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Prepping For Beginners [Complete Guide]

Understand how to replace fear with confidence by prepping for emergency survival or disaster situations with the right tools and skills.

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It feels like we live in a world where we constantly receive the message that we need to be afraid.

We need to fear the changing climate and all the weather disasters it promises to bring. We need to fear natural disasters like earthquakes and tsunamis.

We need to fear wildfires. We need to fear war coming to our doorsteps. We need to fear an unstable government and a weak economy. We need to fear our neighbors.

But is all this fear necessary?

What if we can replace fear with confidence?

Sure, the world can be a scary place. But if we lose ourselves in worry and fear, our lives become sad and unfulfilling.

We can become depressed and hopeless. We can feel powerless.

One of the most effective ways to overcome fear and the feelings of powerlessness that go with it is by being proactive.

By prepping ourselves for those emergencies, we exchange fear for confidence. Our sense of powerlessness becomes a sense of control.

In this complete guide to prepping for beginners and emergency survival, we want to help you feel empowered. You should be able to live free from the fear of the unknown.

We’ll talk about what prepping really is (not how to get on reality TV).

We'll discuss emergency preparedness and prepping basics to help you confidently weather natural disasters, and provide you with a concrete outline on how to start prepping.

We hope that you will use this as a quick start guide for getting prepared and that you refer back to it time and again throughout your journey to emergency preparedness.

Survival prepping for normal people is not hard and does not have to be expensive.

By knowing what the best tools and gear to have on hand are, you can invest wisely in your survival toolbox and avoid wasting your money.

By investing your time and energy in educating yourself and learning new skills, you can feel empowered instead of worried.

We hope you find this guide to prepping and emergency preparedness useful. Please feel free to add your comments and join the conversation with your suggestions or questions.

So let’s get started with a quick checklist of the essentials that you need for prepping and survival.

We will expand on all of these topics throughout the course of this prepping for beginners guide.

Use an emergency preparedness checklist to make prepping easier
It's impossible to be prepared for every emergency scenario. However, by keeping in mind some basic guidelines, you can always increase your chances of survival.

Survival Prepping Checklist [For Beginners]

  • Identify what you are preparing for. What are the real threats where you live? What is your motivation?
  • Get in shape. Practice physical skills.
  • Choose your Everyday Carry items.
  • Prepare a custom Bug Out Bag and Get Home Bag according to your genuine needs.
  • Study and practice the skills for meeting your essential needs: Food, Water, Shelter, Warmth.
  • Get certified in basic first aid.
  • Take a self-defense course.
  • Learn map reading and navigation skills.
  • Become involved in your community.
  • Learn which first response organizations exist in your community.
  • Include your extended family in your prepping efforts.
  • Continue learning and making lifestyle changes that increase independence and resilience.

What is Prepping?

Prepping can best be described as the steps a person will take to prepare themselves and their families to confront and survive emergency survival scenarios.

It’s no secret that “preppers” is a term that can be derogatory.

Many of us do not want to be identified with that radical gun-hoarding, bunker building, zombie apocalypse anticipating stereotype that certain TV shows portray as an average prepper. Frankly, those people can seem kind of crazy.

Survival prepping for normal people looks a little, well, more normal. Preparing for disasters is encouraged by different government agencies and non-profit organizations alike.

Being prepared for the unexpected is responsible. It is part of being a good citizen.

Why would the government and nonprofit agencies alike encourage people to start prepping?

Because they know, and so should you, that they might not always be there in the immediate aftermath of a disaster.

This is an unfortunate reality that has been proven time and again. You may be left to fend for yourself when a disaster happens.


What Are You Preparing For?

What constitutes an emergency circumstance? What situations could happen that could make life as you know it difficult or impossible?

Just take a look at the news on any day of the week and you will be given plenty of examples:

1. Weather-Related Disasters

Floods, hurricanes, tornadoes, blizzards, and other weather-related disasters are becoming more frequent.

According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), 2019 was the fifth consecutive year that the US experienced ten or more weather-related disasters that caused billions of dollars in damage.

These are events that took place over several days or even several weeks, and the damages took months to recover from.

2. Political and Social Upheaval

In the US and around the world we have seen increasing reports of social and political upheaval.

Venezuela has dominated the news out of the Americas with its economic crisis, political struggles, and widespread protests.

France and Belgium were in the spotlight with the “yellow vest” protests that shut down entire cities.

In the US, not a single year has passed since 2014 without a riot with its roots in racial tensions.

You do not have to look far to find real-life examples where social conflict causes interruptions to daily life and disruptions in services.

3. Local Emergencies

Local situations are much more common than those headline-grabbing weather-related disasters.

A local emergency can be anything from a house fire, school shooting, power outage, gas explosion, or any local weather-related crisis. Situations like this can affect you directly or indirectly.

Depending on where you live or happen to be at the moment, you may be one of the first people on the scene of an emergency or may have your daily life disrupted a time.

4. Natural Disasters

Natural disasters, like weather-related disasters or epidemics, are acts of God (or nature or whatever you want to call it).

Some of these disasters, like earthquakes, are unpredictable and can cause massive infrastructure damage in a matter of minutes.

Others, like forest fires, may give you a little bit of warning to move out of the way of danger, but at the cost of your home and all your possessions.

Natural disasters can cause sudden, life-changing upheavals in your daily life that may take months to recover from.

5. Climate Change

One of the reasons widely cited by many preppers is climate change. Some people prepare for the possibility of an immediate natural or weather-related disaster.

Others are preparing for what they consider to be long term changes to the climate and how those may affect their daily lives.

Changing rainfall patterns and growing cycles, for example, are a couple of reasons one may need to adapt their habits of daily living.

6. Long Term Social Decline

Some people, while not exactly prepping for the Apocalypse, are preparing for the societal changes that can come with long term social decline.

A lot of folks feel that instability in politics and the economy will eventually affect the quality of the services and systems that daily life is built upon.

This is more of a “doom and gloom” scenario, but one need not look outside of the America’s to find an example of a once prosperous country that has fallen into crisis.

The reasons listed above are just some of the reasons that self-identified preppers list when discussing their motivations.

For each individual and family, the reasons and the logic behind their prepping will be different

Depending on where you live, your lifestyle, and personal philosophy, what you do to prepare for disasters will be unique to your family.

Even if you only learn prepping basics, you will feel more empowered and less fearful when confronting the possibilities of the unknown!

What is Preparedness?

So, if prepping is the study of emergency survival, what is preparedness? What does it look like to be prepared when s*** hits the fan (SHTF) - as we say often in the prepping community?

True preparedness has a lot to do with your state of mind and having the proper training to handle emergencies of all types.

Do you know basic first aid? Do you know how to shut off the gas line to your house or disconnect the utilities in a pinch?

Having the knowledge to confront the unknown is fundamental to having a healthy mindset. Knowledge is power, and power is confidence. Specialized knowledge should be the first thing you pursue on your preppers checklist.

One of the other key essentials to always being prepared for any situation is to maintain your health. Staying in shape will help you withstand uncomfortable situations that an emergency or disaster may heap upon you.

If you have to run from your home, it helps to be able to run. If you have to carry a heavy backpack, it helps to be strong.

Having the right survival gear at your disposal can help you deal with any emergency.

And finally, being prepared means having the right gear. You may have heard of a preppers bug out bag, a get home bag, or maybe even a survival backpack kit.

When researching how to start prepping, these ‘kits’ often show up first on the many preppers checklists that you may find out there.

You may be prepping on a budget, but will still need essential items of gear to help you always be prepared.

In this quick start guide for prepping and emergency survival, we will dedicate quite a bit of space towards the discussion of prepper supplies.

We’ll help you to build your own survival backpack kit or bug out bag through careful analysis and thoughtful recommendations.

At the end of the guide, we will provide you with a comprehensive preppers checklist.

The idea is to help you understand what, exactly, you need to have in your survival gear and why each item is important.

Prepping Basics - Physical and Mental Health

As mentioned, maintaining your physical and mental health is fundamental to withstand any survival situation.

All the gear in the world will not save you if you cannot physically get yourself and your family to safety. One of the secrets to survival is being physically and mentally fit.

If you take prepping and emergency preparedness seriously, the first thing on your prepping checklist should be to get in shape.

If you are already fit - get better. There is always room for improvement. Think about it, and ask yourself the following questions.

  • How far can you comfortably hike with a 30lb. backpack on?
  • How far can you swim?
  • How much weight can you carry across a 100-yard distance?
  • How far can you run?
  • Can you climb or jump a wall?

These questions might make you uncomfortable. The sad fact is that over 40% of adults over the age of 20 are obese in the US. You may very well fall into that group.

Some prepper or survival communities advocate for Cross Fit type training programs. Some would recommend that you join a boot camp type survival training course.

Those types of training can be very expensive and time-consuming. They can also be unrealistic considering the time constraints that most normal people work under.

In this guide to prepping and emergency survival, we recommend that you improve upon whatever level of fitness you already have. Small continued improvements in endurance, stamina, flexibility, and strength will contribute to your ability to be prepared for any situation.

Emergency preparedness and survival prepping do not have to include boot camp. When you start to plan out your fitness routine, you want to work on improving certain aspects of your health.

  • Cardiovascular health and endurance - How far you can walk or run.
  • Stamina - Being able to spend a long time doing a certain task.
  • Strength - How much weight you can lift or carry.
  • Flexibility - Joint health and range of motion.
  • Balance - Crossing logs.
  • Coordination - Avoiding obstacles, tripping, or stumbling.
  • Power - Being able to throw your weight behind motion.

Now that you have your goals, what are some activities that you can work into your routine to help you achieve them?

Practical prepping should fit into your schedule, so look for activities that you can easily incorporate into your life. Depending on where you live and what your options are, consider taking up the following activities:

  1. Hiking or backpacking - Strap on your pack and take off for a good long hike. If you have a long weekend, make it an overnight-er. Constantly challenge yourself to carry more weight and to take on more challenging trails. You’ll improve your cardiovascular health and endurance while enjoying some amazing scenery. You'll even get to practice your wilderness survival skills.
  2. Tai Chi or Yoga - These exercises are great for developing coordination, agility, flexibility, and strength. If you don’t want to join a class, there are a ton of options available for online learning.
  3. Rock Climbing - You do not have to be in the best shape to enjoy rock climbing. Start with scrambling up boulders, and as you get stronger and more comfortable with the sport, move into more technical routes. Balance, coordination, strength, and stamina will all improve. You'll also be building valuable skills that may come in handy in an emergency.
  4. Swimming - Find a pool or a local lake and start swimming. If you are not quite ready for laps, just walk around in the water. Water-resistance is great for improving joint health, strength, and overall cardiovascular fitness. Swimming is also a valuable skill to count on in a survival situation.
  5. Weight Train - You don’t have to join a gym to weight train. Exercises that you can do at home using your body weight will help you build muscle, endurance, and stamina.

These are just a few suggested activities to get you started with your practical prepping. Remember, you need to find activities that work for you and that incorporate easily into your life.

Any exercise that you incorporate into your survival prepping and emergency preparedness training will also have a huge impact on your mental health.

Hiking can keep you in shape and prepared for survival situations.

Regular exercise produces “feel good” hormones that help us feel more energized and have a positive outlook on life. It is proven that regular exercise reduces depression and anxiety while boosting self-confidence.

Another secret to survival? Actively work to maintain positive mental health before SHTF.

This will help you have a positive perspective and to handle the emotional stress and trauma that an emergency or survival situation can cause.

Maintaining and reinforcing your physical and mental health are fundamental prepping basics. By building confidence in yourself and your physical capabilities you will have the satisfaction of knowing that you can confront a broad range of survival or emergency situations.

Check out the video below about mental toughness from David Goggins, a Navy Seal.

Prepping Basics - Intro to Survival Gear

When you look into how to start prepping, you are going to come across a lot of recommendations about gear.

This can be one of the most overwhelming aspects of prepping for beginners. If you are prepping on a budget, it can be especially stressful to know what to prioritize.

Many prepper websites will give you “the ultimate prepper checklist” or a list of supplies that you absolutely must have to be prepared.

But ask yourself, what good is gear if you don’t know what it is for or how to use it?

In this guide to prepping and emergency preparedness, we will also provide you with a list of what we consider to be prepping essentials.

What makes our list stand apart from the rest? We will explain every item that we recommend and why it should be a part of your prepping gear. We will also make sure to build the list in order of priority.

For those of you who are prepping on a budget, we want to provide you with a comprehensive gear guide for prepping that allows you to build a collection of tools and supplies that are streamlined, lightweight, and 100% useful.

Our complete list of essential survival items will appear at the end of this comprehensive guide.

For now, let’s take a moment to discuss key terms and phrases related to survival prepping, gear, and emergency preparedness that you will come across time and again in your research.

We’ll also take a look at basic gear and important considerations you must make before investing in specialized gear and equipment.

What is a Bug Out Bag?

A bug out bag with survival gear
If you're serious about survival if an emergency occurs, then you need to have a Bug Out Bag prepared and ready to go.

What is a survival Bug out Bag? You will see this phrase on nearly every single preppers website. It will often be accompanied by a list of essential gear that you have to include in it.

Pictures will pop up online of backpacks that are chock full of everything that you will ever need to survive any kind of emergency you can imagine. You can even buy one pre-packed.

But what is it? What is the point? What is the concept behind the survivalists' bug out bag?

A bug out bag (BOB) is a backpack or bag that you have packed and ready to grab if you need to leave your house in a hurry.

Widespread flooding or a raging wildfire ripping through your neighborhood would be situations where you may need to grab your BOB and run.

One of the key things to remember is that every member of your family should have a personalized BOB.

This is the gear you want to have handy when SHTF and you need to leave your home in a hurry. You need to be prepared to carry your BOB on foot.

Bug Out Bags should meet the following standards:

  • It is not heavier than you can comfortably carry over long distances.
  • It is large enough to carry your essentials.
  • Has gear appropriate for the season and the environment where you live.
  • Should contain gear and supplies that will allow you to survive out-of-doors for at least 72 hours.

Aside from that, practical prepping and common sense tell us that each person’s BOB should be personalized and packed according to your individual circumstances, preferences, and needs.

What is a Get Home Bag?

A Get Home Bag, unlike the BOB, is a ready-to-grab backpack or bag that you keep outside of your home.

You may keep a Get Home Bag (GHB) in your desk at work, in your car, or anywhere else that you spend a lot of time outside of the home.

Real emergency preparedness means that you have considered and prepared for the reality that an emergency might strike while you are away home.

Imagine being at work or school and a massive earthquake strikes. If the roads are impassable due to traffic jams or infrastructure damage, how are you going to get home? The gear inside your GHB needs to help you get home safely.

Depending on where you live (an urban, suburban, or rural environment), where you spend your time outside of the home (in a high-rise, at a school, or in a suburban area), and your normal daily wardrobe (business dress, casual or athletic wear) you will need to carefully consider the contents of your GHB.

No matter what your Get Home Bag ultimately contains, it should meet the following guidelines:

  • It is lightweight and comfortable enough to carry through whatever environment you live and work in.
  • It has appropriate gear for the season and natural terrain of the region.
  • It contains just enough supplies to get you home safely considering the distance you’ll have to travel.

Lots of preppers recommend the GHB be portable enough to carry on you every time you travel outside of the home.

Others recommend preparing a bag to leave stashed and ready to go inside of your vehicle, at work or school, or somewhere in between.

In the end, you will need to carefully consider your situation and plan your GHB accordingly.

What does Everyday Carry Mean?

Everyday Carry (EDC) is another term that you will frequently come across in your research into the best prepping or survival gear.

But what, exactly, does it mean? This phrase describes an item of gear that will be on your person at all times. You will carry these things with you every day.

Think about it - your phone, wallet, and keys are already EDC items. Makes sense, right? Practical prepping starts with your EDC gear.

When you are prepping on a budget, you have to set some priorities. Properly equipping yourself with EDC items should be the first priority on your prepping checklist after getting in shape.

You don’t have to go overboard with your EDC gear. The idea is to have the essential tools on hand all the time to always be prepared for what life has to throw at you.

You certainly don’t need to weigh down your pockets or carry a heavy backpack with you everywhere you go.

What kinds of items might you want to invest in?

Here are some of the most recommended items that you will find on an EDC survival checklist:

  • Pocket Knife
  • Multitool
  • Flashlight
  • Keychain
  • Notebook
  • Pen
  • Lighter

Check out these everyday carry tips from 5.11

The best EDC items are small, lightweight, and durable.

Practical prepping requires you to take a good, honest look at your life and lifestyle to know exactly which items of gear will be most practical for you.
This is especially true when it comes to deciding what your EDC items will be.

How to Choose Your Survival Gear and Prepare Your BOB and GHB

When it comes to choosing your prepping supplies and specialized items of survival gear, we recommend that you be prudent in your purchases.

Practical prepping and true emergency preparedness require that you have gear you can count on. There are so many prepping checklists, recommendations, and seemingly crazy useful gadgets.

It can be tempting to buy everything at once by purchasing cheaply made and economical options. You may even be tempted to buy the “best survival backpack kit” that shows up on Amazon.

We recommend a more thoughtful and deliberate approach to getting your prepping supplies and building your Bug Out Bag and Get Home Bag.

This is particularly true if you are prepping on a budget.

Every single item you purchase to outfit your survival Bug out Bag or to use as an everyday carry should be considered an investment.

This means that you should carefully consider and research every purchase. Quality, durability, and functionality should all be top priorities, even before price.

Do your research and buy the best gear that you can afford without going into debt. If you are going to buy something, buy it once.

But before you start making purchases, you need to analyze your own life. The best gear collection is completely personalized to the person who will be using it.

Here are some questions you should ask yourself before making your first survival gear purchase:

  1. Where do you live? Look around you at your immediate community and natural terrain. Do you live in a rural, suburban or urban area? What is the natural terrain like? Where are natural sources of water? Is it hilly? Mountainous? Flat? What kind of seasons do you experience? What are normal weather patterns? What utilities are your house and community connected to?
  2. What do you do? Do you leave home every day for work or school? Do you take public transportation or drive a personal vehicle? Do members of your family stay at home? How far from home do you travel daily? Do you have good relationships with your family, friends, and extended community?
  3. What are the realistic emergencies that you will be prepping for?  To prepare for emergencies, you must know what kind of disasters may happen where you live. Survival prepping for normal people requires a realistic analysis of what to prepare for. Do you live in an earthquake zone? Are forest fires a real concern? What about social unrest or riots? Do you live in a city that may be targeted by terrorists?

The answers to these questions will help you to determine the kind of gear that is appropriate for you to invest in. “Survival” in a rural area will look and feel a lot different when SHTF than it will in an urban or suburban area.

You must understand that there is no one-size-fits-all ultimate preppers checklist.

In our ultimate survival gear list found at the end of this article, we make our recommendations based on the different circumstances and factors discussed above.

That being said, what are some of the basic items one might find in a Bug Out Bag or Get Home Bag?

  • Some kind of water container and water filter or water purification tablets.
  • Nonperishable food to last you at least 72 hours
  • Portable cookstove, fuel, and a small pot
  • NON-COTTON Layerable clothing and shoes appropriate for the climate
  • Rain poncho/Backpack cover
  • Sleep and shelter gear such as a tarp and/or bivy bag
  • Different ways to start a fire stored in a waterproof container
  • Personalized first aid kit
  • All-purpose soap, small towel, and other personal hygiene products
  • A survival knife and/or multitool
  • Headlamp with backup batteries
  • Small solar panel with battery charger
  • Local map and compass
  • Whistle
  • Personal defense items (pepper spray, tazer, handgun, rifle, etc.
  • Duck tape
  • Sewing kit
  • Paracord

This list is just a guide to help you understand the basics of what will be going into your BOB or GHB.

The items that you choose for your set up will vary. We recommend that you keep your BOB and GHB lightweight and choose a backpack that is comfortable to wear for long periods.

Remember, gear will only get you so far when living through an emergency.

When choosing a Get Home Bag it's also a good idea to keep in mind the safety principles of the Gray Man: choose gear that doesn't make you stand-out in a crowd like a sore thumb!

Survival Gear For Home

Now that we’ve spent some time talking about your portable survival gear, we need to talk about survival gear that will stay in your home and help to keep your family safe and comfortable in the aftermath of an emergency.

Most people will think of the obvious emergency preparations: stockpiling sufficient food and water and having a good first aid kit.

But there are a few basic things that you would be wise to purchase and stockpile in order to weather any emergency where you will need to stay home.

  • Fire extinguisher
  • Water and fireproof document protectors
  • Emergency radio
  • Manual can opener
  • Solar powered lamps
  • Heavy-duty tarps
  • Paracord
  • Bleach
  • Duct Tape
  • All Purpose Soap
  • Portable camp toilet
  • Collapsible water containers
  • Tools such as an ax, hatchet, shovel, saw, etc.
  • Extension Ladder
Survival gear for home spread out on a surface

If the power goes out, the water gets cut off, or your roof blows away, you should be able to hang tight in your home in relative comfort.

If you have the need and the resources, you may want to consider investing in a solar powered or gasoline generator.

There are, of course, other survival items that you may want to have on hand depending on where you live.

Do you live in the city?  Are you in the suburbs?  Do you live in a rural area?

For example, if you live in the city, you may want to be prepared with a high-quality gas mask and extra filters. Why would you ever need a gas mask? 

In urban centers, you are most likely to encounter social disturbances such as protests and riots.

You could also encounter intense air pollution from extensive fires.  If you want to get really creative, think about all the SHTF situations and worst case scenarios you can imagine. It’s best to be prepared for every possibility.

If you live in the suburbs, you might want to consider investing in supplies and equipment that allow you to be more self-sufficient.

Even if you are not quite ready to practice suburban homesteading, you may choose to have survival seeds and basic farm tools in your emergency survival gear.

And if you live in a rural area, it is practical to have gear that will allow you to take advantage of the natural resources in your area should the need arise. 

Have fishing and hunting gear on hand (be sure to learn to use it before you need it). Consider investing in gasoline storage containers and keeping them filled. If you don’t farm, consider doing so and have the right tools on hand.

Remember, having the right gear and emergency supplies will only get you so far when living through an emergency.

You need to know where the shut-offs are in your home for water and gas lines. Do you know where the main electrical breakers are in your home?

Your intimate knowledge of the workings of your home, combined with your emergency preparedness, will help keep you and your home safe in emergency situations.

In the following sections, we will delve more into how to start prepping yourself and your home for when SHTF.

Prepping Basics - Skills and Special Knowledge

As I mentioned in the introduction to this comprehensive guide to prepping and survival, knowledge to confront the unknown is fundamental for anyone who considers themselves a prepper.

Knowledge is power. Knowledge is peace of mind. Knowledge is confidence.

As you undertake your journey through emergency preparedness, you will spontaneously come to realize where the holes are in your survival knowledge.

The more you learn, the more you will realize that you need to learn. Consider your acquisition of knowledge a never-ending task and a life long journey.

Do you know how to read a map and not rely on the GPS?

Where does one start? What is it, exactly, that you should know as a prepper?

As we mention time and again throughout this survival guide, emergency preparedness is unique to every individual and family.

What you need to know is just as unique as the gear you need to have.

It all depends on you, where you live, and what your lifestyle is.

Everyone concerned about having a plan for when SHTF should read up, learn and practice the new skills that are to be found in the study of the following areas.

Here are some starting points to get you thinking and to give some direction to your research.

You should learn at least the basics in each category.

  1. Food, Water, Shelter, and Warmth - In an emergency situation, your survival depends on making sure these needs are met. The best gear in the world will not save you if you are not putting them to work to meet these specific basic needs.
  2. First Aid and Basic Medical Care - This is fairly self-explanatory. Being able to respond to basic, and potentially even serious medical emergencies will help you exponentially in an emergency situation.
  3. Self Defense – It goes without saying that when SHTF, people can get a little crazy. You need to be able to defend yourself and your family in all kinds of situations.
  4. Navigation – This is your basic ability to move around without the aid of Google maps, GPS or your smartphone. Developing your sense of direction, knowing how to read a map and understanding the ins and outs of navigation with a compass are not skills that are limited to wilderness survival situations.

Let's dive into a little more detail about each of these subjects.

Food, Water, Shelter, and Warmth

These four basic needs are commonly referred to as the base of Maslow’s “hierarchy of needs”.  Without meeting these basic needs, there is no chance of survival

With a well prepared Bug Out Bag, you should be able to meet your basic physical needs for a minimum of 72 hours. But what happens when your prepackaged instant food runs out?

What will you do when the temperatures drop below freezing? What happens if it doesn't stop raining for three days?

Depending on where you live and the emergencies you may likely face, the answer to these questions will vary.

We recommend that in your pursuit of specialized survivalist knowledge you dedicate a great amount of energy to study your surroundings and how to meet your basic needs within them.

  • Know what water sources are to be found locally. Learn about the waterways, natural springs, and public infrastructure that you have available to you if the water stops flowing from the tap. Learn the different ways of purifying water without a filter or water purification tablets (those can clog, break or run out in a prolonged emergency situation). Study and practice harvesting clean water from the environment.
  • Identify your options for obtaining food. Depending on where you live, this may mean counting on prepackaged instant food or learning how to wild harvest different fruits and veggies. Are there trees that produce edible fruits in your neighborhood? Urban foraging is a real thing! Are you capable of hunting small game? Do you know how to process and butcher an animal? Knowing how to locate, process, and prepare food will keep you alive well after your BOB supplies run out or your home stockpile has diminished.
  • Being able to find adequate shelter can be as simple as squatting in an abandoned structure. It can also be as complex as creating a rustic shelter out of scavenged materials. In a wilderness setting, materials will be limited to what nature provides. It is recommended that you study different types of bare-bones building techniques and rustic structure construction. You don't need to study architecture to learn the basics of putting a roof over your head. In fact, it can be as fun as building forts with the kids in the backyard.
  • When it comes to providing warmth, you will need to study the basics of fire-making. Do you know how to build a fire without the help of lighter fluid or gasoline? What about building a fire without matches or a lighter? Learning how to build a fire from scratch is a very important emergency preparedness skill. You should also learn about aspects of keeping warm. What are the appropriate clothing options for the seasons where you live? Do you understand what insulation materials you can use to reinforce your shelter? Knowing how to stay warm is essential to preventing illness and injury. It is also critical to maintaining a positive attitude and a clear mind in an emergency situation.
The abilities to build a shelter and fire in a survival situation could save your life.

First Aid and Basic Medical Care

The truth about emergency situations is that they often involve sickness, the potential for sickness, or physical injury.

If you are like a lot of people I know, the sight of blood or vomit can turn your stomach. Honestly, this is not a very practical reaction when SHTF.

Having even basic or minimum knowledge about first aid is absolutely necessary when you cannot easily get to the doctor or the emergency room is inaccessible.

Knowing how to recognize signs of infection or symptoms of serious illness is the first step in knowing how to respond to them. Having the knowledge and the confidence to confront medical emergencies can save a life. 

Prepping for normal people should include, at a minimum, a basic first aid class.

Fortunately, you may already have a first aid certification. Many employers require this training, often offered by the American Red Cross (ARC).

If you have never taken this class, get in touch with your local branch of the ARC and request information about upcoming classes. These classes are often free or very low cost. 

Remember, any investment that you make in specialized courses or certifications is an investment in your survival toolbox.

Prepping basics and emergency preparedness have more to do with your skills and knowledge than with the gear you have in your BOB. Taking a course in first aid is an essential part of prepping for beginners.

Once you feel confident in your first aid response skills, you may want to consider building upon your knowledge and pursuing more specialized training that allows you to be even more effective and helpful in the event of a serious emergency.

Consider signing up for one of the following:

  • CERT Training - sponsored by FEMA, signing up for the Community Emergency Response Team includes comprehensive and specialized training for different types of disaster relief.
  • Wilderness First Aid Training - This training starts with basic first aid and advance up to Wilderness First Responder training. These trainings are helpful because they focus on working in areas far from hospitals or emergency facilities.
  • Conflict and Remote First Aid - This type of specialized training focuses on conflict zones and hostile environments. You will need to do some research online to find providers for this type of specialized study in your area.

One of the things you will notice about these training programs is that they focus on responding to sudden events like traumatic injury, heart attack or stroke. 

But what about when someone gets really sick with a terrible flu or has a bout of debilitating diarrhea?

Would you know how to treat an infection without antibiotics? Do you understand how contagious illnesses spread? Do you understand basic sanitation and hygiene standards? How can you handle basic sickness care? 

If your standard mode of dealing with sickness is to reach for a packet of pills or run to the ER, you have a lot to learn. When living through a prolonged emergency situation, pills and doctors might not be immediately available.

We are fortunate to live in a time where information abounds online. You do not need to sign up for an expensive specialized medical course.

You can study at your own pace and according to your own interests by reviewing relevant research and articles. You can also sign up for different free courses online that provide more formal learning environments.

Self Defense

This is a very self-explanatory area to explore and study. Defending yourself and your family is a topic that is extensively focused on within the prepping community.

Many preppers find a feeling of safety by owning firearms. Some would argue that firearm training should be one of the basic courses you pursue as a new prepper.

While we don't exactly disagree with this philosophy, it is our opinion that your self-defense strategy should be wide-ranging and diverse in nature

It is also our belief that self-defense should be something that everyone in the family practices and trains in, including children.

So what are the different kinds of self-defense you may want to educate yourself in?

  • Firearm training
  • Different types of martial arts
  • Combat training
  • Personal Self Defense

How can you go about doing this? Where can a beginning prepper turn to start their self-defense training?

Aikido is a great self defense martial art!

We recommend that you enroll in a local course, if at all possible. Many techniques and tactics of self-defense are best learned through hands-on practice.

While signing up for a martial arts class or self-defense class through a gym might be expensive for those of you prepping on a budget, organizations like the YMCA offer low cost or free courses to members of their communities.

Community colleges are another great resource for high quality, low-cost training programs. Your child’s school may also offer extracurricular clubs for student involvement.

Gun safety and hunters safety training courses are offered through national organizations such as the National Rifle Association (NRA), local gun clubs, and even local law enforcement organizations.

Do a quick search online to find the best local option that works for you. Find a safe place to target practice, and become an expert at handling your firearm.

Be sure to follow all laws and regulations in your state regarding permits, carry laws and firearm storage.


When SHTF and you need to leave your home quickly (or get home quickly) you may not always be able to count on your cell phone’s internet connection or GPS system to guide you. 

Every prepper needs to know how to read a map and navigate with a compass. 

In your BOB or GHB, you should have a good quality, dependable compass and a paper copy (waterproofed or sealed in plastic) of a topographical map of your local region. 

Learning how to use your compass and knowing how to read a topo map are essential prepper skills if you want to be prepared in any emergency situation.

You can very easily find online tutorials that explain the functions of a compass and all of their rotating parts. We recommend, however, that you sign up for a navigation or orienteering class in your community.

This will allow you to work with a knowledgeable instructor and to get verified hands-on experience trying out your new skills.

Depending on where you live this may be easier said than done.

Here are some places you can check in to see if they offer classes. If no classes are available, you may be able to track down an experienced instructor for some one-on-one guidance.

  • Your local outdoor sports store.
  • Boy Scout or Girl Scout clubs.
  • Local park departments.
  • National Forest Service or the Department of Natural Resources officers.
  • Local orienteering clubs.

Did you know that orienteering is an actual organized sport with competition and regional events?

It’s more popular outside of the US but is gaining fans little by little in North America. Clubs like these help you fine-tune your old school navigation skills while connecting to a broader community and meeting others with similar interests.

It’s also something the entire family can (and should) learn together while having fun.

Check out this guide from RandyHaviland on how to read a Compass.

Community Preparedness

Now that we’ve covered the basics in this ultimate survival guide, let's talk about some aspects of prepping for emergencies that you may not have considered before.

It is really easy when you think about prepping to think only of yourself and your immediate family.

But what about your community? What about your neighbors and your extended family?

One of the most underrated secrets of survival has to do with community preparedness. Sure, knowing what local community response teams exist in your area is important.

Even more important is knowing your community and having positive relationships that extend beyond your front door.

Survival prepping for normal people should include taking the steps to foster strong community bonds. This does not necessarily mean that everyone in the community needs to consider themselves a “prepper”.

Your good example, however, makes it more likely that others will follow your lead and take steps necessary to prepare for disasters. 

Humans are meant to live in tribes and communities. It is how we have survived under the harshest of conditions for millennia. When we live in strong communities, we enjoy advantages such as:

  • Increased security
  • Access to different skills, talents, knowledge your neighbors may have
  • Access to different resources such as water, food, tools, etc.
  • Social support and teamwork on projects large and small.

Strong communities are what holds society together when SHTF or in times of economic trouble by coming together to fill the voids left by failing or nonexistent services.

Knowing who your neighbors are, what they do, what their strengths and talents are, and even what their weaknesses are will increase everyone’s chance of survival in an emergency.

In our modern era, we all live spread out and isolated from one another. Even in urban areas, where people live stacked in apartment buildings, modern humans tend to keep to themselves.

The question inevitably arises: what are some ways to build community?

  • Learn who your immediate neighbors are and get to know them.
  • Join a local church.
  • Join local organizations
  • Form a formal or informal club of local interest (stay at home moms, gardening, community watch, or a sports-based club)
  • Join a recognized club or organization.

It may feel overwhelming at first to put yourself “out there” socially. Keep in mind that that is normal! Involve yourself in your community little by little. Respect your own comfort level and natural boundaries.

Local Emergency Agencies and Personnel

In most communities, even terribly dysfunctional ones, there are usually specific emergency response agencies that will be responsible for responding to disasters.

In this quick start guide for getting prepared, we recommend that you know which agencies exist in your community, where their offices are located, the staff that works them, and how to contact them when needed.

You may discover different trainings or volunteer opportunities that would otherwise be unadvertised.

Your community and local support teams can make a big difference in case of a disaster!

These organizations may include:

  • Local, or state police departments
  • The Fire Department or Volunteer Firefighter group
  • Local FEMA offices
  • American Red Cross
  • Local Health Department and/or Hospital
  • Search and Rescue Groups
  • CERT groups
  • Medical Reserve Corp

Keep in mind this list is not definitive! Every community is different. Depending on where you live, different organizations and services may be present.

Take the time to research what is available in your local area and get connected.

Family Preparedness

When we think about our community, we also need to think about our extended family.

We should never forget about the elders in our family or our grown brothers and sisters who have their own broods to look after. Cousins, aunts and uncles, and even in-laws should all be taken into consideration when we prepare for disasters. 

Be sure to talk to your family about what steps you are taking towards emergency preparedness.

Invite them to attend classes, join volunteer groups, or participate in community activities with you. Share with them what you are learning about gear and build your survival Bug out Bag together.

Practical prepping can be a fun and bonding experience.

Much like we find strength in the community, we find strength in the family when we have them close by.

If you are privileged enough to live close to your extended family, there is no reason that your prepping efforts cannot be done together. If you live far apart, encourage them to take action in their own families and communities.

Prepping - Fundamental Lifestyle Changes

In this last section of our ultimate survival guide, we are going to shift our focus a bit.

After you have packed your survival bug out bag and your get home bag, after you have dedicated time and energy into educating yourself on all the diverse topics mentioned above and learning new skills, and even after you have developed invaluable community ties - one asks, what’s next?

Up till now, we have focused on emergency preparedness for sudden emergencies, or for when SHTF, as they like to say in certain circles. 

As previously mentioned, many people are prepping for long term social decline or changes to the environment as a result of the changing climate.

These are very real concerns. Our prepping guide would not be complete if we did not address them.  The best ways to prepare for the unknowns of gradual and long term social and economic decline are to undertake fundamental lifestyle changes.

By evolving in our very habits and way of living, we can become resilient, and even immune to the sudden disruptions that disasters or systematic decline can have on society. 

What are some of the lifestyle changes that you may want to consider in your evolution from beginning prepper to true preparedness?

Going Off Grid

For many, this can mean becoming independent from public amenities. What does this mean? Basically, going off-grid.

  • Investing in alternative energy generation: Switching to solar panels or erecting a windmill are two common options. If you live near a water source, a Pelton turbine or small hydroelectric outfit may make more sense. There are countless options available, each with its pros and cons depending on where you live and the possibilities the natural terrain provides. 
  • Switching to a private water source (if possible): You may decide to switch to a private well for personal water consumption. Other options may include installing a take from a local water source. Keep in mind that most water resources are tightly regulated and not every private property owner has water rights on their land. We encourage you to do very thorough research to avoid any inconvenient fines or violations of the law.
  • Finding alternative ways to deal with sewage and waste: Consider building a composting toilet system or even a biodigester. Biodigesters process waste into useful gases fit for cooking or home heating.
  • Investing in alternative heating or cooling systems: This can include retrofitting your home and updating windows and insulation for increased energy efficiency. You may also consider switching to an alternative source of heat such as a wood furnace compared to electrical or gas heat. There also exist many off-grid cooling systems such as geothermal.

These steps can be next to impossible for the urban prepper. Suburban or rural preppers will have an easier time making major lifestyle changes such as these.

Be sure to research local laws and zoning regulations before investing any money in major infrastructure changes in your home.

Home Solar Panels
Solar panels can be a great way to gain some energy independence.

Each family should do an honest analysis of their situation, especially their finances, to determine if these major lifestyle changes are appropriate. We do not recommend going into debt to achieve “independence.”

Relearning Traditional Skills

Other lifestyle changes are easier to implement no matter where you live. In fact, these changes may even help your family save money and achieve financial independence while helping you prepare for a world where things are not so easy.

With a bit of time and energy invested, you can relearn traditional skills.

Even if you belong to the 80% of the population that lives in a suburban or urban area, you can still benefit greatly from learning valuable skills that were once considered necessary for everyday life.

Have you ever considered:

  • Learning to sew and repair your own clothing
  • Using non-electric hand tools
  • Building your own furniture
  • Planting a garden
  • Canning and preserving your own food
  • Raising small animals for food
  • Making your own soap
  • Hunting
  • Foraging for wild foods
  • Learning about medicinal plants and natural medicines
  • Blacksmithing and tool making
  • Cheese making

These are just some of the skills that are worthy of reincorporating into our daily lives. Practical prepping does not require that you know how to do it all. Study what interests you.

Become good at what inspires you. Those talents and skills will be your contribution towards building a resilient community that prospers in times of economic and social crisis.

Prepping For Beginners Conclusions

We have tried our best to cover as many aspects of prepping and emergency preparedness as possible in this ultimate survival guide.

Before we launch into our Complete List of Essential Survival Items, we think it is prudent to sum up the prepping basics in six comprehensive points.

  1. Know your situation. Understand the natural risks where you live. Identify what you are preparing for
  2. Knowledge is power. Invest in your practical education and learn the skills necessary to increase your chances of survival.
  3. Be healthy.  Your physical condition is fundamental to your survival in any situation.  Dedicate time and energy to getting in shape and maintaining your health.
  4. Invest in the right gear for you. Avoid wasting your money on things you don’t need.  Purchase high-quality gear and supplies that will not fail you in times of need.
  5. Be part of a larger community. Take the time to build connections and form strong relationships in your family and immediate neighborhood. Humans find strength in numbers.
  6. Never stop learning. Once you feel confident with the basics, continue to expand your knowledge and learn new skills. Do not be afraid to change your lifestyle to become a more resilient human being.

In keeping with the spirit of community, it is our hope that you will add to this guide with your comments, suggestions, and feedback through all our Social Media channels.

Through lively discussion and healthy respectful debate, we can all learn from each other.

Now that you've learned the basics of prepping, have a look over our other main survival guides about skills and gear.

Feel free to use the navigation menu on the side or the links below!

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Hi, I'm Russ!

I've been prepping for a long time, but 2020 convinced me that I need to take it to the next level.

This website started as a way to keep me going forward on the path to being better prepared.

Now, I’m turning it into a complete blueprint for anyone else looking to do the same!
Russell M. Morgan
Telson Survival

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