What’s Your ‘Prepping Fingerprint’?

Individual Prepper Fingerprint
Prepping Fingerprint

During the last 20 years I’ve spent a lot of time talking to people about preparing for an emergency situation. One of the topics most frequently discussed is how the person I am talking to should prepare. More specifically, what they should have in their DIY 72 hour kit.

Over the years I’ve learned just how different everyone really is, not just in the obvious ways, but in the subtle ways that only each individual can know.

When it comes to packing an emergency kit, you must first understand what your needs will be. Reading guidance on what everyone else has in their kit is certainly of some utility, but it’s limited by one major issue: They are not you!

What IS A Prepper Fingerprint?!

Every person has a completely unique set of needs and requirements based on their specific situation. They are firstly either male or female, they may be young or old, they may live in a highly populated area or a remote one. They may have children and pets to think about, they may live in desert conditions or arctic ones…

No two people are the same. Likewise, no two preppers are either. Your specific requirements make up what I call your ‘prepping fingerprint’. It’s what makes the difference between having a survival kit, and having your survival kit, the latter being the one most likely to keep you alive.

Your personalized prepping “fingerprint” is made up of your physical location, local climate, health status, skills, number of people you may need to provide for, and many other individual factors.

All of these elements come together to inform your choices of gear, supplies, and survival skills you’ll need to include in your preparedness plans. So your first task before you begin “prepping” at all, whether it’s for 72 hours or for longer-term survival, is to work out what your prepper fingerprint looks like.

Let’s look at the most important factors below.

Location, Location, Location

Prepping Fingerprint - Location

Where you live is one of the most important determining factors influencing what preparations you’ll need to make. Those residing in northern climates face very different challenges to those in the hot and humid south.

Coastal regions call for different planning than mountainous areas. And those in isolated rural locales will probably need to be more self-reliant than city dwellers who are likely to have access to more resources.

Think about what types of disaster are more likely in your part of the country. Midwesterners may prioritize tornado preparation while Southwesterners need to focus on protection from extreme temperature or water supplies.

If necessary, you can research your area’s common natural disasters, temperatures extremes, average rainfall/snowfall and terrain to guide your plans.

I have had to do this for others from time to time. But most readers will know their local climate well enough to at least know whether you’ll need to protect yourself from extreme cold or extreme heat, or whether you will struggle to find water or struggle to get away from it!

Local Laws and Regulations

Laws vary enormously across the US, even more so across the pond in Europe where I know some of my readers are. Weapons laws are perhaps the best known for having wild variation between states/nations, but there are many more to be aware of besides defensive laws.

gun laws

It’s important to know your local laws and regulations ‘cover to cover’ when it comes to tools you can legally carry, collection of water, alternative power sources, firearms, hunting/fishing regulations, vehicle regulations, alcohol and medicine purchasing limitations etc.

You don’t want to inadvertently break the law with your preparations. For example, rain catchment is restricted in some drier states out West, some cities/states have stricter controls on firearms.

Your Health Profile

Your current health status and any specific medical needs should play a very big role in tailoring your emergency preparedness plans.

Obviously those managing chronic illnesses or disabilities will need to stock extra medications and supplies. But think carefully before dismissing this subject if that doesn’t seem to apply to you.

health profile for prepping

Allergies, dietary issues, asthma, hay fever and many other health factors could impact your supplies. Are you very pale-skinned or otherwise prone to sunburn? Do you ‘feel the cold’ more than others, or have a subtle (maybe even undiagnosed) circulatory problem?

My wife is a good example here. She rarely thinks about it but all her life she has occasionally found her fingers turn blue when carrying things. She ‘feels the cold’ badly compared to most other people, she gets a lot of ‘chill blains’ in the winter, yet she has never seen a doctor about it. We suspect she has ‘Raynauds‘ but it has never been a big enough deal to worry about or get diagnosed professionally.

In a disaster setting however, this could become a much more serious issue. She wouldn’t be able to just take a hot shower and sit in a warm room with a cup of coffee, her usual ‘medicine’!

She also wears glasses so we have had a few spare sets of lenses and frames made, one in her bug out bag, one in mine, and one in the car.

Whatever your unique health situation is, give this plenty of thought when producing a kit list.

Skills Assessment

Take an honest assessment of your current skills. This means being fairly humble which may be harder for some people than for others! Don’t focus on what you’re good at, focus on areas of weakness because these will be highlighted in any kind of stressful situation, never mind a dangerous or desperate sudden emergency.

Outdoor survival and first aid skills, familiarity with navigation tools, firearms proficiency, fishing/hunting capabilities, and knowledge of edible plants in your area are all extremely useful skills in a prepper situation. Not just for yourself either.

One person’s knowledge can help a lot of other people in a crisis, and it’s important to remember that as many people see 72 hour prepping as a selfish endeavour. It is not at all selfish, by staying alive you can (and I bet will) help others.

For the truly self-centred out there, this has a self-serving element too. After all, if you have knowledge that can help (or even save the life of) someone else, that’s a highly valuable commodity and it’s one I know many will offer you plenty of ‘stuff’ for in return.

Vehicle Skills

Imagine someone breaks down in their car and you can repair it for them, how much do you think they’d pay for that? You could be instrumental to their survival, and that’s worth a pretty penny. Same goes for those with medical skills, electrical knowledge and many more similarly useful areas of expertise.

Identify your weaknesses and improve any skills you can, and those you can’t, at least buy some books to keep around. A good example is wild food and foraging knowledge.

wild edible plants

Most people have no idea about what they can and can’t eat in the wild. To be honest it’s a very tough subject to become fully proficient in. It’s also a subject where a ‘little knowledge is dangerous’. Need I mention Christoper McCandless?

You can buy some really small handbooks, specific to your geographic area, which show pictures as well as guidance on determining what is and is not edible. There is an abundance of food in many wild places, but buried in with it are some very lethal plants, many of which can easily be mistaken for a harmless similar looking plant.

You can’t really become an expert without spending a lot of time and attending courses etc, but you can easily carry the information in your bag. It could be a lifesaver too in certain circumstances.

You won’t want to be trying to learn complex new skills in the midst of a crisis, but if there are any particular areas of significant weakness, maybe a class or two would be a good idea for you, while you still have that opportunity.

How Many People Depend On You?

The number of people who depend on you is a massive factor when preparing for the worst. The number of friends, relatives or other community members who may look to you for guidance or protection should determine your choices about equipment, food and first aid supplies.

Children are the biggest issue, as they have very little to offer in a crisis, but will no doubt be your highest priority. What might they need, have you really thought that through carefully? Have you thought about entertaining them and keeping their spirits up in a depressing or hard environment?

However many people depend on you, think it through and make plans to include their needs with yours. Only you can do this extensively enough to be useful, but obviously you’ll need more food, water, filters, tents, and other protective gear.

Backup Power Sources

During a disaster scenario, the electrical grid is likely to go down. So you should plan on that happening, it’s one of my first considerations for being prepared, almost regardless of the type of event I am planning for.

Power Lines

This is because so many emergencies can cause a loss of power, from economic ones to unrest/sabotage/terrorism or war. Power grids are one of the very first targets for any army or militant group, so assume it won’t stay up for long when the SHTF.

Having backup power sources is essential for communications, lighting, cooking, charging devices, refrigeration and many other things. Portable solar panels and generators, spare fuel or batteries, windup/crank devices, and power banks can provide options for keeping some facilities running.

Whatever tools and equipment you decide to buy to give you some electrical power options, make sure you read the manual and learn at least enough to maintain it in good condition, and repair basic problems, for example carrying spare fuses, screw driver, electrical tape and maybe a cheap multi-meter for testing purposes.

Stress Testing Your ‘Fingerprint’

Once you’ve worked out your specific needs, created a unique set of plans and assembled supplies based on your fingerprint, it’s important to stress test everything under simulated conditions. Without this step, you have no idea if you forgot anything, and…

Spoiler Alert: You WILL forget stuff!

Trying to survive for 72 hours off your food and water stores, using your cooking equipment and alternative light sources, and testing your communications tools will help identify any practical gaps in your theoretical preparations.

Get creative in finding ways to simulate potential emergencies, such as taking a fishing vacation for a few days but leaving the vehicle parked somewhere and walking the last 5-10 miles to your destination. That feeling of excitement is partly due to a small dose of adrenalin that comes from knowing you are just a little bit exposed and at risk, at least a bit more than you’re used to.

Tent in Wilderness

By doing this you will be able to test not just your prepper kit list, but your emotional and mental capacity too. You might be surprised by how much harder you find it to make decisions and to stay calm. You may eat more, drink more, you could actually struggle a lot more than you expect in many different ways. Stress is a big deal, learning how you respond under it is crucial to being truly prepared for the worst. Stress testing yourself is a very valuable exercise.


No two preppers are alike when it comes to survival. But by carefully considering your unique location, health, skills, responsibilities, food and medical needs and all the other personal factors, you can ensure you have what you need when adversity strikes, whenever it strikes.

Draw up your own prepper fingerprint and then assemble your ready-made 72 hour kit accordingly. The right combination of supplies, knowledge and practice will help you protect yourself and your loved ones, even in the worst of circumstances.

With thoughtful preparation tailored to your situation, you can be ready for anything. And once you know you are, you can kick back and enjoy the view.

Tent with a view
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