Preparing for disasters and critical situations has its benefits. Preparedness gives you the benefit of knowing what to do, and that knowledge increases your chances of survival. Panic during a crisis is your enemy, and it can be fatal.
If you prepare in advance, it reduces your panic level, and you can more quickly react to any situation. Being prepared in a crisis can truly be the difference between life and death. But just like anything in this world, too much of a good thing, even prepping, can be bad for you.
Over-prepping happens when you become obsessed with the number of things in the world that can cause a disaster. This phenomenon is obvious in people who spend more time than they should doing this.
Some tend to hoard while others spend so much time prepping that they stop from enjoying life. To say the least, over-prepping causes disruption and tension in your relationships and your everyday life.
This article talks about ten ways in which folks take prepping to the extreme when they shouldn’t, and I will also share with you some real-life examples preppers I have known personally throughout my journeys who fell victim to these pitfalls. Hopefully we can all learn from them…
#1. Going Overboard With Stockpiling
When faced with disaster, the basics of bugging in are food and water. The automatic response of people in most communities is to go to the nearest grocery store and buy as many things as they can.
On the other hand, preppers stockpile food and water even before there are immediate signs that a potential disaster is looming. They’ve already stored enough food and water to last for at least seven days.
Unfortunately, some preppers take stockpiling to the extreme. Every chance they get, they add something to their stockpile. They buy extra bottles of water because there’s a buy one, take one promo.
Or maybe, they end up storing leftovers in the freezer, incorrectly hoping that it’s going to last a longer amount of time. The result is an excess of food and water or worse spoiled food.
The problem with stockpiling too much is that as a rule, you should only have enough goods that can last a year. A one year supply helps to ensure a healthy rotation of resources and prevents the possibility of ingesting something that’s already spoiled or rotten.
Having too much food and water means that you run the risk of not being able to keep track of which was the first batch that went in the storage and therefore the first thing that you should consume.
Before you know it, you may have consumed the latest batch and left the older ones to rot which you could have avoided if you had followed the first in, first out (FIFO) rule. Instead of helping you survive, your stockpile may turn into a health hazard.
Another risk of going overboard with stockpiling, especially when it comes to food, is that you may have bought too much of the same thing, which leads to food fatigue. Unfortunately, this is a very real possibility, and it can be fatal especially if it causes anxiety and depression to you or your family members.
On the other side of the spectrum, it’s also not wise to stock up on food that you and your family don’t eat just because it’s on sale, or there’s a promo or it’s cheap. The key to surviving is to keep the morale up. Otherwise, you might end up digging yourself a hole in the ground.
#2. A Cautionary Tale on Stockpiling
Some years ago in Florida, when I was still a young range safety officer, but far from a young prepper, I knew a woman who lived in Orlando that we will call Beth. Her name has been changed, don’t worry.
Beth was a diligent prepper, smart as a whip and motivated. She never let any of life’s challenges, curveballs and activities get in the way of her prepping checklist. She was always striving to improve her position just that little bit more, and that is something we should all admire and do better.
But Beth had just one serious glitch in her prepping programming: she took stockpiling to an extreme, but probably not the extreme you are thinking of.
To Beth, being frugal with her prepping dollars was a mandate, because spending poorly or unwisely was in essence depriving herself and her loved ones of valuable assets, be they equipment, provisions or something else.
To counter this, Beth constantly bought items that were on sale, in clearance bins, or by using a coupon or manufacturer’s rebate. Beth always ensured she “watched her nickels” on her prepping purchases, sure in the knowledge that the dimes would then take care of themselves.
But my friend got into trouble when saving the most money on the purchase became the goal unto itself. Beth bought with hardly any rhyme or reason.
One day she would get jarred beets by the case, two-for-one, and the next she was buying massive HEPA air filters that were suitable only for installing on industrial air conditioning units.
She would buy puppy training pads in bulk because the price was “too good to pass up”, but wouldn’t buy ammo even when it was available during a time of scarcity because the price was “no good”.
In the end, Beth had quite the stash of stuff but it was, how would you say, erratic. Slapdash. Without cause or purpose.
The lesson you should learn is that just because something is on sale, or available, does not mean you need it and does not mean your money is not better spent elsewhere at any price. “Just in case” must always be justified against your objective!
#3. Trying to Be Better at Something You Already Mastered
Prepping is more than just having the basic needs required to survive. It entails a lot of other things like the gear you’re going to be using and the skills you’re going to utilize.
Aside from storing too much, another common mistake among preppers is trying to be the best at a skill that they’re already good at. Though the goal may have been to master it, doing this will only hinder growth and adaptability.
For example, if you’re already good at gardening and keeping your crops alive in spite of any weather, don’t focus all your attention on honing those skills. Instead, take the time to learn others.
Try your hands at the skills you don’t know, such as starting a fire, rehydrating dried food, self-defense, or even learning how to make just about anything into a weapon. What matters is that you build up your arsenal by learning the things you don’t know on top of mastering the skills you already have.
Focusing and only doing what you’re already best at doing is counterproductive. As it is, we don’t even know how the world will collapse. It would be better to pick up as many skills as you can and make sure that you’re as proficient at new skills like the ones you already have. This way, you will know what to in any situation thereby increasing the odds in your favor.
#4. Better to Be an Expert Generalist Than One-Dimensional Master
Some years ago, I was hired as a consultant for a man who feared a collapse in civil order pending the results of the 2008 elections.
Like my other associates and clients, the man was a serious prepper, and had a decent supply of food, bottled water and all the other accoutrement that is typical of people who make self-sufficiency a lifestyle. He was also an enthusiastic hiker and camper, and had taken it upon himself to absolutely master the skill of fire starting.
I am admittedly somewhat jaded heading into middle age, and even I must assert the man was a wizard when it came to building and tending a fire.
He could use a couple of sticks, a magnifying glass, a polished Coke can, a 9-volt battery and steel wool, almost anything and get a fire going in no time flat in virtually all conditions, and prided himself on controlling the fire and making the most out of the fuel.
This is no small trick as many of you know, and certainly something to be proud of as primitive fire starting skills in particular are difficult to master, and never easy to employ.
Where this incendiary virtuoso went wrong, though, is that he continually poured more and more of his time into refining a craft that, for all intents and purposes, was already mastered, at least on a practical level.
I know, I know, there is always more to learn and you can always get better, but you cannot lose sight of the forest for the trees; you only have so many hours in a day and so much time to devote to developing skill sets.
I can tell you from further conversation and time spent with our subject that he was woefully deficient in other skills that you and I consider absolutely mandatory to be a well-rounded prepper.
It would not have gone well if he had to stage a medical intervention to deal with an injury, defend himself with a gun, knife, fists or feet, or repair a gaping hole in his roof made by a tornado or severe thunderstorm.
As is so often the case, we naturally gravitate towards doing more of what we are already good at, and often times at the expense of skills we have not developed yet. Don’t fall into this trap like this man did; always look for “work” where you are weak!
It is far better to be a skilled generalist in many areas than a master in but a single one when disaster strikes.
Besides stockpiling, another danger of over-prepping is hoarding. You may end up collecting far too many weapons, countless stacks of clothes, and numerous supplies that end up in a hopeless heap of things.
If there’s anything that hoarding risks, it’s a convenience of knowing where everything is. When a disaster strikes, locating the items you need may take you far too long.
Obviously, you will only be able to carry a limited number of things, especially if you need to move. If you randomly hoard supplies, moving them ca be difficult.
Another risk of hoarding is the fact that you might have ended up spending your money on too many things that there’s not enough of your savings left for when you need it like when you need to seek professional medical attention or reestablishing your life after the disaster.
Sure, you may be able to sell at least half of the things in your very extensive stockpile, but ultimately, you have to consider that it might not even survive a critical situation.
Probably the worst problem with hoarding is that it makes you more vulnerable to dangerous circumstances such as a house fire. It can make the flames spread faster than you can react which will ultimately lead to your doom.
Another situation is when there’s an earthquake or even a flood. You will have to avoid many things that can injure you, and if you did manage to hoard a whole lot of sharp things, you might end up in a hospital bed because of stray weapon.
Although having the necessary supplies is important, always keep in mind that you should only get what you need. You have to settle for cheap and unreliable items.
It only means that it’s very important for you not to go overboard on getting things that you think you need.
The best way to get out of the dangers of hoarding is to get the optimal item and be at peace with it. This way, you will have funds to spend on other things or save for future purposes.
Another thing is to know the difference between wants and needs. Always prioritize what will help you survive and remember that that although having duplicate items is smart, you don’t necessarily have to stockpile five of everything.
#6. You Can’t Eat Bullets
Another tale of woe from a former client of mine, and another cautionary tale against prepping enthusiasm gone wrong.
This gentleman was certainly quite worried about the end of the world in the form of a tyrannical government steamrolling the population of the United States, and all the attendant fighting that would happen.
His solution, in keeping with any good American ideal, was to buy a bunch of guns, and perhaps more importantly, all the ammunition to feed them.
And if I might pause for a minute to clarify. When I say “all the ammunition” I worry that you will interpret that as “a lot of ammunition”. In this case, I spoke with precision: he would routinely wipe out the stocks of 5.56mm and 9mm ammo from a well provisioned military and law enforcement supplier in St. Petersburg, FL.
This guy was literally buying ammo by the pallet and, on more than one occasion, would buy it by the barrel.
The dude literally had hundreds of thousands of rounds of ammo on hand and in his home. Lest you think I’m just being jealous, we need to step back and look at the bigger picture.
Though he could afford pretty much anything his heart desired when it came to prepping his financial wealth was actually of no major help considering he diagnosed the problem facing him incorrectly and then applied the wrong remedy to compound his error.
Survival is more than just self-defense, even in the case of a scenario where long-term self-defense is indeed a major concern.
You cannot eat bullets. You cannot stay warm with them (though happiness is a warm gun) and you sure can’t drink them! What’s more, our man was legitimately running out of room in his home.
Virtually his entire basement was full of ammunition, sitting around in boxes, crates and barrels. He was on the verge of having to reinforce the floor in one room such was the load of ammunition.
He would certainly have enough ammunition to keep his guns firing well past the point at which the barrels would melt, but he was paper thin in other areas when it came to prepping.
If you get addicted to the feel-good dopamine hit of buying “stuff”, even such a valuable commodity as ammunition, in order to convince yourself you are prepared, you might actually be setting yourself up for failure by neglecting acquisitions in other crucial areas.
This is to say nothing about creating a logistical bottleneck in your home! Space is also a limited resource for most of us, one that must be used with care.
#7. Being Too Cautious
Because of your intense desire to keep yourself and your family safe, you may end up forgetting that you only have one chance at life and that you should enjoy it while you still can.
While preparation is the key to surviving, it doesn’t mean that you have to close yourself off to every little thing that you think can cause danger or waste your time.
A few examples of this situation are when you begin to refuse to go out and chill with your family and friends thinking that disaster can come from anywhere at any time.
Another is when you refuse to give yourself a chance enjoy the finer things in life simply because a big house is susceptible to fire or wearing makeup will only mean wasted money that you could have used for prepping.
Perhaps the worst that can come from this attitude is that you become too strict with your family; so much so that allowing your children to go out terrifies you. Even if you have their best interest in mind, this will only start a breeding place of toxic relationships, and you will end up losing the people you cherish most.
While it’s true that there’s no telling when disaster will strike, there’s no reason for you to hold yourself back from living your life.
No matter how cautious you are, something will eventually happen and at that point, you can only hope that all the prepping skills and knowledge you have will help you through it. The very nature of prepping is to help you survive.
Go out. Meet with your friends and family. Wear makeup because it makes you feel more confident and less drab.
Dress the way you want to. If you’ve prepped the way you should, there’s no need for you to worry so much that you forget there are more things to life than waiting for a disaster to happen.
#8. The Walls Close In…
Another sad story, this time about a friend who started getting involved in prepping after a particularly close call with disaster saw him get serious about it. It is always an admirable undertaking when one makes the decision to get personally prepared and ready to deal with the curve balls that life sometimes tosses our way.
Unfortunately, this tale does not end happily, and his journey into prepping saw him eventually descend into full-blown paranoia and living in a state of hair-trigger readiness.
My unfortunate friend, we will call him Bill, began his research as many of us do by taking a deep dive into the stats and figures so freely available on the internet. As it turns out there is no end to the potential bad outcomes that can befall you.
Natural disaster, man-made catastrophe, mishap, misfortune and misadventure all await the unlucky and the unwary. Just like taking a quick trip to WebMD, the more you look into potential problems the more aware one becomes of potential negative outcomes, which then grow and grow out of all proportion to their likelihood.
Before long Bill was getting ready to deal with home invaders through increasingly Goldberg-ian plans. After that he moved on to prepping for the most likely natural disasters. Then the least likely natural disasters. Then vanishingly unlikely global catastrophes. And on, and on, and on. As I always like to say there is no real way to prepare yourself for a one-in-a-million occurrence since very few people can maintain a high state of readiness for any length of time before burning out. Bill decided to put that wisdom to the test and began to live his life walking on pins and needles, convinced something terrible was going to happen at any moment. Convinced he had to be, at all times, ready.
This as you probably expected began to strain his relationships mightily, costing him his long-term girlfriend and compromising his relationships with his two kids. Attitudes are contagious, and if you are sweating worry from every pore, jumping at every shadow and biting at every outstretched hand pretty soon your existence will be a singular one, and singularly unpleasant.
Ultimately, always keep in mind the purpose of prepping; the objective of prepping is to get prepared, what the purpose is only to insulate you against disaster. Who wants to go on living if your life is made a living hell, and by your own hand?
#9. Believing Everything They Say
Google is a great resource, but it’s not always reliable. When you’re trying to prep for disastrous situations, you may have consulted the web and found a whole bunch of information.
Before you decide to believe in anything, you should make an effort to check and double check what you read. Someone may have written that river water is completely safe and that you can survive on it but if you check again, you still have to filter it.
If you don’t check the accuracy of the information you find online with other sources; you could end up with an illness you really can’t afford.
Another risk of being gullible manifests when you’re already trying to survive, and you encounter strangers. You might end up believing every word and trusting them with your life, only to be surprised when they leave you hanging instead of having your back.
A post-collapse environment draws out the worst in everyone because, at the end of the day, survival is the priority, regardless of how we do it.
There will be people you can trust and people who will take advantage of you. Don’t be so quick to trust anyone. Exercise a healthy amount of caution that will prevent you from talking to strangers but will allow you to find the right people. This balance can only happen when you’re confident about you know and what you should do.
There’s nothing wrong with doing research. Just remember that when you learn new information, make sure that it’s true lest you end up following the advice and regretting it.
If you just believe everything you encounter because you want to be as prepared as possible, you’re going to end up being vulnerable to more risks that can potentially be fatal. Find trustworthy sources so as to avoid being led astray.
Prepping is more than just a hobby. It’s a lifestyle and something that can help people through different kinds of situations.
It’s a good thing to choose to do, but when it reaches exaggerated levels that result to over-prepping or even desperate prepping, that’s when you find yourself in more dangerous situations that you tried so hard to avoid.
The key to doing it right is to be as rational as possible. Settle for just the right amount; no more, no less. Be aware of everything around you, but make sure that that doesn’t keep you from seeing the truly important things that like having friends and family and enjoying life in general.
#10. No Substitute for Experience
You will always be wise to learn from the experience of others, and wiser still if you learn from the experience of experts.
However, theoretical expertise is rarely a match for lived experience and if you fail to apply and more importantly verify what you have learned, no matter the source, you might be in for a rude awakening when the rubber finally meets the road.
This is a tale of my very own, one involving a former student that came through one of my shooting classes. This particular class was not especially advanced, an intermediate level pistol course that focused on introducing and acclimatizing seasoned shooters to the concepts of carrying concealed, and deploying the pistol from concealment in close quarters.
We weren’t working at light speed, but it was also not a class for complete novices, either. The student around whom this tale revolves was an okay shooter, but he had spent an inordinate amount of time gathering opinions and information on the internet to form a sort of core for his own opinions and knowledge. This did not serve him well in the end.
Initially, I gave the student a waiver to take the class since he had not taken the prior level of training with me, but he was able to demonstrate completely competent safety in gun handling.
However, the problems began with the classroom session, and only got worse on the range. Lacking any practical experience of his own in the subject matter, he questioned the efficacy and validity of everything I was saying.
He was popping off with various clichés, pastiches and assertions that were gathered from far and wide. His frame of reference was a mosaic, not a singular whole forged from trial and error unified by lived experience. This naturally grew quite tiresome, and I eventually had to shut him down to keep the class moving, much to his chagrin.
It was on the range that the wheels came off. As the pace started to pick up and the evolutions grew more demanding, he basically opted out, claiming that if he could not do it the “right” way, he was not going to participate.
I told him he was paying me to learn it “my” way and absent any valid objections over perceived breaches of safety he was slowing the class down by an unacceptable degree, and further he could not even demonstrate his supposed “right” way.
The moral of the story? Certainty is often a traitor to growth and learning. Once you become so sure you have things figured out, or the facts are truly known, you are then making assumptions, and assumptions are the mother of all screw-ups.
Tom Marlowe practically grew up with a gun in his hand, and has held all kinds of jobs in the gun industry: range safety, sales, instruction and consulting, Tom has the experience to help civilian shooters figure out what will work best for them.