Is it Crazy to Worry About the Golden Horde?

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For years, I have listened to people in prepping circles talk about “The Golden Horde”. What is that you ask? Well, the golden horde is a concept that as far as I can tell was introduced by James Wesley Rawles. I like Mr. Rawles – have several of his books in my prepper library and I have been going to his website for years. Mr. Rawles is the writer of several prepper fiction novels (Patriots, Survivors), and probably the first survival book I ever read How to Survive the End of the World As We Know it . He is also the owner of the popular website. Mr. Rawles’ golden horde concept roughly says that if we have a TEOTWAKI type of event, the major population centers will soon see a mass exodus of people out of the cities and into the surrounding countryside because the cities will be unlivable. The thinking will be to head to the countryside where there is more room, less violence, more food and a safer existence than in the cities.

The historical Golden Horde was a Mongol tribe back in the 13th century, but for the sake of Prepping and how the modern interpretation of this concept could apply to you, I will use Mr. Rawles’ own words in describing what he meant by this concept:

Here is a mental exercise: Put yourself in the mind set of Mr. Joe Sixpack, Suburbanite. (Visualize him in or near a big city near where you live.) He is unprepared. He has less than one week’s food on hand, he has a 12 gauge pump action shotgun that he hasn’t fired in years, and just half a tank of gas in his minivan and maybe a gallon or two in a can that he keeps on hand for his lawn mower. Then TEOTWAWKI hits. The power grid is down, his job is history, the toilet doesn’t flush, and water no longer magically comes cascading from the tap. There are riots beginning in his city. The local service stations have run out of gas. The banks have closed. Now he is suddenly desperate. Where will he go? What will he do?

Odds are, Joe will think: “I’ve gotta go find a vacation cabin somewhere, up in the mountains, where some rich dude only goes a few weeks out of each year.” So vacation destinations like Lake Tahoe, Lake Arrowhead, and Squaw Valley, California; Prescott and Sedona, Arizona; Hot Springs, Arkansas; Vail and Steamboat Springs, Colorado; and the other various rural ski, spa, Great Lakes, and coastal resort areas will get swarmed. Or, he will think: “I’ve got to go to where they grow food.” So places like the Imperial Valley, the Willamette Valley, and the Red River Valley will similarly get overrun. There will be so many desperate Joe Sixpacks arriving all at once that these areas will degenerate into free-fire zones. It will be an intensely ugly situation and will not be safe for anyone. In some places the locals may be so vastly outnumbered that they won’t survive. But some of the Joe Sixpacks will survive, and then the more ruthless among them will begin to fight amongst themselves for the few remaining resources. They will form ad hoc gangs of perhaps 6 to 30 people.

Now, with that context I will try to give my perspective on this question because I have heard a few of my fellow bloggers, some with no more expertise in this topic than Mr. Rawles or anyone else for that matter, give their opinion that is it foolish to think that the cities will disgorge themselves of people in a TEOTWAWKI event. They argue that people will sit and wait and never leave major metropolitan areas for all number of reasons. They say it could be they are too used to being catered to and will just sit waiting for handouts to come from the government. Others say that the roads will be blocked so there is no way to leave. Not wanting to be left out on the fun, I’ll give my own unlearned opinion below.

What is the Event we are talking about here?

As with all things in life, the situation you are actually faced with will determine the available choices you have or more appropriately, what choices you are forced to make. To say this entire concept is without merit is foolish I think and it shows a lack of imagination to say that this could never happen. I can easily see situations that would force people to leave their homes or cities and if you only have one potential disaster in mind you aren’t seeing the big picture. Everything depends on the disaster as I have said before so while one event might not cause any disruption at all, another could change the world. People are fleeing all the time so this isn’t some bizarre concept that lives solely in the realm of prepper fantasy.

YazidisFleeingAugust112014ReutersViaTimeMagIn Mr. Rawles’ mental exercise he was using a power outage. What caused this power outage? We don’t know but it has been long enough that for Joe, “his job is history, the toilet doesn’t flush, and water no longer magically comes cascading from the tap.” We have to assume the power has been out for a long time or the outage was extremely severe and the Just In Time inventory has been depleted. Utilities are out so a major city would get ugly fast. Have you ever seen a sanitation strike in New York? He goes on to say “there are riots beginning in his city. The local service stations have run out of gas. The banks have closed.”. Now, imagine this Joe Sixpack is living in a major city when this happens like New York or Los Angeles.

Do you really think there won’t be people leaving if these things were happening? Do you honestly believe in a city of over 8 million people that nobody is going to leave that type of disaster? Even if we are only talking about 10% of the entire population that decides based upon the information they have (maybe we were attacked by terrorists with an EMP) that they need to get out of the city no matter what, you are still talking about 800,000 people. That’s only 10% of one city!

Let’s go ahead and continue with the theory that this is New York. We have to assume from Mr. Rawles’ mental exercise that since he said that this is TEOTWAWKI,  that the same thing has happened across the country. This isn’t a small power outage caused by a storm that brings the power back in a few days. Now take the 10% from all the towns around New York and New Jersey and add those together. Can you begin to see how an event like this could trigger a “horde” of people moving into the countryside to escape the riots and lawlessness?

Where you live matters

In real estate, you know the phrase… Location, location, location. Where you live matters just as much as the event that causes the crisis or the crisis itself. If you live in the backwoods of Tennessee, you probably don’t have to worry about hundreds of thousands of people making their way out of the city, but what if Memphis and Knoxville were looking for a place to go?

Back in 2013, the Business Insider showed a map of the most populated counties in the United States. They used the census data to determine that over 50% of the population of our country lives in just 146 of the over 3000 nationwide counties. Do you live near one of these?


Half Of The United States Lives In These Counties

Half Of The United States Lives In These Counties

It is my belief that with the right disaster, the Golden Horde concept is very likely. I can easily see having to worry about people fleeing major cities if you live near some big metropolis. Now if you are out in the middle of East Jesus, then you probably don’t have to worry about it as much, if at all. However, that doesn’t mean it is crazy for anyone to worry about the golden horde. It might be crazier to think you know everything and everyone else is wrong. It is wise to research it though and find out for yourself if maybe there is something you need to plan for. Where do you live? Is there a big blue spot near your home?

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Freedom-loving American doing what I can to help prepare and inform others. Editor and creator of The Prepper Journal 2013-2017, 2020 -

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Jack Bower

It certainly does depend on the disaster. I live in FL so my major disasters are hurricane related. I don’t live in a flood zone but in 2004 we had 2 straight weeks without power (ever shaved by candle light? NOT fun). We all stayed put and carried on with our jobs. Admittedly, that’s not a TEOTWAWKI situation by any stretch. Let’s assume that we were attacked by an EMP, though. The govt would survive as many/most of their critical lines of power, communication, and logistics are hardened against such an attack. And once things settled down and relief efforts… Read more »

Pat Henry

Thanks for the comments Jack, I don’t really believe the government wouldn’t survive, but in what capacity? Even if they were perfectly fine, had zero problems with people or logistics, you have to look at numbers and even a fully functioning government will have problems if nobody else is functioning. As far as relief efforts from our allies, you would have to assume they would be or would be able to get to us. Best case scenario something like that would take weeks I imagine and people would be going crazy well before that. I realize that anytime you get… Read more »


The “golden horde” concept is simply fiction, and doesn’t jive with what history and case precedent have shown to be what really happens. CIties pretty much never empty out spontaneously, regardless of how bad it is. The very rare exception to this is when people are forced to evacuate on government orders. People tend to stay where they are, and they tend to die where they live. If they are starving, they can’t go far, the same also if they have no fuel. What history has also shown is that governments don’t just evaporate, and they will maintain power at… Read more »


Think about refugees then take a look at the UNHCR web site. Lets assume that you don’t trust them but the numbers are probably right. Think about troubles in the last 70 years and the vast numbers of people who just picked up and left. Think of Katrina. Think about the mass migrations during the late 1940s in China and when India and Pakistan divided. The movement of the Palestinians to Jordan, Lebanon, and Syria when Israel was formed. The vast movement of people in Cambodia after the Vietnam War. The refugees in Yugoslavia in the 90s. All of the… Read more »

Austin McMahon

once military stops getting a paycheck they too will abandon their post, especially if they have their own families starving.


the horde will have seven components. 1a) the classic golden horde – strangers who have no idea of your status. 1b) the personal golden horde – relatives and neighbors who know what you have and where you are. 2) lucky individuals and beginning preppers who have guns and thirty days of food and who find you. 3) ad-hoc teams of lucky individuals and beginning preppers who have guns and thirty days of food and who find you. 4) displaced preppers. those who were prepared but have been driven from their homes and are now searching for yours. they know what… Read more »

Patrick Henry 2014

I take issue with your number 5, libertarians and anarchists have nothing in common. Libertarians do want organization, whether personal or government, their issue is they don’t want government to interfere with natural liberties and expect government to protect those liberties. Anarchists want no form of government. A libertarian wood be supportive of self reliance and group organization to protect life liberty et al


to pat henry and patrick henry (same person?) what you describe as “libertarian” I recognize as “conservative”. I would call them confused conservatives who equate the liberalization of the republican party with a failure of conservativism, who therefore seek an alternative political philosophy, and who think they see that alternative in libertarianism. many if not most actual libertarians are simply anti-people. they don’t want limited government. what they want is unlimited government in themselves, a six gun on their hip and no policeman in sight. they are not pro-freedom. they want unlimited freedom for themselves and everyone else had better… Read more »


“what you describe as “libertarian” I recognize as “conservative””. No offense intended but you either have not read much about libertarians or you did not believe what you read. Same about conservatives. I fancy myself a conservative. I don’t want to see government go away but I want it to be a lot smaller. I want government, “in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity”. We have $3,800 billion dollar federal budget. Only $675 billion… Read more »

Steeve Johnson

I lived in Houston, TX when Katrina hit New Orleans and the two cities are 350 miles apart. The influx of refugees was enormous and most stayed and did not return to Louisiana. I know they had time and warnings to fill up with gas but I-10 became a parking lot and many people became stranded and never made it to Texas. Then 1 month later hurricane Rita came through and headed straight for Houston. every road out of Houston was a parking lot. motorists were stranded and every store within a couple miles of the main roads was sold… Read more »


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bubble shooter

actually, it’s never crazy for thinking about something. it is just late or not

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