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In one comment on my previous article I received an excellent comment (thanks Nick!) about what lessons he learned while going through Hurricane Irma, and how that event change some of his views about prepping.
He got the points that I wrote about for long time ago, and I still repeat it from time to time, it has to be repeated because you see it as my words only, and most of the people will understand it only in the proper way after they experience some serious event, only then you can put it in correct perspective.
Nothing like real life experience learning.
And there is nothing wrong about changing your (survival) system, I do that too when I figure that something works better then plan (or equipment) that I have.
If you are prepper for years and you did not change your setup and plan from day one of your prepping until now, then usually something is wrong with your philosophy.
„On a Good Day I can…“
I think it was on some forum or in some blog comments, discussion was about some particular weapon as far as I remember, and some guy said like „ (when SHTF) on a good day I can shoot (kill)…“
In that short statement („on a good day“) is condensed one of the biggest mistakes about prepping in survival movement.
There is not too many good days when SHTF. It is simple like that.
In short people are prepping based on imaginary perspective how SHTF gonna look, and that alone is not problem (you do not necessary have to go through serious SHTF event in order to be good prepper-survivalist), problem is that people stick so hard to their imaginary perspective of how SHTF gonna look like, and what they need for it, that they are simply not willing to change their plans.
They are sure.
Whenever I read that someone change his plans based on his experience and thinking and that he recognize that in my articles or courses where he was wrong I feel great.
By the way, on a good day you can sit down and shoot 6 magazines from AK in 5 minutes and shoot 5 people who wants to break in your home while you are singing „Hey Joe“ without too much problems.
You are fed, secured, comfortable, warm, healthy, probably police gonna come in 10 minutes, you’ll get professional psychological help later, maybe you end up in local newspaper as a hero…
On a ordinary day during real collapse, chances are that you’ll be tired from days and nights of not sleeping well, more or less hungry, maybe you gonna have weird and painful infection in your groin from lack of proper hygiene and serious case of diarrhea, your younger kid having pneumonia and of course doctors are gone, and your friend who is a veterinarian gave you some pills and you are not sure is it working, your wife had nervous breakdown and you do not have clue what to do with her…
You were listening to screams from town for weeks while gangs were killing and raping, and your bones melted from horror.
Several times strange idea of killing your family and then yourself struck your mind, because listening to screams for weeks put pictures of what kind of things are happening there, and you can not cope with that pictures.
And then there are 5 people attacking your home, they even yell that they gonna spare all of you if you give them all your preps, but you’re thinking about screams, but still maybe they spare you…
It is definetly not your „good day“.
You need to hope for good days when SHTF, but you need to be prepared for bad days when SHTF.
It is equation that takes in consideration your skills, preps, event, circumstances… and given heat (SHTF).
If you show me man who can have all prepared perfectly well for any kind of possible scenario I will bow to him, but, in my mind, it is simply impossible.
If you understand that then you’ll understand two things:
-you’ll need constantly to adapt to the given situation
-you’ll have bad days and fails
But you’ll have a good chance to survive. To show that in an example I’ll use very widespread and popular topic: Bug Out Bags
It is something like holy grail of survival, and it is like a minefield to go into that topics against widespread and popular opinions in survival community, but I’ll survive, and you just need to think about it. So here goes…
Bug Out Bag (and equipment)
Bug out bag is something that is considered you „absolutely need to have“ or otherwise you are not a prepper….
So there you have situation where people (family) have bug out bags, each member of family have his own BOB.
Yours might weigh 25 kilos. You have everything there, food for three days, toilet paper, axe and knife, tarp and small stove, extra ammo, first aid kit and lot of antibiotics.
You have maps and radios.
It is heavy duty military grade backpack, waterproof.
All members of your family have BOB with good and usable stuff inside.
And then city erupt in violent protests for whatever reason and you need to bug out immediately.
You all grab your BOBs go out and get shot after 300 meters just because you have such good and cool looking stuff on you (and in huge amounts)
Or simply you drown in the river because your backpack is too big.
I understand that this example is very rudimentary, but you need to stop thinking that you can cover everything for every scenario, otherwise you end up covering nothing.
BOB is become almost burden because we are being bombarded with info „what we really need to have in order to survive and thrive“ or „you must have this or othervise you end up dead for sure“.
BUT it really needs to be about necessity, not comfort.
There is „prepackaged first aid kit for your BOB“ with nonsense inside, there are stoves that are heavy and give your position away to everybody from 2 km distance, there are ways to start your fire that takes like half hour to start fire and require like 1000 calories of your work… does anybody use lighter anymore for starting fire?
„what if lighter fails“?
Can you have 2-3 lighters for that case?
There are powerfull torches that make“ night look like day“ for only such and such amount of money…and if I want to read my map in the middle of nowhere using that torch I’ll be blind for next half hour, but if there anybody within 3 kms of my position they all will know where I am.
Again, all above are examples, and torch lamp and flints are great stuff,and definitely they have its place (I have it) but did you think to include lighters and micro lights too?
Example of solution would be „shelf“ system. You need to have lot of stuff ready to take really quickly, but based on given scenario.
Some things can cover all scenarios, basic things, but why in the name of ‘everything covered’ anybody would drag big heavy bag when you need speed and „blending“.
Is having sport bag for a given scenario not make more sense than a camping backpack or military type backpack?
Is carryng rifle in your hand having more sense then hiding under coat in given moment in scenario?
Maybe simple sleeping mat being visible on your backpack clearly points you as a target in given moment? Maybe moment demand only heavy duty trash bag in your pocket (as a mean for sleeping on a way to your BOL)
These are only examples, but hopefully you get my point.
Sit down, pull all your gear out, and think about 5 possible SHTF scenarios, and that you have 10 minutes to choose only 30 percent of your BOB stuff, see the difference in equipment selection for each scenario.
It is good practice.
It is reality – you cannot have everything.
Find The Balance
You may find that at the end it is about balance how much preps you have in your home (or willing to carry) with you.
Sometimes it affects your mobility and adaptility.
Sometimes you grow huge connection with your stuff and you are not willing to leave everything and run to save your life (because you have valuable things)
Sometimes all your cool preps will save your life!
Metal container with 300 $ worth of preps inside that you took and bury in woods as your secret stash can worth much more then 50 000$ worth of preps inside your home, simply because you maybe had to leave your home in 10 minutes in order to survive…
It is balance that can not be taught, because you need to put it in perspective of your given circumstances.
There is no magical solution to „survive and thrive when SHTF (for only $99.99)“ there is no „prepackaged perfect solution“ products.
YOU need to pack your solution!
There is a whole range of situations that look completely different in real life situation than in the survival ‘realm’ on youtube.
It is normal that you can not bring full scale of reality in training situation but still some things needs to be shown more real then they are shown in usual shows over internet.
I watched few days ago couple videos and read some stuff about (safe) river crossing in survival situations, and noticed some things.
I will mention most important:
Common sense (yes, common sense… again)
First majority of those videos and articles describe river crossings in wilderness survival situations, and while some of those are pretty good and gives you good advices about basic stuff like how deep, how wide, what kind of ground (under the water), how fast, safest places to cross etc they are forgetting to mention urban river (survival) crossing.
In urban river crossing there is whole new set of things to think about like polluted water, garbage and different kind of stuff in (like car wreck for example) in river bed (that can give you lot of troubles).
Also videos usually shows rivers that are up to your waist deep, or rivers not too wide (so you can use fallen log to cross it)…
But just like with all other internet survival one thing in those scenarios is missing – other people.
If your survival situation will include river crossing in the middle of day in peaceful country settings, where there is no single soul (with possible bad intentions to you) except you and only noise is birds singing etc. you are lucky man, but most probably it is not gonna be like that.
Forget about videos of shooting anchor with rope over the river and crossing it like that unless you are SAS (in good condition), in reality most of us can not do that.
Also most of the river in urban settings (and lot of in wilderness settings) can not be crossed by „fallen log“.
Either there is no fallen log, or you do not have time to look for it, or it is pitch dark, or simply river is too wide for fucking „fallen log“.
Instead of looking for a fancy solution of survival rivers crossing immediately I suggest you (just like with all other survival tecniques) go from the start, from the very basic.
Check your survival plans (you bug out route for example) and see what kind of rivers are there.
Do not forget to include area that may be your secondary or tertiary choice for bugging out, remember that plan is only that – plan.
Now see what kind of rivers are there on your way, what kind of river beds, what banks are (remember sometimes what it looks like good aproach to river may be mud hell where you can at least lose your shoes if not even something more important).
There are huge differences between „wild“ rivers and rivers (in urban settings) where river bed is controlled and paved or similar. Walking through those rivers are different, approach too.
Good advice too is to think about bridge as a first and easiest crossing over the river, take that as a start and then check possible pros and cons for crossing particular river over the particular bridge.
In other words do not go and drown yourself because you try to swim over dangerous river just because you felt very „survivalist“ while there is a bridge standing close without any danger of passing over that bridge.
Forget being fancy-use common sense and choose less danger in particular situation.
Internet survival techniques
Lot of techniques that works beautiful on internet turns out like into shit and mess in real life, and reason for that is simple: most of the internet survival techniques are based on „philosophical“ or fictional scenarios and can not include all possible real life factors.
Simply- reality can throw on you much more factors that you did not think about.
Still it is not reason not to learn and prepare for different situations.
I can share with you my experiences about „survival river crossings“, my experience is quite different, and actually not smart at all, but i think there is lessons to be learned.
It was around 3am and I was in the part of the town where I should not been in that time of the night, simply because I should be home earlier then that.
I would like to say that I was there to trade, find food, scavenge or fight-it would sounds more „survival“ for the sake of this article and blog but truth was that I was there to see a girl that i like a lot.
On my way back I found myself into the one of sudden raids. A 50 man group attacked the street and I run from them through ruined houses and found myself on the bank of the river (Pictured above).
I always kinda hated that river-I liked the river but I hated how cold, fast and treacherous that river can be.
It was pitch dark and I crawled downhill some 20 meters through small willow trees, and bush on huge stones that stands on a bank (no fucking fallen log there, so you know…)
I crawled through something smelly and soft, I felt like all was rotten in that bush.
I could see river, small waves were wetting my shoes, and I was standing on slippery stone holding willow branch with one hand.
River bed is mix of huge stones and sand, and depth is going from 30 cm to 3 meters- depending on size of stones, stones go very „steep“ so you can actually swim under the stone (and probably drown there) or simply strange current and whirlpool will do that for you, roll you and pull you under the stone and drown you there, or simply throw you on the stone and smash your head. It can be dangerous river for experienced swimmer in broad daylight and swimming suit.
I tried to see what is on other bank-some 20-25 meters far, tracer round flashes reflects on my eyes and all I could see is darkness on other bank and something moving in darkness, same willow trees or people with rifles, or maybe is my imagination, in that time and situation seeing a guy selling popcorn on the other side would not be surprising how my imagination worked.
I expected any moment that enemy would shoot me, so adrenaline worked hard .
I had backpack which was almost empty, 22 rifle which was duct taped (two screws that holding steel part together with wooden part were „worn off“ so it was duct taped to hold it together) tobbaco box and some 15 bullets in pockets.
As I heard guy approaching to my place I hesitated for a second or two thinking what to do then I put rifle over my chest and jumped into the river.
And I immediately started to drown.
Shock of freezing river somehow „turned off“ my adrenaline surge, and my thought was „I am gonna die now“.
Next second river „took“ me and roll me all over and I felt my rifle sling is choking me, if I had enough voice and strength I would yell „help“ to the guys that I wanted to run from, but at that time I simply had no ‘voice’.
Crossing that river was not swimming-it was drowning, it took maybe 20 seconds for me to get to the other side, but it was way longer for me, and I ended up some 100 meters downstream.
Several times river throw me on big stones, I was trying to loosen my rifle sling all the time and when I finally managed to grab stone with my hands and stop the crazy movement I was not even sure am I on the same river bank or I actually crossed river onto the other bank.
I was holding the stone for some 10 minutes probably, then slowly crawl from the river.
I was on the other bank, I was frantically holding rifle sling, the rifle was falling apart, steel part was separated from wooden part.
I lost my backpack, my tobacco box too. I did not see from one eye because it was full of blood from big wound on forehead.
Later I figured I broke two fingers and rib too.
But I was alive, and on the other side. I had huge luck.
Point of the story is that sometimes crossing the river may look much more complicated and dangerous then finding fallen log.
And very often crossing river is like lot of situations in real survival-be ready to leave everything and take just your life.
Or things that you like may pull you down and drown you.
Or point of the story is to carry heavy duty trash bag with you all the time so you can use it to put all your stuff inside and try to swim then…?
Toby Comment – Without going into to much detail just now, River crossings are one of the subjects we cover in our field based courses. It is surprising for us to consistently see folks have not factored this concept in at all to their plans, and even when doing so, struggle to often acknowledge the ‘time sensitivity’ that, in reality, comes with river crossings.
If it is of interest we can write a full article on this subject, please just comment below with your thoughts on this matter…
My great uncle was a drinking man, he would drink heavily from the moment when he woke up until the moment he went to bed, but I do not remember ever seeing him stumbling, walking funny or having problems with his speech.
When he was at home his favorite spot was on the couch in the corner of the room, just next to the wood stove which was running always except on really hot days.
He drank from very small glasses (shot glasses), bottle was never visible (he kept bottle behind the couch) on the table there was silver box for cigarettes, with tobacco and papers for cigarette rolling inside, and his shot glass.
Table was old type table with a glass plate on top of it, and under that glass he kept paper that says that government and state recognizes him as a member and organizer of the early resistance movement against the German and Italian occupation (WW2).
Table, his cigarette box, his rakija and everything else in his room was off limits for us kids. He lived with my grand parents, he never married, no kids.
Actually now when I remember he himself was pretty much off limits for us kids, only person who ever had some influence over him was my grandmother-his sister, she was the only one who could tell him sometimes that he need to do something.
He was one tough and dangerous old dude, sitting in the room. Drinking and staring in the spot where the wall connects with ceiling.
Sometimes we kids sneak in the room, seeking for stories, or money from him, in return we would bring firewood from shed for his never-ending stove fire.
He would gave us money often from his big “veteran warrior” pension, stories were rare.
Often kids just sat there, talking something, he would occasionally say “uhm” or “ahm” and stare in empty.
He did not go out very much, except his regular chess meetings in the local community hall.
It was something like community hall, war veteran organization and heavy drinking joint place in one.
People call it “half leg” because several handicapped folks who were there all the time.
And I was a kid who often went with him there, my grandmother often would tell me “go with him there and wait for him”, I guess she simply was worried for him.
Place was big hall with old tables with games like chess and checkers on them, great uncle would sat down usually with same folks there, his old war comrades.
They would play chess, drink heavy booze and over the time they would usually forgot that I am even there.
In that time I was taught in the school that we are living in great socialistic and communistic society, where all people are equal, and that we got to that point through the heroic and noble fighting of working class in WW2.
War and fights were something noble, heroic and full of sacrifice. Our war vets were ‘clean’; they were people who sacrifice themselves for our motherland – for socialistic society.
I was taught like that, in my young mind all was black and white.
Over the time I realized that folks on that table together with my great uncle had a bit different picture about war and fighting and honor.
They talked about everything, but with heavy slang and in what looked to me in that time in ‘codes’, and lot of “remember the Mora(mountain) and how we eat shoes”? and answer would be “yeah, fuck it, and how many bodies there”
Lot of that was not understandable for me, lot of head nodding,
One of those chess games stayed in my mind over several decades of the time since I heard it on that table:
Man who played chess with my great uncle had a pieces of shell in his body, I think it was not option to remove it so he grow old with that in his body, he had couple of pieces in his arm and fingers, and while he was thinking about his next chess move he would squeeze his fist and fingers and pieces of shell in his fingers were producing the sound like something is chewing inside his hand.
It was fascinating for me in that time.
What I understand from their story was this:
He and my great uncle were find themselves in some heavy fighting during the ww2 .
Their unit was carrying a lot of heavily wounded together with lot of civilians who were running from German forces.
Sudden attack of Germans made chaos and they together with couple of guys got separated from the unit.
They manage to break out from the encirclement, then they hide inside some cave for couple of days.
They ate tree bark.
Days later they went out and wandered through woods trying to go to the safe territory.
And then they stumble members of their unit.
Actually a pile of it.
On one small clear place in the woods, there were hundreds of bodies in a big pile, and man with the “chewing” in his fist said he never before or later saw anything like that.
Soldiers and civilians were shot and put on big pile of bodies in the middle of nowhere, and he said that lot of them were heavily wounded but still alive actually, they were put there intentionally still alive, to suffer more before they die.
They found couple of woman tied to the trees… Dead.
They quickly move away from there, scared.
Later that night while they were resting they heard noises, quietly went to check and find out German soldier sitting down and bandaging wound on his leg, probably lost and separated from his unit.
They killed him with bayonet, and as I understand they killed him slowly.
That story terrified me to the bones, and I think I heard it only because they were pretty drunk and not even realized I was with them.
My great uncle died long time ago, he was heavy drinker too to the last breath.
On his funeral there were flags, and speech about honor and sacrifice, even his medals.
We never found his wartime machine gun “smajser” (mp 40) that he hid somewhere after the war never giving up to no one where it is, and as I am older I feel sorry I did not hear more about his experiences.
I am sure he cared a lot more for that machine gun than for speeches flags and medals.
I do not remember him as an war hero, and I am sure he did not think about himself as an war hero.
He was scared often while he was in survival situation, he often did things that he did not like, he was not invincible, and he was ready for trouble again all the time.
He was a survivalist.
Point of this article is (just like lot of my article) is memory of something, in this case memory of my great uncle.
And there is one more point, for you more important:
Talk with old folks, with veterans, old or young, there is nothing like real life experience.
Be patient, best (or worst) stories are hardest to get, but it is precious knowledge.
It is better prepper investment to hear how (and what) tree bark to eat then to buy 10 MREs.
Many years after my great uncle experiences and events I experienced similar things, hunger, fightings, piles of bodies…
It is in human nature, things like this are happening and will happen again…