first step prep kit

First Step Prep Pack

In the world of Prepping and Survivalism there is a saying called, “The Rule of 3’s”.  It says “Humans can survive 3 minutes without air, 3 hours without shelter in a harsh environment, 3 days without water, and 3 weeks without food.”  Now please keep in mind that this is a guideline and serves to emphasize priority of needs.

Since I started this project I’ve had several people ask me for “a first step”.  They know there are tons of gadgets and strategies and ideas, but what could they do in the next hour to feel like they have established a baseline of preparedness.  With the “Rule of 3’s” in mind here is my recommendation for a First Step Prep Pack.  Since I think about Preparedness as a Journey, I will also provide some ideas to your kit.  We’ll probably tackle each of these elements in their own post at some point, but I want to stress the idea that you can start with the basics but should always be looking for ways to improve.

Time Assumption

Disasters can last for a while, and it will take a while for help to get to you.  If the Cascadia quake levels most of the West Coast, there are only so many people that physically can help, so it may take even longer for help and supplies to arrive.  For years the guidelines have always been that you needed 72 hours, or 3 days, worth of supplies.  Since this is a First Step Prep Pack, we’re going to use 72 hours as a target.  However, in the last couple of years there has been a major push, especially on the West Coast, to having 2 weeks worth of supplies.  I personally shoot for 30-60 days worth of supplies, but have plans to push to 12 months.  The thing to remember for this situation is, get a starting amount, say you pick 72 hours, and then you can always grow that amount of time.  You don’t need to get 30 days worth of supplies today, you can get 3 day’s worth today, and add another day’s worth of supplies each week if you’d like.


Shelters can be super elaborate, but for a first step get a big tarp or two, and some rope or twine.  A sturdy tarp will keep water, wind and snow out, while keeping warmth in, or providing shade in the Summer.  In a worst case scenario, you can literally lay the tarp on the ground, lay down on top of it, and then pull the other side over you to make a make-shift tent/sleeping bag.  If you have some twine or rope, you can tie the rope between 2 trees and then lay the tarp over the rope to make a crude tent.  Either way, having a tarp (or 2, or 3) will give you some basic shelter from the elements.

Future Thought – Shelter

Shelter options tend to come down to size and function – how much space do you have to store it when you’re not using it, and what do you want to do in it when you do use it?  Keep this in mind when you think about structures (small tent, larger (10+ person) tents, trailers) and covers (tarps, blankets) and usages (will you cook in it, will you live in it, will you experience snow in it).


Water is an absolute requirement.  You have to have drinking water.  The general consensus on water consumption is 1 gallon, per person, per day.  So if you have 4 people in your family, you need 4 gallons per day minimum.  The easiest way to do this is to go to the grocery store and buy however many one gallon jugs of water that you need to get to your total number of gallons.  You can store them anywhere including on a shelf in your garage, underneath your bed, or in a closet.

Future Thought – Water

Gallon jugs are a great first step.  In the future think about different sizes of water containers (500ml bottles, 5 gallon jugs, 55 gallon drums, 275 gallon totes) and different sources (purchased bottles, filters to filter water, boiling water, purification tablets).


The average adult is supposed to consume 2,000 calories per day (based on guidelines that I didn’t set).  Assume that you don’t have a heat source and you don’t want to use any of your drinking water to cook with (no pinto beans, rice, or pasta).  In this case you want to look for canned food that is ready to eat.  Look for things like chili or spaghetti as these food have a good amount of protein, fat, and carbohydrates to give you energy.  If you have specific dietary restrictions make sure the food you’re getting is food you can actually eat.  You don’t want to be dealing with a natural disaster and a medical emergency because you bought a jar of peanut butter and are allergic to peanuts.  It is really easy to go to the grocery store, grab several cans to equal the number of calories that you and your family will need.

IMPORTANT – Make sure you have a manual can opener by this food!  You don’t want to have a great supply of food, and no way to get it out of the can.

Future Thought – Food

Food is one of the great layering opportunities in preparedness.  I think about food stores as my immediately available (what is in my refrigerator and my freezer), my pantry (everything in my cupboards), my emergency (freeze dried food), and my disaster (vacuum sealed rice and beans).  This helps when you’re stocking up to think about which layer you are stocking up for, along with what type of food you’re stocking up on.

Remember, this is the First Step Prep Pack, this is not the Comprehensive Prep Pack.  There are a lot of things that you can add to this, and we’ll probably go over those Immediate Upgrades in another post very soon.  This can be a shopping list, but it may just be an organization list.  You may already have some good quality tarps in your garage.  Don’t buy new ones just because it’s in this article, but do put them in a place with your other emergency supplies.  This is a starting point, a first step, a jumping off point.  Stop asking and waiting and start acting…First Step Prep Pack…Check!

For more articles on gearing up click here.

Author: Casey Feves

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