11 Rules for Survival Prepping

Last Updated: September 13, 2022

In any survival scenario, a person needs a framework with which to survive. If you have been searching for a set of principles that will help you in preparation for survival, you’ve found it here.

The 11 Rules for Prepping

Rule #1 of Prepping is Don’t Talk about Prepping


Have you ever had a neighbor ask you for a cup of milk?

When your cupboards and pantries are starting to look like Martha Stewart’s, it isn’t uncommon for a neighbor to think of your home when they’re out of something; now, think about that thought when SHTF and grocery stores are shut down. Think about how they will view your resources when they have people depending on them. The more they know of what your prepping plans are, the more they will think of you.

When they run out of food and water, they’ll come to your home.

Often, while you’re preparing your stock or packing your gear, your friends may ask you about your stock, plans, or gear. While it’s good to engage in healthy conversation, try to refrain from boasting, flaunting, or anything that’s showing off in general. Your careful preparations and growing skills may breed jealousy. You don’t have to go into great detail about all the great survival aspects of your gear and explain every stage of your exit plans. Most people’s refrigerators include ketchup, some drinks, and freezer-burned goods.

As it takes a certain mindset to be practically prepared for all eventualities, some people won’t be able to fully comprehend what you’re doing.

But when disaster does strike, they’ll remember all the unnecessary extra details you may have talked about.

Quietly and slowly assemble items for your preparations, that’s the right thing to do.

Rule #2 Don’t Panic — Act.

There are three key segments through years of Navy Seal survival success: (1) specialized knowledge & skills, (2) creative resourcefulness, and (3) the ability to push past pressure, stress, panic, and shock.

When all else fails you, how you manage panic is the difference between life and death. Focus on problem-solving in a hopeless situation rather than the mounting fear.

David Sillito, SAS

An SAS soldier stranded in the desert, David Sillito traveled over 100 miles through the Saharan Desert. Halfway through, David tried to kill himself. The ability to push away your dread and panic keeps you alive.

Major Robert Henry Cain single-handedly destroyed six tanks.

Shelled upon in a holding position, Robert’s fellow soldier was immediately killed. Robert’s sight was shattered by shrapnel. Blind but aware there was another tank behind, Robert shouted every curse he knew to destroy it. Thirty minutes later, with sight still barely returning, Robert rushed back onto the front lines. The very next day, deafening blasts ruptured his ear drums. Robert stuffed bandages in his ears and continued on to personally destroy another five tanks.

Under bombs and gunfire, every sense alerts you on how to act. Major Robert Henry Cain kept 100% focus on keeping his people alive and neutralizing the threat.

Take one deep breath and center yourself in the middle of the storm around you.

Take Action.

The common pattern in both stories is clear. Both soldiers progressed past panic to sound decisions.

Rule #3 Get Intel, Assess Risk & Prioritize Action

Intel takes on the form of events happening in your community and country. What is happening globally may have its indirect or direct impacts on your family at home. The government and authorities use Twitter and social media to update the public on the news of civil, disastrous, and extinction-level events on a regular basis. Before any grid failure, intel informs you on how to act appropriately in emergencies.

Determine the level of risk, threat, or interruption to the survival success of your loved ones; then act accordingly in deciding the best path forward. The assessment of risk is part of remaining vigilant in the face of panic. Recognition of a threat is phase one, your plan of action to neutralize or avoid it is the next phase.

Prioritization of actions starts within one day. What is the most important task you need to complete today? How is that relevant to your short-term goals in how they intersect with your long-term goals?

How much time do you have in the middle of all of life’s duties and responsibilities?

Start with what’s most important and relevant, and then determine the fastest, most efficient & ethical way to it, and decide what your next action is. From there, you’ll start to see your acts in a series of steps, leading to being prepared for those moments you just can’t predict.

Rule #4 Be Resourceful to Stay Alive

Have I ever caught fish with a paracord or a makeshift spear?

Do I know how difficult it is to start a fire without a lighter or matches?

Have I ever encountered wild animals before?

Can I shoot down a moving target?

Questions to ask oneself before a SHTF scenario

In the expansive Pacific Ocean, three Mexican fishermen survived at sea for nine months with nothing but a bible and an imaginary guitar.

Left to their own resourcefulness after an ill-prepared shark fishing expedition, the three men fashioned hooks from engine parts to fish.

One of the fishermen, Salvador Ordóñez the bible thumper, stalked unsuspecting seagulls. Upon capture, the men share their blood and raw meat.

“…at night, the birds would stop on board the launch, and my friend, here, Salvador, who is like a cat, would catch them.”

Mr. Vidaña, one of three survivors

There will never be enough. Whatever the survival scenario, there will never be the perfect solution there, just waiting for you to open up and use. Multiple factors will always be present and you will have to creatively come up with a solution for your crisis. When bullets are flying and people are panicking, it will be up to you to integrate whatever resources you have around you to survive.

The practice, construction, and experience you get in working on your stores, camping, or responding to the global events that affect us all, teach you how to string multiple elements together for a working solution. It’s there waiting for you to discover and apply.

If you want to be effective in a survival scenario, you have to gain hands-on experience by simulating a hostile environment.

Rule #5 Learn Skills Before They’re Needed

When people get hungry enough, they become increasingly desperate, especially if their children are starving. A particular threat is any group or gang acting with a mob mentality. If they get inside despite your home security measures, your chances of survival will drop dramatically.

Successful stories of survival integrate four categories of knowledge.

  • Survival
  • Medicine
  • Engineering
  • Combat

Every emergency and scenario either short-term or long-term involves a bit of combat, engineering, medicine, and survival knowledge. Gain it beforehand, test it, and experiment with it based on the different elements in your own personal situation, and you will have one of the core fundamentals covered.

If you’re aware of the water, shelter, and food factors of survival around you and know exactly what to do next, then you have learned enough. You know what plants are edible and what they’re for, and you know which ones can be used in the event of a medical emergency. If there isn’t a doctor around when your spouse is giving birth, you know how to sterilize the area and get ready for a new life amidst a shitstorm of events.

Your knowledge of engineering started from simple DIY solutions to full-scale reconstructions around your homestead, optimizing the way you create a sustainable, off-grid lifestyle for your family.

When people come to take what you have carefully prepared, you know how to use your weapons of choice, and can head into violent engagement with a clear head and life-saving priorities in mind.

You know how to defend, attack, track, and blend into crowds like a gray man, hiding in plain sight.

Knowledge is preparation. Preparation for those three seconds where the lives of those who matter most to you are in your hands.

Rule #6 Have a Base of Operations

Your homestead is your base of operations. Every person on this planet needs a home, and yours is unique to you. As a place of sanctuary, your home is always going to be the first priority in any prepping plans.

If you’re in the city, then it’d be good to be prepared for civil and military engagements by reinforcing your doors, walls, and windows.

If you have chosen the traditional rural homestead, then you’re making sure you have running water, long-term food and energy sustainability, and access to the internet.

Your headquarters for all things life, preparation, and survival start and expand from your home.

Keep your kitchen counters clean, your storage soundly organized, and your kits in their appropriate locations. Your household and family move in sync together in an emergency due to the common understanding and flow you have carefully been building the whole time. Knowing what to do in an emergency starts with knowing where everything is — even if you were blindfolded in the dark.

Rule #7 Have a Bug Out Location Ready

Your Bug Out Location (BOL) is rural and in a sparsely populated area. As a backup location in case you have to leave your home, this location is specifically chosen for its remoteness and mitigated risk to the threats you’ve analyzed. This separate location can be a cabin, a favorite campsite, or your special place you go to when you need some peace and quiet. This location begins as a temporary safe haven, and over time with your frequent stocking of replaced items from the main homestead and recycled durable goods.

The safety location is for when your home is compromised. Your bug-out location is hard to get to or impractical in your series of events leading to the necessity of leaving. In the movies, it’s a non-descript safehouse with new identities, but in reality, it’s just a place where most won’t know where you and your family are. A friend with a cabin or a random AirBnB property, an apartment that isn’t being used, or an old business address makes for a third backup location after your home and BOL.

When you have three clear locations to go to when emergencies arise, you can plan your additional mini-kits in hidden stashes, customized to your purposes and goals.

Rule #8 Keep Your Body Fit

Healthy body, healthy mind. Healthy mind, healthy body. Preppers, survivalists, and military experts, in general, tend to treat their body as their primary tool, with the mind as the main driver. The abilities to dash at a full run, carry heavy loads, or deftly maneuver around are centered around endurance & will. In Navy Seal Hell Week, soldiers are pushed beyond their physical limitations and the ones who remain are those who mastered their bodies to submit to their mental will.

  • Endurance is cardio and the strength to carry on when you feel you have nothing left
  • Strength is measured in what you can hold/carry, and in your core
  • Agility and mobility are one, moving faster than the rest is an advantage
  • Nutrition: You Are What You Eat
  • Your mindset determines much of your muscular responses

Rule #9 Learn How To Use All Your Gear

Knowing EXACTLY what your gear is for in the seconds encompassing a life-or-death event is what prepares you. The ability to communicate and know what is in the immediate area during an emergency event enables a survivor to move on. Each bit of equipment comes with it, years of experience in testing, and therefore, deserves that you spend a fraction of that time familiarizing yourself with its use in the field.

Overdependence on the stocking of arms, weapons, gear, and sustainability measures without real know-how is a recipe for disaster. With each addition to your setup, take time to optimize it for your needs rather than brashly “fear-buy” everything you think you need at the moment. Sustainable preparation begins with taking a few long camping trips and seeing how it goes. If your camping trips are smooth and enjoyable, then the next few steps are optimizing those aspects, not hiring a bulldozer to dig a bunker in your backyard.

Long-term, advanced skills tend to have their own preferences when it comes to gear and tools. Wear and tear over prolonged usage of carefully selected items results in a hand-picked solution. Frequently customized, experienced mountaineers and survivalists alike, know what they need, and so will you.

Rule #10 Understand Cause and Effect

  • When to go where and why
  • When to stock and how to hide stock
  • When to blend in
  • When to act

The response to a natural disaster or human-borne SHTF scenario is all about timing. When the majority looks one way, and you find yourself thinking the same, it’s time to think again. The attention of the masses tends to be easily directed and focused on the most eye-catching factors of the time. That’s when you look to deserted areas, legal loopholes, and how to solidify your chances of survival and long-term success.

For example, three years ago, you bought cans of chili at 20% cheaper than they are now due to inflation. Just as good for another two years, the meals you create from your food stores saved money.

In another case, the power grid’s just gone down and there’s a rush to pick up all the portable solar products at Home Depot, and you had already set up your off-the-grid system three years prior.

Lastly, a prepper understands the stages with which events evolve. Survival isn’t just about a few seconds, it’s about phases of how people react to times of distress.

The Stages of Desperation

Throughout any crisis, stages come with indicators over a lifecycle of events until resolution or stability. Typically growing in intensity over time and impact, here are some telltale signs of the timeline of stages in a catastrophe.

The Early Stage

  • Uncertainty abounds and guidelines about the situation in question are unclear.
  • Certain items systemically become short in supply. Patterns emerge.
  • Frequently used supplies such as water, food, toilet paper, and tampons start to become harder to find.
  • Prices increase and fluctuate on a regular basis from gas to groceries. Commodities start to be affected.
  • “Currently Unavailable” and “Out-of-Stock” banners are displayed throughout online merchant websites and well-known eCommerce websites.
  • Increasing conflict over social media, between countries, and news media sources

The Middle Stage

  • Some businesses and stores are closed for extended periods of time.
  • Functioning businesses and stores are on essential needs and core functions basis. Limited inventory, limitations on purchasing, and bare shelves everywhere.
  • Prices continue to increase, and growing unemployment and economic disruption make purchases a much more thoughtful process than in previous stages.
  • People begin depending on family, friends, and local resources to supply their daily and weekly needs.
  • Increasing reports of instances of civil unrest, military engagements, and disaster impact.
  • Upticks in lawless crime, looting, and robberies occur with greater frequency, especially in areas where the authorities are spread thin

Late Stage

  • People begin to improvise because certain items are simply not available.
  • Food shortages become a regular occurrence and rationing programs begin.
  • Civil unrest continues to grow, and martial law is instituted in some areas and cities.
  • Looting and robberies continue to increase and overwhelm local police and the National Guard is called in to assist with law enforcement.
  • Medical supplies and even prescription medicines are in short supply and also rationed.

The End of the World As We Know It (TEOTWAWKI) Stage

  • The grid is down and there is no municipal power.
  • As a result, no communications networks or Internet.
  • There is no running tap water.
  • Food stores and clerks are a thing of the past.
  • You and your group are pretty much disconnected from the rest of the world. The same for everyone else.

Rule #11 Practice Prepping Daily in Your Everyday Life

In the end, what you know, what you have on hand, and what you do will determine the quality of your preparations, and ultimately, your own survival. Knowing what to do when you have limited options is a cumulative string of experiences. The time you practiced whittling a fish spear and that time you tried lighting a fire without starting aids…these are the beginning practice points for when you’re out in the cold and you have to do it for real.

When you buy the perfect amount of groceries and 0% of it goes to waste while your frozen food stores grow, that is an example of your experience and practice in food preparation and long-term food storage.

When you choose to go roughing it with minimal gear and food supplies, challenging yourself to adapt or find an innovative way to survive a camping trip weekend, that’s the starting point of testing what you can do.

Only when you’ve experienced it or are directly trained for the scenario, then you’ll know EXACTLY HOW to adapt.

Final Word

Many preppers believe their gear will save their lives in SHTF scenarios. However, without the right mindset and principles, all the gear in the world will not save you. Be ready for any kind of scenario by preparing yourself both mentally and physically. Here, we have distilled everything about prepping to 11 rules for prepping success.

Good luck, prepper.

“Always Be Ready” Max

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