As Seen on TV – My Humble Beginnings
I admit I've watched just about every episode out there from all of the popular survival shows – Survivorman, Beyond Survival, Man vs. Wild, Dual Survival, Man Woman Wild, and yes, even Worst Case Scenario with Bear Gryllis . I ate it all up. Those shows got me hooked on wilderness survival. My Christmas and birthday lists went from a focus on video games and computer upgrades to things like paracord, solar blankets, magnesium fire starters, etc. I also got a few great books that gave me vast amounts of knowledge. Everything I stocked up on I saw as something to use should the power go out, the car break down, etc. This is all before the term prepper went mainstream. I didn't consider myself a 'prepper' at this point – just someone who prepared for a few emergency scenarios. Then I saw the first season of The Colony. That got me thinking about home security and stocking food. There was nothing romantic about The Colony like there was with the other shows. I quickly realized my problem – I didn't live in or near the wilderness. I have always been, and will most likely always be, a suburbanite. I had my wife watch the episodes with me so we could talk about what we would do. How would we fare in that situation? Unfortunately, that's all it was at that point – just talk, no action.
My Reality Check – Survival School
For my birthday, my wife registered me and my brother for a wilderness survival school in Florida (http://www.byronkernssurvival.com). I had an absolute blast there and realized something very important. Seeing how to do things on television is no comparison to doing it in real life! I know – common sense right? Before the class, I was completely confident that I could make a friction fire or snare some dinner if I had to. Not only did I learn many important basics in the school, but I also got a lot of hands-on experience on making a knee-high fire in no time, building a proper debris shelter, as well as a plethora of other life-saving skills. I would highly suggest all of you out there to get registered for a course. Get your hands dirty. Better yet, bring your spouse or your friends along. You don't want to be in a life-or-death situation to try something for the first time, especially something as important as making shelter or fire. Practice, practice, practice! If you look at some survival school schedules, you'll see that there are discounts many times or even free classes posted (http://www.survivalogic.com/2013/01/esee-offering-free-training-courses.html)!
Podcasts – Free Information on Just About Anything
Next to YouTube, you can find a podcast for just about anything – from investing, to gaming, to travel – even Prepping. If there was any podcast that got me into the whole 'prepper' movement, it was In The Rabbit Hole (http://www.intherabbithole.com/). I did try out some others, but for the most part, the hosts always seemed a little odd or too political for my tastes. These guys (Aaron and Jonathan) were my gateway to prepping – I quickly found many other sites (http://www.emsnewbie.com, http://americanpreppersnetwork.com/, etc) and people to follow, like Lisa Bedford (http://thesurvivalmom.com/), who often has free webinars. I give a lot of credit to these guys in getting me up to speed. This is about the time I started considering myself a 'prepper'. Some of their episodes that were eye-opening to me included being 'gray', home schooling, survival skills vs survival gear, situational awareness, bug out bags and every day carries…I could keep listing more and more. Every episode was filled with so much useful knowledge. They also have a great forum and unbiased gear reviews. If you're new to, or just plain interested in, prepping, I would start with these guys. You can download their episodes and listen to them whenever you like.
Don't let your quest for knowledge stop there. The Internet is full of free resources and advice. Get out there and search for other forums. Get involved. Ask questions. Find a group of preppers with the similar mindset you can share ideas with.
Food Storage & Gadgets on the Cheap
There's a very simple method called "copy canning" (http://www.survival.com/y2kpreparations.htm) for food storage that anyone can put in the practice right away. I believe I first heard about this on In The Rabbit Hole.It doesn't involve going overboard buying $5,000 worth of freeze dried food. Well, if you can afford to do that, more power to you! For the rest of us, this is a great, affordable method. The article has a lot of information, but here's the most simplistic way to look at it: Every time you go to the store and buy a can or box of food, buy an extra one (or more if you can afford it). That way you know you're buying what you already eat. When you get home, always put the newer items in the back. Then, eat the older stuff. A lot of people who stock up on food mistakenly stock up on foods they have never tried before. There's no point in buying 3-months of food that no one in the family will go near. With copy canning and the information in the article above, you can stock up on plenty of the things you already use. Even if you're not 'prepping' per-say, think of it as a hedge on inflation (as Aaron and Jonathan say). This method can be used for all of your consumables (toothpaste, feminine napkins, toilet paper, soap, etc).
Canned food? Check. I also knew I wanted to get a dehydrator so I could preserve foods and make things like jerky and fruit leathers. Just like anything, you'll always find the best deals online. I watched craigslist for a food dehydrator a month before I spotted a great deal. I paid $80 for an Excalibur 2900. It has 9 trays and comes with waxy paper for making things that would otherwise spill through (like fruit leathers, chilli, etc). It helped that I watched many, many videos from Dehydrate 2 Store (http://www.dehydrate2store.com/). She has the most helpful and comprehensive videos out there when it comes to dehydrating food. Quick Tip: You don't need to buy more wax paper inserts – I bought a pack of five silicone cutting board sheets and cut them to fit on the dehydration trays. They work like a charm and only cost about $6. So you don't have to pay full price – just be patient and watch the classifieds or Craigslist or eBay. That reminds me, I also found a guy on Craigslist that sells food-grade 55-gallon barrels for $10 each! I now have water storage taken care of as a result. It's all out there, you just have to look!
I recently bought a Foodsaver 3880 kit using a coupon and saved a ton of money on that as well. That in conjunction with my Excalibur makes an unstoppable food storage combination. Did you know the Foodsaver is also good for keeping important documents and electronics protected as well?
It was the food dehydrator that got my wife excited about storing food. It was such an awesome feeling when she came home from shopping and said she bought an extra crate of fruit for us to dehydrate for later. I never thought I would've seen the day. This came from someone who would roll her eyes when I talked about anything prepper-related. Now she regularly buys extra food and consumables from the store to stock up.
Keep in mind this is over a period of about a year and a half. I didn't just go out there and start buying things up right away. Don't prep yourself into debt!
Another quick tip – I have five 1-gallon and ten 5-gallon food grade storage buckets, all of which I got for free. All I do is call my local Wal-Mart and ask to be transferred to the bakery department. I ask if they have any buckets they'd like to get rid of. These usually had icing in them for all the cakes. They cleaned them up and gave them to me for free. Your results may vary, but I've heard this working just about everywhere.
When It's Time to Have The Talk
No, we're not talking about the birds and the bees. We're talking about firearms. Some people are from families that are very open to guns, and some people aren't. Growing up, my family never had a gun in the house. My wife's parents absolutely object to the very thought of guns (thank you media). I always knew I wanted my own firearms. If you don't want anything to do with firearms, I respect your decision as well. You can skip this section.
I turned to people for advice asking how to convince the wife to let me buy some guns. Unfortunately, the most common response was "Just buy them, and she'll learn to live with it. Then you can just keep buying them." Yes, that does work surprisingly well for many people. That's not how I wanted to approach it.
My wife and I are members of a couple different ranges here and have been for a few years now. We'd rent the guns and just shoot for an hour or two. That's about it. Over a period of about three months or so, I would pick times to talk to my wife about the possibility of gun ownership, what it meant to us, and what the pros and cons were. She talked about what scared her most and I would tell her my thoughts. If I didn't have an answer to any of her questions, I would do some research and then tell her what I thought. It was quite a process, but I gained a lot of knowledge (and mutual respect) as a result.
It just so happens I got a gift card to Bass Pro Shop from the survival school I attended. When I asked her if I could use it to buy a Ruger 10/22, she simply said "yes." Had I asked the same question three months prior, I already know what the answer would've been. It would've been a flat out "No Way! No guns in the house!"
I've since gotten my concealed carry permit (again, a gift from my wife) as well as a concealed carry pistol. We still aren't exactly where I want to be yet, but we've taken great leaps forward. I know in the future, if I'm thinking about anything, firearm or anything else, I can talk to her about it. If we decide to purchase something or not, it'll be a mutual decision.
Note: By all means, if you have kids in the house, be sure to take them to an Eddie Eagle class if possible. Our gun range offers them free of charge every few weeks or so. If those aren't offered in your area, teach your kids the proper actions to take should they find a gun.
If any of you are in a situation where your spouse is unwilling to let you purchase a firearm, I urge you to talk things out. Don't Argue. Talk. Respect your spouse. Don't go behind his or her back – while it may be easier, it's not right.
A quick few tips:
- If you purchase a firearm for defense, get one that you can hit the target with. You don't need the highest caliber known to man. You're no good to yourself or your family if you can't hit someone trying to do you harm.
- Practice, practice, practice! Again, if you decide to have a firearm, you have a responsibility to know how to use it properly.
- Get a gun safe (or two) and keep it locked. Too many people are too lazy to lock their safes. Robbers count on this. Especially if you have kids, be sure to lock things up.
The Journey Continues
I've only been actually 'prepping' for about a year and a half now. I think I have food storage down for the most part. I have a way to hunt for food and protect my family. I even have some wilderness survival gear and training. My journey is far from complete, however. I still have things I want to work on, and ideas to talk through with the wife.