Step-By-Step: The Essentials Every Prepper Must Own



prepping essentials

If you’ve seen the show “Doomsday Preppers” on National Geographic, you know the extremes some are willing to go to.

They take surviving the next natural disaster, war or government meltdown to a whole new level- kids with AR-15’s, underground bunkers and hazmat suits are all in the arsenal of the most advanced preppers NatGeo can find.

Unfortunately a lot of what they do is just way over the top for most of us…

See the video below for just a small sample of what these “doomsday preppers” are getting ready for:

It’s certainly entertaining, but while “Doomsday Preppers” glorifies the most extravagant survival methods, it misses out on the small details that every household should have before even thinking about AK-47’s in a bomb proof bunker. If you’re starting from zero, build up the basics before graduating to the advanced stuff.

Stock a One-Month Supply

In the event of a disaster, food, water and energy make the difference between life and death. First, designate an area of the home or garage to store supplies and make sure it’s secure (a shed is useless if a tornado just blows it away). A basement is ideal if you have one. Stock enough of the following to last at least one month:

  • Jugs of purified water.
  • A purification system or tablets (if the existing water supply is exhausted).
  • Canned food. Make sure to buy protein (beans, spam), vegetables and some fruits.
  • Batteries – AA, AAA and D.
  • Enough gasoline for a generator and a few tanks in a vehicle.
  • Soap, sanitizer, toothpaste and other disposable hygiene products.
  • Pistol and rifle ammunition.

Create An Plan / Exit Strategy

Some emergencies will demand to stay in your home, others will force you to leave. No matter the circumstances, create a plan of action with your family and go over that plan every few months to ensure everyone is on the same page. If a disaster calls for sheltering in the home, create “rally points” where you and your family meet before taking cover. This space should be accessible to your one-month supply.

If you and your family need to get out of the house, organize a rally point to get everyone in the car and out as quickly as possible. Keeping your one-month supply in the garage will come in handy for fast packing of the bare essentials. If transferring supplies from storage to car is an issue, rent a storage unit and stock it with your one-month supply. Companies like Uncle Bobs have 24-hour access so you can reach your goods, day or night, on the way out of town.

Know Your Weapon

It’s not enough to own a gun – you need to know how to use and, more importantly, maintain it. Skills like breaking down a weapon, cleaning it, and even assembling your own ammo are huge advantages in survival situations. This directory from the NRA lists courses all across the country where you can learn aptitudes in anything from a six-shooter to a long-range rifle.

Be An Avid Camper

What is camping but temporary wilderness survival, really? Making a hobby of camping, especially backpacking, translates well to prepper survival skills. Plus, if you have all the right gear, those camping supplies make the perfect to-go bag if you don’t have time to gather resources before leaving the house. Get a few of these basics:

  • Small tent (two person).
  • Sleeping bag (summer bags will be easier to pack).
  • Thermal mat.
  • Small propane heater.
  • Water purification tablets.
  • Backpack.
  • A good knife.
  • Head lamp.
  • Slack line.

Once you have the basics take care of you are open to build up to more extensive preps (like a bunker)

What’s your take? Did I miss anything on my “essentials list?”

Let me know below.

Read more with these related articles on our site:

10 Essential Items for New Preppers

25 Winter Bug Out Essentials | Survival Tips

Your First Bug Out Bag – 50 Essentials For Your Kit

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  1. Ron Harder

    October 25, 2013 at 10:45 AM

    I am a Hurricane Katrina survivor. Now I am disabled and need to restock my disaster supplies. Do you know of any organizations who could help me find low cost disaster supplies such as MREs, medical supplies and other items that would be useful in an emergency. I would be willing to take some things that have some damage and would otherwise be dumped and wasted. Any thoughts and info would be appreciated. Or pass my name on to them. Thank you, Ron Harder

  2. Ken Davis

    October 25, 2013 at 12:02 PM

    Semi-retirement has allowed me to spend over 250 days in the last three years in the mountains. I went not only because I could, but to actually practice and perfect my skills, review different products and supplies for their utility, endurance and multiple uses.

    What did I learn? Unless you actually practice with all of your gear and supplies, you will never really know what works and what is essential.
    These lessons defeat the maverick mindset and create teachers and leaders.

  3. Michael McNeill

    October 25, 2013 at 4:16 PM

    A well-stocked first aid kit and the training to use it. That doesn’t mean a 250-piece off-the-Walmart-shelf kit that is 150 bandaids, but a good, solid, functional kit.

  4. Wanda

    October 25, 2013 at 4:57 PM

    Purchase @ your discount and bargain stores, Big Lots, Dollar General, Family Dollar,, Dollar Tree, Good Will, Salvation Army, yard Sales, flea markets, & army & navy surplus store. Feminine hygiene products will double duty as bandages, plug holes, & stop nose bleeds. Plastic wrap can seal a sucking chest wound. Wax can be melted and seal jars or cans. You can dip pine cones in it for fire starters. Mirrors or glass can be angled into the sun to start a fire if no matches. Thin plastic bags to bury fecal waste. Vegetable greens can be planted in the grass without having to break up the soil.(Hey, no dirt splashing on them in the rain.) They produce quickly, very filling, nourishing, & the seeds are very small. I planted them in the cow pasture and the cows didn’t bother them.

  5. Wanda

    October 25, 2013 at 5:39 PM

    I have a small dehydrator. You can dry meats, vegetables, fruits, etc. No fruit trees or garden? A lot of farmer’s markets, and stores will sell produce that’s a little past prime very cheaply. Wash well and cut out the bad spots and dry it. You have to cut thins thin to dry it anyway. A lot of time I make juice from the skins and fruit cores. They also make the clearest jelly. I use every bit of the apples. Besides, while we’re waiting for these disasters, plant fruit trees in you yard. Dwarf trees produce much but take little space. Call your Soil Conservation Offices in the winter. They usually have cheap trees at their spring sales. The National Arbor Day Foundation also sell nut & fruit trees cheap. Talk with your neighbors, agree to buy different types of trees and share the yield. These benefits do wonders for pocket book and you know what you’re feeding your family. Use your internet or public library to find out how to grow these plants.

    • Berton Pew

      October 26, 2013 at 12:49 AM

      Wandefor a fire starter use dryer lint andstart it fast with a flint and steel wool.remember keep it dry.Also use a dakota fire for inviroment clean and bring to boil water or a fast meal quick.dig 2 small holes close together take the grass off and save.put alittle hole in between ,throw small sticksor dry pine needles if you have nothing else in one hole andput container on top to boiler water etc.light the fire through the vent hole stoke the fire as needed through the vent hole.After dinnerput out the fire and put the dirt in the holes and put the grass on top and move on.

  6. Sargint Rock

    October 25, 2013 at 8:56 PM

    Survival is the best revenge!

  7. Michael

    October 25, 2013 at 11:32 PM

    In my one month supply, I would add some wet fire cubes and a extended length lighter. These serve as an emergency method in a pinch to get you warm or for cooking. I would especially have them in my bug out bag.

  8. A Baker

    October 25, 2013 at 11:50 PM

    In the Pacific Northwest there are quite a few firearms training outfits – but I found one that I was EXTREMELY happy with – comprehensive one on one training (available for most of their classes) and VERY reasonable – great “Bang for the Buck”!
    Invictus Training & Services in Tacoma (in association with Bulls Eye Indoor Range)gave me the knowledge and confidence I needed and wanted.
    (btw – the main instructor has many years in the emergency preparedness and management arena.)


  9. A Baker

    October 25, 2013 at 11:59 PM

    Oh – yeah – almost forgot. The new generations of rechargeable batteries are incredible! Between a couple of sets of batteries and a solar charger (all available for a reasonable price at on-line battery sale sites) you can eliminate the worry of running out of batteries AND save space and weight! The solar chargers are generally good for other small devices as well.
    In my bag, I have a quality LED light and two sets of batteries. I have a charger that I can put on top of my ruck (pack) while transiting. The total weight of the charger and batteries is very reasonable (have not weighed it – yet.)


    • john prepper

      December 15, 2013 at 10:15 AM

      I have thought about that exact solution. If the stores were closed permanently, I wonder how long before every battery on the planet was used or dead.

  10. amsoildave

    October 26, 2013 at 10:51 AM

    Please do your self a big favore never store your prep,s in a self storage if the power go,s out your finish the one i rented a few years ago had two huge gates that open with a chain driven motor and no walk threw gates also very hot in the units not good save the rental money.

  11. dave browning

    October 26, 2013 at 12:34 PM

    several ways to make fire. a nine volt battery and steel wool serve several purposes, one being if you touch both prongs of the battery to the steel wool, you’ll make fire. magnesium fire sticks (flint) two or three… a must. a magnifying glass, matches and lighters. even a small bit of oil or grease, you can start wet stuff burning with it, dont pass up sap clumps on trees, that stuff burns, and has medicinal qualities.

  12. Great Grey

    October 26, 2013 at 8:03 PM

    Many natural fire starting items talked about do not grow in much the country, therefore you need to learn what is in your area.

  13. mac

    October 27, 2013 at 9:44 AM

    I highly recommend Celox in a first aid kit. It was developed as a non exothermic (no chemical burn) alternative to Kwik Clot. 10 2g packs are only about 15 with shipping on various sites and it will stop femoral bleeding in under 2 minutes.

  14. Dave Mac

    October 29, 2013 at 6:02 PM

    A few things-
    1- build your knowledge base of primative skills
    2- Practice practice practice. It doesnt need to be complicated and there is nothing more frustrating or eye opening to try out that new “gadget ” for the first time- and it doesnt work or doesn’t fit the need.
    3- Chemicla purifiers are great- compact andrelatively easy to use. However Iodine is harmful after long term use. So supplement your kit with a filter of some type. Also know the terrain your water source flows through. Boiling and chemical treatments do not remove pesticides or other potentially harmful chemicals.
    4- practice practice practice

  15. Meredith Foc

    October 29, 2013 at 6:35 PM

    First aid minimums:aspirin. Bandages.antibiotic creme.insect&burn relief
    RE: BEANS & RICE, TRY TO OBTAIN PRE-COOKED, THEN DRIED AS FUEL RUNS OUT REAL QUICK WHEN BEANS&RICE COULD TAKE 20-30 MINS vs 5-10 FOR PRECOOKED. PETS! must have a plan OR provisions if taking them with you. Find a prepper physician—cause only then will you obtain Rx for antibiotics to have “on hand”. Medications**very difficult

  16. Clint Reed

    October 29, 2013 at 6:35 PM

    A first aid kit would be good to have.

  17. Phil

    October 29, 2013 at 11:51 PM

    I think you got the basics with the exception of med kit/supplies, pet plan/supplies, and resource materials such as field guides to edible plants, tree/plant ID for medicinal use, and other information such as notes for how much clorox or iodine to use to make potable water. In short acquire usable info and practice its use.

  18. Kevin Coy

    October 30, 2013 at 9:16 PM

    As a doomsday prepper from National Geographic’s show episode 15 a fortress at sea. I think you have to start somewhere .This is a great start.We did not gather up everything you see in our show overnight.We have spent years putting our food and gear together.Just start today and keep adding as you can.

  19. gary

    December 10, 2013 at 11:04 PM

    Thanks for the great information, Im just starting to prepare and so im gathering information to make sure my plan is well rounded. Just wanted to add that I think it is essential to have a flint, matches, or lighter as part of the most basic supplies. the ability to create fire will make or break you.

  20. Aaron Nelson

    November 9, 2014 at 10:55 AM

    Sharpening Implements (Whetstones, or Lansky Diamond Kit and strop to remove the burred edge)for Said Knives. We all know that a dull knife is the one that cuts you, a shape knife is less likely to cause personal injury than a dull one since it can do its work properly.

    Also a set of Jewelers Files isn’t a bad idea. These can be used for sharpening of knives as well, but very coarsely or for re-profiling the edge if the knife becomes damaged, Plus can also help in repairing Rifles where a slight high spot can cause jams and such easily since a bench mill will not be readily accessible. Files can also aid in fish hook sharpening as well as modification of bullets for taking down larger game animals such as bear, wild bore, and apex predators such as humans. Adding a cross to the soft tip will increase the takedown force tremendously. A sharp blade can also do this, but you can get it much cleaner with a thin file which will allow for better accuracy since the slotting is more uniform.

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