November 19, 2012

Practice Makes for Perfect Prepping

The potential downfall of many a prepper is overconfidence.

Overconfidence in your skills, your fitness level, your supplies…  If you overestimate yourself in any of these places, it could be deadly one day in the future.

Are you really ready to produce every bite of your food?  Can you survive comfortably for a few days without power?  How hard is it to cook everything from scratch?  What if you had to do your laundry off-grid from now until infinity?  Could you handle a weekend in the woods with only the items in your bug-out pack? And speaking of that bug-out pack, how long can you hike with it through rough terrain before succumbing to cardiac arrest or just plain exhaustion?

One way to gain a more comprehensive grasp of the reality of your own situation is through drills and challenges. I’ve been attempting to challenge myself every month.  I belong to a really awesome (but small) ladies’ prepping forum called Sisters in Tinfoil, and several of us do a monthly skills challenge and/or a prepping challenge.  We help hold one another accountable to our goals there, and share advice and motivation.  Come on over and say hi, and consider joining in with our challenges.

I’m in the midst of a “Cooking from Scratch Challenge.” The nice thing about setting up your own challenges is that you make the rules.  So, my rules are, the food we eat this month has to be as “scratch” as I can make it. What have I discovered from this?  HOLY COW it’s a lot of work!!!!  I didn’t realize how much I relied on quick items like peanut butter and crackers.  Crackers aren’t so quick when you have to roll out a dough and bake it!  Pasta and sandwiches, former “quickie” meals, also talk several hours of advance preparation.  I’ve learned, however, to adjust the amounts I make so that I have leftovers in order to be able to have a quick meal during the workday or snacks for my daughter’s lunch box.  Before spending the month doing this, I wouldn’t really have known where to start. It’s so much nicer to challenge yourself when help is as close as the internet and reinforcements  are as close as the nearest grocery store. Wouldn’t you rather learn while that is still the case?

Another place people tend to overestimate their abilities is with personal fitness.  I walk in the woods every day and thought I was in reasonably good shape. However, last month, I went off the trail to look at something interesting, got slightly lost, and tramped around the forest for over 2 hours before I found a logging road that led me back home, where I finally arrived a total of 3 and a half hours after I left for a quick “walk.” The bag I had with me was woefully understocked but boy, was it heavy after the second hour.  Walking on a trail and walking the gauntlet of a heavy forest, up and down the side of a mountain, are also two entirely different matters. I was so sore that I had to indulge in hot baths and Tylenol for the next two days, and this is from someone who walks an hour per day, rain or shine. Now…what if that had been a bugout situation and my pack had been 25 pounds heavier than my daily “bush bag”?  What if I needed to do that all day for a few days to get to our secondary location? Not a pleasant thought!

The other day we had a power outage. It wasn’t a particularly long lasting outage but we spent 4 early evening hours without the benefit of electricity.  There was no warning, so we hadn’t filled up the tub with water.  Because we didn’t know how long the outage would last, we had to lug a couple of buckets of water up the hill from the lake for flushing and washing.  We also discovered the emergency candles that were on sale and seemed like such a good buy only burn for about an hour before becoming a waxen mess all over the table.  Games are great to have but can be difficult to find with a candle that drips wax all over your hands.  So from this little unexpected drill, we made some changes……

  1. We got a whole bunch of tea light candles.
  2. We made an “off-grid entertainment” shelf.
  3. We store a 5 gallon jug of tap water in the closet beside the bathroom.

Each difficulty you have to overcome prepares you better for future eventualities.

I strongly recommend you partake in some challenges and drills of your own. You may be unpleasantly surprised at the results, but far better to learn your lesson now than in the midst of a disaster.  Here are a few upcoming challenges we have planned:

  • One week of woodstove cooking
  • 36 hours without electrical power
  • On the trail day hike with the bug out bag
  • Timed drill of getting out the door for an evacuation, including pets
  • Tent camping (yuck!!!)

(Please don’t take my prepper card away from me when I confess that I really hate camping!)

Try some drills of your own. What are the most likely events that could occur where you live?  Perform a practice run and discover the holes in your preps.  (Or maybe, you will find, to your credit, that there aren’t any holes!) Once you figure out your weak points, make a plan to overcome them.  Share your results with me – I’d much rather learn from your mistakes than my own! 😉

Daisy Luther

Please feel free to share any information from this site in part or in full, leaving all links intact, giving credit to the author and including a link to this website and the following bio. Daisy Luther lives on a small organic homestead in Northern California.  She is the author of The Organic Canner,  The Pantry Primer: A Prepper's Guide to Whole Food on a Half-Price Budget, and The Prepper's Water Survival Guide: Harvest, Treat, and Store Your Most Vital Resource. On her website, The Organic Prepper, Daisy uses her background in alternative journalism to provide a unique perspective on health and preparedness, and offers a path of rational anarchy against a system that will leave us broke, unhealthy, and enslaved if we comply.  Daisy's articles are widely republished throughout alternative media. You can follow her on Facebook, Pinterest,  and Twitter,.

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