Practical advice on how to prepare for any emergency from survivalist and Marine veteran, Dan Kidder.

The past couple of years have held some very uncertain and concerning moments. For the first time in most people’s lives, there was a global pandemic and a surge of panicked prepping and unprecedented emergency measures. We all hope we’ll never have to face a natural disaster or similar emergency, but not being prepared for one can leave you in an even worse situation, as some people recently discovered. Knowing where to start your preparations can be intimidating or confusing though, so I sat down with Dan Kidder, a renowned survivalist expert, to ask for his advice on how to begin better preparing yourself.

Dan Kidder can claim the title of expert in a wide variety of subjects. He’s taught firearms training for close to 30 years and was an adjunct instructor at the FBI, he’s a published author and editor, a marine veteran, and a highly respected survivalist and outdoorsman. All of his combined experience makes him a force to be reckoned with, and a great source of information. Kidder is already featured in (or has written) several of Sportsman’s product reviews and informational videos and articles, but I interviewed him specifically to get his insight on emergency preparedness and personal protection.

To start, Kidder strongly suggests doing your research. Knowledge will serve you better than all the gear and fancy gadgets you can buy. Or, as Kidder put it, “the more you carry in your head the less you carry on your back.” One of the most important things to learn regarding survival is the Rule of Three. This “rule” outlines how long an average person can survive without essentials in extreme conditions and goes as follows:
  • 3 minutes without air
  • 3 hours without shelter (in extreme weather conditions)
  • 3 days without water
  • 3 weeks without food

Knowing these limitations will help you prioritize during an emergency. Remember that this is not a perfect measurement for everyone, but a good rule of thumb to follow.

The second most important thing you can gather is experience. The fanciest tool in your belt won’t do you any good if you don’t know how to use it. Getting out in the wild and practicing essential skills will help you adapt and react more effectively in an emergency. Also, if you don’t use your gear before there’s an emergency, you’ll never know if there’s something broken or wrong with it. For example, Kidder once went camping with his brother and niece who assumed that the temperature rating on their sleeping bags was for comfort, not survival. So while their bags were rated for 40 degrees and they didn’t freeze to death, they were definitely not comfortable nor getting a good night’s rest during the trip. However, now they know what a 40-degree sleeping bag feels like in that weather, and can better prepare for similar situations in the future.

As far as gathering supplies goes, Kidder suggests you start now but start simply. As mentioned above, in a lockdown or disaster, your priorities are going to be very basic: food, water, shelter. Having those things on hand will put you at an advantage. You can buy those pre-made dehydrated food kits at stores, but sometimes they’re outside of your budget or don’t accommodate your diet. So a simpler way to accumulate food storage is to simply buy something extra when you go grocery shopping. For example, if you need two cans of beans for a recipe, buy three. This way you’ll steadily accumulate “extra” food that you know you like and are already used to eating. Having a water purification system that can be worked manually can come in handy in a number of situations, as well as having an emergency store of water on hand in case your power or water is shut off.

Most people already have existing shelter: their homes. Unless there’s an imminent threat or an evacuation notice, you’re probably better off sheltering in place than you are getting in your car and joining the traffic on the street. However, if you do have to leave or evacuate, your biggest obstacle besides traffic will be gas. That’s why Kidder never lets his gas tank fall below half a tank. That way, no matter what happens, he can get anywhere from 100-200 miles away before needing to stop. In a worst-case scenario, this will allow him to avoid the panicked crowds at the gas station, and get out of the emergency zone as quickly as possible.

Dan Kidder training a student using a semi-automatic pistolThe other common aspect of people’s emergency prepping is personal protection. In the last few years, there’s been an upswing in people buying handguns and home defense shotguns. While we’re always happy to see new bun buyers and to introduce people to the world of shooting, simply buying a gun is not enough. In the same vein as testing out your gear before you need to actually use it, you need to get familiar with your gun and practice with it so you’re comfortable using it (or knowing when to not use it) in a high-intensity situation. Kidder is a Marine veteran who was trained and saw active duty during Desert Storm. Obviously, this experience alone would qualify him as someone who is comfortable and skilled with firearms. However, Kidder will be the first to tell you that just because someone is trained in the military, it doesn’t qualify them to act in a civilian world. Military training is usually offensive and requires you to lay down a lot of cover. Civilian training is more geared toward self-defense and safety. This means that the rules of engagement and responsibility are much different.

Although some states will let you open, free, or concealed carry without a permit, that doesn’t mean you don’t have a responsibility to be proficient and safe with your firearm. Not only are there legal consequences for making a bad judgment call in a civilian firearms situation, but often someone’s life is on the line. Kidder is a nationally recognized expert, and yet he never stops seeking out new opportunities to learn and improve. So if you’re going to own and/or carry a firearm, do your homework. Take classes, learn the laws, and practice, practice, practice. After all, a gun is just like any other tool. If you don’t know how to use it, it isn’t going to do you much good. Kidder also recommends that you try different guns, carry methods, and accessories until you find the set-up that works best for you. Again, the more comfortable and familiar you are with your gear, the more confident and accurate you can be.

Kidder’s tips are a great way to start better protecting and preparing yourself, but there’s always more to learn. If you have any questions or would like more emergency preparation advice, visit us online at or at your local Sportsman’s Warehouse.