Many teenagers face challenges adults don’t face in preparing for if and when the lights go out. If no one else in your family (namely your parents) is stepping up and making an effort to prepare, you might have to take on the role of family prepper yourself.
But before we get into how you, as a teenager, should prepare for a potential SHTF-type scenario, let’s first talk about some of the limitations that teens face in prepping vs. adults.
The limitations you might encounter have a lot to do with your environment. The large majority of teenagers live at home and depend on their parents or legal guardians for support and for income. And unless you’re over 18, your parents legally get to control how your spend all of the money that you earn.
Prepping is a little bit more expensive endeavor than most people realize and the overwhelming majority of teenagers are going to have much less cash on hand to spend for prepping. Not only do most teenagers make significantly less money than adults, but most of that money goes to things like car payments, insurance, and saving up for college.
This means that those hard earned dollars will need to be spent more wisely. Hopefully, if your parents realize the merits of preparing for SHTF they’ll allow you a monthly budget to spend for prepping for the family, but you can’t always count on this.
Any adult who passes a background check can walk into a store and buy a gun or a long knife. If you’re over 18 but not yet 21 years of age, you’ll be able to buy rifles and shotguns but no handguns, and you’re strictly prohibited from purchasing any firearms or ammunition if under 18.
Security is one of the core parts of prepping, and firearms and ammunition are the heart of that security. But if you’re not able to buy those things, you’ll either have to rely on an adult who can or improvise by making your own makeshift weaponry.
A final limitation that a few teenage preppers can face is the lack of support from their parents. Most adults, including those who aren’t real preppers, do recognize the merits in setting aside gear and supplies for when times get tough and won’t take any issue with you doing so.
If you tell your parents that you want to start prepping, it’s hard to imagine they will tell you no. But if they do, then prepping for you will be more of a challenge. We’re not encourging you to be rebellious or disobey your parents. Perhaps you can educate them gradually about the benefits of preparing for an emergency situation and hopefully they will come around. If they don’t, making small preparations if you can will benefit all of you when the time comes.
When you’re young and your budget is limited, the best and first thing that you can do is to educate yourself and your family about prepping. Don’t worry about putting together your bug out bag or stockpiling a six month supply of food and water…yet.
Instead, read and listen! Read up on skills using survival and prepping books and websites. Read realistic novels set in a doomsday apocalyptic or SHTF scenarios. There are several good ones out there. Watch YouTube videos from experienced preppers, take a martial arts, or shooting class. Talk to anyone who know who is actively preparing or has been in a survival situation, such as soldiers, policemen, or Navy Seals, etc.
Also learn to cook simple stuff around your house. For a grid down scenario, you need to learn to use more than just a microwave. Consider making DIY stoves with bricks and metal sheets and practice cooking meals outside.
Spend the first couple of months simply filling up your brain with all of the knowledge about prepping and survival that you can. Take note of any patterns you see across multiple resources, and also conduct a little extra research on how to prepare for a survival situation specific to your circumstances.
For example, if you live near the ocean, you’ll want to spend extra time reading up on how to survive a hurricane or flooding. Or if you live within the vicinity of a chemical power plant, you’ll want to read up on how to survive a chemical spill.
It’s also good to explore the nearby woods with friends or family members and practice using your compass to navigate your way. Use a magnesium flint striker to start a small, controlled fire but remember to be safe and extinguish even small fires completely when you’re done. Reading is always good, but practice is better and costs very little money.
Tent camping is another valuable experience as you can learn new things and discover any gaps in your own skill sets. Camping outdoors also opens your eyes to the real basics of survival, such as water, warmth, food, and shelter.
Around the dinner table is a good opportunity to share whatever important knowledge you gain with your family. The goal is to get your family to acknowledge your enthusiasm for prepping but they also need to understand why you want to prep. They need to know that prepping is not just a hobby, but a lifestyle habit designed to keep everybody safer when the worst happens.
During these few months of educating yourself, set aside some money regularly that you will spend on prepping. Obviously you’ll want to continue saving up for college (if applicable) and continue making any other types of payments you have, so budget yourself accordingly.
Remember the old adage that one man’s trash is another man’s treasure. Always be on the lookout for quality survival gear and items that other people are giving away or selling at a discounted price. You’ll be able to accumulate valuable survival items at a price that anybody your age could afford.
After educating yourself, the next best thing you can do to prep as a teenager is to take it easy. In other words, don’t immediately start working on stockpiling a full year’s supply of food and water.
One way you can start small is to put together a bug out bag. The bug out bag, also known as the three day or 72-hour bag, is designed to give you all of the survival equipment you need to survive for at least three days and three nights if you evacuate your home.
Your bug out bag should be high quality, a plain, dark color such as black, dark brown, dark green, grey, or dark blue, and have a variety of different sized compartments.
Here is a general checklist for what should be in your bug out bag:
- Batteries (depending on the gadgets you have)
- Bottled Water (2-3 bottles, swap out every six months) OR Canteen
- CB Radio
- Charred Cloth
- Duct Tape
- Gauze Pads
- Glow Sticks (no red ones)
- Hand Sanitizer
- Knife (one folding and one fixed blade)
- Magnesium Flint Striker
- MRE’s/Protein Bars
- Needles and Thread
- Personal Hygiene Items (toothbrush/paste, sunscreen, soap bars, hand sanitizer, chap stick, etc)
- Space Blanket
- Spare Clothes (Gator, Coat, Hat, Jacket, Socks, Pants)
- Toilet Paper
- Water Filter
- Water Purification Tablets
Obviously there are countless more items that you could add to this list, especially ones that are more relevant to your circumstances. This is just a general list and as many of these items as possible should be included.
This may sound like a lot, and for a teenager putting together a bug out bag with all of these items will be costly. The backpack itself can cost between fifty to a hundred dollars if you want a quality one. If you don’t have this kind of money yet, you can always settle for a cheaper backpack or even an old school backpack you already have until you have enough to get a higher end one.
However, don’t feel pressured to buy all or as many of these items at once. I recommend that you hold off on buying your backpack up front and instead buy one, two, or three items at a time until you have everything or almost everything you need. As a teenager, having a plan or budget for your financial spending is important so you don’t spend money that you don’t have.
If you simply cannot afford to buy all of the items that we have listed, it’s perfectly fine to limit yourself to just the essentials. As long as you have food, water, shelter, and first aid basically covered with whatever makeshift items you can come up with, it’s better than nothing.
Only once you have purchased all of your gear should you proceed to go bug out bag shopping. The reason for this is that you should select a bag that best accommodates all of these items, rather than finding items to accommodate your bag. The items you carry with you are more important than the actual bug out bag itself.
Once you have your bug out bag ready to go, you can focus on stocking up on other essentials like food, water, ammunition, and so on. Just like how you put together your bug out bag, take it slow and easy and only add a few items at a time. Your stockpile may start out looking pathetic but in time it will grow.
Figuring out where to store everything is going to require the most thought. Remember the old adage to never keep all of your eggs in one basket? That could not be any truer when it comes to prepping.
All of your food, water, ammunition, and bug out bags should never be stored in just one location. Diversify where everything is; keep some stuff in the garage, some in the basement, some in your closet, under the bed, some outside in the shed, and so on. Also, if your parents have a rented storage room out in the city, you should absolutely store some items out there as well.
One place where you should be able to find secret space is underneath chairs or couches with skirts, or excess cupboard spaces, base cabinets, and corners in bathrooms and kitchens.
You can store canned goods in back corners of square cupboards with round plates or in the corner base cabinets. How many of us are actually willing to crawl inside those things while stretching our arms as far as they’ll go and dislocating a disc or shoulder?
Just bear in mind that most foods and all water will need to be stored in cool and dry locations away from sunlight, so storing them by a sunny window in the room is not an option. Doing so will contaminate your water and make it more unsafe to drink than not having any water at all.
While we’re talking about storage, we should also talk about things to carry with you. A pocket knife and small fire starter are good to carry but don’t take them to school. A wallet, compass, pen, phone, small flashlight, chapstick, bandana, and even a mini first aid kit are all compact and lightweight. You should try to carry these with you every day.
One of the most common questions from teenage preppers is how to prepare themselves for combat and self-defense in a TEOTWAWKI scenario. While it is key to know self-defense techniques in a WROL environment, it’s just as if not more important to learn about situation awareness.
Situational awareness is simply learning to be fully aware of your surroundings and to try to resolve a situation before it escalates into something nasty. Your goal in learning self-defense is not to look for trouble or try to stand out, but rather to be on the lookout for any potential danger and to try to avoid or de-escalate that danger before anything bad happens.
All in all, you should give yourself a pat on the back just for prepping when other kids your age are more concerned with getting girls and drinking, and partying. You’re not even an adult yet but have already taken action where the overwhelming majority of them have failed. Learning survival techniques and setting aside adequate supplies to keep you and your family safe and secure in a disaster is very mature thing to do.
Don’t be afraid to ask questions but try to avoid rushing into things before you have knowledge and experience. All the fancy gear, a year’s supply of food and water, and even the right mindset to survive, is practically useless if you don’t know how to apply these in a real survival situation.
It’s also understandable that prepping may not be one of the first things on your mind as a teenager. Getting good grades, securing scholarships, working your job, and saving up for college is likely the things that you are thinking about the most and that’s perfectly fine.
We’ll conclude with a series of challenges you can use to prepare yourself:
Alternate travel routes-Plan out and practice using at least four different routes to get back home from school or from work. Disaster can strike while you are not at home, you need to be prepared to get home in the event your regular route is blocked or unsafe.
Rendezvous Point-Arrange a location with your family who live nearby and agree to meet up there if your town becomes chaotic or otherwise compromised. It needs to be outside of potential dangerous areas and somewhat private or secluded. Plan at least three different routes to get to it in the event one road is jammed with traffic or otherwise unpassable.
Locate Water Sources-Find at least two different sources of fresh water that do not require tap or electricity. Water is imperative for survival. In the event of a grid down situation, all the normal ways to access water may go out the window.
The clean water sources should be running water, away from industrial areas, and never downstream from any area that would have animal carcasses or feces. If possible, both water sources should be within an hour’s walking distance from your meeting place.
With just a little bit of your time to learn about survival you can increase your knowledge base over time. By saving up for the supplies you need or reusing discarded items from others, your stash of gear and equipment will grow over time. If more teenagers thought cared like you did, the world would definitely be a better place.