Looking at the state of the world, being prepared is more important than ever. Terrorism is on the rise around the globe. Rogue states like North Korea become more dangerous as their stability fails – and North Korea has nuclear weapons. The USA’s neglected power grid is vulnerable to a solar flare that could wipe out electricity across most of the country for a decade. The climate’s changing – calm down, Al Gore, it’s been changing constantly for 4.5 billion years – and that could lead to major storms or even larger scale disasters. Imagine the chaos if a freak wet spring devastated the US wheat crop. That’s a real risk; it’s happening in France right now – but France can replace its crop with imports. We can’t.
Danger and instability surround us, and not being prepared for the worst seems frankly weird. Unfortunately, there’s a lot of flimsy prep advice floating around on the internet. It’s enthusiastic, but shallow.
Here are some more in-depth suggestions on how to start preparing.
#5 Sort the basics first
Most to-do lists seem to start with “Go to WalMart and buy a truckload of rice.” It’s not very obvious why. What are you going to do with it when you get it home? The first thing you need to do is prepare to be prepared. Identify a food storage area – somewhere that’s secure, sheltered, dry and cool. Some people like to keep food in a basement or dugout, which is good for hiding it but makes storage more challenging. Make sure your store is protected against rodents. Set up a storage system in there – strong shelves are ideal. Keeping your food store organized is vital: You’ll need to rotate supplies, using up older items and replacing them. The more organized you keep things the less waste you’ll have and the more prepared you’ll be.
Related: 10 Foods Not to Store
#4 Go to Walmart and buy a truckload of rice
Now that you’ve sorted out a proper food store you can start stocking it. When it comes to storage life and bulk, dry goods are supreme. You can store a few weeks’ worth of canned or packet foods, but with dry goods you can easily be self-sufficient for months or even years. Start your food reserve with 20 pounds of rice (white lasts longer in storage) and 20 pounds of dried beans. Between them those two will give you a solid reserve of carbohydrates and protein, and you can use them as a base for a whole range of recipes supplemented with seasonings, canned or dried ingredients, and food you’ve harvested from nature.
The next things to add are powdered milk, rolled oats and cooking oil. Add some bulk herbs and spices – in an emergency you can use what’s already in the kitchen, but it’s good to have a proper reserve too. Don’t forget the most important seasoning – salt. Get at least five pounds of that. As you move forward you can add pasta, dried vegetables (this is a great excuse to get a dehydrator and vacuum sealer) and of course more rice and beans.
#3 Don’t forget the water
If law and order break down you can forget about relying on the water from your faucets. It might keep flowing for a while, but are you going to trust it for drinking and cooking? You have no idea if it’s still being properly treated, and terrorists or lunatics could even deliberately contaminate it. Aim to be as self-sufficient as possible.
The bare minimum is to keep a supply of drinkable water in containers. For survival situations the recommendation is a gallon per person per day, and once you allow for food and washing that’s not a generous amount. Get some five gallon containers – at least four – and keep them filled. Empty and refill them regularly.
Next, look at ways to become more self-sufficient in water. If you already have a well you’re sorted. Otherwise consider a rainwater catchment system. If you have a stream or river nearby you could build a large water filter and run a pipe to it from the stream, giving you a constant filtered supply. Be adaptable, but find something – without water, your refuge is unsustainable.
#2 Sort out your toolkit
Most of us have some sort of toolkit around the house, but if you want to be prepared you need to make sure it’s ready for anything. At a minimum you’ll need a good carpenter’s hammer, a heavier ball peen hammer, wood saw and hacksaw. Other essentials include a monkey wrench, measuring tape, square and level. Cordless drills are great, but a hand drill is also good to have – what if your generator goes and you need to fabricate a replacement part? A set of good screwdrivers is also vital – don’t rely on an electric one. Make sure you have wrenches to fit all bolts on your vehicles and equipment, too.
As well as tools, stock up on basic supplies. Some plumbing fittings are good to have – pipes, joints and similar items. A couple of spools of electrical cable can be used for repairs or projects, and you can also strip and separate the cores if you need fine wire. Simple light fittings, switches and other components help too. Stock up on timber; 4×2 and plywood have a multitude of uses.
This might seem obvious, but a lot of preppers neglect their tools. They aren’t as exciting as guns, but the chances are in a long-term disaster scenario you’ll use them a lot more often.
#1 Think defense
Guns are important too, though. You’ll need to be able to hunt, perhaps control predators, and in the worst-case scenario defend your property, stores and lives against looters or desperate refugees. That means having weapons you can count on, and the supplies to keep them running.
There’s no real point in having lots of guns – and if they’re in different calibers they become an actual liability. Get the guns you need, then if you’re tempted to buy another, spend the money on ammunition or reloading components instead. A gun can be maintained and repaired; once ammunition’s been fired, it’s gone. Reloading is a great idea and can stretch your supplies but even then your reserves or propellant, bullets and primers won’t last forever. You need to start with a lot of ammo.
If you can only afford one gun, get a 12-gauge pump action. The Remington 870 is always a popular choice – militaries around the world value its reliability. A shotgun is the most versatile gun you can own, because it can take a wide variety of game as well as being an awesome home defense weapon. For preparedness it’s far superior to a small-caliber rifle like an AR15.
Your second gun should be a good hunting rifle. Bolt or semiauto is fine, and the ideal caliber is .308. Ammo is cheap and widely available because you can use 7.62mm NATO as well. It also has enough punch to take down just about any game. A handgun is a lower priority, but handy to have. Go for a high-capacity 9mm semi, if you’re buying one. Again the ammo is NATO standard and easy to find.
Related: Best Gun for Home Defense
Magazines are a weak point in any gun that uses them. They can get lost or damaged, and springs eventually weaken. This is one advantage of pump shotguns and bolt action rifles – they’re not as dependent on magazines as semiautos. Get as many good quality magazines as you can for any guns that need them, and take good care of them. Then get some weapon spares. Firing pins, springs and backup sights are all good things to have. A chipped firing pin will turn any weapon into junk – you need to have the parts, tools and skills to replace it.
Then focus on building up ammunition supplies. After a major collapse ammo will be more valuable than gold, and it’s generally not something you want to run short of. For the shotgun get a range of shells, from bird shot to rifled slug. In rifle and handgun calibers quantity is the most important factor; cheap military surplus beats premium ammo simply because you can buy more of it. The target effect difference between cheap and fancy ammo is incremental, but an extra round is an extra round.
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