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Being Prepared When You Are Away from Home

You have to be prepared to walk back home.
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Most of us who are into prepping are gathering some form of supplies. I always recommend gaining skills important to survival as well, but a good stored cache of food, water, means for shelter and security are at the top of my list. We consume things as humans and the natural tendency to prepare for emergencies, where the normal things we consume are unavailable, is to store extra. How much you are able to put away or feel is prudent to stock up on is up to the individual prepper.

The common denominator is that we need to store these prepping supplies somewhere. Sure you could roll through life with nothing more than your Altoid survival tin and your confident smile, but this article isn’t for you. This article is for the preppers who have stored supplies, usually in our homes, sometimes in hidden caches in the backyard or forest – possibly in your bug out location. When we store these supplies it is always with the intention of using them in an emergency if we need to. The main assumption is that you will be able to access these locations where your gear, food and tools are kept safely away from the peering eyes of your neighbors. But what if you are away when disaster strikes? What if you are hundreds of miles away from all of your plans and supplies? Is all lost?

Preparing for disaster while you are away

My plan for being prepared is to bug in should some massive emergency/ grid down/ SHTF event happen unless circumstances warrant I need to leave. My supplies are all in my home and bugging out and potentially leaving a lot of gear behind would be the last thing I would want to do. Unfortunately, I and millions of others have to leave our supplies all of the time.

Making it back home after an EMP is the plot of this book by A. American.

Every day I go to work, but that is not too far away. There are periodic vacations, business trips, family engagements or even all day excursions somewhere and if you are away from your home there could be serious delays or obstacles to you getting back to the supplies you have spent so much time and thought acquiring.

This topic comes up for me usually when I have to go out-of-town for business. If there was any time that Murphy was going to strike it would be while I was hundreds, possibly thousands of miles away from my family. Disaster probably won’t hit right after you have made the large Sam’s Club run, your ammo supply was recently topped off, everyone is home and healthy. No, you have to plan on getting by without those supplies for days, possibly weeks and make it back home if you can.

Communicating your plan

In the worst type of disaster, there would be no communications. We rightly advocate Ham radio to stay in contact, but that requires a few things come together and it isn’t really like a phone call around the world. Most handheld units require repeaters for any decent range and both units would have to be on the same repeater node for you to be able to communicate.

My family knows before I go anywhere that our plan is for them to stay put and even if they don’t hear from me, I will be coming home. We have backup locations for them to go if needed, but they will still communicate where they have gone should I arrive very late. This is important because in an EMP event for example, communications and even transportation could be completely destroyed but the properly outfitted prepper could make it back home with some planning and luck. This reminds me of the opening novel in the series by A.American on Going Home and it is core to one of my biggest fears. The main character is stranded hundreds of miles from his home in Florida after an EMP and has to make it back to his family. If I am separated from my family, but alive, that is what I will do also. If we are all together and away from home, there are different preparations, but less stress in some respects.

Walking home will present challenges and risks.

Walking home will present challenges and risks.

Getting Back Home

I was reading an old thread on a forum this morning talking about a hypothetical disaster scenario where the poster asking the question was trying to decide, post EMP whether they should stay at their work office for a few days and “let things calm down” or to leave immediately to get back to his family. Almost every one of the commenters said they would leave right away and I agree.

I think barring planes crashing into buildings again or something very overt and unmistakable like an earthquake; if there isn’t a huge loss of life most people will sit still and wait for the police or firetrucks to arrive. They will wait for the power company to get things working again and the FEMA folks to bring cots and blankets. The last thing on their minds will be to panic and by the time they do it will be too late.

Getting out ahead of the crowd is crucial and it is this aspect of disaster that requires you to be very aware of what is going on in the world around you. You could start your journey earlier or acquire last-minute supplies before the stores are cleaned out and while people will still accept cash for purchases by simply acting first. If I know there has been some major event, my plan is to grab anything I can to facilitate my journey and head to the house. It depends on the disaster but let’s assume you must walk.

What do you need to survive along the way?

What would you take with you on this trip that could facilitate your efforts to get back home? Some people back a modified bug out bag on their travels. Certainly this would seem to connect the dots, but it is a little impractical for most trips. What I do always have with me is my EDC. These are the basics of a knife, multi-tool, bandanna, water bottle, and flashlight and depending on the destination, a firearm. I do have to always check my luggage when flying. These are great tools, but ideally I would have more gear or be able to acquire it before I start my trip back.

In addition to that, I will carry a very lightweight day-hike style bag from Camelbak that also has a hydration bladder. This folds down into nothing in my regular suitcase and will allow me to carry gear and keep my hands free. To this I add a few more things:

These all take up very little room in my suitcase. I also pack for conditions should I have to walk back so that includes rain gear, base layers, fleece and wool caps in the winter as well as sturdy walking shoes. Summertime it might be hikers like Keens but the winter time would require my heavy-duty boots. You don’t want to try walking home in January from Chicago in dress shoes.

What does this give me? It really is very basics I need to make the journey. I would still want to get food, some better shelter (tarp and sleeping bag or wool blanket) and a map for the journey. Food is something I can pick up before the panic sets in or could possible scavenge in a desperate situation shortly after the disaster. Depending on how far away, I might only need a day or two. Longer trips might require me to improvise. A business trip to China would make things very difficult and I doubt I would be able to pack enough food to make it home so these are generalities I know. If you could hit a sporting goods store or Walmart with cash immediately after the event you might be able to get these supplies and head out before others catch on.

Desperate times can bring out the best and worst in people. You should be on guard for traps.

Desperate times can bring out the best and worst in people. You should be on guard for traps.

Dealing with other people

Getting out quickly will put you ahead of some of the confusion but unless you live in the middle of nowhere, you will run into other people along your way. You could see people begging for help or supplies. There could be people who view you as a target because you look to have some semblance of a plan and a solution. Depending on the disaster and where you are, things could get dicey and desperate people could even try to deceive you to take advantage of your good side. Tough decisions would have to be made in a true disaster.

I would plan to travel at night as much as possible and sleep during the day well off the roads and as hidden as possible. This should reduce my exposure to anyone who thinks they deserve what I have. I would try to avoid congested areas as much as possible but if going around took too much time; I would try to make it through at night. A bike could greatly speed your journey and I would likely try to procure one if possible to make the miles go by faster. I would really be improvising along the way to take advantage of whatever situation I was presented with. Partnering up with someone headed your way could be advantageous or risky. You will probably just need to go with your gut on that move as well.

These are just some ideas but each of us has different lives with different realities. In a true disaster, we would each be on our own to survive as best we can given the hand we have been dealt. What are your plans for making it home if you are away?

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  • LWJ

    Since were starting our Vacation tomorrow, and were going to NC this article seems pretty fitting. However since we will be across the country trying to get back home would be a crapshoot honestly. I would have the bare essentials as far as supplies are concerned, very little in the way of cash, not much for self defense and a long trip through the heartland to get back. Odds are I would pick up a Southern accent before we got back…….

    • See how I write posts relevant to our readers? 🙂

      Even with the bare essentials, your awareness would probably take you further than the average vacationing family. Hope you enjoy your trip!

      • LWJ

        Well call me selfish, but I don’t want to go further then most people Pat! I would prefer to use the motto of the 82nd and most teenage males and go “All the Way!

  • Bobcat-Prepper

    I travel to Chicago every other week on business. In addition to many of the items you mentioned, I take a paper map with the best non-interstate routes back home marked. It might take longer, but most travelers and congestion would be on the interstates during a disaster, so my alternative routes would be much safer. I also located the nearest bicycle shop near my hotel, so if an EMP/solar flare hits, I will have a relatively fast way home.

    Finally, a can opener and sturdy metal tablespoon are important to carry to allow you to eat that food you find along the way.

    • Maybe we have crossed paths Bobcat!

      Well, I seriously doubt it in Chicago. That is too huge of a city for me and I don’t go there as often as you but I am always concerned with getting out of there if I need to. Definitely don’t want to have to walk through the South Side if possible.

      Great points about the spoon and can opener. I have a can opener on my multi-tool, but I didn’t even think about the spoon.

      • BobW

        or Gary, IN. *shudders*

    • illini warrior

      just a word of advice about heading out of Chicago on the side routes …. many areas outside the metro area already have militia type plans to block off general access …. someone like yourself, with reasons for a “pass thru”, wouldn’t have a problem – exception being a pandemic SHTF ….

      • They would plan on keeping everyone in Chicago bottled up? How long do you think that would last?

  • EgbertThrockmorton1

    Timely article, Pat. When we travel on business or for pleasure or a combo(which is mostly the case now), we always have our personal survival kit with us, EDC for both, Camelbaks, and we never, ever park in parking structures. Was born and raised in earthquake country, survived a few good sized ones handily to EVER, park in a parking structure when on travel. I want access to what’s left in my vehicle, be it one of ours or a rental.(just one of my personal phobias)
    Water is far more critical than food, and when traveling, we always have a minimum of one case of bottled water with us in the vehicle, plus the Camelbaks full of course) At one point in time,(a long time ago) I had to do without potable water while in the military for 2 days, and it was a LONG two days. Won’t get caught like that again.(own foolishness)
    We also always have EDC high intensity flash lights on our persons, to illuminate threats or potential threats, in addition to OC and Bear Spray, even when in urban environments. (might be urban bears WHO knows?) I’ve had occasion to use it on Bi-peds and yes, it does work well. While a pain in the rear while traveling, proper preparation prevents poor performance. Thanks for the timely reminder to always be heads up!

    • Thank you very much Egbert!

      And wise advice about parking decks. I have to park in one at work but I do worry about my gear being trapped in an unlikely earthquake.

      • EgbertThrockmorton1

        I always try to park on the very top deck, IF, I HAVE to park in one. I’m just weird that way.

  • BobW

    We regularly travel regionally, and whether we drag the trailer or not, there are always at least two projectile huckers, a partial UBL, food, water, at least one hiking backpack (just use one as your suitcase), hydration bladder, Platypus Gravity works 4L, first aid, and the like. Its not combat loaded or anything, but its all immediately accessible. I estimate the dirt bikes will get us 30+ miles toward home quickly before either finding fuel (good luck), or ditching them and finishing the trip on foot. I suppose I could carry a small bottle of premix, and just ask a nice farmer type for a couple gallons before everyone starts locking and loading.

    Since you touched on the ‘Going Home’ series, I’ll mention that being that was the second book in the genre (first was “One Second After”), I keyed on the sling bag, and wound up using a similar but much less expensive UTG sling bag as my ‘range bag’ for trips. I use it as an EDC++ bag. Hogleg, bullets, water bottle, collapsible water bottle, compass, state map, Gerber Multi-tool, shammy towel, flashlights, batteries, ESEE4 w/ ‘recon’ crossbelt setup. Its not everything, but it upgrades my EDC considerably, is easy to carry, holds more than some realize, and is very versatile.

    • Projectile huckers! I like that.

      My Maxpedition is very similar to that USG bag I think and they are great for carrying just enough gear and supplies to make a big difference. Plus, they can be hidden under a coat in winter for a little added discretion.