The concept of Bunker-in-Place as the best solution to the SHTF scenario has been the first choice of Preppers for a long time. To that end, we build up our supplies, choose our locations carefully, reinforce our dwellings, keep a low profile, and also stock ammo. This preparation ideally includes training oneself and establishing a small community of trusted fellow Preppers in fairly remote locations who have varied skill sets to make the community (SOC = Self Organizing Collective) self-sufficient. This is great. There remain, however, many folks that are unable to become fully integrated into a SOC for any number of valid reasons including lacking opportunity for contact, or other communications issues. It is to those Preppers that I address this discussion. The fact that you are reading this article on American Preppers Network is a good start towards communicating with fellow Preppers.
What do you do when, despite your best planning and preparation, you and your dependents are “caught out in the cold” when the SHFT happens? You gather your family together in your site. You have done the best you can to stockpile food and supplies for your family. You relocated your residence to a place that, to the best of your ability and resources, is as far away from the perceived danger zones as you could get. You built out your domicile as far as possible given your money and time constraints. You have trained and gained knowledge to the best of your ability but, you have not been able to get connected with others who are like-minded. You know that your location and support structure may have a limited time before you may be forced to Bug-out. You didn’t have the opportunity, money, or contacts to preposition caches through the countryside. Right? Now what do you do? The “balloon has gone up” and you foresee the end to your “bunker-in-place” strategy’s ability to support you. It is too late to consider new options if you reach that point and haven’t been able to plan for, or hoped the time would come that you would need to, prepare for a Bug-Out ahead of time.
Staying in-place for as long as possible with a low profile is always preferable to moving around due to the inherent dangers of travel in a post SHTF world, especially while the event(s) is/are in progress. Most Prepping sites and blogs have great info concerning everything except how to get you someplace else when things either become too dangerous or unsustainable where you are. The primary concentration of most sites is for critical item preparation and the mobility aspect is given little attention. There WILL come a time when, if you are not already established in a permanent Prepper community (SOC), you will find it necessary to seek out and join those communities. When that time comes, you want to have resources and knowledge to offer them when you get there, so as to not be a drain on their own already (likely) stretched resources.
Some of the solutions from down-to-Earth and knowledgeable Preppers have limitations that may not work for you. They generally advocate backpacking or biking out to a new location. These work but, limit what you are able to carry with you, depend on fair/good weather, and they assume that all your party are able to do the same. What do you do with remaining food, munitions, weapons, hand tools, raw materials, books, extra clothing, etc. that you don’t have carry capacity for but will have to be left behind when you decide to B-O? Make hard choices of what to leave behind, hoping you don’t leave something critical? How far can you travel in a day with your children or elders while loaded down to the max? Is it far enough to get you away from danger zones in a timely manner? What resources will you have left to offer to any SOC communities of fellow Preppers you encounter? Will you have barter goods? Excess food? Fuel? Can you carry enough weaponry and ammo to assure your safety?
As we begin this discussion, you are probably thinking, “I’ll load up the family car and slide down the road.” Sorry. Not a very good answer. The major highways will be littered with abandoned vehicles and patrolled by whatever entities are in charge by that point. That makes for a very high risk adventure. Secondary and tertiary roads are likely to be lower on the priority lists of patrols and to be more open than the major highways. Dirt roads and trails are most likely to be passable, particularly in the more rural areas. Make sure that you have local maps with trail and fire-road level detail. How will your family car deal with them? Answer: Not well and likely not for long. Your 1/2 –Ton pickup? Better but with limitations for passenger capacity. So. Now what? That is what we will attempt to address in this series. There are no perfect answers to these questions in an indeterminate SHTF aftermath. Our intent is to help increase your odds of being able to Bug-Out successfully, when time comes, by stimulating your thinking and invoking your Prep Planning muscles toward mobility.
In this series of articles, we explore the topic of mobility, with the goal of maximizing the load-out capabilities of your preparations and survivability when the bug-out time comes. While I don’t have all the answers, I have spent many years as an engineer and analyst of mobile systems in the DoD world. I am hoping to share concepts with you and cause you to seriously evaluate your mobility options and plans for Bugging-Out, should it become necessary. The Post SHTF world will be a dangerous and alien place…we can be sure of that. The time to plan is now. Part 2 of this series will take a top-level look at mobility plans. Again, the goal here is to start the thought process and give a venue for discussion. Please join in the discussion and share your views. There are no perfect answers. We can get more answers by sharing information and asking questions.
Preparing To Move:
In most Prepper’s planning, there must be a contingency plan for Bugging Out. Sooner or later, most of us will run into the possibility that our location will no be longer be sustainable or defensible. This is most likely to occur if we are unable to form an association with a larger group of like-minded people (such as a Prepper SOC) or, when that group is too far away to be able to support us (and us them) in real-time. It is that point in time that we are looking at.
In preparation for SHTF or other disaster, we stocked up on all the items that we anticipate we will need for at least 3-months or more. This includes stored food, water (or a good source), tools, fuel, usable scrap materials, and shelter. Take a good look at the weight and bulk of all those items. How much of it are you able to take with you when you need to abandon your shelter? How many people are in your shelter group?
Establish a priority list of items. There are many reference sources in APN and other websites that will help you prioritize. We will not go into those here but, you need to compile that list. Make a list of minimum essentials for a 2-week duration from the priority list. Make that the list of items you plan to Bug-Out with. Now it is time for the list of “It would be nice to have” items that are what is left. Let’s look at what transportation capacity you have. According to priority, make sure that all the items on the 2-week list are accommodated. Evaluate your mobility options. Still have excess capacity? If so, see how many additional items you can add using the Priority list as a guide.
Let us consider for a moment the situation of the Preppers who are in a permanent encampment or SOC (Self Organizing Collective) community. These hardy folks will be guarding their territory and provisions like their life depends on it … because it does. If you are an unknown person or group and show up suddenly on their doorstep looking for entry, you will need to convince them that you and your group will be of value to their community and are no threat. If you arrive with nothing to contribute other than yourselves, you may find your self turned away due to resource constraints and/or perceived threat to the community. These communities will be stretched for food and other resources themselves. Adding to their load without contributing tangibles will be a difficult “sale”.
So, what is your plan? Are you planning to backpack out? The maximum a healthy adult can safely carry in a backpack for a long duration haul is about 75 lbs. Children can carry, at great need, 50% of their body weight. How much of your needed supplies can your party carry out? How much of your 2-week supply list can you accommodate? Hiking will allow you to average about 20 miles in an average day, terrain and weather permitting. Pulling a cart will allow greater capacity but, at the loss of ground covering ability.
Biking out is another option. Your carry capacity will be increased to a minor degree over hiking but, the amount of ground you can cover in an average day increases dramatically. On a good day, 50 to 75 miles will be achievable in a Post-SHTF environment. Children will decrease the achievable mileage due to physical constraints. Also depending on weather factors. Motorcycles may also be a viable option but with similar limitations on how much of a load they can safely carry, also depending on weather factors. In good weather, 200 miles will be possible on a motorcycle if the fuel tank is large enough. Neither of these options are very good in Winter travel due to ice, snow, or cold conditions.
With good advance planning, 4-wheeled motor vehicles will allow you to take the maximum of your provisions, people, supplies, equipment, and arms with you. Weather is less of a problem than biking or motorcycle. Fuel is always a concern but, with prior planning and a full tank, you will be able to cover 300 to 400 miles in a short time with all your supplies and your people. The downside is that they are louder and require better surfaces to travel on. This additional range and cargo capacity should permit you to arrive at your fellow Prepper’s SOC with much needed barter goods, provisions, tools, and materials. Any remaining fuel will be most welcome also. Purpose-bought vehicles are not necessary. If you can easily obtain “upgrades” or replacements of your existing vehicles, by all means do so but do so wisely. For Scouting purposes, it will be a good idea to include bicycles, ATV’s, or motorcycles. For carrying capacity, 4-wheel vehicles are best.
Part 3 of this series discusses the timing of your Bug-Out. Note that these articles not intended to be a Final Answer. They are intended to give you food for thought and the open up a venue for discussion of these topics.
When Should We Bug Out?
Okay. You have planned and executed preparations for the SHTF or other disaster event to the best of your ability with available resources. Well, let’s imagine that finally it happened. The SHTF and you are now in survival mode, working your plan. For this exercise, we will assume that your situation is as follows: your dwelling is outside of a medium sized city at minimum; you have not been able to connect with a Prepper SOC within 50 miles of you; you have sufficient food and ammo for 4 months; you have a family of 4: your spouse, and 2 children under the age of 12. The Grid is unreliable and telephone service (cell and landline) is mostly unavailable. Now what? Be discrete and low profile. Be aware of what is going on around you.
Conventional wisdom says that in this situation, it is wisest to fort up (or “bunker”), working with your neighbors to defend your location and wait out the situation to see how it develops. In the first few days of the event, most city dwellers will remain in-place and wait for the government to resolve their problems. As time passes, those same city folk will see that the stores have become empty of food, fuel supplies are dwindling, potable water is in short supply, and ruffians are starting to rove around the city, looking for targets. You, being an aware human being and recognizing the signs of what comes next, know that it is time to hunker down. Now is when your planning begins to be worthwhile as you put it into effect. You are prepared for this.
The city dwellers will migrate away from the city that they know so well using major highways and byways. They will tend to avoid the lesser roadways as panic ensues because they fear running out of fuel and food sources as they travel to perceived “safe harbors”. In the initial phases of SHTF, local residents will be using the lesser-known roadways to get home, get provisions, or bug-out on their own. After all, “everyone knows” that there is always food and fuel on the Interstate. Right? This will hold true for 80 to 90% of the migrating herd. They will then gravitate to the smaller population centers as they run low on fuel, believing that the towns have the resources that they seek. Law enforcement and the military will channel these folks into established evacuation routes for better control of the migrating masses. The small towns are likely to fort up. So you bide your time and stay put for now. Be vigilant and observant of your surroundings.
If your situation stabilizes and order is restored locally, you’re good. If your situation looks like it will stabilize in a manner that won’t allow you to maintain your safety, it may be time to implement a Bug-Out Plan taking all you can carry with you. Do not wait until you have no remaining choices before you make this decision. Be aware of the situation around you. If it looks like it will be “going South” soon (within the next week or so), that is the time to pack it in and Bug-Out while you still have time and resources remaining. By looking ahead, you will have sufficient time to prepare and pack your goods and take advantage of nominal timing for leaving with at least 2-weeks of provisions.
Now is the time to let your Prepper contacts know that you are heading their way, if you were able to make arrangements with them prior to the SHTF. You did maintain communication with them as SHTF progressed … didn’t you? It is wise to forewarn them you are coming and your approximate timing to avoid being viewed as unknowns and a threat to their community. If you have no contacts, you will need to implement Plan B. Plan B is the plan that you made that recognizes that you may have to Bug-Out blindly into the unknown. Plan B will head into a direction that you believe will give the highest probability of reaching a safe location or community to join. Study your maps and terrain carefully in advance of moving. You will need to plan your route carefully. Take maximum advantage of railroad right-of-ways. All rail lines have service roads along the tracks. It is wise to make preliminary plans NOW, don’t wait until the moment is upon you. Hopefully, you will never have to implement Plan B. Be prepared anyhow.
Part 4 of this series of articles will briefly discuss vehicle selections. This series of articles is not intended to be the last word on the subjects covered. They are intended to provoke thought and a venue for further discussion amongst us.
Vehicle Selection Concepts:
Buckle your seat belts. This is going to be a long one. There are many websites and blogs that will tell you all about what to prep with, how to prep, and how to survive a SHTF event. The majority of them concentrate on static locations. That is to say, how to prepare your home, bug-out location or how to cache supplies. What is not often discussed is how to get everybody in your party, and all the remaining supplies you stockpiled, out of a non-tenable location to a safer, more secure one.
My intent is not to provide an exhaustive and complete list to you, nor is it to tell you what to do. My intent is to point your thinking to possibilities that you may not have considered before this. It is too easy to get lost in details and concentrate solely on accumulating supplies to stay put. The probability there may come a time when you need to move out is significant. I’m reasonably sure that you would prefer to take all your unused preparations with you for further/future use and protection. After all, ammo and water are heavy, people take space and need food. You might also like to have barter goods available without reducing your own needed supplies.
There are some questions that you should be asking yourself. What kind of vehicle are you starting with? A small station wagon or SUV with AWD? A Jeep? A ½-ton pickup? A van? A Medium Duty truck? A combination of these? The next question is: How reliable is it? Is it in good condition? How new is it? What are its’ load and mobility capabilities? Do you need multiple vehicles?
Let’s talk newness. Shiny new, upscale vehicles scream TARGET. They are also susceptible to electronic component failures, Nature (sunspot activity EMP) or, police/officials (many new vehicles can be stopped remotely). They also draw too much attention from the unsavory types, looking for an easy target. How common is your vehicle? Can you find parts easily? Your better chances are with older, well-maintained, scruffy looking vehicles. They are easier to come by, repair, and cheaper too. Making them reliable is easy and fairly cheap. Choose well and keep it/them fully maintained. Make sure that you can accommodate all the members of your party, plus maximize storage and cargo weight capability. Install external cargo racking wherever possible (roof racks, ladder racks, etc.). Keep the fuel tank full. Keep all you are able loaded at all times.
Pickup trucks have good cargo capacity but are limited in the passenger department. SUV’s have passenger capacity but lack cargo capacity. You may want to think about multiple vehicles if you overrun one of these capabilities with a single vehicle. I know. You think I’m nuts. “What? Two fuel eating hogs?”. No. I am not insane. Multiple vehicles will give you options when you are out on the road. Think of it as built-in redundancy and “shelter in place” wherever you are each day. Even if you end up abandoning one along the way, you still have more supplies than you would otherwise have had and, possibly a new “cache” location when you leave the dead vehicle.
Have you considered a Contractor’s work truck? This is also known as a Work Body truck. These are commonly of the F350, F450, F550 (or GM or Dodge RAM equivalents). Look around next time you are on the road and notice how many of these vehicles are around. Note also how they are loaded. Interesting, isn’t it? These are heavy-duty beasts of burden. Their whole purpose in life is to haul equipment and materials safely, economically, and securely in all weather. They do not have an easy life. They do have huge payload capacities for their size, exceptional towing capacity and are built to take abuse. They do not often have the frills of their non-commercial brothers but have only one purpose in the world … work hard and work long. Picking one of these beasts up used is cheap but, be aware that they will require repairs before their full reliability is restored. The first owners will have worked them very hard and only replace them when reliability declines. Once restored, they will happily provide services to you for an extended time.
So you think I’m nuts for advocating a Work truck. Consider this: work trucks have the same characteristics as their cousins, without the luxury. They get the same, or better fuel mileage, use the same driveline components, and they were made reliable because the commercial world demands it. Many of them also have extended cabs to accommodate a larger crew and are 4X4. Think about your experience loading, unloading, or accessing your tools with a standard pickup truck. Wouldn’t it be nice to access your tools and equipment without climbing into the truck bed, chasing stuff around that has come loose? Wouldn’t it be nice if the goods and equipment stored could be kept out of the weather and secure, while still having the capability to place a full load in the bed AND have access to all of it? Consider also that the large population of such vehicles will guarantee that after SHTF, there will be spare parts available for a LONG time … jus’ sayin’. Food for thought.
In the final article of this series, we will explore camouflage. In it we will explore what is meant by the term. It doesn’t only mean “Multi-colored, earthen patterns to blend in with the woods.” There is much more to it than that. These articles are intended to get you thinking and provide a venue for further discussion and idea sharing.
In previous articles of this series, we have discussed, at a top level, various means of preparing for a Bug-Out using vehicles. The purpose of getting you mobile is to transport you, the members of your party, and the maximum of your supplies, safely to a new location. For this to happen, you need camouflage to pass through areas without issue.
What is camouflage really? Is it green/brown/black patterns painted on your vehicle(s)? Sometimes. By working definition, camouflage is the disguising of items so that they blend into their surroundings to escape notice. If you are in a urban or suburban area, a vehicle that is painted Desert or Forest Camouflage will stand out like a sore thumb among the surroundings. This defeats your purpose until you are fully in that environment. If you are in a rural or wilderness area, a shiny white vehicle might stand out. So, how do we reconcile the differences? Rattle-can paint.
Before the SHTF event and possible B-O time, the majority of us will be interacting primarily in an environment that requires travel and interaction in populated areas. Preppers generally are trying to stay discrete and off the radar. Attracting attention with vehicles that stand-out is less than desirable. We don’t want undue attention called to our activities. Your greatest camouflage is the ability to blend in with the vehicle population on the roads and in parking lots. To that end, you it is desirable to have ordinary looking transportation that is common to that area. Ordinary SUV’s, pickups, and trucks disappear into the background easily and are not memorable.
I have brought up the Work Truck in previous articles. You may concede that they have good capabilities for our uses but you wonder how noticeable they are. After all, they are usually large and heavy. Consider that these trucks have great camouflage. There are so many of them in use by companies and contractors that they effectively disappear in most populated areas. They “hide in plain sight”. A convoy of these vehicles will be mistaken for “official” or “worker” vehicles during the initial phases of an event, even into much of the settling period after it. This gives you an edge when Bugging-Out and will add some protection to your early travel by being “invisible” (ie: not noticed).
So, where does the rattle-can come in? Once you have escaped the populated areas during your B-O, you will be in areas where your ability to blend into natural surroundings becomes key. Provision your supplies with sufficient colors and quantities of paint to cover all your vehicles. This is the time to pause long enough to repaint your vehicles with the spray cans of paint to blend with your natural surroundings. The goal is to escape detection by undesirable groups to the best of your ability. This is likely to be the transition time of your travel patterns. In the early part of your B-O, you likely traveled during the daytime, hunkering down at night, to reduce attracting notice and to blend with others who are moving around. Once you have gotten away from the crowd and deeper into the wild areas, you may be changing over to night travel and digging in, covering up during the day, and scouting the next night’s travel route. Blending in with the surroundings will be necessary to escape detection by undesirable searches.
This concludes the Mobility articles. I hope that they have given you food for thought and perhaps given you ideas to ponder. My goal has been to cause you to think about, and plan for, your possible Bug-Out in the event that things go really wrong in our world. Keep prepping, keep planning, and be prepared for as many possibilities you can conceive. You will be glad you did, should we need to implement them in times of tribulation. Good luck and plan well.