Have you ever wondered why military and ex-military members are so comfortable as preppers and survivalists? It’s because of their training. Basic training is designed to break a person down and strip them of all their old, bad habits, and then build them back to be strong fighting machines. They know their goal and how to get to it, but more importantly, they know how to prepare for that goal. It’s what they have been specifically trained to do.
As a prepper, if SHTF were right now, would you be ready? Would you know how to handle it? I’ve said before that the number one tool for survival is knowledge. This basic prepper training will get you headed in the right direction.
What are the basics of preparedness?
In order to best be prepared and train yourself for a SHTF situation, you need to learn the Survival Rule of Three. That teaches you that the most important things for survival are air, shelter, water and food. Without this foundation of survival, no amount of awesome weapons or cool gadgets are going to help you. For the sake of argument, we’ll say you’re breathing fine already and move on to the other topics.
Building a Survival Shelter
The Rule of 3 says you can only last 3 hours without shelter. That may or may not be the case depending on the situation you’re in. The rule was created for extreme situations — prolonged exposure to frigid cold or sweltering heat could bring death a lot sooner than you may realize.
In the winter, shelter will keep you warm in a couple of ways. First, it will block freezing winds. “Wind chill” will make temperatures seem much lower than they may actually be. Shelter is an effective wind-block. If your shelter is completely enclosed (or at least closed on all sides but one), it will help retain heat from fire (and your body heat, as well). A well built shelter and a fire near the opening (or even inside the shelter itself) will act similar to an oven, warming the air inside and helping to keep you warm.
In the summer, shelter will keep you out of the direct sun. It may not seem like a big deal, but the difference in temperature from direct sunlight to shade is typically 10-20º difference (sometimes more). The UV rays from the sun can make a thermometer read 80º when the ambient air is actually below freezing, so it only stands to reason that you’d want to be in the shade on a hot summer’s day.
So what’s the obvious answer for shelter? Your house, of course. Remember, we’re talking general preparedness, here. Preparedness isn’t just about bugging-out — you may be bugging-in. But if you’re not home, that’s when “building shelter” becomes the focus.
Tents and Tarps as Survival Shelter
The next obvious answer would be a tent. When you’re out camping, that’s not likely a problem. But what if you’re in full “bug-out mode”? It would probably be better to have a light weight tent like this one rather than a super-cool posh tent like this one. Remember, the more you pack, the more you have to carry. That’s not to say don’t pack your bug-out bag with things you’ll need, just don’t load it down with bricks. If nothing else, carry a decent sized tarp (which can be used for more than just shelter if need be). If you’re more the DIY type, you can always make your own oil cloth from a bedsheet and carry that with you.
Now, if you’re really in a SHTF survival situation and don’t have anything to use as shelter, you’ll have to go primitive and build something using what’s available. Tree limbs and branches, small saplings, large boulders, even fallen trees can be used to make a survival shelter. Any type of a debris hut, a-frame or tipi (teepee) can be made with natural materials.
Water During a Survival Situation
3 days is the maximum you can go without water before dehydration turns fatal. That’s assuming, of course, you’re not in a really hot climate where you’re sweating to death — literally. If you’re prepping in your home, Ready.gov recommends:
You should store at least one gallon of water per person for three days. A normally active person needs about three quarters of a gallon of fluid daily, from water and other beverages. However, individual needs vary, depending on age, health, physical condition, activity, diet and climate.
That gallon is supposed to be for drinking and sanitation, so your best bet in my opinion is to store 2 gallons per person per day. Water is the one thing you don’t want to skimp on. Sickness, medical emergencies, and other unexpected situations may arise that cause you to use additional water. You may end up going through more than a gallon a day, and you don’t want to use up anybody else’s portion. Even if there is no need for using the additional supplies, the extra water will be a safety net in case whatever SHTF disaster you’re having to endure lasts longer than expected. For my family of 5, I would like to have 140 gallons — enough for 2 gallons per person per day for two full weeks. Again, that should last more than 2 weeks under normal circumstances.
You can store water in the jugs or bottles they come in, of course. Aside from that, you can use water bricks, water bladders, or you can reuse plastic soda bottles or milk jugs. If you’re reusing a plastic bottle, you will need to sanitize the bottle. Mix a teaspoon of non-scented bleach with a quart of water and pour it into the bottle. Swish, slosh, or otherwise swirl the mixture around in the bottle so that it comes into contact with all of the inner surface a few times. Pour out the sanitizing solution and rinse with clean water. Then fill the bottle completely with water for storage. If your water is not coming from a source that has already been treated (such as city water), you’ll need to treat it with a couple of drops of bleach per gallon of water before storing it.
Purifying Water During SHTF
If you are in an emergency situation and there is no running water, what happens when your stored water runs out? Lots of people have added rain barrels outside to collect rain water from the roof of their house and/or barn to use in the garden, but with a little filtration and purification, you could drink this water, too.
If you don’t have rain barrels or an additional storage tank somewhere on your property, the next thing you’ll need to know is the location of the nearest fresh water source – a lake, stream, river, or pond will do (bonus points if it’s actually on your property). If you’re in bug-out mode, you could set up camp within 100 yards or so of the water so you have easy access. So then you’ll need to collect and purify the water. It’s a good idea to pack either a stainless steel water bottle or a Kelly Kettle in your bug-out bag (or both) so that you can boil your water for purification. You might also want to pack some purification tablets, too, in case boiling is not possible for some reason.You can find out more about water purification in my article 5 Ways to Purify Water.
Have you ever been so hungry you were sick to your stomach? Imagine that lasting for 3 weeks. Now, you won’t likely have to worry about this if you’re at home since most people have a week’s worth of food on hand most of the time. Whatever situation you’re facing will likely give you a good idea at an approximate amount of time you’ll be dealing with this issue. Estimate the time you’ll have to survive on the food you have on hand, then double it. Your goal is to make the food in your house last that long (or longer).
The next most obvious thing to do is make some homemade MREs (Meals Ready to Eat). Consider packing your bug-out gear with some lightweight food with a long shelf life. Freeze dried foods are ideal, but you can also dehydrate your own food and seal it with a vacuum sealer. There’s a little initial investment in the equipment to get you started, but after that, you’re gold. You can use your dehydrator on pretty much anything, but I would recommend storing foods that are high in calories so you get more energy in smaller servings. Fruits can be dehydrated and stored with nuts is measured amounts of homemade trail mix – great protein, sugars and high in calories!
Finding Food in the Wild
If you don’t have access to food storage – like if you’re in bug-out mode – you’ll need to know how to trap, hunt, fish, and forage to get your food. You can find wild edibles in pretty much any location on Earth so learn to recognize what foods you can eat and what foods you can’t. I wrote three articles on wild plants you can eat here, here and here. You can also pick up some good foraging books and a deck of wild edibles cards so you can keep those in your bug-out bag for reference.
Find a friend that hunts and ask them to take you along so you can learn from them. You don’t necessarily have to get into it the way they do… and trust me, if you have a friend that’s “a hunter”, they probably live to hunt. They have all the best gear, scent-away sprays, Real Tree camo clothing, tree stands – everything! All you need to do is learn the basics (unless you have an extra fifty thousand dollars laying around that you can spend on the best gear, too), so you might not want to go with them on a weekend they already have planned. The good thing is, you can practice hunting in your back yard with a bow, or at a range with a gun. Learn to shoot accurately, and that’s a really good start.
If you’ve never been fishing, it can be a lot like hunting – extremely addicting and expensive, but it doesn’t have to be. The thing about it is, if you’re in a SHTF situation, you will probably not have your best open-faced reel on your awesome graphite rod and your tackle box full of the newest lures. It’s a good idea to learn to fish with just a length of fishing line and a hook. Improvise by tying a small rock above the hook for a sinker, and dig for worms or bugs to use as bait.
Tips to Remember for Your Prepper Training
- As a prepper, you should think of all possible situations for each emergency and plan ahead.
- You can buy all the cool gear you want, but if you don’t learn to use it, it won’t do you any good. Practice using it!
- You can buy all the cool gear you want, but if you don’t have it with you in a SHTF emergency, it won’t matter. Learn to get by without the gear.
- Knowledge is the best tool for survival. Learn everything you can learn, and practice it regularly. Just because you’ve read how to build a wilderness shelter doesn’t mean you can necessarily do it having never tried. Make one, find out what you did wrong, and learn how to correct it for the next time.
- Practice, practice, practice! Your skills need to be sharp! If you’re in a high stress situation, it will be harder to use your skills. If you’ve never used your skills, it will be that much harder.