Essentials of Survival
I’m putting this pointer right up at the top, because it’s timely and important. If you’re still driving a gas hog of a vehicle, now is the last time to be the best time to sell it. You have about two months, tops to get rid of it. Gas prices will never be this cheap again. Dump it and move on into something highly economical. Gas prices will return back to their lofty heights.
Part of gearing up, is gearing yourself up. The human body was not intended to sit in a cubicle and type on computer screens for months on end. This type of sedentary lifestyle is one of the worst things you can do to yourself. Get up and get moving. Get that body active, daily.
If you’re not riding a bike yet, start. The bicycle is one of the most efficient machines ever devised. The best bike for the money and versatility is the mountain bike. These are just as capable and nearly as fast as a road bike with proper tires (highly efficient road tires are available, if needed) and can carry much more gear then a road bike if properly equipped and they are a lot more comfortable. They also have the definite bonus of riding off-road. You can take a mountain bike just about anywhere. Good riders can ride where it’s difficult to walk.
Riding a mountain bike regularly will get you in shape and build up your endurance. Endurance is exactly what is going to be needed to navigate the collapse. Riding is also less harsh on you then running. Biking also saves gas and gets you outside where you belong. Get a rear rack for it, they even make the kind that attach to the seat post and not the frame (if needed). For rear-suspension bikes, this works best. If you have a “hardtail” (no suspension) a frame rack is better (stronger).
I’m of the opinion that a mountain bike is worth it’s weight in gold. Simple is good, but technology is better – if you take care of it and have an adequate supply of spare parts (tires, tubes, spokes, derailleurs, etc.). A gas-piped bomber (single speed heavy bike) will last forever, but a gear equipped bike can also last a very long time if properly maintained and are much easier to use. Expect lots of biking due to higher and higher fuel costs. Collapse will pretty much dictate walking, biking, ride sharing or riding an animal. Cuba’s oil collapse in the 90’s demonstrated this fact, they imported and manufactured several million bicycles to deal with the problem.
Only the “rich” and affluent will be driving around much. Your bicycle will be your best and cheapest transportation, by far. Get one you like, one you can maintain (or learn how) and buy spare parts. Get two if you can (I have six and will probably get more).
If biking isn’t your cup of tea, exercise daily with hiking, swimming, racquetball or any other aerobic sport. Daily stretching is a good idea too, keeps you flexible and less prone to injury. Paintball is a lot of fun too, just be sure to wear protective equipment. Losing an eye now would be near-suicide.
You will need to mentally gear up too, in order to deal with collapse. It’s pretty hard to get your mind around what collapse signifies, but try. The best way I’ve found to do this is to not try and tackle everything all at once. Break it down into manageable chunks. Collapse will signify many things – economics, politics, transportation, preparation, relocation, social structure, family, trust issues, etc.
On the economics – get out of debt asap. You cannot do this fast enough. Collapse will NOT protect you from the creditors, or a debtors prison camp. Don’t even risk it. Do whatever it takes and clear out your debts. Simplify, reduce and downgrade if you have to – everything. Houses, land, jobs, cars, consolidate bills and get rid of superflous junk and simplify your life as fast as you can. Have a garage sale or a dozen and turn that junk into something else you need. Once debt free – stay that way. Giving support to the slave-system isn’t a good idea anyway. Pay cash for whatever you need. If you do use a credit card, pay it off before the interest comes due (every month in other words).
Restrict your gasoline bill deliberately by walking, ride sharing or biking to work, to the store, to visit friends and family. You’ll feel better and maybe somebody else will get the hint too. The money you save will add up.
Discipline is one of the hardest things to develop on your own. But activities or habits put into practice for 30 days can be become a lifelong habit. There are many areas in our lives where we can ‘improve’ our personal standing – health, exercise, diet, finances, study, education, involvement and contributions (volunteer work). Do any of these things long enough and they become a part of you and your habits, a way of life. The same can be said for negative habits, they’re hard to break because (duh!) we keep doing them!
Breaking the cycle of dependency of the predominant system is going to be of the utmost necessity. Self-reliance doesn’t come easy, but is essential. It is a combination of many skills and disciplines, put into practice daily. This is where discipline comes in, learning to deliberately withdraw from the system now while mistakes made are still survivable and affordable. Mistakes made during collapse probably won’t be. This is one of the primary ways that population reduction will be achieved. Most people simply won’t have any real idea on how to take care of themselves and will simply die.
Collapse in the face of global climate change means water will become the commodity of the future. Drought conditions will exist in many locations, especially in North America. Adequate supplies of potable water will be a matter of life and death. Governments and municipalities will be severely struggling with this issue as aquifers, rivers, streams and lakes dry up.
There is no simple answer on how to deal with the water issues. Most people will need to relocate as climate change impacts the regional water supplies. Being co-located to adequate catchment and drainage systems (such as the Columbia River Basin) will become extremely desirable. Cities and towns far away from their source of water supply may well dry up and blow away as hoarding of what remains takes place. A global drought is a very real possibility and adequate supplies of fresh water for agriculture and human consumption will be in extremely high demand. Rising ocean levels will force hundreds of millions to leave the lowland coastal areas and their abundant fresh-water river systems. Estimates are now already coming in that several hundred million people will be displaced due to rising ocean waters. Over 2000 islands alone in India will be utterly drowned.
Because water will be such an extreme issue, this needs to be addressed in conjunction with relocation. Many of us will need to relocate for this one issue alone – adequate water supplies. This will dawn on millions and millions of people as they scramble enmasse for this essential need. Get their first if you can. It’s totally unknown how communities will deal with the influx of new immigrants. It’s possible that they won’t – immigrants will be forced to live elsewhere (prison / slave camps comes to mind). Also, the demands created by a mobilized “army” of millions of displaced people will be stupendous on land, transportation, food and housing. Get “there” first makes good sense.
Where? That depends on several factors. Existing topographical terrain, climate patterns, population base, infrastructure (or lack thereof, which can also be highly desirable), regulations and police state presence all have to be taken into account. I would avoid all cities (personally) over 10k – 15k. For you, this may be far too small and will have to be adjusted accordingly. Larger populations have advantages and disadvantages, which I’ll briefly mention.
The bigger the population, the more diversified the labor force (potentially, but not always in practical application). They also have a higher police presence, more regulations and rules, restrictions and covenants, and greater resource demands and importantly, usually rather high resource inputs (food, water, materials, energy). Nobody “knows” if larger towns and cities will be able to adequately feed themselves during collapse. Theoretically, much is possible, but realistically? It’s a crap shoot. So far, I’ve seen no evidence that this is going to actually work.
Smaller towns are less restrictive (usually, not always), more co-located to natural resources, especially water (oftentimes, but not always), have smaller police presence (but watch out for the corruption, it’s as much there as anywhere else), more self-reliant people as a general rule (percentage of population), and are oftentimes the “generators” of essentials like food, water and electricity for larger towns and cities. Some smaller towns are exporters of these items, meaning they have an abundance, while some are not.
They are however, just as dependent upon outside inputs too for those things (many) that they cannot and do not produce themselves. “Sustainable” isn’t a concept in vogue (yet) anywhere except in tiny enclaves (ecovillages) and survivalist retreats.
Picking a location isn’t going to be easy, but doing it early if possible will be better then doing it later. Water will be on the top of your list. Higher elevations can be desirable as global temperatures continue to rise. Lowland locations can turn into sweltering sweat-boxes for the same reason. Cropland and whatever growing season climate change allows will be something that fluctuates with each location. The ability to locally grow most or much of the community food supply will be a top priority (don’t forget peak oil and what it means to the global food supply and transportation networks) and adequate water supplies for crops will be absolutely essential. Most crops should be grown in highly intensive, water saving methods, unlike modern agriculture today. This will enhance water recycling and conservation.
Another method of growing crops is with forest gardening, the practice of creating edible forests. This will work for some people. Sheet mulching and it’s cousin, composting will be essential as poor soils are turned into highly productive soils.
I would relocate to a major river drainage system that has adequate elevation gains nearby (so you can move up higher if needed), small population (under 2,000), self-reliant mentality, existing agriculture or potential, arable land, low land prices, favorable climate and good soils.
Watch out for small-town mindedness (non-progressive, hatred of outsiders, survivalist groups, etc.) These can turn out to be as deadly or difficult to overcome as any other issue. Newcomers won’t be trusted – so arrive early.
Adequate food supplies are going to be extremely problematic in the future. Food will be the weapon of choice by the State, more so then debt is now. The solution to this is obvious – grow your own. I’m not an advocate of growing all of your own – just some of it. Barter, exchange and share with others who will (hopefully) be doing the same for all the rest. Specialization will still be very helpful, provided you can engage in a farmers market or some sort of exchange (safely).
This includes animals (unless your a vegetarian) and crops. Start learning how to do this now while mistakes are easy and survivable. Seasonal crops are an easy way to try out your green thumb. Learning to grow things isn’t hard, but it does take time to learn from your mistakes, so get started now.
You will also need to learn food preservation techniques, how to can, dry, store and process foodstuffs. There are many books available on these subjects. If you haven’t started a self-reliant, self-sufficiency library, do it right away. It will take several years (minimum) to put into practice what you can learn from these books. There is a huge selection of essential books listed on the Survival Acres Sustainable Forum Library.
Growing food can be fun and rewarding, and it taste far better then what you can buy in the stores today. Learn intensive gardening techniques and water conservation (get the books on this). Agriculture will be essential. While I admire Ran Prieur’s approach to forest gardening (gleaning sustenance from natural forest surroundings and those plants that were planted and left to fend for themselves), I do not believe this will be remotely adequate for the vast majority of people. I like the concept, very much, but adequate calorie requirements cannot be met in most cases using this method (and you will be in direct competition with every other living creature). Eventually, with the natural environment (that’s a big “if”) stabilizes and the human population is reduced by 90%, this might work out just fine. But mid-collapse with starving hordes? I can’t see it working very well (or at all).
I fully expect a massive depopulation of existing animal herds, both domestic and wild. Domestic animals are extremely water-intensive (wild animals are not) and may or may not be permitted at current levels for this reason alone. They will also be in high demand for food. I don’t know what this means for future animal populations, but I fully expect a massive depopulation of wild animals (poaching) to occur. This is happening right now as food prices continue to skyrocket, which is only going to get much worse. Food is cheap today compared to what it’s going to be in the future. Climate change will make gigantic impacts on food availability, price and distribution. Enjoy it while you can!
The World Health Organization, US Government and other leaders around the world are now proclaiming that an adequate supply of personal food preparations is essential. They’re justification is the bird flu pandemic, but there are a great many other reasons to have food preparations.
I am a strong advocate of food storage. A food storage program affords you time and the opportunity to make mistakes and learn from them. Food storage will NOT sustain you indefinitely, unless you are very rich and can stockpile a 30 year supply. But a good food storage program will definitely save your life, many times over, while the transition from a dependent lifestyle to independent, self-sufficient lifestyle takes place.
If you haven’t got your food storage program started yet, get going. Dehydrated and freeze dried foods can keep up to 30 years when properly stored. And it’s comparatively cheap right now while abundance still means something (it’s cheaper then buying food at the supermarket!). Those days are numbered, so get started as soon as you can.
Set aside as much as you can too. I have a five year food storage plan. It’s inadequate and I know it. Many people call me and ask about how much food they should store, thinking they need to survive 3 months of bird flu or something. Well yeah, you’ve got to start somewhere, but three months is a tiny span of time. Collapse signifies massive shortages, especially in food. Most people have no idea that petroleum produces almost all of our food today. When the petroleum runs out, the food will be gone forever. What we haven’t learned to grow, locally, will be what we will do without.
The only other remotely similiar shortage items will be water and fuel. However, food (and water) will be the real weapon of choice used against you. Examples abound throughout history of food as being a strategic asset and a weapon used against invaders or defenders. Having adequate food storage will be paramount to your chances of survival – or somebody else who hasn’t properly prepared and thought this through.
Don’t forget, none of us are going to “be alone”. There won’t be any Lone Rangers out there that will survive very long. Even the most dedicated survivalists get sick, injured or need help, or just plain lonely. We’re all in this gigantic mess together, like it or not. And we all need to eat – daily if possible. Food will give you your own sustenance, and even barter material for other goods you will require (clothing, fuel, transportation, materials, housing, water – anything you need). Everybody needs to eat – but not everybody will be able to eat. The rich men of the future will be sitting on a pile of food – and will be controlling all the rest.
Obtain sturdy clothing. I shop almost exclusively at thrift stores, have done so for years. I have a reasonably large stack of stored clothing, gotten on the cheap. I can’t find everything there, but I can find quite a lot. I make exceptions for boots, shoes, socks and underwear, which I buy new. Everything else, I buy used, for pennies.
Wherever you buy, you will need good outdoor clothing. You’re going to be working and getting dirty with all that gardening you’re going to be doing. Buy clothing appropriate for this. Clothing can be stored indefinitely if properly stored. I simply use cardboard boxes, folding up my supply and putting it away. Moths are not a problem here, but wool will attract them. Use a moth repellent. A natural moth repellent is cedar.
Wool is an excellent natural fiber for clothing. Wool pants last an extremely long time and are much better then cotton jeans. They also will keep you warmer when wet. Shrinkage of wool garmets is a problem, wash in cold water and air dry them to avoid that.
Wool hats are good – 80% of your body heat is lost through your head. A cap with visor keeps the sun out of your eyes (sometimes!), good to have. Wool shirts can be worn over something else if your allergic. Cotton T’s are cheap at thrift stores and I go through several dozen a year. Pick the ones with tiny logos on them, those big giant walking billboard type with the large silk screen imprints are horrible, they make you sweat.
A wool coat is also desirable for colder weather. They wear a long time, much longer then nylon or Gortex. Advanced fibers such as these (and there are many others) are great, but they are not cheap (and don’t last as long). Again, you can find a lot of this stuff in the thrift stores, or just buy them from wherever you can afford them. I have a lot of Gortex gear, which works very well. Foul weather isn’t really much of a problem if you’re properly clothed.
You have to take better care of synthetic fibers and blends then natural fibers, they’re more easily damaged, burned, ripped, torn, scraped and penetrated, all the things that happen when your out-of-doors more often then in. I’d expect there to be a high demand for these “high-tech” items as they dwindle in availability during collapse (that’s a hint). They do look better, dry faster, are much lighter, oftentimes better waterproof (as long as it lasts), and can be gotten dirt cheap at the thrift store. A $100 jacket can be purchased for $4.
One of the most important items you can obtain is a good pair of work boots. These should be leather uppers, Gortex liner is fine. I avoid all insulated boots, if I want insulation, I wear socks. I can always wear two pair of socks if needed… Non-insulated boots can be worn year round too, not just in winter.
Protecting your feet is paramount. This isn’t something many people think about, but they will. Climbers and hikers and outdoorsmen know that good footwear matters. Proper arch support, strong uppers and good soles are essential. Every soldier knows that his feet are his life. Dress shoes, high heels and other “useless” footwear will be utterly useless. Tennis shoes are great to let your feet and legs relax (lighter weight), but for real work, quality work boots cannot be beat.
Don’t scrimp here. Good boots take a fair bit of time to break in, so allow for that. You will develop horrendous, crippling blisters if your demand of your new boots exceeds their “break in”. Wear them around the house and to work, give them a month or so to mold properly to your foot and they’ll treat you right.
I have seven pairs. I wear out at least one pair per year. I fully expect to need two pairs per year during collapse. They get damaged, easily. I hit them with chainsaws, rocks, sharp objects, etc. Good boots will cost you too. Sometimes you can find really good end-of-season sales and save, but expect to pay $150+ per pair for leather. Avoid all “artificial” uppers, your feet will hate you as they swelter in a pool of your own sweat.
Don’t forget gloves. You will wear out a LOT of gloves if you’re really working. Wool gloves are great for simply keeping your hands warm, but do not wear well, snagging on any pokey object. I prefer surplus military wool gloves with fingers (not mittens). They’re perfect for hiking, driving or light duty work and dirt cheap. Leather gloves (not mittens) are essential for everything else. Protect your hands. Gloves can make the difference between life and death. Not just frostbite (a very real problem), but injuries. A mild, now festering sore can cause gangrene and kill you.
I buy gloves in packs of twelve, destroying a dozen or so per year. Since I haul my own firewood and do lots of other things, I’m really hard on them. You will be too, so get plenty. I’ve never found used gloves that were worth buying anywhere, so I wind up buying these new too. They do come in various sizes, so try to buy what fits if you can, your dexterity will be much better.
An Army / Navy surplus store is your friend. Lots of good, cheap, durable supplies there. Avoid all the cheap import crap, most of it is junk. Get US military issue gear, surplus. What your looking for is durability, versatility, quality and price. Other military gear from other countries is often very good too (Swiss, German, etc.). This is where you can find boots, pants, gloves, hats, coats, jackets, liners, thermal underwear, sleeping bags, tents, etc. They’ve also got some really cool “bug-out” gear such as packs, fire starters, flares and such like, although I am NOT an advocate of the “bug-out” scenario. Remember, refugees fair poorly, around the world. Bug-out is a last resort, a desperate and suicidal attempt to stay alive. It’s also a sign of poor planning (that’s another hint). Don’t bug out. Move.
More to come on shelter, security and relationships. I will also be posting some information on primitive lifestyles and survival that will appeal to some.