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Essential Items for Preppers: What to Buy First




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So you’ve decided to become a prepper and prepare for the unknown, but you’re not sure where to start. Well, fear not, because in this handy guide, we will walk you through the essential items that every prepper should buy first. From food and water to shelter and self-defense, we’ve got you covered. So grab a pen and paper, because by the end of this article, you’ll have a shopping list that will set you on the path to preparedness. Let’s get started!

Essential Items for Preppers: What to Buy First

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Food and Water

Non-perishable food

When preparing for an emergency situation, one of the first things to consider is your food supply. Non-perishable food items are essential in case access to fresh food becomes limited or unavailable. Stock up on items such as canned goods, dried fruits, nuts, and granola bars. These items have a long shelf life and can provide you with the necessary sustenance during a crisis. Be sure to regularly check the expiration dates and rotate your stock to ensure maximum freshness.

Water storage containers

Water is one of the most critical resources for survival. It is crucial to have a sufficient supply of clean drinking water in case the regular source becomes contaminated or inaccessible. Invest in water storage containers that are specifically designed for long-term water storage. These containers are often made from safe materials that won’t leach harmful chemicals into the water. Aim to have at least a three-day supply of water per person, which equates to roughly one gallon per day.

Water purification methods

In addition to storing water, it is also wise to have means of purifying water from natural sources. During an emergency, clean water sources may become contaminated or scarce. Having water purification devices or supplies can help ensure that you have access to safe drinking water. Consider investing in portable water filters, water purification tablets, or even a simple DIY solar still. These methods can remove harmful contaminants and make water safe for consumption.

Emergency Shelter and Clothing

Tents or tarps

Having a reliable and portable emergency shelter is of utmost importance in any survival situation. Tents or tarps provide protection from the elements, keeping you safe and comfortable. Look for lightweight and easy-to-assemble tents that can accommodate your group size. Tarps are also versatile and can be used to build makeshift shelters if needed. Remember to practice setting up your shelter beforehand to ensure you can do it quickly and efficiently when time is of the essence.

Sleeping bags

A good night’s sleep is crucial for maintaining physical and mental well-being during an emergency. Investing in high-quality sleeping bags will help keep you warm and comfortable in various weather conditions. Look for sleeping bags that are designed for the temperature range you expect to encounter. Insulation material and sleeping bag ratings can help guide you in selecting the appropriate gear. Additionally, consider having extra blankets or thermal emergency blankets for added warmth.

Extra clothing and sturdy shoes

Having appropriate clothing is essential for your safety and well-being during an emergency. Prepare by having extra sets of clothing suitable for various weather conditions. Include items such as warm jackets, hats, gloves, socks, and waterproof outer layers. Sturdy shoes or boots are also crucial to protect your feet from injuries or exposure. Choose footwear that is comfortable, durable, and suitable for the terrain you might encounter. Don’t forget to include extra underwear and clothing for all family members.

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First Aid Supplies

First aid kit

A well-stocked and comprehensive first aid kit should be a priority when it comes to emergency preparedness. Your kit should include basic medical supplies such as adhesive bandages, antiseptic wipes, gauze pads, medical tape, and tweezers. Additionally, consider including medications for common ailments like pain relievers, antihistamines, and anti-diarrheal medication. Customize your first aid kit to suit the specific needs and medical conditions of your family members.

Prescription medications

If you or any family member requires prescription medications on a regular basis, it is crucial to have an ample supply on hand in case of an emergency. Talk to your healthcare provider about ensuring you have an extended prescription or emergency supply available. Keep these medications in a secure and easily accessible location, and periodically check the expiration dates to ensure their efficacy.

Basic medical supplies

In addition to a first aid kit, consider having additional basic medical supplies to handle emergencies and minor injuries. This can include items like a digital thermometer, disposable gloves, sterile saline solution, and basic over-the-counter medications for pain, allergies, and upset stomachs. A basic medical handbook or reference guide can also be invaluable in providing guidance and instructions for medical situations when professional help may not be readily available.

Light and Communication

Flashlights and batteries

During an emergency, electricity may be disrupted, plunging you into darkness. Having reliable flashlights and extra batteries is essential for both illumination and safety. Invest in high-quality flashlights that are durable and produce bright light. Consider having multiple flashlights strategically placed throughout your living space for easy access. Don’t forget to regularly check the battery levels and rotate them to ensure their functionality.

Emergency radio

Staying informed and connected with the outside world is crucial during an emergency. An emergency radio, often battery-powered or hand-cranked, allows you to receive important updates, weather forecasts, and emergency alerts. Look for models that have various bands and frequencies to ensure connectivity in different situations. Familiarize yourself with the operation of the radio before an emergency occurs, and keep spare batteries or a charging method available.

Whistle and signal mirror

In situations where you may need to attract attention or signal for help, having a whistle and signal mirror can be invaluable. A whistle can carry sound over long distances, making it easier for rescuers to locate you. A signal mirror, on the other hand, can reflect sunlight and catch the attention of passing aircraft or search parties. These simple yet effective tools can greatly increase your chances of being found in a survival situation.

Essential Items for Preppers: What to Buy First

Hygiene and Sanitation

Toilet paper

Maintaining proper hygiene and sanitation practices is vital for preventing the spread of disease and maintaining overall well-being. Make sure to include an ample supply of toilet paper in your emergency preparedness kit. Look for individually wrapped or vacuum-sealed toilet paper rolls to ensure they stay dry and remain sanitary during storage. Remember that toilet paper is not only crucial for personal hygiene but can also be useful for other purposes, such as wound care or fire starting.

Personal hygiene products

In addition to toilet paper, it is important to have personal hygiene products to maintain cleanliness and prevent the spread of germs. Include essentials such as hand sanitizers, soap, toothbrushes, toothpaste, and feminine hygiene products. Opt for travel-sized or individually wrapped items to reduce space and ensure freshness. Consider the specific needs of each family member, including any necessary prescription hygiene products.

Trash bags and plastic ties

Proper waste management is crucial during an emergency to maintain cleanliness and prevent the spread of disease. Having a supply of sturdy trash bags and plastic ties will allow you to properly dispose of waste and keep your living environment clean. These items can also serve additional purposes, such as makeshift waterproofing or protecting your gear from the elements. Ensure you have an adequate quantity of trash bags to accommodate the waste produced by your family.

Tools and Equipment

Multi-purpose tool

A multi-purpose tool is a versatile and compact device that combines various tools into one convenient package. Having a high-quality multi-tool can greatly enhance your ability to solve problems and handle tasks during an emergency. Look for a tool that includes features such as pliers, knives, screwdrivers, can openers, and wire cutters. It is also worth considering additional tools that may be specific to your needs, such as a saw or a wire stripper.

Duct tape

Duct tape is often referred to as the “handyman’s secret weapon” and for a good reason. This versatile adhesive tape has countless uses in emergency situations. It can be used for temporary repairs, sealing openings, securing items together, or creating improvised tools. Stock up on several rolls of duct tape and consider including different widths to suit different tasks. Its durability and versatility make it an indispensable item for any prepper.

Rope or paracord

Having a reliable and sturdy rope or paracord is essential for various survival tasks. From building shelters to securing items or creating makeshift tools, rope is a versatile tool with numerous applications. Consider including both a thick rope for heavy-duty tasks and paracord, a lightweight but strong cord with other potential uses. Familiarize yourself with different knots and basic ropework techniques to maximize the utility of this essential tool.

Fire Starting

Lighter or matches

Fire is not only essential for warmth but also for cooking, purifying water, and providing a sense of security. Therefore, having a reliable fire-starting method is crucial. Ensure you have a supply of waterproof matches or lighters in your emergency preparedness kit. Store them in a waterproof container to ensure their functionality when you need them most. Consider having multiple fire-starting methods in case one fails or gets lost.


In addition to matches or lighters, having a reliable firestarter can greatly enhance your ability to start a fire, particularly in adverse conditions. Firestarters such as fire sticks, fire starters in gel form, or even homemade options like cotton balls coated in petroleum jelly can provide a reliable and efficient source of ignition. Experiment with different firestarters and familiarize yourself with their usage to ensure success when circumstances require it.

Portable stove or fuel

Having a portable stove or an alternative source of cooking is essential for extended emergency situations. While building and maintaining a fire may not always be practical or safe, a portable stove can provide a reliable cooking method. Look for compact and lightweight options that use readily available fuels such as propane or butane. It is recommended to have extra fuel canisters stored safely and ensure you know how to operate the stove effectively.


Pepper spray

Personal safety is a significant concern during emergencies, making self-defense an important consideration. Non-lethal options, such as pepper spray, can provide an effective means of defense against potential threats. Make sure to familiarize yourself with the proper use and legalities of pepper spray in your area. Store it in a easily accessible location and consider having multiple cans for each family member or as a backup option.

Firearm and ammunition

For those comfortable and legally able to possess firearms, having one as a self-defense tool may be a consideration. If you choose to include a firearm in your emergency preparedness plan, ensure that you follow all local laws and regulations regarding ownership, storage, and use. Seek proper training and education to ensure you can safely and responsibly handle and operate a firearm. Stock up on an adequate supply of ammunition and practice proper firearm maintenance.

Self-defense classes

In addition to physical self-defense tools, investing time and effort in self-defense classes can provide valuable knowledge and skills. Learning basic self-defense techniques and strategies can enhance your ability to protect yourself and your loved ones in emergency situations. Look for reputable and certified self-defense instructors or courses in your area. Remember that self-defense is not solely about physical techniques but also about situational awareness and de-escalation skills.



During an emergency, knowing your surroundings and being able to navigate effectively is crucial. Having a reliable compass can help you determine direction and prevent getting lost. Look for a compass that is durable and accurate, and familiarize yourself with how to use it properly. Knowing basic map and compass reading skills can greatly enhance your ability to navigate, particularly in unfamiliar terrain or during evacuation scenarios.


In conjunction with a compass, having accurate and up-to-date maps is essential for successful navigation. Acquire maps of your local area, including surrounding regions and potential evacuation routes. Familiarize yourself with landmarks, major roads, and alternative routes. Consider laminating the maps or storing them in waterproof containers to protect them from damage. Periodically check for updated versions and ensure that you have maps suitable for both on-road and off-road navigation.

GPS device

While traditional compasses and maps are reliable navigation tools, having a GPS device can provide you with additional accuracy and convenience. GPS devices use satellite technology to determine your precise location, making navigation easier and more efficient. Look for a GPS device with reliable battery life, water resistance, and features that suit your specific needs. Remember to have spare batteries or charging methods available to ensure uninterrupted functionality.

Cash and Important Documents

Emergency cash

In the event of a widespread emergency or natural disaster, access to banks or ATMs may be limited or unavailable. It is crucial to have a sufficient amount of emergency cash on hand to cover essential expenses during such times. Store your emergency cash in a secure location within your preparedness kit. Consider having a combination of smaller bills and coins to accommodate various transactions and situations. Regularly review and update the amount of cash to ensure it is sufficient for your needs.

Copies of important documents

In case of an emergency, having copies of essential documents is crucial for identification, insurance claims, or accessing important accounts. Make copies of vital documents such as identification cards, passports, driver’s licenses, birth certificates, and social security cards. Store these copies in a secure and easily accessible location within your preparedness kit. Additionally, consider scanning and storing digital copies of these documents on a secure cloud platform or external storage device.

Contact information

Having a comprehensive list of important contact information can be invaluable during an emergency. Include contact details for family members, friends, emergency services, insurance providers, healthcare professionals, and utility companies. Store this information in a waterproof and easily accessible format, such as a small notebook or laminated card. Review and update the contact information regularly to ensure its accuracy.

In conclusion, when it comes to emergency preparedness, it is essential to have a comprehensive plan and the necessary supplies. By focusing on the key areas of food and water, emergency shelter and clothing, first aid supplies, light and communication, hygiene and sanitation, tools and equipment, fire starting, self-defense, navigation, cash, and important documents, you can ensure that you are well-equipped to handle various emergency scenarios. Remember to regularly review and update your supplies, practice using your equipment, and stay informed about potential risks and developments in your area. With the right preparations and a calm, resourceful mindset, you can face emergencies with confidence and protect yourself and your loved ones.

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