Dave, one of our favorite YouTube viewers, recently commented about the dangerous mistakes that well-meaning preppers make as a result of ignorance. Some people believe whatever they read or watch without taking the time to investigate the facts. There is a lot of misinformation floating around on the internet.
How do I avoid making the rookie mistakes common among newbie preppers? The best way to avoid rookie prepper mistakes is to carefully consider the source of the information. Take time to investigate the facts on your own. Avoid all of the hype and fear mongering. Carefully evaluate the greatest risks you face and take reasonable steps to mitigate those risks.
We are hands-on, experienced preppers who are working to be self-reliant and care for our family in a logical and balanced way. We are careful to use mistakes as learning opportunities and are wiser for those opportunities.
We polled some of our prepper friends to get the content for this post and asked the question below. These are real preppers with real experiences sharing what you really need to know.
What mistakes do you see preppers making due to ignorance or taking the advice of someone without researching it?
Pay close attention to the advice that these seasoned preppers share. It may save you from making rookie prepper mistakes.
Consider the Source of the Information
Before you commit to a course of action, make sure that the information is from a reputable source. Is the person trying to sell you something? Are they using fear to motivate you? Do they walk the walk or are do they operate on untested theories?
Do not believe everything you hear. Kerosene is safe to burn indoors and only produces carbon dioxide. These are the words that came out of the mouth of a presenter teaching hundreds of people how to heat their homes in an emergency. Not only is this untrue, but it could actually harm or kill these innocent people as a result of carbon monoxide poisoning.
Trusting word of mouth or blog information without testing it out personally. A bucket toilet is a great example of this. Have you ever tried to sit on a 5-gallon bucket? It is very unstable for tall, short, or heavy people. Unless you are an average build your chances of tipping that stinky bucket over are actually fairly good.
Government publications should be taken for what they are worth. The government has a responsibility to control the masses and not cause panic. We are pleased that the recommendation has been changed from 3 day supply of food to 2 weeks supply of food and water in your home. However, that is nowhere near enough food to take care of you through the majority of crises.
Evaluate and Prepare for Specific Risks
Identify risks that are specific to you and your location. Each of us lives in a different location with a unique set of circumstances. Rookie preppers will try to prepare for everything instead of taking the time to complete a quality risk assessment and set priorities based on that risk assessment. Learn how to complete a risk assessment here.
Focus your preparedness efforts on areas of the greatest risk first. Sometimes rookie preppers have a difficult time defining priorities and fail to focus on the greatest risk. According to the American Red Cross, the number one disaster they respond to is a house fire. It only makes sense to spend limited time and resources to prepare for that risk and not on a zombie attack.
All Hype No Action
Not making sustained progress toward preparedness goals. Some preppers love to sit around and chew the fat about how the world is coming to an end and watch videos on every possible catastrophe that could possibly happen without taking steps to make the world a better place.
Procrastinating even simple preparedness tasks. Empty water barrels are a classic example of procrastinating simple jobs. Purchasing the water barrel is only the first step. It is amazing how many of our students confess to having empty water barrels for years before filling them. Quite frankly, I have been guilty of this myself.
Allowing Fear to Be the Motivation for Preparing
Making purchasing decisions based on fear and not reason. There is money to be made from preppers. Advertisers use fear to suck the big bucks out of rookie preppers. Fancy survival gear does not translate into preparedness. If fear is the motivation for a purchase, it is best to take a step back and carefully evaluate before pulling out the credit card.
Panic buying as a response to tragic events or to media reports. Prepping should be something you do because it makes sense to be ready. Y2K is a great example of people buying out of fear. There are a lot of good reasons to prepare. Fear is not one of them. Wisdom, responsibility, and love are all great reasons to improve your level of self-reliance.
Take Care of Your Health
Failure to spend the time and resources to take care of personal health. It is true what they say about when you don’t have your health you don’t have anything. Invest time and resources into maintaining a healthy weight, eating a healthy diet, and exercising regularly. Overweight preppers will find it difficult to survive when a sedentary life is replaced with hard physical labor.
Make it a habit to treat even the tiniest wound. A small cut or scrape can become infected and threaten life or limb. Don’t risk it. Get into the habit of cleaning wounds. Keep a well-stocked first-aid kit that is designed for you. Don’t depend on a first-aid kit you buy off the shelf. Stock everything you may need to take care of a variety of injuries on your own.
Hoarding is NOT Prepping
Amassing an endless supply of “stuff” is not prepping, it is hoarding. It clutter your life and make you miserable. Hoarding makes organization difficult and may actually prevent you from being able to find what you need when you really need it.
Keeping old or broken items because “someday you may need this.” Learn to let go of junk. If it is not of value to you today, why do you think a broken item will suddenly gain value during hard times? The truth is that life is better when you learn to live without. Storing old food may give you a false sense of security and take up valuable space where you could be storing fresh supplies. Check out our post How Old is Too Old for some great tips on accurately determining whether or not your food storage is still edible.
Storage space is limited and must be used wisely. Over purchasing supplies with the intention to share with family or neighbors or as barter items may not be wise. Space and resources are limited. Make sure to take care of all of your basic needs before purchasing extra items for sharing or bartering. Remember, you will have little need to barter if you have stored what you need.
Accumulation of survival gadgets to be used “just-in-case.” Purchasing survival items under the “preparedness umbrella” just because they are “cool” and not because that item is really necessary or adds value to your life.
Check Your Preps
Powdered chlorine stored near metal items will corrode the metal. We have friends who put a new stainless steel water filter in a plastic tote with Polar Pure and calcium hypochlorite. Two years later they opened the tote and to find the water filter corroded and useless. This little detail cost just under $1000 as they had 3 identical emergency water totes stored this way.
Do not purchase black toilet seats for outside use. A friend was testing his preps and bravely used his alternative toilet which just happened to have a black seat. It was sitting in the sun. The burns he received on his tender hind parts made him a believer in white toilet seats.
Chlorine bleach is not the best solution for water disinfection. It adds unnecessary toxins to the water and will not kill giardia or cryptosporidium. It will not remove chemicals from the water. Boiling is the safest method to kill all pathogens in water. Chlorine will kill tiny viruses and should be used in combination with a quality water filter. See our post, Making Water Safe to Drink.
Many items have a useable shelf-life. Duct tape gets gummy over time. Plastic sheeting will get brittle. Direct sun can quickly degrade some plastics. Storage conditions can significantly impact shelf-life.
Store items in a dry environment. Moisture can be highly destructive to stored items. Over time, cardboard packaging will often absorb moisture when stored in a basement or other damp areas. To learn the best methods for storing foods check out this post, 8 Food Storage Enemies and How to Slay Them.
Practice using preps to ensure that you have all of the necessary parts. You have faithfully stored barrels of clean drinking water but didn’t consider how you might get the water out of the barrel when you need it. Periodically check your stored water and actually use it. Make sure you have the tools to open the barrel and to pump out the water.
My name is Bob Prepper and I am a prep-oholic. I live in fear of the future. No matter how many supplies I accumulate I worry that it will not be enough when “it” happens. Life is too precious to waste it by living in fear.
Living the prepper life 24/7 and failing to have balance in your life. It is important to enjoy life today while preparing for tomorrow. Take time to find joy and make your life worth prepping for.
Hoping for limited bad events to happen to gain practice evaluating the response of both yourself and others. A prepper addict uses events as an opportunity to take preps to the next level.
Anxiously anticipating the day when you get to use your preps and prove to the world that you are not the crazy one. You dream of being the lone survivor due to your skills and knowledge. Focusing too much on a negative future prevents you from enjoying the present.
Being overly helpful when someone asks a simple prepper question. Once the door has been opened you bombard the innocent inquirer with emails, handouts, phone calls, and taste tests of your latest survival food bar.
Buying useless junk because it is a survival item you don’t own yet. Carefully consider purchases before you make them. In what scenario would this “thing” really be useful? Should it really be at the top of your priority list?
Preppers can reach a point of saturation where they just don’t make any progress for a period of time. Slow, steady progress is the best way to ensure that you are prepared and stay prepared. Take time to enjoy life and do not allow preparing to interfere with living.
Researching an item extensively and not making a decision. For instance, you need to have a good water filter and embark on a journey to find the best one on the market. You spend weeks researching the hundreds of water filters on the market and just can’t make a decision. Any decent water filter is better than no water filter.
Procrastination is dangerous. You know you should secure the tall shelves to the wall, yet you just never find the time. The earth starts rocking and rolling and suddenly what would have been a 10-minute job is now a potentially deadly mess.
Power Is in the Plan
It is critically important to have a well-thought-out plan. Failing to plan is a plan to fail by default. We have developed an absolutely free action plan for each area of preparedness that you can find here.
Get your priorities straight. The most important things that you need are water, food, shelter, and fuel. Don’t get distracted with survival gadgets until you have the basics covered.
Not knowing where you will go if you need to evacuate. The minute you leave home you become a refugee. That is an incredibly dangerous status. Plan your destination and make sure that location has the supplies and ability to care for you and your family.
Not planning your evacuation route in advance. Carefully map out primary and alternate routes to each of your bug out locations. Travel each route and look for possible dangers and plan for contingencies. You can learn more about evacuation and creating the right survival kit here.
Underestimating amount of supplies needed. Don’t depend on calculations you got from the internet for determining the amount of toilet paper, water, food, or fuel. There are too many personal variables. The only way to truly understand the amount of supplies that you need is to practice and calculate the amounts yourself. It is better to have too much food than too little.
Failing to create a prepper library filled with quality reference books. Knowledge is essential. If you are depending on the internet, and it goes down, your go-to source for information is gone. A variety of resource books that can teach you basic skills can be priceless. Medical reference books may come in very handy as well as “how-to- books” on just about every homesteading skill.
Practice Makes Perfect
Neglecting to practice everything from using your alternative cooking and heating devices to evacuating on a moment’s notice. Theory can be a dangerous thing. Practice gives you an opportunity to work out the bugs and perfect the plan. It helps your brain to function more efficiently during a crisis.
Sticking to the same prepper plan. Life changes. People age. Children grow up, get married, and give you grandchildren. Health conditions change. Be sure that you update your plan as your needs change. We have stored a lot of our food in 5-gallon plastic buckets. Future food storage will all be purchased in #10 cans because they are easier for us old people to lift.
Details that make life more comfortable. Remember that we are real people with real needs. Practicing may help you know that the kids really need that electronic device, mom needs chocolate or dad just needs that power-tool. Comfort items can make a huge difference during challenging times.
Good organization will help you do more with less. Create a master action plan and carefully follow it for the best results.
Not noting the location of an item on an inventory list. Suddenly, you need an item and you can’t remember where you put it. Lack of organization makes it easier to purchase a duplicate item (if you can) than to locate the original.
Purchasing supplies and just allowing them to pile up without putting them away correctly. I am so guilty of this one. Bags come home from the grocery store and they sit on the storage room floor for weeks before I get around to putting them on the shelves. Guess that makes me a rookie after all!
Failing to have critical documents ready to go. Emergency evacuation, critical illness, or death can all be made a bit easier by having critical documents organized into one location. Learn how to get your documents ready at our post, How to Organize Critical Documents for Emergency Evacuation.
Purchasing a commercial food storage plan and tucking it away for emergencies trusting that it will feed your family for the next 25 years. Many food storage plans claim to be a 3 month supply when in reality it may only feed you for a month. The food may not be as tasty as the marketing photos made them appear to be. Eat at least part of your food storage to get a clear picture of what you really have. Check out, Long Term Food Storage: Creative Solutions to Build a Critical Asset to start building your food stores.
Throwing away food that is past the date on the can. Rookie mistake! When stored appropriately canned goods will last many years past the best-if-used-by date on the can. Stock a pantry with foods that you eat every day and ignore the date on the can. Learn how old is really too old here.
Not packaging grains for long term storage. A 25-pound sack of grain is not packaged correctly for long term storage. The grain in the bag will quickly degrade, is at risk for insect and rodent damage, and the overall quality will decrease within a few years.
Grain stored in a #10 can in a cool dry location will still be in great condition 25 to 30 years later. Learn more about how to package your dry foods for long term storage here.
Rotate your food storage. When you use your stored foods, you not only maintain a fresh supply but you learn to cook the foods you have. It is a great way to discover what foods you are missing and what needs to be added to your food stores.
Storing food that your family doesn’t like to eat. When disasters strike, having to eat disgusting Lima beans will make the situation worse. I bought canned salmon thinking it would be a great protein source. When I went to use it I discovered it had bones and skin in it. Yuck!
Storing food in the garage. Heat significantly reduces the life of your food storage. It is much better to store it under a bed than to store it in the garage. You can learn more about ideal storage conditions at 8 Enemies to Your Food Storage and How to Slay Them.
Neglecting to grow at least some of your own food. Producing your own food is an essential part of prepping. Building your soil and giving fruit trees, berry bushes, and vines time to mature will significantly improve the success of your survival garden. Check out our post, Best Strategies for Growing a Reliable Survival Garden.
Failing to purchase new seeds each year to add to your seed bank. One generic seed bank can will not adequately meet your survival garden needs. Learn what varieties of crops grow best in your area and build a personal seed bank. We take advantage of seeds that are marked down at the end of the season to inexpensively build our seed bank.
Failing to plan for sanitation needs. Preparing to take care of personal sanitation can make the difference between life and death. Stock necessary supplies and rotate them regularly. Seasoned preppers are ready when the sanitation system fails. Learn how to prepare for emergency sanitation here.
Underestimating the amount of toilet paper to store. Toilet paper is not a necessity but it sure feels like it. If you need a little motivation to stock up on toilet paper, learn more about alternative toilet paper options at our post here.
Not practicing and preparing to safely dispose of human waste. Rookie preppers will buy a bucket toilet at a preparedness expo and have no idea what it is like to really use it. It is a messy proposition but you really need to practice so that you can work the bugs out before the crisis strikes. There are much better options than a bucket toilet.
Building Good Skills
Forgetting the importance of developing basic skills. Sometimes preppers get so wrapped up in obtaining stuff they forget that the real power lies in what we know and the skills we have. Basic do-it-yourself skills such as gardening, cooking, sewing, handyman repair, self-defense, fishing, hunting, canning, dehydrating, and caring for the sick are essential for survival.
Showing off your food storage to friends and neighbors. You can bet that when times get tough that memory of a full storeroom will come back clearly and your supplies will be at risk. It is important to protect what you have and downplay your level of preparedness.
Preaching the importance of preparedness. This is where the Joneses have failed. I can’t tell you how many people say, “I know where I am going when it all goes to heck.” We have made ourselves a target while trying to help our friends to prepare.
Putting all of your eggs in one basket. Good preppers are known for having a backup for their backup. It is a good idea to have food storage in a couple of locations so that if one is damaged or stolen, you have another cache to depend on.
Letting self-defense skills lapse. Whatever your chosen method of self-defense it is important that you practice regularly to keep up the skills and ensure that weapons are in working order.
Over-Dependence on Weapons
Rookie preppers will believe that they need an arsenal of guns and ammo, a few weeks of water and a few months of food. That is a crazy example of mixed up priorities. Stock up on a year supply of food and as much water as you can possibly store. Obtain alternative heating and cooking devices along with the fuel you need to operate them. Guns and ammo may be important for self-defense but you can’t eat them.
I don’t need food storage. I have guns and we will take what we want. These are the words of a mother at our local elementary school. She has sorely underestimated her target. This attitude may end up getting her killed in a very short period of time.
Prepping is a Family Matter
Failing to involve the family in prepping. It is important to involve the entire family in prepping, even young children. You may not be there when disaster strikes. They need to know what to do and how to use the resources that you have stored. Prepping can be a great bonding activity for the entire family. Learn how to raise confident, self-reliant kids here.
Forgetting to plan for the special needs of family members. These needs may include baby formula or chocolate, chronic medications or eyeglasses, oxygen or Cheerios. Each member of your family is unique, and it is worth taking a bit of time to make sure that their needs are met.
Practice developing and improving skills together. Create a mock disaster and take turns using first-aid supplies to treat the injured. Turn the power off for the night and make dinner using alternative cooking devices. Enjoy the meal by candlelight. Grab your survival kits and take a spontaneous vacation and see how to improve your survival kits.
Lone Wolf Prepping
Believing that you have all the skills and supplies to make it in the world on your own. That is a fantasy resulting from too much screen time. No man is an island. A community significantly increases your chances of survival. You may want to read our post Community–Your Best Chance for Survival. Learn to be a great team member.
Underestimating the knowledge and wisdom of others. Consider the possibility that there may be others who can actually teach you something. The skills, knowledge, and wisdom of others can enhance your level of preparedness if you are willing to be open and work together.
The majority of preppers often wonder when enough is enough. When have I reached that magic point where I am ready regardless of the challenge? Prepping is not a destination. You don’t actually arrive. It is a process, a journey. You can reach a point when you have the majority of your needs met and all you need to do is maintain your skills and rotate your supplies. Congratulations!
Thinking that all you need is a 72-hour kit. A kit that is designed to feed you for 72 hours is not going to save you. A 3-day supply may not even buy you enough time for FEMA to arrive. You should be prepared to take care of your needs for an absolute minimum of 2 weeks.
Seasoned Preppers Avoid Ignorant Mistakes
We consider ourselves to be seasoned preppers. We have made our share of rookie mistakes and have done our best to learn from them. One of the greatest lessons we have learned is the value of community and the strength that comes from working together.
A special thanks to all or our friends that contributed to the creation of this post. We hope that it helps you learn from the mistakes of others.
Thanks for being part of the solution!Jonathan and Kylene Jones