The Basics Of Prepping

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Written by Samantha Biggers

This article first appeared in Survival and Knowledge for Uncertain Times

Launching my own site has made me realize the importance of getting back to the basics sometimes. No matter how long you have been prepping or how prepared you think you might be, it is important to review what the cornerstones of prepping are and some key points that can help you stay motivated while not feeling overwhelmed.

Prepping is a new term for what our ancestors did as a way of life many years ago. Putting a label on it is just something people have done for marketing purposes and because we like to label things.

I always thought that it was kind of weird that people think it is is odd or makes someone different if they try to be prepared for life events. Canning, drying, raising gardens, fixing things yourself, that was just how things were done years ago before we had some of the easy comforts and fast supply chains that we have now. If something fails to grow, we can always get it somewhere else. In the past if a crop failed it could mean very hard times or even death.

Always remember that getting started is a big step in itself!

While I am going to cover the big basic needs that you want to take care of first in this article, I want to stress that being more prepared can start with something as simple as throwing a few extra cans of meat or veggies in the cart next time you go grocery shopping. Here are a few items that are under $10 that are great to have.

  • Canned goods
  • Lighters
  • Small medical supplies
  • Toilet paper
  • An extra bag of flour or sugar
  • Pens and pencils
  • Any type of soap
  • Wet Wipes
  • Coffee

I could list a ton of other things that you could throw in your cart or add to you online shopping order. Small steps towards being prepared can add up to some big results. Remember that a lot of people don’t have more than 72 hours worth of food on hand. You really don’t have to start out with thousands of dollars and storage building to be a lot more prepared than average.

Cover your basic needs and then worry about the next level of preparedness.

No matter who you are or where you are, you need the same basic things as everyone else. It is very easy to get distracted by all the flashy gear and gadgets that claim to make survival a lot easier. I am not going to lie and say that they don’t, but I will doubly stress the importance of prioritizing what items you put back for hard times. Here is a list of the areas that you need to have covered.


I will always tell people that water is their first line of survival. You can go weeks without food in many cases, but without water, you will not last long. I am glad that now there are very affordable water filters available. Even 15 years ago, a hiking water filter was around $100 and had to be replaced fairly often, with the replacement cartridges costing at least 75% of the cost of a new filter.

In the past, I was always a little cautious about a too good to be true price on anything like a water filter. After all, who wants to find out their filter doesn’t work well during a major emergency? Some of you may have read my reviews of water filters over at Backdoor Survival. I have tested a lot of water filters over the years, and I have to say that even the very cheap ones seem to work just fine. I have never been sick or ill from using any water filter I have tried, and I have used them to drink water from creeks that have livestock grazing nearby so definitely not the cleanest sources, to begin with.

Always have more than one type of water filter! I believe that every person should have their own filter. They are only $20 and can make all the difference in a survival situation. There may be times when people need to go to places and scout things out or hunt. This means they need a filter of their own rather than hauling water everywhere or getting caught away from the filter everyone in their family or group is using.

Here are a few good choices for water filters depending on your situation.

Portability and Affordability

The Sawyer Mini

These are amazing little filters and they can be used in line with a hydration bag for added convenience and situations where you need water for a group. For right at $20 you get the filter and a squeeze bag. I don’t know about you but I am always glad for a filter option that doesn’t involve me having to actually pump water. The Sawyer Mini and squeeze bag system is a good option for stashing in your car, at work, or in a bug out bag. Since they are so affordable and last for 100,000 gallons, they are an excellent choice for those of you that want some high value barter items or want to put together a few supplies to help out others during a long emergency.  If I have a friend that is just getting started with prepping, this is the filter I give them to throw in their car kit. The small size is a real bonus.

Group Use Filters

There are a lot of options for groups. I include a few of my favorites but always remember to consider your own unique needs and the size of your group.

I am not a fan of Big Berkey style filters because they are slow and not as portable and easy to use as some people need. Here is one of my favorite budget options for those that want to be more prepared and are short on space.

HydroBlu Versa Flow and 10 L Bag

I like the Hydroblu a lot. It is very easy to use. My husband and I have taken this on trips with guests and used it no problem. It makes it easy to have a lot of water, and at around $40, it is a great group filter for those on a budget. Since there is no pumping involved, and you can fill it to whatever level you want to carry, it is great for those that cannot carry a lot of weight but still want a gravity filter. This is a favorite for hiking and backpacking trips because it weights just over 1/2 lb which is far less than a lot of other filters that are slower and more expensive.  It packs up small too which makes it good for a bug out bag too.

In an urban survival situation, you could use this to filter run off water from roofs. The flow rate is wonderful. After pumping water to filter it for years when on camping trips, it is nice to be able to fill, pour, drink, and relax a bit when at a stopping point.


You should set a goal of having 6 months worth of food put back for you and your pets.

You will hear a lot of different opinions from preppers on what is the best foods to put back. I am going to tell you that it is not simple to plan a food supply. A lot of people have allergies and restricted diets to consider. I myself used to be able to eat anything and be just fine. From my 20s on I tried to eat a little healthier and then all of a sudden I started having major symptoms when I consumed any uncultured dairy products. Not too long after that I was forced to give up wheat products entirely.

I have to say that it helped me lose weight and become healthier, but it also made a lot of my food stash off limits to me. My husband and I had to rebuild our food preps. Some items were still usable for my new diet, but all of the flour-based products were all of a sudden no good. We used them for making animal feeds since the food had been stored awhile and was not very usable for anyone.

A simple 52 serving food kit such as Readywise Prepper Pack Emergeny Food Supply can help you be ready for the next natural disaster.

Readywise Prepper Pack Emergency Food Supply

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Here are a few foods to put back that the majority of people can eat.

  • Rice
  • Corn and Grits- Go for organic if you are trying to avoid Roundup in your food supply. Organic costs more but it is worth it and more affordable than it used to be.
  • Dried potatoes- You can get sliced and shredded potatoes in buckets from Augason Farm. The buckets are also very nice for using for storing other things later on.
  • Canned meats- Yes canned meat can be salty, but there are plenty of low sodium options out there. It is also important to remember that salt in processed foods is something we are used to. During a real SHTF scenario, salt may be in short supply, and you may need more because you are doing more manual labor.
  • Granola mixes
  • Dried fruits and vegetables
  • Canned fruit and vegetables
  • Honey
  • Gluten-free flour and baking mixes
  • Powdered buttermilk and yogurt- This is tolerated by a lot of people that cannot drink liquid milk. Culturing dairy breaks down the lactose so it is easier to digest
  • Dried or canned beans and other legumes
  • Salt- Even if you have to limit sodium normally, you need at least some to survive.

Raising your own meat, canning foods, drying your own, fermentation, pickling, and so on are all great things to do and can help with your food supply, but not everyone has the land, time, or space to do that. When you have some time, go for it, but don’t feel like you have to do everything from scratch. Plenty of preppers just buy everything at the store. The point is to have some extra essentials so you can get by if there is a long emergency or disaster.

Shelter and warmth

If you can stay in your home than the shelter part is covered to some degree. If you want to prepare in case, you cannot stay in your home or have to evacuate for a natural disaster than you will first need to consider the climatic conditions you may face and then plan accordingly. A good tent that can be used throughout the year is an option. Portable camping bivy tents that are essentially a hammock with a roof can keep thing light on the trail and keep you off the ground which means staying a lot warmer.

Knowing how to construct a makeshift shelter if needed is a valuable survival skill.

One of the more common emergencies that people face is a lack of heat due to a weather-related event or an unplanned power outage. Even if you have a good heat source, during times of bitter cold, it may be quite challenging to maintain a comfortable temperature. When my husband and I were building our house, we lived in a small camper trailer that had very little electricity available. During the two winters we stayed in it we saw temperatures in the single digits. We struggled to keep it 55-60 degrees F during those times. A small space heater and a propane oven going were barely enough, but we made it through.

Many heat sources rely on outside sources of fuel. Wood heat is nice because there are plenty of things that can be burned. During a real survival situation, there may be even more things that you can scavenge. For my husband and I, wood heat makes a lot of sense because we have 5 acres of woods to gather it from, and the surrounding area is so plentiful with wood that even if we have to buy a few cords, it is a very inexpensive way to heat and to have a back up for our electric furnace. You can even get wood powered furnaces if you want something fancy or want to get away from any fossil fuel based heating systems entirely.

Medical Supplies

My husband and I have expanded our medical kit over the years. We have discovered that prepackaged medical kits are almost always lacking in some very important things. While there is nothing wrong with buying a kit with the basics in it, you should plan on adding a lot to it as you can afford it.  Here are the things that I firmly believe all medical kits should have but typically do not.

Benadryl Liqui Gels

These are extremely useful for allergic reactions when seconds count. The Liqui Gel format works a lot faster than standard caplets.  A few months ago I got stung by a wasp and was dreading the 48 hours of swelling and pain that I was probably going to face. My husband smashed a Liqui gel and applied it topically to my sting, and I had none of my typical symptoms! This was a pleasant change considering that my past experiences over the last few years have been days of pain and swelling. I never thought of using the gel tabs as a topical even though we have used the Benadryl cream many times in the past.

Blood stop powder and bandages

Cuts and lacerations are some of the most common injuries, yet most medical kits contain nothing to actually clot a cut. I think having some of the larger tubes of blood stop powder as well as some of the band aids that have the powder on them, is a good idea for even very small portable kits. You can take care of a lot of cuts at home rather than spending a lot of time and money at the doctor.

Small surgical kit

Sometimes you need some tweezers, a scalpel, or a probe to remove splinters and other objects. A lot of medical kits have nothing more than a cheap set of tweezers. A small surgical kit is an inexpensive addition that can help you treat a wide range of injuries at home if needed during a long emergency situation.

Clothing and footwear

It may seem really basic and common sense to you but a lot of people don’t have the right types of clothing and footwear to deal with various situations and circumstances. If you live in a climate that has distinct seasons, it means you need a variety of clothing that can be layered for comfort.

Good boots are essential for a major situation. Heavy leather boots with excellent insoles are my go-to boot, but sometimes it is nice to have a hiking boot. The problem with many hiking boots is that they are not as tough as a leather logging boot. This is just my opinion.  You should pick your footwear based on your own unique circumstances such as where you live and the climate.

For staying dry and warm, synthetic fabrics and wool are options. For those that have not had a chance to try Smartwool products, I have to recommend that you try them. It is hard to believe that it is actually wool because it is so soft. There is no itch factor at all. I will say that it is not inexpensive, but the price has come down a bit since it first came out. There are different weights to choose from too which is nice. I live in the Southeast but we live at 3000 feet on the side of a mountain so it can get pretty cold and windy at times, but I still don’t need a heavyweight Smartwool.

Remember that kids get cold faster because they have less mass, so they need to wear more clothes than you during the colder part of the year. It is easier to get hypothermia than you might think. If it is raining and 60 degrees F and you get wet and stay that way for a bit, you can slip into hypothermia fast and not realize that is the problem. It is not something that others will notice readily either if it seems like Spring temperatures outside.

Entertainment and keeping up morale are important too!

While covering the basics is the goal, remember that getting through a long emergency also means keeping a healthy mind. Everyone needs something to remind them of normal times and to keep them entertained. Here are a few options, but I am sure you can think of a ton of others.

  • Books
  • Board games
  • Small electronics that charge via USB
  • Pens, crayons, paper, and coloring books
  • Shelf stable treats and snacks like candy or other favorite foods
  • Small toys for kids

Are you just getting started in the world of prepping? What are your biggest challenges? Please share in the comments below!

About the author:

Samantha Biggers writes at She is currently a managing editor and writer at Ready To Go Survival.  Samantha was previously the editor-in-chief at Backdoor Survival. Her writing can also be found on Lew Rockwell,  The Organic Prepper , and ZeroHedge.

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  1. We’ve been prepping for a while. This is a great essentials article. I just want to add that if you’re in the city, it’s easy to get things you will really want for “long term everyday” emergencies like Covid. For example, shampoo, toothpaste, deodorant. If you can come up with $20 you can get an extra and be conservative, and it will last a long time. We stocked up in a very small way in February; now it’s October and we still have these basics. For the guys, shaving needs. For the women, you know what you need every month, get an extra month. When you can’t get out to the store, or when your street is blocked off by unrest, it’s good have things like this to keep up your daily routine. Those kinds of emergencies are more frequent than the big stuff, but definitely have a water filter etc for the big stuff too!

    1. Hi Aunt Mary, That is a great idea, purchase these daily essentials while they are readily available. It doesn’t take a huge chunk of the budget, as you mentioned, just $20 can get you started. Thanks for the comment!

  2. IMHO, emergency lighting should be near the top of your prep list (just ask your kids huddled on the couch). Olive oil has been used a lamp fuel since biblical times and provides light on par with a candle. Virtually any cooking oil will work but you must know how to use it. The book “Olive Oil Lamps &c.” (available on Amazon in both Kindle and paperback format) gives 15 designs for homemade olive oil lamps. You can even burn Crisco and butter. Doubly good info to have if you’re away from home when the lights go out.

    1. I would go with solar before burning oil. Respiratory issues from oil smoke residue (even if you don’t see smoke, there are micro heated droplets) can be a respiratory irritant and the burning residue collects on all surfaces that may be difficult to clean off. Also, oil will eventually run out where there is a free, unlimited supply of sunlight. I have several solar lanterns to charge for days when the sky is cloudy and solar charging my be a challenge. Each person can be in charge of maintaining their own lantern.

  3. Solar powered flashlights & lanterns are a great investment. Also, solar powered small storage units ( about $50) can keep cell phones, games, radios, etc charged.

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