Are You a Prepper? Take This Simple Test

How do you know if you or anybody can honestly claim to be a prepper? After all, there are internationally-recognized criteria for things like this, you know, established by the United Nations, probably in consultation with the European Central Bank, Monsanto and Bill Gates. Of course I'm kidding. What this short exercise is intended to show is how closely one lives what one claims is important. If you're a prepper, then what are the obvious signs? How are you different from others? I know, you have a garage, basement, attic, shed or storage unit full of food and gear, and you are ready for some 'event', but if you were stopped on the street and asked to show how prepared you are for any event, would you pass my test?

Let's say something happens when you are not at home with your 'stuff'. You're shopping in town, hiking in the hills or whatever, and some event requires you to take action, possibly save lives, build a shelter, make a fire, find food. Would you be prepared? After all, you say you are a prepper, so what preparations have you made for such a situation? Do you have things with you at all times that would help you deal with an emergency?

Let's start this test by dressing as you would if you were to go shopping in town. You probably don't carry a loaded backpack while shopping, so you really only have your clothes and what you carry on you and in your pockets. Ready? To begin the test, empty your pockets and take off any gear that you usually have with you, and place all of your 'gear' on a table. Look over your 'tools'. Is there anything there that will help you deal with this situation? Do you see a knife on the table? A flashlight? Something to make a fire? Any medical supplies? How about self defense? Pepper spray or a gun? In short, how well are you prepared to deal with emergencies, even disasters, when you are not at home with your prepping supplies?

To be fair, I should say what's on my table, after emptying my pockets. I have a Leatherman Wave multitool, carried on my belt. It has pliers, wire cutters, two knives, screwdrivers, scissors, file, saw, can/bottle opener and ruler. Next is a First Responder folding knife by Smith and Wesson clipped on my front pocket, with a 3 5/8" blade and seatbelt cutter. Hangin on my keychain is a Gerber Clutch mini multitool, with small knife blade, small screwdrivers, tweezers. needle-nose pliers, wire cutters and nail file. Then a butane lighter in one pocket, a keychain solar flashlight on a belt loop and if it's cold and I wear a jacket, an emergency 'space' blanket in an inner pocket. A Glock 19 9mm pistol in holster is also always with me, 14 rounds plus one in the chamber and two extras in the butt for 17 total. I don't load the mag with all 15 to reduce stress on the spring. I have a cell phone, wallet with credit card and money and spare change, and a plastic comb. I used to have a cut off toothbrush on my keychain, just the brush and an inch of handle, but no longer. Lastly, I have a pen or two and scraps of paper and one or two paper towels.

Let's check the 14 categories (see BOB) I list for 'services' you will probably want to provide yourself in an emergency, to see how many are covered by your table full of stuff, and by mine. Water and Food might be absent, unless you carry a Cliff Bar or something. I often have nuts and dried fruit in a jacket pocket in winter. Shelter: My space blanket is better than nothing, it can keep me warm, be a groundcloth or small tent, catch rainwater and reflect the heat of a fire. Fire: the butane lighter is fast and will keep me making fires for months. Light: The solar flashlight is tiny - about 2" x 1 1/2" x 1/3" - but has three bright LEDs and is far better than no light. A solar cell on one side keeps it charged in sunlight. Clothes: Limited to what we are wearing at the time. Tools: I don't know what you carry, but even one solid multitool handles many jobs. My tiny Gerber has finer pliers and tweezers, and I use both often. A knife is almost essential for survival, and a crude one can be made from natural and man-made materials. But who has time to make a knife in an emergency? I carry a total of four blades: folder, multitool has two and the Gerber.

Defense: Again, I don't know what you carry, or if you carry, but if you don't carry, are you really a prepper? I have a pistol and the rounds it holds. I don't usually carry extra mags, but I have sometimes. There is no substutute for a firearm, period. Medical: As a former EMT with ambulance experience, I'm comfortable making bandages from clothing, drapes, sheets and such. I don't usually carry a medical kit, just a few band-aids and a pair of thin plastic food-service gloves in my wallet. Repair: I have a large and small needle in my wallet but no thread. Personal/Hygiene: Without my keychain toothbrush, I have nothing but my comb, plus a cell phone for music, photography/video, and pen and paper. Comms: Cell phone, that's it. I suppose a whistle would be easy to pack. Navigation: I carry no map, normally no GPS or compass. Misc.: Money in bills and coins. Camera in my phone.

Well, how did your test go? Are you a prepper only at home with all of your gear and food, or do you carry at least a few key items to help you perform in an emergency? My opinion - and that's all it is - is that prepping is a state of mind and body, and those who are serious about being prepared are always conscious of their current level of preparedness, whether at home or not. Carrying a concealed firearm is a personal choice which should be made carefully. I don't encourage anyone to carry a firearm who is not ready mentally to take on such responsibility.

There is, of course, another dimension to preparedness, and that is the subject of skills. The more skills you have, the less dependent on tools and gear you will be, because you can improvise. Most of us will not learn enough about how to survive with no tools in a wild landscape. Wilderness skills are valuable, in that situation, but to develop such a skill level requires dedication and time. My approach is to carry a few tools at all times which I cannot easily replace in the wild or in a wild city, and those tools are mentioned above. The tools I carry can be used to create more tools from other materials. There is no need, for example, to tie your only knife to a stick to make a spear, if you can make the tip from another material. Making a spear from a knife is a 'good' way to break your knife - something you don't want to do when your life may depend on it working.

My purpose in this article is not to criticize those who are not prepared, but rather to raise awareness about being prepared at all times for anything. Emergencies don't usually announce their arrival in advance. It is only a small burden to carry with you a few tools that could make a huge difference in your chances of survival. Just adding a multitool to your belt gives you a small toolbox. A folding knife on your pocket, for those who don't have one, will be used so often that you will wonder how you managed without it. Something as small as a butane lighter can make a difference between making a fire and not making one, and the consequences could be minor or major. The keychain light is another no-brainer and makes the difference between being able to do something in the dark and not being able to. These four small items take up little space, and trust me, you will find yourself using them often.

In conclusion, the challenge and hurdle for some is that we live in relative calm, and our immediate needs are easily met by the existing social order and stores with shelves full of stuff that we can still buy. Every true prepper knows how fragile that situation is and how quickly it could change. Don't allow yourself to become hypnotized into complacency by the masses who are fiddling with their phones and electronics and don't see the storm approaching. If you have a better idea for a test of preparedness, then follow that.

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