As this site is aimed not only at seasoned preppers but also (if not mainly) to people who are just starting to get into the idea of prepping I thought it would be a good idea to write an article about how to get started.
What is a prepper?
The most basic definition of a prepper is Someone who prepares for an emergency. That emergency could be anything from a power cut or a job loss all the way though to the end of civilisation.
Usually though, someone with three months of survival income and a few candles isn’t called a prepper, they are just considered sensible. The term prepper usually goes a little deeper and is for the sort of people who store food, water and other items to make sure they are truly protected if something bad happens.
Why I prep
In a nutshell, I don’t want to die. The reason why I started taking prepping seriously was because a water main broke in my block of flats in about 2010 and suddenly all the nearby shops were out of water. For a few days, I didn’t have much of a water supply at all and had to survive off a jug of water I luckily had in my fridge. Mercifully the problem was limited to only my local area so I was able to use the taps at work. However, I had a few stinky days and it was quite unpleasant.
The idea of prepping first came into my head when I was a teenager and I read ‘Children of the Dust‘ by Louise Lawrence, this book is about a family (and their offspring) surviving a nuclear war. It terrified me to my core and I’ve never really gotten over it. Most of my preps these days revolve around me trying to make sure I have the best chance of survival if such an unthinkable disaster occurs.
I started my first preps at the age of about 16 or seventeen, as this was pre-internet these preps involved me going to the library and photocopying pages from books that I thought were useful. I was quite naive at that time though and I didn’t know much about survival and what it really entailed and I actually thought that just having a binder full of information that I’d read once would be enough to keep me alive. I was so confident in this mistake that I actually didn’t pay very much attention to prepping for almost a decade. Instead just making sure I had some tinned food and water set aside but eventually, even that fell by the wayside.
In my mid-late 20’s prepping was all but gone from my head, I’d fallen into the common trap of the modern world in that I was so focused on gadgets, social media and mindless consumerism that I was living in an echo chamber of people telling me that all was right with the world. Thankfully, the water pipe burst woke me up again and I decided to get my affairs in order.
Money, money, money.
As I often state on this blog, the first thing you should do when prepping is to get your finances in order. This was no small feat for me as I’d spent years neglecting my finances and getting into a lot of debt. My income level at the time was too low to really be able to make much of an impact so I took the following steps:
- I started a budget to help me get myself back on track (I used YNAB for this, which is excellent)
- I started making plans on how I could increase my income.
- I started making plans on how to decrease my expenses.
I had a few false starts unfortunately and I’d say that I was probably in my early 30’s before I had managed to get my affairs in order, in fact even now, in my mid-30’s I’m still not at the place where I wanted to be.
In the 6-7 years it took me to get from where I was to where I am, I managed to turn my low-income permanent job into a high-income contracting business (I do the same work but at a higher rate) and I started a real financial plan where I never allowed myself to get into debt for anything that wasn’t 100% necessary (in fact, I have not bought anything on Hire Purchase or taken out a loan since I started prepping again (although I can’t claim to not occasionally abuse my credit card or overdraft – I always make sure I have a plan to pay if off quickly though)
Plan, plan, plan
As I am a little paranoid about the idea of a nuclear war, the next step for me was to create a disaster plan. I’m going to write an article about how I went about this so I won’t go into too much detail here but I will say that the plan basically involved what I would do in case of an attack based on where I was at the time. I quickly discovered that living in central Leeds was a fantastic place to live if I wanted to be burned to a crisp in the first attack (Leeds is a centre of government and a densely populated area and so will likely be a primary target).
As I needed to have access to London to increase my income, I knew I had to move there but I had concerns about moving from a dangerous area to an even more dangerous area. Immediate needs have to take priority though so I took a deep breath and moved to West London, this has a small chance of being survivable in the unlikely event that a single, small bomb is dropped on London but I decided to roll the dice and move there anyway.
Whilst I was here, my income rose sharply and within 18 months, I was able to afford the price of living outside London and commuting in, also I was lucky enough to have clients who were happy for me to only come into their offices a few times a week. Again with the paranoia about nuclear war in my head, I chose my spot carefully and found a place in Kent that had the perfect balance of being commutable to London and outside all but the worst-case-scenario target zones. I even had a basement which immediately went into my updated plan.
Buy, buy, buy
There was one thing I still hadn’t planned for though and that was the fickle nature of rental properties, less than six months of living in my new house, I was giving my marching orders as the landlord had decided he wanted the house back. My new house, whilst a lot nicer than the one I’ve had to leave, doesn’t have a basement and will need a heavy rewrite of the disaster plan.
The obvious take-away from this is that I shouldn’t be renting, I can’t truly be prepared in a house that isn’t my own so the next step is to buy.
Get kitted out
One thing I was able to do regardless of where I lived though is make sure I was kitted out.
Many preppers make a mistake here and go a bit mental in buying kit. So here is a tip.
Buy the following and only the following for each member of your household:
- A moderately sized, cheap and sturdy rucksack
- A sturdy knife (doesn’t have to be expensive and make sure the person is shown how to use it safely)
- A fairly large tarp
- Some warm clothes (and a spare pair of socks)
- A bottle of water
- Some water purification tablets
- A pan to boil water in
- A bandana or scarf
- a cheap first aid kit
Also make sure that between you all, you have the following:
- Three ways to start a fire
- Enough cash to last a few days in a cheap hotel.
That, in a nutshell, is a basic 3 day survival bag and it’s likely that it’s all you will need. As time goes buy, you can replace cheap parts for better quality ones and you can expand upon the bag but bear in mind that you probably won’t need much in your pack. ‘Bugging out’ usually means surviving away from home for around 72 hours. In fact, in most ‘bug out’ scenarios, you’ll be ‘surviving’ in a hotel a few miles from your house.
Many preppers get confused between a Bug Out Bag and an INCH bag. ‘INCH’ stands for ‘I’m Never Coming Home’ and THAT bag is the one you should pack to the hilt with survival gear. However unless you have the knowledge to use that survival gear, there is still little point in having it.
Knowledge is power
Most seasoned preppers will agree that prepping isn’t about having things, it’s about having knowledge. Talking about things you can buy is great for bloggers as we can sell you stuff via affiliate links but the reality is the scenarios you will face will much more likely to be either short-term (few hours to a few weeks) or long-term (a few months or permanent).
If it’s short-term, the chances are a few basic preps (having enough food and water to last a few weeks and a basic bug-out plan) will likely be enough.
If its long-term, those beans in your cupboard will only delay the inevitable, that knife will just rust and your box of heirloom seeds will rot unless you have the knowledge to fend for yourself.
I recommend the following:
- Take a foraging course
- Take archery or hunting lessons (or both!)
- Start a small vegetable garden.
- Take a first aid course
There isn’t really an excuse to not do any of these. All of them are fairly easy to come by practically anywhere in the world. Even if you don’t have a garden, you can get a patch in an allotment for as little as £7 a year if you are in the UK, archery and first aid are taught practically everywhere and even if there isn’t a foraging course nearby, it’s not hard to follow an online one or buy a book on the subject (Just be careful and don’t poison yourself).
Make do and mend
This one kind of goes together with the above. The knowledge to repair and upgrade things will be incredibly valuable in your future, regardless of if a disaster strikes. Let me give you a few quick examples.
- I recently bought a bag which was faulty, I gave the company a chance to replace it and they replaced it with an equally faulty bag. So I demanded my money back, thanks to Amazons A-z guarantee I didn’t have to return the bag so instead, I’m going to strip the zips out and replace them with sturdier ones and re-stitch the straps to make the bag strong. This will save me a fortune as really strong bags can get pretty pricey.
- A few years ago I bought into the robotic vacuum cleaner fad, however, I’m not mental and wasn’t about to drop £800 on a Hoover, so I bought a cheaper model for £200. Sadly you get what you pay for and it recently broke, it’s outside of warranty so I have two options. Replace it or do without a robo-vac.
Neither option works for me so instead, I’m going to learn how to fix it. I have a bit of basic skills in electronics (I know how to solder) so if the problem isn’t inside a microchip, I’ll probably be able to get it working again for pretty much free.
Obviously if SHTF then there won’t be as many people to build or repair these things so the ability to do it yourself will be invaluable and may even end up resulting in you having a tradable skill.
Take it slowly
The best piece of advice I can give someone who is new to prepping is to take it slowly. It’s easy to get overwhelmed, especially if you are prepping for a disaster you have recently become worried about. However, going mad and spending a fortune will likely cause you problems in the immediate future and financial difficulties are something to be avoided. The world probably isn’t going to end in the next few weeks and if it is and you’ve just started out, it’s possibly too late anyway.
Get started with your financial improvements and get yourself a few weeks of food and water in the house. Then take a breath and slowly plan how you are going to increase your preps. It takes time but it will lead to a life which is not only filled with peace of mind but is often richer to boot.
If you have any questions or if you want to suggest some other getting started tips, feel free to post them in the comments.