How To Start Prepping In The UK in 2021

Let’s face it, 2020 was unbelievable, and 2021 isn’t shaping up to be much better. At Start Prepping UK, I don’t think I need to convince anyone anymore that it’s sensible to put a few tins away, just in case. We all lived through that year together. Still, even before a pandemic brought panic-buying, quarantine, lockdown, bare shelves and yet another recession to our shores, you could have been forgiven for looking at the worsening climate change, political instability, economic downturn and natural disasters occurring worldwide and thinking,

“How can I protect against this?”

Well, here’s the good news first: you’re probably already preparing, and you don’t even know it. Do you have a spare tyre in your car, or a first aid kit in the house? Do you keep a few tins in the back of the cupboard? Or have an emergency fund? Do you have a bike, or go for runs or hikes? What about keeping a few tools in the house for DIY? Do you have insurance?

That’s all prepping really is – it’s just doing what you can to be ready for trouble and taking the steps to prepare now, before the trouble starts. This is especially true in the UK, where assault weapons and fortified compounds are more unusual than they are for our American counterparts.

UK disaster preparedness is on the rise, and that’s a great thing. It’s never too late to get started. The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago; the second-best time is today. You can do this; I’ll talk you through it. Let’s get ready.*

This article turned out to be much longer than I anticipated – if you don’t want to read it all in one go, bookmark it for later and use the links below to go through section-by-section.

Contents

Foreword: Prepping and Mental Health
Getting Started
Prepare for Everyday Emergencies
Shelter
Water
Food
Bugout

Financial Preparedness
Fitness
Defence
Forming a Resilient Community
What’s the Difference Between Prepping in the UK & in the US?
Closer: You Don’t Need a Nuclear Bunker

Foreword: Prepping and Mental Health

Before we get started, just a quick note re: prepping and mental health. This is an inclusive and non-ableist prepping site, and I know that one of the emergencies currently facing the UK is a mental health crisis, so many of my readers may be struggling with aspects of their mental health.

For many people, myself included, preparing for the worst and modelling realistic threats is a way to help ease anxiety, but for many others, fixating on possible disasters could cause anxiety to worsen considerably. Please look after your own mental health first, and please make your own assessments as to what preparations you want to make based on the crises you are most likely to face in your life. If you struggle with disordered eating, self-harm or suicidal ideation there may be some things that you choose not to do for your own safety – and that is absolutely ok. You staying safe and staying alive is why Start Prepping UK is here.

Bug out UK

So How Do You Start Prepping In The UK?

Right, let’s get down to it. How to start prepping in the UK in 2021.

Prepare For The Everyday Emergencies

Not sexy, but infinitely more likely to save your bacon. The first things you should think about are the everyday emergencies that could hit you – house fire, job loss, accident at home, power cut, accident on the road… the list goes on, but you know what I’m getting at. The good thing about preparing for these sorts of things is that it can usually be done from your sofa, and it won’t cost you a fortune – most of this stuff can be picked up on payday with change left over, and you’ll be better-prepared forever!

What You Can Do Right Now:

Get a fire extinguisher. We recommend an ABC Powder extinguisher since it’s the best all-rounder for any type of fire. You won’t need to worry about whether it’s suitable for the fire you’re fighting, and you won’t need to worry about an untrained or unaware person using it on the wrong fire type and making things worse. Get it, put it somewhere obvious like beside the living-room door, and remember to check it every once in a while. Better yet, get one for each floor of the house, and a fire blanket for the kitchen.

You can pick up an ABC Powder Fire Extinguisher that’s a good size for home use here, and a pack of 2 fire blankets for smothering kitchen fires here.

Organise all your important documents (birth certificate, marriage certificate, passport, driver’s licence, etc) into one place. Not only does that make your day-to-day life easier, it also means you can grab it all quickly if you need to get out of the house in a hurry – plus, once you get a fire safe, they’re ready to go straight into it. Which reminds me:

Buy a fire safe. Mine is a Master Lock Fireproof Safeand I can’t recommend it highly enough. It’s fireproof for up to 1 hour at 927°C, and waterproof in up to 12cm of flooding for 24 hours. Plus, the steel construction, 3 locking bolts and pry-resistant door make it the natural choice for security. If you’re looking for something bigger, you should try something Extra Large from Yale, or go small with an inexpensive fire-resistant lock box like this neat little one also from Master Lock. If you’re just starting out, it’s hard to beat that – but the main thing is to find what fits your needs, and run with it.

Get a first aid kit that suits your level of ability. Every home should have a first aid kit, but make sure that it suits your level of ability. If there’s stuff in there that intimidates you and you don’t know how to use, learn how to use it now! You won’t want to do any reading while you’re trying to stop bleeding in the kitchen.

Otherwise, stick to a more basic kit – like this one that you can pick up from Amazon – so you’ll actually be confident using the items inside. I always recommend mixing and matching first aid items to make the best possible kit that you can, so you might want to boost the effectiveness of your basic kit by replacing the plastic tweezers with more effective metal ones (essential for removing splinters, stings and other tiny problems). You should also look into supplementing the first aid kit with things like paper stitches, Compeed-style blister pads, pressure bandages andanything else you’d like to have that’s not already in there.

If you don’t have home insurance, get some – it’s not as expensive as you might think. Once that’s done, you should take a photo of everything you own and back the album up to the cloud. Everything which you’d want your home insurance to replace if a fire, flood or burglary destroyed it should be snapped on your phone camera and stored in an off-site location or cloud server, so you can make the most accurate possible insurance claim. If you just say “smartphone” on the claim, the company will get you a smartphone, but it might not be the iPhone X or whatever that you lost in the fire unless you specify that you had an iPhone X. This process is made much, MUCH easier with photo evidence and records.

Shelter

The Survival Rule of Threes says;

“You can survive for 3 hours without shelter, 3 days without water, and 3 weeks without food.”

When looking at getting ready for the worst, shelter is pretty important, then. For most people, shelter itself is already taken care of – it’s our home. Those without a home of their own are already experiencing their personal crisis, and shouldn’t worry too much about preparing for the next disaster until they’ve survived this one.

However, shelter’s not just the roof over our heads – it’s also the ability to warm that home, and the clothes we wear when out in the elements. How many pensioners die of cold-related issues every winter in the UK because they had to choose between heating and eating? Suffering because of the cold – even dying of it – is possible inside a building, and it’s something you should be ready for if there was a problem with your boiler’s gas supply, or the mains were disrupted for whatever reason.

Things You Can Do Right Now:

Set Aside a Cosy Cupboard. The Cosy Cupboard (which I invented but am declining to trademark for the good of mankind) is a cupboard/wardrobe/drawer/under-bed box (you get the gist) full of blankets, spare duvets, hot water bottles and other cozifying gear. It’s what you’d go to if you were sick and it was freezing cold and you wanted to spend the day bundled up in the warm until you cooked like a gigantic pasty.

The Cosy Cupboard is great for days off and snuggling up in the winter, but it’s more important as a response to a heating failure or a cold snap: if the boiler’s gone and there’s ice on the inside of the windows, the Cosy Cupboard will provide emergency extra insulation, a way to swaddle up to retain heat, and, in the case of the hot water bottles, a way to store heat and redistribute it. The trick is to designate one area – the sofa, usually, or the bed – as the Warm Zone, and try not to stray from it.

This could be us in the apocalypse if you play your cards right guys

I remember a few of my student houses being so cold that we could see our breath inside, but the kettle still worked, so our standard practice was to use hot water bottles and duvets to stay warm enough to get by. If the power was out too, we’d have used a fire and camping kettle to fill the hot water bottles, but either way, the ability of water to hold and store heat energy was crucial to our strategy. It’s a strategy I’ve never forgotten.

Pick up a few spare duvets. Cheaper than you might think, and you can vacuum pack them in vacuum bags to reduce their space and stick them in the bottom of the wardrobe or under the bed.

Not only are you now ready with a clean replacement duvet if one of the kids has an accident, but if you lost heating and it was bitterly cold outside, you’d be ready to hang the duvets across your windows and doors, and use them as room dividers to reduce room size in your primary living area. Ideally, you’d want to set that small, insulated room around a fireplace, wood burner or electric heater, but if you’re without heat sources you’ll have to get by with the cosiest spot in the house. You can then try to live as much as possible within that small, insulated living space.

By putting duvets across the windows, you’re vastly improving the insulating capacity of that window, and by using them as room dividers to reduce a large living space down to a small one, you create an insulated Warm Room (see above) not unlike a Mongol ger or Inuit shelter. Or, probably more accurately, a blanket fort. That’s great, blanket forts are appropriate for staying warm. Any heat source within that small insulated area will have its power and efficiency vastly increased, helping you ride out the cold.

Think about what you would do if you lost your home. It’s more likely than we like to admit – if you own your own home, then flood, fire, industrial accident or any other disaster could take that away in minutes, and if you’re renting, then the risk is increased as the disaster doesn’t even have to happen to you. If your landlord has a crisis of their own, completely unrelated to you, your home could be lost.

Stick a rain poncho in your bag or jacket pocket. These bad boys might not look stylish but they’ll keep the rain off you, and if you’re stuck with an unexpectedly long walk in one of the UK’s famous torrential downpours, it will help you preserve your body heat and could stop you from getting sick.

In The Longer Term, You May Want To:

Invest in some home improvement if you can. There are any number of improvements you could make to make your home a better base for survival, and a lot of them overlap with things you probably want to do anyway. Where possible, better insulation, better waterproofing, clearing out any lurking problems like dry rot or mould, rodent-proofing, etc etc etc can all be long-term lifesavers. An ounce of prevention in the good times is worth a tonne of cure after disaster.

Make sure you’ve got appropriate outdoor clothes for extended time outside in all seasons. Be realistic about how well your wardrobe suits all weather conditions – if you couldn’t gear up to walk a few miles in the lashing January sleet without dying, you should probably remedy that now, while you’ve got the chance.

Harden your home. Just like the lads outside the pub, homes are harder to f*ck with if they’re well hard. Making your home harder to break into is a big bonus for everyday life, but even more so in the event of any kind of event that features adversarial people.

One quick and effective security upgrade involves replacing the hinge screws on your front and back doors with much longer screws that go into the brick. Add a deadbolt or two and another set of hinges if you want the extra attachment point for even more added strength, and your door becomes much, much harder to kick down, for just the cost of a packet of extra-long screws.

There’s no limit to how much you can upgrade the security of your home, but you might want to balance the need for security with the realities of normal life – your neighbours (and the local authorities) might not thank you if you turn your house into a razor-wire festooned bomb shelter.

Water

We’re so used to having clean drinking water on tap 24/7 that I’m sure I’m not the only one who’s been caught short by dodgy tap water on holiday. Thanks to the rainfall in the UK, we don’t usually have to worry about there not being enough naturally-occurring water, but droughts do happen, and harvesting that water is another story. You also need to be able to purify it to avoid potentially deadly diseases – even if your purification method is as simple as just straining it and then boiling it thoroughly. Without water, you could die in 3 days. If your only water source is teeming with giardia, 3 days might be too generous an estimation.

Things You Can Do Right Now:

Buy a three-day supply of bottled water for everyone in your household. Bottled water is ridiculously cheap, keeps for a long time when stored away from sunlight, and can be used if the water goes out to keep the tea flowing. If you don’t fancy lugging all that water home, try getting a Tesco home delivery.

To cover drinking needs, WHO recommends 2 litres per person, per day. To cover drinking, sanitation and food hygiene, the US Department of Homeland Security recommends at least 1 gallon (4.5L) per person per day. So, depending on what you’re willing to go without, you’re looking at between 6L and 13.6L per person! Don’t try to carry it all at once.

Pick up a Sawyer Mini Water Filter. I’ve got a few of these, and they are just excellent. They’re good for 100,000 litres of water, which is more than you or I will probably drink in our entire lives, they’re pretty cheap, easy to use, and they fit in your pocket. They’re great for bug-out bags, but having one in the house is a must for me to provide clean, drinkable water if the mains can’t be relied upon. Just buy one, stick it in a drawer, and forget about it until the taps are running brown – you can pick one up here.

In The Longer Term, You May Want To:

Find the fresh water sources in your area. Streams, springs, reservoirs, and areas with a high water table where your group could dig a well: find the ones near you and you’ve found a sustainable source of basically unlimited fresh water. For convenience’s sake, we can hope they’ll be close to your house.

Remember that you’ll still need to filter and purify this water, and may need to invest in a filter or purification method that can remove chemicals from the water if you live in an industrial or polluted area.

Work on a rain catchment system. You’re allowed to collect rainwater in the UK, and rain water collection buttes that you can attach to your guttering system are cheap and easy to get hold of. That’s the easiest and fastest rainwater collection system that you’re likely to find, but don’t be afraid to get creative.

Invest in (or make) a bigger, more powerful filter/purification system. If you are able to quickly purify all your collected water, that frees up time for other tasks. If you’re consistently able to purify a very large volume of water, you can help your community to survive and maintain as good a standard of living as possible throughout the disaster, which is a very good capability to have.

Food

As we all saw in 2020, the networks which supply our grocery stores and supermarkets are woefully vulnerable to disruption – whether panic buying, trade disruption, or damage to the “just in time” stocking model which they all use to maximise profits and minimise storage costs. Even completely uncontrollable things like those “Once in A Lifetime” economic collapses that happen every few years could see food become prohibitively expensive or disappear off shelves entirely.

Things You Can Do Right Now:

Take a look at our Starting Stockpile Shopping List HERE, our Vegetarian Starting Stockpile Shopping List HERE, and our Lactose-Free Starting Stockpile Shopping List HERE. You might just want to buy the whole thing, or go through it and work out your own version, and you can either get it in one big lump or buy it in ones and twos as you do your normal shopping, to spread the cost out.

Buy a month’s worth of emergency meals from Mountain House or a similar distributor. They come in sealed containers and they aren’t exactly cordon bleu, but they’ll keep you alive and keep your belly full, and they don’t expire any time soon. You can always fall back on it once the store-bought stuff runs out, and in my opinion it’s one of the easiest disaster preps to make. You can do that here. I am not affiliated with Mountain House, I’m just recommending them because in my opinion they’re the tastiest option.

In The Longer Term, You May Want To:

Begin a vegetable and/or herb garden to begin producing your own food. You can do this with a shockingly small space, and woody herbs like rosemary and thyme are hardy enough that it’s easy to succeed in growing them. If you’re clever about it, you could be self-sufficient for herbs with a minimum of effort and space. This is just a fun project to think about – daydreaming about the brilliant veg gardening projects I’m going to do next is one of my primary procrastination techniques these days.

For a fantastic leg up on sustainably growing in a small space and on the cheap, check out The City Grower by Matt Franks. I can’t recommend it highly enough – Franks is an expert urban farmer with tonnes of fantastic information on how to plan and optimise your gardens for maximum harvest no matter whether you’re growing in a garden, on an apartment block roof, or on a windowsill.

Take a foraging course. Foraging courses are incredibly fun and interesting ways to spend your time, and the knowledge you get from them is priceless. There’s more wild food around than you might think – and once you know how to identify it and prepare it, you’ll be able to add much more variety and some crucial fresh food to your post-disaster diet. I am particularly fond of wild garlic, which is amazing in everything, but there’s loads to discover out there, even the middle of the city.

You may not be able to rely exclusively on foraging, trapping or hunting for food in the event of a collapse – everyone else in your town may have the same idea at the same time – but it’s still an absolutely fantastic skill to have.

Bugging Out In The UK: Having An Escape Route

For some people, “bugging out” (fleeing a disaster zone to a safer location) is the be-all and end-all of prepping. I think part of that is because the idea of bugging out is more adventurous and appealing to people just getting started, and that it’s much cheaper to prepare a bug-out bag than it is to stock your home for hunkering down.

Of course, for many people and many disasters (wildfire, volcanic eruption, war) bugging out genuinely is the best way to deal with the situation, but everyone should be ready to leave their home and flee to a safer place if they need to.

Even if you’re preparing for a pandemic that leaves entire cities trapped within their homes (here’s looking at you, COVID, you bastard), the chance exists that you’ll still have to flee. What if there’s a warehouse fire and your town is blanketed in chemical smoke? If I were you, I wouldn’t want to hang around.

It’s vital that you be able to get out quickly and safely, and survive once you’re out. We’ve got a whole series of articles on bugging out in our Bugout Section, (admittedly all currently under construction) that will include several for beginners and several on making and using the perfect bugout bag for you.

Safe to say, bugging out in the densely-populated, heavily-settled UK is going to be a different prospect to bugging out in the sparsely-populated, wilderness-heavy USA. There won’t be a pristine wilderness that you can disappear into and become a post-apocalyptic Robinson Crusoe (or, for you 90’s kids, Robin Williams from Jumanji).

Don’t cause yourself heartache over what might have been

You’ll need to know where you’re going ahead of time, and plan your route to get there – take a look at our article on How to Make a Bugout Plan (article still under construction). Make sure you’ve got alternate routes planned, including at least one that avoids the motorways. British motorways can be a nightmare at the best of times, and I wouldn’t want to have to rely on them during an evacuation.

Personally, if I absolutely cannot stay put in my home with the community around me, then I’m planning on heading South from my northern city to stay with my in-laws in the countryside (although I appreciate that for some people, this may constitute a disaster all on its own). If the disaster means that the South isn’t a desirable location, or that the country as a whole is in trouble, then I’ll be picking up a significantly smaller bug-out bag and a suitcase and travelling 20 minutes to the airport instead, to stay with my own family in Ireland.

Having more than one route to your location, and more than one possible location to go to, gives you incredible flexibility if the worst should happen.

Things You Can Do Right Now:

Keep the car’s petrol tank at least half full. You’ll get further on half a tank if you have to leave right this second, if you don’t have time to refuel, or if there simply isn’t any fuel left. I know that half a tank in my car could get me halfway down the country, and that’s a hell of a lot more useful than jumping in the driver’s seat in a crisis and seeing the needle on “E”.

Make a plan with your family for where you’d go if a disaster forced you out of your home, and where you’d go if you were forced out of your city.

Start working on your bug-out bag! Read through our Bugout Section, which has lots of information and advice for UK citizens who want to know more about getting out of dodge.

You might not be able to make a bugout bag straight away, but you can make a “going away” bag right now with things you’ve already got – pack up what you’d pack if you were going away for a few days, but include your vital documents, ID, and any information you’d need to get your life back on track. This won’t help you survive in the wilderness, but if you have to leave the house in a hurry to go crash on your brother’s sofa for a few days, it’ll make all the difference.

In The Longer Term, You May Want To:

Build your bug-out bag and actually try your plan out. The best way to get a feel for whether you’re able to bug out effectively is to actually attempt it in safe conditions.

If you plan to use an electric bike to get downcountry and camp overnight on the way, then you should schedule in the time to do just that, try to make the journey, and note what worked and what didn’t. Like any multi-day trip, be sure to let all the relevant people know where you’re going, when they should expect you, and make a plan for what to do if you have to abandon the exercise for whatever reason. This goes double if you are doing the run-through alone.

After the drill, take a look at where you could improve. Did it take you too long to get out of the house? Did you forget anything important? Were you stuck carrying a heavy bit of kit that turned out to be useless?

Planning is all well and good, but eventually the rubber needs to meet the road for you to know what works and what doesn’t.

Financial Preparedness

This is always a tough sell, because so much of the existing advice is just “get out of debt” or “save loads of money”. It’s sound enough advice in a way, since people who drive solid gold cars and aren’t in debt are at less risk than heavily-indebted people, but at the same time, if it was as simple as that we’d all be billionaires.

If you’re in a stable financial situation, a fund to cover emergency expenses is one of the best possible uses of any cash you can spare – but if you’re not financially stable, focus on getting the situation under control first. You can work towards improving your financial situation, but I know times are very, very hard in the UK right now. Not many of us are enjoying much spare cash.

Things You Can Do Right Now

If you don’t already have a savings account, open one now – thanks to online banking, you can usually do this even from lockdown. It doesn’t matter if you don’t put £500 per month into it, just so long as it’s there and you sometimes add a little more to it to build up your “just in case” fund. Since making mine I’ve had to dip into it because of job loss, emergency vet bills and emergency car repair, and if I hadn’t had it, I would have been screwed in every situation.

Make an up-to-date CV. I know everybody hates making a good CV, which is why you should do it now, when times are cosy, and not the evening after finding out you’ve been laid off. Trust me on that.  You can find loads of generic guides to making a good CV, but my advice is to google “CV [your industry/job title]” and look at the best examples there.

In The Longer Term, You May Want To:

Make a plan for what you’d do if you lost your source of income. Planning out the path ahead makes it much, much easier to navigate in a hurry. Knowing what you would do in response to losing your job or income stream gives you the opportunity to craft an intelligent strategy ahead of time, which is the whole point of prepping in the first place.

Work towards whatever you need to advance. Whatever skills, qualifications or experience you need to increase your earning potential, plan out how you’re going to get them. I know you’re probably prepping to get a break from your damn job, so you can treat “Prepping” and “Career” as completely separate and unrelated endeavours and I promise I won’t judge.

Overthrow capitalism. If any of you are under 35 then you’re probably already working on this.

Fitness

I mentioned above that this is an inclusive and non-ableist resource for preparedness – and I really meant that. Everybody (and every body) can maximise their ability to navigate the world and surmount the challenges they may face – challenges which could pile up in a crisis situation.

I’m not going to tell you that you can only survive if you can make a bear tap out or hike the length of the country. Enough survivors of the Syrian civil war and other conflicts have shared their experiences online to make it clear that their bodies got conditioned quite quickly, but this is helped enormously by having a baseline of fitness to work from. If you’re already in good shape for the work you’ll need to do in the crisis, then you’ll be in a better position to do it and not burn out before becoming conditioned to it.

If you don’t have any mobility issues, you should try to build well-rounded general fitness, and where possible, this should be something that you enjoy doing.

If you do have a mobility issue, illness or injury, then make sure to get medical clearance before exercise – you don’t want to exacerbate anything. Many people with joint or mobility issues find exercising in water works well for them, since the water helps relieve the stress on joints, so you might consider that. Similarly, strength training with weights can be focused on areas that are more mobile and less at risk of damage, allowing you to build strength in a way that works for you, even if you have limited mobility.

Like I said before, one of the most important things is to try to make exercise something that you enjoy. Building mental fortitude is all well and good, but if you hate going to the gym, you’ll find excuses not to go. I personally am a distance runner and enjoy lifting weights, and in the glorious pre-pandemic times I was an archer. This provided as all-round a conditioning programme as I needed to feel prepared: enough endurance to run as far as I needed to, enough strength to lift what I needed, and a skill-based exercise on top. You can find a regime that works for you in the same way, building your cardio endurance, your strength and your physical skills in a way that you enjoy. One easy cheat is to try a martial art, since they can be a fantastic 3-in-1 for that.

Things You Can Do Right Now:

Ever wanted to try something new? Like jiu jitsu, or rock climbing, or joining a rugby club? Well, you can’t, we’re in a national lockdown.

But once we’re out, why not give them a try? You might just find something you really love doing.

In The Longer Term, You May Want To:

Build good all-round fitness, which would give you the best possible range of capabilities and help maintain as healthy a baseline as possible. If there’s something that particularly fits into your survival plan, like endurance running, rowing, rucking, mountain biking, archery, rock climbing etc, then by all means, train as much as you want in that – it just might save your life, after all.

Work to promote and preserve good joint and cardio health. Take good care of yourself and make sure you’re going to be able to go the distance with stretching exercises, proper recovery, and sustainable exercise routines. Yoga is a fantastic way to increase your flexibility, protect your joint health and boost your strength and endurance in a gentle and peaceful way, so I’d recommend including it into your routine!

Develop physical skills you might need. This depends on how you plan to react to disaster and your place within your group – but many skills, like shooting accurately or knowing how to safely lift a heavy object, can only be developed with practice. If you anticipate needing to use a skill like that (and you should) then I’d start practicing now.

Defence

This is the bit everybody loves to talk about, because it’s the most fun to think about. What if you had to just absolutely kick loads of ass?

Well, since we’re based in the UK, and in the interests of not getting arrested, I’m not going to talk much about self-defence skills that you’d be using on the street. However, legally speaking, I’m perfectly allowed to talk to you about hypothetical self-defence after the complete collapse of human civilisation, where you have to defend yourself against flesh-eating mutants, so we’ll use that as our framework for discussing self-defence and community defence instead.

Things You Can Do Right Now:

Sign up for a self-defence class – these courses are usually only a few classes in length, especially women’s self-defence, so they’re not a huge time sink and provide you with a great foundation of self-defence skills. If you like it, you might want to start a martial art, which has the added benefit of being great exercise, a fun hobby, a social engagement AND a great source of self-defence capability. At Start Prepping UK, I’ve got a small preference towards striking-based arts like boxing, Muay Thai, kali/escrima, karate, and others, since that’s what I’ve done before and because they better equip you to deal with multiple attackers, but by the same token, I’m also in awe of the one-on-one capabilities of a grappling based art like BJJ or classic western wrestling, so there’s no right answer.

The most important thing is to find one that you enjoy, that you’ll actually invest time in. Someone who’s had three sessions of training in the most optimal martial art in existence will get their ass kicked every day of the week by someone who chose a less “optimal” martial art, but went to training twice a week for 5 years.

Pick a force multiplier and start training with it. A force multiplier is anything that increases your fighting ability. It’s easy to get a sturdy baseball bat and ball, which is all the gear you’d need to play baseball if someone who wanted to play baseball with you should happen to pop round.

Alternatively, you could consider joining an archery club, or doing some training at your local gun club. I’d recommend trying all of the above and seeing what you enjoy, and then sticking with it: training beats fancy gear every day of the week. If you’ve got the space to do your own shooting practice SAFELY, then you might consider getting a crossbow – most archery clubs I’ve been to don’t allow crossbow shooting, and I can’t recommend trusting your life to a weapon you never got the chance to practice with. If you can find somewhere to train legally and safely, modern crossbows are very effective and startlingly accurate.

When push really comes to shove, though, nothing beats a firearm, so if you’re really keen to max out your self- and community defence, you’ll want to join a gun club. However, as I’m sure you’re already well aware, firearms are heavily regulated in the UK, and owning them exposes you to a whole host of risks that you don’t get with other defence options. There are pros and cons, so make sure to weigh them carefully before going through the rigmarole required to become a gun owner.

If you’re interested in more ideas about how to defend yourself and your community from those flesh-eating mutants we were discussing above, check out our Defence section.

In The Longer Term, You May Want To:

Invest in communications. Considering that the mobile phone grid goes down every New Years’ Eve, I’d bet my life that it won’t be working during a mass disaster event – so you’ll need to find other ways of gathering intel and communicating with your people. A versatile VHF/UHF radio like the super-popular Baofeng will let you listen to broadcasts from miles away, and gather intelligence on the situation as it unfolds without having to venture out.

It will also allow you to broadcast over short distances – usually limited by line-of-sight. If you’re operating in a group with several others (and you should be) then these affordable, tough little handheld radios are hard to beat.

For comms over a much larger distance, you’ll need to look at HF and other frequencies, which means bigger and more expensive gear. I’ll cover this in an article on Communications for UK Preppers as soon as we can, but for now, the Baofeng is probably your best shout.

If fighting is in your list of possibilities, you should probably get some armour. It might seem over the top, but I’m talking about low-profile stab-vest type armour, rather than tactical military stuff or Game-of-Thrones-style armour (although that would be very cool).

You’re allowed to own several types of body armour in the UK, and I’ll cover them in depth in a later article. To cut a long story short, you probably don’t need one of those huge US-army-style plate carrier vests, and having one will draw a lot of attention and weigh you down considerably.

A covert vest is a much better option for a UK prepper – these soft vests can be worn inconspicuously under clothes, which doesn’t single you out as a particular threat and doesn’t tip an attacker off to the fact that you’re wearing protection (tee hee). A IIIA vest is the strongest of these types currently available in the UK, and will protect against a wide variety of handgun calibres and – most importantly – knives.

I don’t see being shot as a particularly likely threat for the average person even in a collapse event (although if it does happen, you’ll be glad you wore the vest). However, being stabbed or slashed with an edged weapon is a serious risk in any fight, especially if all societal bets are off. A little protection is a more sensible prep than you might think.

Strengthen your group. As cool as all that ass-kicking stuff is, though, the single best thing you can do to protect yourself is strengthen your community. A strong and united group of people can handle anything, in ways that a lone person just can’t. That’s why I can recommend baseball bats and archery with a straight face: you will be operating as part of a larger whole. (Also you’re not allowed a machine gun so it’s not like I can suggest that).

If the fabric of day-to-day life is shaken, a cohesive, well-prepared community or united group of friends is going to be much more capable of meeting the challenges – and defending themselves – than even the most heavily-armed lone commando. Which brings us to:

Forming A Resilient Community

For all of human history, the sh*t was hitting the proverbial fan for most people. The Black Death, the Mongol Conquests, literally the entire Stone Age… I could go on and on. So how did people survive those things? Well… not many of them did it alone in bunkers.

Humanity has survived countless disasters because we work together. Studies have shown that disaster, far from bringing out the worst in people as TV would have you believe, spontaneously causes them to want to help instead. Our urge to do something, to help our fellow humans, is powerful and has helped us survive from the Ice Age to the Information Age. We aren’t programmed to go it alone, and we aren’t programmed to turn our backs on people who need us.

Just look at the “Blitz Spirit” that’s been part of UK national pride for the last 80 years. When food was rationed, water was spotty, medical supplies were short, and our cities were being bombed to rubble nightly, people did not turn into wild animals. They came together, they helped each other. At the risk of causing your eyes to roll out of the back of your head, they Kept Calm and Carried On. That’s what people do.

Our friends and neighbours aren’t all waiting for society to collapse so they can put a hockey mask on and start eating human flesh – they’re people who want to get by, just like you, and if they were part of your in-group, they’d want to help you, too. So now’s the time to start strengthening your in-group. Get to know your neighbours, or invest more in your friendship group. Talk to family about preparing for likely problems down the road – post-COVID, it shouldn’t be hard to convince them.

A fantastic resource is actually the collectives of anarchists that are popping up all over the place in the face of crumbling state infrastructure. These groups don’t tend to be Molotov-flinging Robocopbaddies – usually being too busy running soup kitchens or food banks. They can include groups of doctors, medics, logistics crews and organisers who can teach you to build self-organising systems resistant to outside impact. Groups like Food Not Bombs or Common Ground Clinic (which was formed to provide emergency relief in the immediate aftermath of Hurricane Katrina) can provide great reading material and contacts, since they’re designed to meet the needs of a community (and therefore stop the looting and pillaging from happening at all) without the help of government or corporate forces.

We’ve got plenty of articles on building a resilient, collapse-proof community that can help one another survive disaster, so read up! When the worst happens, you’ll do a whole lot better with an army at your back.

Things You Can Do Right Now:

Think about who your core group is – the people you’d call if you needed help moving house, or to help out in a pinch. Who are they? Where are they? How can you help them get ready?

Talk to your group about getting ready for future hard times – like we said up above, post-COVID and with no-deal Brexit biting, it won’t be a hard sell.

If you don’t have a group to fall back on, look into finding or joining one. Volunteer groups who organise communities and provide things like food banks are great calls – not just because they’re doing good work and need your help, but because they’re experienced organisers building collapse-resistant organisations. There are also prepper groups on Facebook and other forums, but keep your head on a swivel if you’re thinking about joining one – you don’t want to wind up the indentured servant of some would-be king if the group should ever need to actually do anything.

In The Longer Term, You May Want To:

Get involved with a community project or mutual aid group.

Getting involved with a community aid project or mutual aid group is sadly easier than ever in the UK – our food bank use, homelessness and other social crises are at an all-time high and volunteer organisations are having to step in to fill the role that professional government agencies previously filled.

This does present you with the opportunity to get involved if you can spare the time – and I really recommend you do. Working in an organisation like this allows you to pick up the skills needed to organise in the absence of authority and with precious little in the way of supplies and manpower. It allows you to network with like-minded people and build a group that can support you and others during a possible collapse situation. Perhaps even more importantly than that, though, it gets you into your community and makes your face known as someone who is helpful, competent and trustworthy – and when the time comes, that’s the most valuable prep you could make.

What’s The Difference Between Prepping in the UK and Prepping in the US?

Mixed Flags of the USA and the UK. Union Jack flag.

Several crucial cultural, geographical and political realities make prepping in the UK a different story to that told by most US-centric prepping resources. For a start, no-one lives on huge ranches in the countryside unless they’ve got “Earl” in front of their name – the vast majority of UK citizens, and therefore UK preppers, will have to make do with the space they’ve got in their garden or apartment. Similarly, guns are not a big deal here. They exist, and you can own a surprising variety of them if you’re a member of a gun club, but they are rare enough that we just don’t much worry about them. There hasn’t been a mass shooting event in the UK since 1996.

Geographically, the island is tiny – I mentioned earlier that I could get halfway down the country from North to South on half a tank of fuel, and I doubt most US preppers could get to the next city on the same amount. The weather is usually comparatively mild – although heat stroke and hypothermia are both issues throughout the year – and there isn’t as dramatic a variation in climate and geography across the land compared to the US.

US prepping sources need to talk about deep-freeze Montana blizzards, hurricanes, tornadoes, tsunamis, earthquakes and volcanic eruptions. UK preppers don’t have to worry so much about that, although the entire country is paralysed every year by half an inch of snow, so I suppose we’re not totally without climate disasters.

The US approach to preparedness is, I’m sure, very well suited to America, but I don’t believe it should dominate here. The land, the people, the culture, the history, and the material conditions in the UK mean UK prepping is a very different prospect, and deserving of its own resources, forums and support networks.

Closer: You Don’t Have To Have A Nuclear Fallout Bunker To Be Prepared

Saying that you’re “preparing for zombies” is a tongue-in-cheek way to say that you’re trying to be ready for any and every eventuality, since fictional zombie apocalypses are usually a nightmarish cocktail that includes every sort of disaster and challenge rolled into one. If you’re prepared for the zombie apocalypse, then a disease outbreak, food supply disruption, water grid failure, economic crash and civil war could all happen at the same time and you’d have the best possible chances of survival. If that seems excessive, well, it usually is.

You don’t have to be prepared for zombies – you should focus first and foremost on things that are realistic risks for you and your family. Once you’ve covered the realistic dangers, like a house fire, you can move on to less likely ones, like solar flares wiping out modern civilisation. However, in my experience, most people who cover their bases and then begin preparing in more in-depth ways are only about 20% doing it because they’re worried about the apocalypse – the other 80% is just geeking out over learning new skills and mastering their hobby, which I think is a pretty healthy way to look at all this. Crisis is absolutely coming, and we need to be ready, but prepping is allowed to be fun, you know?

Want to set up a huge home radio station because you’re terrified that Russia is going to invade the UK? Maybe there are healthier places to put your mental energy. Want to set up the exact same huge home radio station because you’re just a huge geek for radio gear and the local Ham Radio community and you want to express that? Go for it.

Prepping is a fantastic hobby and a great way to improve yourself and your capabilities. If you ever need what you’ve prepared, you’ll be ready – and if you don’t, you’ll have enjoyed the ride and gained great new skills and useful knowledge instead. That seems like a pretty good deal to me.

*This is a non-prescriptive site, and I will never tell you that you NEED to buy certain items in order to survive disaster. However, there are plenty of things (like fire extinguishers) that help increase your day-to-day safety or make survival easier if you or someone in your community can afford them, and I’ve linked to these items on Amazon where appropriate. If you do decide to buy any of them, I’d really appreciate it if you bought them via those links – as an Amazon Affiliate partner I earn a commission on qualifying sales, so every sale through a link on this site helps support my work here.

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