The Survival Pyramid

by Spudfarmer – Prepper Advice and Tips to Help you Prep Better

As many of us who are preparing for an uncertain future have discovered, trying to prepare to become self-sufficient for an infinite number of scenarios is overwhelming as best. More often it becomes a sort of anxiety provoking undertaking with no end in sight.

It is easy to become so overwhelmed that you just run around buying things you know you will need at some point in the future. A box of bullets here, some canned veggies there, and so it goes.

After all, these are things you know you will need and will be able to put to use at some point, why not buy and store? The problem with this is that is leads to prepping without method and it does not systematically satisfy basic levels of needs. You need a method to keep your efforts focused and deliberate.

The tool I constantly use to help overcome this problem is based on Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. As most of you probably know Abraham Maslow (one of the founders of modern psychology) developed a pyramid of human needs with five separate levels. Each level contains different requirements that must be met before moving on to the next level.

Furthermore, each level is supported by the level below it and a person cannot move on to the next level until the previous level has been satisfied. The bottom level of the pyramid contains things like food, water, and sleep.

The top of the pyramid is a level called self-actualization which is the pinnacle of human existence. Many people strive to reach this level but very few ever do. (Think Mother Teresa and Gandhi) It is very simple to apply this same principle to building a survival pyramid with the pinnacle being truly prepared.

I personally like the pyramid analogy, but you can replace it with whatever you like. The basic concept is you are building a survival structure. This structure is all based on a strong foundation and supporting levels. Just like Maslow’s pyramid, each level rests on the previous level and if you try and skip levels or build on a weak foundation, the structure will collapse.

With this information in mind, there are a couple of caveats before we begin. First, the fundamentals of the pyramid are universal, but each person’s pyramid will be different based on their circumstances.

For instance, while my first level living in the Northwest would be food, water, shelter, and heat – someone who is insulin dependent and living in Florida would have a first level of food, water, shelter, and insulin.

Secondly, any item placed in a level will also by extension have things that allow us to use items on the list. So if insulin is on my level one, I must also have a way to refrigerate and use insulin on my level one list. If my food storage consists primarily of grains, a grinder must also be on level one. If my water supply is a year round stream, a filtration system must also be on level one. You get the idea.

So without further ado, here is MY pyramid based on my age, location, family size, financial status, etc… Again, this is extremely abbreviated and only some examples of items in each level, not a comprehensive list.

Level 1: Life Requirements

Water- My water will come from my well with a back up hand pump

Food- 1 year supply of long term storables like wheat, salt, sugar/honey, powdered milk, hand grinder, spare grinder parts, etc…

Shelter- My house

Heat- Wood stove to heat and cook with plus 5 cords wood storage, matches, splitting maul, ax

Level 2: Long Term Survival Tools and Protection

These are things that will be essential to any long term survival plan. This is not even close to a complete list, just examples. Things like toiletries, non-hybrid seeds, garden tools, seasonal clothing, canned fruits & veggies, guns, ammo, medical supplies, etc….

· A Side note – It was extremely difficult to place guns and ammo on level two instead of level one. I’m one of those guys who doesn’t go to the grocery store without my gun. My thinking is that in the purest sense of the word survival, a gun is not necessary. You have to have food and water to exist, but you can survive without a gun. The best part is you don’t have to debate this because it’s my list, you can just make your own.

Level 3: Quality of Life

These are things that would be very nice to have and would upgrade your status from merely surviving to living borderline comfortable. These are things like books for your survival library, chicken coop w/hens, goat for milk, taking an EMT course, vitamins to supplement your diet, antibiotics, etc….

Level 4: Barter/Trades

These are items/skills that will allow you to get the most out of a survival situation. Some things on this list will increase your value as a person in a true TEOTWAWKI situation. This will also allow you to live much more comfortably in this scenario. These are things like welding, mechanical, medical skills that you can use to improve your personal situation as well as trade for other items. Other things might be a beehive for honey production or solar panels to recharge batteries or power electronics. These are skills/things that everyone should be striving to acquire after meeting basic needs.

Level 5: Add to existing stores and luxury items

These are things that are not at all essential but would make life better. Things in here would be candy for children (and yourself), board games, DVDs, music, etc. You would also increase previous set levels of need. More bullets, food for barter, etc….

Your lists should be as detailed and specific as possible. How much wheat? What Kind? Extra parts for a grain mill? What kinds of guns? Calibers? How much ammo? It could go on forever. Furthermore you could have some guns on level two and others on level four.

Your list will also change and will cycle as you become more prepared. The point is to stay focused and purchase starting with absolute necessities and work up.

I don’t care how great a deal you find on another case of ammo, it doesn’t matter if you don’t have your water needs met. Ideally this should take the emotion out of things and make you stick to a budget of sorts. Not as much fun, but far more effective.

As it has been repeated ad nauseam in most survival blogs, everyone’s survival list will be different. We all have basic needs we share, but we also have uniquely different life circumstance that prohibits making a one size fits all list. It’s your list; you get to determine what the priorities are for you and yours.

We all know what we need to survive. In fact, we can even picture most items we need and compile a detailed list. However, the fact remains we need to start viewing prepping as a structure. We have to start with a solid foundation and build up.

We all know what a house looks like, but we wouldn’t start building without plans. We know it would be a futile effort. You would have no idea what the exact measurements were and it would be pointless to try building walls before the foundation was set. The clock is ticking so draw your plans and start building from the bottom.

10 responses to The Survival Pyramid

  1. pantsupdontloot December 26th, 2014 at 4:49 pm

    ‘Twas and excellent article and thanks for the info. If you will allow, there is something, in my humble opinion, that is left out of every survival plan, and respectfully that includes yours. Yours is good and helped me put some more things in perspective, but still lacks one item: Limiting factor. What is your limiting factor ? To someone it may be the weakest link in the drive chain of their dually, to another the infant child that is due to be downloaded next week, or the 89 year old grandparents, and let us not forget the very limited supply of prescription meds after the grid goes down,and so on. To me, having resigned myself to the fact that after teotwawki I’ll be walking everywhere I go, then my LF [limiting factor] is how much I can carry in a backpack, pull in a wagon, or push in a wheelbarrow. Since I’m in my sixties, both knees already replaced, carrying heavy stuff, long distance is out of the question. Therefore, we have buried 20 stashes in sealed pvc pipes along a lengthy route through the woods leading to our bug out location. This is the only way I can survive, travelling light between stashes to hopefully, eventual safety. If you give this some thot then I think we can all agree we have a limiting factor that the pyramid itself rests upon. If we deny an defy the LF, such as me trying to carry heavy loads for more than a few yards…well I’m dead meat, aren’t I? So in closing, identify your lf and work with it, for if you don’t it will automatically work against you with fatal consequences after teotwawki. Thanks for the input and God bless. PS: Here’s a little acronym for the basics of survival. FLAGS: Food..Lifestraws..Ammo..Guns..Shelter. Get these five down pat and then add the Geiger Counters and all the other stuff you need. Thanks again!


    • TheHappening February 13th, 2015 at 10:59 pm

      Are you a /pol/lock, by chance? They put up the GoFundMe for that pantsupdontloot billboard.


  2. Robert December 26th, 2014 at 9:45 pm

    Oops, didn’t we forget taking care of our souls? Isn’t everything really about our souls? You see, this is not primarily about survival; it is about the End-Time and the Great Judgment.

    Let me add a level for you: Lets call it zero level.
    Pick any of the Great Teachers, say… Jesus. Study and follow His teachings. Shouldn’t “treat others as you’d like to be treated” be remembered and followed? Without this spiritual level, you have already lost.


    • Woodchuck December 28th, 2014 at 12:50 am

      Spudfarmer’s final comment at level two was to not debate him, rather, make your own list!


  3. Dennis Lundberg December 26th, 2014 at 10:20 pm

    May I add something that has bothered me ever since Maslow’s theory was created and first used in preparedness speak…First, Maslow was not a survivalist, nor a PREPPER … Second, in the 22 years of learning and teaching outdoor survival and preparedness, along with an understanding of how to boil everything down to its lowest common denominator, I have come to understand that Maslow was wrong and many of you fail to realize that if you are being chased by someone with a machete, a knife or a weapon that goes bang, your major concern will not be food or water, it will be the air that you breath and the speed or logic that it takes to get you into a safe environment…no matter how you build or understand Maslow theory… Being SAFE… is foremost in any survival situation. You can have all the food, water and weapons along with shelter, gear and gold, its still useless if you are not safe.


    • pantsupdontloot December 27th, 2014 at 3:49 am

      I agree with the being safe part. But at my age running from anything except a snail or sloth will not do much good. With my knees, a young man chasing me with a machete cannot be cured, only prevented. Prevented by laying low in the woods and avoiding contact with anyone except my bride of 41 years. Yes we have weapons and know how to use them, but taking another human’s live is extremely low on my priority list. And yes again we would take careful aim and kill, but only when absolutely necessary. It may be wishful thinking to believe we can avoid everyone but this is our plan and hopefully it will see us safely through. There is one thing for sure, we all will be confronted with life threatening constantly changing circumstances once calamity strikes. So Jesus Christ bless and keep all of us until we see each other at His feet.


  4. SoulSearcher December 27th, 2014 at 5:13 am

    Looks like level 3 is also level 4. All the things in level 3 can be sued for bartering.


  5. KEVINMC360 December 27th, 2014 at 7:05 am

    Movement equals life. Cave equals grave. When the SHTF having multiple preposition-ed cashes and small groups of three that know how to avoid FLIR will be the ones who survive. know the land and how to navigate, If your not in shape you will be donating your supplies and what ever else you can think of to a superior force that is.
    Train hard fight easy, Train easy fight hard, your choice.
    When you get the 3:00 AM knock at your door don’t be there. Anticipate your enemy, be like water and take the shape of any container or situation your put in.
    Good Luck and God Bless.


  6. Trisha Griffin December 27th, 2014 at 12:42 pm

    Regarding Pants up don’t loot. If you are older, it IS better to avoid trouble than confront it HOWEVER be careful not to get too far away! You don’t know how bad things will get when TSHTF so you might be able to have some neighbors within shouting distance without taking along a machete and going everywhere in a Humvee with a flame thrower! KNOW who you are living near and something about them. Agree to watch their houses if you watch theirs,etc. Tell them your skills up front. If you have a serious medical condition and I am a nurse or med lab tech,etc. you will not be inclined to bump me off should the temptation arise!Ditto with car mechanics, carpenters,vet assistants,etc. Take turns on a ‘night watch’ and don’t forget a dog. You need more than a Chihuahua, but an Irish wolf hound could cost a lot to feed! #1 is get as far from the inter-city as you can! A rural area is best. Don’t tell possible trouble-makers where you’ll be. In case of martial law, try to get a box number instead of giving an address or give a phoney one-that will give you time to avoid the FEMA camps. If government vehicles are out and about, play dead. Make your place look like you are away for awhile. Never be home nights when they can come and take you away without witnesses. Load up on colloidal silver and natural antibiotics. If you aren’t skilled with guns, consider subtle weapons like the walking cane you keep plugged it and then use it as a stun gun when you have unwanted guests, or pepper spray to give you a head start to get to your hiding place. Think tunnels, traps with trick covering to incapacitate intruders and other small but deadly weapons. I have found cross bows, blow darts, sling shots,etc. These are hard to find and therefor difficult to prove you used them! You can poison the tips of darts and throw out small pieces of metal that cut feet when run upon. Booby traps? Those are great for those of us who are not Olympic runners. Big weapons only attract attention. And don’t rely on tents for shelters unless you are familiar with the area.


  7. rebelcharlie December 28th, 2014 at 1:59 am

    There are some food items that will be more useful than others if you plan to stay in one place. Take beans for example, you can save some for planting and the rest for consumption, these have a very quick turnover rate and can be saved through winter.


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