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5 Prepping “Rules” That Are Actually Myths

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Rules. The word itself makes me cringe. I have been antiauthoritarian all my life, so I bristle at the idea of rules in general. Still, as something evolves it tends to make up some rules on its journey. Prepping has been no different. There have been guidelines by which all people who call themselves “preppers” adhere.

These rules or guidelines tend to help grow a community because they define what the community is all about. My biggest problem with rules is that the world is not yes or no, nor is it black or white. Prepping is no different. There is nuance and circumstance to consider.

In this article I hope to shed some light on 5 prepping RULES that are actually myths. You will be surprised by some of these, but I will also tell you how to get these practices right, so they can benefit you again.

Dehydrated Food Storage Meals Last 25 years

Preppers put a lot of merit into their food storage and rightly so. It will take some serious amounts of food to survive a full-on collapse. Luckily for preppers there is no shortage of internet retailers selling long term dry food storage.

The questions come when we start talking about the purported 25-30-year shelf life. One thing we all can agree on is that good food is not meant to sit around for 3 decades. Of course, we aren’t depending on our survival food to be the best meal we’ve ever had, right? Still, what is this 25-year shelf life all about.

Most companies will spend the large print on this promise. What they rarely mention is that this shelf life is only attainable by keeping your food storages at temperatures of 55 degrees Fahrenheit or less. Of course, this changes everything. Who has a climate controlled room for their food storage?

Very few preppers can store even a minimal amount of food storage at this temperature. So, your long-term food storage is not as long term as you think.

Related: 24 Food Items To Hoard


To truly win at the game of food storage is to practice rotation. You must be using all that you store. Do not put a single thing on your shelf that you don’t plan on using. You can keep a stockpile, but you must also keep it moving.

Avoid the sales on items you are not going to integrate into your stockpile.

The myth is that your food storage will last for 25 years. That doesn’t mean you cannot have a years’ worth of food on hand. If you are actively eating that food and rotating it, then you will find success.

Related: Cracking Open a Ten-Year-Old Bucket of Food

The Bugout

One of the cornerstones of all prepping, the bugout, is supposed to get us out of harms way in a hurry. You cannot find a prepping website that doesn’t feature an article or several about the bugout. You might be surprised to find this on the list but its true, for most preppers, the bugout is a myth.

The idea of the bugout is something that gets passed around. Of the people who have a bugout bag and read the articles, I often wonder how many have executed a bugout in just the way it would go down. Moreover, how many people have executed a bugout with the whole family?

Most preppers have not even made it as far as writing their bugout plan down. The very basics of a practice like REDOUT.

Beyond REDOUT there are things like routes that need to be considered, rally points, caches and, of course, alternate routes if you find that your initial bugout location is compromised.

The bugout is by far the most over simplified prepper rule that, for most preppers, is a myth.


If you want to turn this myth into a reality you need to follow the process from start to finish. Then you need to rehearse the process. With a notebook and maps you must sit down and plot your course. Here is my quick 10 step written bugout process.

  1. Print 8X10 maps of your neighborhood, your town, your city and your bugout location
  2. Looking at the maps decide on two short distance bugouts, areas you can travel 5 miles or less to escape danger
  3. Now seek out two locations that are 20 miles or more away mark them on the maps
  4. Plot your courses on these maps to each bugout location
  5. Notate food, water and other resources along the way
  6. Notate locations to bury caches
  7. Notate rally points
  8. Place all this info into a binder
  9. Put your bag on this weekend and go find a spot
  10. Come home and start modifying your plan to deal with real world issues you find on your treks

Related: 10 Reasons Why You Do Not Want to Bug Out

Successful and Sustainable Foraging

I love foraging. I have field guides and I eat as much wild food as I can, when it’s easy to get. I have watched homesteaders truly take advantage of wild foods and I am always looking to them to see prepper skills in practice. The homesteaders are taking the action that most preppers are only talking about.

The studying of foraging is not the rule that is a myth. In fact, if more preppers diligently studied foraging and practiced it in their areas they would be better equipped in the wild. They would also better understand its limits.

All that said, foraging alone will never sustain you let alone your family. This is the fundamental issue with foraging. You can eat all the berries and cattails you want this week. They will not sustain you like meat or fish. More importantly these resources will be gone once you have consumed them.

Foraging is not a substitute food source it is merely a bridge between meals.

If you attempt to do more than this with wild foraged plants, you are going to starve. Be very careful about how much you depend on foraging in a survival situation. I prefer it as a peripheral task while waiting for animal or fish traps to yield protein.


Foraging is a subsidy. You must treat it like such. Do not spend your entire day foraging unless you have protein traps set, meat smoked or some other method of getting better nutrition.

To get foraging right you must give it a lot of time and practice. You must read, see, handle and taste these wild foods. You need to know which ones you like and how your body reacts to them. This is crucial.

Wild foods deserve your respect and attention, but plants and seeds will never get you through the long haul. You must have skills to get yourself some protein.

Related: 16 Wild Edibles You Didn’t Know You Could Forage For

Preparing for Martial Law

Martial law or overbearing militant government rule is one of the most popular post-apocalyptic themes in all of prepping. The idea that post collapse our government will gather together a mighty, well-armed, well organized force to monitor all the metro areas is just not reality.

Where would this great force of fighters come from? How would a force of any size monitor some 300 million people?

We need only look at some of the most recent disasters to understand what the government and the military are truly capable of. Relief and aid would take up most of the military force across the nation. Sending the rest into neighborhoods to control the population, confiscate guns and instill curfews would be suicide.

Nationwide martial law is a myth.


There will be some semblance of law struggling to stay in power. This will be true of all localities. In this event your family will be at risk. You may have individuals who have been given too much power or desperate people making decisions to keep order. Murder without justice, is what I mean.

Rather than preparing for nationwide martial law you must be prepared to gather emergency intelligence using things like police scanners, short wave radio and HD camera drones. When you get your cues and you find that the police are disbanding, it’s time to hit the road or at least head to one of those short-term bugout locations we talked about earlier.

Related: Surviving Martial Law: What To Do If It Hits Your Town

Tactical Training

You are no match for a gang of armed thugs. You may be a veteran, you may be highly trained, but you have a weakness that is never discussed on tactical forums. You have a family.

David Jones, a 24-year army vet, taught me about acceptable casualties one day. He explained that when a fighting force engages a target there are acceptable casualties. As a prepper you do not have any acceptable casualties.

Who is an acceptable casualty? Your wife? Little Timmy? I mean, you don’t even want to lose your brother in law.

The gang you are facing does not share the same sentiment for their men at arms. While tactical training and movement drills can prove to be helpful in a collapse scenario, you should really be moving away from conflict and keeping quiet to avoid any altercation.

If you find yourself daydreaming about your .300 blackout, body armor and gunfights, you are going about this thing all wrong. Focus on a strategy of deterring and avoiding conflict until it is totally unavoidable.


You are not a warfighter. You are probably a father or mother and based on US averages you are probably out of shape. Don’t put the people you love in danger by taking unnecessary risks. Being aggressive and offensive will not end well.

Tactical training doesn’t just have to be about shooting guns and breeching homes. You should pay attention to military formations and how these groups move silently. Also, you can focus on SERE training to avoid capture and detection.

To be tactical as a family leader and a prepper focus on communication, intelligence and stealth.

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Comments 81

  1. GreeneAcres says:

    Thank you for the more down to earth information. Both my husband and I are “puggy” and wouldn’t make it 1 mile in a bug out. This makes more sense.

  2. Wannabe says:

    Good article. Practical

  3. Alpha says:

    While I agree that bugging out is not necessarily the best thing to do, bugging in is not very safe either. Bug in preppers according to almost everything I’ve ever read, seem to believe that with a million rounds of ammo and an arsenal to use and 20 years of food that they can last against armed thugs bent on killing you and taking all you have anyway. Let’s face it, all it takes is one Molotov cocktail to your house and you have no choice but to burn alive or go out the door where they will most certainly be waiting for you.
    So in my opinion the best option is to bug out to a safer place with long term or even permanent living goals in place. Leave little to nothing they can use behind. Only carry what you can to use in most situations to do long term and permanent living. That is my ultimate goal to keep my family safe. Avoid confrontation at all costs, and live for better days. Just my opinion.

    • rj says:

      Why would a gang burn the supplies they believe are located in my house?? More likely they will surround and lay siege so the humans surrender and the supplies remain intact….like cutting of water and electricity, blocking trash , garbage and sewage removal…..sleep deprivation….Also, what evidence is there that gangs are so large and disciplined?? Won’t they want the easy low hanging fruit…the fast in and out with out losses on their side?? What gang members will attack believing they will die for any leader??

      • Homesteader says:

        rj – If it gets to the point where there are roving gangs, then amenities like trash removal, water, electricity, etc won’t be operating either. Grocery stores will have been looted and food will be in short supply. It won’t take very many to overrun homes that appear to have what they want, and those that appear to be defenseless, easy targets will be hit first. When you get more than four or five people together, a leader of some sort usually emerges. Don’t underestimate people during an SHTF situation. They won’t be just a bunch of mindless thugs. They will have some sort organization but, most importantly, they will have weapons and will not be afraid to use them to get what they want.

    • Tallpoppy says:

      Couldn’t agree more..

    • bk says:

      yes, but how do you know that the same thing (armed thugs, Molotov cocktail, etc..) won’t apply to your bug out location?

  4. davetb says:

    Well, you nailed me with this one. OUCH! Good info that leaves me with the thought that things may not turn out well for me and mine because I am more of a “Prepper- Light” than an all out Prepper. I have more of a “Stay in Place” set up. No way could my wife or Father-in-law bug out. If things go totally South, the phrases that comes to mind are “resistance is futile” and “Heaven is home”. At least this article helps me to prepare mentally.

    • Homesteader says:

      I agree – sometimes staying put is the only option. When things like arthritis and other maladies set in, it definitely limits your options. Personally, I’d rather be in a location I know, with people I know, than be hoofing it somewhere and be unknown. Another phrase comes to mind “there’s safety in numbers”. We too have set our place up in stay here. A lot of our neighbors have a similar mindset. Even now, if a stranger happens to just walk or drive down our road, everyone knows about it and keeps watch until they’re gone. Strangers are already met with a great deal of suspicion around here. I can’t imagine what it will be like when SHTF happens.

  5. Jarrett says:

    Great article! I try and buy long term food that I can take backpacking or camping, so I have an easy way to rotate through it. I also like your comments on tactics and remembering there are no acceptable casualties in surviving, which is very easy to forget.

  6. Bill says:

    This is the best most common sense article on prepping I have ever read!!!

  7. Gail says:

    good article. Thanks! I would not make it in any of these scenarios. Hopefully I will be long gone before any of these things happen. I am nearly 71.

    • crazyoldcoot says:

      I am ninety and in better health than many people 30 years younger. I am prepared for total breakdown of society with gangs of armed looters. My defences consist mainly of booby traps and camouflage. My fences are thick wide rows of blackberries and thorny shrubs. Not even bears want to go through them. I have small scattered gardens of mixed annuals and perennials that look like patches of weeds but very productive.

      The booby traps are all disarmed but they can be quickly armed if needed. They are all designed to maim not kill. I don’t want to burry a bunch of bodies. The wounded need the care of their comrades and there are less to raid. It demoralizes them when they are being struck down and there is no one to shoot at.

      There is a radiation proof survival shelter big enough for twenty people and is well stocked for a year My two neighbours helped build it and we will share it if the worst happens. It looks like a hill and is over grown with blackberries. People think it is an underground house that failed.
      A small hydroelectric generator provides the electricity. It is underground and buried pipes bring in the water from the river and discharge it downstream. A good well supplies the water.

      It took ten years to do this and I hope it gives you some ideas of what can be done to avoid armed conflict, which can be fatal.

  8. left coast chuck says:

    Good common sense article. The only thing I would disagree with is that in some locales, twenty miles away in any direction would only place you in a neighborhood just like the one you left, only now you don’t know anyone.

    Almost anywhere in SoCal, move 20 miles in any direction and it looks just like where you left (or worse). Unless one were to head up into the national forest (together with how many others with the same idea?) you are still in an urban neighborhood. On a normal weekend the roads in the national forests surrounding Los Angeles are jammed with folks “getting away from the crowds”. I can only imagine what they would look like in a national disaster.

    You will read prepper manuals that tell you that you can hike 25 or 30 miles a day. Yes, you can if you are in your 20s, are only carrying snacks and water, perhaps a jacket and your rest stops are at locations where there are toilet facilities and meals are provided for you. Even if you gulp down an MRE without heating it, your stop is going to take a minimum of 30 minutes. It’s easy to figure out. Military march cadence is 120 30-inch steps a minute. That is two steps a second. It is a brisk pace. That is 100 yards a minute, 3.4 miles an hour. Roughly 7.5 hours to go 25 miles non-stop. Every time you stop to catch your breath you have added to the time.

    Using the stopwatch function on your phone or just using your wristwatch, step off 120 paces. A 30 inch step is a stretch if your inseam is less than 30 inches. When you get to 120, see how long it has taken you. Or go to the local high school if they have a football field and march from one goal line to another. How long did it take you?You are going to have to step up your pace, Recruit. That’s without a pack or any kind of burden.

    Now, figure you have to detour to go around a burning building; duck down an alley to avoid an ugly looking crowd; find some place to dig a cat hole or some out of the way place to take care of personal business. You are very vulnerable in that position, so you want some place private. That search takes a while. Your feet are starting to burn so you stop to change socks or treat hot spots. Do you think you can make ten miles the first day and then another ten miles the second day? Is five more realistic?
    How far away did you say your bug-out location was? Twenty miles @ 8 miles a day is 3 days. That means unless you are going to forage in buildings and trust to luck on finding something to eat and drink which takes more time, you are going to need to carry 3 days worth of food, water and other necessities. Better make that 4 days worth.

    • Homesteader says:

      lcc – Isn’t 120 steps a minute a little fast? I can’t ever remember marching at that pace, even in basic training.

      • mbl says:

        I’ve marched at 120 beats a minute. It’s fast, but can be doable. I think for a long slog 90 bpm is better, though. At least for me it is, ymmv.

      • Homesteader says:

        OK. It just seemed rather fast.

      • left coast chuck says: