Seeking ideas for prepper related challenges/experiments

For years I’ve been doing various prepper-type challenges, sometimes with a friend and sometimes by myself, but we’re kind of running out of fresh ideas lately.  I thought maybe this community would have some good suggestions:)

To give an idea of the sort of thing I’m talking about, past challenges have included “a year without a water heater” “cut a season’s worth of firewood by hand” and “a month eating only wild food foraged day by day – no dipping into stored food.”

So please don’t suggest anything as simple as “practice a fire drill” nor as extreme as “walk into the woods and see how long you can live out of your BOB.”  (Which sounds fun, but I have responsibilities at home.)

Right now I’m following a project to use WWII era ration stamps as though it’s 1943, although that’s more historical then truly prepping related, as there’s no reason to think that the same foods would be rationed in the same amounts should a similar program ever be needed.

If anyone has ideas please share them.  Bonus if it’s something you’ve done yourself or would be willing to do, because then we could compare notes on here:)


  • Comments (38)

    • 8

      Volunteer for a search and rescue group(SAR), especially if you live in an area with varied terrain and climate like the desert Southwest.  A lot of your operations will be reasonably routine, but my experience is that there are always notable exceptions, somewhat like living out of your pack for a time, and other survival like situations, all unplanned and unforeseen

      Situations will present themselves unpredictably, frequently during adverse weather and conditions.  Outcomes will be real world, ranging from joyous to tragic – real world experience.

      I did this for several decades, learned a lot, and received numerous benefits. as well as many war stories…..

      • 2

        I’m sure that would be a very interesting experience, but I can’t make the time commitment to attend trainings and stay active in something like that, long term.  Kudos to you for having done so!

        I’m really looking specifically for suggestions that are more like an experiment or trial run, something where the challenge has an end date, after which I evaluate the results. 

    • 2

      Volunteer for your local search and rescue outfit, especially if yu live in varied, rugged terrain, like the southwest US.  Some of your operations will be low key and routine, and others will not.  Many will be quite unpredictable and challenging.

      I offer this based on my decades of like experience.  You will have lots of war stories and many surprising benefits

    • 4

      I’m interested in such challenges too but at a much more beginner level – I’m probably going to start with things like “a couple days’ power outage” or “no tap water for 1 day”.

      • 6

        For that level of challenge you might want to consider making it unexpected, to better simulate real life. 

        For example, list a few things you want to try, and assign each a number between 1 and 100.  Then the first thing you do each morning is use a random number generator to give you a number.  Most mornings the number would not correspond to a challenge and you would go about your life as usual, then one day when you least expect it, “rolled a 12, no water today” or “rolled a 53, power’s out” et cetera.  Is your first thought all your devices being low on battery at once, or that sink full of yesterday’s dirty dishes, or “when did I last refill the emergency water?”  If so, you know where to make improvements:)

      • 1

        I like that idea, because you really don’t know when or what emergency will hit.

      • 3

        I mostly like that idea but I also see myself not following through on it because there are aspects of my work-from-home job that I can’t do without electricity, and if there were an actual power outage I could justify not getting them done, but if it were a self-imposed challenge I couldn’t really justify that.

      • 4

        That’s understandable.  If the electricity use is limited to one thing like running a computer, I would suggest a power outage “except the work computer” but if you do something more integrated, it becomes harder to separate work use from personal use. 

    • 3

      Not sure if your group are ham radio operators, if not that would be a good challenge to get licensed, but if they are then try and only use them to communicate for a certain period of time to simulate a downed cell tower. 

      Another challenge could be to build your own power generation system using things you have laying around. Could you make a windmill or hyrdroelectric system to power such-and-such? 

      Not necessarily survival but maybe long term homesteading, but could you make furniture, tools, or a wagon by hand? What if the grid was down for multiple months and you needed to go back to 1800’s style of living.

      • 3

        The electric generation project could be interesting.  At my limited skill level I would be afraid of frying whatever I hooked up to it (assuming I got it to work at all) but it could be fun just trying to light a bulb or something, for practice.  I’m adding that to the queue of possible future projects, so thanks:)

        Interestingly, although I don’t think I could build a wagon or cart from scratch, I have done so a few times using salvaged wheels and axles.  I do build furniture (functional but not beautiful) and I’ve even built a log cabin, a small barn, and done extensive renovations on an old farmhouse.  I might actually have more skills relevant to the 1800’s than to the 21st century, lol, where technology changes way faster than I can learn to use it!

      • 1

        Sounds like the electrical generation project would be a good potential challenge then to learn how it all works and not fry your stuff.

        I don’t know much about this topic either but it is something I would like to learn in case I am having to power things during the end of the world.

        What I think would be so cool would be making a steam powered generator, grain mill, saw mill, or even a small steam powered car. That old tech really fascinate me. I’d probably blow myself up though

      • 1

        A steam powered grain or saw mill would give you some serious bartering power, too!  But yeah, the risk of blowing oneself up is always a downside. . .

    • 3

      A bit off topic, but I would love to read a post/thread about your month living off wild food. I’m a decent forager, but I doubt I’ve ever foraged more than maybe 1/4 of my food for a few days. 

      Considering the things you’ve already done, I suspect you’ve done a mock bugout already, but if you haven’t, that’s a common prepper practice exercise. Try getting to a rally point or your vacation house or your friend’s house or wherever you are likely to go, with no support from civilization:

      First, drive there with your supplies packed up in your car, and get there without stopping for gas, food, water etc. Probably pretty easy, but it helps you practice loading out the car etc. for an emergency.

      Then try to get there on motorcycle, bicycle, or whatever your plan ‘B’ is. Takes longer, you can’t pack as much, more challenging. You might have to camp overnight in some random patch of woods. 

      Then try to get there on foot (hardest). 

      • 2

        We have done bugout drills, but never broken down into harder and harder versions of making the whole trip, the way you suggest.  I like that idea, and I would even be tempted to suggest a harder level, except it could be dangerous.  But wouldn’t it be interesting to try to make the whole trip without being seen by anyone along the way?  The obvious drawback being that if one was seen lurking in the hedges or diving for cover, it would look criminal. . .  So probably not wise to actually try, I guess.

        Maybe I’ll start a separate thread about foraging someday, or try to dig up an old one.  I try to only talk about that online in fairly general terms though.  My experiences, yes, but specific plants to eat, no.  Because I always worry someone might read it, think they know the plant I’m describing, be wrong, and get poisoned!

    • 5

      A year of wildcrafting for medicinal purposes.

      Obviously you’d abandon the experiment if medically necessary and you wouldn’t ignore your MD’s advice.

      • 4

        This is an EXCELLENT suggestion.  Thanks!  I might start it right now, as we are at the beginning of a new calendar year, and it should be perfectly compatible with my current ration stamp study.

        Since it was your idea, would you like to help set the rules?  In particular I am wondering:

        1. Are we talking native plants only, or are introduced plants allowed, as long as the actual specimen I’m harvesting wasn’t planted by humans?

        2. Can I make herbal tinctures from wild plants and store-bought vodka, assuming that if TEOTWAWKI came I could substitute local moonshine, or is the idea to pretend I’m lost in the wilderness with no additional ingredients?

        3. Related to the above, can I put honey from domestic bees in wildcrafted medicinal tea, to improve the taste?

        I know right now that if I get a cold it will be hard to go without ginger and lemon tea.  If I lived where those grew, I would be all set, but using local wild alternatives should be possible even though they are not my usual go to choice.  I normally do use herbal medicine for internal purposes, so going fully wild doesn’t seem too daunting.

        Where I think this challenge could get very interesting though, is in the area of wound care.  I must say I am in the habit of reaching for commercial antiseptics, adhesive bandages, and sometimes antibiotic ointment when I get cut, even though in theory, I know a lot of wild plants that could serve those purposes in a pinch.  It would be interesting to try them out under normal circumstances and see how well they actually work.  (While still having backup options in case they don’t, so I won’t actually die of gangrene!) 

      • 3

        I think you should make the rules based on what works for you. How ‘wild’ do you want to go? What do you feel is feasible for you?  I would love for you to keep us all updated so we can follow along with your progress / lessons learned / tips. 

        Personally I would also include supplies I could stockpile, even if they don’t necessarily qualify as wildcrafting – like vodka / spirits, dried elderberries, beeswax, olive oil, epsom salts, honey. I’d also include herbs / plants that I can grow.   

        Is there a wildcrafting class in your area? That might be a fun way to gain more local knowledge.  

        Also, it might be interesting to experiment – can you make your lemon ginger tea with shelf stable bottled lemon juice? dried ginger? dehydrated lemon peel? 

        Just a thought in regards to wound care, and other possible serious, or bacterial infections (off the top of my head stuff like UTIs, covid, etc. –  Treating a mild common cold, ankle sprain, skinned knee, etc. with herbal methods is one thing) – in the current climate of excessive demand on urgent care / ERs, I would not experiment here. Personally I’d do everything to keep myself out of the ER. Maybe develop some very generous rules around that.   

        Good luck! Looking forward to reading about what you decide. 

      • 3

        Oh don’t worry, I would abandon the experiment long before landing myself in the ER!  When I begin these challenges, I don’t necessarily complete them at all costs, it’s more like a test to see whether I can or not.  If an injury started to get infected I would clear it up with what I have in the medicine cabinet, then give myself a failing grade for not having successfully prevented an infection with wild herbs.

        I have sometimes used bottled lemon juice and dried ginger for tea, because I don’t always keep fresh in the house (or know ahead of time that I’m going to get a cold) but for purposes of the challenge I think I will limit it to herbs that actually grow around here, meaning supplies could be replenished even if civilization had collapsed. 

        I think I’m going to allow vodka (as medium for tincture) and honey though.  Partly because I’m already taking a homemade mushroom tincture for joint pain on and off, and don’t want to stop it.

        I will certainly post updates when/if anything interesting happens, but I don’t get sick or injured all that often, so there may not be much to report.

      • 3

        Update #1

        Got chapped skin on the back of my hands from working outside in the cold.  Thought, “Does petroleum jelly count as medicine?”  Decided it does.  Made a natural hand balm from venison tallow and eastern hemlock needles.  It seems to be working well!  I’m not sure how long the jar of it will keep before going rancid, though, so it remains to be seen whether this is actually a practical replacement.

      • 1

        On the TV show ALONE, one of the contestants used musk ox brain as his ointment when his skin got chapped from the harsh winter wind. I think it had good vitamins in it.

        In your mixture, what properties do the hemlock needles add?

      • 2

        Well to be totally honest, mostly it just gave it a nice piney scent and  allowed me to feel like I was “making something” instead of merely putting cooking grease on my hands. 

        But also eastern hemlock is traditionally used on sore muscles and joints, and when my hands are chapped they’re usually also overworked, so it seemed like a good fit.

        I’m sure brain would be very good for the skin, since it’s made mostly of fat and high in vitamins and minerals, but just how does one hack through a skull that’s designed for slamming in to other musk oxen?  I had to open a dear skull once, and even that was tedious!

      • 1

        That’s a good point that it would be hard to crack into a skull. They didn’t show it on the show but I imagine he had plenty of time to mess around with it waiting out 100 days for his million dollars. He built his shelter with rocks in that particular season, so maybe just crushed it open.

    • 3

      Have you ever watched 1940s House? It’s a fun one from BBC. I think you can only find it on YouTube now, but it follows a family as they try to live as a British family would have during WWII, including rations (and food recipes). You won’t learning anything ground breaking as a prepper, but it is still interesting. 

      • 2

        No I’ve never seen it (and don’t have a big enough data plan to watch on YouTube) but that sounds very interesting.  I’m doing American rationing, which was far less severe than in Britain, so it hasn’t really been hard at all except that my SCOBYs eat most of my sugar ration.

      • 2

        I’ve romanticised about the 1940’s WW2 era of living. Currently I’m watching the TV series Band of Brothers about soldiers during that time. There are some things that I would love about being a soldier then, and others that I would absolutely hate.  Being a soldier with those vintage weapons and such looks appealing from the comfort of my couch but if I truly had to be in the thick of it though, I’d probably  dread it.

        Thanks for the recommendation about 1940’s House. I found it on YouTube and will watch it soon.

    • 6

      Every now and then I try to do things with my non-dominant hand and arm. Can I brush my teeth with my left hand? Can I tie my shoes? Can I clip my nails on my left hand without the use of my right hand?

      Try putting your dominant hand and arm in a sling for a week to simulate a broken bone and see if you can do your daily routine without it.

      • 2

        That’s clever.  I’ve only had unintentional “practice” in that department, after an unfortunate finger smashing incident left my right hand unusable for a couple of weeks.  It took some getting used to, so regular practice is a good idea!

        Related: Maybe I’ll also learn to use crutches, in case of a future leg/foot injury.  I hear it takes awhile to learn to get around well on them.

      • 3

        The only practice I’ve had with switching dominant hands has also been accidental when I have my right thumb cut and it’s just too painful to do things with it.

        There actually are some lessons to learn with crutches. I was on them for 7 months before and it took me a couple months to finally learn the correct fit.  


        This isn’t a picture of me, but is how I was using them. Too choked up in the arm pit and my arms were bent too much. This puts too much pressure in your armpits and your hands are not doing anything.


        The correct way is to distribute your body weight between your armpits and the hand grips. It makes it MUCH more tolerable. 

        Also, a side note, I wrapped the hand and armpit grips with towels. The hard foam that comes with crutches is NOT comfortable and padded enough for long term use. Adding towels will change the height of those pads though so you need to then adjust accordingly.

      • 2

        Thanks for the tips on adjustment, that’s very informative.  I probably would have done it wrong.

    • 4

      My 2022 goal is to commute to work more days by bicycle than by car.  It’s a 7 mile ride each way and 90% of it is on a bike path.  Dual goal: to become less reliant on a car and also to get my fat a%% into shape.  My bike is designed for multi day off road touring and can be heavily loaded.  My plan is to load it heavier as my fitness level improves.  

      • 1

        That sounds like a great goal, and nice that there’s a bike path!

      • 1

        I wish I lived closer to my work and that this could be an option. Wonderful goal for this next year!

        Are you going to change once at work? How is weather going to play into your goal? You should ride at least one day in rain and one day in snow just to experience what it would be like to bug out on bike in adverse conditions. You’ll probably get sympathy from your boss after he see’s your dedication or riding in the rain and will give you a raise too!

    • 2

      Excellent suggestions overall, I’ll save this post for later to fill in my bucket list 😃

      I don’t know if it’s too basic, but what about training to walk/hike with your BOB for x amount of miles? The goal mileage could be daily, weekly, monthly, or yearly. Or you could make it a time goal, like walking with it every single day for 30 min. It could include going for it in any tipe of weather conditions, as well as including elevation gains. But maybe it’s just my bias because I’m actually training to hike my first 14er which entails endurance hiking with a pack (not a full BOB, but obviously including some survival supplies) and elevation gain. And we’re in the middle of winter and cannot skip training days just because it’s snowy or icy outside. 

      • 2

        I was wondering, do you hike along roads when training?  And if so, have you figured out a way to avoid being mistaken for a hitchhiker?  Any time I’ve carried a pack along a road, I’ve dealt with constant offers for a ride, and sometimes people getting real weird about it (offended and/or overly persistent) when I turn them down.  It sort of put me off regular training with a pack.

        Off topic:  When are you planning to actually do the 14er?  It sounds exciting!  I don’t live in a region with mountains, and I think the highest elevation I’ve ever been to was around 4,000 ft. – a strenuous uphill hike to get there, but not nearly high enough to deal with thin air.

    • 3

      A fun thing I did once as part of a martial arts class was to escape from your home at night, blindfolded, while making NO noise.  The idea was to become so familiar with your territory that you could escape an intruder undetected (for all you Rambo types out there, the easiest way to survive a fight is to not get in one to begin with).  The exercise teaches you to experience your home in a completely different way; identifying trip hazards, escape routes, etc. You learn precisely how many steps it is from your bed to the staircase or how high that drop is from your window the ground.  Plus it makes you feel kinda badass. 

      • 3

        That does sound fun. 

        I do know my way around the house blindfolded – and even back to the house from other parts of the property – but only as practice for being temporarily blinded, caught in a blizzard, house fire, et cetera.

        I’m curious, how was the no noise part judged?  Just whether you thought you made noise, or were there other people standing still and listening to see if they could hear you?

      • 2

        Well, no one was “judging” when I did it, but one way could be to use a decibel meter.  I think there’s even free or inexpensive apps for that on most phones!

      • 3

        Oh using a decibel meter is a great idea.  I just got my first ever smartphone this week, and still figuring out how to use the thing, but maybe it has that!

        I was only asking because technically any time we touch a surface – or even move through the air – it makes some noise, even if not nearly enough for a human to hear from another room.  From inches away I would hear a very soft sound from my window sliding open, for example, but that might still count as silent for purposes of stealth.