Common mistakes when prepping — Stuff Over Skill

No doubt about it, we preppers love our “stuff.” Water filters, freeze-dried food, firearms, camping equipment, the list goes on and on. Some of us probably wouldn’t look out of place on Hoarders. Those new to the prepper lifestyle are particularly susceptible to this almost maddening rush to acquire stockpiles of everything and anything.

But, is having “stuff” enough?

To be blunt, not even close! You need to develop the proper skills to not only use all that stuff. You should also skills to fall back on if/when the gear fails.

Having magnesium fire strikers are great, but you need to practice with them. Sitting in the woods, shaking from the cold, is not the best time to open the package and read the instructions.

Reading a book or two on fashioning snares from brass wire isn’t quite the same as actually making one that works.

Stocking up on heirloom seeds is a wonderful idea but if you’ve never so much as dug a hole with a shovel before, gardening might not work out for you the first time around.

And, God help the man who goes out and buys a Ruger 10/22, several cases of ammo, then just puts it all in a closet, feeling good about himself because he can now hunt and protect his family.

The point is this — stuff is great to have and I’d never tell you otherwise. But, without skills, that stuff is worth much less than you paid for it.

Published by

Jim Cobb

Jim Cobb has been a student of survivalism and emergency preparedness for almost thirty years. As a young child, he drove his parents nuts with stockpiling supplies in the basement every time he heard there was a tornado watch in his area. Of course, being a child, those supplies consisted of his teddy bear, a few blankets and pillows, and random canned goods he grabbed from the kitchen cabinets. Later, he was the first (and likely only) child in his fifth grade class to have bought his very own copy of Life After Doomsday by Bruce Clayton. Today, he is a freelance writer whose work has been published in national magazines such as Boy’s Life and Complete Survivalist Magazine. He is a voracious reader with a keen interest in all stories with post-apocalyptic settings. He maintains the Library at the End of the World blog and is also the Content Director for He currently resides in a fortified bunker in the upper Midwest, accompanied by his lovely wife and their three adolescent Weapons of Mass Destruction. Jim's first book, Prepper's Home Defense, was published late 2012 and his second book, tentatively titled The Prepper's Complete Guide to Disaster Readiness, will be out in mid-2013, both coming from Ulysses Press.

2 thoughts on “Common mistakes when prepping — Stuff Over Skill”

  1. Don’t forget the really pretty emergency medical kit and not having clue one about hot to do anything more than put a band-aid on a paper cut.

    Practice shooting.
    Practice starting fires. (Or live with a wood cookstove and wood barrel stove and you do nothing but start fires if you want to eat or stay warm.)
    Practice setting traps.
    Learn how to use the medical equipment you have.

    Do you know how to stop bleeding?
    Do you know how to immobilize an arm or a leg?
    Do you know how to check for a concussion?
    Do you know how to calm a sensory-sensitive child who has an infected splinter in her foot and is kicking and screaming hysterically even while being held tightly by another adult? (Ok, that’s just my child. But it is another example of stuff that may have to be dealt with.)

  2. “Sitting in the woods, shaking from the cold, is not the best time to open the package and read the instructions”

    So true. People seem to think that just buying something solves their problem. Unfortunately, it doesn’t. Having something you’ve never practiced with sitting on your shelf is no better than having it sit on the store’s shelf – you can’t use it either way.

    I’d rather have the skills and no supplies than the supplies and no skills.

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