Some thoughts on converting your significant other to a Prepper

by M.D. Creekmore on October 25, 2012 · 41 comments

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:

Well what are you waiting for – email your entries today. But please read the rules first… Yes

41 comments

mr October 25, 2012 at 10:17 am

Excellent approaches! Camping gear can involve so many things: tents, sleeping bags, packs, clothing, tools, food, and even weapons. Keeping a back stock of food to avoid those crazy shopping days works in your favor too. After a camping trip is over it wouldn’t be too hard to convince her to help repack all that gear (aka bailout bag) under the explanation that it will be ready to go for the next camping trip.

austin October 25, 2012 at 10:29 am

I did the same thing! Camping was my best idea yet. We bought the gear and had a wonderful time. Now, he is actively looking for a couple of acres of our own to “put a tent on. A week-end getaway for the family…in the Cumberland Plateau”.
I work in a grocery and acquire plenty of round buckets. Icing also comes in rectangular buckets that are my favorite. An 8×11 notebook fits perfectly, they hold several hard notebooks and are great for non food items, although they are food grade.

Notsomuch October 25, 2012 at 11:22 am

Nice article. In my case it didn’t take to long and we moved from southern CA (great place to visit) to Utah as a big step towards safety & security come what may. In addition to sites like this, I believe watching Glenn Beck (now on DISH channel 212) had a lot to do with helping both of us awake to what’s happening. We just hope Romney wins so there’s a chance of a sane approach going forward despite having to pay the piper for the mistakes of the past.

I’m guessing many who read this are Ron Paul people (in my heart I am as well) however this election is too important to cast a vote of pure conscious should you be thinking of writing in. Please consider your voting choices very carefully and then help change the direction we are going. This is especially vital in the swing states. Your vote does count, please don’t allow us to continue the crazy national policies we have for the past 4 years to make what (sorry) is a lost point at this time.

Whoever wins the elections this time around I firmly believe it’s time to prepare for what will be a rough ride, but then you know that.

GA Red October 25, 2012 at 11:31 am

Thanks for sharing. The hubby and I have been thinking about this subject a lot this week based on some things others have said about the difficulty of getting other family members on board. You’ve done a good job in both your presentation and in getting your girlfriend on board.

JP in MT October 25, 2012 at 11:42 am

Thanks for sharing.

Judy, another one October 25, 2012 at 1:22 pm

WaaHooo! Somebody who gets it! The most intelligent way to get anyone on broad is not to call what you’re doing ‘prepping’ and don’t talk about SHTF as you found out.

A key talking point could be; it’s on sale! If we buy extra now when it’s on sale, when we run out, we then get the extra jar out we only paid half-price for instead of full-price. Which leaves us more money for ______ . (Insert their hearts desire.)

Every location around this big old world has a weather related problem, having the groceries and the means to cook said groceries until things get back to normal is just common sense. Appealing to their dislike of dealing with the hysterical hoards, as you found out, is the way to go. To further this concept, I live in Kansas, so staying warm when an ice storm rolls through is vitally important. When the power goes out your forced air furnace is useless. Notice I used the word ‘when’ not ‘if’. Weather related problems are a given.

Taking your loved ones camping/hiking is a great way to get the gear you would need and use in a weather/power related problem. Have you two stepped off the deck and got out into the woods and let the skitters love on you yet? :>)

I think extreme prepping is foolish. With extreme prepping you can become a fanatic just like the nut jobs from Topeka. And yes, the prepping community has nut jobs! Moderation in all things.

I would warn you against the thinking that you are going to be harvesting the wild game in your area. You and 300 million others are going to be think the same thing. During the Thirties wild game was pretty scarce. May I suggest you do some reading on vegetarianism and it various forms? Some potted/canned/dehydrated meats for your ‘camping’ might be a wise investment.

I agree with your girlfriend about having a bunch of stuff laying around that is not being used; it is just clutter. The mantra is: You store what you eat and eat what you store. Buy your ‘camping’ gear and use it. Have some fun out in your state’s parks and Federal campgrounds.

I want to thank-you, for opening your eyes and taking responsibility for yourselves. You have moved from being part of the problem to part of the solution.

mindyinds October 25, 2012 at 8:03 pm

Right about depending on the local game – I’ve recently read that deer in Michigan have died by the thousands because of a midge fly. And around here, “painters” are making a comeback, making them a chief rival for small to medium sized game.

j.r. guerra in s. tx. October 25, 2012 at 1:23 pm

Those are great ideas on teaching and learning at the same time. Cooking in the back in your backyard / porch / balcony and trying recipes is smart – you can quickly go inside if you forget or want to try another ingredient.

Fwiw, I’ve had the same experience with all of the ‘tablet’ stoves, good for heating water, but extended cooking – nuh uh. Our military personnel learned the same, and used C4 explosive (in moderation of course, lol) when could be found – it burned hotter.

Tactical G-Ma October 25, 2012 at 1:32 pm

Joethedingo,
Thank you for sharing your story.

In my lifetime there have been at least a dozen prophecies of doom. Some more credible than others and some absolutely ridiculous. During the late 90′s I read of people selling everything they owned, quitting their jobs and moving to the hills with bars of gold fear of what would happen if all the computers crashed Y2K.
I have also heard that the Mayan calendar ends 12-21-12. That doesn’t impress me much either.
What frightens me is terror at home, whether mcVay or BenLaden, doesn’t matter. People going postal and shooting up their work place frightens me. Crackpots who can find instructions for WMD’s on the internet worries me.
Natural disasters, like hurricanes and tornadoes are really common in the southeast, so I am concerned about that too.
Just everyday normal things have disrupted delivery of electricity as well as potable water to my home in several different states.

If the Second Coming is happening then I will be gone and don’t need preps.

Preps to me is storing disposible goods and foods and preparing for the everyday events of life. That was the hook for me and my DH. We try to beat inflationary prices and be prepared for whatever.

I don’t have a crystal ball nor has an angel told me God’s plan. H1N5 flu kinda rattled me and the lack of oversight of NECC by the FDA rattled me. Some people trying to carry out a Jihad against Americans really upsets me. And I really don’t worry about dying. I just want to be prepared if I live.

Your girlfriend is fairly young and may not know how insane some people are. Good luck and keep preppin.

JC in GA October 25, 2012 at 1:49 pm

I knew I was going to enjoy this when I read about an idea no one else was excited about. Remembering how people look at you as though you have three eyes when you say I am getting into “prepping” or “Amway”. While we see the positive side to what we choose, it ususally evades others understanding. Lets face it, many sheeple would rather sit on the couch and watch Opra. I commend you for the special touch you applied to get your girlfriend interested.

Survivor October 25, 2012 at 1:51 pm

Fortunately, my wife has been onboard since the beginning. She’s content to let me do the planning and she does what’s needed, like shopping (with cash, in small amounts) and storing.
I do like your approach and your GF will probably thank you later! Good job, man!

SurvivorDan October 25, 2012 at 1:57 pm

Good approach to the doubting girlfriend. We had all the camping gear in the world already so testing new products and gear didn’t work for me. But it’s a great idea and should work for most.
I tried teaching TheFormerMrsSurvivordan how to set traps, track critters (and people), fish and hunt as an adjunct activity to our camping. While she enjoyed learning about such things, she still thought I was crazy to have several years worth of food and supplies.
When you start converting a lot of cash and investments into bullets, more beans, generators, water filters, silver, tools, etc then the Non-Prepping Partner starts to pucker up. When you cut back on those overseas vacations and go camping instead, the N-PP gets very testy. When she’s used to leasing a new car every three years she gets ornery when forced to drive that six year old car. The point is; do what you can to involve your other half and get him/her vested in the prepping. Otherwise you might end up with a couple of TFMrsSurvivorDans like me.
Good job joethedingo and good work on the testing. Got to test everything….

Tactical G-Ma October 25, 2012 at 8:23 pm

SD,
The social princess with the styled hair, recent manicure, and pedicure is usually very attractive to men. But don’t expect the high maintenance prima donna to ever want to experience the rugged side of life. I can’t remember but I think it was FDR who said, “Marry wise. Marry your equal.” Elanor was far from pretty or delicate but she was awesome and certainly his equal. Good luck with TFMRS.SD.

SurvivorDan October 26, 2012 at 1:37 am

…styled hair, recent manicure, and pedicure … Hey! You know her!
Great gal but not one for the ‘rugged’ side of life. I want her to find the perfect metro-sexual city man. Should be happy as long as the Sh** doesn’t hit the fan.

GA Red October 26, 2012 at 7:43 pm

I’d suggest my ex but he remarried!

Mother Earth October 26, 2012 at 2:07 pm

Funny SD, I have the opposite spouse. He doesn’t go along with any prepping! I don’t want new cars or fancy trips. I ask for a generator and get turned down. I try to be self sufficient and get looks for my efforts. Just wanted to say sometimes its not the female that’s the problem!

SurvivorDan October 27, 2012 at 2:51 am

Indeed.

Rick October 25, 2012 at 1:57 pm

Really good article, and there was some stuff there I’m going to try out with my GF, who tends to sneer at me a bit at my prepping activities. She can really appreciate the rotating stock and “in case the stores are closed or we can’t get to them” tactic. Thank you!

MikeM October 25, 2012 at 2:04 pm

Wow, I was reading along with mild interest until you mentioned that after a year of trying to change attitudes you now have 2-3 weeks of food on hand. I’m guessing that even in my 20s in my smallest apartments I had more than 2-3 weeks of food…

Everybody is on their own path and moving at their own pace. Planning for the future is always better than failing to. There’s lots of great info and people here at MDs site. If I were you I would consider taking MDs advice on 10 things to do now and 10 more things to do now for stocking up on some quick cheap “emergency” foods.

Best of luck in DC. While I would not want to live so close to that urban area, I am very jealous of your proximity to great hiking in the Shenandoah Valley and the AT. I live approximately 8 hours from anything that could even remotely be called a hill.

SurvivorDan October 26, 2012 at 1:41 am

joethedingo: Get MD’s book. 31 Days to Survival. A must have.

MountainSurvivor October 25, 2012 at 2:22 pm

You are pretty ingenious there, joethedingo. You never mentioned a cute pink camo t-shirt for her and a blue one for you and also a second set that has actual camo colors, she might like a tiger stripe…they were on sale and you wanted to save a little money. If she likes clothing, Christmas is coming up. Maybe a matching survival-type set for two. I used to see couples wear shirts or other things that matched and there was no mistaking that they were together. Togetherness can create the perfect team.

Tactical G-Ma October 25, 2012 at 8:10 pm

MS,
How about his and her camelbak bakpacks, safari hats, and walking sticks. My DH really liked that!

MtWoman October 25, 2012 at 3:06 pm

What a great post!! What I like most about it is the “stealth” of using ‘camping’ to get your GF “trained”. These fun practices give her the skills without having them imposed on her. When the SHTF, whatever that might might be, she can roll better with it because of the experiences, sooner than others who resisted the whole ‘prepping’ idea. My son did this with his son; rather than getting into the whole SHTF thing, he just involved him in ‘prep’ activities (shooting, putting together a BOB, going to a workshop on making fire from scratch, etc) as though they are a part of regular life…which IMO they are anyway.

I also want to thank you for a very WELL WRITTEN piece. Really helps when that’s the case.

And another thought: this to some degree might be a way to get friends, co-workers, etc more prepared: make it about doing a ‘fun’ thing, like camping. There have been times when I’ve pulled out a certain piece of equipment (like a cookstove) or had a certain kind of food on shared experiences, and people get interested and want to know about it.

MtWoman October 25, 2012 at 3:07 pm

And I think the more folks who can get aware, the better.

T.R. October 25, 2012 at 3:08 pm

If you try and she isnt into it …….drop it . Prepping is all about gear , no reason you cant do both , some say you need to find another girlfriend , I say , why ? what you are going to gain with her will far exceed hoarding ” stuff” . It will enrich your life in the ways that are important , if nothing happens or is not for very long , you have gained nothing after your preps are gone . Prepping isnt for everybody , and if she isnt into it , thats the way it is …..deal with it . Its all about respect , if she isnt into it but respects your doing it , you need to not be like a religious nut job , and respect her right not to . Those are my thoughts .

Bam Bam October 25, 2012 at 5:11 pm

Joe,

This is a great article. Thank you for writing it. I think focusing on weather events is a great way to get folks more comfortable with prepping. Camping is another. I got my dh on board with prepping at least with food storage by showing him how much money we save each month.

Keep your eyes on Hurricane Sandy, folks. This is a massive storm. And it is supposed to combine with an arctic front, so the Northeast is going to get socked. The leaves are still on the trees up north, and the storm is expected to bring significant snow to the Northeast and Midwest.

I am in North Central Florida and the winds have been picking up in the last two hours or so.

Bam Bam October 25, 2012 at 5:24 pm
SurvivorDan October 27, 2012 at 2:56 am

Batten down the hatches Bam Bam. Know u have experience but take care. Pray u r well.

Bam Bam October 27, 2012 at 5:34 pm

Thanks Survivor Dan. Our only impact here is gray skies and windy conditions. The Northeast is really going to get hammered.

Tinfoil Hat October 25, 2012 at 6:39 pm

Great article! Mi was able to get my wife ( who at the time was my girlfriend) on board by slowly introducing her to it as well, and then explaining the whys as opportunity presented itself. That helped her get on board as we left the east coast for safer turf. Last weeks, she asked me to teach her how to shoot. That’s a huge deal for her. And I got her there just like you are, baby steps. Good Luck!

george October 25, 2012 at 8:44 pm

Great post. I have always been interested since I was very in young in “how things work” and one of the things I really enjoy about this prepping journey is working on skills and trying out how things work. A few months ago I made some soda can stoves and found they really work . One of the best things I have found is to be ready to take advantage of “anything ” at any time, I am always on the lookout for great deals and know where to check my usual retail spots for markdowns, and if I find a good deal on things I can and will possibly use in the future and make sure I have some money to jump on the deals. Same with flea markets , yard sales etc you just never know what your going to find and need to be ready to jump!!

Joe Nobody October 26, 2012 at 8:21 am

That dang Joe Nobody and his books!
Dual purposing prepper investements is something that helps convert many who believe preparing is only for the paranoid. It’s just smart. TEOTWAWKI can never arrive and there still won’t be a regretful bone in this body.
All the stuff I buy…all the time I spend…all the crazy things I make my wife and kids execute – it all has dual purpose. Its either fun or has a secondary use if things don’t fall apart.

Great post!

george October 26, 2012 at 11:18 pm

I will consider myself fully prepped that when TEOTWAWKI does come along all that it will mean is that I will be so ready and self sufficient that I just don’t have to go to work anymore.

Tactical G-Ma October 27, 2012 at 7:15 am

Enjoyed Hold Your Ground and Without Rule Of Law. After MD’s 31 Days to Survival are my fave. Thanks for your contributions.

doods October 26, 2012 at 12:40 pm

Kudos, I think you got it right. Good article, thanks. DC was rated as one of the “safest” place in USA in terms of natural calamity and natural disasters, I guess that adds to the challenge of converting your loved one to become a full prepper. Keep it up and good luck to both of you.

sockmonkey October 27, 2012 at 7:35 am

This was a really good post! I enjoyed it and all the comments very much. I was considering an Emberlit stove, but now I’m not so sure…may have to do some more research.

HomeINsteader October 27, 2012 at 10:08 am

Great article! And great ideas! One suggestion (which you’ve probably already thought about); does GF have a strong social conscience? Is she concerned about “others” in an emergency? (Bet she is!) Tell her you need enough to share with others who have not planned in advance for the inevitable – and put more “stuff” away!

Donna H October 27, 2012 at 11:14 am

Maybe your girlfriend will realize the signifigance of prepping this weekend when the Frankenstorm hits , power goes out, stores are closed from floods and power outages, and maybe having to relocate. There is nothing like the real experience. I hope you can weather your storm.

Michael October 29, 2012 at 6:27 pm

I know what you mean about when they roll their eyes at you when you talk about prepping and the situation of the economy or the fiscal cliff or Greece and Spain. I swear my wife and kids run around making that “Baaaaahhhh, baaaahhh” sound when I talk about making a good home cook meal (they are ready to get fast food or something easy to make). My prepper dish is stuffing, canned chicken and canned corn. First time I made it wife thought it was good (I think she was being nice). However, now she does not want to touch it with a 10 foot pole and guess what??? Kids are the same. Some say we preppers are just out for SHTF, that we want it to happen. I am sorry to say I do for at least 2 weeks to get my wife and kids kick-started in the butt about the importance as to if SHTF become something that may last A LOT LONGER.

Bam Bam October 29, 2012 at 9:34 pm

Michael,

In three or four days I bet a lot of folks in NY and NJ would love a warm meal of chicken, stuffing and corn. Probably less than 5 percent of those folks have the means to prepare a hot meal without electricity. I recommend you tune into the weather channel for the next few days when your wife and kids are around–and be sure to comment that “we” would be in much better shape than those folks because “we” have planned ahead.

Tactical G-Ma October 29, 2012 at 8:59 pm

Michael,
Wonder what would happen if you served them fried grasshoppers and nightcrawlers? LOL!

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