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As a regular reader of several “survival/prepper” blogs, and being a long term prepper and a survivalist well before the term became fashionable, I often shake my head in wonderment at some of the articles on the net! Everyone that writes a column seems to be giving advice on how this or that is invaluable in a SHTF situation, telling you what you should do or have in order to weather the storm, any storm, and survive, and putting forth the requirements for a bug out bag that will let you live off the grid for months! Nothing wrong with that, but it takes more than a bag.
As usual there is always a flip side, and frequently the flip side should carry a warning that “This may cause death or serious injury!” You never see this… Well, I’m going to play devils advocate and attack several of the most common so-called “survival tips” preps so prevalent on the web today. I will even offer a suggestion or two. Before I start, I will say that almost anything a person does to prepare is probably a good thing, but moderation should be the rule, an open ind is a plus, and remember, not everything you read on the internet is true!
Bugging Out is the best plan
This has always been a touchy issue with me, long before the best-selling novels which made bugging out via vehicle seem to be a fairly easy and exciting proposition. I think the reality is completely the opposite: bugging out in anything other than a controlled event will be disastrous in the extreme, especially if you live in or near a large city, It will be slightly less so in rural areas! In the event of a SHTF scenario, anyone that has waited till the last-minute to get prepared, or get going, is going to be in serious trouble.
Bugging out, if that’s what a person chooses to do, had better take place in front of an anticipated or looming event, not after it has occurred! Hurricanes are the event which comes to mind when I think of mass bug outs: long lines of slow-moving cars, or not, such as with Katrina, and most of the people just trying to get out of an area, with no particular destination in mind. There is usually plenty of warning when hurricanes are approaching. If something catastrophic were to happen near the front of the line of cars, it is a safe bet that everything would come to a halt, and then what? Your bug out has just stalled! Hopefully, you have a survival plan in place for a situation like this and have the required gear with you. Most people will not have either!
Let’s talk about a sudden SHTF event such as an earthquake, or worse yet, an EMP event. An earthquake that destroys the infrastructure of a given area will be bad, but it is likely that help will be available from places removed from the affected areas, but it may not arrive immediately. In a case like this, it is possible that many will want to or will have to bug out, but I DON’T THINK IT WILL BE FEASIBLE in most cases! The damage to infrastructures such as roads, buildings, bridges, gas stations, etc, will all serve to constrain movement, especially those people who are dependent on their car, soccer mom van or mini commuter to get around.
Bugging out will generally leave them caught betwixt and between the devil and the deep blue sea! And loading the family car, van or truck with all your “gear” will be appreciated by others when you’re stuck in traffic at a collapsed bridge. Do you really think you will be able to eat and drink while stuck in a procession of refugees, awaiting salvation, when everyone but you is hungry and thirsty? It won’t take much to bring out the animal in people! For the average person, a vehicle will be nothing more than a contrivance to get you away from your house.
Let’s go beyond a somewhat localized event and talk about an EMP. No one is really sure of the effects an EMP on modern society, but everyone agrees it will be bad. Most vehicles will stop, all types of electronics smoked, a failed power grid, nuke plants getting ready to fail and on and on. And the general consensus is that the problems won’t be localized, they will be national if not hemispheric wide, so forget help arriving. Assume for a minute that it does happen, and you’re at home, at your house in suburbia…You know the golden hordes will be pouring out of the cities, both trying to escape the chaos and some on the hunt. So, do you load your backpack with food, water, clothes, ammo, medicine, first aid kit, shelter pieces, your gas mask and binoculars, sleeping bag and other needed items and hit the road for the woods or your “bug out location?” Leaving several years of preps behind will not only be very difficult, it will be downright foolish! Oh, and the wife and two kids, aged 11 and 14, will be carrying their own “stuff” too…right? And it’s winter and there is 3’ of snow on the ground and the temperature is -12……..Anyone thinking bugging out is a viable option is delusional! Most that try this will be casualties within a day or so, victims of someone else, the elements or accidents. While the weather might slow down the refugee rush, it won’t stop them and eventually you will have to deal with them.
Personally, there are only two reasons I can think of for bugging out and leaving a home port: First, a fire or flood that threatens to destroy your home and preps and kill you, and second, to get to a previously stocked and secure retreat with everyone involved bringing their 72 hour packs and carrying defensive armament, but not carrying every required survival item on their back! Traveling fast and gray will be the order of the day and even this could be difficult, more so if you’re afoot, especially so if you haven’t trained, the weather is bad, or if one of your members is sick or injured or if you are being pursued or hunted! More on this later.
It should be obvious by now that I am not in favor of bugging out! I don’t have a back up retreat, although I wish I did, and in light of that I cannot realistically entertain the thought of leaving the security of my home and all my preps to head for some other location. Back to the fire or flood, I would secure what I have as best I could, on location, and would make a temporary short distance move. In a true SHTF event, I WOULD NOT trust my future to ANY governmental agency offering promises of aid with the requirement that I go somewhere! I am a firm believer that a trip to a FEMA camp in a major SHTF event would be a one way ride.
You need the ultimate bug out vehicle
The ultimate target or coffin would be more applicable! While it would be nice to have one vehicle that could “do it all,” most people cannot afford such a beast. I certainly can’t, and in spite of the fact that I am a very accomplished mechanic, modifying a vehicle in the manner so often suggested would be a major undertaking, and very expensive if you are paying someone to do the work. When you consider that even the military has trouble putting together such an all-purpose vehicle, at least one that has utility other than IED hunting, you should view such an undertaking with a jaundiced eye!
A high horsepower, jacked up and armored 4×4 war wagon, nice to look at and maybe even drive, is NOT what is desired. It is, or will be, a high priority target in the event bugging out becomes a reality, and shtf has escalated to a world WROL! (without rule of law) I think the money a person would be spending on something with as limited a use as a war wagon that might or might not be running after an event could be better spent in many other vital areas! If you choose to have a dedicated bug out rig, ascribe to the “gray man” theorem and make it a nondescript ¾ ton, long wheel base 4×4, gas or diesel, preferably one from the 70’s or earlier. Make it reliable, use available monies to add extra fuel capacity and spare parts and possibly a camper shell………Remember, alternators and the associated voltage regulators on most vehicles are electronic devices and an EMP could fry them! You won’t go far without electricity, even if the engine still functions, so plan ahead with spares, or better yet, get a an early generator (NOT ALTERNATOR) and regulator from a pre 65 vehicle and have the hardware to mount it on your ride if needed! Put a steel shield, one perforated with ¼” holes, in front of the vehicle radiator to provide some ballistic protection to this vital component, add a heavy front bumper and you’re ahead of the average bear. Tires are difficult to protect, but 10 ply load range E are tough and they can be plugged. A 12 volt compressor which fills a small on board air tank should be part of your accessory package. If your truck has an automatic transmission, shield the lines that run from the trans to the radiator. Easy to do and it will prevent damage that could cause hemorrhaging of the ATF. A small trailer carrying additional non vital but nice to have gear would be a great addition, one that could be dropped if required. Regardless of what you drive, stay aware, stay gray, and stay ahead of the crowd.
Survive as an Army of One
This is a common mindset among many preppers. So many preppers have the attitude and idea of hunkering down to wait for the zombies, killing them if they threaten. Noble and dumb! And hiding in the rocks with your 30-30 and a bologna sandwich, sniping them as they move in, is a pipe dream. You’ll have a 40mm or an 82 dropped on you in short order. And UN troops or government storm troopers? If you are bugging in place, or even bugging out post event, you had better have a plan to deal with and negotiate with them, at least initially. It is highly unlikely that you are well-trained enough to deal with a professionally trained adversary, it is a virtual certainty that you do not have the required armaments to deal with their vehicles, at least initially. This is when the old adage about not keeping all your eggs in one basket should make its worth known. In the event “they” do a search of your habitat, not finding a large store of food, ammunition and other prohibited items might alleviate suspicion.
Several years ago there was a monthly paper published by some Army Spec Ops soldiers from Fort Benning, Georgia. The publication was called the RESISTER and dealt with numerous issues of the day, most notably an out of control government that was using the military to deal with American citizens and enforce gun control and martial law (For what it’s worth, the Army, the government and other agencies were furious about the publication and content of the RESISTER, and pulled out all the stops to find the publishers and put a stop to the paper. As far as I know, they were never caught, but for some reason the publication disappeared) The RESISTER stressed that going head to head with a trained military force was suicidal! You might take out one or two of the OPFOR out, but you would be killed. There would be no negotiations such as would happen with the police. The suggestion put forth by the RESISTER was “give them something, some of what they are after, and let them leave. You can live to fight another day.” This is as applicable today as it was then. I feel the only time a person should be an Army of One would be in the event of a round-up of people for transport to a camp or holding facility. If you cannot make an escape, then fight with everything at your disposal and hope your neighbors join in! Getting on a bus or train or truck or falling in line to be marched off is the last thing you should be doing, and might be the last thing you do, particularly if you have no needed skills, you have a physical defect, or if you are on one of the reported lists, Red, Green, Blue, that are purported to exist. Useless eaters probably won’t be tolerated.
Regardless of your feelings about being impotent, cowardly, traitorous to the cause, don’t act foolishly and in haste when dealing with occupiers or those in power. Bide your time, because opportunities will arise. A quick look at history will show this to be a fact once the initial “blood letting” has subsided, so be patient. Think before you act and think about the repercussions of whatever act you perpetrate, but above all, be ready to act if the situation requires action!
I’ll just hit the woods and live off the land
Sure you will, for a short time, until you are shot by someone viewing you as a threat or a target of opportunity, or until you stumble onto someone else’s turf and they take everything you have, or till you starve to death when your food runs out or you become incapacitated by eating a plant that you were sure was listed as safe and nutritious in a book you read. Anyone planning on being a modern-day Daniel Boone needs to rethink their position. While it might be possible to rough it and survive, few people have the skills needed, particularly using what they can carry in a back pack.
To start with, everyone thinks they will kill deer, elk, moose and other big game and be set for food. Maybe, but how are you going to process, preserve and store several hundred pounds of meat? Darn difficult to take a lot of it with you, you’re on the move, remember? Besides, your pack already weighs 70 pounds and is full. Trapping is not an option, because you’re not going to be in one place long enough to set a line, and you didn’t bring any steel with you, anyway, and pole fishing is not terribly rewarding. Living off the land is fraught with problems and pitfalls even when a person has really prepared for it. Read some of the books by homesteaders in Alaska to get a feel for the problems faced. And these are skilled people not being hunted, and not trying to stay off the radar, but just trying to survive till spring! I don’t consider living off the land to be anything but a short-term, emergency proposition. And judging by the number of people who have this very thing in mind, the woods and forests might soon become a battleground among like-minded individuals.
For what it’s worth, I believe the multiple TV reality shows about people in Alaska have implanted a false sense of security and bravado in many people, making them think they could go off grid and make a go of it. Nothing could be further from the truth in my opinion. The people featured on these shows are not really off the grid. They hike to a location carrying what they have in a pack, and suddenly they have a cabin, food, transportation and all the trappings needed to live reasonably safe and secure in the wilds. Truth be known, mos of them would starve to death or freeze within a year. The shows are a far cry from reality!
I’ll just take what I need from other people
While not common, there are people in the prepper community that have this as a plan. They are idiots, and while they may be successful a time or two, they will eventually meet the wrong person. There are an estimated 300 million guns in America, and I consider this to be a conservative estimate. This should give wannabe miscreants a pause, but some will still pursue this venue. When the SHTF and the rule of law is no more, a whole new set of rules will surface and punishments will be swift and possibly deadly. Being a criminal will not be a healthy occupation, especially when people realize they are on their own and take drastic steps to protect what is theirs. I included this segment because I frequently hear it being discussed.
While on this subject, think about your neighbors, friends and acquaintances. I happen to live in a lightly populated area, but with the realization that I cannot make it alone, I have broached the subject of preparedness with a few of my neighbors. Only one has the mindset and preps that are similar to mine. The others, seven households in the immediate area, claim to be ready, but they have limited stores of anything remotely approaching “preps,” they are more interested in a week-end get away than buying storage foods, and they tend to scoff at some of the ideas I have about what might be in store for us. What they do have are guns and ammo and the knowledge that I and mine are true preppers, in spite of the fact that I have practiced OPSEC, and this leaves me on the horns of a dilemma so to speak. If something should happen, will they show up looking for a hand out, or worse, will they show up demanding food, water, medicine or something else? I might be supportive of friends and neighbors, but they had better have something to offer other than themselves. Providing some security while eating you out of house and home is not a viable option! And “taking what they need” will not work with me! The wife of one neighbor is a nurse/anesthesiologist, and the first aid items for their house consist of some over the counter meds and bands aids. They feel that hospitals and doctors will always be available. Like it or not, these are the people who will be here when the SHTF, so they either have to be enlightened or dealt with.
The points above are not etched in stone by any means. They are my personal feelings and beliefs, formed over 25+ years of prepping, and “fleshed out” from various sources. I am not suggesting that anyone abandon what plans they may have, but hopefully, this will at least cause some to review them. Regardless, my plans are to “bug in place” and work from there.