If you are a survival "newbie", the vast amount of survival information and opinion out there can be pretty overwhelming. It's OK, take a deep breath. We are here for you. First of all, you don't have to learn everything all at once. We are here to help you organize all of this information and prioritize the most important things first!
So that being said, where's a good place to start? Well, let's take a closer look at a few important fundamental concepts:
Have a Plan!
Having a "less than perfect" plan is vastly better than having no plan at all! Your plan does not have to be perfect for it to be effective and do it's job. In fact, your plan is never actually going to be perfect. That is an unrealistic aspiration. You can keep improving it by adding certain tools and resources and removing others, but perfection is not possible. Just let us help you start putting one together! We will help guide you through the process. Just start assembling a plan right away!
NONE of us can truly see into the future and see exactly what is going to happen and when. EVERY plan has its gaps and vulnerabilities, and no plan covers every base. No one has it all figured out, despite what they might try to tell you. And you know what? That's OK. All you can do is the best that you can do, and that "best" just keeps getting better and better as you learn more. Your plan will always be a "work in progress" and you will constantly be improving it as you learn and grow. Your plan is never going to be "finished" in that it can never be improved upon. Just like anything else in life... you simply have to start somewhere and take that initial plunge, and with time and experience that plan will get better and better!
And do yourself a favor and don't just stop at having a plan. Practice your plan! Don't just throw together a "Disaster Plan" on an Excel spreadsheet and buy some gear. Practice the activities on your list so that you make sure you know how to do them well and quickly! Make sure you can actually DO the things on your list before you truly need to! Make sure you KNOW where your gas and water main shut offs are. Make sure your family KNOWS what the plan is and what each of them is expected to do. Knowledge and learning are great, but practicing your plan turns that knowledge into something even MORE valuable: SKILLS and EXPERIENCE! Skills and experience are always better than just knowledge by itself!
What is survival?
Mental & Emotional vs. Physical
When most think of survival they tend to think of making fire, shelter, purifying water, signaling, navigation and so on. While these are all terrific things to know how to do in a survival situation, most of these considerations are based on the assumption that we will be able to just dive right into a survival situation like Bear Grylls and that common mental/emotional obstacles won't be an issue for us at all. This is a very dangerous assumption to make. You absolutely must address your physical needs in a survival situation, but mental and emotional issues can be just as deadly as hypothermia and dehydration. Fear and doubt can paralyze you and cause you to make some really bad decisions. See our Mental preparedness page for more on this topic.
Thriving vs. "Surviving"
OK, most of us use the word "survival" pretty loosely these days. The word "survival" can mean many different things to many different people and often includes everything from "wilderness survival" to "prepping","bushcraft", "homesteading", "disaster preparedness" and "bugging out". At E2S, we believe ALL of these topics should be included in the much larger category of "survival". Each of these categories offers its own set of terrific knowledge and skill sets that would come in really handy in a SHTF scenario.
That being said, none of us really wants to just "survive", do we? I mean... prisoners of war "survive" abuse and torture. Slaves "survive" a life of oppression. Abuse victims "survive" physical, mental and emotional injuries of all kinds. People "survive" all sorts of really nasty stuff in this world... all of which we hope you and your family never have to endure... but people who truly "survive" actually endure some pretty atrocious circumstances and somehow find a way to live through it. Do we really want our families to go through that kind of pain and suffering? Of course not. Isn't the point of preparing to avoid that kind of thing? Aren't we trying to make sure that our families stay protected, warm, sheltered, clothed, hydrated, fed, comfortable, safe and happy? Isn't the point of all of this "preparedness" stuff to actually better ensure that our families are NOT just surviving, but actually thriving in times of crisis or disaster? Absolutely it is!
Yes, this site is about "survival" (again, using the term loosely), but in a way it really isn't. REAL survival SUCKS! Our goal is to actually help you do far more than survive a crisis. We want to help you THRIVE during a crisis (relatively speaking of course!)!
There is a saying in survival (not sure of the origin) that we at E2S absolutely love, and it goes something like this:
"If you are in a survival situation and have all of your basic needs met (core body temperature, hydration, food, signaling, navigation, etc.) then you aren't surviving any more. You are just camping."
OK, so maybe this saying is not 100% accurate, but it sure is a terrific perspective/attitude none-the-less!
You may notice more than a few pictures on this website of people cooking outdoors, relaxing in their tent, enjoying some fishing, etc. and you may think to yourself "Right... That is NOT what people are going to what people look like after the SHTF!!!" Well, we actually chose those images deliberately. You see... if you have made prudent preparations in terms of food storage, learning various skill sets, have taken vigilant precautions, etc., then theoretically this is EXACTLY what you and your family could look like! If your basic needs are met, then you just are camping!
OK, so where should one start? What is a good way to pare everything down to a good starting point? Well, there are several ways to do this... but allow us suggest two in particular:
The first method would be to assess the most realistic threats to you and your family both in terms of A) broader-in-nature disaster scenarios (like house fire, break in, job loss, car accident, health issue, natural disaster, terrorist attack, financial collapse, etc.) that you and your family are likely to face, and also in terms of B) prioritization of specific threats/needs (core body temperature, water, food, signaling, navigation, etc.) in your immediate survival scenario action plan.
An example of assessing your likely broader threats would be taking into consideration your geographical location as an influencing factor of the types of threats are most likely to face. For example, if you live in the Midwest, you are not likely to face dangers from a hurricane or tidal wave. But you could easily face a tornado, ice storm or blizzard. Living on the Gulf Coast, you are not likely to see a blizzard, but hurricanes are definitely a threat. Terrorist threats tend to mostly affect larger cities (directly, anyway). Even job losses can be geographically impacted due to local economies being hit harder than others, or when certain locales are primarily sustained by a particular industry that is taking a hit. You are going to have to make an assessment of your own unique situation and assemble your survival plan accordingly.
Perhaps you live in a location where several or even many of these threats could be a realistic possibility for you. How on earth are you going to prepare for ALL of these scenarios??? Calm down... the good news is that while different types of disasters require slightly different types of preparations, there is actually a lot of overlap in all of these disaster preparations. If you decide that a natural disaster like a hurricane or earthquake is the most likely kind of disaster that your family will face, but you and your family wind up falling victim to a terrorist attack or a house fire, the preparations you would make for the the hurricane or earthquake are pretty similar to the preps you would make for a terrorist attack or house fire. Not 100%, but pretty close. Gallon jugs of water, canned foods, plastic sheeting, duck tape, etc. are going to come in handy in almost ANY disaster scenario. Many of these "preps" are pretty universal, so don't get too terribly hung up on scenario specific preps.
The second way to approach your plan (we recommend using both approaches in tandem, actually) is in bite sized chunks. You don't have to do this all in one day. Start off small. Instead of spending thousands of dollars all at once, do a few preps a week until you get to where you feel you need to be. Start buying one or two extra gallons of water and a few canned goods a week and start putting them aside. Make a list of gear preps, prioritize them and get one a week (or a month if that fits your budget better). Getting there slowly is better than not getting there at all!
How Long Should I Prepare For?
Conventional wisdom tells us that a respectable disaster preparedness plan should be built around a minimum duration of 72 hours at the very least, thus the infamous 72 hour kit. But why 72 hours? Well, because this is the estimated amount of time most "experts" and agencies have agreed upon that it can typically take for search and rescue to find you and come to your aid. Estimated. Typically. Just to be clear... no one should ever mistake this estimate as any kind of promise or guarantee.
We cannot stress this enough: 72 hours should be the MINIMUM amount of time you should build your plan/kits around. This means that every prudent and prepared family should have at least 3 days worth of provisions on hand for each person in their family in preparation for any kind of crisis. This kit should at least have a great set of basics in it (water, food, clothing, shelter, blankets, light, tools, etc.) but should also include some comforts like playing cards, games, drawing supplies, toys, books, etc. These kits should be portable and kept handy in case it it best to leave your home and take refuge elsewhere. When you do, your 72 hour kit has just become a "Bug Out Bag" (also known as "Bail Out Bag" or B.O.B., "G.O.O.D. Bag" or "Get Out Of Dodge Bag", and many more).
Once you have a solid 72 hour kit foundation in your home, it would be wise to create similar kits for your vehicles (vehicle kit) and for every day carry or "EDC". These types of kits are like 72 hour kits but include a few extra tools that would be helpful for vehicle repairs or in every day life. Many EDCs include things like sun glasses, cell phone and charger, watch, a few extra tools and maybe even a few items that you use every day like your favorite chewing gum or such.
A much smaller version of a 72 hour kit is known as a PSK or Personal Survival Kit. These are designed to be extremely compact and lightweight so that you can carry it with you at all times. It contains nothing but the very basics, but covers all the important bases. The PSK is typically used by a more experienced outdoorsman, mostly because it is a smaller and more minimalist kit requiring the user to rely more on skills, knowledge and techniques than the more comprehensive gear set found in the typical 72 hour kit. The PSK is a the tiny stripped down little brother of the 72 hour kit.
Once you have several of these kits covered, you can start to work toward making more long term preparations, should your ultimate plan dictate. Storing up caches of water, food and other supplies for months or even years for the possibility of a major catastrophe such as economic collapse or nuclear attack. Again, 72 hours is the bare minimum. 2 weeks worth of supplies is even better. A month's worth better still. Many who are concerned about a long term crisis like economic collapse or nuclear war are stocked up for several years or longer! Ultimately it is your decision how long to prepare for, but better too much than not enough!
Whatever crisis you deem likely and want to prepare for, start off small and work your way up. Put yourself on a plan and patiently work your way toward your goal.
So what kinds of things should you put in these kits? Great question. Equip2Survive has come up with a system that we like to refer to as the "Dirty Dozen". This "Dozen" covers all of your critical survival needs and concerns. Let's take a closer look, shall we?
Equip2Survive's "Dirty Dozen"