Getting started in prepping can easily become overwhelming. There are so many things to do and so many people telling you different things to do, that it can become impossible to set your priorities. Many new preppers start out with the right intentions, but waste a lot of time at the beginning, chasing every new idea, product, or theory that they see and hear.
What makes this worse, is that the prepping market niche has become filled with people who aren’t truly experts, but try to portray themselves as if they were. Prepping isn’t the only place that happens, but it’s the one we’re concerned about.
I mention all that, mostly to say that it might not be your fault if you make some of the rookie mistakes I’m going to talk about. In many cases, you were led along that path by someone who was trying to sell you something, rather than someone who was just trying to help you learn. The two ideas should go hand-in-hand, but they unfortunately aren’t always compatible.
You can save yourself a lot of time, money, and heartache by focusing on learning first, before spending a lot of money. That will help you to budget your prepping expenditures more wisely, getting the most bang for your buck. Ultimately, it is the knowledge that you gain, more than anything else, which will help your family to survive.
One of the first pieces of knowledge that anyone intending on being a prepper needs to have, is what mistakes others have made. A truly wise person not only learns from their own mistakes, but learns from the mistakes of others. With that in mind, let’s look at some of the most common “rookie” mistakes.
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Believing Everything You Read
This may sound a bit funny, coming from someone who writes about survival; but you’ve got to be careful about what you read. Sadly, there are things written for the prepping and survival community, by people who don’t really know survival. Following their advice could be dangerous, even leading you to do things that aren’t going to help your family survive.
Keep in mind that survival strategies are usually logical. If something you read just doesn’t hit you right, sit on it and look for confirmation. If it’s good advice, you’re likely to find others talking about it too, giving you that confirmation. But if those others look like they’re just copying what was said, there’s a good chance that they didn’t know if it was good advice or not.
Buying Every Gadget that Comes Along
There are a lot of really cool survival gadgets on the market today, some of which meet some very important needs. At the same time, there are others who are coming up with survival gadgets that look cool, but aren’t really needed for anything. Sometimes it can be hard to tell the difference between the two.
When shopping for gear, always ask yourself how you are going to use the item you are considering buying. If you already have other things which will do that task, why are you buying it? Yeah, you need redundancy; but you don’t need things which will bog you down, without performing any primary function. It’s often better to have your redundancy come from secondary uses of an object.
Another important question to ask yourself is what you’re giving up, to get those extra survival functions. A “survival knife” that includes a fire starter, compass and other survival gear might be great; but if it doesn’t cost more than a good basic knife, they’ve probably used lower quality steel, in order to be able to afford adding all that other stuff.
You’d be better off with a high quality knife, which doesn’t do anything more than cut.
Talking Too Much
Operational security (OPSEC) is just as important for preppers and survivalists as it is for the military. While you don’t have an enemy, per se, that you have to keep your plans from, anyone and everyone can end up becoming your enemy, when they’re hungry and you’ve got food.
Best not to let people know that you’re prepping, so that they don’t show up at your door, expecting you to take care of them.
Deciding to be a “Lone Wolf” Survivalist
Survival can be an all-encompassing task, especially in the wake of a major disaster. Attempting to do so on your own can make that even harder. It’s much easier to survive, if you’ve got a team of like-minded people who you are working with, for the common good. One of the most important reasons why you need this team is for mutual defense.
The problem is finding such a team. That means talking about survival, which goes against the rules of OPSEC. It gets tricky deciding who you can talk to, feeling them out and seeing if they might make good members of your survival team.
Buying Pre-packaged Survival Food
I’m not really against pre-packaged survival food; but it is an expensive option, especially if you want to buy the civilian version of military MREs. Buying some pre-packaged food makes sense; but for your overall stockpile, it makes a whole lot more sense to buy food that you can use and package it yourself for long-term storage. You’ll save a lot of money that way and probably have better meals.
If you do decide to buy any pre-packaged survival food, make sure you know what it is that you are buying. Many of the “buckets” that contain X number of days’ worth of food are figuring on you only eating 1,500 calories of food per day.
They may very well be light in proteins, while heavy on carbohydrates. Those carbs are necessary for energy; but the proteins are necessary too, so that your body can keep building new cells.
Spending Money to Buy a Bug Out Vehicle
You don’t have to look very far on the internet to find lists of the “10 best bug out vehicles” to buy. Those lists can be a lot of fun to look at, but hold your horses before running out to buy one of those beauties. Not only are they usually very expensive; but you might not need one at all.
Before buying that bad-ass 4×4 truck to make the perfect bug out vehicle, take a good look at what you already have. It’s quite possible that your daily ride will work fine for a bug out vehicle. Unless you’re planning on going off-road to the top of a mountain somewhere, it’s unlikely that you’ll really need to have that one-ton four-wheel-drive vehicle with all the trimmings.
Buying Cheap, Rather than Good
Good survival gear can be expensive; just like any other good tool. The problem is, cheap tools have a higher tendency to break, than good ones do. When you’re not sure what you need, it’s easy to make the decision to buy something cheap, just to have something.
Granted, that’s better than not having anything at all; but you’ll eventually want to replace the cheap one with something good. Might it be better to wait and just buy the good one, saving you money overall?
A lot of the things that make good tools good are intangibles, like the quality of the steel used in their manufacture. That makes it hard to know which ones are good, without doing some serious study into the type of tool you’re looking at and learning what makes the good ones good.
Don’t trust all those articles out there that are entitled “10 Best Survival Widgets” as they probably determined which ones were best by looking at which 10 had the highest review rating on Amazon.com.
Losing Track of Your Survival Priorities
Prepping has become rather all-encompassing, with a push more and more towards self-sufficiency. There are a lot of experienced preppers who are moving into homesteading, leading a lot to be written along those lines. Homesteading is great, if you can do it; but the average newbie isn’t even ready to consider that, let along buy a piece of land out in the country and build an off-grid home.
Your priorities in prepping have to be based on your survival priorities. Maybe you will build that off-grid homestead somewhere down the pike, but not today; especially not if you’re just starting out. Work on building a food stockpile, developing ways to harvest and purify water, having an alternate means of heating your home, learning basic first-aid skills, and of course, learning survival skills.
Once you have that going pretty well, you can branch out into things like growing your own food and raising a few chickens for eggs.
Relying on Gear and Supplies, Exclusive of Knowledge
It is easy to fall into the trap of thinking that your gear and supplies will be enough to get you though, so that you don’t need to spend all that much time learning survival skills. The only problem with that idea, is that it’s a false one. I don’t care how good a fire starter you have, if you don’t know how to start a fire, you may never get it lit.
Don’t get me wrong; the right equipment and supplies will definitely help you survive. But when push comes to shove, and it probably will, your knowledge will do more to help you survive, than anything else.
Someone with enough survival knowledge will often be able to figure out what to do when they don’t have a critical tool or supply. Knowledge tells you what to do with that equipment and those supplies; but if you don’t have the knowledge, you’ll probably waste a bunch of your supplies.
Focusing on Only One Area of Survival
There are so many aspects to survival, that we can easily overlook something important. That’s even more true when we get tunnel vision, focusing on one specific area of survival.
The most common area that new preppers focus on is stockpiling food. That’s an important area; but if you don’t stockpile medicines as well, you might find yourself dying of disease, even though you have plenty of food.
It can be extremely challenging keeping the right balance in prepping, making sure that everything gets covered. That’s where we go back to a previous point, about keeping track of your survival priorities. if you want to know which things you should put most of your effort into, just look at what your highest survival priorities are.
There’s risen a tendency to go tactical with clothing and gear. Many preppers have AR-15s as their primary firearm, buy ballistic vests and wear tactical cargo pants. Their bug out bags have military MOLLE straps on them and they use military pouches for carrying just about everything.
I can understand that, as I was in the Army and tend to wear cargo pants and shorts as my everyday wear. They’re convenient, giving me a good place for my mag holder, flashlight and cell phone.
But that doesn’t mean I want to wear tacti-cool gear and clothing in a survival situation. Such attire would tend to attract unwanted attention, being the exact opposite of the “grey man” look.
People seeing me wearing that tacti-cool clothing and gear would naturally assume that I knew what I was doing and was prepared to survive. Whether that would mean they would beg me to take care of them or attack me to get what I have, it would likely impede my ability to survive.
There’s a faction within the prepping movement which has the attitude that they can take on the world and win. While I have a defensive plan, own guns, have a decent stock of ammunition and consider myself to be a good shot, the last thing I want to do in any survival situation, is get into a fight.
Even if I win that fight, others would likely hear of it and come around, thinking that I have something worth taking. The enemies would get bigger and bigger, until someone beat me.
As far as I’m concerned, the best battle in any survival scenario is the one that I never have to fight. While I’m ready to fight, if I need to, I’m certainly not looking for a fight. Nor am I doing anything that would make people think I’m looking for a fight. I’d rather have the element of surprise on my side, when and if the time comes.
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