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Prepping: A Beginner’s Guide – Essential Items Needed for Disaster Preparation (Pt. 2)

A prepper knows that there are possible threats, and it only makes sense to be as prepared as possible beginning with elemental disaster items to sustain basic needs (food, water, clothing and shelter) and then adding more preparedness layers onto it. However, many decide to expand their disaster supplies to encompass a longer duration in the case that emergency response is delayed. This is why preppers believe in having “back ups for their back ups.”

There’s a reason that humanity has survived this long: instinct. The awareness of possible danger around us isn’t something we have to learn. On some level, we’re born with the innate ability to recognize threats to our safety. Preppers take it even further. We hone those instincts by heightening our awareness to potential disaster. Then we neutralize the threats by creating a worst-case scenario and preparing for it.

Get Started with Research

It all starts with research. For example, learn how much food to store by finding out how many calories a person needs per day in order to survive. As well, check out this free guide to prepping. This series helps get you prepared in 52 weeks and includes supply lists and suggestions for further skill developments and is the basis for the best-selling book, The Prepper’s Blueprint.

Another great resource is survival/prepping forums. There, you can read about what others are doing and you can ask lots of questions. Most preppers are very open to helping others who want to get started. Those with experience all know that the beginning stages can be overwhelming.

One of the first decisions you will need to make is whether or not you plan to evacuate, or bug out. When to leave is one of the hardest choice to make. Ensure you have all the facts. The following are a guide to making the right decision for your family.

Introduction into bugging in or bugging out

Bugging in

Bugging out

Acquire Your Supplies

Always begin with fundamental disaster items to meet your basic needs: food, water, clothing and shelter and then add more preparedness layers onto their foundation. Basic disaster items are intended to sustain family members for 3-5 days. However, many decide to expand their disaster supplies to encompass a longer duration so that a delayed emergency response has little effect on them. This is why preppers believe in having “back-ups for their back-ups.

Resist the urge to purchase fancy kits or expensive equipment, like generators. Since most of us do not have an unlimited budget, focus on the most vital things first. These pricey items are generally less important than meeting your basic needs for sustenance and shelter. Once you have the basics in place, then you can branch out.

Below, you’ll find some suggestions for the items you should begin to accumulate. As well, consider these 8 basic preparedness items to compliment your supplies with.


It is suggested to have 1 gallon of water per person/per day. Having a 3 day supply of water on hand is a great place to start, but you’ll find that many disasters last longer than originally planned. Therefore, aim for a 2 week supply for each family member and pet.

I emphasize having more water than needed because victims of previous disasters say the suggested water amount of one gallon per person per day does not take into account water needs for sanitation, food preparation, etc. One family who went through the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy and were without power or their well water supply for a week admitted that, to keep hydrated and clean, “we went through 20 gallons a day’ for drinking and washing, he says.” That’s 120 gallons of water for the week after the hurricane.

With water being one of your most important preps, play it safe and double the amount of water needed. The extra water can be used for other purposes like sanitation, cleaning, etc. Ultimately, the goal is to have enough water to survive a long-term disaster. Additional water storage for longer term use can be reviewed here.  If family members such as children or the elderly become dehydrated and need more water, you’ll be very glad that you stored more than needed.  It is suggested to have other water-related supplies such as a water filter, frozen water in the freezer, and water purification tablets. Lakes and streams can also be a way to find water, but the water needs to be treated.

Don’t stop with just stored water. Once you have created a supply, look into expanding into items such as a water filter, frozen water in the freezer, and water purification tablets. Locate nearby bodies of water like lakes and streams and learn how to treat that water to make it safe for consumption. In a dire emergency, don’t forget that there are hidden water sources in your home.


Once you have your water supply looked after, it’s time to begin stockpiling some food for emergencies.  Start out with a supply of non-perishable food that doesn’t require a lot of cooking time (if any).  In the event of a down-grid scenario, your normal cooking methods may not work. As with water storage, begin by prepping for a few days, then expand to meet your family’s needs for a couple of weeks. Once you have this foundation, you can begin expanding your supply further.

You can do this without blowing your budget. The large volume supermarkets typically have better deals than the smaller stores. Map your shopping route based on local ads from the large supermarkets to save on gas money as well as on shopping time. Even dollar stores carry canned goods and food products for short term/long term food supplies. Look for the best sales and buy as much of the item as your budget will allow. This list offers suggestions for your first emergency food shopping trip.

Ensure that you have foods suitable towards survival. Foods that have the sustaining energy sources to burn slowly. Finding foods that are high in complex carbs and dietary fiber are far more efficient from a dietary standpoint and will keep you feeling “fuller” longer. This could go a long way if you are planning on rationing your food in an extended emergency. As well, consider packing your own MREs to save money and to ensure your family has foods they will eat. Here are some tips and suggested foods to do this.

Using a food storage calculator will help you to determine how much food is necessary. It is important to factor in your caloric intake, especially during an emergency. Your activity level could drastically increase following a disaster due to stress, as well as more physically demanding activities. These are some considerations to keep in mind before purchasing the food items:

  • It’s best to find items that have expiration dates that are 1-2 years away from expiring, unless that item is used frequently in the home, and can be rotated frequently.
  • Typically, the best sales are advertised in the newspaper flyers.  There are stores that have 10 items for $10, or 2-for-1 offers.  You don’t have to break the bank to get stocked up.  Just get a little each time you visit the store.  In season vegetables are typically cheaper.  Larger volume packages are often a better price
  • Shop with the number of people in the household in mind. Also consider their preferences, food sensitivities, and appetites.
  • Get a wide variety of food to help reduce food fatigue.
  • Don’t rely on junk food. It’s especially important to keep your strength up and remain healthy during an emergency. Purchase supplies that are loaded with nutrients.
  • Be aware of any special health considerations for family members.  Make sure you have supplies for family members with allergies and intolerances, as well as issues like hypertension or diabetes.
  • Store what you eat, and eat what you store.  By following this adage, you will not end up throwing away expired food, and you won’t serve up something completely unpalatable during a crisis situation.

Medical Supplies

Medical emergencies can occur at the drop of a hat, and having the necessary supplies can mean the difference between life and death. When an emergency situation arises, one must act calming and decisively. Having pre-assembled medical packs for specific medical emergencies can save precious time. In the case of a severe injury where there is a lot of blood loss, there must be supplies on hand that can stop bleeding, reduce the pain, and calm the patient if necessary.  Not only are supplies important, though. Having a family member confident to provide this type of medical care is a must in a survival situation. Taking medical courses would be very beneficial in preparing for this type of emergency. The Fire Department, American Red Cross or Medical Centers are local resources that offer classes to assist in medical emergencies. To further prepare, find websites online that deal with first aid care and go through each injury to see what medical instruments and items are needed.  Moreover, you should have a good understanding of how to properly store medications in order to keep them ready for emergencies. Make a list for supplies that can be added to your disaster medical supplies.

Keep an assortment of emergency medicine references on hand. This ebook is a free download: First Aid Full Manual. In addition, The Survival Medicine Handbook by Dr. Bones and Nurse Amy is a wonderful resource for your preparedness library.


The right tools are a valuable commodity when it comes to survival and essential items to have on hand for hunting, digging, cutting, communicating and navigational purposes. A 72 hour bag should have all items necessary to survive for 3 days. Bottom line is your preparedness tools are your life line and without them, you could be ill-equipped in a survival situation.

The ten tools listed below are some of the most important survival tools that should be in your 72-hour bags. Of course, other items can be included, but these essentials are a must-have for every survival pack. Practice using these tools regularly so that you know their capability and their strength.

Read more about essential survival tools here. As well, consider having separate supplies for your vehicle.

Written Survival Information

In a high stress situation, it’s easy to forget the basic how-tos of tasks that you don’t perform everyday. Many survival manuals and printouts can easily be downloaded onto a flash drive to be taken along in your bug out bags. Don’t underestimate the value of a spiritual book to boost the morale. You want books like:

  • Survival Manuals (This small manual fits easily in most purses or backpacks and is loaded with information for nearly any situation) 
  • First Aid Manuals
  • Native American Survival Handbooks
  • Boy Scouts Handbooks
  • The Bible or other spiritual literature

A great book to have on hand is The Prepper’s Blueprint. This book is a compendium of survival information that walks you through being a newbie prepper to a long-term, self-reliant survivalist. You can order this handy volume HERE.

I like to have hard copies of important books on hand at home. If the power is out, you may not be able to access ebooks or websites. Following are some of my favorite preparedness books.

The Prepper’s Cookbook: 300 Recipes to Turn Your Emergency Food into Nutritious, Delicious, Life-Saving Meals

Prepper’s Natural Medicine: Life-Saving Herbs, Essential Oils and Natural Remedies for When There is No Doctor

Prepper’s Home Defense: Security Strategies to Protect Your Family by Any Means Necessary

The Prepper’s Water Survival Guide: Harvest, Treat, and Store Your Most Vital Resource

The Pantry Primer: A Prepper’s Guide to Whole Food on a Half-Price Budget

Go Get Prepped!

Understanding how to survive in different scenarios requires constant learning in order to be as prepared as possible.  Whatever the reason that you have decided to prep, you and your family will be far better off than those who choose to ignore the fact that disaster can, and usually does, strike when you least expect it.

Be sure to check out Part 1 of this series and learn why preparing for emergencies is so important.

Essential items for disaster preparation

This article was originally published at Ready Nutrition™ on February 17th, 2010