In an emergency situation, being prepared drastically increases your chance of survival. Prepping is not a once-off, "go and buy everything" event. Prepping takes planning, resources, and skills. You need the essentials like food, water and shelter, but other well-thought-out items and acquired skills will make life much easier for you when resources are limited or you need to leave your home.
The contents of this ultimate prepper’s guide are basic by design. Every prepper needs different things depending on location, access to resources, and many other factors. No matter how good your equipment is or ideal your conditions are, nothing lasts forever. Make sure you rotate, restock, check equipment frequently, and know the expiry dates of perishable items.
If this list is overwhelming, don’t worry! Everyone has to start somewhere. We hope this list will provide useful information and function as a good starting point for your prepping journey.
Let’s get started!
The food you have on hand is a crucial element of your prepper checklist. Next to water, having a minimum of 3 months of nutritious, calorie-dense food source should be your top priority. If things go badly, you might not have the luxury of going to your local supermarket to pick up more supplies.
5 Gallon Bucket – If you want your food not to spoil, you need strong, solid plastic containers with airtight gasket lids.
Mylar Bags – Made from several layers of food-grade plastic, Mylar bags come in a variety of sizes and will extend your food shelf life. Just make sure you throw some oxygen absorbers in the bag before you seal it up.
Canned Goods – Canned goods are easy to make, store, and last for years. Meats, fish, vegetables, soups, and full meals are all found in cans.
Bulk Dried Goods – The staple food category on every prepper’s food list. Bulk dried goods are calorie-dense, lightweight, and can be kept for years if stored properly. Staple foods include:
Cooking Fats – Oils and fats are essential to properly cooking your food during an emergency. Be aware that oils have varying shelf lives. Coconut oil arguably has the longest life of any natural oil, and hydrogenated shortening like Crisco can last even longer, though it’s much less healthy.
Spices & Seasonings – Spices make your food taste better, and can last for years if stored properly. Food variety may be scarce in an emergency, so you’ll want all the seasoning you can get.
Seasoning like soy sauce and vinegar will last nearly forever and can double as a cleaning product, as well. Baking powder/soda is another multi-function product great for cooking, cleaning, and washing.
Vegetable Seeds – Having a stock of seeds on hand lets you grow your food from the ground wherever you are. Seeds can also be handy for trading and bartering.
Pet Food – Don’t forget your pet! Keep plenty of pet food on hand for your furry friends.
Freeze Dried – So easy, just add water! These emergency food storage kits are built to last a lifetime and come in a huge variety of meal options for any taste and preference. There are many great freeze-dried food companies out there with buckets containing anywhere from 30-90 meals. Most buckets are made for long-term storage containing Mylar pouches, heavy-duty zip-lock seals, and oxygen absorbers.
For those who may be concerned about the quality or source of pre-packaged ingredients, buying a home freeze-dryer gives you total control over what goes into your meals.
Unless you plan to only eat canned goods during an emergency, you’ll need to think about how you’ll cook your food both with and without electricity.
Can opener – If you are storing canned goods, you’ll want a couple of these on hand.
Unbreakable Plates/Dishes – You don’t want to take your fine china or heavy porcelain plates with you in an emergency. Good quality plastic ware is nearly unbreakable, foldable, lightweight, and easily washable.
Kettle – Heats water fast and doubles as a heat source.
Aluminum foil – Aluminum foil is incredibly versatile. In addition to wrapping food for cooking and storage, aluminum foil can help seedlings grow, protect your skin, clean ashes, collect rainwater, reflect heat, and can be molded into a plate, bowl, or cup.
Cast iron pan– Cast iron pans will last forever if properly seasoned and stored, won’t warp or crack, and are easily used in open fires.
Wood-burning stove – Wood stoves are handy for cooking and heating when the power goes out. If you don’t live in an area with wood nearby, consider a multi-fuel stove to be as flexible as possible.
Solar Oven – With no need for electricity, gas, briquettes, or even wood, harnessing the power of the sun is the ultimate survivalist cooking method. A good solar oven is portable, noiseless, and comes with a built-in thermometer.
You can only survive 3 days without water. While it’s more fun to talk about tools, if you don’t have access to a clean water source, the rest of your prep kit won’t matter much. It’s not practical to carry around huge amounts of water so you’ll want multiple filters and purifiers on hand.
Berkey Water Purification System – One of the easiest and best purifiers on the market able to purify over 6000 gallons of water with its 2 included filters. Killing 99% of pathogens, viruses, bacteria, & trihalomethanes, the Berkey water purifying system is available in multiple sizes and comes with a backpack for easy transport. The Filters also last for years of use, so no worries about running out monthly like regular store bought filters!
Waterproof Matches – Don’t skimp on quality here. Make sure you get wax-coated matches to ensure they’ll still work in wet conditions.
Water Purifier Tablets – These tablets aren’t meant for long-term use, but will kill any harmful pathogens and viruses if you run out of clean water.
Water Bottles – You want to keep your water sources separate, and have smaller water containers in case you need to travel long distances between water sources.
Pocket Filters – We’re lucky enough to live in an era of incredibly fast and pocket-sized water purifiers. Some popular ones include the Steripen, Lifestraw, & Katadyn.
Food Grade Plastic Containers – Don’t store your water in any old plastic container, as particles can leach out over time and contaminate your water. Make sure you only buy food-grade plastic buckets for food and water storage.
Bathtub Basin – Plastic bathtub liners like the Waterbob lets you quickly and easily fill up your tub before your supply gets cut off and gives you a huge supply of fresh, clean water.
Your shelter is as important as food and water if you’re forced away from home. You need protection from the rain, wind, snow, and predators if you are to survive, and exposure to extreme weather conditions can easily kill you faster than dehydration or starvation.
Good Quality Tent - Large enough for the whole family/household. A good tent is strong enough to protect against the elements and predators but lightweight enough to easily carry with you.
Heavy-duty tarp – A good tarp is incredibly versatile and can be used for anything from a shelter, to use as a rain catcher, poncho, privacy curtain, signaling device, stretcher, and more.
Poncho/Rain Jacket – If you’re wet, you’ll lose heat and energy. Invest in a good quality poncho to keep dry.
Sleeping Bag – The size and temperature rating of your sleeping bag should depend on the climate you live in. A good night's sleep is incredibly important in a stressful situation.
Emergency Blanket – Super lightweight and portable, these blankets provide extra warmth and, like tarps, have dozens of other practical uses.
You need to keep your body temperature relatively stable to survive. Clothing can over be overlooked in the survivalist packing list, but is essential if you need to bug-out. Having the right clothing with you can be a matter of life and death.
Warm Clothing – Even warmer climates can still see unseasonal weather changes, especially if you have to travel at night. It’s better to have extra layers than not enough.
Wide-brimmed Hat – Deters pests and keeps you protected from the sun’s harsh UV rays.
Polarized Sunglasses – Protection against UV rays for your eyes.
Good Quality Boots – This is an important one. If you need to travel long distances, or over unstable terrain, a good pair of boots protects your feet and gives you stability. Blisters from bad footwear can be incredibly debilitating and dangerous. Always make sure your boots are broken-in before using them for long distances.
Thick Socks – Again, protecting your feet is of the utmost importance.
Bandanas – A bandana is an Incredibly versatile piece of clothing that also can be used for signaling, marking territory, washing, as a tourniquet, and as a water filter.
An untreated wound or illness can quickly make survival much harder. We have many conveniences at our fingertips but many do not realize the challenges presented when those are not available. Medical supplies and personal hygiene products are must-haves for any prepper’s checklist.
First Aid Kits
Oral Hygiene Kit including Tooth Brush, Tooth Paste, and Floss
If you’re stuck outside at night, you’ll want a good light source and several backups. Not being able to see at night puts you and your family at serious risk.
LED Flashlight – Small pocket-sized flashlights are good to have, but ensure you have at least 1 large, weatherproof flashlight with backup batteries. LED’s will provide more light and consume less power.
Pocket Lamp – perfect if you run out of batteries. Just hand crank for a few minutes and you’re good to go.
Lighters – lightweight, compact, and a good source of fire and light. Make sure you have a variety of lighters and at least a few that are weatherproof.
Headlamp – Having both hands free for other uses while navigating in the dark is essential. Spring for a good quality headlamp with multiple settings and a red light mode.
Solar Power Kit – A solar power kit lets you power your home and spaces all from the sun. You can easily purchase full solar kits that include everything you need to get set up.
Tools are the fun and multi-functional items every prepper loves to collect. It’s best to spring for quality items now to avoid them breaking when you need it and can’t get replacements. All of these items are standard, inexpensive, and available everywhere.
Multi-Tool – Maybe the most important single tool a prepper can own. A good multi-tool has nearly unlimited uses and fits in your pocket.
Knife – Every prepper needs a good knife. Make sure you have a few different types with at least one fixed blade survival knife and one foldable pocket knife.
Hatchet – Great for chopping wood
Saw – Another great wood cutting tool.
Fire Starter – Great if your matches or lighters run out or stop working.
Shovel – A good item for camping, hiking, prepping, and protection. A good shovel has dozens of uses.
Hammer & Screws – Standard tools with multiple uses that can be lifesaving in an emergency.
Zip Ties – Great for quick securing of smaller items.
Buckets – Buckets aren’t just good for food storage, they can be used for storing or hiding just about anything including freshly caught fish, and also good for growing food.
Duct Tape – The all-purpose fixer-upper. Repairs clothing, gear, and about a hundred other uses
Glue – Like duct tape, good quality glue can repair, hold together or fix just about anything.
Scissors – We don’t need to tell you about why scissors are handy to keep around.
Bungee Cord – Very good at securing and tying down items.
Compass – Again, if the Internet goes down, you’ll want a good compass for navigation.
Maps – We rely heavily on the Internet and GPS to navigate around these days. But if the Internet goes down, you’ll want a good map to guide your way. Make sure these are waterproof and brush up on your map reading skills.
Fishing Gear – If you’re forced out of your home without a reliable food source, being able to catch your food can be life-saving.
Waterproof Bag – Store important non-waterproof items inside to keep dry. Bags are available in a variety of sizes.
Pepper Spray – For protection.
There is nothing more stressful than not being able to contact your loved ones in an emergency. If the Internet and communication go down, you’ll want to be prepared and able to communicate.
HAM Radio – The standard in communication. Consider handheld versions for a more portable lightweight option. Get yourself a HAM radio license so you can legally broadcast. Without a license, you can only tune in, but not message out.
Hand Crank Radio – A good backup in case of emergency. Many come with built-in flashlights and solar panels.
Walkie-Talkies – Great for close-range communication. Don’t forget plenty of extra batteries.
Solar Charger – In case the electricity goes down.
Whistle – As a last resort, a whistle can be lifesaving if you get lost in the woods or as a warning to others.
Contact numbers – Write down your important numbers of family, friends, and radio frequencies so you don’t forget them.
BUG OUT BAG
The Bug Out Bag (BOB), Get Home Bag (GHB), is often the first place prepper’s start. These bags are designed to grab and go immediately and contain a small amount of the basics needed for survival.
The Bag - This isn’t your everyday school bag. You need a bag made from fairly heavy duty with lots of storage pockets and space. Some of the contents should include:
Lightweight food (Freeze Dried)
Pocket Water Filters (Steripen)
First Aid Kit
Small Handheld Tools
Lightweight Cooking Equipment
Having a power source that you can safely use indoors to keep your fridge running, CPAP machine going, lights, heating etc can be the difference between life and death in the event of an emergency. Solar Powered Generators can be charged using solar panels, but you can also charge it up quickly with your homes standard AC plug while the power is still on and the generator will store that power for when you need it the most.
Can be safely used indoors, unlike gas generators that MUST be used outside so they do not leak harmful/potentially deadly CO2 in your home
Quiet. They Don't make noise so they will not keep you awake or alert outsiders
Multiple methods of charging. You can charge via Solar Panels, AC Plug, Auxiliary outlet in a vehicle, Wind Turbine etc.
Portable. You can bring it with you incase you need to evacuate.
Depending on the generator you buy, you can use it to plug directly into your 30AMP to run your Rv
IMPORTANT SURVIVAL SKILLS TO KNOW
Survival isn’t just about the things you have; it’s about the skills you know and the knowledge you have. Any of these skills will give you a serious advantage over those who don’t know them, and they can prove useful in bartering or helping others in need. You can easily learn the basics of most of these online for free.
Canning & Food Preserving
Basic Medical Training
Basic Survival Skills
HAM License & Operation
Foraging, Edible Plants & Mushrooms
Preparing Game & Fish
Hunting & Fishing
Basic Firearm Training
Being prepared in an emergency gives you the best chance for survival, period. While this isn’t an exhaustive list, it should get you started on your way. Use this checklist to get yourself started. You can add things slowly, and there are always skills to learn and improve upon. We hope you’ve found this ultimate prepper checklist and guide helpful.
Need a hand getting started on your Prepper Journey?
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At Wild Oak Trail, we’re here to answer any survival, outdoor, and off-grid questions you have. Give us a call or email anytime and browse our website for other useful products.
Saxon Funk, co-founder and driving force behind Wild Oak Trail, embodies the spirit of self-sufficiency and preparedness. Launching the venture over six years ago with his wife, Hailey, Saxon has steeped himself in mastering solar generators, heating solutions, food storage, and off-grid living essentials, becoming a veritable guru in the field. His expertise is more than theoretical; it's practical, as evidenced by his own home, equipped with the very products Wild Oak Trail proudly offers. Saxon's passion extends beyond commerce; he thrives on the assurance of providing for his family in any circumstance, fervently believing in empowering others to do the same through the quality resources and knowledge he shares through his business.