Prepping for survival

Prepping Checklist: Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs is Good Place for Preppers to Start

When it comes to prepping or being a prepared individual, we need to consider the difference between a genuine need and things that we want.

Do you have a prepping checklist?


Actively making preparations for possible future scenarios such as grid down, war, natural disaster, or other natural or manmade catastrophes.  Prepping includes gathering supplies and training to maximize comfort or survival in these situations.

Where can a new prepper get started?

Sadly, far too many in our modern world use want and need as interchangeable terms. They are not.  You might want the newest iPhone, but when it comes to survival or simple preparedness, you do not need an iPhone. 

For those of you who never took Psyche 101 in college, or slept through the course, let me take a moment to introduce you to Abraham Maslow. A psychologist by trade, Maslow set out to understand what motivated humans to do what they do.

Maslow introduced his first “Hierarchy of Needs” in 1943. In this hierarchy he explained that, regardless of who they were or where they lived, all humans had certain physiological and psychological needs and that these needs built upon each other to allow the person to reach their ultimate potential. The Hierarchy of Needs is most often explained or displayed as a pyramid. The basic and most fundamental needs are at the base and more elusive psychological needs are at the top.

Understanding the Hierarchy of Needs

Starting at the base of the pyramid you have Biological/Physiological needs; air, water, food, warmth, sexual release and sleep. Next up is Safety; protection from the elements, security/freedom from fear, order, limits and stability. Number three of the five levels are Social needs; belonging, affection and love; from family, friends and romantic relationships. 

Modern prepping builds a strong foundation.

Second from the top of the needs pyramid is Esteem; achievement, mastery, independence, status, dominance, prestige, self-respect and respect from others. Lastly, at the top is Self-Actualization; realizing personal potential, self-fulfillment, seeking personal growth and peak experiences. 

As could have been expected, over the years other psychologists and psychiatrists have debated the structure of the hierarchy of needs and the components. However, regardless of your opinion on the subject, it would seem obvious that a man cannot become a master architect or artist if he spends all of his time foraging for food and seeking shelter from the weather. Consider the average fifteen year old boy. It’s difficult, if not impossible, for them to seek mastery and independence when their brains are consumed with thoughts of fifteen year old girls. 

Can a man or woman focus on taking their business to the next level if there is domestic discord in their home? How many times have you heard “leave your home life at home”? Divorce, financial troubles, etc. all distract from the mission or career. Understanding this, those in the military or government will often lose their Top Secret security clearances based upon domestic troubles. 

Needs in the Modern World

It is unfortunate, but few in today’s society understand the Hierarchy of Needs or how each level supports the others. When people get the “prepping bug” they either don’t know where to start or will stop at the base level. 

Prepping for Emergency Food Storage

Folks will go out and buy a six-month supply of freeze-dried food and call it good. Many will neglect the tools and skills needed to provide security for that aforementioned food. Others will go out and purchase a handgun and ammunition but they don’t even have two days worth of food in their cupboards at home. 

An even more sinister and dangerous situation occurs when adults in society look to someone else for their fundamental Physiological and Safety needs. With food, water, warmth and shelter provided by some faceless government bureaucracy, many people never learn to secure these things for themselves. What is worse, if there is ever an interruption in these social programs, the results are disastrous and the recipients, rather than step up and provide for themselves, devolve into a forging animal state. I submit the Greater New Orleans area, post-Katrina, as Exhibit A

Examining the Hierarchy pyramid, we see that the higher needs are built upon the base needs. Some social engineers would offer that by having government social programs provide the foundational needs of the pyramid the recipient is free to focus on the upper levels of love and affection, achievement and mastery, independence and dominance in their career field or field of endeavor.

What the aforementioned social architects ignore, whether by being naïve or through deliberation and design, is the fact that each individual must build their own pyramid. Self-respect, achievement and sense of belonging cannot be handed out in a food line. All of the aforementioned needs are products of individual struggle, effort and desire. Removing challenges and obstacles from an individual does not increase self-actualization and self-respect, it handicaps and stifles it. Never having learned to build the foundation of the pyramid, the individual flounders without order or structure, meaning or purpose.

Survival prepping with fire training.

21st Century Prepping

When the individual rediscovers Maslow or understands the hierarchy of needs for the first time, they realize what is needed to build a needs pyramid with a solid foundation. You should understand that you cannot skip steps in the building process. Healthy family and romantic relationships are difficult to maintain if there is no stability in the food and shelter department. A person cannot reach self-fulfillment and seek personal growth and peak experiences if there is constant struggle at home. 

Having taken the steps to store ample food and water as well as safety and security tools, the individual can focus their attention on financial security and solvency. When they are financially secure people can focus on excelling in their career fields and achieving higher and loftier goals. 

A person who has a mastery of their career field can advance to newer and more focused achievements. That person can mentor and provide opportunities to others. They can focus on philanthropy and become a blessing to society, not a burden. 

Parting Thoughts

Abraham Maslow’s parents immigrated to the United States from Russia and he was the first of seven children. He lived through the Great Depression, arguably the most difficult financial time in U.S. history up until the modern era. The people who lived through and survived the Great Depression learned hard lessons about personal preparation and thrift; they learned the perils of indebtedness. 

The great irony of our time is that our grandparents and great-grandparents survived hardship and went without only to raise a successive generation that has little understanding of genuine need or want. As we gaze out at the American landscape we see a society with seemingly no understanding of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs or the importance of building that pyramid. 

What you must ask yourself is this, how is your pyramid coming along? Is your foundation solid or built upon the fragile sand of some faceless social program? Is your pyramid built on endless credit card debt?

For those of you who desire to be well-prepared or are into prepping, I would suggest that understanding Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs is a fantastic prepping checklist or at least a good place to start. 

Paul Markel © 2022

About the Author

Mr. Markel became a United States Marine in 1987. He has been a professional bodyguard and a full-time Small Arms and Tactics Instructor. Paul has dozens of books and a thousand articles to his credit.  He is the host and founder of Student of the Gun.



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