Predictions are like, well, you know what, everybody has at least one. Many or most predictions made are wrong and the content here is no exception. I am not a modern day Davy Crockett or Daniel Boone but I have spent a few days in the woods, and hopefully after reading this you will not think I am still lost in them. I did not fight in any war but had my share of the military experience and the same can be said for law enforcement. I never bugged out but did backpack and still am a gym rat who tries to do his time on the treadmill although I hate cardiovascular exercise despite knowing it is good for me.
My present employment deals mostly with determining the penalty and hopefully rehabilitation of recently unemployed prescription drug addicts in Appalachia. By the time they get to my shop most have literally lost everything, car, home, sometimes family, because they spend every cent they earn, and more, as soon as they get it – paycheck to paycheck and sadly pill to pill. Their stories typically excuse their plight by blaming everyone else and rationalizing what they did as a “had to” by outside forces. Criminal records are not uncommon. Here’s the point: I see what desperate people do and do not do when they are out of options. Contrary to what you may think most of them do nothing at all, they just shut down waiting for the “somebody else” to help them. Based upon these experiences, I propose that a few common predictions regarding TEOTWAWKI are misconceived. There are doubtlessly more, who’s to say, but here are seven.
Misconception number one: You are going to bug out by vehicle using some combination of car, truck or recreational vehicle (RV). Wrong, it takes only one careless, sleepy, drugged or drunk driver to shut down any given road. On a normal day an overturned truck or a car or two crashing effectively closes the road for half a day. Given some major and unexpected event motivating folks to flee for the hills the interstates and minor roads will be impassible – all of them. There are no secret roads, if you know about them so do many others. Many hold plans of leaving “before”. When is before, how do you know and what if you are wrong? How many “Chicken Little” events will your employer tolerate? Generally speaking the odds of a sudden catastrophic event are lower than a cascade of smaller inconspicuous events ending ultimately in the need to bug out or get home. Odds are once you are sure it is time you can count on walking or maybe biking, motorized or otherwise because the masses will be in one huge traffic jam by that point.
Misconception number two: Related to the first, that you are fit enough to walk carrying the stuff you think you need. How far is it from the stops on your daily routine to your home or refuge? It is reality check time; when was the last time you walked five miles? Or even walked one mile? If it was not recent then you will be in for a rude awakening if and when that eventuality occurs. Honestly, could you walk for days? Could you do so with a heavy Bug Out Bag (BOB)? Most Americans are so badly out of shape the prospect of walking any distance is impossible. Get off the couch and go for a walk, and do so often. Maybe even carry your get home bag a bit?
Misconception number three: Related to the second, your Bug Out Bag is probably too heavy. The weight of BOB, judging by the long lists of stuff that many say they intend to carry exceeds fifty pounds. Once you start walking with a heavy pack you will begin discarding most of those things you thought you “had to” have, the two pound stove, the three pound tent, the camp pad, the cute little folding shovel that weighs two pounds, three pound Rambo knife, large rope, extra clothes and so on. How do we know, because that is what you see along the side of the uphill section of path at the beginning of the Appalachian Trail. It looks like a yard sale. What is not seen are matches, small knifes, water filters, light weight tarps, and freeze dried foods, and other things that are either essential or are both light weight and have multiple uses. Consider seriously the weight of your BOB, or perhaps plan on using a shopping cart, if any are left, or pulling a child’s wagon if you “need” all your stuff. Are you in shape enough to do that? How do you know? Put on that pack and give it a dry run, or excuse me, dry walk.
Misconception number four: Roving criminal hordes will come from the urban environment to your rural home or Bug Out Location (BOL). Nope, these people do not play chess or even checkers; they do not plan ahead much at all. Criminals, with few exceptions are lazy. And many are on drugs. Yes, a few will flee at the very beginning if they have a specific refuge in mind, the uncle with the farm, but most will not leave their familiar comfortable environment. Even if they have an operational vehicle capable of the trip it is likely to be low on fuel, particularly these days. They will burn up what little fuel they have driving around their usual haunts, to the liquor and drug stores, then to the convenience or grocery store like they did before the event until their tank is empty. Walking or biking to save fuel will never cross their mind. No gas means no travel for this group. There will be rare exceptions.
Misconception number five: Needy hungry hordes will come from town. Not likely, when local resources (read: booze and junk food), and the aid from whatever governmental response is exhausted they will do nothing. By nothing I mean nothing that need concern you. They will sit in a refugee center or at home and pass the time playing cards, talking but essentially just waiting. Certainly the burning and looting that started seconds after the beginning of the event will increase until there is nothing left to burn or steal. When food and clean bedding all run out they are not likely to walk out of town any more then than before. They are weaker by that time and as out of shape as most of us. They have rarely walked any distance at all in their adult lives and are unlikely to start now. The biggest reason is that they are psychologically predisposed, brainwashed, to wait for rescue and will stay in town. It is easier to wait and thus easier to make hunger somebody else’s problem. With no gas and no desire to do any tiresome walking means you are not going to see many if any at your BOL. Most will sit and if they move at all they will head for another urban area rumored to be better, particularly if they are being trucked there by the National Guard or other entity. Aside from that with emergency response overwhelmed, weather conditions aside, the roads will be effectively impassible for days or weeks, long enough for the bad guys to consume any means of coming your way.
Misconception number six: You can live off the land. No, you will not for long. There are tens of thousands with that plan. Any resource will be quickly consumed, from the deer down to the neighbor’s dog and cat, just after they eat the pet food. Ditto for fire wood, and other flammable materials. We do not live in the land of seemingly endless resources and few people like generations ago; we actually live in a potential Easter Island like situation - one overpopulated and thus soon stripped of everything nearby. Our accustomed lifestyle is sustained by amazing logistics and high energy use. Nearly everything comes from somewhere else, and when that elsewhere cannot ship or pipe or haul here for whatever reason the view from your window will quickly look barren. The heirloom seeds you have will be priceless and stored food more so.
Misconception number seven: You can defend your castle. There are many whose survival plan is simple, get guns and murder for food. If you have food then you are a potential victim. As noted above, there are exceptions to the general lack of planning in criminals; some dangerous few are leaders, strategic, tactically savvy, smart, determined and resourceful. Finding a sidekick will be easy for them, there will be plenty of followers around. They only need to get lucky once; you have to be lucky every time you encounter one, or two, at a time. Your inconspicuousness and insuring their inconvenience in finding you will serve you well. In this circumstance a fight you avoid goes in the win column.
We wrongly think exclusively in terms of the entertaining fictional scenarios in the many books with a “what if” beginning to the detriment of other and perhaps more likely possibilities. While useful thought provoking exercises, those stories often substitute for an honest nitty-gritty evaluation of our own strategy and ability and the likely behavior of others. In one sentence it is this: In a crisis, do not plan on doing things you have never done and do not plan on other people’s behavior to change, neither one is very likely.