5 Prepper Errors That Make You Look Dumb

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Being Prepared is important - but don't make these 5 prepper errors or you risk looking dumb! | via www.TheSurvivalMom.comAs the Survival Mom, I’m all about looking ahead to the future, considering its uncertainties, and then doing my best to be prepared, but when I see some of the dumb things people are doing to prepare, I have to shake my head.

In no particular order, here’s what I see.

Buying first, learning second — BIG prepper error

A lot of survival businesses are making some pretty significant profits on preppers who buy in a panic. I’ve even heard of people putting a year’s worth of food on a credit card because they can’t afford it any other way. Dumb.

Arming for a zombie invasion

You know I’m all in favor of firearms and am grateful for our Second Amendment rights, but come on! Some know-nothing preppers are buying every gun, in every caliber, with all the trimmings, without knowing much about hitting the target! Once you buy that first gun, you really do commit yourself to training, and lots of it. Go to an Appleseed weekend, sign up at a shooting range for a basic class, then a more advanced class. The classes that teach tactics are the most fun classes of all.

Arguing over details and losing sight of the bigger picture

Does it really matter if another prepper is stocking up on canned goods and you think that buckets of wheat are the only way to go? Does anyone care if you think a Bug Out Bag is a waste of time but you have to voice your opinion every time the subject comes up?  The much bigger picture is providing as stable a future as possible for our families.

Wearing nothing but head-to-toe camo with a survival knife and a pistol strapped to your thigh

Sorry, poser-guy at Chick-fil-A, but you looked pretty dumb when I saw you there last week. If a gang of armed zombies had dropped by, sure, you would have gotten off a shot or two, but you would also have been the first person taken out. If you’re going to carry, then carry concealed, and for heaven’s sake, try to blend in!

The smartest preppers are the ones who follow the first rule: The first rule of prepping is, you DO NOT talk about prepping. And you shouldn’t look like you’re prepping, either.

Living in perpetual paranoia

There may come a time and a place to constantly look over your shoulder and greet anyone coming within fifty yards with the business end of a shotgun, but guess what? This isn’t Somalia and you aren’t Mel Gibson. Take it easy! Stay focused and sane. Please. You’ll earn more respect if you keep a cool head.

This article has been updated from the original version published on November 2, 2010.

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I'm the original Survival Mom, and have been helping moms worry less and enjoy their homes and families more for 9 years.

68 thoughts on “5 Prepper Errors That Make You Look Dumb”

    1. I DON'T KNOW!!! I never even heard of this obsession with zombies until I started researching and becoming part of the whole preparedness/survival scene. It seems to be due to all the end-of-the-world movies where no one is left alive except zombies and the main character, a la the Will Smith movie, "I Am Legend". I'm not afraid of zombies because, as everyone knows, all you need to ward them off is plenty of vinegar. ;o)

      1. Really? Vinegar? Thank heavens, we are good to go there. lol There are just so many really scary/fun books and movies (aka Stephen King, etc) that dwell on zombies or other things that I think it actually has become a running joke among preppers.

        1. A running joke is a good way to put it. Every once in a while I throw that into a blog post or a conversation, and it's always good for a laugh. To be on the safe side, though, I have several gallons of vinegar ready to go.

          1. Mike in Virginia

            Actually, the only way to take out a zombie is with a head shot. But seriously, the term Mutant Zombie Bikers (MZBs) has developed as a prepper shorthand notation for all the lawless armed gangs that could appear in a survival situation. Note that zombies are more than just the "Golden Horde" of clueless refugees; rather, they represent the worst elements of current society that, in a survival situation, would take advantage of the lack of law enforcement to raise H-E-double-hockey-sticks (think hurricanes Andrew and Katrina). So yes, it's kind of a running joke, but with a halfway serious undertone.

          2. Yes, yes yes. Yes! They are the dregs of society that will be hired to chase down debts, intimidate, etc. If not employed to do so, they will just try to take advantage of those who are vulnerable or in need. Have you seen the movie "Cold Mountain?" The men who didn't go off to fight in the Civil War would fall into my catagory "zombies." They were gutless bullies who threw around their temporary and limited power to intimidate and personally benefit from a SHTF situation.

      2. Zombie is the term that prepper freaks use to describe refugees and civilians fleeing ground zero of a natural disaster.

        Dehumanization is a psychological process whereby opponents view each other as less than human and thus not deserving of moral consideration. Jews in the eyes of Nazis and Tutsis in the eyes of Hutus (in the Rwandan genocide) are but two examples. Eventually, this can result in moral exclusion. Those excluded are typically viewed as inferior, evil, or criminal.

        We typically think that all people have some basic human rights that should not be violated. Innocent people should not be murdered, raped, or tortured. Rather, international law suggests that they should be treated justly and fairly, with dignity and respect.

        But, if a person is no longer human, if they are a “zombie” An aggressor is no longer under any moral hazard for murdering them.

        1. To be fair, I think most people who use the term only use it in a humorous way, because you know if you’re ready for zombies you’re ready for anything. But there are a minority of people who do use the term in the way that Mrfocus suggests, and it usually isn’t hard to figure out what groups of people they are using the word “zombie” as code for. That second group can be some very scary individuals who, in my opinion, pose a great deal of danger to honest, law-abiding preppers. They see the world in terms of “us” and “them,” and if you aren’t willing to buy into their world view, you’re one of “them,” and you and your supplies might just be seen as fair game.

      3. Think of “zombies” as the unprepared masses. The masses will stumble around looking for food and when they see or smell food which smelling someone cooking there food is something no one ever talks about in the mind set of prepping. I laugh at everyones sites that talk about blending in because the only true way of surviving a waste land is to preserve what’s left by wiping out the plague that destroyed it in the first place. HUMANS . to truly survive is to decrease the population and that’s why WW3 will be global readjust your moral compass and hang on if you see another person just drop them because they will you if given the chance. Good luck and I’ll be seeing you in the cross hairs;-)

    2. In my experience, talk of "The Great Zombie Uprising" or ". . . when the unholy dead rise from the graves" is a euphamism for "When it all goes to HE**"– preppers know what you're talking about, non-preppers think you're just being humorous. No one talks about "When the currency completely crashes and the powergrid fails"– we talk about zombies rising up out the grave. It's um . . . well, in this area, it's a way to speak of prepping without coming across as a total freak.

      Which, when you think about it, is darned odd, but there you go.

      1. We do the same thing here. No one thinks you're crazy for prepping for Zombies, but prepping for an actual emergency seems crazy to them.
        Devin

    3. Really, it's just something to call bandits and bad guys. The army refers to enemy potential targets as Tangos. There are so many movies, and particularly video games where you're shooting Mutant Zombie Bikers or something, that the 'Men' have taken to referring to someone they may have to protect against as Zombies or MZBs. It's a psychological tool of 'dishumanizing' your enemy to make it less traumatic to take a life.

    4. 'Zombies' are a convenient way of short circuiting the basic psychological response to 'hey, that's a fellow human being I am about to kill'. If 'they' are already 'dead' it gives you license to engage in *ANY* behavior necessary to make the 'problem' go away.

      In other words, it is an escape mechanism.

    5. using the Zombie example is like saying "to the Nth degree." It's used to represent a situation where everything that can go wrong has gone wrong. Out of everything that could possibly happen to our beautiful little blue planet, a global zombie outbreak is just about as bad as it gets… Therefore if something can survive Zombies, it's good for anything.

  1. Thank you!! I am always explaining to people to be wise on what they store. If they don't rotate it and eat it, then don't store it. I am always surprised at how many people are trying to live off of the grid to the extreme. I think that we need to be prepared and I have a year supply of food that I rotate through, I have other items too like a toilet – being a girl, I want to be able to sit down and relax (ha ha). Hygiene is a huge problem in an emergency and it goes along with my 72 hour kit. I also get tired of emergency sites that spout fear or just try to sell their books or products by making people fearful. Thanks for keeping it real.

    1. I'm into the whole toilet/TP thing, too, Sondra. I'll "go" in a ditch or behind a bush if I must, but really. If God intended for us to do that, then why did He invent toilets??? LOL

  2. Good discussion. Point #1 especially. Hasty purchasing on a limited budget could actually impair one's preparedness. Be informed and be strategic. Start with building a month's food supply, a couple weeks of water stored and a good book on the subject (Survival Mom — have you done a column devoted to the best books?).

    Inventory what you already have — common possessions such as a barbeque grill would be fantastic in a shelter-in situation.

    The zombie thing was a mystery to me for a long while. I suspect it's become a way of deflecting the stigma associated with armed-to-the-teeth end-of-the-world survivalism.

    Preparedness for me began with baby steps after enduring a freezing cold and dark week of power outages due to ice storms 16 years ago. I'd just begun acquiring camping gear for dog-friendly vacations and lo-and-behold discovered that camping gear can come in real handy when the power grid goes down. And then 9/11 happened and the notion of "bugging out" of Washington, DC (my home) became a clear and present concern.

    We're camping more than ever for the fun of it and with that gear stash already ample (including a teardrop trailer stored near the mountains for convenience), have the luxury of focusing on home-specific shelter-in needs such as food and water storage.

    Preparedness has become an enjoyable hobby for me. And I pray often that's all it will ever need be.

  3. What has always got me was people arguing details. That part of prepping can lead people off track really fast. Stay focused on the main goal is how I always try to approach prepping.

  4. Too many people fail to look at whole life. They see pockets only. Yes, food and water is primary, but what about laundry, winter cold and summer heat, bugs and vermin, TRASH? When the trash isn't being picked up every week the rats and vermin will increase. What are you AND YOUR NEIGHBORS going to do about it?
    Look at all aspects of your families needs and activities. Concentrate first on food, water and shelter, because those are the primary necessities, but slip in the other stuff in little bits while you're at it.

  5. @ Barbara … I agree, we need to look at all of life to prepare. That is why I love this site — I come to it from a mom's perspective. And as a mom, I meet everyone's needs everyday, then I just expand from there. Instead of buying two packs of underwear and socks for my son, I buy four and in different sizes. I have dish soap, facial soap, laundry soap… the cool wonder wash and laundry lines – stuff for everyday life beyond the 3Bs. Thankfully we've been preparing for a while so I can branch out a little from the buckets of wheat and beans! When it all falls apart, it will be hard for EVERYONE especially the kids, so if I can stick a little comfort in here and there, I'm all about that!

  6. With just buckets of beans and wheat, I would be praying for Zombies!! Palate Fatigue – ugh….Answering with "zombies" is what my husband says when asked what we are preparing for. He says it with a straight face – total deadpan – and people dont know if he is kidding or not 😉

    Prepping for us is a lifestyle and not something you can just purchase and check off your list. You have to learn what you need, learn how to use what you have, learn how to make due, learn how to do without, learn, learn, learn….

  7. Great list. I'd like to comment on #1 if I may. I agree with it, but I also think its an important part of the learning process. Sometimes in engineering we refer to a mentality known as analysis paralysis. Sometimes buying something and not being happy with it is a bargain on education. Each and everyone of us has a different tolerance for buying something and it being a poor purchase. However each time wi make a poor purchase that we can afford we learn what to look for when we are considering purchasing something above our tolerance level.

  8. I also agree yet disagree on #1. Buying first and learning second is bad on some things, but just fine in others. I have bought basic dental tools, and a detailed book on dentistry. I hope to never have to learn this science. Most med stuff is interesting to me, but other people's mouths just gross me out. I won't, however leave a loved one in great pain because of my ick factor. I bought the kit in hopes that if needed, I'd find a dentist. It may be easier to find a dentist or doctor with no supplies than one who has everything he needs.

  9. It's hunting season here, and probably hunting season most everywhere in the country right now. Head to toe camouflage is a very very common attire. I know people who hunt before work and after work. I've walked into the bank, the grocery store, hardware store, etc., decked out in full camo (minus a face hood… I've got a beard, and never wear one). If I have to run to town for something, I don't change out of my hunting clothes to do it.

    So, the guy in full camo might've just been picking up supper on the way home.

    Might be a little crazy in metro areas…. but even then, down in Tx, folks have hunting leases a days drive away, and don't change on the way home.

    1. Thanks for dropping by my blog and your comment about camo, when it makes sense to wear it, is a good one. I, too, see guys wearing camo when it's obvious they've been hunting or have some other logical reason to wear it.

    2. In my neck of the woods its not unusual to see entire families dressed in camo during hunting season. But in a rural area, camo is an acceptable everyday thing to wear. Most people live on ranches or farms around here, so its something they wear to work in. My boys wear it as much as possible, they are counting down the days until they are old enough for hunters safety courses.

    3. Honestly, like most things, it seems like you can tell the people wearing camo for a reason (actually in the service, hunting today, etc) from the "posers". It's the latter who look silly and stand out for all the wrong reasons.

  10. and for you ladies who are a bit vain..
    and I can include myself, but only somewhat
    maybe after water, medicine & FOOD are stocked up?
    several inexpensive lip & eye PENCILS to put aside.
    am told Kool-Aid will dye your hair, but QUITE PERMANENTLY (yet, isn't that what we'd WANT?)
    believe me, having grown up poor
    if hungry, you won't care what color your hair IS
    and for those who think theft is just plain WRONG for whatever your reasons ARE
    just wait until your daughter-in-law is unable to produce milk for your newborn, crying GRANDBABY
    by the WAY
    Walmart still sells IODINE. but for some reason, it's now behind the counter in the pharmacy…hmm. WHY?

  11. umm, well, zombies…what do you think crack addicts, meth addicts, and folks that rely on heavy meds just to fiunction sanely are going to look and act like when they can no longer get thier crack, meth, or meds? or barter thier eib credits away? zombies will be for real, not the holywood funny stuff, but real , dangerous, scary, unpredictable fools, that are used to doing anything to get what they need .

  12. Something Herbert Spencer said worries me. What if you have a family member that relies on medication because of a mental disorder, how do you prepare for this if you can't get the doctors to give you more than 3 months of medicine at a time? My mom has bipolar disorder and my dad has type 2 diabetes, what can I do for them?

    1. Yes, Jessica, prescription medication is a definite concern. One possible solution is to do some digging around and find a doctor who is also survival/preparedness minded. I know they are out there. Numerous articles on this subject have been posted on <a href="http://www.survivalblog.com” target=”_blank”>www.survivalblog.com. Do a search for 'prescription medication' or 'pharmacist' to find them. It's a very good thing that you're taking this into consideration now.

    2. You should be able to find a doctor, as Lisa says, to help with your dad's diabetes. How much your mom can be helped depends on how sick she is and what medication she is on. I know one little girl (8 now) who is severely schizophrenic and one of her medications is only dispensed one week at a time because her health has to be so closely monitored to make sure it isn't making her sicker, there is no stocking up for that medication. I can't imagine that she could actually get a full years supply of her thorazine (her most critical med) and lithium, either. I don't know what your mother is on, of course, but my point in this is that there are medications that you simply can not stock up on, or not by much, because they are too heavily controlled. But anything you can do will still be a great help. Perhaps you could explain your concerns to the doctor and get 3 months and 1 week at a time? It's not much, but by the end of the year, you'll have one extra month. Perhaps if you make it clear to the doctor that YOU will have this as an emergency supply and not your Mom?

      Truly, good luck and God Bless with that. I know it can be a huge weight and it's wonderful that you're trying to help them. It's impossible for anyone else to understand if they aren't living it themselves.

    3. type 2 diabetes can be helped/eliminated by eating healthy and working out regularly usually. As for the bipolar … eh . My brother uses diet and excersize most of the time to manage his bipolar… but hes still a bit crazy sometimes. depends on the severity of the issue.. if your mother isn’t thinking clearly she may be unsafe to be around in that kind of situation.

  13. Granted, a lot of the survivalist types are just playing dress up for adults. But, if I’m coming out of the woods from hog hunting, I wouldn’t look that differently than the guy you saw at Chic-Fil-A. The possibility of being less than 10 yards from an animal that can gore you necessitates quick access.

    That being said, I’d probably just go through the drive through and avoid the stares.

  14. Well, stupid is as stupid does.
    Prepping should start with your brain. Read, learn, think ….. then do what seems best for you and your family.
    That being said, each person/family will do what fits best to their budget and lifestyle. Just as your life and circumstances differ, your prepping will differ too.

  15. you reposted this Jan 10, 2015 it is odd that even when my father Active duty with me running the gates going in and/or running out with some GI propose or working the Sub contractor in keeping the four large kitchens clean to USDA and state rules driving a panel truck in once per month with cleaning supplies that we was not to use but we had to purchase and bring them on Base to have them disappear.

  16. Hey Zombies are people too. The parallel with the zombies refers to what non peppers will be when the SHTF. A gocery store after a snow storm by a factor of 10 for example. A gas station when fuel is running out (I remember the oil embargo with blocks long lines). People will go nuts and instead of eating your brain they will do whatever they can to get what they want. Funny thing is that peppers as a group preach community and sharing.

    1. I agree to a point -people will turn violent. however I am not sharing. If I only have for my family you bet your not getting any of my hardwork, because not every prepper is filthy rich.

  17. Great post. I agree with all of your points. Gear and supplies are great, but if a person doesn’t know how to use them, they are just a waist of money. I hate when people tell me they are just storing x for if they need it and when I ask them if they have tried it out they look at me like I have two heads.

  18. First, I would like to say that you have an interesting site and focus on nice topics. I know this is an updated version of an older thread. The one comment I would like to make is concerning the head to toe camo. First, I don’t think you were referring to people dressing that way as hunters. I believe you were talking about what I like to call ” Tactical Squirrel” attire. If SHTF ever does happen, unless you are in a large, well-regulated group of families where there is a security detail in place, you really don’t want to deck yourself out in tactical attire. It puts a very large bulls eye on your back “Oh, look! He, she,or they have lots of expensive gear! Let’s take it!” This is real life, not Hollywood. Give me the biggest, baddest Navy Seal and even he can only defend himself against so many people at one time.

  19. in our neck of the woods, especially in winter, Head to toe camo are hunters, maybe hunters that don’t care to or can’t afford to buy a regular coat/outfit or who just want to revel in the hunting culture. LOL starts in the fall and sort of fades toward spring.

  20. ‘Zombies’ represent (unfortunately) any possible survival or prepper situation.
    They are the unknown element, the catalyst for societal destruction.

    UNFORTUNATELY … they are also the focal points for idiots.
    I was working with a guy who ‘had it all ready’ … his bug out bag had knifes, throwing stars, spikes, spear points, a really wicked looking Machete, and a samaruai sword…. oh, and head strap flashflight, you know… to keep his zombie killing hands free…..
    No food, no maps, no medical supplies…. no knowledge on how to actually USE any of the above listed gear (Except the flashlight)…. Not to mention the pack weighed every bit of sixty lbs….

    I got railed on quite openly on a survival site once by pointing this out….
    The Government really does not care about YOU.
    The fact that you figured out how to disable the GPS on your cellphone only means your aps are not going to work the best they can.
    Camo is NOT for daily wear, and does you NO GOOD in the city anyways.
    Sitting in your moms basement (that you call the bunker) and field stripping your AR15 is not a survival plan, it’s like saying you get your military experience from playing call of duty.

    There is a whole life out there to live, and I like living it.
    We travel (we just travel prepared as we can get)
    We go to functions and meetings (we just are prepared as we can)
    We go to church, to the store, we separate and do things apart from each other….
    We go outside……we enjoy the day….
    (We just try to stay prepared) …..

    Be prepared for what may come, but don’t let it stop you from enjoying what’s right here…
    Just because the world MIGHT end tomorrow … doesnt mean it will

  21. I love this site. I’ve browsed many others and attempted to join into conversations in an attempt to pick brains (no zombie pun intended) and get advice. Mostly what I find are a lot of people who #1.love their guns,#2 if you aren’t doing it their way you’re wrong, #3 love their guns, #4 if you don’t have a bunker and aren’t prepared to kill everyone in sight then you’re going to die, #5 you aren’t truly prepared unless you have several 50lb bags of wheat and rice hidden under your bed, and lastly, but just as important, did I mention they love their guns.
    I like the practical, everyday advice and tips that I get here.
    thanks

  22. Oh my goodness! I don’t know what is better, the article or the comments! 😀 We are working on being able to use the gear we buy. There is no use in having it if you can’t figure out how it works! We are also prepping by becoming more self sufficient. Stockpiles will only last so long. We are learning about herbal and medicinal plants and foraging. It is not just a state of mind for us anymore, it is a lifestyle. AND we LOVE our life!

  23. Good point Keith, it makes you a target. And if in a group all camo should match for easier identification of each other. Also on the meds. question it could be a tough, but it might be a plan to check what leaves,herbs or roots may work because remember they didn’t always have some(a lot) of the medications they do now.
    I always kinda took it for granted Zombie was a term used for SHTF. Though I do like a good Z movie/book. But my money is on the economy going bust.

  24. Pingback: Prepper News Watch for January 12, 2015 | The Preparedness Podcast

  25. A reply to Kelly, who asked what is the deal with ‘zombies”? ‘Zombies’ is a euphemism for the hordes of unprepared trying to obtain by any means that which you have.

  26. The “Zombie” thing in my opinion are the masses of cattle that follow blindly wheather it is government, police, military or just local fools who drink the “Cool aid”.

    I do love the Walking dead though.

  27. i agree… Zombies is a reference to the unprepared and the “fema will help me” people. That being said it did become much more popular when fema used it to campaign preparedness and all the zombie shows and movies came out.

    Imo prepping IRL is a lifestyle. You can’t expect to suddenly go from caviar to hard wheat and rice. Part of being prepared isn’t just survival its normalcy. Some degree of comfort as well.

    I prefer the “grey man” approach. If my town is evacuated and I have to leave im not dressing everyone in camo with tactical gear and rifles slung over our shoulders…. Way to scream hey look what I have! No I’ll pack my vehicle the best I can (which thankfully has tinted windows already) and try my best not to look like I am better off than others. If we have to go by foot we all have neutral normal looking backpacks (sturdy and reinforced of course), also plain no descript clothing (thankfully cargo pants are very popular) so that we will hopefully look like everyone else. Do we have weapons yes, but no one would see them unless I wanted them to.

    I honestly don’t even like the terms Prepper, survivalist ect it’s called common sense which up until a few generations ago was something everyone did because it made sense. Sadly society no longer has any common sense and the kool aid drinking zombies out number us with it.

  28. In stocking your cans and/or boxes of food, write the exp date in black marker on the front of the label. It really makes it easy to spot when something needs to be used instead of trying to read that itty, bitty, tiny date.

  29. http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2014/images/05/16/dod.zombie.apocalypse.plan.pdf
    http://www.cdc.gov/phpr/zombies.htm

    I would think these were meant to be funny if I thought the govt had a sense of humor. This is when I have issues with #5 and hyperventilate then breath into a bag for 30 minutes. This is the same response I have when I read Threat Journal every week.

    I always think of zombies in prepper lingo as being the hordes of people who don’t prepare for emergencies and can become very dangerous when they lack food/water/meds and there may not be law and order. We see it happen in emergencies all the time. We have no food or water or police….quickly go steal all the tvs. Definitely brain dead.

    As for meds, don’t fall into #5 by pulling family members off mental health meds. Some people can be okay without meds. But many people will be condemned to a life of misery and suffering or even become suicidal. There is a huge biological component to mental health issues and people with mental health issues deserve our compassion, our respect and medical treatment. We need to be able to prep and still live happy lives. Just breath into a bag. It works for me. Sometimes.

  30. Good stuff, Mom.

    As a former LEO, I especially appreciate the “pistol strapped to the thigh” portion. That’s the guy I’ll be standing farthest from at any location. While I appreciate the “right” to open carry, it’s just not the wisest option. If someone means to do harm, the person advertising their armed state will be the first target.

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