It’s no secret that I’m a pessimist about the economy, as we travel along our current path, and the danger of a collapse of the currency and financial system, and the possibility of civil disturbance that might follow. Because I occasionally make snarky comments on Twitter and elsewhere about being prepared for 20 days of combat operations, I am occasionally asked about what that actually entails.
Of course, the still-remote possibility of civil unrest isn’t the only reason to be prepared to rough it for a while. There are plenty of earthquakes, floods, fires, hurricanes, tornadoes, and other natural disasters that might require up to several days of living in the pre-industrial era.
So, since I have a couple of hours free this afternoon as I wait for my flight to Albuquerque, I thought I’d jot down a few thoughts.
First off, there’s all sorts of survival lists on the Internet. This is a good one. There’s about 1,000 others available if you simply Google "survival checklist". That’s just a list of items, which is a good start, but here are some other things you might want to think about.
Map out a route away from urban areas, using roads that are off of the main routes of travel. Highways, freeways, etc., may be jammed with traffic, and you’ll be going nowhere fast. Find the little-used back roads. It’ll require a more circuitous route, but your chances of getting caught in traffic while escaping the city are much smaller. Go sooner rather than later, however, or you still might not get out. If you live in, say, Manhattan, and you wait too long, you’re screwed as far as escaping goes.
If you have a diesel vehicle with a towing package, you’ve got a 12-volt generator. If you don’t have a towing package, but have a cigarette lighter or 12-volt vehicle outlet, you’ve still got a generator, but you’ll need a couple of AC converters, like these.
If your vehicle is not diesel-powered, it should be. You should also have a portable generator, of course. It should also be a diesel. Dependence on gasoline is, in general, not good. If you have a diesel, you can, in an emergency, run it on heating oil, kerosene & vegetable oil, lamp oil, or almost any other low-volatility flammable fuel. You can even make your own bio-diesel fuel. Leveraging your future to gasoline is a Bad Thing if civilization collapses.
Get a small travel trailer, and keep it stocked with your survival supplies. One nice thing about travel trailers is that they already have a 30 or 50 gallon water tank. Drain and fill it every couple of months at minimum, and if you have to leave, you can hook up and go in minutes, and you’re already stocked with food and water for several days. Small used travel trailers are cheap, and easily turned into mobile, pre-stocked, survival shelters.
Have lots of honey on hand. Honey doesn’t spoil, so it keeps for ever. Bacteria cannot live in honey. Archeologists once found a huge pot of honey that was a couple of thousand years old. They ate it, found it very yummy, and suffered no ill effects from it. (They later discovered a body preserved in the bottom of the pot.) In a pinch, honey can be used as an antibiotic covering for wounds, though it does raise the chance of further injuries from bears trying to lick the wound.
Also, if you have honey and salt, you can mix them in water to drink when you get diarrhea, which you almost certainly will in the wilderness, and they will keep you hydrated and supplied with electrolytes so you won’t crap yourself to death, which, prior to 1900, was not an uncommon way to die. So, have salt, too.
Speaking of wounds, if things are really bad, and civilization is actually collapsing, you need to head over to CVS or Walgreens and raid the pharmacy. First, take any drug that ends with "cillin". That’ll be an antibiotic. Also, take anything that ends with "codone" or has "codein" in the name. Those’ll be painkillers. Hydrocodone, Oxycodone, Oxycontin…you know what I’m talking about. If you have antibiotics and painkillers, you’ve got a far better chance of surviving an open wound than if you do not. Like, 1000 times better. Use the painkillers sparingly. Don’t get hooked.
Get a copy of the US Army Field Manual 21-76. It’s easy to find. Here it is. Print it out. Read it. Know it. Live it.
Guns. In general, pistols are useless. Sorry, but there’s nothing you can hit with them with any reliability beyond 25 meters, and in combat, beyond 10 feet. At the OK Corral gunfight, 10 guys were jammed into an enclosure about 20 feet square, and two of them walked away without a scratch, after about 50 rounds being fired. You need rifles, and you need more than one. Two guns is one gun, and one gun is no gun. You need at least two rifles per person in the same caliber.
What caliber? Personally, I prefer the 7.62×39 over the 5.56mm/.223 caliber. It’s a harder-hitting round, punches through brush or obstructions more reliably, and is widely available cheaply, as are the weapons which fire it. It’s a better all-round caliber, in my opinion, for hunting or combat, though hopefully you’ll need it for the former, rather than the latter. You cannot go wrong with an SKS rifle in good condition, and you can find a surplus SKS for cheap as dirt. You can also get 1,000 round cases of 7.62×39 cheaply as well. If you want to spend real money on something more modern than the SKS—though, I stress again, the SKS is as fine, accurate, and dependable rifle as you can buy—then spring for a Czech SA Vz58, and you can add all the cool dongles to it. Do not buy an AK-47. For survival purposes, the SKS or Vz58 are superior in every conceivable way. You should assume a combat day will require 100 rounds of ammunition with a semi-automatic rifle (The combat load for the M1 Garand, for example, was 96 rounds per day in WWII). You should have enough ammunition for at least 20 combat days. If you are in, or going to, a big-game area, a surplus Springfield rifle or a Garand are perfect for elk, moose, bear, or other big game. 30-06 ammo is really expensive, however.
Finally, you have to think about your attitude. There’s no easy way to say this, but if things get really bad, like an asteroid wipes out civilization, then you need to be determined and ruthless to survive. Many ethical concepts that are useful in civilized society will be…how does one put this…counter-productive to survival in the state of nature. Many of the survivors you may encounter will be really bad people. Everyone you encounter will be desperate and/or terrified, which will make them extraordinarily dangerous. You will have to keep this uppermost in your mind at all times, and make the appropriate decisions in your dealings with others to ensure your own survival. And that’s all I have to say about that.
In less extreme circumstances, attitude is still everything. Remain calm. Think before you act. Remain positive.
Happily, we do not, for the most part, have to worry about the complete collapse of civilization as a high-order probability. But there is a chance of some natural disaster in which you may need to be ready to go for two weeks or so living roughly. Ensuring you have adequate food, water, and shelter for those two weeks is not survivalist extremism. It’s just good planning, and good planning may save your life, and will certainly make those two weeks more comfortable.
On the other hand, if you’re also prepared for the asteroid’s arrival…well, you’re prepared for that, too.