This guest post is by joethedingo and entry in our non-fiction writing contest .
I’ve gotten sucked into prepping over the last year, but as is often the case, no one else around me seemed quite as into the idea as I was. I tried using every approach I could think of, from “it just makes sense” to “look at the political/economic atmosphere of the country/world” to “there’s four primary needs: water, food, shelter & fire… it’s amazing how many people don’t have these on hand for emergencies”. I usually then followed it up with recent examples of where people have been stripped of these vital things without warning.
After a year of trying, I’ve finally figured out how to get my girlfriend into the idea. I found the gateway topic: camping. She’s 25 and a life-long Girl Scout, but since high school hasn’t really done anything with the skills she learned while scouting.
Over this last year, I got really excited about collecting gear, building a bugout bag and forming a tiny stockpile of food, water and other supplies. Most of that year was spent with her rolling her eyes, as they glazed over when I talked about gear and contingency plans.
In terms of gear, I came across a thought in a Joe Nobody book that really struck a chord with me: TEST and USE everything, so you know what to expect when you really need it. Find out how long it takes to cook a meal with your stove. Find out how long it takes to build a shelter or make fire. It’s one of those things that’s so obvious, you might need someone to point it out – then you smack your forehead and feel like an idiot.
I took his words very much to heart, and started a regimen of experiments. Through these, I discovered that two different emergency stoves I had purchased couldn’t boil two cups of water. One ran 25 minutes, barely forming bubbles in the bottom of my Imusa grease pot. When I finally got a Coleman propane stove (the small kind that screws onto a canister) I had boiling water in three minutes. This further ingrained Joe Nobody’s rule into my head.
For those who want to know, the failed stoves were:
1. Coghlan’s Emergency Stove (Esbit folding box style)
2. A collapsible box that holds alchohol(?) wick canisters. (similar to sterno)
I got both at Walmart or Dick’s Sporting goods, I think for less than $10. I gave up on #1 after 25 minutes, gave up on #2 after 15. The temperature outside was 95 degrees with little wind. Both stoves would probably work for frying an egg or cooking thin red meat, but I wanted something that could boil enough water to cook stuff like Knorr Rice Sides, plus the obvious purification of water.
Another great example is: about a week ago I had to use about thirty feet of paracord in a complicated pruning project involving attaching a nine foot pole saw to a 10 foot board and hoisting it up into a tree to remove some broken branches before they fell on pedestrians. It was an engineering challenge – I couldn’t get a ladder long enough, so I did the pruning from our second story deck. That project revealed to me the elasticity of paracord first hand, which might surprise you once you’re faced with it directly. Bearing weight on thirty feet of paracord is MUCH different than trying to stretch it with your bare hands. It’s important to know these little things before your life depends on the items we all hoard for emergencies.
Use your stuff. Knowing its limitations (and yours) is almost as important as having the gear. Hike a mile (or ten) with your bugout bag, in 90 degree heat with 80% humidity. Try to start a fire in your back yard in the rain. Devise experiments and mock situations to test yourself and your gear. Make it fun and ask your significant other to either participate directly, or have him/her keep time for you with a stopwatch. Sorry – I’m off on a tangent. Back to the story..
After my girlfriend and I had agreed that we would get into camping, I decided to try a “camp recipe” (see what I did there?) that I found on youtube: StoveTop Stuffing with canned chicken and dried cranberries. We cooked it out on our deck, using the propane stove. She absolutely loved it, but you could also use my grandmother’s dinner trick here: “make them wait until they’re really hungry, and they’ll love anything you put in front of them.”
After getting her on board with camping, every piece of gear from that point on was “camping gear” – not “SHTF” gear. In her case, I think this was an important distinction, that kept her interested. We started stocking up on non-perishable, camp-friendly foods, because many of the items are things we would enjoy anyway, so we had to “get extra when they were on sale”. She loves the Knorr Rice Sides, for example.
After food, I started pushing a little in some other areas. I bought a couple cases of bottled water, and continued to buy one every payday until we had about 15. When I first started with the water, I made a point of saying: We can drink these, but they need to be replenished occasionally. (Usually by me, with no involvement on her part.) I found it’s much easier to get her to agree if we’re actually USING things, even if it’s rarely. She’s not fond of hoarding a bunch of junk we’re not allowed to use. We’ll take a couple for the dog when we go to the dog park, for example – since I have a canteen and she has her aluminium water bottle. Sure, we’d save a little money by refilling one repeatedly for the dog, but that removes the relationship between my girlfriend and our stockpile.
We’re not extreme in our prepping, and because we live outside DC, I don’t think we need to be for most emergencies. If there’s a shortage of anything here, it’ll usually be restored very quickly, as opposed to more rural areas. I’m not saying that’s a safe permanent attitude, but for the short term it’s realistic. I do have some additional plans in the works though, now that she’s warming up to the prepper lifestyle, but baby steps…
One point I made to her is that we’ve lived together three years, and in those three years, there have been three times that our grocery stores have been wiped out because of oncoming blizzards or our somewhat recent hurricane scare. She remembers those crazy shopping days, and agreed that it would be nice to never have to do that again. I also pointed out that if the stores are being raided by the unprepared, there’s something else going on… why deal with the stress of both? (empty stores AND the weather/zombies) We now store enough food to last us about 2-3 weeks, which in this area is sufficient for most situations. After that, we have lots of squirrels, rabbits and deer in our neighborhood who could get introduced to our gun and snare collection.
All in all, she’s not 100% won over to the prepper lifestyle, but she’s MUCH closer than she was a year ago. I think I owe a lot of my success with her to three things: a gentle approach, patience, and myself respecting that she may never jump fully on board. I think keeping those three things in mind could go a long way in keeping our relationship positive when dealing with prepping. If possible, making it fun (like camp-cooking on the deck, with music and beer) also goes a long way.
I do apologize for my long, rambling post – I just wanted to share, in case there was something in my story that might help someone else who is having difficulty winning over their significant other in prepping. If I can keep one person from having to sleep on the couch, it was worth typing it all out.
This contest will end on December 16 2012 – prizes include:
- First Place winner will receive a Go Berkey Kit water filter valued at $150 and a copy of my book “31 Days to Survival: A Complete Plan for Emergency Preparedness ” and a copy of “Dirt Cheap Survival Retreat“.
- Second Place: $150 gift certificate for Magtech Ammo.
- Third Place: $50 Cash.
- The Prepper's Guide to Surviving the End of the World, as We Know It: Gear, Skills, and Related Know-How
- The Prepared Prepper's Cookbook: Over 170 Pages of Food Storage Tips, and Recipes From Preppers All Over America!
- Dirt-Cheap Survival Retreat: One Man's Solution
- 31 Days to Survival: A Complete Plan for Emergency Preparedness