Estimated reading time: 11 minutes
When someone talks about prepping or being a prepper, what is the first thing that comes to your mind? While there are several answers, the image that stands out the most is probably one of a person who has a lot of stuff.
Totes and shelves filled with gear, supplies, food, and water are the hallmark image of what being prepared looks like. Preppers are not really known for being minimalists because to some degree, that kind of defeats the purpose. But in the last several years, the idea of minimalist prepping has popped up and has been circulating within some circles.
Can a prepper, someone who desires to be ready for emergencies and is partly defined by the number of supplies they have, also be a minimalist? To answer that, let’s go ahead and break down some areas of prepping where the amount of stuff could be reduced. But first…
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Why Would Someone Want to Be a Minimalist Prepper?
Being a minimalist prepper may not be for you, but here are a few reasons why someone may be interested in it.
- Some people are already living a minimalist lifestyle and want to be better prepared for emergencies without filling their homes with excess stuff.
- Other people may desire to be preppers but simply do not have the storage space they think they need for supplies.
The last reason to consider minimalist prepping is that it forces a person to focus on the basics, necessities over wants, and knowledge and skillsets. This approach will become clearer throughout the rest of the article.
Ways To Become A Minimalist Prepper
Before getting into the ways to minimize your preps, it should be said that generally speaking, it is in a person’s best interest to have enough necessities on hand that they can take care of themselves for as long as they need to. And having a few backup items isn’t a bad idea either. Having said that, here are some suggestions that will help you clear up some space or lighten the burden of being a prepper.
Load Up On Knowledge and Skillsets
First and foremost, if you understand that knowledge and developing skillsets are more important than having stuff, then you are off to a great start.
While we do need gear and supplies, people tend to heavily depend on these items, and when that stuff isn’t available, they don’t know what to do. Supplies can become lost, damaged, or may not even be available in the first place. But the knowledge of what to do in emergency situations and the skillsets to carry that knowledge out can be with a person always, and never taken away.
However, this doesn’t mean supplies are unnecessary. It just means that with the proper knowledge and some creative thinking, you will see that many items can serve multiple purposes. Some people refer to this as being a bit of a MacGyver. Below are a few examples to illustrate the point.
Aluminum foil is great for lining a cooking pan or wrapping up some baked potatoes, but it can also be used in the following ways:
- As an emergency signal device
- To create a solar oven
- To cover windows
- Create fishing lures
- Make a funnel
- A wind flag
- Create an improvised container
- It is also a conductive material
Duct tape has long been the material of choice for many DIY people because of its affordability and, more importantly, its versatility and durability. Duct tape can be used to:
- Patch windows
- Patch rips and tears in gear or clothing
- Make carrying handles
- Make cordage
- As tool handle wraps
- As a fire-starting aid
- And a whole lot more!
While it is best practice to use the right tool for the job, the above examples illustrate that there are some materials and tools that work just fine for alternative purposes. By loading up on knowledge, you will be able to use everyday items in ways you may never have thought of while unloading excess stuff.
For further examples of how to get the most out of everyday items, check out these 2000 Survival Uses For Everyday Items.
Reduce Food and Water Stores
The two items that take up the most space are food and water. This is simply because we need so much of it to survive, even for relatively short periods.
Rather than having gobs of emergency food that last 20 years that you may never eat, try this instead. Pack your food cabinets or pantry with shelf-stable canned goods that you enjoy eating. Rotate and replace items after they are consumed. By doing this, you’ll have food that you enjoy, it will not take up additional space outside of the kitchen, and there will be extra food available for when you need it.
Gardening is another way to boost your food supplies. It won’t take up any space indoors, but it will require outdoor space as well as some additional equipment and materials. The downside to gardening is that it will take up your time, and food won’t be available all year long.
Another option is to take up hunting and fishing and use those skills when you need them. Again, though there is some investment in getting involved with these activities, you will have the ability to get food when you need it.
Lastly, becoming knowledgeable about wild edibles in your area will turn the outdoors into a gigantic farmers market. Foraging for wild edibles isn’t always as simple as walking up to a plant, harvesting it, and eating it. There are several things to consider, and the first thing that should be done is to buy a plant identification guide and, more importantly, work with a local expert who is knowledgeable about this topic.
Just like food, water is heavy and it can also take up a lot of space. To alleviate these issues but still be prepared, invest in water filters, purification methods, and collapsible bladders.
Collapsible bladders are great to have because they are extremely lightweight and take up very little space when they are not being used. Filters and purification methods also don’t take up much space but will provide you with the means of making dirty water safer to consume.
Don’t Get Carried Away With Medical Supplies
It’s always better to have something and not need it than to need something and not have it. Medical supplies are an area that people can get carried away with in terms of buying tools and supplies that they don’t even know how to use. Surgical kits and dental kits cost several hundred dollars or more and are popular items marketed towards preppers. Not to sound like a broken record, but if you don’t know how to use something, then you need to decide if that item is worth having.
A basic first aid kit that can be bought at almost any grocery or big box store will serve most people’s needs and skill levels. However, the one item that should be added to most kits is more blood loss control materials such as tourniquets, extra gauze/bandages, and products similar to Quikclot.
Decorate Your Home With Preps
Much of the time, supplies and gear are placed into boxes and totes and take up space in a basement or some spare bedroom, but it doesn’t have to be this way. With some creative thinking, some of the preps can be cleverly placed around the home and disguised as decorations. For example, that not-so-warm throw that is draped over the back of the couch or chair could be replaced with a wool blanket, and lanterns used for emergency lightning could be placed on shelves or hung from the ceiling or walls.
By placing items around the home in this manner, preps will be more readily available, and the overall amount of stuff in the home will be reduced.
Get Rid of The Gimmicks
Products marketed towards preppers, survivalists, and people wanting to be self-reliant have become big business. Because of this, there are a ton of products on the market that are nothing more than overpriced gimmicks and junk. Not only do these products potentially risk your safety, they are a waste of the precious space you may or may not have.
Items like those described above can be discarded and replaced with better-quality items that could also serve multiple purposes.
For example, a wool blanket can be used for more than just a blanket, and a quality multitool can serve the function of several tools. If you take the time to research and plan out your supplies, especially obtaining multipurpose ones, you may be surprised at how few items you actually need.
Don’t Overthink Your Bug Out Vehicle
Bug-out vehicles are an interesting area of preparation that people should take the time to think about. There is a decent amount of information out there portraying vehicles that will not only get a person through Armageddon but do so in style.
While some vehicles are certainly better suited for specific environments and situations, a person does not need to drop $50,000 or more on a vehicle and upgrades for it to be capable of getting a person out of a bad situation.
Realistically, a bug-out vehicle can be thought of as any vehicle that can help move a person out of the danger zone and into a safe zone. It doesn’t matter if it is an armored tank, a bicycle, or your own two feet.
If you do own a vehicle and want to keep it simple then do not become distracted by all the accessories and upgrades that are advertised as requirements. Arguably, the best two things you can do to prepare your bug-out vehicle are to keep the vehicle well maintained and always have emergency supplies in it. This will keep this aspect of prepping simple but effective.
Decide Which Backups Are Truly Essential
This section is yet again going to go against the grain of prepping, but by taking a closer look at the idea of backups or redundancies, you will be able to reduce the number of items you have.
There is a motto that prepared individuals like to say and it goes something like this, “one is none, two is one.” This refers to the idea of having backups within your supplies and tools. If you only have one item without a backup and it becomes damaged or lost, then you no longer have that item.
So, having as many backups as possible certainly puts a person in the best position when an emergency happens, but at what point do you stop? This is a question that everyone will have to answer for themselves. There really isn’t a line in the sand to judge this number, but if there were, the number should be based on the critical role that the item plays. Here are a few examples to illustrate the point.
Being able to make fire can be a critical aspect to survival because with it, many things can be accomplished. Therefore, having at least a handful of methods and tools to start a fire would be worth the extra space.
A knife is another extremely important and versatile tool that is in almost every pants pocket, pack, survival kit, and vehicle. Knives are a bit different in that each style of knife is designed for specific tasks, which is why having more than one is not only thought of as a backup but essential.
Toilet paper is a great item to have as it makes cleaning up oneself easier and more comfortable, and yes it does have other uses than its main purpose. But, most do not consider it a critical item, so do you need an entire closet filled with extra roles? That’s up to you.
Please keep in mind that this section was not meant to tell you to get rid of all backups or to discard backup items that play a critical role. The purpose of this section is to merely bring up the importance of an item to your attention so that you will hopefully think more critically about its role in your preparations.
As mentioned at the beginning of the article, being a minimalist kind of goes against the grain of being a prepper. Being prepared for emergencies or disasters or survival situations doesn’t always depend on having a lot of stuff. There’s more to it than that, but we do need some basic items to be responsible for taking care of ourselves and those that we care for.
As long as you have basic emergency supplies at home, in your vehicle, and a kit that goes with you on every adventure that you take, you can consider yourself a minimalist prepper.
Please note that the purpose of this article is not meant to promote the idea that you shouldn’t stockpile lots of emergency supplies. You can if you want to. However, in order to avoid wasting money and space, you should think carefully about each and every item you get. Will you really use it? Is there another item you already own that could serve the same purpose? You don’t want to end up with a bunch of expensive gear that you never use.
Thanks for reading and stay responsibly prepared.
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Re, your comment about not having medical or dental equipment if you don’t know how to use them.
In times of need, the first things to disappear are critical supplies. Tools, for metal, wood, or medical needs will be impossible to find but a person with the skills to use the tools may be easier to locate. So what if the doctor you found has no surgical supplies to perform the critical operation to save your life?
I have urged all my friends to make sure that they have the materials and tools to perform whatever they consider essential tasks and trust that either the skilled person will be found or they will become self taught.
At the very least, having the supplies gives one something of value to trade.