How to Prep If You’re a Teenager

Preparing for a potential disaster is important for anybody. Even it you’re too young or think you’re too young, prepping is important. It’s not just for old people who are concerned with government or the way things are going in their country, or who are convinced the end of the world is coming.

As a young person in today’s world you will be faced with a variety of situations daily. Some of those situations, can be a crisis or could even be life threatening. It’s critical for you to be prepared to keep yourself safe, especially if your parents are not with you when something happens.

Many teenagers face challenges adults don’t face in preparing for if and when the lights go out. Parents are juggling a lot of responsibilities and tasks

three teenage girls in nature
three teenage girls in nature

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 vs. adults face in prepping.

Limitations for Teens When Prepping

Access to Money for Prepping Supplies

Some of 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 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.

But there are in fact a ton of free or low-cost things that you can do to prep. Most of these involve learning and practicing skills such as:

  • Map reading and navigation
  • Climbing and rappelling safety
  • Outdoor cooking
  • Firestarting
  • Water Purification
  • Fishing
  • Cold weather camping
  • Knot Tying
  • Making cordage from natural or foraged materials
  • Shelter building from natural or found materials

You can find information and instructions on how to do many different survival tasks via the Internet (Google, YouTube, and survival or prepping forums) and in the library.

If you don’t have internet at home, visit your local library after school and find information on skills there. Focus on one or two skills at a time, practice them until you have mastered them and then pick several more to learn.

Firearm Restrictions

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. Anyone under the age of 18 is strictly prohibited from purchasing any firearms or ammunition.

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 using non-lethal weapons or making your own.

If they are open to it, talk to your parents about getting your first rifle. If your parents hate guns or don’t think you’re ready, learn and practice using some of the non-lethal weapons in the link above or perhaps consider a knife, bow and arrow, or even a good sling shot as your weapon of choice.

Lack of Parental Support

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 to be cautious, make sure you do your research about prepping before you talk to your parents so you can present your case intelligently. But if they do say no, then prepping for you will be more of a challenge.

Just to be clear, we’re not encourging you to be rebellious or disobey your parents.

Some parents may disapprove and refuse to provide you with money for prepping expenses but be okay with you doing preps that are free or that you pay for yourself.

If you’re parents are dead set against you doing any kind of preparation, perhaps you can win them over gradually. Talk to them about the benefits of preparing for a common, like a fire or power outage first.

Ask your mom to show you how to cook and bake from scratch to save money for the family on groceries. Get your family to watch movies with you that have a natural disaster or survival theme and hopefully they will come around.

If they don’t, any small preparations, for things like power outages, winter storms, and extreme weather, you can make on your own 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.
  • Listen to prepper podcasts from experienced preppers. Pay attention to the mistakes they admit to making.
  • 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.
  • 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 the knowledge about prepping and survival that you can.

Take note of any patterns you see across multiple sources, and also conduct a little extra research on how to prepare for a survival situation specific to your geographic location or circumstances.

For example, if you live near the ocean, you’ll want to spend extra time reading up on how to survive a hurricane, tsunami, 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 change 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 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.

Start Small

EDC Kits for Teenagers

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.

Focus first on an EDC kit, made up of survival items you carry at all times, or at least when not in school. These items are things you can wear or carry in your pockets, wallet, purse, or a small waist bag.

A pocketknife and small fire starter are good to carry, but don’t take them to school. A wallet, compass, pen, phone, small flashlight, chapstick, a mini first aid kit and bandana are compact and lightweight for easy carry.

There will be some EDC items adults carry that you won’t be able to because of your age and restrictions at school, but you can pick allowable things from the teen section of this EDC for kids list.

Bug Out Bag

Another 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.

You don’t want anything too tactical looking or that will make you stand out in a crowd as someone who is carrying a lot of supplies.

Here is a general checklist for what should be in your bug out bag:

  • Bandana
  • Batteries (depending on the gadgets you have)
  • Bottled Water (2-3 bottles, swap out every six months) OR Canteen
  • Candles
  • CB Radio
  • Charred Cloth
  • Duct Tape
  • Flashlight
  • Gauze Pads
  • Glow Sticks (no red ones)
  • Gloves
  • GPS
  • Hand Sanitizer
  • Handsaw
  • Hatchet
  • Knife (one folding and one fixed blade)
  • Lighter
  • Magnesium Flint Striker
  • Matches
  • MRE’s/Protein Bars
  • Multi-Tool
  • 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)
  • Tarp
  • Toilet Paper
  • Tweezers
  • Water Filter
  • Water Purification Tablets

Obviously, there are countless more items that you could add to this list, especially ones that are more specific to your circumstances, such as personal medications.

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.

Once you have purchased all of your gear, you know how much space you need, it’s time 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. If you have to use a lower quality backpack, there are ways to battle harden your bug out bag.


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.

As with 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 saying to never keep all of your eggs in one basket? That could not be any truer when it comes to prepping.

All your food, water, ammunition, and bug out bags should never be stored in just one location.

Use several different locations; 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 locker away from your home, 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 unused 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 a room, or in an attic is not an option. Doing so will contaminate your water and make it more unsafe to drink than not having any water at all.

Situational Awareness

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 so you can have that little bit of extra warning to try to get out of 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.

Your best defense for most situations is a good offense—in otherwords, avoid danger and confrontation whenever possible.

Practical Steps to Take

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. Time yourself and challenge yourself to make it home quicker each time.

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 potentially 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.

Also consider how you could get there if the family car was not working. Do you have a bike? Could you get to the rendezvous point if you had to walk?

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.

Learn and practice at least 3 ways to properly filter and purify water to make it safe to drink.

Get Involved with Boy Scouts

Even parents who are opposed to prepping should be open to you joining a scout troop.

Although Boy Scouts has historically been more focused on survival and camping skills, many Girl Scout troops are incorporating survival skills into their activities.

Find a troop that is learning and practicing the skills you want to learn and join in. You’ll be amazed at how much you can learn in just a short time. You won’t be a teenager forever.

If you start now, you will learn more skills by the time you are an adult than most adults have when they are in their 40’s and 50’s.

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.

Encourage your friends to start making small steps to be more prepared too. If more teenagers begin to think about long term safety, many more people will be safer when a dangerous event occurs.


All in all, give yourself a pat on the back just for prepping when other kids your age are more concerned with short term benefits like dating, drinking, and partying.

You’re not even an adult yet but have already taken action where the overwhelming majority of them teens and even many adults, have not.

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 are likely the things that you think about the most and that’s perfectly fine.

Prepping should not be your main focus and you should not obsess over it to the exclusion of all else. But it can be an important priority that you address a little bit at a time.

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