If you are reading this, chances are you have done some prepping already. If you are just getting started, then you can read about basic preps and bugging in vs. bugging out. The focus of this article is prepping ideas that go beyond the basics.
When I was thinking about how to approach this topic, I decided I wanted to offer up skills, tips and recommendations that went beyond the usual “save up food and water and learn to bug out”- type articles.
You probably already have decided whether you are bugging in or bugging out. You have likely learned a few basic skills to help with your survival. You might even have some proper weapons training under your belt.
But what comes next? There is never an end to prepping, and once you have the basics down, you need to move on to more advanced and intricate prepping skills; that means taking the basics to the next level!
Here is a collection of kick-ass survival ideas that cover a number of prepping categories. You can choose the ideas you like the best and implement them to help bolster your preps.
Securing Your Preps
The amount of guns stolen out of unlocked vehicles yearly is increasing and unforgiveable. Even a locked vehicle is no excuse: Vehicles are not secure storage solutions!
Aside from their expense, losing a gun to a thief means you’ll be out a valuable defensive asset and will have also furnished one to the criminal underworld. Good job. Your rights come with responsibilities, so make sure you are keeping your guns safe and sound.
You can do this by either keeping the gun on your person- after all, if might as well be on the moon if you need it now and it is in the car- or by installing a sturdy steel locking container or safe in the vehicle that bolts directly to a structural hardpoint or lashes to a support with a cable. Either should be kept out of sight by the way!
A gun kept in anywhere in the cabin unsecured is asking to be stolen. Even locked consoles and gloveboxes can be ripped open easily, and any thief young or old will be checking under the seat and in other typical hiding places.
The trunk, while better, is also far from secure. It must also be said that nothing will make any difference if you car is stolen along with everything kept in it.
Split Up Your Stockpile
You have all your preps ready, but having a year’s worth of food and supplies sitting in your pantry or neatly organized on shelves in your basement is not the best idea. The old saying about keeping all your eggs in one basket applies.
You might want to consider splitting up your preps into separate smaller, stashes, either on your property or not, so that you have a better chance of preserving at least some of them if your home is damaged or partially destroyed, but also if you need to access your supplies but are unable to get to your home.
Some good ideas under this premise include keeping some on the first floor and some in the basement, or on the first and second floors, keeping a public storage building or locker with a small stash, or leaving some with a friend or relative who is sympathetic to your cause. This can also help your relatives and loved ones if they get in jam!
Use Hidden Compartments to Hide Sensitive or Important Gear and Supplies
Making hidden compartments or rooms for keeping your most valuable and important stuff safe is not just the province of greasy movie villains. You can do the same thing to keep your stuff safe from prying eyes and sticky fingers. Many options are completely within the reach of preppers with a little DIY skill.
One of the best and easiest is a false wall in the back of a small closet. A tightly fitted panel with trim around it will betray no seams, and you can make the hidden space to fit whatever you need to hide, like a gun safe. This will conceal your preps nicely and anyone who looks in the closet will think the wall is, well, a wall!
This also works for under stair spaces, and the time honored classic, the false wooden floor. Remember that you should always have some food and water sitting in your regular cupboards or pantry. These act as a great diversion.
Use Concealment Furniture to Keep Weapons Ready or Small Valuables Safe
One of the hottest trends in furniture for preppers and home-defense students is the use of concealment furniture. Concealment furniture is simply any piece of furniture or décor that features a hidden compartment accessible only if you know where to look or if you know how to open it with a key or special mechanism.
This can be coffee tables with drawers that pop out from below or even detachable legs that can hold cash or jewels. A raised bed box spring with false bottom can keep your items safe even if someone flips the mattress off the bed.
Intricate mantles have swing-down bottoms that can hold a pair of full size rifles. Clocks have functional swing away faces. Books open up to reveal hiding spots. The possibilities are endless!
Make an Underground Cache
Dig a hole in your backyard, and make a small storage space for some preps that will store well if buried.
If you want to get extremely handy, you can make this into a root cellar, but you will have to make it blend in with the surroundings, easily accomplished by placing a child’s plastic sandbox or something similar over the entrance way.
This requires careful engineering and strict adherence to safety and best practices to make sure it doesn’t flood or collapse, but done well this can also turn into a convenient storm shelter or hiding place.
Use Decoys to Spoof Looters and Thieves
Consider the mindset of your average thief or looter. They are looking for the things they need or want, and once in hand or their sacks of ill-gotten loot are filled, they should depart.
In all but the most desolate and remote situations or the chaotic of times, thieves are looking to get in, get the goods, and get gone as fast as possible.
Exposure and “time on target” means a better chance of detection and intervention, so most will not want to loiter, grabbing the goods and gittin’ as soon as it is in hand. Use this to your advantage. You can fool would-be thieves by the use of clever decoy strategies.
A small safe or lockbox filled with heavy but useless jangly bits will suffice, as will a broken and un-repairable gun or two left out where a thief might grab it and run.
Remember that you should always have some food and water sitting in your regular cupboards or pantry. These act as a great diversion.
Even if you get invaded by looters who will come in and make a mess of your home looking for things, if you have done your job of concealing actual hiding spots for your preps while leaving out convincing decoys, chances are they will only leave with what you have left out for them to see.
Additionally you can make your house or storage area look picked over or previously looted, encouraging thieves to move along.
Check out more ideas to hide your preps here.
Personal Protection Tips
Security is always important, and should be a concern even for those who live in remote and rural areas as evil people will often seek out the isolated and vulnerable populations far from civilization during situations where the rule of law has evaporated.
The immediate aftermath of the event will be chaotic, confusing and terribly stressing. It will be easy to get taken unawares if you do not have a set of hard-and-fast procedures for dealing with unknown contacts.
The following, while they might seem harsh, will not let anyone get into position to take advantage of you.
Keep people away – Do not let anyone get close to you. Anyone who approaches begging for help, who has a sob story, or just needs temporary assistance (a light, the time, directions) should be kept at bay with a firm “I can’t help you!” If they continue closing in, prepare to fight.
Deal with people who do close in – If they keep trying to come closer, pleading, or just trying to get what they want from you (so they say) you’ll need to give them incentive.
Shout “STAY BACK!” in your most intimidating bellow. If anyone else is around, this will attract attention, usually shaking them off. Either way, ready your defensive option.
Defend against people who won’t leave peacefully – Sometimes force is the only thing people understand. If someone is not obviously a threat, hit them with either pepper spray, a strong punch to the nose or a big ol’ bear slap.
Any of the above will take the starch out of someone not really intent on fighting. But for the remainder…
Reassess, Follow-Up if Necessary, Escape if you Can –If your maybe-maybe-not assailant stumbles backwards bawling and clutching their face before falling down or staggering away, job’s done and they’ll live to see another day. Get out of there fast.
But if they jerk back, growl and come in again, you are dealing with the mentally unstable or someone wanting to get close enough to hurt you under a ruse. Prepare to prosecute the fight; escalate to lethal force if necessary.
Have a Reliable Intermediate Force Option
Many preppers fail to furnish for themselves a workable option for employing intermediate force. Intermediate force is something greater than minimal force- a push, shove, ete.,- and lethal force- cutting, stabbing, gunfire, etc.
This is a major mistake, as even in the statistically unlikely event you are accosted at all, the chances you will need to employ intermediate force to resolve it successfully and safely is far higher than either of the other two.
Before going further, intermediate force is force that can definitely cause harm, but is not likely to cause lasting injury, disfigurement or death. A punch is a the oldest example of intermediate force; a punch to the face is unlikely to cause grievous injury unless there exists a great disparity of force, skill or other extenuating circumstances.
Another modern example is pepper spray, one of the most “benign” and effective defensive options available. While pepper spray may the target wish they were dead, barring an allergic reaction or a blind stumble and fall the recipient of the Spice is unlikely to suffer any lasting or permanent effect.
Simply put, you must have an answer for someone who is accosting you but not doing so using lethal force of their own. Do you know how to fight? How to really fight?
Do you carry pepper spray habitually? Have you taken training with it? You should. In life, you will need something stronger than bad language and less lethal than a gun or knife to extricate yourself from a threat much of the time.
Don’t forget that in all but the most forlorn SHTF situations there will likely be a legal component in the aftermath. It is much easier to forgive intermediate force than lethal force in defense.
Become the Gray Man
Becoming the gray man is not a strategy for dealing with the aftermath of a SHTF scenario- though it helps! The Gray Man mindset is the practice of blending in seamlessly with an environment and more importantly the people in it. It is the practice of belonging to a place, not just dressing in drab and keeping your head down.
Done right, going “gray” will keep your profile low, out of the eyes of both authorities and people who would harm or rob you. Wherever you are, make it a point to fit in as much as you can, both in style of dress, activity and where you shop and eat.
This is not always possible depending on your physical characteristics compared to the baseline of the region, but there are always things you can do to blend.
If you are moving through a business district where suits and briefcases are the norm, looking like a college student or some tacti-cool tool will see you stick out like the proverbial sore thumb.
Maybe you cannot dress like a business man or woman; who else would not look out of place in such an area? How about a maintenance worker wearing a high-vis vest, hardhat and carrying a toolbag? Such people move around urban areas invisibly much of the time because they are so ubiquitous.
There is always a way to lower your profile and stay virtually undetectable if you are clever enough!
Through a combination of correct preparation, appropriate strategy and clever deception, you can deter most people from coming anywhere near your house if you are prepared to bluff. Here are some great ways to do that:
Get a Dog
Keeping a dog is a great idea, big or small; a big dog has an intimidating, brassy bark, and a small dog still make for a superb early warning system. If you can’t or don’t want to, you can still make it look like you have one. Put up signs, put a doghouse in your yard, and spread dog toys around, the kind you usually get for giant man-eaters. Potential invaders might think twice.
No matter what breed of dog you have and how big, don’t depend on him defending you or yours unless he is specially protection or attack trained. There are tons of accounts of people’s pooches standing by why invaders went about their business or just ineffectually barking.
Get Some Biohazard Waste Bags
If a pandemic is the problem, then having biohazard waste bags on-hand is ideal. All you need to do is fill one or two of these bags with whatever you have lying around and toss the out your front door.
People won’t risk coming anywhere near your house unless they are truly desperate. This is a ruse that is highly situation specific, but a good one.
Make You Home Look Less Appealing
A house that looks more battered, torn up, previously looted, or in terrible repair is less likely to be investigated than its neighbors. A house that looks kept, lived in and in good repair, especially one in a good neighborhood, is far more likely to be targeted by looters and invaders, as are ones near “places of interest” like stores and shops, police stations, armories, etc.
It might not take much work to make your house look all beat up if it catches some damage from whatever disaster kicked off SHTF Mode. If that is the case, you’ll have to determine if your house is still A.) safe and B.) livable to employ it for carrying off your deception. If the answer is no to either, you should move on to someplace safer.
Employ Defensive Landscaping
A home that is fenced, walled and mined enough to rival Fort Knox, complete with roving searchlights, might seem a tough nut to crack for potential thieves and invaders, but it also sends a very clear message to one and all: what is inside is worth protecting. You can keep your profile low and your HOA or neighbors happy by employing landscaping tactically.
No, I don’t mean a pop-up turret beneath the flowers or garden gnomes that are actually motion sensors. I mean to say you can selectively plant, prune and remove landscaping features, including plants, that will make your home much harder to assault while increasing its beauty, or at least decreasing its overt security profile.
In any region anywhere on earth there grows some type of plant or plants that features viciously pointy, sharp spines, thorns or spines. You should cultivate saplings of these species or plant mature ones if you can afford to beneath your windows.
The larger and bushier the better. Such plants will deter or slow all but the hardiest of home invaders or at the least raise a considerable racket, enough to give you some extra warning.
If you don’t want to install aggressive flora, you can consider some other merely noisy variety that will make it very difficult for anyone who tries to sneak up on your windows surreptitiously.
Other tactical landscaping moves include pruning back, thinning or removing altogether any plants that could offer concealment to those who are trying to approach your home undetected.
Anything that would offer advantage to an invader, either as cover or concealment, should be ruthlessly assessed and dealt with. Do so wisely, as those same features can offer cover to defenders on your own property as well.
Develop a Home Invasion Response Plan
You should not be winging it when invaders bust into your home or wherever you are sheltering. You must have a plan for repelling them or escaping and your entire group/family must know what is expected of them in that instance, both to stay safe and to increase the chances of a successful defense.
If everyone is living or sleeping in the same room or just on the same side of the house, it is a simple enough matter to gather everyone into a designated shelter point and then lock down the access hall or stairs to that part of the house with lethal coverage.
All available people who can defend should be defending; everyone else should either be making themselves safe or rounding up those who need help. If it is possible to summon help, either by phone or radio, have someone do that while you cover.
In the event that people are spread through the house and cannot defend themselves, you’ll need to move to them as quickly as you can and engage or drive off any intruders you encounter along the way.
The plan in this case should be for them to shelter in place and hide; having people, especially children, capering all over the place while you are trying to locate and neutralize an unknown number of hostiles with lethal force is a recipe for disaster.
If you are sighted and targeted by crooks when you are out and about after a crisis, it is likely because you look like someone with means: looking clean, dressed in clean clothes, appearing fed and energetic, or carrying a plethora of survival gear will signal both your means and status to anyone who is looking for it. Some of them will want what you have.
When you do go out and interact with people, be it to barter or get info, try to match the baseline appearance, equipage and attitude of everyone else. Go out every day and ask questions. Wonder out loud with everyone else if there will be a food delivery or emergency shelters set up.
Look dirty and hungry and barely “hanging on.” Play your role right and chances are no one will know you are going home to a pantry full of food and that your kids aren’t going hungry—at least not for the first week or two.
Carry an EDC Medi-Kit
You are far more likely to need medical skills and equipment to fix an injury from some mundane or self-inflicted source than you are to need weapons to resolve a fight. Yet most folks don’t carry a single scrap of gauze with them, much less a life-saving miniature trauma kit.
This is a classic example of misplaced priorities. The best investment you can make into your crisis skills repertoire is learning how to treat injuries, especially trauma, where seconds count.
Lifesaving skills are great to have, but this is another case where the tools matter almost as much. Sure, you can improvise medical supplies from many things, but the quality of your intervention will suffer for it.
Don’t be complacent: make it a point to carry at least a roll of hemostatic gauze and a tourniquet. Used together, these will prevent some of the most common causes of death by trauma, exsanguination, and at worst will at least buy time to get proper medical attention.
But used incorrectly or bumbled by untrained hands they can actually make the situation worse. You need training! If you have no formal medical training or experience a great first step is a simple First Aid Basics class followed by a Stop the Bleed training session. You can easily find both being hosted in your area by searching online.
Bugout Vehicle Ideas
If you plan to bug out, and even if you don’t, you should have a good vehicle that is ready to go on a moment’s notice. But keeping the regular maintenance up and keeping it full of gas is only the beginning.
When you are bugging out, you might not deal with mobs of zombies, but there is a good chance you will be dealing with debris, crowds of people, road blockages, and gas shortages.
If you can, start with a good, sturdy 4×4 vehicle. Even if you can’t, there is so much you can do with your BOV to help you get past the various obstacles you might encounter, such as:
Add a larger fuel tank/ Carry external fuel cans
To do the former, you will need a professional mechanic familiar with the operation.
Not every passenger vehicle on the marker can accept one, though, so in that case you should have an external “jerry can” carrier added that can let you carry an extra five or ten gallons of go-juice onboard safely.
Try to avoid carrying fuel container in your vehicle, even in the trunk.
Upgrade Your Tires
High quality all-terrain tires should be required for all BOV’s. If you plan on going off-road or cross country, you can drive on fulltime mud or rock terrain tires.
You might consider upgrading to a tire that will protect against inevitable puncture you’ll suffer when driving through debris by springing for heavy-duty puncture resistant or run-flat tires.
Puncture-resistant tires often have belts made from special fabric compositions that are highly resistant to the errant nails and jagged metal that will litter roads and streets after a SHTF event.
Run-flats are special tires designed to allow you to drive for as much as 100 extra miles on a tire with zero air pressure. This will easily help prevent you from being immobilized by the most common “breakdown” that occurs while driving.
Carry a Tool Kit
If you don’t know how to service and replace the most common parts on your vehicle, you are wrong. If you don’t carry a few of those spares and the tools you need to swap them out with in your car while afield, you are double-wrong.
Field fixes and roadside repairs are a fact of life if you drive long distance often. They’ll be entirely too common when subjecting your vehicle to the stresses of bugging out and survival driving.
Consider adding some additional tools on or in your vehicle to help with obstacle removal and vehicle extrication. A winch is never a bad idea and will help get you unstuck as well as clear stalled or abandoned vehicles from the road, and a folding shovel and axe or chainsaw can help clear large debris, such as fallen trees or dig you out of a rut.
If you can’t install a winch on your vehicle, then consider storing a cable puller in your BOV to help you clear large debris. At the very least, have a tow strap on hand.
For the well to do, install a thermal imager in your vehicle so you have better visibility at night. If there are potentially dangerous people ahead of you, they can see you before you can see them, unless you have an advantage.
Ideally, if you have decided to bug out, you have a bugout location (BOL) set up and ready to go. However, despite the fact that many preppers say you have to get a BOL set up before the SHTF, this is just not possible for everyone.
Whether or not you have a designated bug out location, getting out of dodge might not go as smoothly as you wish and knowing where to go might be an issue if you don’t have a pre-determined destination.
Here are some ideas to help you get out of town and get somewhere safe:
Have a Back-up mode of Transportation
We all think our daily-driver vehicle will get us out of town, but what if it won’t work? There could be an EMP or the roads might be too clogged up. The event may start with you separated from your vehicle, unable to recover it. Hopefully you have a backup plan, but if not, consider the following:
A bicycle is not the most dramatic or exciting conveyance for preppers, but they can beat walking in a lot of situations. A bike on flat ground is easier to pedal and faster than walking, and so long as you are not laden down with a huge pack the going will be easier. Bikes also have the advantage of requiring little maintenance and being quiet.
Additionally, they need the same fuel you do! Rather, they use you for fuel in the form of muscle power. This means if you are staying fed and fit your bike will rarely let you down.
Bicycles are also the easiest of prepper-capable rides to pick up and move over or around an obstacle. You can’t do that with a motorcycle or truck!
You can also equip a bike with small saddlebags and handlebar pouches to add that little bit of extra storage.
Motorcycles have many of the same drawbacks and requirements that automobiles have- they need gasoline, maintenance and make noise- along with a few of their own, namely being very noisy and damned dangerous; a little spill on a bike could see you crippled and screwed in a SHTF situation, compared to a car that would likely just suffer a fender bender.
That being said, the tiny footprint of a bike means they are able to go where cars cannot, including down sidewalks and even through buildings. It can certainly weave through gridlocked cars with ease.
A motorcycle also allows you to carry a not insignificant amount of cargo in saddlebags or strapped to your fender or seat. A small backpack on your back, your main BOB on the fender and a saddlebag or two full of extras is a significant upgrade over what you could carry on your own and a heck of a lot less fatiguing.
Have Alternative Bug Out Locations
If you don’t have or can’t get to your BOL, you have to come up with some other options. In the short-term, provided you have cash and are fleeing a relatively contained disaster, you can go to a motel.
But if that is the case you might not say the S has genuinely hit the F, hm? Your best bet is to not have to “rolodex” for a backup at all; you should have several in mind in descending order of preference from the get go. If you do not, you need to fix that.
Campgrounds are often suggested, but these will be overrun with people doing the same thing you are. Other options the wilderness of national parks, abandoned mines and factories, and ghost towns (if you have any in your area).
If you’re dealing with a long-term disaster, even these locations will become unsafe over time, but chances are, so will everywhere else.
The important thing is you will have a list of places that could be safe or safer: you never want to be forced into wandering without a plan.
Prioritize your Prepping
Not all disasters are equal, nor equally likely to happen. Instead of being distracted by the remotest of disasters like asteroid impacts or pie-in-the-sky fantasies like zombie apocalypses and magnetic pole reversals, you should focus on the common and the likely.
Natural disasters of all kinds, from floods to tornadoes to wildfires wreak more havoc and cause more loss of life annually than any kind of exotic doomsday scenario.
Even high up on the severity scale with the likes of total economic collapse and the subsequent chaos that will result, you are far more likely to see, live through and suffer under an event like that in your lifetime than any “exotic” disaster.
Prepare and plan accordingly! You don’t need to know which way the water is going to go and how you’ll reestablish comms in a magnetic pole reversal event; you need to know how likely a 100 year flood event is to occur in your area and how to counter or escape it.
If you have been working yourself into a frenzy over prepping for a truly apocalyptic event, your tenacity is commendable but you should come back down to earth and focus on the threats most likely to impact you and yours tomorrow. Like another old saying said, you really can miss the forest for the trees.
Take for instance societal unrest in your area: do you know the best routes out of town that will avoid chokepoints and likely conflict zones? Do you know how to get away from danger on foot and by vehicle? Where will you go? What if that bug-out location (BOL) is compromised or no longer workable? Where then?
All simple questions, and they all need answers. If you cannot or have not answered them for the most likely and common disasters in your city and your area, get on it pronto!
Cultivate a Survival Group or Join a Mutual Assistance Group
Time to face facts: a lone person is always extremely vulnerable, both to predation and mishap or sickness. Humanity has persisted and thrived not because we are the toughest, fastest and strongest but because we have big brains for making tools and because we band together against threats.
You might not have anyone, family or friend, that is “on your level” and read-in on prepping, but that does not mean you have to be the shepherd for a flock of witless sheep, or brave the long dark of a SHTF situation all on your own.
You have options. One is to be the change you want to see and start getting your own kin and friends into prepping. You can do it the gentle way or the in-your-face way.
The first way involves taking them up on survival-centric skill activities, a sort of stealth method. Camping, hiking, shooting, repairing and more all make for handy skillsets to have when the sky falls.
By making it fun and leaving the potentially “tinfoil” or cringey elements of why they are learning it out, you can fool them into a state of at least partial readiness using good old fashioned quality time!
Alternately, if you have no family, no friends and no connections you can opt to find a local mutual assistance group and join them. MAG’s are basically co-ops or loose collectives of preppers who all contribute to the mutual aim of survival, a sort of default and built-in survival group.
Note that you cannot just look these folks up in the phonebook. You’ll need to work the wires and ask around in the right way to see where and if there is one in your area.
A MAG could be large or small, and their procedures, bylaws and requirements of their members will run the full gamut, from a collectivist bent on supplies and provision to a paramilitary or crew bent with all members being required to serve in a specific capacity for the benefit of all.
On a related note, MAGs are really a spin of the roulette wheel. Some of them will be utterly incompetent amalgamations of clownshoes bickering and self-stroking. Others will be groups of close-knit, dedicated and competent people committed to preserving their communities and lifeways.
There will also be any and everything in between. Pay close, close attention to the kind of people you see in and around the group. Don’t get taken for a sucker and leave yourself an out.
Any group that would have your transfer significant quantities of funds, supplies or labor to them before you have cleared a “probbie” period should not be trusted.
Ready To Put These Ideas into Action?
These are a few ideas that take you well past the basics of prepping. So get your ducks in a row first, and then consider what you can do to take your preps to the next level. Then you will be that much more prepared when disaster strikes.
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An urban prepper and rural wannabe, Karen has been working as a freelance writer for a decade and prepping for about half that time. She has gathered a wealth of knowledge on preparing for SHTF, but there is always more to learn and she has a passion for gathering and sharing that knowledge with other like-minded folk. Karen lives in London, Canada with her two children and plethora of cats.