Switching Your Mindset from Short Term to Long Term Survival Prepardness

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By Bryan Lynch •  10 min read

When thinking about survival situations what generally comes to mind? I am going to go out on a limb here and say most people probably think of a stereotypical scenario.

A person gets lost in the woods, strays from the beaten path, or experiences an unfortunate accident like a plane crash that leaves them stranded in the middle of nowhere.

A lot of topics within the survival community concentrate on situations like these, which there is nothing wrong with.

Then there are situations that are looked up as times of survival that happen closer to home, such as storms, the power grid going down, civil unrest and the like.

Scenarios like these can last quite a while but they are what I would call short-term. Once a person has been rescued, self-rescues, or has weathered the storm, they go back to their normal life.

But what if something were to happen in which there is no normal life to go back to? What if our way of life completely changed and by in large, we could only depend on ourselves or those around us to survive for a long time?

I know this might seem like an extreme point of view, however, there is an especially important point that is often overlooked.

We as people tend to think rather highly of ourselves. We are on top of the food chain with no real natural predators. We can pretty much live anywhere on Earth because we can control our microclimates and can allocate resources. We can fight off diseases, farm our own food and a lot of other notable achievements.

As accomplished as human beings may be, we are not above or outside of the natural order. We have come a long way technologically, but we are still susceptible to the forces of nature as well as the problems humankind has created.

Yes, in one regard technology is one of our greatest achievements but our complete dependence on it is also our Achille’s heel.

If you pay attention to the news you will notice that every year there are events around the world that can devastate small locales and even regions. These places would be hard pressed to carry on if it were not for outside assistance helping them to get back on their feet. This leads me back to my original question, “what if there wasn’t any outside help, and everyone was on their own?”

Short Term

In the preparedness community, a lot of time has been spent on short-term survival methods and gear such as bug out bags, 72-hour bags, bug out locations, and prepared foods just to name a few.

The purpose of most of these items and topics is to act as a bridge to carry people from an emergency back to normal life. Anywhere from a few days, weeks, or months is generally what people plan for.

This is all based on the assumption that an event, even a bad one, will subside and people will go back to the previous normality. Turning on their water tap, using a microwave, and ordering supplies online.

Long Term

In my opinion, one of the biggest issues in preparedness is ignoring long term abilities and focusing only on the short term, in the hopes of returning to a previous way of life.

There is nothing wrong with having plans for short-term emergencies but by having long-term plans you will be ready for any duration.

So, here is a question, at what point do you stop planning or looking ahead? For me, the answer is that you do not. I think most people in the preparedness community have a good grasp of what they need for a small-scale emergency.

People have their MREs, 72-hour bags, and the like.

Then some believe they have a grasp on the long term because they have a year’s worth of supplies, which is great. But again, what are you going to do after one year?

If there is an event that causes you to live off your supplies for one year, chances are life is not going to go back to the way it was, at least not any time soon.

Switching Your Mindset to Long Term

To change from short-term to long-term thinking, one needs to think in terms of sustainability and self-reliance. As with most things begin with the basics.


Most people are already going to have a shelter, but it may not be suitable for long-term living depending on the effects of the event.

Living in a high-rise apartment without power, for example, may not be a good choice. It would be pertinent to have another location you could go to or have supplies for making a shelter.

If you do not plan on leaving your home, there are several factors to consider and plan for.


Modern buildings and homes are designed to be heated and cooled through central environmental systems, i.e. furnaces and air conditioners.

Without power, structures will become unbearably hot or cold during certain parts of the year. If you have ever lost power during a heatwave or a winter storm, then you know how miserable it can be inside.

Retrofitting a home’s windows, adding a fireplace or wood-burning stove, fans, and the installation of alternative power sources are all factors that should be planned for if you intend on staying where you are.

Home Maintenance  

Homes require a lot of maintenance and upkeep. Walk around your home and take note of every little thing you can see. Glass windows, hardware on doors, sealants, etc. The bones of a home may last quite a long time but everything else will deteriorate and wear out.

Learning basic carpentry and other maintenance skills will be invaluable in a long-term situation. To carry out these tasks you will need a healthy stock of tools and hardware. Here is a short list of items to put on your radar.


Once your shelter needs are taken care of, a sustainable source of water will be your next concern.

It is estimated that the average water consumption of one person per month is 3,000 gallons. That comes to 36,000 gallons of water per year.

For a family that number is going to increase dramatically. A family of four is going to use 144,000 gallons of water per year. So, that 1,000 gallons of water you have stored is not going to last in a long-term scenario.

Of course, these amounts are going to be lower after an event because laundry, bathing, and water usage in general, will have to be handled differently.

However, we will still require large amounts of water which is why a sustainable source of water will need to be in your plans.

Examples of this would be digging a well, collecting from local sources such as a stream, lake, or river, and installing a rain collection system.

Rain collection systems are great, but I would advise against counting on them as being your only source of water. The primary reason is that the system is at the mercy of the weather and it is not uncommon for an area to experience dry spells or droughts.

Having a water source is great but take it a step further and develop a water storage unit. Space can be a concern for a lot of people but the bigger the better. I highly recommend researching how to make your own cistern.


I am always amazed when I hear a person talk about their emergency food stores because it almost always consists of prepackaged items like canned goods, MREs, etc.

There is nothing wrong with those options and in fact, I like many of them. The problem is when there is no plan to supplement that food or to have a backup. Once that food is eaten it is gone and it is not getting replaced.

Just like water, a person needs to plan on having a reusable and sustainable food source. This includes hunting, fishing, trapping, raising livestock, growing fruits, vegetables, herbs, and knowing how to forage for wild edibles.

Understandably, some of these options might not fit into your current situation. For instance, I am currently not able to raise livestock. But I can certainly find areas around where I live to hunt or fish.

The two options that will fit into almost everyone’s abilities are gardening and foraging for wild edibles.

When carefully planned, a garden can be grown in very small area and with the correct setup, growing seasons can be extended year-round.

Foraging wild edibles is another great option because there is literally food all around us in nature. The downsides to foraging are the growing seasons, being able to correctly identify plants, and harvesting food in safe areas.


It is highly unlikely that there will be medical care after a largescale event. So, stopping at your doctors office for every little scrape and sneeze is not going to be an option.

Educate yourself as much as possible on first aid techniques as well as how to handle common ailments. Stocking up on medical supplies is a great idea but it will be just as important to learn about natural remedies and methods as well as building up a library of medical related books.

Live Locally, Not Global

Our supply chain is a vast and intricate web that spans the globe. Even a simple item that is purchased today can result in it coming from thousands of miles away.

In the wake of a catastrophe, that supply chain will be unavailable.

It is in a survivalist’s best interest to seek out local establishments that can provide supplies, skills, and other needs. Begin teaching yourself to live off local resources and to make materials that you use or would need. If a person cannot live off of their local resources then they either need to acquire more knowledge or find a new area that will sustain them.  

Wrap Up

My final thought on this topic is that if you are truly looking for long-term living solutions then look to history and how certain cultures lived. In the scenario of a largescale event happening or our modern way of living breaks down, we will be forced to live much like they did. Our ancestors survived with far less access to knowledge and materials than we have today.

I am not saying you must live on a dirt floor with minimal structural protection. But it is worthwhile to understand where and why they lived in certain locations and to couple their methods with modern practices and materials.

Thanks for reading and stay prepared.

What are your thoughts on short-term vs. long-term survival? Sound off in the comment section below and let us know!

Bryan Lynch

Bryan grew up in the Midwest and spent every waking moment outdoors. Learning how to hunt, fish, read the land, and be self-reliant was part of everyday life. Eventually, he combined his passions for the outdoors, emergency preparedness, and writing. His goal was to spread positive information about this field. In 2019, Bryan authored the book Swiss Army Knife Camping and Outdoor Survival Guide. His second book, Paracord Projects For Camping and Outdoor Survival, is scheduled to be released on March 2, 2021.