Preparedness and survivalism

        I vividly recall the survivalist craze of the late seventies, and early eighties. It seemed to many, that America, civilization, or even mankind itself was doomed. We had double digit inflation, a huge increase in crime, drug use seemed to be getting out of control, and we had just replaced a crooked and paranoid president Nixon, with the incompetent fool Carter, who seemed to have little respect for the country or its people ( I don't really count Ford, because he was never actually elected). Our military was a flaming wreck, and we were everywhere disrespected. We were hemorrhaging capitol to the middle east, for oil, and to Japan for the electronics and consumer goods, that had once been produced here. Our infrastructure, largely built in decades past, was beginning to show its age and crumble. In addition to all of this, many of us were convinced that it would only be a matter of time, until an apparently superior Soviet union defeated us militarily, or culturally. Race riots, anti war demonstrations, the friction of the burgeoning cultural war, and the coming of age of the baby boomers, created huge divisions, which set Americans against each other. It looked like the end was near. Men bought retreats, stocked up on food, firearms, batteries, and water, moved out of the cities, and settled in to wait things out.

        Then Ronald Regan took office, things improved, the economy strengthened, America became respected and feared, and it seemed like civilization might last a while yet. The whole landscape changed, because we were suddenly being led, rather than ruled. Our new leader was a man who truly loved the country, believed in its ideals, and had confidence in its people. Led by example, these feelings were soon shared by the population at large. Suddenly, everything seemed possible, and we felt a confidence that had not been there since the fifties. Everything was going to be fine. With the fall of the old Soviet Union as the icing on the cake, the survivalist movement suddenly seemed alarmist, and rather silly, a bunch of armchair warriors, religious fanatics, losers, and primitives. But not any more.

        Today, most people are once again, beginning to feel that things may be just s bit shaky. There is the overt fear of terrorism; but there is more to it than this. Food prices are rising, as are fuel prices. To anyone with eyes, the economy is a very frightening place. The old bastions of home ownership, savings, and investment no longer seem to hold out the same prospect of security. Much of the world hates us, unemployment is rising, we are on the verge of being out produced by China and others, and our government seems determined to enslave us. It all seems like a big house of cards, and we all sense a strong wind blowing. Once more, the flames of the cultural war are being fanned. In particular, the new president is the most left wing chief executive we have ever had, by far. Such a mindset does not recognize the strengths that have traditionally made this country great, and has respect for neither the traditions, nor the culture. We once again have a ruler in office, who will attempt to impose his will and vision for America, rather than a ruler who will try to carry out ours. They say that every president leaves his mark on the nation; but in the case of some, that mark is a mutilation. Had the other guy gotten elected, there would still have been insecurity; but it would not have degenerated into panic. So, once again, people are preparing for the end.

        There are several scenarios that can play out here. Ideal preparation will be different for each; but in every case, preparation will be better than no preparation, even if you are prepared for the wrong scenario. I am not necessarily setting myself up as an expert; but I do camp, shoot, and travel. I am merely giving a description here, of my own personal preparations. Doubtless, there are things I have missed; but I have at least given the matter some thought, and have made some preparations.

        So what is the real chance of something happening, in the near future? Well, that depends upon the scenario; but certainly everyone will have to get through some kind of disaster during their lives, even if it is on the small scale of a loss of job, or of home, or perhaps a local flood or tornado. Your life will not get batter, after disaster occurs. Survival starts today. It does not wait until some unanticipated disaster or collapse. If you are not surviving well today, you will not have a chance, should disaster occur.  


A few words, before starting

            At first, preparation for disaster can seem a daunting task. What do you do first? How can you possibly get it all done? Will there be enough, time, money, and expertise to get everything accomplished? Well, there are lots of questions here, the first being the initial questioning of the future of civilization itself. So the first question is probably, should I bother to do this at all – is there really any need? It can be very hard to start on a reasonable program of preparation, largely due to the difficulty of accepting that initial questioning without fear or resistance.

        All civilizations collapse eventually. Long before they collapse, they cease to serve the needs of their members, which is what usually precipitates the collapse. Civilization is an artifice, a structure erected, and maintained only by vast effort and cooperation. This effort is only possible if members of a civilized society all believe, and all see an advantage to living as civilized men, in a given way. Indeed, civilization can not exist at all, unless most of its members are civilized, and see themselves as a civilized people. So the feeling here should be that, “we” Americans have found the best way of life, and it is thus worth protecting defending, extending, and supporting. It is also only possible, when the wealth and expertise exists to do so, in addition to the will. It is also bolstered by the individual belief in the identity of the group, and the other group members, as being an expression of the identity of the individual. So it is a sort of an “us and them” feeling, of an individual identity within a group identity.

        So the initial feeling, when considering survival preparation, is often one of disbelief. It seems impossible that such a thing could happen, particularly here. Making any kind of preparation, while in this mindset, seems crazy. As a matter of fact, most “normal” people have a pretty good idea that survivalists are nuts at best or some kind of cowboys or savages at worst. Sadly, many survivalists feel the same way, and often see themselves outside of the society that a true survivalist should strive to preserve, even if only in a small way. Others really are savages, and can not wait to be released from the bonds of a collapsing civilization, so that they will be free to pillage, rob, rape, and ravage.

        The ideal, of the true survivalist, is first, to survive; but there is far more to it. Rats, roaches, and for that matter, most animals will survive the collapse of society, provided that it does not bring about some sort of nuclear war. Even a nuclear war, will have many survivors. Humans, too, will survive in large numbers. So it is not just survival; but preservation of that which makes us civilized men and women, something more than wild animals.

        Having said this, there is no reason to embrace collapse. Some people will do this, moving into a shack in the woods, buying guns and ammunition, stockpiling food, and then waiting. There is no need to do this, and no need to really compromise your lifestyle. The whole point of survivalism is to avoid having to make such compromises, and to retain control over how you live. So things can be started pretty easily.


Keeping a low profile

        Silence is golden, discretion is the better part of valor, still waters run deep – and all of that. If you are making preparation for disaster, you do not want to be too obvious about it, for a couple of reasons. For one thing, you do not want all of your friends and neighbors to think that you are a nut. Really, you don’t want to attract that attention of neighbors or law enforcement at all.

        Survival gear is expensive, and guns are beloved of criminals. Letting it be known that you have an arsenal, and thousands of dollars worth of survival gear is a good way to get yourself targeted for robbery. There is also a pretty good likelihood that all of your neighbors will think of you first, if there are ever food shortages. Having all of your household lights burning at night, during an extended power outage, thanks to your generator in the basement, is also the kind of thing that might draw unwanted attention. It is not so much that I am counseling a selfish attitude; but just one of reasonable caution. This is the same caution that will prevent a reasonable man from flashing a big wad of cash in a bar. We may be heading towards some desperate times, and desperation can push people into some pretty uncivilized behavior.

        You also do not want to go to jail. Many so called survivalists are not survivalist at all. Many are simply dissatisfied failures who welcome and eagerly anticipate the fall of the civilization that they have come to hate, and in which they do not function well. I have met lots of people like this at firearms, and military shows. many have a rather unrealistic, and unwholesome attitude towards firearms. They feel powerless, and imagine that firearms give them power. Still, this power is trivial, when set against the government, police and military. Thus, they believe that they will only be truly empowered when civilization falls. Compared to the true survivalist, who is a civilized man wishing to retain his civilized lifestyle, and perhaps preserve a bit of his culture, these pseudo survivalists are not civilized at all, nor are they really survivalists.

        Many of the so called survivalists end up on the wrong side of the law, because they like to pretend that civilization has already collapsed, or that they are somehow above it all. The most blatant thing that many do, is disobey gun laws. Many own and hide firearms in locations where firearms are not allowed, such as several of our larger cities. They can also be notorious for modifying weapons to fire in full auto mode, and producing silencers, sawed off shotguns, and many other types of illegal weapons. They do this, presumably, to make themselves more able to defend themselves, and thus safer; but it generally puts them in greater jeopardy, attracting the attention of law enforcement, and often getting some tossed into prison.

        It is easy to see how it can happen. You have tools, knowledge, maybe a small machine shop, and you know a bunch of other people, who are also anticipating the end of civilization. So maybe you run off a few illegal auto sears, a simple task, to sell or give to members of your group. Or perhaps you decide to cut down a rifle or shotgun, or maybe produce and store away some explosives. At one time, owning pure gold was illegal, and could get you thrown in prison. So it can sometimes be difficult, using common sense, to stay on the right side of the law.

        As I mentioned before, you do not want to go to jail. Prison today is a dangerous, uncivilized, unpleasant place, filled with people that you will not like, who will probably dislike you in return. Every day in prison is like walking down the worst street of the worst neighborhood in town. Assault, rape, and even death are common in prisons, medical care, not to mention food, is only fair, and the authorities are not there to protect you. Prison authority takes the form of the prison guard, who fears and dislikes prisoners, and sees them the way that a doctor views a disease, or a solder views the enemy – something to be dealt with, protected against, and neutralized.

        Prisons are overcrowded, dirty, dangerous places. Surprisingly, a study showed the death rate among prisoners was about 19% lower than that of the population at large, however, the numbers tell a different story, once you look at them closely. The average prisoner is young, only serves a few years, and more likely than not will be coming back. A man who goes in and out of prison, three or four times, and then ends up dying there, will statistically be one death out of three or four, rather than one out of one.

        In addition, statistics are skewed by the fact that many black and Hispanic youths, the majorities of the prison population, come from places with very high mortality rates. Unless you come from the heart of the ghetto, you are probably now in a far safer place than any prison. When corrected for age, and applied to prisoners serving longer sentences, you end up with 3 – 5 times the mortality of those outside. Prison is not a good place to be. Add to this the fact that the three to five to ten years you spend in prison could better be spent earning money, preparing a retreat, learning survival skills, and storing away food.

        In addition, your problems do not stop when you are released from prison. Most prisoners are paroled, which means you are still under supervision, and restriction. It also means that your parole officer can send you back. Even without the burden of parole, being a felon is like having an X carved into your forehead. Certain professions will be closed to you, as will employment at certain companies. You will not be allowed to own a gun, vote, or join the military. Banks will be more hesitant to loan you money, and many people will not trust you. The police will look at you a bit differently, and you will be judged much more harshly if you should ever get into further trouble.


Preparation for whatever

        The time to make preparations is now. Waiting for disaster or near disaster to occur will be far too late. As of right now factories and distribution systems are cranking out an amazing variety of goods, easily and cheaply available. Food is abundant, and available in a wide variety, and we have easy communication, and free travel. Knowledge is there for the taking. Most people are accommodating, decent, and civilized. Such will not be the case, in most disaster scenarios. The most mundane things will become worth their weight in gold, once the factories and distribution system have been disabled. People will be eating grass, books, shoes, pets, and possibly each other, once the food stops. So whatever you plan on having, get it now. Or would you rather be in the supermarket, on the eve of disaster, fighting with a half dozen other people for the last can of beans, or pack of batteries?

        Some common sense preparation can save you quite a bit of grief. As an example, are your teeth bothering you, or your feet, or maybe your stomach? Get these things taken car of now, while it is easy to do. If you have a bad tooth, or can't find a pair of eyeglasses, during disaster times, you will be in a world of trouble. Other common sense, day to day things are keeping some food in the house, keeping your vehicle fuel tanks full, and keeping staples, like shampoo, toothpaste, and soap around the house. Don't wait until you run out of things to replenish. In essence, don't leave things undone. Do them now, while they are easy, because in a disaster scenario, things will be difficult, or impossible. Picture the alleged survivalist, with a couple of dozen firearms, and thousands of rounds of ammunition, who has lost his only pair of glasses, and does not have any extra pairs, attempting to hunt for food, or hold off looters, while being unable to see to aim his guns. The classic case is the householder who has hundreds of cans of food, and no can opener.

        Disasters come in all shapes and sizes. With any luck, the worst disaster for which any of us will need to be prepared, will be the loss of a job, a bit of inflation, and perhaps the occasional power outage.


Local disaster (flood, tornado, hurricane, civil disturbance, earthquake. Etc.)

        This is by far the most common situation, and one which occurs pretty regularly. There are the rare huge disasters, like the situation in New Orleans; but every year we see reports of flood, tornado, and wildfire, affecting areas of the nation. In this type of situation, the outside world is intact, and able to offer help. Your credit cards will still work, food will be available, somewhere, and the disaster will be of relatively short term. In many cases, the best course of action is to just get out. Drive, if you can, and get out of the afflicted area. In some cases, you will be forced out, by local authorities.

        New Orleans was a pretty good harbinger of what to expect, during any type of disaster. Aid was too little, too late, lawlessness was rampant, martial law was declared and the government cracked down, confiscating firearms, and forcing people off of their property. Things also became quite local, with small town citizens and law enforcement banding together to keep outsiders away. Unprepared people were herded into camps, stadiums, and other locations, under strict control, and with little security.


Economic disaster

        The best preparation for this one is to be debt free, own your own home, have a relatively portable job, saleable skills, and perhaps have some gold/silver stored away. Preparation of this sort takes time, and resources, which may not be available to everyone. Still, partial preparation is better than none. As good stepping stones, we can all get our credit cards down, try to refinance with fixed rate mortgages, and pick up stores of  "junk" silver coins.

        This is not an uncommon situation, and is something that large, all encompassing governments tend to do to their subjects with a fair amount of regularity. This is entirely a man made (more accurately, government made) disaster. It is occurring today in Zimbabwe, Argentina, Brazil, and much of the rest of the Third World. It is also no stranger to the more established nations, with the most notorious occurrence being in Germany between the wars. It is no stranger to the United States, with the most well known example being The Great Depression. Economic disaster can take several different forms. The same preparation applies to all - get out of the economy.

         It is presently considered that we are in a recession. This is not uncommon, and is a natural part of the business cycle, though governments often strain against it with the usual result of making it worse. A recession is a lessening of GDP, or a slow down of the economy, depending on where you go to get your definition. The basic cause of a recession, is simple - people stop buying things. This can be caused by a number of factors. Inflation can cause a recession, by giving people less buying power, and making them a bit tighter with their money. Obviously, unemployment will have a similar effect. Regulation is notorious for making things cost more, and thus making them less desirable to the purchaser. Tax in creases do the same thing, giving the consumer less purchasing power. A glutted market, caused by overproduction, or competing imports, can also make people buy less, simply because they have everything they need.

        Recessions are sometimes considered to be market corrections, and are often referred to as such, in order to avoid using the R word. They are usually a normal part of the business cycle, and can be prepared for; but can not really be prevented, except by means which cause even more serious problems.

The end of civilization as we know it

        This is the one that the survivalists, nutcases, and armchair commandos are preparing for, and seem to be hoping for. The common perception of this scenario has us all going back to caveman status, or perhaps living like Mad Max in a post apocalyptic anarchy. It is not likely to play out this way, for several reasons. No matter what happens, a form of government will still exist. It will almost certainly be martial law, with limits on travel, which will only partially moderate large scale looting. This will be civilization of sorts; but firearms, a barter economy, crime and disorder, and a very heavy handed government will be the reality. 

Firearms, and emergency preparedness

        Anyone who has looked around this site, may think that firearms are a large part of my survival plan; but they are only one segment. My interest in firearms is as a hobby, and is separate from any emergency preparedness planning. Though they do have an important place in any emergency plans, if the worst would happen, most of my guns would be sold, traded, or abandoned. A few firearms will definitely be a basic requirement; but don't confuse a hobby, or collection, with survival preparation.


Cowboys and Indians

        Much of what today passes for survivalism is based upon a premise that our technological civilization will collapse, reducing us all to barbarism. This will very likely be true, initially, and in the large cities; but will not be true everywhere, and may not last very long. The larger metro areas in the world, are not capable of feeding themselves, or finding the fuels to keep themselves warm or provided with electricity. In many parts of the country, they get their water from far away places. They also tend to be where the lowest of the low settle. So any kind of large scale life in the cities will be impossible – at first.

        In any kind of disaster, the cities will go dark, and begin to starve. Self destruction will occur rapidly, without extreme intervention – which will be unlikely in a collapsing civilization. The last place anyone will want to be, is in a big city, particularly the more dangerous core areas. I suspect that this phase will not last long. Within a matter of weeks, or months at the most, the large cities will be largely abandoned or dead. Much of their populations will be dead or fled. It is difficult to predict how many will remain, or in what condition they will be living; but it will not be pretty. Eventually, the cities will rise again; but it could take decades, or even centuries, and will likely be done by the grandchildren and great grandchildren of those who survive. To many, the cities seem to have already collapsed, and are held together artificially, and by simple inertia.

        Cities are not required for civilization. For the first hundred and fifty years, or so, of American history, most of us did not live in cities. People lived on farms, or in small rural communities, or they wandered. We were then a restless, individualistic people, and were not comfortable, confined in cities. Maybe 3% - 5% of the country lived in cities, before the turn of the century.

        Going back 120 – 200 years ago, makes for some interesting parallels. This is the era of the cowboys and Indians. I picked this period of time, roughly the period starting with the exploration of the continent by Lewis and Clark, and ending with the end of the cowboy era, for two reasons. Firstly, it was the last chapter of the traditional, non high tech culture, before electrification, automation, the factory, and the invention of the automobile changed us beyond all recognition. Secondly, it was chosen because, as the last gasp of life off the modern grid, it is the most advanced era that we can emulate without the advances of our modern world. Houses were lit with candles or oil lamps, food was preserved by salting or smoking, horses were the main means of transportation and of working the fields, and electricity was mostly a curiosity, or unknown. Back in those days, things were built by the blacksmith, the artisan, or the carpenter.

        There was no grid, in those days. People built their own houses, farmed their own fields, made their own clothes, and even their own medicines, soaps, and the candles which lit their houses. In some cases, they made their own gunpowder, and even their own tools and devices, if the householder happened to be a blacksmith. Most were farmers, though many had some special skill, and were able to produce items for trade. recreation was the book, the story, or the playing of instruments and singing of songs. people lived their lives directly, rather than through the television.

        Despite living with what we might consider to be a low level of technology, this was not the primitive, barbaric world that we associate with the modern post apocalyptic era. We were a cultured, civilized, literate people, in many ways more so than today. Certainly, we did not then consider ourselves to be savages. Back in those days, men surveyed land, explored and mapped every continent, built great cities, and made many advances in science and engineering. The artisans and shops of the day produced precision instruments, like sextants and calipers, wove cloth, ground lenses for eyeglasses and telescopes, produced firearms, and printed a selection of books, daily papers, and journals.

Much of what we consider to be today’s fine literature was produced during this time, along with some of the greatest music ever written.

        Living at that level, the two things we would miss the most would be modern electronics, and modern medicine. These are the only things that can not really be created or replaced by 19th century technology.

There were also many glimmers of what would grow to become today’s modern technological world.



The internal combustion engine is a product of the 20th century; but even without it, the Industrial Revolution was started, which ushered in all that we are so used to these days. Steam power ran this world, as it indirectly runs today’s world. Today, the piston steam engine has largely been abandoned, to be replaced by the steam turbine; but piston steam power is still a viable option for the survivalist, and can do much to fill the gap left by the disappearance of the internal combustion engine.



        Preparedness is a normal and natural thing, a bit of common sense. The less secure people feel, the more they tend to embrace preparedness. Even in normal times, though, we all tend to set aside, perhaps saving money, making certain there is food in the house, and perhaps getting a fire extinguisher. During the height of the Cold war, a number of people dug or built fallout shelters, stocking them with food, and getting various radiation detectors. It is common for us to get vaccinations, in preparation for the latest bug. During times of active war, citizens might get themselves gas masks, shovels, flashlights, and maybe some black out material for the windows. People who live in tornado areas, probably have some food and a radio in the basement. Most of us have tool kits and spare tires in our cars.

        A few easy steps to take, which will make you much less vulnerable, are also a good idea while things are still organized. If you are not able to live smoothly and comfortably while things are still together, how can you expect life to go well during times of disaster? So at the beginning, are a few small steps that you can incorporate into your regular daily life, and which will actually enhance it, rather than placing burdens upon it. A die hard survivalist will make some changes and sacrifices in money, lifestyle, and time; but this need not be the case at first. You can be pretty well prepared for pretty much anything, by just doing a few simple things.


See to your health needs Get out of debt Stock a pantry Get a library
Develop some skills Get some tools Emergency Transportation Housing
The MRE      



        This is the planning for the stereotypical doomsday scenario. People who plan this way are preparing for long term, large scale disaster. Where most governments approve of, and even encourage preparedness, survivalism is looked down upon, if it is even tolerated at all. The reasons for the government hostility are pretty obvious. Survivalism anticipates the failure and eventual collapse of government itself. No government wants its citizens anticipating, or preparing for that. Where the goal of preparedness is to get through a disaster, so that you can return to normal life, survivalism is about making lifestyle changes, to see you through a major and permanant collapse. Much of what needs to be done is identical to the preparedness suggestions above. In some cases, things may need to be taken a step further, in others, there is a whole new set of preparations to be made. It is assumed that preparedness proceeds survivalism, and that the preparations above, which are simpler, less expensive, and easier, would be made before considering any of the drastic steps mentioned below.


Health and Medicine Barter Food Water
electricity communications computer firearms
Transportation Bugging out The Retreat  









A bike makes a great alternate form of transportation, or perhaps it should be considered as a primary form of transportation. Bikes use no gas, and thus permit fuel to be conserved for a possible panic move.

The 3 day disaster pack

The large bag

That car bag

A year of food

The survival household

I don’t mind where you come from, it’s where your coming from I can’t stand.

A farmer in Wyoming, or South Dakota may barely notice the collapse. Indeed, such people likely have barely noticed the amount of collapse which has already occurred, except for what they see on T.V.