s an active “prepper,” I en-
courage everyone to follow suit
and figure out what they need to
do to make themselves less vulnerable to
societal disruptions. But since prepping
has gone mainstream, newbies are often
overwhelmed by the sheer amount of
information—and stuff—to consider.
Prepping, by way of a fast definition,
is the state of being ready to cope with
unpredictable events or situations.
Preparedness is acquiring the knowledge,
skills, supplies, and strategies necessary
to mitigate the negative consequences of
those events or situations. Those emergencies can be personal (illness or job
loss), regional (national disaster, terrorist
attack), or national/international (solar
flare/EMP attack, economic crash).
It’s important to point out that being
prepared doesn’t prevent bad things from
affecting you. It means you hope to be
less affected by those bad things. In the
world of everyday expenses, I consider
prepping right up there in importance
with utilities and insurance.
They say preparedness is a three-legged
stool: supplies, skills/knowledge, and
community. For the “supplies” leg, I
recommend what I call the Seven Core
Areas of Preparedness: food, water, heat
(or shelter), lighting, sanitation, medical,
and protection. This is not a complete
list, but it’s a start. If you cover these
seven bases, you’ll be better prepared
than the vast majority of Americans.
Skills and knowledge, the second leg, are
also critical. It does no good to tuck away
supplies of seeds if you have no knowl-
edge of how to plant, cultivate, harvest,
and preserve the results. The third leg,
community, consists of building strong
ties with friends, neighbors, church, and
other local groups.
Prepping can be wildly expensive. I’m
sure you’ve seen those news reports on
millionaires outfitting luxurious underground bunkers with everything from
home theaters to swimming pools.
But prepping can also be done by frugal
people living on tight budgets. Millions
of ordinary people living paycheck to
paycheck have managed to put aside
enough supplies to tide them over some
The next logical question is, should
anyone go into debt in order to become
A Real-Life Example
This is a thorny question best answered
by the individuals involved. Of necessity
I can only address generalities. I will start
by introducing a prepper I know well.
This gentleman (I’ll call him Mr. Jones)
lives on a twenty-acre parcel of open
land and has a modest socioeconomic
About five or six years ago, Mr. Jones
“woke up” in alarm about the need to get
better prepared. He has unquestionably
made progress. But because his awakening was tinged with fear and panic,
he started out misunderstanding what
solid, practical prepping is all about. As a
result, he made some decisions I consider foolish—and expensive.
Mr. Jones became convinced his focus
should be maintaining his comforts in a
power-down situation. He doesn’t want
to lose the day-to-day conveniences of
hot showers, refrigeration, bright lighting, and flush toilets. If the world-as-we-know-it were to end, he wants to be able
to carry on exactly as before.
So he started his prepping journey by
learning what kind of solar array he
would need to maintain his current electricity usage. As a result, he purchased
approximately $80,000 in solar panels,
inverters, batteries, and other accoutrements. He remains plugged into the
grid, so the solar array is for backup only.
(He sells surplus power to the electric
This was only the beginning of Mr. Jones’
high-end purchases. He added a windmill, wood-gasified generator, and two
conventional generators. The main focus
of his costliest expenditures has been on
power, with food production a distant
for Debt? By Patrice Lewis