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My turn. Sorry, not sorry about the title. The reason clickbait exists is because it reflects what people want. I fully expect that my average reading audience already knows and understands this content. However, as I (like many of you) grow weary of yet another dreaded “Top 10 whatever” article related to prepping, it is pertinent and relevant to remember that there are thousands of new preppers every week on their quest for knowledge. In short, like I said in my EDC video, I’m putting this out simply because people ask.

In actuality, what prompted this specific article, (and the next, which will be about self-assessment), was preparing my comments for an upcoming event. A local friend and community organizer <Ahem> is putting together a “prepper-author” showcase at a community club right here in “West Slaughter County.” I racked my brain: it isn’t really a preparedness expo, per se…no soap-making or bee-keeping classes. I already know that the keynote authors will be talking about Prepping 2.0, which is tailored to get the moderately-prepared into the mindset that they should up their game. What bloomed was an idea for people to be able to self-assess their knowledge, skills and gear. Hence – a worksheet was born!

But worksheets are about things to do… “Hey,” I asked the organizer. “Will there be video display capability?”

“It’s available if we want to pay for it…”

“Lemme think for a bit…” Hmmmm….what a great way to bore the shit out of my neighbors and potential book buyers…Yes, perhaps I should fork over $$$ to show everyone a checklist… NOT. “On second thought, never mind.”

But, this checklist is actually pretty cool…maybe I can close with it…but, close WHAT?

And then it seemed pretty obvious – If people actually need a checklist to self-assess, they’re most likely newbies to prepping. I should talk about mistakes that I’ve made…Try to save them some money and aggravation.

And here we are. And I’ll disclaim with the usual reminders: this is subjective; you may think of a few others; these aren’t bound to any particular order…yada, yada, yada…

That last one is actually an important point. All of these are priority items, and I bet there are a few other topics one could legitimately add. Don’t weigh the importance of these items based on their list position.

NUMERO UNO: Getting caught up in the Hysteria

Ninety or even higher percent of preparedness is the same: stock food and supplies; learn to be self-sufficient; learn skills, particularly the stuff people did a hundred plus years ago. There are a few nuances, such as having potassium iodide/iodate for nuclear emergencies, or securing your tall items for an earthquake. But for the most part, if you’re prepping from a tornado, you’re also prepping for your king—er—governor shutting down the economy.

My point is that you can find polarization everywhere you look: the conservatives are corrupt; the liberals are corrupt; the Illuminati run everything. Wait! I thought it was the Bilderbergs?! It is very easy to chase the rabbit down the hole and forget what the real world looks like. I started taking prepping seriously in 2012, and we’ve had…what? Four or five near-apocalypses since then…if you buy into Alex Jones {Cue the critics: look I like Alex. I went to the next high school over from him, though I was about 5 years ahead. But don’t think for a moment that he isn’t just an actor making money off of people’s emotions.} In the words of Arnie in that Batman movie, “Everybody Chiiillllll….”

Number Two: Rushing into your gear purchases

If you’ve ever owned a Harley, then you also own a box of parts. As you put shiny shit on the Big Hog—better seat, ape-hanger handlebars, whatever—you start collecting all the stuff you’ll never use again. Prepping is the same, especially for packs, pouches, holsters, pocket knives – all the cool guy stuff.

Prepping is full of little cute clichés, like “buy once, cry once.” This is a great rule of thumb. That said, not all of the expensive American packs are exclusively made in America. E.g. Mystery Ranch or Vanquest. But (most of) the modern American prepper gear companies do maintain a high sense of quality in their builds. It is so very tempting to go get that $35 pack or cheap Condor pouch, but you’ll soon throw it into that box. Now, I do have a couple of pieces of that gear that have stood up to hours of training. But I’ve had more of them fail after just a couple of hours. And don’t assume that something is quality just because it is American made. There are a mess-load of kydex holster manufacturers, now. That doesn’t mean their product is good. Take your time. Go read reviews of the product on Amazon. Customers can be brutally honest – just ask any author! But that’s a good thing when deciding how to spend your money.

Number Three: Not using the gear

Is any of your gear still in the original package? That’s a big red flag. You know a bad time to figure out a tent rope is missing a tensioner? When it’s raining sideways, and you’re cold as ice. Or discovering that the alkaline batteries exploded in your headlamp months ago. Nothing lets you know how well your machete or pruning saw cuts a path for you quite like going and cutting an actual path. Weird, I know.

Number Four: Not getting training

There’s a meme going around: “You don’t need a $3000 rifle. You need a $700 rifle and $2300 worth of training.” Make sure you’re getting your money’s worth, too. Find a reputable and recommended tactical trainer who can list for you where they, in turn, have trained. Even YouTube’s James Yaeger preaches this. He routinely shows himself being the student under other reputable instructors, such as Clint at Thunder Ranch. But that doesn’t mean you have to go to a famous trainer. Check your local gun ranges for places that they recommend that are within the state.

This applies to other things, too, not just shooting. There are medical classes, HAM radio classes, even local community courses in gardening or canning. Sometimes the training is free or by small donation. No matter what the topic, don’t rely on reading and watching videos as your sole source of education. We all need that objective voice to watch us in person and say, “Nope. You’re holding the flux capacitor wrong.”

Number Five: Managing debt

This one partners with #1, about not getting caught up in the hysteria. I’m embarrassed to say that one of the major reasons I’m now paying off a credit card AND a loan against my retirement is because I got caught up…”The SKY is Falling!” This applies to managing your finances, not just spending money on prepping. I was never into budgeting until about a year ago. As part of learning to fix the problem (fixing the bad behavior on top of paying off the debt), I forced myself and my spouse to start following the Dave Ramsay method. When we pay interest on anything, we’re just giving away money. But, prepping can—and should be—a line item in your budget. What it doesn’t need to do is cause you to throw money away.

Number Six: Planning and organizing

I’ve tried many times over the years to perfect a few different systems for planning. What I’ve learned to avoid is the inventory spreadsheet. One thing I really want to go back and improve is the old “laminated card checklist.” I had a couple on a clipboard. “What we’re doing if we bug in…” and “What we’re doing if we bug out…”

But the best way to learn how to build one of these and why is to just go read “The Borrowed World” by Franklin Horton [CAUTION: You will wind up buying all of them! Frank writes awesome, detailed, action packed stories. You’ve been warned.] His main character is hundreds of miles from home when terrorists disrupt the nation’s fuel supply. He has to walk home. His wife remembers about the “red binder in the gun safe.” She pulls it out, and Jim is right there in her ear, guiding her through what she needs to do. It is very well done. And on that note, are you remembering to buy print books? Or download free PDFs of manuals onto an iPad? And, yes—I will be building a red binder for my gun safe.

Number Seven: “Diversify your portfolio”

This is what Glen and Shelby call layering, which is probably the best and simplest term for the concept. Having MREs is okay. Having a bunch of your normal canned goods is great. Having a garden is awesome. Having all of that is layering“diversifying your portfolio…” This can apply to anything: you have money in savings; you have cash tucked away; you have gold and silver. Another example: you keep food in the house; you keep food in the garage or shop; you keep food in a storage unit or at a bug out location. Spread those eggs amongst the baskets!

Number Eight: Maintenance

Have you ever pulled out a bug out bag and thought, “When did I own this shirt?” That means you haven’t looked at it as recently as you should have. This is about rotating your meds, water, food. It is about having a system to remind you to recharge the batteries and radios. Most of these things can be scheduled by simply assigning a recurring task or appointment in your calendar or journal.

Number Nine: OP SEC

So, yes, as a person who blogs, uploads videos, and writes books about this, I’m a bit in direct violation of this principle. Operational Security is about being smart. Removing stickers from vehicles that could get you targeted. Not bragging about your gun collection in public. But there are more tactical things you can do, too. Make sure that the garden and rain barrels are out of sight of the street. And conduct an area surveillance of your neighborhood. This includes finding out what you can by looking at public parcel search websites, arrest records, etc. Go to Forward Observer for learn how to do those things.

Number Ten: Not convincing your family what prepping is

A very important part of building a prepping group is to have an open conversation about who is bringing which family members when poop contacts the fan blades. But what really helps is if the group members can begin to sway their spouses, kids, parents—whoever will be part of the clique when shit gets dangerous—to start training, too.

When I first got into preparedness, my wife was annoyed with the money I was spending. She eventually woke up to the importance of it. It isn’t that easy for everyone. Some people like to ostrich themselves. They don’t have the emotional capability to admit that society is fragile or falling apart.

My best piece of advice is to start educating them is that prepping is about inflation insurance. Remind them that the mere threat of beer-virus made toilet paper and hand sanitizer disappear for two months. Then point out the price of milk now, as compared to when “they” declare there’s a mad cow outbreak and all cows must be slaughtered immediately. Prepping isn’t about being scared or hoarding goods. It is simply buying the things you need years from now at a better price. Your preps ARE part of your savings account.

If you’d like a tool to help you evaluate your own skills and preparedness levels, please sign up for my prepping (not author) newsletter at this link. Since I don’t do blogs and videos all that often, I put out the newsletter maybe once per month, maybe twice if I’m doing a book launch. I will never sell or give away your email address. It is simply a way for us to stay connected as the social media tyrants continuously change the rules. The matrix is one of a few tools that come in a series of “welcome to my newsletter” emails the first week. Lastly, I do also run an author-specific newsletter here, if you’d like to sign up for it.