On Preparation


My name is Michael. I am a graduate student at a University in the SW United States.

In this article I discuss what preppers are doing wrong. My hope is that the people who read this will identify with some examples I provide, and change their behavior into something that is more beneficial for them.

My uncle is an ill-prepared prepper, and so, I use him in this article to illustrate my points. The man spends thousands of dollars every year foolishly because he thinks that by having a surplus of stuff he will be safe.

Many people in our community lose sight of their original goals. The reason why we started this was to protect our selves and our loved ones. But unfortunately the majority of us turn into idiots. We become obsessed with gear (I’m not blameless) and we forget what its all about.

What good is a first aid kit with four hemostats included going to do you if you don’t know how to use them? My uncle bought a $500 first aid kit. It is a huge backpack looking thing that weighs a ton. He has no first aid training. He is making a fatal mistake – he thinks that his gear will take care of him. My argument is, make logical decisions that best fit your own scenario. I would rather have seen my uncle buy a $100 first aid kit and spend $400 of his time in the library learning about first aid.

Ben Franklin said invest in your education, because it is the only thing that cannot be repossessed.

The same foolish decisions are made all the time about just about every piece of gear marketed to preppers. “Buy this 5lb bag of seeds and you’ll be able to feed your family!” No you won’t. Chances are you have no idea how to farm, and you probably don’t even have a place to raise your crops. You think that if you drop a few hundred bucks on seeds you can keep your family fed. Instead, spend time learning about agriculture. Read about it, and then spend time practicing it. This way you won’t die of starvation during a SHTF scenario.

My uncle has a $2000 sniper rifle contraption thing. He’s never shot it. The darn thing is so complex that if one grain of sand made its way inside it would break. He doesn’t know how to care for a professional soldiers weapon yet he has one. And since his high tech gear has made him feel safe, he has become complacent.

I can’t predict the future, but I can tell you that you aren’t going to need to be shooting 2” groups at 1000yds in a SHTF situation. Think about it, even if you saw people you were 100% sure were hostile to you, out hundreds of yards away you should probably just avoid them. This isn’t a zombie movie we’re getting ready for. We’re not murderers, marauders, or trained snipers. Prepare smart! Buy something like a $100 Mosin Nagant and train with it. Find comfort in the fact you don’t need to carry around synthetic oil and spare parts for your weapon. Know that when you want to use it, it will work. Take the $1900 that you saved and go spend it on something that actually is going to be beneficial for you and your family.

My uncle also has two kerosene/battery powered deluxe space heaters. I don’t even want to know what these cost. He’s lost touch with is original goal. He forgot that we’re not trying to maintain a lifestyle here – were trying to preserve life. Where are you going to get kerosene and batteries from when the SHTF? Oh you have some saved up? Good. How long will you reserves last? One year? The money you spent on space heaters and reserves could have been better served when invested in something that is more forward thinking/renewable, such as water purification, shelter, food production, education, blankets…

You don’t need 15 different types of knifes. You just don’t.

Lastly (but of paramount importance), I want to talk about a bug out shelter. Don’t tell anyone you don’t want living in your shelter with you that you have one. They’ll show up. Then what? First they’ll ask for help, and when you say no, their natural response will be to preserve their own lives. They’ll get violent. Maybe they’ll kill you for it. Save yourself the trouble. You’re doing this for you (and your loved ones), not for the benefit of your ego, keep your mouth shut. Underground houses make for good water cooler BS topics but avoid the temptation!

I hope that by reading this someone out there will see that they aren’t preppers, they’re gear heads, and that they are wasting time because they aren’t doing things right. Focus on reality. If the SHTF, do I want a $2000 gun, or $1900 more in canned food? Would my time and money be more beneficial to me if I did things differently?

Thank you for your time and patience in reading this article


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  1. Great points Michael…I agree! I have made purchases early on that I would not have made today. Acquiring skill sets and the materials, tools etc… is the way to go!

  2. I totally agree with you. Equipment and “Stuff” mean nothing with out the proper knowledge to use it. Skill sets are far more valuable than anything you could buy. As the old saying goes”Knowledge is power” , they were exactly right when they said that. We all need to learn how to do things and then practice until we are proficient in that skill. I know I have taught that gear means nothing if it just sits in your pack and you pack it around with you. You might as well just have a bunch of rocks in your pack. Great post and wise advise.

  3. If you would have mentioned how prep’d he was in basics (beans), then we could compare the band-aids and bullets part of the equation. Your post makes me think he will die of starvation in a week but I have a hard time thinking there wouldn’t be any basic prep’s at all.

    A gear head with a plan is still better off than a person without anything at all. Even a false sense of security is comforting to the majority of people (think airport security). Everyone prep’s different, don’t be too hard on people who don’t do it the way you think is best.
    Example: I think that a years worth of kerosene in a SHTF scenario is a great supply for heaters since you really don’t run it all year so that 1 year supply you think is a waste can actually be a 3 year supply and that’s a great supply. A bucket of seeds can be grown by a person without much knowledge at all even if you just put dirt on them and add water.

    Just a thought.

  4. I think a better title for your post would be “How to Alienate Your Readers AND Your Uncle in Ten Arrogant Paragraphs or Less”
    Michael, if this article was written tongue-in-cheek, it sure didn’t come off that way. If it wasn’t, then SHAME ON YOU.
    What is the #1 rule when writing about something with which you have limited (or zero – just guessing) experience? RESEARCH.
    I get your point here. It doesn’t apply to me or ANY of the preppers I personally know. Is there anyone besides your Uncle that you know to be trusting in purchases to “save” them in the event of an emergency?
    I’m sure you have a lovely education, and a nifty desire to inform the masses, but please, meet some people, gain some life experience, then re-evaluate what your are wanting to teach folks.

  5. Michael,
    Really good post. A lot of folks really do miss the forest because of the trees. Hopefully, your words will find some ears and eyes which need to understand simple and effective is much better than complex and unworkable.

    One point of disagreement – what do you mean I don’t need 15 knives? For us knife collectors, that hurts. I don’t leave the house without at least 4 knives on my person, 2 or 3 in the truck, at least 2 more in my Get Home Bag, and a worry that I really and truly don’t have enough sharp and pointy things to play with. My kitchen knife block has 21 knives, 2 shears, and 2 steels (well, one is ceramic). Then I have a mezzaluna and 3 long slicers that won’t fit in the block. And, yes I do use them. Not everyone everyday, but almost all of them 2 or 3 times a week. I am the family chef (or short order cook, depends on our schedule) and my knives are the key to putting a decent meal on the table. I prefer to use the slicers on Bambie, but if the zombies start coming through the door (said in jest) I may resort to a basic blade for defense. Luckily, my nephew the EMT lives with us; so the inevitable bleeders can be easily stitched up with our $100 first aid kit.

    I really did like your post – well thought out and well written. Hopefully, you will take the time to expand on it between your studies. Also, the reference to Franklin was very effective. I like old Ben. He once said, “Beer is proof God loves us and wants us to be happy”. How can you argue with such wisdom!

  6. There are legitimate reasons for having lots of “Stuff”. survival related “Stuff”. Maybe he cannot use that $500 first aid kit himself.. Maybe he knows someone who can. A $2000 Precision Rifle? That’s not that much to pay for a rifle that can accurately deliver fire when subject to harsh conditions.

    Now let’s get to your point “Would my time and money be more beneficial if I did things different?”

    Of course for everyone including the US Military who are (not surprisingly) quite a group of preppers themselves. All benefit from a review of priorities and objectives.

    We all could do better.. Other than to use your Uncle as an example for your article .. Don’t discount what he is doing .. Perhaps he figures he has a nephew or two who may put that “Stuff” he has laid aside to good use when the time come.

    Something about “A threefold cord bring not easily broken”

  7. You lost me at “In this article I discuss what preppers are doing wrong. ” Don’t assume that all preppers are similar to your uncle.

  8. Hi Michael, I understand your reasoning behind what a ‘real’ prepper is, my definition would be “one that acquires the necessary survival gear, tools, food/water and first aid supplies in the quanity of what they can reasonbly stock or better yet CARRY”. Not to mention what they know how to use!
    The best case scenario would be for an individual or family to be able to hunker down in their own homes and survive whatever disaster or catastrophy occurs with the luxury of having a stock pile of everything under the sun in which to use for survival resources. The worst case scenario would be that each individual is carrying just what they need for basic survival in an unknown environment. I myself have a backpack filled with essentials, a bucket of MRE’s and other food, water purification/filters, shelter, and extra fuel packed neatly in the trunk of my car. Sure, I have a backup storage should the ‘best case scenario’ occur, but am also prepared with the essentials needed for a quick get away. The absolute and most powerful tool any of us preppers can have is, a strong reasoning mind. Without that, all of the tools, gear, food and other necessities would not keep us alive anyway!

  9. You made a lot of excellent points, Michael.

    Case in point: my husband has been acquiring some firearms and is doing a lot of target practice. He is willing to send me to gun school and at first I agreed. We have also discussed the purchase of a small firearm for me. But, after a long, heartfelt discussion, I admitted I would not use it – no matter what – so we are seeking alternatives that I will use such as pepper/wasp spray, stun guns, and martial arts training. Better to spend our prepper budget on something I will actually user than a firearm that will remain locked up because I refuse to use it.

    Another case in point: I know people that have purchased 50 lbs. of wheat and are now feeling secure, food wise. For them this is foolhardy since they have never used wheat berries and do not own a food mill. Just what do they think they will do with all of that wheat when the SHTF? I can think of many other examples as well.

    I hope that newbie preppers will read your article and appreciate that you are trying to be helpful in sharing useful information to guide them along their journey.

    — Gaye

  10. I don’t think the OP, Michael’s idea was to demean any preppers, but rather to provide food for thought for newer-folks to counter the (mostly-elsewhere, I do like that about this site) advertising hype that “if you have THIS kit (400lb of TVP you have no idea how to cook, a circus tent, a canteen cup and dehydrated water!), THIS knife (it’s 8 feet long and you can fillet a T. Rex!!) and THIS gun ( a DREAD – 120,000 RPM and silent!!!) you will be able to survive ANYTHING, even if you know absolutely Jack-Sh*t about using them.”

    Yes, I’m being silly and a bit sarcastic toward some vendors. Keeping your sense of humor might well be the most important thing you can do if TSHTF.

  11. For the detractors on this post, I will point out that we probably all know someone that is a Prepper In Name Only… My PINO friend not only doesn’t practice or train, but he doesn’t have more than enough ammo to go to the range once. He’s flush with cash, but doesn’t bother to store the ingredient firearms need most… ammo. He figures that I store enough for myself and him, so why should he bother.

  12. Just have two things to say……

    1. Regarding the comment about knives…… I have to disagree. For a single prepper, 15 knives is only a good start. For a family/group of preppers, 15 is a drop in the bucket. I am an avid CCW advocate. There are few places that I go that I do not carry a firearm. That being said, there is NO place I go where I do not carry some kind of blade. At a minimum, my EDC is 5 different blades (Mini Swiss Army knife in left pocket, larger Swiss Army knife in right pocket, folding clip knife on right pocket, credit card blade in wallet, multitool with blade on my keyring). If I plan on going anywhere, I add to them depending on the environment.

    While the selection of certain types of blades can allow an individual to perform many tasks adequately, there are far better choices for specific tasks. Just as squirrel hunting with a .300 win mag WILL kill the squirrel, it is excessive to the situation. Skinning a rabbit with a machette is not an easy task. Just as splitting wood with a swiss army knife is generally avoided if possible.

    Knives are ABSOLUTELY the #1 tool that you will use. Gun discussions, food prep discussions, survival discussions are all fun. But a knife crosses almost all categories. They can be used in every category for a survival kit: fire starting, 1st Aid, navigation, water acquisition, food acquisition, shelter making, emergency signaling.

    Not only that, but they will rank right up there with the other precious metals for trading purposes: gold, silver, lead, cold steel.

    Using the wrong knife for a specific job, can be done, but becomes more dangerous. While I have used pliers as a hammer, it isn’t safe nor advised.

    2. In regards to purchasing prep items while not knowing how to use them………
    I agree and disagree (My grandpappy always said to leave ’em confused!). I agree that if at all possible, learn how to use or work with what items you buy. Knowledge is a precious thing of which there is no substitute.

    That being said, once you have acquired up to your skill level, don’t be too reluctant to purchase or obtain items beyond your current knowledge and skill level.

    For some reason there appears to be a sub-conscious belief among preppers that all learning will cease after a TEOTWAWKI event. And whatever your current skill/knowledge level is, there it shall remain until either the golden hordes have taken you, or you have died of old age in your secure and happy bunker/farm/compound/ranch/etc.

    The opposite is more likely to be the fact. During a TEOTWAWKI event, you will either learn….or die. While I am a former EMT and the majority of my supplies are based upon that skill set, I also have items that I do not currently possess the skill or knowledge set to employ, including basic surgical tools.

    While it may be possible that as a result of a TEOTWAWKI event, I may acquire additional knowledge and skills in emergency medicine, it is more likely that I may encounter individuals with those precious skills and knowledge that do NOT have the tools. My supplies can then be used for barter, or to augment a group’s supplies.

    Another example would be ammunition reloading. I have not reloaded in so many years that it would be safer to say that I could/should not reload for safety reasons. Adequate amounts of loaded ammunition are currently sufficient. However, I still have some simple reloading supplies and plan on acquiring more. If the need to reload due to there being no l=more loaded ammunition arises, I shall have to relearn to reload, or use them as barter. The point being, is that even in a TEOTWAWKI situation, it will be FAR simpler to learn how to reload (even through, godforbid, “trial and error” than it will be to develop the forge and construct the machinery to build the reloading tools, much less the mining and processing involved to obtain the ammunition components.

    The great thing about knowledge, it can be obtained anytime. Before….during….and after a TEOTWAWKI event!

    Granted, preferably before!

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