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The Complete Prepper Checklist

How can you be ready for when SHTF if you don’t have a prepper checklist? There are basic prepping supplies that everyone should have on hand for when times get tough. 

Our preppers list is going to cover everything you need to stay safe, healthy, and secure while surviving a crisis situation. We’re covering everything from food and water to self-defense. You won’t want to skip these survival essentials. 

Are you ready to go through a list of prepper supplies that will have you ready for whatever the world throws your way? Let’s dive in. 

Prepper Checklist
Items of emergency

What Are You Prepping For? 

Here’s where any good prepper checklist starts.

There are some basics that are universal to every prepper checklist. These include water, food, and medication. Almost everything else is going to change based on your circumstances and what you’re preparing for. Not everyone has the same risk assessment or threat model. If you just start prepping without thinking about what you are prepping for, you are getting ready to face someone else’s crisis. 

This should start with thinking about the needs of yourself, your family, and anyone else that’s going to be in your preparedness group. If you have kids, for example, you’re going to need to change your prepping strategies to accommodate their needs.

The type of disaster you’re preparing for is also going to shape how you put together your complete prepper checklist. If you’re preparing for a natural disaster, such as a coastal hurricane, you’re going to have a different checklist than someone who is preparing for a biological hazard.

You also need to think about the difference between preparing for 72 hours vs 2 weeks. 

Prepping for 72 Hours VS Two Weeks

There are two basic tiers for prepper supplies: 72 hours and 2 weeks. 

These are considered to be the two big milestones for most preppers. If you’re just starting out, you should be looking to put together a prepper checklist that will last you through a 72-hour crisis. This includes enough food, water, and medical supplies to last you and your family through 3 days.

According to the CDC, 3 days is the average length of time for most crisis situations. After three days, people can start to expect supply chains to come back together and life to slowly return to normal. A 72-hour prepper checklist is a basic starting point that everyone should have in mind.

A two-week prepper checklist is where things start to get a little more serious. As we’ve seen from recent history, some crisis situations can last for far more than 3 days. This means you want to be prepared for up to two weeks of difficult situations. This is two weeks of food, two weeks of water, and enough of everything else you need to last you and your family for 14 days.

The biggest difference between prepping for 72 hours and prepping for 2 weeks comes down to the amount of supplies you’re going to need. While that might be obvious, it does raise a few other concerns.

Prepping for 2 weeks creates some logistic issues. Do you have space in your home to store 2 weeks’ worth of water? If you plan on bugging out, how can you transport two weeks’ worth of water with you?

These are just a few questions to consider as you put together your prepping checklist. 

Prepping on a Budget

Some beginner preppers get shocked by the cost of prepping supplies. We’ve all seen those TV shows where extreme preppers spend tens of thousands of dollars on luxury gear and extravagant systems. However, you don’t need any budget to get started. 

Prepping on a budget starts the same place that every other prepping plan does: food and water.

You can start today by picking up a 24 pack of bottled water at your local grocery store. These are very affordable and a little goes a long way. You’d be surprised how much just one extra case of water can get you through. 

The same goes for food. The next time you’re shopping for groceries, use the “one for now, two for later” rule with canned goods. You can also start tracking your daily meals to begin to build your prepping plan. 

You can also save your budget by skipping fancy gear for now. There’s a lot of trendy gear in the prepping world, but you can go without it while you put together the basics. You can also save money by using what you already have. 

That old backpack is a great choice for a bug-out bag. Those t-shirts you were going to toss can become rags or even fire starters. Being frugal and being prepared, go hand in hand. 

This guide will also help you prep on a budget. You can use this outline as a template to guide you through your own prepping plan. 

Prepping For Self Sufficiency

The core of any good preppers list is all about building self-sufficiency. After all, we’re preparing for a crisis that is going to disrupt our day-to-day lives. We’re going to need to learn a little self-sufficiency on the way. 

This is less about the gear you are stockpiling and more about some skills you can build up. Being able to rely on yourself during a crisis is a combination of having a stockpile of essentials and knowing how to handle yourself in dangerous situations. 

Here’s where you can start to build up your self-sufficiency. 

  • Stay in shape
  • Learn survival skills like map reading, starting a fire, and cooking 
  • Get comfortable living with minimal creature comforts
  • Start repairing things rather than throwing them away
  • Start keeping your car above ½ tank of gas
  • Talk with friends, loved ones, and family about being prepared together 
  • Build up your thread model and prepare for situations you find likely 
  • Learn how to tie a knot 

Prepping for Diseases and Biological Threats 

We’ve learned all too well that diseases and biological threats can be naturally occurring. Preparing for these situations doesn’t necessarily mean worrying about biological warfare, but can also include natural diseases that quickly mutate beyond our control.

 If you’re worried about preparing for diseases and biological threats, here’s what you should be adding to your checklist.

  • Stay informed during a pandemic
  • Keep your family up-to-date on vaccines 
  • Have a stockpile of cloth and N95 masks
  • Wash your hands. Really. Washing your hands can and will save your life
  • Have a go bag ready
  • Plan with your family 
  • Avoid crowded places 
  • Learn proper hygiene for survival situations  
  • Duct tape


Man filling up his military canteen with water from the river of a waterfall
Man filling up his military canteen with water from the river of a waterfall

Water is the gold standard of any preppers checklist. You can only go a handful of days without water. Potable water is a must for any emergency kit.

You’re going to want to make sure you have at least one gallon of water per day for yourself and everyone else you’re prepping with. Keep in mind that water isn’t just for drinking, it’s also used in cooking, hygiene, and treating wounds or medical conditions. 

Here are a few ways you can accommodate your hydration needs.

  • 50-gallon drums of sanitized water 
  • 24-packs of bottled water (that’s a little over 3 gallons)
  • Water purification tablets
  • Water purification straws 
  • Learn how to harvest and sanitize rainwater
  • Avoid water from: pools, puddles, stagnant lakes, and anything that could be contaminated with chemicals 
  • Water Bob is a refillable bag that stores 100 gallons of water using a standard-sized tub 
  • Water filter
  • Know where to find a safe water source near your home


Now let’s talk about food. Just like water, food is a necessity for life that we can’t go without. While water is a much more vital resource, you still can’t go weeks without food. You’ll need some food reserves for an extended period of survival. 

How you prepare food in your checklist depends on your needs. A family with young children is going to have a different food prepping checklist than a single individual. Keep in mind that you’re going to need more food than you think.

One of the biggest things that you can do ahead of time is to build discipline with your food. This doesn’t mean forcing yourself to ration every single day, but it does mean becoming comfortable with abstaining in order to preserve your food reserves. Stockpiling two weeks of food is no good if you just eat it in five days. 

Here’s a few items to get you ready for a minimum 3 day food supply. 

  • Learn to forage even in urban environments 
  • Rice
  • Dried beans
  • Canned fish
  • Canned vegetables
  • MREs
  • Sport drinks
  • Beer or liquor (Can also be used to barter if needed)
  • Dried fruits
  • Hard candies 
  • Wood stove for cooking

Tactical Gear

Gas mask, rifle, radio station, binoculars, handcuffs, and a knife
Gas mask, rifle, radio station, binoculars, handcuffs, and a knife

Tactical gear can help you to prepare for a variety of situations. These items have been designed for military use and can be adapted for a prepper checklist.

This is one area that you can skip out on if you’re prepping on a budget. Tactical gear can definitely upgrade existing items, but that old backpack will work just fine if a budget is in your considerations.

Here’s a few tactical items that no prepper should go without. 

  • Tact bivvy
  • Gerber multi tool
  • Individual first aid kit (IFAK)
  • MOLLE compatible backpack 
  • MOLLE pouches to go with your bag
  • Tactical vest (bulletproof is ideal)

Self Defense

Your prepper checklist should keep in mind how you plan on defending yourself. 

A survival situation can get dangerous. It’s not just biological hazards, inclement weather, and other natural disasters that we have to look out for it. It’s an unfortunate truth that sometimes we have to prepare to defend ourselves.

Keep in mind that your local laws might restrict some of these self-defense items. Check with your city and state government to find out what you can, or can’t, have in your everyday carry. 

Here are a few things that you can put together to better prepare yourself for self-defense in a survival situation.

  • Learn situational awareness
  • Learn a practical martial art that focuses on self-defense 
  • Stun gun
  • Pepper spray
  • Kubaton


We don’t often think about clothes when we create our prepper supplies list, but you should absolutely keep your clothing in mind. 

One thing that we always recommend is putting an extra pair of socks in every bug out bag you make. You’ll be surprised at the physical and psychological boost you’ll get from having a clean pair of socks that you can change into. This is just one small example of the impact clothing can have on your prepping checklist.

Keep these things in mind when you’re building the clothing aspect of your checklist.

  • Extra socks (trust us)
  • Practical changes of clothes
  • Clothes that can stay durable through multiple days of wear
  • Layers to adapt to changing weather and temperatures 
  • Clothing that has pockets for carrying gear and supplies 
  • Clothing that offers you a good range of motion 


No list of prepping supplies can be complete without taking into consideration the medications that keep us alive. 

Being prepared for emergency situations often involves having medical supplies on hand. You can have a wide range of medical needs covering anything from a small scrape all the way up to a life-threatening illness. Be aware that even a tiny cut can quickly become a serious infection. When you’re in a survival situation, you need to take every injury seriously.

  • First Aid Kit
  • Prescription Medications
  • Candy to help regulate blood sugar
  • Aspirin
  • Ibuprofen 
  • Excedrin 
  • Pepto Bismol 
  • Neosporin 
  • Hydrogen Peroxide
  • Band aids 
  • Ear plugs
  • N95 masks 
  • Latex gloves
  • Learn CPR
  • Attend first responder training courses 
  • Learn how to treat puncture and gunshot wounds 


Here’s the one that gets past even the most experienced preppers. We tend to focus very closely on the survival elements, but neglect everyday life. However, entertainment is a key part of survival and shouldn’t be overlooked in your checklist. Our backup plans for a doomsday scenario should include staying happy as a form of survival care. 

This is especially true if you’ll be prepping with the family. Your kids might not be as mentally and emotionally disciplined as the adults that you’ll be traveling with. Even the most experienced adults are still going to need some entertainment to pass the time.

Consider this as preparing for psychological stimulation so that you can keep your mental reserves refreshed. 

  • Books
  • Puzzles like crosswords
  • Small musical instruments 
  • Easily portable games 

Prepping for Bugging-Out

Emergency backpack equipment organized on the table in the living room
Emergency backpack equipment organized on the table in the living room

Having to leave your home is a worst-case scenario, but part of survival care is being ready for being gone for a period of time. 

A key part of prepping is being ready to travel at a moment’s notice. This is especially true if you’re planning to bug out. This is the type of prepping where you plan to leave your primary place of residence in the event of a disaster. Your bug-out bag will be your essential piece of kit in this collapse scenario. 

Here are a few things you’ll need for your bug-out plan.

  • Go bags with all the essentials 
  • Reliable modes of transportation 
  • Go through drills to make sure you are ready to bug out quickly 
  • Learn how to read a physical map 
  • Learn navigation skills 
  • Bio stove
  • First aid supplies
  • Water containers 

Prepping to Bunker Down

Your preppers list should also have you ready to bunker down. This is also called “bugging in.” This is where you transform your home into a survival location for the duration of a disaster. This is a great option for families or other individuals for whom moving is just too difficult.

  • Build in safety concerns such as a panic room or extra locks
  • Have your food and water stores in a central location
  • Fire extinguishers are a must 
  • Be ready to transform extra rooms into triage spaces 
  • 50-gallon drums of water

Prepper Checklist FAQ

Got a question about prepping? Let an experienced prepper give you an answer! Here are the answers to the beginner prepper’s most commonly asked questions. 

How much water should I store for SHTF?

The average person will need one gallon of water every day to cover sanitation and hydration. We recommend starting with a 72-hour supply and working your way up to a 2-week store of water. 

You’ll need more water if you live in a hot climate, are prepping with individuals who are, or could become, pregnant, as well as individuals with illnesses.  

What items do Preppers forget?

Preparedness is all about looking ahead, so it can be surprising what many preppers can forget. These are the absolute must-haves that even the most experienced preppers forget to stash in their bug-out bags. 

  • Legal Documents such as IDs, birth certificates, and passports
  • Prescription medications 
  • Cash
  • Hard copy photos of family members or anyone in your group
  • Spare glasses
  • Whistle 
  • Plastic garbage bags
  • Physical copies of maps
  • Sewing Kit
  • Books, games, or other activities that can stave off boredom 

What should every prepper have?

Every prepper should start with the basic essentials it takes to stay alive. We’re preparing for worst-case scenarios and that means that our day-to-day sources of things like food, water, and medication are going to get shut down or interrupted.

Consider these items the absolute core of any preparedness plan.

  • Water
  • Water purification
  • Food
  • Medications
  • First Aid Kit
  • A Plan for Shelter if Bugging Out

What should I stock up on for survival?

This question can be more challenging to answer. Figuring out what you need to stock up on for survival starts with finding out what survival means for you.

Things like food and water are going to be an absolute must for everyone. You’ll need a plan to keep your water and food supply going for as long as you expect a crisis situation to last. This can be in stockpiling a supply of food and water or learning how to use water purification systems and growing or hunting your own food.

Your survival also depends on shelter. Are you going to be able to stay in your home during a crisis or are you planning on evacuating to a second location? You should also plan for the events that either of those locations become unusable. This means familiarizing yourself with treating an impromptu shelter such as a tent. Your stockpile should account for a disruption in your living situation. 

Prepping is designed to get you through a collapse situation. You need to consider the needs of all of the individuals in your group when deciding what resources you should stock up on. 

How do you store water for years?

It might surprise you that water can go bad. The H2O itself won’t be spoiling, but the water can become contaminated with bacteria that naturally flow through the air.

Here’s how you can store water for years. All you need to do is store your water in a food-grade container and add a few drops of household chlorine bleach. This will make sure your water can last for several years at the very least. 

How long does bottled water last prepper?

The Food and Drug Administration does not require bottled water to have an expiration date. However, this doesn’t mean that bottled water can last indefinitely.

It’s hard to come up with an accurate picture of how long bottled water can last. The storage conditions can greatly affect how long bottled water stays drinkable. We recommend keeping bottled water for no more than 2 years.

When you buy bottled water for your stockpile, right down at the date of purchase on each case of water. This will let you know when you need to cycle through your stockpile and replace that bottled water. 

What foods should I stockpile for prepping?

There’s a nearly endless supply of food that’s great for stockpiling. The biggest requirement here is that you go for food that has a great shelf life. Dry and canned foods are some of the best choices.

Here’s a quick list of some go-to choices for experienced preppers.

  • Canned goods like beans, veggies, and fish
  • Dry goods like rice and pasta 
  • Flavorings such as sugar, spices, and salt 
  • Water and other beverages with a long shelf life 
  • Jerky 
  • MREs—This stands for “Meals, Ready to Eat” and are the prepper’s TV dinner

What are the best survival foods to stockpile?

Broad categories like “canned food” and “dry food” are a great place to start, but sometimes you need specifics.

These are a few of the foods that you should consider must-haves in your survival stockpile.

  • Nut Butters
  • Dried apricots and raisins
  • Granola bars
  • Sardines
  • Sport drinks
  • Multivitamins 

What every prepper should have?

There are some basic essentials that every prepper should have. This includes water, non-perishable food, and medicine. However, there are some items that are outside of things you can stockpile that every prepper needs to have.

Shelter is an absolute must. You can have some items to assist you in finding or creating shelter such as tents and emergency blankets, but your prepper plan needs to account for proper housing. Exposure to the elements can lead to serious physical danger even if you have all the food and water in the world.

You can also account for the individual needs of family members. The people that are going to be traveling with you are going to have unique concerns that you need to account for.

You should also consider the psychological components of prepping. This means preparing it for boredom as well as disaster. 

What foods last the longest?

Most foods can go bad even if stored properly, but there are a few types of food that have a nearly eternal shelf life. These are considered essentials by preppers because, if properly stored, they’re never going to go bad.

Here are some foods that you can stockpile that can last through any crisis situation.

  • Dry Beans
  • Rice
  • Liquor
  • Honey

What does a 3-month supply of food look like?

Your 3-month food supply might look different from that of another prepper. You’re going to want to build up a stockpile of food that will last you through a crisis that lasts for three months. This means slowly adding to your current pantry until it can withstand a long period without having access to a reliable food source.

One key takeaway here is to stockpile foods that you’re going to eat. Think about what you eat on a regular basis and find ways that you can incorporate those flavors and those foods into your 3-month food supply. The same goes for everyone in your family.

A 3-month food supply should start to rotate over time. Don’t stockpile food and then throw it away when it goes bad. You’ll only have to buy it again! Plan to use parts of your stockpile as they reach their expiration dates and replace them as they are consumed. This is a rotating 3-month food supply that refreshes itself over time.

You can start building up your 3-month food supply by purchasing a little extra here and there. If you’re a big fan of rice, for example, purchase a few extra pounds next time you go shopping.

You can even use a spreadsheet or a journal to track your 3-month food supply and stay ahead of any shortages. 

Be Ready for Anything 

You’re now much more prepared to handle a crisis than you were before. Whether you’re an experienced prepper double-checking their list or a beginner just starting out, this guide will have prepared you for getting your basics together. 

Here’s a recap. Cover your basics like water, food, and medicine first. After that, work your way up your hierarchy of needs. Don’t forget clothing, gear designed for specific hazards, and some entertainment to keep yourself sane while surviving. 

Did we miss anything? Let us know in the comments what you have in your prepper essentials.