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With the abundance of bad information out there and the overwhelming amount you need to learn, it’s easy for new preppers to make a lot of mistakes. I’ve made many mistakes myself and I’m sure I’ll make more, but that’s part of the learning process. To help you speed up this process, here are some common prepping mistakes you’ll want to avoid (in no particular order).
1. Not Having a Survival Library
Books are less common these days because we do so much reading on the Internet and Kindles. But if the power goes out, having a good collection of survival books could save your life. They’ll give you something to read when you’re bored, and good survival references have important instructions on things like purifying water, building fires, and medical care.
While you’ll want to learn as much of this info as you can ahead of time, no one can know everything, and there are bound to be times when a survival library will come in handy. Check out my list of the top 100 survival books for suggestions.
2. Focusing on Supplies Instead of Skills
Of course, just because you have all the best books on survival doesn’t mean you shouldn’t bother to learn survival skills. It’s possible your books will be destroyed or you won’t be able to get to them. The same rule applies to your survival food and gear. What if you’re at work when your home is destroyed by an explosion, earthquake, or some other disastrous event? Would you still have the skills to survive, or are you completely dependent on your food and gear?
3. Not Having Enough Water Preps
I cannot overemphasize the importance of water. There are many survivalists who have six months of food and only two weeks of water on hand. Considering that you can survive without food about ten times as long as you can survive without water, you’d be better off with two weeks of food and six months of water. Don’t do that either, but at least make sure your water will last as long as your food. If you don’t have enough room, there are many ways to collect and purify water.
4. Not Storing a Large Variety of Foods
Too many new preppers buy nothing but rice, beans, flour, salt, and sugar. If that’s all you have to eat after a disaster, you’re going to be miserable. Your body will have trouble adjusting to the new bare-bones diet and you’ll suffer from food fatigue, where your survival food won’t be appetizing even when you’re very hungry. Make sure you buy the ingredients for a variety of possible meals so you’ll feel satisfied every time you eat. This leads to my next point…
5. Not Eating What You Store
This was the first mistake I made when I started stocking up on food. I bought all kinds of survival food–dehydrated, freeze-dried, flour, sugar, etc–sealed it up, put it in the closet, and forgot about it. When I finally got around to eating some of it, I realized I absolutely hated it, especially the freeze-dried stuff. That’s why it’s a good idea to buy samples from various food storage companies until you find foods you like. Then regularly eat that food as you rotate through it (see #18 below).
The other problem I had was not knowing what to do with the flour, sugar, and other basic ingredients. If you’re not sure how to cook meals from scratch, I’d recommend getting some cookbooks and a guide like Better From Scratch or The Fannie Farmer Cookbook.
6. Not Having Enough Vitamins
Personally, I think everyone should be taking multivitamins since most modern diets don’t provide the nutrition we need, but this will be even more important in a survival situation. The stress of having your life turned upside down, constant threats to you and your family, and manual labor will take a lot of energy and tax your immune system. Vitamins will help keep you strong and healthy, especially Vitamin C.
7. Relying Only On Food Storage
While the last few points have been about food, don’t forget all your other survival needs. When most people think about prepping, the first things they think about are food and water and they proceed to stock up on them while neglecting first aid supplies, bug out bags, cooking implements, weapons and other important items. While food should be your first priority, don’t forget your other priorities.
8. Relying Only On An Arsenal
At the other end the spectrum, there are some preppers who focus all their attention on guns and ammo. The reasoning is that not only will they be able to protect themselves, they’ll be able to hunt their food and trade ammo for other supplies. This is unrealistic, especially if you’re in or near a city. The little bit of wildlife in your area will be picked clean by others, and most people won’t be interested in your ammo as they, like you, will be looking to trade for food and other vital supplies. By all means, get a few survival guns, but don’t go overboard.
9. Not Taking Care of Pets
As much as we all love our pets, for some reason, it’s easy to forget that they need emergency preps as well. Animals require more than just food and water. Put together a pet survival kit and maybe a bug out bag for your dogs and/or cats.
10. Planning On Bugging Out No Matter What
Although having a bug out bag and a vehicle survival kit is important, there are many circumstances where you’re better off sheltering in place. It just depends. Unless you have advance warning of a disaster, it will be very difficult to get from your home to your bug out location. The streets will be congested, roads and entire areas could be inaccessible, and gas could become unavailable. That’s why I think it’s so important to be ready to shelter in place, which means having plenty of home security measures.
11. Not Preparing Your Family
This one is huge. There are a lot of preppers out there who do all the work and practice but leave nothing for their families to do. This puts the family at a disadvantage because only one family member knows what to do in the event of a disaster, meaning that if anything happens to that person, the rest of the family will be in trouble.
You don’t have to force everyone else in your family to be as into prepping as you are, but you should at least build bug out bags for the family make sure they know the importance of prepping and teach them some basic techniques and skills. (Here’s how to talk to a non-prepper spouse.)
12. Preparing Too Fast
It’s perfectly understandable if you’re excited to prep and trying buy as much of your stockpile as you can all at once. You may also feel you’re running out of time before a potential disaster strikes and need to prepare NOW. In reality, prepping too fast can cost you a lot of money, make you less organized, and cause you to make even more mistakes. Instead, make a prioritized checklist and then strive to cross off the things on that checklist in order.
13. Buying Gear Without Researching First
There’s a ton of information and product reviews on all types survival gear and equipment. The last thing you want to do is buy something without first consulting that information. If you do, you’re liable to get something that breaks the first time you try to use it. This means you should thoroughly research a product before buying it. Read product reviews online, watch video reviews, and scan reviews from customers on sites such as Amazon to get a general idea of the quality of the product.
14. Not Testing Out Your Gear and Equipment
This one goes hand in hand with preparing too fast. Make sure you know how to use each and every piece of survival gear and equipment you buy. Learn how to use it for each of the tasks it’s intended for, learn how to disassemble and reassemble it (if possible), and actually read the manual. This is the only way to make sure your gear will work before you use it in a real-life disaster scenario.
15. Only Preparing For One Type Of Disaster
While you may feel there is one type of disaster that is a more imminent threat than others, disaster preparedness is all about preparing yourself and your family for anything that could happen. If you want to prepare for the disaster you feel is the greatest threat first, that’s fine, but only preparing for that disaster and nothing else is foolish. No one knows the future, and oftentimes the most unexpected things are what happen first.
16. Telling the World You’re a Prepper
When the going gets tough, people do desperate things to stay alive. This means even the neighbors who you thought you could trust may turn on you in a disaster scenario, especially if they know you have a stockpile of food and water. The only people who should know you’re a prepper are your family and a close-knit group of friends. Telling everyone you meet that you’re a prepper will come back to haunt you when disaster strikes. (By the way, here’s what to do if people find out you’re a prepper.)
17. Not Having Enough Backup Plans
There’s an old saying that nothing goes according to plan. This will never be any truer than in a survival or disaster scenario. Thought you could bug in? Nope, it turns out your home is in the path of a wildfire that is headed your way. Thought you could take your favorite route out of town? Nope, the road is blocked. Thought you could rendezvous at your bug out location? Nope, a dangerous group of people got there first. Thought you had enough food and water to live on? Nope, the disaster lasted too long and you’re out of supplies.
I could go on and on. Nothing will go according to plan when disaster strikes and that’s why you don’t just need a backup plan, you need multiple backup plans (and backup gear, for that matter).
18. Not Rotating Your Food and Water
Many people like to buy lots of survival food, stick it in the pantry, and call it a day. That’s great and all, but eventually that food is going to go bad. Imagine a disaster has struck, the grocery store shelves are empty, your entire family is hungry, and all you have in the pantry is old, rotten, infested food. That’s why it’s so important to rotate your food and water on a regular basis so you know you always have uncontaminated, high-quality food and water on your shelves.
19. Forgetting About Sanitation and Personal Hygiene
Many people don’t realize it, but sanitation standards are going to drop significantly if the SHTF. Sure, you might have all of the food, water, firearms, and ammunition that you need to outlast the disaster, but if you get sick or infected as a result of the poor sanitation, none of those other preps are going to matter. Remember, if you don’t have your health, you don’t have anything. You need a complete first aid kit in your preps in addition to basic personal hygiene products such as soap, shampoo, toothpaste, toilet paper, and so on.
20. Keeping All of Your Preps in One Place
Another old saying is to never keep all your eggs in one basket. When it comes to prepping, this means you should never keep all of your preps in the same location. Diversify where you keep everything. Keep some of your supplies at home, some of it in your car, in a shed out back, in a garage in the city, at your bug out location, in survival caches, and so forth. This way you’ll be able to access at least part of your total stockpile regardless of where you are when the disaster hits.
Don’t beat yourself up if you make a few mistakes. We all do. But take time to learn from the mistakes of others in order to make your prepping journey as smooth as possible. If you want to learn more, check out these prepper tips I wish I’d heard before I started prepping.