I have received an email from a reader of this blog, who will be referred to as Michelle moving forward, and decided to post it here to share with everybody. Everybody has a unique/different situation when it comes to prepping, as you will see in Michelle’s email:
“I ran across your blog site and found it VERY helpful. I’ve recently taken up prepping and have been reading every book I can get my hands on. Because I have a family with 2 small kids and 2 big dogs, I’m having a hard time with the BOB and walking to a retreat location. I have BOB for each family member, appropriately sized for the little ones, but I just can’t see them walking very far. Is it absolutely crazy to have a vehicle as our only way out? I also can’t fathom them ‘surviving off the land’ for any extended amount of time. Also, because we live in a suburb of (deleted for security reasons), I am having a hard time trying to locate a retreat location. We have 2 separate family member locations, one 40 miles away, one 500 miles away, but they are in suburbs too. We are not in a financial position to purchase a real “retreat property” so what do you suggest we look into? Do we leave the dogs to fend for themselves in a yellow or red event? What type of bug out vehicle do you recommend?”
Michelle is correct that without having a good retreat location to fall back on that ‘living off the land’ for any extended amount of time is not going to go well. Sure, being a survivalist such as Les Stroud and Bear Grylls is a wonderful thing, but those guys teach you how to survive short term until you are rescued when stranded out in the wilds. Michelle knows that trying to live like that for an extended period of time is not going to be enough. Having a retreat location where you hopefully have some shelter, water, and some food stored away that is off the beaten track will go a long way towards helping any prepper not just to survive but hopefully allow them to be able to thrive in a world of a yellow or red event.
Now, not having a good retreat location can be a problem depending on the type of event you are facing. A green event is probably not going to be a problem where you need a retreat location, but then again it may be easier on your life and that of your family to still leave home for a while. Depending on the type of yellow event; perhaps a tornado, earthquake, massive flood, or thermal nuclear terrorist event to name a few possibilities that affect only your immediate area, you may be able to go live with extended family 500 miles away for a few months. A red event is truly the worse case scenario, and more than likely it is going to involve something on a grand scale that not only affects the country but could affect the world certain to involve a total collapse of society. Cities are going to be something to avoid, and the suburbs I would expect to be overrun with looting and scavengers as people flee the cities. Having a good retreat location is going to help any prepper survive that normally lives near or around a city.
So what can a prepper do if they do not have the means for a secluded hobby farm, hunting cabin, or even just a second piece of vacant property out in the middle of nowhere away from channelized areas? My first suggestion is to possibly try and meet like minded people with the prepper mentality. There is certainly better security to be found with good people and forming a ‘prepper group’. Perhaps somebody in the group has a retreat location that everybody can use. It may mean helping out with chores around the property to help keep it at a ‘ready’ state. It may mean helping secure provisions and cross training skills with the rest of the group. Maybe it even means helping pay taxes or insurance on the property. The key thing to remember is to be very selective any such group you may look to join or form on your own. Make sure you are 100% comfortable with the people and your interactions before getting involved too fast.
Another suggestion is to find a remote campground run by private ‘mom and pop’ owners. These campgrounds tend to be off the beaten path, so to speak, and are more than likely used by ‘regulars’ throughout the year. Avoid the larger campgrounds like State Parks and KOA campgrounds, as these are at the foremost of people’s minds and are more commonly known and thought of, and are more than likely to be flooded with refugees from nearby cities and suburbs. Possibly get familiar with a couple smaller campgrounds and find one that is a good fit for you and the family by going there to camp a few times or more a year, preferably one that has good pit toilets already in place and has water sources close at hand. Get to know the people in the community around the campground. You can be sure that other people will show up at a campground during a yellow or red event. But the odds that the people that do show up are going to be people who are regulars at the campground, and there will possibly already be a sense of community at such a location. Now, if deciding to use a small remote campground as a retreat, the key to survival will be learning a variety of camping skills, having extra camping gear that is made of good quality materials and possibly even having extra backups of things like tents and clothing. You also want to be able to organize with the other people who show up at the campground. Organization means getting the group of campers together to work towards the greater good of the larger group by forming a solid community. That means taking care of sanitation requirements, managing water sources, finding food either by hunting, foraging or maybe battering with nearby farms, growing food, and generally the sharing of some resources. As for growing food, it would be a good idea to have a wide variety of seed bank seeds available, not only to meet your family’s needs, but also extra to help provide for the larger needs of a entire campground.
The one large and negative reason why retreating to a campground is if the event that is forcing you away from the city is a pandemic. In the case of a pandemic you will want to try and limit the amount of contact you have with people until the pandemic burns itself out, which could take 90 to 120 days during the first outbreak. By limiting contact with people outside your family or prepping unit, you will also want to keep anybody you come across at least several yards away from you just in case they are carrying whatever pandemic bug is out there. Of course, limiting yourself and your group from people would be hard to do if retreating to a campground where there are certainly going to be other people.
Finding a good retreat location is one thing, getting there during the onset of a yellow or red event is something else. My preferred method, and Michelle’s as seen in her email, is to be able to load up the family and drive there. Being able to drive to your retreat means being able to carry more supplies that will help you to survive, it also means you will be able to get to your retreat faster than walking and get away from a potential dangerous city or suburb faster. Many die hard preppers prefer to find older make and model diesel vehicles to use as their primary vehicle to G.O.O.D., preferably something that is going to be able to take more rugged terrain if necessary. The reason for this is that older vehicles from the pre 1980s have less internal electronics that help run the engine and are thus easier to work on if they break down without having to hook them up to a diagnostic computer. Diesel is the preferred fuel in prepper vehicles because it can sit longer and lasts longer than unleaded gasoline even if the unleaded gasoline is treated for storage. Of course the storage life of both unleaded and diesel depends on things like temperature and humidity, but the experts tend to say that unleaded will last as long as six to twelve months and still be good to use in an engine, while diesel is said to last twice as long.
My personal G.O.O.D. vehicle is a 2011 four-wheel drive SUV that runs on unleaded. I don’t let the tank of gas in my vehicle go below half, which is not always easy to keep up with. I also keep three ten gallon plastic gas cans on hand in my shed just in case. Just in case means that they are there for running my generator at my house in case of a green event, or for loading up in my trailer when or if my family needs to leave town for a yellow or red event, or possibly even for barter. The gas in the storage cans gets swapped out through my vehicle about every three months. When I buy new gasoline for the cans I put a little fuel stabilizer in them just in case, also.
Worse case scenario is that I can’t use my vehicle to G.O.O.D. and have to walk. Or, I get halfway to my retreat location and am forced to leave my vehicle and go on foot. Either one of those situations is not ideal for me, as it will require that my family take only our BOBs and leave a lot of extra gear in the vehicle that we cannot carry. That scenario is certainly a possibility, and one that has to be planned for, and that is why each member of my family and as a whole my prepper group has a lot of practical items in our BOBs that will help us sustain ourselves long enough to reach our retreat location. BOBs are not meant to sustain you for more than a few days.
My suggestion to Michelle and her dealing with her small children is to try and make the best of it and use every resource you have available to haul as much gear as you can. Children, especially younger children are going to be hard pressed to carry much of anything. In her email Michelle says she has two big dogs. Dogs can be used to carry gear just like a pack animal would. You can make yourself or buy gear-packs for dogs so that they can haul/carry things for you. Be sure to research the breeds you have and make sure that you are aware of their physical limits before rushing out and planning the load of gear you want them to carry. My household has a small dog that weighs only about fifteen pounds. He can’t carry much, but he does have a little pack so that he can carry his own three to four days worth of dried dog food. Dogs are also great to have along in case of a bug-out situation if they have had some good training. As well as possibly being able to carry some gear, they can also be great lookouts and keep you alerted when you need to stop and rest or sleep at night.