Survival Prepping for Normal People – A Complete Guide

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Life is unpredictable. You can never be too prepared. Many people don’t understand how important it is to prepare themselves for a survival scenario. Whether it be WW3, the zombie apocalypse or more realistically the economy plummeting out of nowhere, staying prepared for scenarios like these will give you and your family a better chance at surviving through them. 

To prepare for a survival situation you will need to take care of a few basic items. Mainly, your checklist should include, food, water, medical, power, heat and communication if possible. Also, have a bailout plan and prepare for different levels of crisis too.

There is more to prepping though. Keep on reading to find more in-depth information about prepping, what you need and the levels of prepping. I even included some pro tips for you at the end. 

Survival Prepping for Normal People 

Alright, let’s start with the guide on how you can prepare for a survival situation. I have made a complete checklist with detailed explanations of exactly how to tackle prepping. Do not be overwhelmed. Just follow this guide and you will be ready for any scenario.  


When prepping, food is one of the most crucial things you need to take care of. Food and water, but I will touch on that a bit later. 

As a rule of thumb, I recommend having at least one month’s supply of food ready and stored. That is a good point to start from. You can pick a lot of the staple prepper food easily from your local Walmart or Costco. Here is what you might need.

Canned Food – Canned foods are great for their long shelf life. They are easy to store and also do not need much to keep fresh either. You can buy canned beans, cheese and much more. 

Pasta – Pasta is great. Whether you are prepping or not. But especially for prepping pasta is great since it has a long shelf life. Some pasta can easily be kept for 2 years or so. They are easy to prepare and should help you keep fed if something goes wrong. 

Salt and Sugar – Salt and sugar are absolute essentials. The last thing you want in a survival situation is to have all the food in the world but no salt. A healthy human body needs salt to survive and it also provides you with electrolytes. 

Rice – If I had to pick between pasta and rice, I would go for rice. But here is the thing. You do not have to choose. Get both. Rice is easy to cook and goes well with almost everything. It has a great source of carbs and will give you energy. 

Powdered Dry Milk – Powdered Dry Milk is another essential for survival prepping. I recommend at least 16 lbs. of powdered dry milk.

There are other food items you can store as well. These include:

  • Oats
  • Honey 
  • Flour and wheat
  • Butter
  • Tea/coffee
  • Pet food

Make sure to have mason jars. They are glass jars that you can use to store foods like pasta, rice and other dry foods.


You cannot have a survival prepping guide without water, now can you? Water is important. Very important. I’m sure this bit needs no explanation.  

An expert prepper will tell you what you need to focus the most on is your water storage. Here is the thing. There is absolutely no reason for you to go and buy gallons of water for storing. You can get clean and drinkable water in many ways. 

You can harvest rainwater. Rainwater can be a free source of clean water that you can store in water tanks.

Water Storage Tanks 

The recommended water amount per person is 1 gallon/day. You can get water tanks that vary in size. So, keep in mind how many people are there in your prepper group. If it is just you, there is not much of a need for an extra-large water storage. 

Go Big on Water Filters

Having water is not as important as having a water filtration device. What you need is clean water. So, invest in a water filter as well. There are many models of water filters. But as a prepper, my go-to is Big Berky. Berkey water filters can hold over 2 gallons of purified water. 

Plus, the quality is also pretty good. Apart from that, there are also portable water filters. Enter LifeStraw. I believe LifeStraw is one of the single most astonishing inventions of our time. It can filter undrinkable and harmful water and turn them into safe drinking water. 

They are easy to carry as well. It literally is in a shape of a straw – albeit a big straw. So, make sure to have proper water storage and also adequate filtration as well.  

Pro Tip: Many preppers choose to have two water storage tanks. One for dirty water and one for clean water. If you need to collect dirty water from outside, say from a pond or something, you can pour that into the dirty tank. Later filter it and move it to the clean storage tank as you need to.

Survival Gear 

Having the right gear will make sure you are prepared for any unexpected events. As much as food, water and shelter and medical are important, so is your survival gear. There is some common gear I recommend to have at all times. 

To be frank, you do not need to be a prepper to have these. These are just some essential gear that is good to have around regardless – even more so for survival prepping,

Here is what you must keep:

  • Axe
  • Duct Tape
  • Multitool
  • Compass
  • Flashlight
  • Knife 
  • Flint 
  • Protective masks – preferably N95 masks
  • Goggles 
  • Tarp or tent
  • Hand saw
  • Hatchet 
  • HAM Radios
  • A self-defense weapons 

Medical and Hygiene Equipment 

After you have taken care of your food, water and gear, medical and hygiene equipment comes next. Depending on how bad the situation is, you might not have proper access to good healthcare.  

So, having some form of backup to fall onto is a good idea. For medical and hygiene supplies you need to keep at least the basics. These include: 

Band-Aids: Band-Aids will come in handy for those small unwanted cuts and injuries. They are an essential component of medical supply for any prepper. You would also want to keep some form of antiseptic. Which brings me to the next item.

Hydrogen Peroxide: This is a natural first aid cleanser and can be used as an antiseptic as well. They are not even that expensive either This makes hydrogen peroxide easy to find and store. You can use it to disinfect wounds and cuts.

Bandages: Bandages are useful for cuts. If you want to be thorough (which you should), it is a good idea to keep bandages of different sizes. 

Aloe vera – Aloe vera might just be one of the most useful plants there is. They are easy to grow too. If you want to store aloe vera for prepping, something I do recommend you do, you can just grow your own.  They are great for treating burns and cuts. Also, aloe vera is pretty useful for sunburns as well. 

Sanitizers – You would want to keep some form of sanitizer. When prepping, you want your hands and surrounding to be as clean as possible. Hand sanitizers can be used to quickly clean your hands. They are also very effective in preventing infections and the spread of diseases.

Insect Repellant – I am inclined to include insect repellant with other medical and hygiene supplies. They can keep the nasty buggers away. When things around you are going all wrong, you do not need insects to be another problem to deal with. 

Heat and Power

Depending on how bad things are, you will need heating and power sorted. This is another core thing in any prepper checklist. The grid may go down leaving you with no electricity, power or heating. 

That can be disastrous during the winter. So, what do you do to prepare for a situation like this? Well, you manage your heat and power, of course. For power and heating, there are a few key things you need to check off the list. 

Solar Power Kit –If the grid is down, you can use the solar energy from the Sun as a source of sustainable power. Having a solar power kit will come in handy in these situations. You can get free power. A good enough solar power kit will also be great for powering your vehicles and shelter as well. 

Power Inverters – With a power inverter you can take 12V DC power and make it 120 AC power. You can use that to power refrigerators and more.

Fuel and Gas Cans – Fuel will be essential to power your car or generator. Having spare fuel is something you absolutely should consider. Keep a couple of gas cans too. You will need someplace to store the fuel.  

Solar Oven/Cooker – You will find very high-quality solar cookers and ovens with not much digging. If the grid is out, it is smart to use as much natural energy you can. Not relying on electricity and fuel for everything will make your resource last longer too. For cooking, invest in a solar cooker and/or oven. 

Generator – Generators can be used for emergency powers. But I do not recommend them using these long-term sustainable power sources. They can be quite loud and consume a lot of fuel too. But it is important to have a generator on hand. 

Batteries – Batteries will be great for all your electronics. It is better to always have your communication options up and running. Batteries or better yet, rechargeable batteries are a great option in a survival situation. 

Blankets and Sleeping Bags – I am coupling blankets and sleeping bags with heat and power too. They can keep you warm during the nights, especially during the winter. If you are unprotected from the cold during winter nights, you run the risk of becoming hypothermic. Something you absolutely do not want during a survival situation.  

Fire Extinguisher – This is for safety measures rather than a direct need. But they are still also important. Having a fire extinguisher around will give you some peace of mind and help better prepare for dealing with fire. 

Communication Equipment 

Although I did mention getting a HAM radio in the gear section, I wanted to give communication a section of its own considering how important it is in any survival situation. During a survival situation, communicating with others and your family members or crew will become an integral part of your survival. 

Plus, you cannot always rely on the grid. It can go down anytime. That is why for communication, it is wise to keep a few pieces of equipment as well. 

HAM Radio – HAM radios are the most reliable and effective ways of communication when all else fails. Keep a HAM radio handy. It will serve you well.  

EMP Protection (Faraday Cage) – An EMP shock can render all your communication devices useless. A faraday cage will protect your devices during an EMP shock. So, it is always a good idea to get a faraday cage.

Other Items 

Apart from these items, you might need some items that will increase the quality of life. items such as board games and other entertainment are good for keeping morale up. Plus, quality of life items are just good to have during a bad time.  

Here are some things to consider:

  • Toilet paper
  • Board games
  • Chewing gum
  • Soaps
  • Books 
  • Chocolate 

Prepper Terms and Acronyms to Get Familiar With 

Us preppers like acronyms. The lingo can be difficult for someone outside the prepping scene to understand. So, I will break some of the most commonly used terms down. This will help you get a better understanding of what preppers are talking about. 

Bug Out – “Bug Out” means to leave a current place or situation when you need to. Basically, think of “bug out” as bailing out. It is a verb. You can also use it in conjunction with other words. For example, a bug out bag would mean a bag you use to pack your things when moving. 

  • BOB – Bug-Out Bag. Another term of BOB which means Go-to bag
  • BOL – Bug-Out Location  
  • BOV – Bug-Out Vehicle  
  • BUG – Backup Gun 

GHB – Get-home bag.

SHTF – This acronym is used for a type of survival situation. There are a couple of different survival situations. I will walk you through all of them a bit later. SHTF is reserved for when things are especially bad. It stands for Sh*t Hit the Fan. Quite clever don’t you think?

BSTS – Better Safe Than Sorry. This one is pretty self-explanatory. 

FAK – First Aid Kit. FAK is referred to as medical supplies. Especially first aid kits. Another closely related term is IFAK. Which stands for individual first aid kit. 

EDC – Every day carry. Everyday carries are the things you carry with you every day. Think of these as the essential items you have with you at all times. 

MRE – Meal Ready to Eat. MREs are more commonly used by the military. They are packaged ready to go meals which only sometimes need warm water. 

YOYO – You are on your own. Preppers use this term, well, when they need to know someone they are on their own. Which by the way, in a survival situation, you do not want to be alone.

Cache – For a prepper, the term “cache” means something similar to the computer science field. Cache refers to a place or storage of supplies. The storage could be for anything. It can be a storage cache for food, water, medicines or even ammunition.  

Alpha Strategy – Alpha strategy is a noun. It refers to a survival strategy of storing extra food, water and supplies. These supplies can be used for charitable causes to others who need it. 

Dry Canning – Dry canning is a verb. It means storing dry foods in mason jars. Usually, dry canning is for foods like pasta, rice, corn or cereals. 

Prepping According to Maslow’s Hierarchy Law and Pareto Principle

Have you heard of Maslow’s Hierarchy law? It is a theory that was proposed by famous psychologist Abraham Maslow way back in 1943. The theory suggests the notion of humans having different levels of survival needs.  

It starts with the most basic needs first and then goes up to less essential needs if you would put it that way. In a diagram, the theory is presented in a pyramid form with the most basic needs at the bottom.

At the top are the less basic or essential needs. 

Here is the level of needs: 

  1. Physiological – Food, water, shelter, warmth, rest.
  2. Safety – Security and safety 
  3. Belongingness – Relationships and friends
  4. Esteem – Feeling of accomplishment or prestige 
  5. Actualization – Achieving goals, indulging in creative activities

The Pareto principle says that 80% of all your results come from 20% of your efforts. You can understand this principle in different contexts. In the prepping context you can say, the initial 20% of your prepping will make you 80% covered for a survival situation. 

The rest 20% of preparedness will require a lot of effort. 

You can use this law and principle as a guide when prepping. Take care of your most basic needs at first. Then may work your way up. During a survival situation, all you might end up needing are the first few needs as well.

Also, do not waste your efforts. Follow the 80-20 rule. This rule, also known as the Pareto principle will help you orient your efforts in what matters most and gives you the best return. These two principles and laws should help guide prepping for normal people.

Levels of Prepping 

A common misconception many have is prepping is done for the worst of situations. That is not quite true. There are different levels of prepping. And it could very well be that you have been somewhat of a prepper to some extent.

The level of prepping: 

1. Basic 

Most people, either knowingly or unknowingly will fall into this category. Everyone has some sense of knowing to prepare for the future. You might buy food for one week ahead or prepare for the winter. You may buy winter clothes, or fix the heating. 

2. Unplanned Setbacks 

The second level is the unplanned setbacks. Most of the setbacks in this category are temporary. Many people can also be in this category unknowingly. This level is prepping for any unexpected turn of events that might happen. Your car could break down, or a medical emergency.

You do not need to worry about these things constantly though. Besides constantly worrying about your car breaking down or being in an accident is a horrible way to live. Prepping for minor setbacks at least once a year is enough for most people.

You can prepare for these times by having an emergency fund. Take out some money from your income and set it aside for situations like these.

3. Economic Recessions, Bad Weather or Injuries 

The third level is a bit more serious. You can be struck by a tornado or the whole economy can be down. People may lose jobs. A major injury could also be one of the setbacks. Dealing with this can also be done by having an emergency fund. 

But you will need larger financial savings. Also, comprehensive insurance can help as well. Many people do have a house, medical and/or car insurance. But they might not be as extensive. Peppers can prepare by having money saved and having insurance.

4. Disasters 

Prepping for disasters is the fourth level of preparedness. Natural disasters can happen at any time. They affect people to different extents as well. When talking about preppers, many will be under the notion that they are preparing for doomsday.

Not quite true. Most preppers do just prepare for a natural disaster – the fourth level of preparedness. If you are caught in a natural disaster, not being prepared might be horrific. 

That is why preparing for disasters is important. You need to take care of the basics – food, water and shelter. Some even grow their own food as well. Also, have a support network as well. You can have a bug out plan too. 

5. Doomsday

Most commonly referred to as doomsday prepping, this is the highest level of preparedness. At this level, you are prepared for everything. This is also those SHTF moments. For preparing during this level, you do everything you possibly can to be ready for everything. 

You can look around where you live and see what things might happen when things go absolutely haywire. 

Pro Prepping Tips 

In this complete guide of survival prepping for normal people, I would like to end it with some short tips. These will come in handy when in dire situations and throughout life.

  • Stay realistic. If there is a survival situation, it will most likely not be zombies. So, prepare realistically and make proper use of resources
  • Have people you can rely on.
  • Do not be paranoid or get overwhelmed 
  • Buy fewer high-quality items rather than many mediocre quality items
  • Buy the gears you need. Do not hoard unnecessary gear
  • Be able to adapt. Do not just plan to bail or stay put inside your shelter. Be prepared to do both if need be.
  • Make sure your bug out bag is all set

Why Do Normal People Shy Away from Survival Prep?

There are a couple of reasons for this. And most of them can be fixed by just being a little more considerate.

1. Not Making it Easy to Understand 

A key reason why many normal people do not pay much heed to prepping is they feel like it is too complicated. No one can be directly blamed for this though. Preppers tend to use specific terms and lingo which can alienate people. 

They either do not relate to the sentiment or the newness of the whole concept scares them.  Preppers can counter this simply by explaining the terms and using easy to understand language.

This guide looks to change the sentiment. When I set out to write this guide, I had one goal. Make it easy for normal people to understand. Prepping does not have to be an exclusive club. And I know for sure most of the prepping community will agree with that statement as well.

2. Negative Connotations 

Many people have a negative viewpoint of the whole prepper community. Some might think preppers are being too anxious or are just plain paranoid. Media has a lot to do with this. Preppers are often portrayed in a negative light. 

That is one of the major reasons why so many might choose to avoid the prepping community altogether.

3. Not Seeing a Need

Another reason why many people would avoid prepping is that they feel like there is no need to do so. That is quite a common position I find many people to be in. I know a lot of people from my personal life who just do not see why prepping is necessary. 

There are not a lot preppers can do about this though. Most people will act on their own beliefs, data and observations. Unless they do not see for themselves that they need to prepare, you cannot do anything.  


Survival prepping for normal people does not have to be hard. Beginner preppers may get overwhelmed with all the things you need to do. But as you can see, there really is nothing to worry about. Hopefully, this comprehensive guide on prepping has helped you to understand the prepper mindset and what you would need to prep for anything. 


Shanna is the 2nd half of Top Outdoor Survival. Like Forest, she has a passion for guns and knives. They love to go on a survival trip at least once a year. They love to go camping, hiking, and traveling.

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