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We're All Preppers Now
Whether we like it or not.
The last few years have taught me one thing:
We’re all preppers now.
That’s how one of my readers recently put it. He’s right. Everyone used to make fun of preppers. We considered them a fringe movement. We stereotyped them as loonies who hid canned soup under their beds and whispered about government takeovers. Now we’re turning to them for advice on how to get ready for floods, fires, and storms. Over the last few years, we’ve learned that the super rich are all prepping for the collapse of civilization. They even trade doomsday plans. It used to sound nuts to keep a bugout bag with you. When I heard that phrase the first time, I thought, “Who does this guy think he is, Jason Bourne?”
Now I have one.
I subscribe to r/preppers. I visit sites like The Provident Prepper. I think about simple things I could do to prepare. And you know what? It’s not crazy. As I mentioned last time, my town did get hit by a tornado. Prepping isn’t hard. In fact, the hardest part is probably overcoming the self-doubt and social stigma. Once you do that, it’s not that difficult to figure out what you need.
Sure, some preppers go overboard. They prepare for remote threats like super volcanoes, and they don’t do it very well. Some of them are just looking for excuses to pile up guns and ammo. They panic buy.
That’s not real prepping.
Real preppers are some of the most practical people you’ll ever meet. Prepping isn’t about hoarding toilet paper and bottled water. That’s amateur. Real prepping means paying attention to the world around you. It means learning how to take care of yourself and your family during an emergency.
Prepping is the opposite of panic.
We should all be doing it.
I’m not an expert, but I’ve learned a lot. I’m going to share what I’m doing. Maybe you can share what you’re doing down in the comments.
In reality, prepping doesn’t mean moving into a bunker in the middle of nowhere. A lot of preppers advise staying somewhere near a population center. They’re going to have resources during a disaster. You probably want to keep your distance from crowds and dense downtown areas, but if you move out into the country then there’s not going to be anyone to help you. You’re also going to be further away from supply chains and hospitals. We’re keeping that in mind.
Preppers also advise building a small community where you are. Honestly, I’m struggling with that in the wake of the pandemic. I know in the long run it’s going to play an important role. I’m working on it. You probably shouldn’t freak your neighbors out with all your doomsday predictions, but nobody’s going to call you crazy for wanting to plan for things like tornadoes or earthquakes. One plan tends to cover a range of scenarios. You don’t have to invite your neighbors over for dinner every weekend. You can just share contact info. Figure out what they’re good at. Tell them what you’re good at. We participate in a buy-nothing group. We support each other, and it requires barely any physical contact.
So, start a Facebook group or something.
Contrary to what the fantasy survivalists say, your neighbors won’t feel compelled to murder you for your stuff if you’ve worked on a strategy together. You’re actually better off including them in your plans. If you want to cite the law of the jungle, look at what actual wild animals do. Most animals work together in packs or herds, especially the more intelligent ones. You don’t have to huddle next to each other by a fire. You can just drop things off at their porch.
I can handle that.
We prep for where we live. We figured out the most likely threats we’ll face. For us, we’re prepping for droughts, storms, and supply shortages. We figured out basic things like where our water comes from.
Prepping doesn’t mean stocking up on every single thing you might think you’d want in a long term emergency or collapse. It means the opposite. It means figuring out what you’d truly need, and what you can do without. It means simplifying your consumption habits and getting back to basics. I’ve actually enjoyed it. I don’t need a whole lot to feel content, even happy.
Here’s what else I’ve done:
We live in a small house, but we converted one closet to a supply room. We’ve stored about a year’s worth of dry goods there. It’s nothing fancy. It’s beans. It’s rice. It’s pasta. It’s oatmeal and honey. These things last a long time. We don’t have to worry about them going bad. Also, we cycle through them.
I actually eat oatmeal, beans, and rice. It’s the main thing I live on now. You don’t want to be one of those suburban hobbyist preppers that stores stuff they never eat, and winds up throwing away after it goes bad.
That’s just wasteful.
Recently, we added some food buckets from companies like Ready-Hour. We also got some individual meal kits for our bugout bags. After all, dry goods take a while to cook. They’re not great for severe emergencies.
Here’s what we put in our bugout bags:
LifeStraw water bottles
Freeze-dried meal pouches
Hand crank weather radio/flashlight
Portable solar cooker
Backup battery/power bank for phones
Tactical flashlights/camping lamp
We’ve got that stuff ready to grab and go. We’ve also got stuff we could grab with a little more warning time, like sleeping bags and stored water in Aquatainer jugs. We spent a while researching water storage and found those to be the industry standard, and the most reliable.
The CDC has guidelines for keeping stored water.
It makes sense.
As David Pogue explains in Preparing for Climate Change, there’s a lot you can do via home improvement to make life more manageable. It includes things like weatherproofing your roof to make it less susceptible to wind and heat, and doing what you can to improve your insulation. We don’t want to rely too much on air conditioning. That’s more of a luxury.
Instead, you can put plastic sheeting on windows, and you can do whole house sealing, especially on attics and crawlspaces. Some experts say plastic sheeting doesn’t make a huge difference. They recommend thermal curtains.
Eventually, we want to build a rain harvesting system. That’s not something you take on lightly. It can cost anywhere from $5,000-$10,000. You have to contact professionals, and your city will probably require a permit to operate. You can try to do it all yourself. If you don’t do it right, you can wind up poisoning yourself. We also want to install a composting toilet, at least as a backup. That way, we don’t have to rely on running water for bathroom sanitation.
When it comes to laundry, we can already hang dry our clothes. We’ve got a manual hand-operated clothes washer, too.
That’s our plan. We want to get off-grid as much as possible. We don’t need a bunker full of beans and guns. That’s a horrible use of money and resources. That’s not going to help much in a future full of actual emergencies. We’ll take a tiny house with a prep closet, a storm cellar, and solar panels.
We’re going to live more like our great-grandparents did.
Am I going to starve to death? Will I drown in a flood or get blown away in a storm? Will someone down the street knock me over the head for my water in five years? Or will I die of cancer in my early 70s? I don’t know. I’m just going to take reasonable steps to reduce the odds while enjoying my life.
My life might be shorter, not less meaningful.
You know what I find crazy?
I find it crazy to build a McMansion in the Arizona desert with no viable water source. I find it crazy to move into a 3,000-square foot home that’s going to cost a fortune to keep cool during the summer and then turn into a death trap during storms, not to mention a permanent insurance liability.
And yet, that’s what people are doing. I’m a little surprised. Contrary to basic common sense, the most dangerous areas in the country are actually attracting residents. States like Arizona and Florida are growing.
Anyway, I’m not trying to insulate myself completely from the future like the billionaires. That’s impossible. Nobody can do that. I’m just trying to get ready for the things that we thought would never happen to us. In my case, they’ve already happened. They’re going to keep on happening.
You can call that living in fear.
I call it smart.