Living The Preps

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I am going to date myself with some of what I have written herein, but I don’t mind doing that if it may help a few people or families to have a better shot at disaster survival.

When I was growing up and for the most part of my adult life there was no Internet and no Bloggers. We learned things the old fashioned way; from others with experience teaching us in person. And when you learn something in-person, it’s much better than trying to learn something ’virtually’. In the case of Prepping and outdoor survival techniques, most of those skills were taught and learned on location at some campsite in the mountains. Certainly, we had some books that we used as a part of the learning process, but when it came to actually learning the skills, that was done in the field under actual conditions. Like making a fire when it was raining; anyone done that one lately?

Living in the field is a lot different than making a fire and cooking/camping in the backyard. Waking up, morning after morning in a remote wilderness location and starting each day from ground zero, using only what you have with you and nothing more, and doing that day after day is what builds skills and helps to prepare you mentally for what you might have to endure during an actual disaster.

In the event of a major large scale disaster (I.E. grid-down, etc.), some people are hoping to survive in-place either in the cities or rural areas. At some point they will be forced to forage for resources and that activity will place them at odds with others doing the same thing.

Still others have plans of ‘heading for the hills’ or to a remote bug-out location.

I must confess that camping in the hills or the mountains long term is a hardship… at least it was for me, and I grew up in the mountains. It was a lot of hard work, and I am not talking about just the initial work of getting setup at a location by building a good shelter, etc. I am talking about the day-in and day-out chores that must be done in repetitive fashion in order to survive with some basic comforts. In the past, I have taken friends from the city with me out on some of my camping adventures only to hear a lot of complaining and grumblings as a result of the chores that needed done by everyone. Some of my friends would call those outings ‘misery trips‘. Surviving off the grid is not a lazy person’s endeavor and requires a lot of thought and sequenced chores everyday. Collecting fire-starter and wood is daily chore! Throughout the day you find yourself with one eye looking for anything you can use as fire-starter and fuel for the fire, as you move through the day collecting/foraging, hunting, fishing and collecting/toting water. Some mornings it’s so damn cold nobody wants to get out of their sleeping bag to stoke the fire… and so you pray for the odd-chance that there’s an ember still going so that chore will be easier. The list of daily chores is certainly not limited to the aforesaid items.

During an actual disaster if you are forced to relocate away from the many conveniences of your permanent shelter (home), you will be suddenly confronted with these realities, and if you or any of your team are not fully prepared to deal with the realities of living off-the-grid or in the wilderness, you will fail quickly as a result of morale issues in most cases. The skills are of paramount importance, but equally if not more important is the mental attitude (stubborn tenacity) that is absolutely required to make it all work.

Believe me when I say that; I am not trying to throw a wet blanket over your hopes of surviving any given disaster. Quite the opposite; I want people to have a solid grasp on what they will need and what it will take to be totally successful. I have ‘lived the preps’ on land, at sea and at remote islands, so I have been able to compare various survival paradigms. Personally, I want to survive whatever comes my way with as much comfort and enjoyment as is possible. One thing I have learned; It’s far easier to live prepped on a boat, than it is trying to do it on land from a fixed position (with preps) that you may be forced to abandon at the drop of a hat.

I can’t begin to tell you about all the older people my wife and I have come across during our voyages, who in their 70’s are sailing all over the world, some are single handing smaller sailboats! We met one old gal (in her 60’s) who was single-handing a 28-foot Pearson Triton sailboat, and had already done one solo circumnavigation! It’s my opinion that boats make a great survival platforms for older people, who need to have all their ‘stuff’ with them to make life comfortable.

Of course I can only speak to what I have learned and experienced in my 60 years of living life, and nothing more. I’ll be the first to say that I don’t have all the answers and that the paradigm of Nautical Prepping is not for everyone.

I have found that when you relocate some people away from their daily routines and the comforts of today‘s society, they almost fall-apart after just a few weeks. Most people are usually good for a few days, but after a week or so, that’s when you start to see and hear it; a drop in morale. It’s seems that some people have real trouble (mentally) when they unplug from their social networks and have no contact via cell phones, iPhones and the Internet! And when you add-in the hardships of off-grid living on land, that really makes them want to quit.

It may very well be that these people could become some of the very first casualties of a collapse of the systems post-event. In the wilderness, it takes time to acclimate and get a daily routine set-up, which does increase the comfort level to some degree. But that takes total cooperation of the group and solid morale. Anyone who becomes a ’dissenter’ or a ‘slacker’ for any reason, poses a serious risk to the rest of the group’s odds for survival. And it’s important to discover any ‘weak-links’ in your survival group before the SHTF. Usually, the biggest whiners are the ones with the least skills and experience, so it pays big dividends to make sure everyone in your group or family has ‘lived the preps’.

Believe me, unless you have been deep in the woods, at sea or at a remote uninhabited island, long term, you’ll have no real idea of what it will be like, regardless of how many books and blogs you read, or what you think you know.

The mental aspects of ‘off-the-grid’ survival don’t set-in immediately; it takes a few days before people start suffering from the impact of being ‘un-plugged’. This is a new problem (un-plugged withdrawals) that we never saw 20 years ago.

But all these affects are nothing compared to the stress during a real event that may accompany the need to relocate in order to survive. Again, it’s all about morale in most cases of long-term survival. You might find yourself in the worst situation you can imagine (other than a national or international scale disaster) and you’ll still have the hope that someone will be coming to help you and it’s that ‘hope’ that will help most people to maintain their morale. And this may well be the case in localized disasters where help exists, and is coming from nearby areas.

However, in a large-scale disaster (national grid failure, etc.), no help is coming; everyone will be in the same ugly situation and facing the same hardships. So if you are not mentally prepared for that, you might be toast.

There is some good news:

You can begin to approximate that kind of situation and experience first-hand some of the feelings and emotions that you will be faced-with by way of engaging in some training ahead of time. And what I mean by training is; heading off into the mountains with your preps and living for a couple of weeks (at least) without any contact with the outside would; that means no phones, no iPhones and no Internet. For safety only, one satellite phone is reasonable and may not be used for anything except a genuine emergency.

Training is not easy and will require the same kind of discipline, sacrifice, commitment and tenacity that will be needed during a real crises, hence its extreme value. This kind of experience is where the rubber meets the road.  You’re just fooling yourself if you think you don’t need it, or you can get-it from a book or a blog.

In a real continental-scale disaster, unlike any other situation you might have experienced, nobody will have your back. There are no troops in the rear to come and relieve you, there is no evac! You may be on your own for months, and maybe years and you must develop an attitude and the skills to deal with this reality if you truly intend to survive. Wilderness training is one way to accomplish this task.

For many new Preppers the best advice I can give is this; if you’re serious about becoming proficient in the arts and skills that you will need to survive a genuine disaster, you have to seek-out a mentor. In my case, I had my father and the scouting programs when I was growing up, which gave me a base to grow from. Afterwards, I made it a point to get out into the wilderness often to perfect my skills.

There are many options for gaining experience; you can pay for wilderness survival training and specify you want at least two weeks in the field (longer is better). You could also start by becoming an assistant to a scout-master with the Boy Scouts or Girl Scouts (for gals) and by doing so, learn the basics before heading-off on some expensive survival training program.

As some readers may recall, my wife and I have been diligent in teaching our children the same skills (Nautical Prepping) we have mastered, and being true to the faith, we took our entire family (2 children and two dogs) on one of our multiyear sailing expeditions into the Sea of Cortez, where we ‘lived the preps’ at remote locations and islands for months at a time, honing our survival skills to useful levels. I confess that these days, my cold-weather survival skills are rusty since I have not been camping in the Oregon mountains for many years. Instead, we have focused and perfected our warm weather skills only because that is part of our actual long-term survival plan (we live on a boat, which is our prep). We certainly retain enough of our cold weather survival skills from the old-days to get by, should by chance we found ourselves in that situation. However, the real key is to have fully developed the mental aspects needed as a part of an actionable plan that is always in a ‘ready-standby’ mode that can be effected literally within minutes.

We are of course talking about a lifestyle, where we are actually living the preps daily aboard ship. Some people who are actually living in the wilderness are also clearly ‘living the preps’ as well. Nautical Prepping is unique in that it easily allows for this daily prepping mode, combined with many other advantages. Of course the paradigm of Nautical Prepping is my choice of survival paradigms for a host of reasons. First and foremost, it provides a huge level of comfort and predictability since all of our preps go where we go. I would love to get into them (all the preps) in this article, but I know from experience that it took me dozens of pages to do it in my book, ‘The Nautical Prepper’, so it’s just not possible here.

In short, there are many advantages to the paradigm of Nautical Prepping, including the ability to relocate your entire home (a boat is like a condo) with all the preps you have to a more hospitable location at the drop of a hat, literally. And if you cast off the lines and head to sea, why not relocate to a nice warm island with lots of food and water, bringing with you many of the modern conveniences and technologies that are integral to the paradigm (on the boat).

Trust me, it’s a hell of a lot easier to survive using a boat than it is in the woods! I have done both and living at a remote island using a boat is relatively easy, and we find it fun. Once you have done both, very few would disagree with that statement. When I discovered how much easier it was, I was hooked. The boat, being totally mobile and also being able to carry all kinds of equipment, supplies, food and water, allows for so much more flexibility in the face of various disaster scenarios, that it’s a ‘no-brainer‘.

And the security aspects are far superior to any terrestrial survival paradigm, where on land, dozens or even hundreds of people can roll-up on your position at a moment’s notice and start raising hell (we hate pesky Zombies {;-)  Of course nobody will be walking or driving up to a tropical island with a thousand miles of sea all-around it. And in the remote chance that someone does show-up with a boat, the odds of them wanting to go toe-to-toe in a battle, when they can just sail to a safer location, are very low.

In the final analysis, the key to survival in either case is to have actual experience ‘living the preps’.

I wish everyone the very best with their preps and their training.

Cheers! Capt. Bill

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