The longer you have been prepping, the more you realize how easy it is to get sidetracked and to prep for things, that in the big picture, are of a relatively low priority. It is no wonder that articles on prepper mistakes and lessons learned are so popular.
It is has been a couple of years since I wrote about some of the mistakes and goofs we all make while prepping. Since then, a lot of things have changed. For one, the mainstream media has caught on to “three-day kit” mania which means more and more families are now ready for short term disasters. On the other hand, threats from wacko foreign leaders have escalated to the point where terrorist-driven EMPs, pandemics, and outright wars have become more of a possibility, if not a probability. Talk about two very different sides of the same coin!
With the wisdom gained from living as a prepper for the last seven years, here are fifty common and uncommon prepper mistakes we can learn from.
Learn from these 50 Commonly Made Prepping Mistakes
Before starting, I should point out that I struggled with the ordering of these items. Although there is always a strong interest in supplies, gear, and food storage, it is planning coupled with a survival mindset that will see you through the prepping process For that reason, I am starting with those particular topics.
The other thing I want to point out is that there is a bit of redundancy to the solution and resolution of some the listed prepper mistakes. It stands to reason that a mistake doing one thing will overlap with something else, and so, for the purpose of this article, I felt it was important to maintain those small redundancies. Now that I think about that, isn’t that the prepper way?
With all that said, let me warn you that this is a long list. Grab a cup of your favorite something, and learn from these common or not-so-common prepper mistakes.
1. Failure to perform a risk analysis and prepping for the most likely disruptive events first
When first getting started, it is easy to go off willy-nilly preparing for all sorts of calamities. Earthquakes, hurricanes, tornadoes, terrorist attacks, pandemics, nuclear melt-downs, civil disobedience; you name it and the call to prepare will be out there. I can guarantee that this will drive you crazy!
I recommend that the very first step you take when prepping is to evaluate the most likely risks specific to your geographical area and your personal domestic situation. Most, if not all, city, county and state governments will have emergency management websites that will help you sort through the most likely disasters to occur in your area. Take advantage of these public resources.
Don’t stop there. Take a hard look at demographics. Are you in a city where gangs, mobs or terrorist attacks are likely? Do you live in a remote area where the failure of transportations systems or the lack of fuel will cut you off from supplies arriving from the rest of the world? Is your employment situation tenuous requiring that you build up some cash reserves to get you by just in case the job goes away?
Clearly, at the beginning, some choices will need to be made regarding the best use of your prepping budget. Just remember that food, water and first aid supplies should be at the top of everyone’s list. After that, assess the most likely risks and plan accordingly.
For ideas, take a look at 12 Months of Prepping: One Month at a Time. Here you will find links to articles that take you though the process of gathering what you need in terms of supplies, gear, tasks, and skills to set you on a positive path of preparedness. It may not seem like a lot, but at the end of the year you will will be better prepared than 95% of your neighbors.
2. Not keeping your set of emergency documents up to date
This is probably one of the most common mistakes and is one that I am guilty of. It takes quite a bit of work to gather the documents, scan or copy them, and store them in your designated spot. In my case, they are stored on a flash drive on my survival key ring.
A good time to go through the process of updating documents is during be the annual switch to daylight savings or whatever date you set aside to change the batteries in your smoke and carbon monoxide detectors.
While you are at it, think about storing current pictures of family members and pets as well. You just never know when they will be needed to help locate loved ones following a disaster or disruptive event.
3. Failure to provide instructions for those that are left behind
Over and over again, I learn of situations where hunderds if not thousands of dollars of unopened tins of freeze dried food is sold at estate sales. The heirs did not have a clue that mom was a prepper and so they got rid of the stored food and all of the prepping gear for pennies on the dollar.
If something were to happen to you, would the remaining family members know what to do with your preps? Would they even know what they are and why you have them? Todd Sepulveda, the editor of Prepper Website, has written an open letter to youyr love ones that you should read, modify as needed, and keep with your important documents.
Additional Reading: A Preparedness Gift That Costs You Nothing
The Survival Mindset
4. Prepping for doomsday and ignoring the short-term
It was quite common in 2010 to plan for doomsday to the exclusion of everything else. While we all need to plan for long term catastrophic, or disruptive events, the reality is that day to day short-term calamities can and will occur so you better be ready for those as well.
A bunker or survival retreat in the middle of nowhere is nice to have but not to the exclusion of having skills and supplies you will need while hunkering down following a short term disruption caused by a natural disaster or other disruptive event.
5. Underestimating other humans as a threat
In a perfect world, we would all get along and go about our business in a mild-mannered way, not bothering anyone or causing others harm. Alas, as humans this has never been the case. From biblical times forward, man has opposed man. There have been and still are warriors, armies, soldiers and dictators, enemies and foes.
As mass shootings have revealed, mental illness or drugs can make good people go bad. Add the uncertainly and chaos created by an unstable society and the potential for human threat becomes a major cause for concern.
Whether you embrace firearms or shun them, you still need a way to defend yourself, your family and your property. Consider pepper sprays, martial arts, and other defensive mechanisms in addition to traditional firearms. It is foolhardy to believe that having some means of defense is not needed because “there is no one out to get you”. Don’t be naive in this regard!
Desperate people are dangerous people. And the lack of food, water and supplies will turn ordinary people into desperate people in a heartbeat.
Addtional Reading: What to Do If You Are In the Middle of An Active Shooting
6. Disregarding the role of comfort when it comes to being prepared
There is no reason you need to treat prepping as your own personal reality show. In most cases, surviving with bare bone basics will not be necessary if you do a bit of advance planning.
As you set things aside, consider basic comfort items such as flannel sheets, grooming supplies, and chocolate. Heck, even some M&Ms or hard candies will be unbelievably comforting following a disruptive event.
Additional Reading: 16 Items To Help You Hunker Down in Comfort
7. Believing everything you read on the Internet
Check your sources and use common sense. If something seems off, investigate before taking what you read at face value. That includes what your read here on this site. I do my best to be credible but honestly? Sometimes even I make mistakes and have to backtrack based on new research and knowledge.
Use your head and you should be fine.
8. Relying only on yourself and ignoring like-minded members of your community
When I first started prepping, I did not mention my new little “hobby” to anyone. You know, OPSEC and all that. But about a year into it, I realized that I could not do it all on my own. There were things I was having trouble grasping and I needed help. As I tip toed around the edges of my community, I found some like minded people and much to my surprise, I found that I had skills and knowledge that they lacked.
The mutual exchange of skills and knowledge ensued along with some informal agreements to team up if circumstances required us to be on our own for any period of time. This included teaming up for shelter and food as well as defense.
The importance of having a peer group of like minded comrades in my own community was strengthened as I read R. P. Ruggiero’s Brushfire Plague and continued as I explored other truer than life survival stories,.
How you decide to expand your community contacts is up to you but be advised that when it comes to survival 1 + 1 will definitely add up to more than 2.
Additonal Reading: Survival Buzz: Eight Lessons Learned from Survival Fiction
9. Just because someone else does something does not mean that you should do it to
There is an unspoken rule of the road in boating: just because the other guy is doing it does not mean he is right or knows what he is doing. Personally I have been there and done that and nearly ended up on the rocks.
The same rule applies to prepping.
As someone who reads a lot on the internet, you have likely come across many authorities with “expert” advice on one topic or another. This is where the gray matter between your ears becomes the most important tool in your box of prepper skills. Think it through before you unilaterally apply someone’s expertise to your own situation. Let me repeat: this includes advice and suggestions from this website!
Go back to the beginning and do a risk analysis. Examine your budget; can you afford it? What are your living conditions? What is the likelihood that a hurricane (or earthquake or wildfire) will threaten your home? Are you physically up to the task of bugging out on foot?
Every step along the way you should be asking yourself these questions and more. You are unique. Recognize and embrace the fact that with preparedness, one size does not fit all.
10. Falling victim to prepper procrastination
You have read the best books out there and spent the wee hours of the night reading every website you can find that teaches and preaches preparedness. You should be ready to embark upon your preparedness journey but remain a lurker.
There is no other way to say it but this: just start. Select one small task or one small project and see it through to completion. Take some baby steps and spend an hour, perhaps two, and get something done. The results will be worth it.
Additional Reading: Learning to Overcome Prepper Procrastination.
11. Obsessing about being behind the curveball
Read this carefully then read it again. You will never be done.
There will always be stock to rotate, supplies to purchase, and skills to learn. Being worried and obsessed about getting every thing done at once will only increase your stress during an already stressful period in life.
Get over it!
12. Feeling smug in thinking your prepping journey is over
I have been prepping for over seven years and believe me, there is still so much I want and need to do. Let me re-phrase that a bit. There is much that I want to refine and improve so I am better at this business of prepping.
The risks you prepared for last year may not be the same risks you would prepare for today. You have done a personal risk assessment, right? If not, think about doing so now. While you are at it, be honest about your health, your finances, and your ability to get by for an extended period on your own.
Let me break it to you. After doing a personal risk assessment, you will no longer feel smug.
13. Forgetting that there is a life beyond prepping
Of all of the prepper mistakes, this is perhaps the most difficult to overcome.
For many, the call of prepping becomes a full-time avocation. Living and breathing preparedness becomes the norm, disrupting work and family activities as well as the personal quiet time we all need to recharge our internal batteries. Sleep becomes elusive as you fret about being ready. You live in a perpetual state of stress.
Hopefully, this has not and will not happen to you. Trust me, though, it does happen and at one time this happened to me.
Above all, remember that regardless of what you think about the future, you still have one precious life to live. You can not stop the clock of time so unless you feel an imminent danger, continue to live your life as normally and joyfully as possible. Attend family celebrations and continue to take vacations. Have fun and learn to play.
Isn’t life itself the reason you are prepping to survive in the first place?
Supplies and Gear
14. Creating a 3 Day Kit and ignoring the long term
Putting together a three-day kit and calling it quits is a recipe for failure and a ticket to Camp FEMA or some other shelter.
Let’s be real. The government, the media, and the Red Cross have been promoting the 3-day kit for so long that it is safe to say that the term “3 day kit” is now common vernacular. Not surprisingly, the 3-Day Kit has also become a marketing phenomena.
The good news is that the more that people jump onto the 3 day kit bandwagon, the better for the rest of us. That is three days we will not have to reach out and help them.
On the other hand, something as simple as a winter power outage can last far longer than three days. And a cyber-attack, pandemic, or earthquake? Two weeks, a month,or even a year of emergency supplies would be much better.
Additional Reading: 15 Tips to Keep You Comfortable During a Power Outage
15. Stocking up on prepper gadgets that are cute but hardly useful during a real disaster
A lot of junk is being pitched to preppers. I am embarrassed to say that in the early days, I pitched this stuff as well. These days, I stay away from such things as credit-card knives, match-light fire starters, and keychain survival kits.
I do however, stock up on inexpensive, pocket-sized flashlights, mini-survival kits of varying types in compact tins, and multi-tasking tools and household products. It is the gadgets I never heard of and didn’t think I needed until I read about them that I avoid.