Last Updated on February 6, 2015
When you read the various Prepper and Survival blogs and comments on Prepping, it’s hard to avoid the constant chatter about guns and defensive warfare… Hollywood has done an excellent job of glamorizing the use of guns and warfare to the point where some people actually believe that by simply owning lots of guns their problems will be mitigated. And nothing could be farther from the truth!
What’s even more interesting is that some of these same people own scoped rifles that aren’t even sighted-in! And if you were at a shooting range and handed them a rifle that was all dialed-in, they couldn’t put a single round on the paper (target) down-range under ideal circumstances, let alone if they were in crisis-mode.
Please don’t misunderstand me; I am 100% for the Second Amendment and the right to own and bear arms. I own guns myself and I grew-up shooting and hunting for food in the mountains of Southern Oregon.
It seems however that there are a few people who think that survival (Prepping) is all about owning lots of guns and paramilitary training and tactics. And it’s my opinion that these beliefs are based upon defective logic when it comes to the primary objective of Prepping, which is survival, as in ‘staying alive‘ long-term.
If any given Prepper truly believes that there are bona-fide risks to their families and friends, which might stem from any one of a host of credible natural and made-caused disasters, then taking a purely logical approach to minimizing those perceived risks requires that Preppers must do what is necessary at the moment such action becomes necessary. This of course requires a plan of action that is in-place, as well as the equipment, supplies and tactics that support such an action.
Any tactics supporting any plan that increases potential risks for casualties are defective, because it violates the core objective; ‘don’t get dead’.
The superior plan of action is the one that removes as much risk as humanly possible. When you compromise this logic, you also compromise your odds of ‘staying alive’.
Almost anyone with a minimum of training using even marginal equipment can survive off the grid and in the wilderness for a week or even two. How well you fare in such matters will depend greatly upon your fitness, training, experience and the type, amount and quality of the equipment you employ.
However, when you are forced to survive for months and possibly years totally ‘off the grid‘, that’s a whole different subject and few people have the know-how based upon the actual experience that is required to help others prepare for such a challenge.
Few of the so-called ‘experts’ who are providing information into the Prepper community have themselves actually survived off-the-grid in remote locations for many months at a time. And having never been in that kind of a situation, they have no first-hand knowledge or appreciation of what the long-term challenges actually are, let alone the solutions. Surely some of these experts are making many assumptions and educated guesses.
Other experts focus on short-term survival; I recall an episode of Bear Grylls where he is shown squeezing the liquid out of Elephant dung into his mouth as a means of obtaining water in survival mode. Of course he has the ability to check into a hospital after the show to deal with all the micro-organisms that would readily sicken him, and if left unchecked, potentially kill him in the long-term. These are not the kind of methods that will serve most Preppers very well, but are taught in some military survival courses.
Most if not all expert advisers naturally teach what they know best; hopefully based upon their own actual experience. There are a few so-called experts who are writing books and posting information on Blogs who have very little if any actual meaningful or relevant experience.
Should other Preppers be making critical plans and adopting tactics based upon the guesswork of someone else, who may have only read some books?
Living ‘off the grid’ at a farm or ranch is really not ‘survival experience‘. I am not saying that the experience gained from such a lifestyle is not relevant or beneficial, in fact it is. However, in the case of remote rural living, when a problem or need is encountered, you have the option of driving into town or reaching-out for what you need using the telephone (on our ranch, we would even occasionally ride our horses into town for supplies).
However, as in an actual disaster, where logistical support and travel is cut-off, an Expedition Sailor has no such options. That’s because when an Expedition Sailor has a problem, it is serious since he/she may be hundreds of miles (by sea) away from any outside help (medical, parts, tools, expertise, equipment, etc.). This mandates that Expedition Sailors must be self-reliant in real-life on a daily basis, long-term. It’s not some theoretical or academic exercise, it’s for all the marbles. When you are at sea or anchored at some remote location, separated from the nearest land by water, you can only look to yourself for solutions. This also means having planned ahead in provisioning all the ‘right stuff’ on-board the boat, before leaving port. This is what prepping on land is about; having all the ‘right stuff’ before a disaster hits.
There are some survival experts who have gained their ‘survival’ experience from duty in the military. To make my position crystal-clear; I have the utmost respect and appreciation for our military men and women (my son-in-law is a serving U.S. Marine and we are very proud of him). Some former military personnel who are now advising Preppers tend to teach/preach what they know best….guns, ammo and military tactics. And a few of these ’experts’ seem to universally fail to acknowledge or even recognize that their success in the field was the result of the guy on the right and on the left, and the extensive training that they all had received in combination with the team of people in the rear, who were providing and fulfilling all kinds of support missions. Preppers will not have access to that training or the specialized training environment, nor the logistics support that is provided by the military.
A few former military operators who have become ‘experts’ on Prepping fail to continue to appreciate that every bullet, MRE, stitch of clothing, intel, transportation and mechanical support that supported their operations in the field were provided by many other trained people in the rear. And without these mission support personnel, the operators on the front line and down range wouldn’t fair nearly as well as they do in achieving their military objectives. There are exceptions of course in that there are Special Forces who through highly advanced training programs can and do improvise and adapt in the field down-range (damn few!). Here again, Preppers will not have access to anything close that level of training and experience, as it was provided by the military and designed to train those personnel, who were already pre-qualified, screened and selected for that specialized training. In the world of civilian survival and prepping, it’s the Prepper who has to understand and incorporate many mission skills and parameters into their own survival paradigm. If you don’t, you will likely fail.
Nobody has all the answers and no one particular survival paradigm is perfect for everyone. Each Prepper needs to identify his own potential problems and goals and then using the best information from many reliable sources, form a custom survival paradigm to suit.
It’s extremely important to maintain a clear understanding of the vast differences between ‘military objectives’ and the tactics and training to achieve those objectives, and ‘Prepper objectives‘, which are purely related to ‘staying alive’ and long-term disaster survival. Any form of combat, at any level, will lead to casualties on ‘both’ sides of the conflict.
Aside from being fully prepped (supplies, equip, etc.), the most logical approach to survival is to plan to avoid risk when the SHTF.
Should a major large-scale disaster occur, one that may for instance take the entire U.S. electrical grid down, or some other catalyst that would cause a collapse of the supply-chain infrastructure (food, fuel and supplies into cities), there will be masses (in some areas millions) of Un-Prepped people that will be dislocated from the cities and towns and who will relocate themselves to the rural areas in search of resources (food, water, etc.).
Many of these un-prepped survivors (keep in mind, we are talking about millions of people) will be armed and desperate. If Preppers attempt to shelter in place within range of these survivors, regardless of the preps and tactics used, they will likely be ultimately overcome by their sheer numbers. Any argument to the contrary is simply illogical (none of us are John. J. Rambo). If you truly want to survive (as in ’staying alive’), then a realistic relocation plan is of paramount importance.
The thousands (and more) of un-prepared and desperate survivors who will be migrating outward from towns/cities during post-disaster conditions are what some Preppers refer to as ‘Zombies’; I call them the ‘Un-Prepped’. These are the people who are post-disaster survivors and through their desperation pose a real danger to others, akin to a drowning man who will quickly push another person under the water in his desperate attempt to survive.
So what are the legitimate options?
First of all, 24/7 situational awareness is absolutely key for people living in the cities, given that relocation may only be possible just before any disaster/event and/or immediately after (within minutes). If you are already living off-grid in a remote area, you are in the best situation and have much more time to consider the situation as it unfolds.
Second, you’ll need a re-location plan in place that will get you to a prepped facility that is at a secure distance from migrating masses, as in ‘out of reach‘ and remote. Distance is your ally, since many Un-Prepped survivors will be on-foot (vehicles will be grid-locked, fuel will be unavailable), and they can only walk about 10-20 miles in a day. Doing the math, and giving them the benefit of the doubt, the average ‘Un-Prepped’ may be able to travel as far as 2-3 days away from any towns/cities. This gives an effective maximum ‘Un-Prepped Radius’ of about 60 miles (maybe more) from any towns/cities. Therefore, I would expect that if your relocation facility was 75-150 miles away from the nearest major town/city, you would minimize possible contact with the Un-Prepped, and thereby minimize your risks of dealing with these desperate people.
Clearly, there is still some vulnerability being on land. This stems from the fact that some Un-Prepped may nonetheless reach your position on foot, and possibly using vehicles. The ones who reach your location will likely be the most resourceful of the Un-Prepped, since they will have obviously survived the initial chaos and made it out of the towns/cities, and likely have already engaged in lethal combat.
Being under-siege in a fixed location can be a real problem and due to the duration of such sieges, some fixed position facilities ultimately fall. It’s a function of how well prepared you are as compared to the threat that is presented by any hostile force.
There is also another option that is best suited for those people who are living in, or close to a city on the coast, which precludes the need for potential defensive combat and the risks posed by the Un-Prepped.
Bugging-Out in comfort on a boat is a very realistic solution for some people. In fact, Expedition Sailors such as myself do it for fun and have done it for many years with our families, friends and pets! It is for this reason that I have written the book, The Nautical Prepper.
Once you leave port and are over the horizon heading to a preselected safe destination, you are out of sight and out of mind, leaving 99.99% of everyone else in the city behind competing for the dwindling resources. The risks at sea and at a preselected remote location (island with zero or limited population) are far less than those that must be endured long-term on the continent in and around cities. Of course this paradigm may not be suitable for many people, for a host of reasons.
Over the course of several decades, among other commercial marine operations, I have personally handled all of the logistics, planning, engineering and operations, including the customization of the vessels that were required for two separate multi-year sailing expeditions that each covered thousands of miles at sea. Each of these expeditions ultimately required that I provide all of the know-how that allowed my family (wife, two children and two dogs) and I to successfully reach distant remote locations and then live off the grid at uninhabited desert islands in the Sea of Cortez.
The success of these long-range multi-year expeditions was not by chance. The technical know-how that I have accumulated over decades involves detailed knowledge of many disciplines, including but not limited to:
Power collection, generation and storage systems, communications and navigation systems, meteorology, water production-collection and storage systems, provisioning, food storage and long-term field supplementation, life support and safety systems, security, defense systems and tactics, surveillance and counter-surveillance, sanitation systems, equipment and clothing for personnel, advanced first-aid and medical supplies. And all the tools, parts and supplies to maintain and repair all mission critical equipment, which must function long-term as they must in any ‘Prepper’ survival mission.
When you have actually lived and survived off the grid long-term in challenging conditions you learn what works and what doesn’t work, and I have certainly earned some of that knowledge, by ‘living the preps‘. It would be a huge mistake for Preppers to learn the hard lessons under actual survival-disaster conditions.
For example; equipment fails over time; some much sooner than others and you have to know in advance which equipment is best and why…that knowledge only comes from actual use over time in the field. Morale is another critical matter in both short-term and long-term survival and through actual experience many lessons are learned and genuine solutions have been developed.
My book ‘The Nautical Prepper‘ contains decades of experience that have been distilled down to some of the key lessons and elements that will provide land-based Preppers with many practical ideas and concepts that will certainly improve any existing land-based survival paradigm.
Regardless of your plans and preps, I wish everyone the very best.
Cheers! Capt. Bill
Frequent contributor, Capt. William E. Simpson II is a U.S. Merchant Marine Officer with decades of boating and expedition sailing experience, who has successfully survived long-term off the grid at remote uninhabited desert islands with his family using sailboats that he equipped for that purpose. Capt. Bill holds a U.S.C.G. 500-ton captain’s license for commercial inspected passenger vessels, including, power, sail and assistance towing vessels. He is also the author of many articles on sailing and the book ‘The Nautical Prepper’ (Ulysses Press) You can read more from the Nautical Prepper on Capt. Bill’s personal site at www.williamesimpson.com