It’s that time of year again! Time to break out all of your summer clothes and put away all of your winter gear, unless you are in the Northeast where they just received a ton of snow. For the rest of you; spring cleaning is a great time to clear away the cobwebs, freshen up everything after a long winters snooze. For the Prepper, it’s an excellent time to make sure your survival gear is in top shape and ready to do what it was designed to do and that is save your life. One of the more common pitfalls of a prepper is failing to resupply gear that has been used or waiting until items are grossly out of date which does you no good if they turn to dust right when you need to depend on them.
In this article I am going to list several different areas of focus that should get your attention at some point. Perhaps, spring cleaning can be a ritual for you and your family in terms of prepping supplies as well as pruning shrubs.
Make Sure Your Get Home Bag can still get you home.
My Get Home Bag is in my car and goes with me just about everywhere. Since this handy dandy set of equipment is always right behind my seat, it is easy to get to. This usually is a great thing, but in some cases it is too convenient. The other day we broke into the MRE I had stored in my GHB to stave off a hungry child. This was good for a couple of reasons. First, it allowed me to check my bag and make sure everything was still in there, but secondly, we got to eat some of our survival food and my daughter found that she liked it. My daughter had some of the snack crackers (think combos) and mixed up some lemonade for her water. After that the hunger monster was gone, but now my GHB was starting to get picked apart.
In my get home bag, I mainly have some basic necessities to make it home from anywhere I am going to be on a normal day. This is an MRE and water bottle with some first aid supplies, ammo and minor pieces like dust-mask and work gloves, duct tape etc. Use this time to refresh your water and rotate out any food you have in there. My MRE hasn’t been been out of my bag for 2 years. Two years is nowhere near the expiration date, but now my meal is missing some pieces. I want to take this time to go back over my get home bag and make sure I am not missing anything else, top off supplies and make sure that your needs/purpose for your bag haven’t changed. If you have a different scenario now, your bag’s contents might need tweaking.
Show your First Aid Kits a little love
I like to pride myself on having a first aid kit with me almost all of the time. This has come in use for all manner of little incidents and minor needs. I will take a smaller kit with me whenever we go on day hikes and the larger kit goes on any overnight car trips. Once you start taking a band aid here and some Tylenol there and an ace bandage here and some missing latex gloves, your kit starts to lose its effectiveness.
You can use this time to make sure that the contents of your first aid kit are fresh and up to date. Replace any expired medication now while you are thinking about it. I know that the expiration date is not necessarily an indicator of whether or not the medicine is still good, but it is best to have the freshest medication you can. Add back in supplies that were taken out, like the extra gauge, or bandages. Make sure you have new rolls of tape and moleskin for blisters and just like with your Get Home Bag, analyze your contents. If there is something missing in here that you have been meaning to add, now is the perfect time.
Un-Hide your Food Storage
Rotate, Rotate, Rotate is the mantra of any good prepper, but I find that stored food is probably the hardest thing to keep an eye on without a very good system for rotating your food in place. It is easy to buy cans of food that sit in the back of your pantry lurking there for years. These need to come to the front and be used. The important goal is to use your food storage as part of your daily diet, but some purchases don’t always make the best choice with an average family meal.
We have #10 cans of fruit that we purchased from Costco that still have plenty of life left in them, but I don’t want to forget they are there until the expiration is 2 years past. It may be time for a huge pie, or 4. I also have wheat stored that I want to check on and I can use this time to inventory my food to make sure we haven’t forgotten to replenish anything. I will also check on our canned vegetables and make sure they get used before this year’s crop is ready so we have the freshest canned foods possible.
Come on in, the Water’s fine!
No, I am not talking about the freezing temperature of your pool on Memorial Day, but we do need to ensure our water is in the best shape possible. Yearly, I like to pour out my stored water, usually in the flower beds or garden and fill up my containers with fresh water. I do this to make sure there is no mold or anything nasty growing in there, but it also keeps the stores fresh and better tasting. This is a simple task, but depending on how much water you have stored, could take a while.
While you are at it, make sure your filters are clean if you have a Berkey type filter mechanism and check your back-up filters. I have some camping filters we use so this is a good time to service those tools and make sure they are ready to go.
If you have bleach stored for treating water, make sure your bleach isn’t older than dirt. Bleach will start to degrade after about 6 months, so if yours is older than this work that into your laundry rotation and buy some new for the pantry.
Have the sharpest tools in the shed
Spring is a good time to make sure any mechanical tools or implements you plan to depend on in a survival or grid-down type of scenario are working too. If you have a generator to use for power outages, take some time to fire it up and make sure it is working well. If you don’t have a supply of oil and fuel for your generator go out and get some now before you need it.
I also like to do a battery inventory at this time and make sure I have my minimums on hand. I also go around the house and find all of the rechargeable batteries and make sure they make it back to their charging stations so they will be ready for power disruptions and not game controllers.
Spring is a good time to go over your gear with a fine tooth comb also. If you have holsters for your gun or vests to carry your ammunition and ballistic plates, make sure they are clean and serviceable. Repair any frayed edges and ensure that when you need it your gear is ready for you. If you have individual first aid kits, make sure these are freshened as we mentioned above.
I normally do this much more frequently but if you have knives, axes, hatches or chainsaws, now is the time to get those blades sharpened. It is a good idea to have a spare chainsaw blade on hand anyway, but your hand-tools will need a little TLC to maintain their sharp edge. It might also be a good idea to make sure your heavy hand tools like rakes, shovels etc. are free of rust and ready to take a pounding.
This should not be something you have to worry about but I will say it just in case. Your weapons should have been put away the last time you used them in a clean, oiled and ready state. If for some reason, you failed to do this, it’s time for a cleaning party. Get all of your weapons out and perform a good thorough cleaning. Yes, this means breaking them down and getting all of that carbon out of the nooks and crannies. If you are running short on cleaning supplies, this is a good time to restock those as well.
Additionally, make sure your extra equipment is functioning properly. Replace batteries in weapons lights and scopes and make sure you have spares on hand. While you are at it, go to the range if you haven’t been in a while. Yes, you will need to clean them all over again, but the last thing you want to happen is a weapons malfunction because you have been lazy with training or cleaning.
Most of us keep the basics of car maintenance covered, but you should make sure that your car is running in good condition and fix any minor issues you have been delaying. Even things as simple as new wiper blades, replacing fluids, oil changes and making sure your tires are inflated properly have positive effects on your ability to get out of dodge if needed. For most of us, our vehicle is what we will depend on to either get us back home or get us as far away from home as possible, so make sure your car is up to the task.
Another item to check is your automotive kit if you have one. We have “survival water” that my family likes to use when they are thirsty. Nothing wrong with that as long as it is replaced every time it is used. We also have first aid kits and blood stoppers, flashlights and other preparedness items that should be checked for freshness and to make sure we haven’t forgotten to resupply.
Now that you have your car ready, its also good to check on your fuel storage and make sure that you didn’t forget to fill any cans from over the winter. Make sure your fuel is treated for long-term storage if you haven’t and rotate any fuel that is over a year old if you want the freshest mix you can have. If you have been meaning to stock up another 5-gallon can or two go out and get those also. You will be glad you did.
I have a spare propane tank in my shed for backups when I need them. Now that it is grill season again, I expect to be needing that spare tank soon, because my fuel always runs out right when I have a whole bunch of meat half-way cooked. With my spare in the shed it is only 3 minutes to flames again and the day (and expensive meat) has been saved again by preparedness.
When I use this spare tank though, I make it a point to stop the next day and get a new spare so that I always have one in reserve. If the power goes out, we can always cook on the grill while we have propane before we have to resort to our other cooking methods when the grid goes down.
Lastly, check out your home defenses. Do all of your window and door latches work properly. Have you lost any keys this past year and haven’t replaced the locks? Are your fire extinguishers charged fully or do they need replacing? What about your smoke detectors and carbon-monoxide detectors? Do you have fresh batteries in there?
There are a ton of things to consider but hopefully, this gives you some ideas that you can use to make sure your preps are ready when you need them. If you have other ideas, please add them in the comments below.