matches are in a water proof container (available at almost any sporting goods store) along with a small piece of sand paper, since I have found that “Strike anywhere” matches actually do NOT work everywhere. You should also pack some type of tender in your bag. I have cotton balls, dryer lint, paper (from the note book I carry) and I always have a few business cards in my wallet and in my bag (most sales people and many other businesses will be more than glad to give you one or two). There are also commercial fire starting fuels out there like Trioxane. A small saw and hatchet are also part of your heat providing gear. There are many choices out there for these items, so do your research and choose the best ones for you.
In this category would be the clothes you wear and pack. You should have a sturdy pair of shoes or boots, at least two extra pair of socks, long pants a long sleeve shirt (I pack either a work shirt like Dickie’s brand or, again, BDUs) and a cap or hat that can shade your eyes and keep your head warm.
You should also have a good sleeping bag appropriate to your climate and season, and a small water and wind proof tent. I like to have a few hand warmers as well as a good pair of insulated gloves, and a pair of work gloves for handling wood, rocks, etc. My bag also has a military surplus folding shovel and carrier that hangs on it. This is used for digging a fire pit as well as sanitation and preparing a shelter area.
A roll of duct tape is also useful, both for securing and repairing your shelter. as well as repairing almost anything else. I also have a Multi-tool so I have small wire cutters, screw drivers, etc handy to help repair anything that breaks.
If you have never built a shelter, you can start learning on YouTube or similar site online. Once you have watched it done, practice you methods of choice until you have it down pat. It is never as easy as it looks.
When most people think of security in a SHTF scenario, they think of firearms. While I believe everyone should have a few of those and the training to use them properly, they are not the only form of security.
First aid is also a vital part of your security. Being able to treat wounds or illness is vital to being and staying alive. If you have never taken a first aid course, do so. They are available almost everywhere, and they are cheap or free. Most commercial $10 first aid kits come with a small first aid handbook. Study it. Once you have chosen a first aid kit appropriate to your level of training, check it often and replace anything that is expired, just as you do your food. Many people have written about this topic, from lay people to doctors, so I will not go into it again. Search out these articles, essays, videos, and books, then practice the skills described in them.
Hygiene is also important. Staying clean is the first step in fighting disease. Having a place away from your shelter and water source to “do your business” is very important. You should have a bottle of hand sanitizer in your kit. I would recommend having a complete hygiene kit in your bag that has anti-bacterial soap along with a wash cloth and small towel. You can also pack shampoo, and deodorant in there if you choose. Make sure you have a toothbrush, tooth paste and dental floss in your hygiene kit, as well feminine hygiene products if you need them. The one thing a lot of preppers seem to forget is toilet paper. So pack that too. If you wear glasses, then get an extra pair and keep them in your Bug Out Bag in a hard case, as well as a repair kit for them. If you wear dentures, make sure you have your cleaning and care supplies in your bag.
For me, one of the most important security items I have is a Bible. The one in my BOB is the same small Gideon one I was given when I joined the army. The New testament, with Psalms and Proverbs, has given me very good sense of security all of my life.
The next step is finding the place you will be bugging out to. As I mentioned, you will want a place with a good source of water. You also want to have a place (or places) that has good security, or that you can quickly make secure. Your site should be away from whatever disaster you are getting away from. And it’s location should never be shared with anyone outside your immediate family or group. When the excrement hits the oscillating device you don’t want everyone and their brother trying to show up at your retreat.
The most important piece of gear you have in the one above your neck and between your ears. I can not stress enough how important your mental attitude is. Having the right mindset is the most important skill in surviving any situation. Whether you are preparing for total societal collapse, or the more common natural disasters, you can not survive unless you want to survive. Mental preparation is the most important preparation you will do. Think about the two or three most likely disasters, then prepare for them. After that you can go on to preparing for any other disaster you think may happen.
By finding the AllSelfSustained site and reading the notes, articles, and essays in it, you have already taken the first step. By thinking about and following through with making a BOB (Bug Out Bag), you are on your way to being able to get through almost any disaster.
I personally invest at least an hour each day to my preps. This can be anything from reading magazines, blogs, or books (which I do every day) to cutting wood, to food preservation and storage, to learning a new skill or practicing one I learned already. I practice one of my bug out plans at least once each month, and my bug in plan at least twice a year. I also try to exercise at least three times a week. Sometimes that is walking, sometimes I combine exercise with other activities, such as cutting, splitting, or stacking wood. In colder months I use a tread mill and do calisthenics inside.
I hope this has helped at least a few people to become more self reliant. Remember that you can not count on anyone but your self to come to your aid in an emergency. Good Luck, Good Prepping, and God Bless.
This article first appeared on Survival Blog.
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