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Prep Like Your Life Depends On It


American Gothic
New American Gothic

On September 11, 2001 I became a prepper, and if you saw the writing on the wall, you did too. I was in High School, and I remember watching as the second plane hit tower two, the third hit the Pentagon and the fourth crashed in a Pennsylvania field. That week I prepared my very first bug out bag, which I still have to this day in the back of my truck.

I hope you all have some basic preps that are easily accessible (and no, living next to a Walmart doesn’t count) but if you are like 99% of the USA at the moment, you are woefully unprepared for what could potentially happen in the near future. With that in mind, I wildly scrivened this article in the hopes that it might inspire you into becoming as prepared as you possibly can be.

When it comes to prepping, the skills are more valuable than the gear, but there are a few things you should probably have. The first item most preppers buy, in my experience, is a good knife. A knife, for all intents and purposes is the most important and versatile prepping tool you can own. I believe in redundancy, so each of my bags has two fixed blade knives, at least one multi tool and a machete (which I carry instead of a hatchet). When you buy a fixed blade knife DO NOT go cheap. Buy a full tang knife with a steel grade that will hold an edge and not break. There are several cool looking knives on eBay and Amazon that are cheap. Just remember that you get what you pay for.

The second item is usually the bag itself. I have three bags for different situations. I keep two bags in my car, and one large bag in my house. In my car I keep a cold weather bag and a warm weather bag. Each bag contains 72 hours of food and water, clothing appropriate for the season, shelter, fishing and hunting tools, and renewable lighting sources (crank flashlights are amazing). Do not get a cheap bag. The last thing you want in your bug out is to have a seam bust. Even if you have thread, duct tape, or other repair options, remember that repair costs time.

Fire starting tools are so important that I keep a Nalgene bottle filled with matchbooks, flints, steels and lighters. Without fire there is no warmth, there is no cooking of food and there is no hardening of wood for tools. I also advise learning how to make a fire without these tools. The bow drill is my favorite. Remember to keep small, controlled fires and observe light discipline. Do not burn wet wood to minimize smoke. Do not pass up the opportunity to gather tinder. My favorite is dryer lint. It is light, compressible and extremely flammable. I keep a ziplock bag of dryer lint in each of my bags.

Let’s talk about food. I know lots of you are probably stockpiling MRE’s, and I do too, but only for a bug in situation. In a bug out situation you are going to want compact, light and non-thirst inducing food. For this I went to the Coast Guard. Datrex and Mayday have some of the best long term storage survival food I have ever come across.

Datrex has a pleasant coconut shortbread flavor and texture which is specifically designed for survival at sea. Each package contains 72 hours’ worth of food for one person (2,400 kcal) and has a shelf life of around five years. The package is light, and measures 3×3 ½ x 3 ½ inches and is 100% air tight in mylar. Datrex also makes emergency drinking water pouches which are a nice compliment to the food. It holds 124 mL of water and you should drink at least 2 per day unless on the move, in which case you should drink more. These are nice for emergencies, but you should find a renewable source of water pronto.

Mayday has pretty much the same exact set up, except the package is bigger, and there is 3,600 kcal per package. The package is slightly heavier, and much bulkier.

Both brands are Coast Guard approved and come with usage directions. It doesn’t matter how much ammo you have. If you can’t feed yourself….. well you get it.

Water is more important than food. Get over it. It is. Rain catchment systems are great for bug in’s (even though some states are outlawing them now) but good luck lugging a huge barrel of water into your truck. I carry as little water as I can get away with practically, but I make sure I have plenty of water purification tools.

There are straws with carbon filters that you can use to drink out of semi clean water; you can boil your water, distill it, or even get those fancy bottles with the UV lights (I don’t trust them). I keep carbon filter straws in each of my bags, as well as a filter pump in each of my bigger bags. Always have purification tablets (and yes, I know they make the water taste awful) but get some crystal light or MIO water sweeteners.

MIO has caffeine in some of them and crystal light has some salts which are essential. SALT WILL KEEP YOU ALIVE. The depletion of salt in your body is called hyponatremia and is not a good situation. Salt tablets are great, but if you forget them at home, you should lick your sweat. Do not, however drink salt water. You will hallucinate.

After fire, food, water, a bag and a good knife the next most important thing is shelter. A tent is great, but it can stick out like a sore thumb and it is heavy and unwieldy. Bivy sacks are great, but they are heavy. Mylar blankets are great but they are noisy AND they stick out like a sore thumb. Bring the mylar blankets anyway, they are light and you can use them to line your clothes in the winter.

I keep a full zip insulated hammock in each of my bags. This eliminates the need for a tent or a sleeping bag. They are OD green and can be camouflaged further with foliage. For rain proofing, just hang a tarp between the trees. Mine is camouflage and is just great at a distance. In a hammock, you have no fear of snakes, most crawling bugs, flowing water or an imprint on the ground, such as the one left by a tent. Each hammock also packs into a bag the size of a grapefruit and weighs practically nothing. The best part is the cost, however. Be prepared to spend under $60 for the whole set up!

The next most important thing, in my humble opinion, is first aid. I keep fully stocked surgical kits in each of my bags. You may not want to go this route. I don’t suggest it if you don’t have an advanced knowledge of medicine. Make sure to keep a tourniquet, bleed stop bandages, vet wrap, band aids, Neosporin or bacitracin, alcohol wipes, gauze, and most importantly iodine wipes. You may also want to include a topical anesthetic like lidocaine gel for bug bites and burns as well.

Learning to hunt and catch food is important as well. Your food supplies should only be used when necessary as they have longer shelf life then the perishables you should be able to gather. Small game is great for two reasons. It is more plentiful, easier to carry and dress and you can catch and kill them using snares, tin can traps or my personal favorite, the slingshot.

I carry a sling shot to conserve ammo and observe noise discipline. Stay away from raccoons though. They carry a worm called Baylisascaris which is an ascarid that is deadly to humans. The egg is the most robust roundworm egg in the genus. It is basically a tiny King Tiger Tank which can survive heat and chemicals. It cutaneously migrates (burrows through the skin) and moves north towards the brain. It will pass the blood brain barrier and IT WILL KILL YOU. Do not eat raccoons.

For larger game I carry a recurve bow that breaks down into three pieces for slick storage. Do not use your ammo on game. It dirties your firearms and breaks noise discipline.

Learn how to smoke or salt your meats for storage with large game.

Fishing is a great way to get food, and as any good prepper or outdoorsman knows, camping out next to a river or lake is really important. I prefer rivers to lakes, as moving water tends to be cleaner, the fish are easier to catch with traps, and there are usually springs feeding them. No matter how clean the water looks, always boil it and filter it first. You do not want a bad case of giardia or cryptosporidium.

I am not going to go into fishing techniques, however the US Army Survival Guide is a great resource for learning rod-less fishing techniques.

A light source is also very important. I have an LED crank flashlight in each of my bags. They even have a USB port on them so you can charge your iPod. As we all know, sanity is really important. The red cross sells a very affordable and tough as nails crank light on Amazon.com.

Now I come to a sensitive subject in the prepping community. Physical health and fitness. If you are overweight you are going to want to lose it. The good news is, you can lose it by hiking every day with your freshly packed bag! I hike 3 miles every day plus 10 miles a day on the weekends. You have to practice. You do not want to be applying your knowledge in the field for the first time during an emergency.

This article is not even close to everything you need to know, and is focused on wilderness bug out situations. The intent of this piece is not to give you a guide, but to educate in certain areas, and to hopefully get you thinking about what you can do in the immediate future to ensure the survival of you, your family and the American way of life.



  1. Kansas Gun Girl

    Good write up, Red! I would add, that in most states, add a gun to your list. Sadly, we have states that do not respect the 2nd amendment and make it very difficult.

    • RedSeeingRed

      KGG, you are absolutely correct. I left guns out of this article for the most part. I do think that carrying at least one gun is smart, but renewable sources of weaponry (like the bow or the sling shot) are quieter, and require less maintenance than a firearm. Therefore, the firearm should be treated like your emergency food supplies. It should be a last resort measure. We are trying to make our provisions last as long as possible!

  2. Red very good advice. Every time I read one of your articles, the the next one is better than the last. You are truly gifted my friend.

  3. Pingback: Of Complainers and Doers | Angry White Dude

  4. perhaps this will help some one……


  5. Excellent write-up!! And one that needed to be put out there, especially with the current administration and the crap they pull.

    As I am in my 50s, I have been able to prep to the point of relocating to firearm friendly state, in a rural area, so that I can “bug in”. I have 10 acres, 3 wells, gardens, an orchard, and wild game is plentiful.

    For you older folks who frequent this site, if you have family in the cities (kids and grandkids), and you can do it, try to get into a set-up like mine, if/when TSHTF they have a place to bug out too, not just a plan to run to the wilderness.

    I hope it’s ok to plug another site, if anyone wants to learn more about prepping, try survivalblog.com, they have a LOT of good info.

    • RedSeeingRed

      Survivalblog is a good one, but really any prepping blog is going to have a ton of information. Every prepper has that one unique idea that you just never thought about before!

      • What I like most about survivalblog is that they keep an archive that goes back to their first day on the net. And it is available to anyone who visits the site.

  6. rightwingterrorist

    I’m, shall we say, extensively prepared.
    For any sort of calamity.
    Some more so than others depending on calamity.

    I suggest reading up and researching whenever possible.

    Backwoods Home magazine is a great primer for the novice.

    For those of you who think you’re well prepared I recommend checking out this list.

  7. Tons of info can be gleaned on this site.


  8. RidinShotgun

    From the SAS survival manual (For the uninitiated among you, their an English special forces unit, super hardcore and where we got the idea for our Green Berets.) If possible, dig a hole three feet deep and three feet square, place a number of stones that line the bottom and build your fire atop that. The depth of the hole makes the light from the fire all but impossible to see unless you’re right on top of it (I’ve tried it and it works.) and once the wood burns down, the heat from the stones will cook anything you place on top of it evenly.
    Have to bug out? Pile the dirt back on top and sneak away.

  9. I started down the road of prepping when the housing market took a dive. We moved away from the city and found a place with 3-4 acres in a nice, quite area. I’d prefer 50+ acres, but that wasn’t in the budget. We already have a garden, but will be expanding it quite a bit soon. The wife has also learned to can, so that helps with the stored food supply quite a bit. A fruit tree orchard will also be planted in the near future. No one is on prescription meds, so we don’t have to worry about that. Med kits are like RSR said, since I have no medical training.
    I haven’t seen any deer around yet, but I’ve been told by a few neighbors that they’re around. Squirrels and rabbits are everywhere here though.
    Weaponry and tools are taken care of, with the exception of a bow, which I’m in the market for at the moment anyway.

    • RedSeeingRed

      If you are planning a bug-in you should get to know your land like the back of your hand. Know every single edible and medicinal plant, identify any possible water sources, and bury land vaults with survival basics in secret spots so if you are kicked out, you won’t be left with nothing.

      • You betcha ++Thumbs up

        Practice moving at night w/o any light other than moon/stars.
        Then in the rain.
        Then start a fire.

      • Already on it. The property has a well, and I’m also building a rain catchment system on my 2400 sq ft shop. The crates will be stored inside to shade them from the sun.
        I’m still finding out what plants and trees are on the property. We haven’t been here a year, so I’m watching everything grow this year and taking note. There are a few fruit bearing trees already, and a blackberry thicket.
        Already have a spot picked for my secret cache.

  10. Nostradumbass

    I am prepared for a shorter life span. I won’t go off the grid. Risk/reward is greater for subterfuge.

  11. Guillermo Del Toro

    Good write up.

  12. Thanks Red,Very good and needed post. Nice list , I hope many who have thought about prepping have now jumped in and got started.In my neighborhood there’s a small grocery store. With a weather forecast of snow, there’s a run on all the food necessities and empty shelves for several days.That opened my eyes many moons ago, I have a one years rotating supply of food, meds, and a water filtering system.I use very little govt water.And also practice 3 gun competition to stay sharp with pistol, shotgun, and rifle. And I also practice regularly with a high power air gun,sling shot, and crossbow.You cannot be overprepaired.This fall ,I plan on snaring small game as a meat supplement.

    • RedSeeingRed

      There is nothing like living in a small town, with limited food access, to make you start thinking of other options. It sounds like you are in an area of the country where snow is rare (so people panic) or an area where snow means SNOW and people have an actual reason to panic! I am curious as to which it is.

      • Hi red, about 90miles southeast of Lake Erie and get lake effect snow occasionally and usually not enough to to cause a grocery run, but most of my neighbors are retired and fear going forth when there is white stuff on the ground. When it happened once and I had to drive “uptown” in a real snow storm among folks who were not very good drivers was a wake-up call to me.That and conditions in this country made me become a prepper.

        • Your in my old stomping grounds Chas.

          Just a wag, Butler or Mahoning counties?

        • RedSeeingRed

          Out of curiosity, have you built up a prepping network with your neighbors? Prepper networking is something I am on the fence about. I think it works in some situations and violates op-sec in others.

          • I’ve always been a loner type and extremely private, what my neighbors don’t know won’t hurt them. What I don’t know about them won’t hurt me. That said , there is nothing my immediate neighbors would not do for me or me for them.

  13. Move away from the “Groids right now.

  14. Spurwing Plover

    I remember back in the 70s when all the eco-freaks were predicting a world so poluted we would all be wearing gas masks to go outside and JOHN TRAVOLTA is still preaching this same poppycock. The worst form of Polution comes from the eco-freaks its called MIND POLUTION

  15. Best words of advice is: It is better to have and not need then to need and not have. Prep like your and your family’s life’s depends on it because it does.

  16. Great piece, RSR, thanks! I’m always set up for bug in, as I live in a rural area where storm and flood damage is common and power outages happen often. I always have ample water, food, coffee, first-aid, matches, batteries, vodka, etc., & enough to help out the elderly neighbors, but I tend to think more about “minding the fort” than bugging out (I ignore evacuation orders). But thanks for the excellent information. I am not nearly as equipped as I need to be.

    • RedSeeingRed

      Bugging in may be more comfortable, but don’t let anybody know you are there. Observe light and noise discipline and avoid smokey fires. It is much easier if you have your neighbors on board with you. That way you don’t have to fight them!

  17. quartierleblanc

    Lots of things about this article I find interesting. Here’s a comment about fire starting and light. Vaseline jelly soaked cotton balls make great fire starters along with butane cigarette lighters. You don’t really need dry tinder to get one going, but a little baggie of dried tender makes it even easier. I used to keep them in old photographic film containers but medication containers work almost as good. A big one will hold the cotton balls and the lighter. A useful lamp can be made from an empty cartridge case filled with gun oil ( motor oil will do ). Put a soaked cleaning patch into the case filled with oil and light it. A 458 case with a 12 gauge patch works nicely.

  18. quartierleblanc

    A tiny multi-fuel camping stove is worth it’s weight. MRE’s taste like shit and are highly constipating, especially if you don’t stay hydrated. What they are is convenient and quick. They also don’t really store that long. Freeze dried lasts longer and still tastes like shit, plus you need water. If you gotta fly, then MRE’s are OK. Things like minute rice, especially the boil in the bag stuff works just fine. Add an envelope of chicken or tuna or even a can of vienna sausage or potted meat and you have a meal. Best to have access to water and you’ll need to clean the pot, BUT it tastes pretty good and you’ll eat it. Add a few energy or protein bars are you’re good to go. A couple of cans of fruit and you’ll think you’re at home batching it.

  19. Need a good garden and meat source?

    Check out aquaponics.

    • RedSeeingRed

      Is that the algae you can grow in your fishtank? I think that stuff is great if you have to feed a community! Neighborhood preppers take note of this stuff!

      • Aquaponics is growing a garden above a tank of edible fish……

        build by using common throw-away discarded (real cheap) IBC’s (Industrial Bulk Containers)….see IBC’s of Aquaponics………


        You can even get a pdf how to section.

        • RedSeeingRed

          Oh! Sorry, there is an algae you can grow in a fish tank that has lots of vitamins and minerals. I thought that is what you were talking about. Aquaponics sounds more palatable to me though!

      • quartierleblanc

        If a SHTF situation what you’ll see is the guvment distributing stuff called UNIMIX or something similar. It’s a soy/corn/combination of a bunch of crap. Get hungry enough and boil it in water and you’ll stay alive. Actually edible if you can add some of that cinnamon flavored oatmeal to it. Otherwise good for charity. It’s the stuff in bags you see in Ethiopia or more recently in Somalia or any other third world shithole where people are starving. Stored properly it will last a while. Practically every third world rural African knows what this is and will eat it and actually like it. You probably won’t. However, with a little work there are supposed recipes that make it better.

        • RedSeeingRed

          Sounds like Soylent green… hahaha

          • Solyent green is probably better. What I’m saying is that it’s probably easier and cheaper to buy and store a ton of UNIMIX than it is to grow the components yourself. It’s also great for starving people because it won’t cause the refeeding syndromes that kill the badly malnourished.

  20. quartierleblanc

    Quick water purification is to is to use Clorox bleach ( use the unscented ) an eighth to a quarter a teaspoon of bleach well mixed into a gallon of water and allowed to sit will work fine. Cheaper than hell too and works well in a pinch.
    If you want it real clean you strain it in a sheet. Oversized coffee filters work better and you can easily strain a gallon through them before they get too soggy but they can be slow. Boil the water for at least two minutes and then add an eighth of teaspoon of bleach. Better than city water.

  21. RSR-good write up and excellent tips!

    One thing that I may have missed, personal hygiene and an E tool. Got to have a place to dispose of our natural activities and maintaining our individual hygiene is paramount in the outdoors!


    • You can compost human waste, and if pre-planned, you can use the decomposing waste (it produces a useable gas) as a cooking/heating source. The third world has been utilizing this kind of tech for a couple decades, one can also add animal waste such as goat/sheep etc. for higher gas production.

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