Getting Started with Survival Preparedness in 2021: Ultimate Guide

Getting started in survival preparedness can be a daunting task filled with lots of questions. Here at we want that process to be smooth and as easy as possible for you. To that end we have put together this Getting Started Guide with answers to some of the most popular questions and concerns.

What is Survival Preparedness?

Essentially it is self-reliance. It involves obtaining skills, knowledge, and gear to better prepare yourself for the unknown. There are two general types of preparedness that are talked about.

  • Survival Preparedness: This tends to deal more with your classic survival situations. Getting lost in the woods, plane crash, etc. Basically, a survival situation is thrust upon you in which you are trying to get out of.
  • Emergency preparedness or disaster readiness. This is used more for events that can affect our daily lives. This includes being prepared for emergencies like a vehicle accident, power outage, or a natural disaster.

What is important to know is that many skills, knowledge, and gear items transfer between these two categories.

Why would I want to be prepared?

Unfortunately, help may not always be available, or it may not arrive in a timely manner. It is important to know basic survival skills and to have the proper tools on hand to take care of yourself, your loved ones, and your community at large.

You could be stuck on a deserted island, dealing with the aftermath of a natural disaster, or navigating through an uncivilized landscape. Pick your scenario but what matters is that sometimes the only person you can rely on for your safety, is you.

The Rules of Three

Adding to the above category as to why you would get involved in learning survival skills, it is helpful to know the rule of threes. These are a set of general rules that help people prioritize what they need to accomplish when in a survival situation.

  1. You can survive three minutes without air
  2. You can survive three hours without maintaining core body temperature.
  3. You can survive three days without water.
  4. You can survive three weeks without food.

Please remember that these are not absolutes but guidelines. You can read more on the Rules of 3 in this detailed article.

The Survival Triangle.

The Survival Triangle is another tool used by outdoorsmen to help visualize and prioritize what is important in a survival situation.

The triangle is made up of three parts.

  1. Gear. This makes up the smallest top portion and is considered the least important. That is because gear can become lost or broken. In other words, do not solely rely on gear for your survival.
  2. Knowledge and Skills. This makes up the next larger middle section. Knowledge and skills cannot be taken away and will always be with you.
  3. The Will to Survive. This is the foundation of the triangle because without the proper mindset, the will to survive, then the rest of the triangle does not matter.

Is it expensive to be prepared?

Like anything else, you can spend as much or as little as you want on being prepared. If you have expendable income for eating out or going to the movies, then you can afford to be prepared. Below is a very cost-effective example of how you can get started today.

Each time you go to the grocery store pick up one extra can of soup (or whatever item you wish to have in your supplies). Place that extra can of soup into your designated emergency supplies. If you shop once a week then by the end of the month you will have four cans of emergency soup put away. Easy and cheap. The real trick is to remain disciplined.

Bryan Lynch, writer for

Make sure to check out different critical laws in the United States that all preppers should know about.

Survival Scenarios To Prepare For

A quick internet search will provide a whole host of situations in which to be prepared for. Below is a list of just a few examples.

Gear Requirements for Survival Prepping

With the amount of survival gear out there it can be confusing as to what you should get first. Below is a list of items to have that will cover the basics. We also linked to various articles we have written in-depth on these topics:

  • Knife. Due to their versatility, a good knife is considered by many to be the most important survival tool to have.
  • First aid kit. Meant to cover simple ailments. The good news is you probably already have one of these in your home.
  • Backpacks. This will help keep your supplies organized and easy to transport.
  • Flashlight. Always helpful to have in the dark.
  • Water bottle. Water is critical to life so having a means of transporting it is essential. Choose between a bottle with a filter or a metal one that can be used for boiling.
  • Water purification. Add in water purification tablets and a filter.
  • Food. Canned goods will provide the cheapest means of creating emergency food stores that will last a long time and do not require cooking.
  • Shelter. Have a portable means of sheltering yourself like a tent or a tarp.
  • Clothing. Have extra clothing that is suitable to your region’s weather as well as rain and cold weather gear. Boots are a must-have.
  • Multi-tool. Like a knife, this is an incredibly versatile tool that can help in more situations than you can count.
  • Firestarters. Being able to start a fire provides a multitude of benefits and is a skill everyone should know. Always carry a lighter, matches, and ferrocerium rod.
  • Map and compass. Have a map in hard copy form of your region and a compass to always know what direction you are traveling.
  • Whistle. A simple whistle can be heard over distances and sounds that the human voice cannot.
  • Communications. Luckily, most of us have a smartphone that allows for phone calls, video calls, texting, and email. This is a good start. A simple AM/FM radio will also enable to you know what is going on during an event. If you have a license, a HAM radio is a good choice as well.

Advanced Gear

After you have the basics covered start looking at the following list to beef up your gear.

  • Intrenching tool/shovels. For digging and moving materials, shelter building, etc.
  • Fixed blade knife. The most important survival tool to have.
  • Tactical knife. Used more for self-defense purposes.
  • Dry bags. Meant to keep supplies dry in wet conditions.
  • Ferrocerium rod. A small rod made from rare earth materials that create sparks when scraped.Useful in starting outdoor fires.
  • Magnesium rod. When scrapped will produce a pile of magnesium shavings that will burn extremely hot. Useful in starting an outdoor fire.
  • Pocket knives. Compact and lightweight for quick cutting tasks.
  • Axes (choppers). For processing wood and a variety of other tasks. A must for the serious outdoors person
  • Snares. Used for catching food in the wild that requires minimum energy expenditure.
  • Alternative energy sources. Wind, solar, hydroelectric, geothermal, and thermoelectric provides power when conventional energy sources are unavailable.
  • Firearms. For hunting and self-defense. We cover the best survival rifles that you can check out.
  • Camp stoves. Used for warmth, cooking and boiling water when in the outdoors. Will double as a backup when primary cooking methods are unavailable.
  • Communications.Two-way radios (walkie talkie), HAM radio, FM/AM radios.
  • Sharpening stones. A means of keeping knives and other tools sharp.
  • Bow and arrow. Used for hunting and self-defense.
  • Slingshot. Used for hunting and self-defense.
  • Watches. Keeping track of time helps for a variety of purposes that include, boiling water, cooking, maintaining a schedule, and first aid applications.
  • GPS device. Can pinpoint your location and can map out travel routes.
  • Water bladders. An additional way of carrying water.
  • Topographical maps. Gives a more detailed description of your region.

Food and Water for Survival

Whether it be a short term or long term emergency, there is a great deal to learn about being prepared when it comes to food and water. Examples include:

  • Types of food to store. Some types of foods are better to store than others. 
  • How much you need. When shopping at the store becomes unavailable you will need more emergency food on hand than you realize.
  • Portable food (MREs, dehydrated pouches). These are prepackaged complete meals for home or can easily be packed for travel.
  • How to safely store food. Several food items, including the staples, must be stored differently than how they are bought from the store. Learning how to safely store food items will maximize their shelf life.
  • Keeping track of it. Keeping track of what you need, what you have, and expiration dates are essential with food and water storage.
  • Long term food options. A few examples would include smoking meat, curing meat, vacuum sealing, and mylar bags.
  • Gardening is not nearly as difficult as some believe it to be and provides a safe, renewable food source.
  • Storing water. Critical to life and storing it is not as simple as having a jug sitting next to the refrigerator.

Bartering for Goods

Bartering may not be something you want to get into heavily at the beginning of your prepping journey, but it is something that should always be in the back of your mind. 

What is Bartering?

Simply, bartering is the act of obtaining goods or services through exchanging goods or services rather than paying money for them. 

For example, if my neighbor would like me to shovel their driveway in the winter, I may exchange that service for them mowing my lawn in the summertime. Or maybe I have a wool blanket they want, and they have a tool I need. These items are traded rather than paid for with physical money. 

Why You Should Know About Bartering?

The system of bartering is a popular topic among the preparedness community. This is because in their eyes there is the possibility of extremely difficult times happening in which our normal societal or economic system collapses. 

When that happens, goods and services will be difficult or impossible to come by and money may not have much of any value. 

In the event of a widespread and long-lasting collapse, bartering will be the new currency. 

Are Bartering Items Assigned a Value?

Unfortunately, there is no table I can show you that says a blanket will be worth this or a gallon of gasoline will be worth that. 

Something only has value based on what it means to you or how it can help you versus how much the other person wants or needs it. 

The value of some items may only be present for a short period and other items may have seasonal values. 

For instance, when a collapse first happens people may accept money, silver, gold, or jewelry as a form of payment. But six months into a collapse they may only take food and water as payment. This is why it is not a bad idea to have a little bit of gold or silver and to have some extra cash on hand. 

Seasonal value refers to the changing of interest towards an item throughout the year. For instance, a person may have no interest in trading for a wool blanket when it is the middle of summer. But when wintertime arrives, the value of that wool blanket goes way up.  

As the old saying goes, “one man’s trash is another man’s treasure.”

Items You Should Have for Bartering

Because anything can be used for bartering depending on the value that is established, the following list is by no means complete. It is however a good place to start as they are the most popular and sought-after items. 

Keep in mind that when possible, multiples of the following should be stored. This will ensure you the ability to trade without giving away the last item in your supplies. The items are listed in no order of importance. 

  • Lighters 
  • Matches 
  • Candles 
  • Ferrocerium and magnesium rods 
  • Candles 
  • Batteries 
  • Flashlights 
  • Outdoor cooking stoves i.e. biomass stoves and canister fuel stoves
  • Clothing
  • Footwear
  • Coats 
  • Rain gear 
  • Socks 
  • Work gloves and other PPE
  • Blankets 
  • Canning jars and lids 
  • Canned Food
  • Coffee 
  • Tea 
  • Freeze-dried food
  • Dehydrated food 
  • Salt 
  • Sugar 
  • Beans
  • Rice 
  • Flour 
  • Gardening seeds 
  • Cooking oils 
  • Vitamins 
  • Garbage bags 
  • Disposable plates and utensils 
  • Stationary supplies and calculator 
  • Water 
  • Water filters 
  • Water purification supplies 
  • Fishing supplies 
  • Hunting supplies 
  • Trapping supplies 
  • Gasoline and other fuels 
  • Generators 
  • Solar panels 
  • Hand tools, this means tools that do not require a power source  
  • Hardware such as bolts, nuts, screws, nails, glue, tapes, etc. 
  • Liquor 
  • Tobacco  
  • Manual kitchen tools
  • Multitools 
  • Knives 
  • Knife sharpeners 
  • Ax sharpeners 
  • Medical supplies 
  • Hygiene supplies 
  • Firewood 
  • Duct Tape 
  • Bleach 
  • Baking powder 
  • Hydrogen peroxide 
  • Bicycles 
  • Baby supplies 
  • Entertainment supplies like board games, cards, books, etc.
  • Physical books related to food preservation, survival guides, or the trade industry such as carpentry

The last item I wanted to recommend is to not forget about your skills and abilities when it comes to bartering.

What are you good at? Maybe you are good at making or fixing clothing or perhaps you are mechanically inclined. I highly recommend learning a skill that you are interested in, enjoy but could also be useful to others. This gives you the ability to trade something over and over again rather than a consumable object.

Skills to Know for Survival

Skills and knowledge are more important than gear because gear can become lost or broken. Whereas skills and knowledge cannot be taken away. Some important skills to know include:

Glossary: Must Know Terms

Being new to the survival community is going to expose you to terms that may be unfamiliar. Below is a short list of some of the most common terms you will see or hear.

  • Bug Out. A term used to describe quickly leaving one’s primary area of operations. Ex. “A wildfire is headed this way; we need to bug out.”
  • Bug In. A term used to describe sheltering in place. Ex. “Because of a biohazard, we need to bug in.” Read about bugging in vs bugging out.
  • GHB. Stands for Get Home Bag. A bag or pack of supplies meant to get you home.
  • BOB. Stands for Bug Out Bag. A bag or pack of supplies that one can grab when bugging out.
  • BOL. Stands for Bug Out Location. A preplanned safe destination you will go to after bugging out.
  • BOV. Stands for Bug Out Vehicle. The vehicle you will use to bug out.
  • CCW. Stands for Concealed Carry Weapon.
  • 72 Hour Bag. A bag or pack of supplies meant to last a minimum of three days.
  • I.N.C.H Bag. Stands for I am Never Coming Home. This is a bag or pack of supplies that are meant to serve for an indefinite amount of time.
  • MRE. Stands for Meals Ready to Eat. A long-term prepackaged food item. 
  • EMP. Stands for Electromagnetic Pulse. An invisible force that negatively affects electronics. Affected electronics can be taken completely out of commission. Read the EMP survival guide.
  • Survival cache. A stash of supplies hidden or buried for future use.
  • EDC. Stands for Everyday Carry.
  • FAK. First Aid Kit
  • GOOD. Get Out Of Dodge.
  • NBC. Nuclear Biological Chemical.
  • SHTF. Shit Hits The Fan
  • TEOTWAWKI. The End Of The World As We Know It.
  • WROL. Without Rule Of Law
  • Grid Down. This means that the power grid is not functional. Read grid down survival guide.