Beginner’s Guide to Prepping – The Big Three: Shelter, Water, and Food

When it comes to being prepared, everything boils down to the Big Three: Shelter, Water, and Food. You can go three hours without shelter, three days without water, and three weeks without food.

The Beginner’s Guide to Prepping will highlight what you need to know about the big three without bogging you down in endless checklists and crazy panic hype. So, instead of worrying about all the impending doom and gloom and what you don’t have, think about preparing in terms of what your grandparents and great grandparents did as a regular course of life. A little at a time – one day at a time.

The Zombie Apocalypse, an Alien Invasion, Population Control, Nuclear Disaster, and the impending Financial Collapse aren’t things you can control so focus on what you can control.

With the ease of things today, we have it much easier than your grandparents did – after all we have the internet for information and food and water is readily available without plowing a field all day and catching catfish from dusk till dawn (this was an age and music genre check).

Remember you are just starting your journey of becoming more prepared.



Beginner’s Guide to Prepping – What type of shelter do I need for Bugging-in and Bugging-out

We all romanticize about taking our families and living off the land or taking a camper and living a nomadic lifestyle while be chased by marauders but that may not be feasible for you or your family members.

When deciding to bug-in or bug-out you are only as weak as your weakest link so plan accordingly.

Remember, you can only go three hours without shelter (in extreme conditions).


Beginner’s Guide to Prepping – Bugging-in

If you are like most Americans bugging-in should be your plan A. Your home already has just about everything you need in the way of shelter plus you are familiar with it and you probably have all of your gear there. What you need to do now is shore up your supplies and your physical security perimeter.

Cameras are great to see if someone is coming but they won’t stop someone from taking what you have.

Most of us don’t have the money to put up HESCO barriers and guard towers around our home and then man them with a security force 24/7 but most of us can improve our physical security perimeter.

How do we do that? Use the Risk Watch International – ASIS Facility Physical Security Control Standards – as a guide to upgrade your home’s physical security perimeter.

The ASIS Facility Physical Security Control Standards provides guidance in the design, implementation, monitoring, evaluation, and the maintenance of physical asset protections. It also provides guidance on the identification, application, and management of physical protection systems to safeguard an organization’s assets (e.g., people, property, and information).


Physical controls at the outer protective security layer or perimeter

Physical controls at the outer protective layer or perimeter may consist of fencing or other barriers, protective lighting, signs, and intrusion detection systems. It is the outermost point at which physical security measures are used to deter, detect, delay, and respond (or defend) against illegitimate and unauthorized activities. Controls at this layer are generally designed to define the property line and channel people and vehicles through designated and defined access points. Intruders or casual trespassers will notice these property definitions and may decide not to proceed to avoid trespassing charges or being noticed.


The middle security layer, at the exterior of buildings on the site

The middle layer, at the exterior of buildings on the site, may consist of protective lighting, intrusion detection systems, locks, bars on doors and windows, signs, and barriers such as fencing and the façade of the building itself. Protection of skylights and ventilation ducts can discourage penetration from the roof.


Establishment of several inner security layers

Usually, several inner layers are established. Their placement is designed to address an intruder who penetrates the outer and middle protective layers. The following physical controls are normal at this layer: window and door bars, locks, barriers, signs, intrusion detection systems, and protective lighting. The value of an asset being protected affects the amount of protection required. A high value asset housed in an inner area might require signs defining access requirements for the area, specially reinforced walls, a structurally reinforced door with a biometric lock, intrusion detection systems, video surveillance to monitor access, and safes and vaults to house the asset itself.


Beginner’s Guide to Prepping – Bugging-out

Bugging-out should be your plan B and only as a very last resort (unless the zombies are after you or there is a natural disaster bearing down on you and your family). There is a lot to consider when leaving your shelter and going out into the unknown and possibly into a situation that is worse than what you are currently facing. If you have pets, children, parents / grandparents, or anyone that has health issues they may not be able to make the journey, especially on foot.

Most of us don’t have the money under the mattress to buy a bug-out location but we can prepare in case we have to bug-out. You need to develop a plan and practice it making sure it is a feasible plan that you can implement.


Your basic plan needs to at least contain the following.

  • Have your go-bag at the ready (mine is always with me).
  • Have at least two bug-out destinations and at least two routes to get to each one (practice these routes with your family from the most likely place anyone may be at any time).
  • Have a vehicle that can make it at any time of the day or night (keep your vehicle maintained and ensure you have enough fuel and then some).
  • Have a way of communicating with your loved ones when communications (cell-phones) are down.

Whether you decide to bug-in or bug-out you can still only survive for three hours without shelter.



Beginner’s Guide to Prepping – How do I start my emergency water supply?

We would all like an endless spring of water that flows on our property but for most of us that isn’t the way that it is and so be it. As for buying a $300 water filtration system that you can use for bugging in/out, please don’t do it, at least not yet. If you want to buy a filtration system, Amazon has the Life Straw at a very good price, and you can use them at home or on the road/trail. Remember, you can only go three days without water.


How much water do I need?

When figuring out how much water you need, calculate a minimum of 1 gal per day per person. You should start off by buying 3 cases of the 40 pack 16.9fl oz bottles of water per person from COSTCO or someplace similar. Your initial investment in Kirkland water will be less than $15 per person.


Where can I find water in an emergency?

Unless you have a hand pump well, you may need to get your water from alternate sources like a water heater, streams, rivers, ponds, lakes, and natural springs but be sure to have a filtration device like the Life-Straw to protect against viruses, bacteria (including E. coli), and parasites (Giardia, Cryptosporidium, etc.). You should always have a gallon of unscented cheap chlorine bleach to disinfect your water (follow the instruction label on the bottle).


How do I store my water?

In the past we purchased water by the pallet but now we just make sure to keep at least 30 cases of water on hand. If that sounds like a lot, our well water has some arsenic in it (a by-product of gold mining) so we drink bottled water for the most part or go down to the Fox Spring to fill 10 of our 5 gallon water jugs at a time. We keep our water stored in locations that don’t freeze in the winter or get too much light during the day.

Yes, we have Lifestraws and Lifestraw bottles, as well as bleach and water purification tablets to purify our water.



Beginner’s Guide to Prepping – How do I start my emergency food supply?

Although the key to success is diversification, you should start off by buying food you like, food you eat regularly, food that stores well, and food that is easy to prepare without modern conveniences. Remember, you can only go three weeks without food.


Food for my home storage

Since canned, jarred, and dried goods store well and are usually less expensive, I recommend you start off with these. As you transition from a just-in-time buying mindset to having enough food on hand you’ll be able to diversify more.

If something happens to one of your food types you will still have your other food stores on hand; canned, jarred, dried, dehydrated, freeze dried, and frozen.

NOTE: Unlike your go-bag, food for your home storage can include heavy food items, food that requires refrigeration, and food that needs to be prepared with water, heat, and cookware.


How much food do I need?

When calculating out how much food you need, calculate a minimum of 2,000 calories per day per person. Although you can go three weeks without food, you will be physically and mentally weakened without the calories and proper nutrients to keep you going.

NOTE: Calories and bulk are key in emergency food storage with nutrition coming in second, so buy a good multi vitamin and vitamin C to make up for your nutrient deficiency.


What foods do I need for my Go-Bag?

The key to your go-bag food prep is less weight, more calories, and limited to no preparation. One of the easiest things that you can keep in your go-bag are energy/protein bars that are packed with calories and nutrients. These will keep you going during that first day or two.

Remember a go-bag is not meant to be permanent, it is only to help you get from A to B and a little extra. If you are on the run, you will need to travel light and consume more than the recommended 2,000 calories per day. I recommend having 3,000 calories per day per person for at least two days depending on the weight.


What food do I need to grow?

As a beginning gardener, grow what you know. I have two schools of thought on this. One, you can try to grow as much as you can and see what grows and what doesn’t in the first year and then focus on what works for you in the second year. Two, you can focus your efforts on just a few items that others recommend growing for your area.

NOTE: Before your garden starts producing, you will need to buy a little extra food on every grocery shopping run so store it using the first-in first-out approach to ensure good food rotation.



What food do I grow in interior Alaska?

In my first year of gardening, I took a can of survival seeds I bought on Amazon plus some seeds I got from store-bought produce and chose the lazy planting method. I planted as much as I could using the wrong mediums, in the wrong areas, without any weeding or watering. Seriously this is what I did and figured only the strong will survive and then I focused my energies on those plants the next year and miraculously it worked for me.

For me, living in interior Alaska without a greenhouse, I only grow the basics; potatoes, leafy greens, and bunching onions – I do add a couple of other vegetables and some edible flowers/weeds like Italian dandelions, chicory, and borage but I try and stick to the basics.


What food do I need to raise?

Although, I don’t raise any animals, the family and friends we barter with raise chickens, turkeys, rabbits, and bees. The data is all over the board about what is easier and cheaper to raise, so all I can say is do your research to find out what works best for you in your area.


How do I store my food?

For food storage [KISS] just get one or two shelves from just about any box store or your local hardware, put them together and put the oldest items to the front (first in – first out). Too easy.

Start off slow and steady like the turtle and not the hare.

I still only keep a couple of racks full of canned, jarred, and dried goods along with some other things like vitamins, paper towels and toilet paper. We keep two deep freezers with meats in one and vegetables in another, as well as an extra refrigerator/freezer for overflow from our kitchen refrigerator/freezer – we also keep one closet in the house for dehydrated foods (#10 cans and packages) as well as 20 or so cases of MREs.


How do I prepare my stored food?

Do you know if you can you prepare your food storage without electricity? If you don’t know, this is the best time to find out. Do a practice run once a week/month by preparing and eating your stored food without using the microwave or stove/oven. A small butane cook stove from Amazon will probably do the trick for right now (I still use two of mine because they are easy to use, and they work every time).

Don’t forget you can dehydrate your store-bought perishables before they go bad. I love my dehydrated apple and pear slices with some cinnamon sugar. You can also make tinctures out of your chaga, onions, garlic etc…


The mistakes I’ve made.

Have you heard of Y2K, 9/11, and the Mayan Calendar? I did like many others did, I went out and bought 50lb bags of rice and beans, MREs, a ton of dehydrated food, and a 50 gallon barrel for water. Can you guess what happened to the rice and beans, MREs, the dehydrated food, and the 55-gallon barrel? That’s right, they are still in the same place I put them. Now I keep them there as a reminder of how naïve I was about what it means to live a more prepared lifestyle.

Most of those items are still good and will be good for a long time; we eat some of the items on a regular basis (I love the potato gems and pancakes from Augason Farms) but a lot of it was just a foolish waste of space and money. So, when I say being prepared is a lifestyle and should be centered around adding to your current lifestyle in a practical manner, I am only speaking from my own experience.


Beginner’s Guide to Prepping – Conclusion:

The Beginner’s Guide to Prepping was not meant to go into detail about shelter, water, or food rather it was meant to highlight some of the things you need to think about without getting bogged down in endless checklists and panic because you do not have everything that is mentioned. Remember you are just starting on your journey of becoming more prepared. I hope you will read our upcoming articles that go more in depth for the beginning prepper.

Things to think about – Growing Your Own Food, Food Storage, Food Preparations, Finding and Storing Water, Organizing Your Home for Disaster, Heating, Sanitation (Human Waste and Food Waste), Hygiene, Medical/Rx, Communications, Lighting, Entertainment, Bugging-In, Bugging-Out, Travel Routes and Transportation, Natural Disaster Defense, Physical Security Defenses. I will be doing articles on all of these and more.


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Keep in mind that we may receive commissions when you click our links and make purchases. However, this does not impact our reviews and comparisons. We try our best to keep things fair and balanced, in order to help you make the best choice for you. Affiliate Links in this post are for AmazonSurvival FrogWise Food, and Augason Farms.


Legal Disclaimer. This article is for informational purposes only and nothing in this article should be considered Legal, Medical, or Financial advice. Always do your own independent research and consult with professionals before taking any actions regarding anything in or related to this article.