Sunday, October 29, 2023

Prepping myths

Sigh. It happened again. I clicked on an article that sounded interesting (in this case, "Six Prepping Skills You Have to Practice to Truly Learn") and instead find it's full of prepping myths.

In this case, the six skills in question are:

• Fire starting

• Outdoor cooking

• Navigation

• Tying knots

• Using Preparedness Communication Tools Such as Ham Radios

• Building shelters

It's not that there's anything inherently wrong with any of these skills. However the underlying assumption is these are some of the skills you'll need when you've bugged out of the city and into the woods ... and that's where my pet peeve comes in.

I can't even begin to emphasize how stupid this whole "bugging out to the woods" mythology is. In my opinion, it is criminally misleading to make people think all they need is a backpack full of clever items and skills such as fire-starting and building shelters, and they'll be able to live happily ever after if the bleep hits the fan.

Who owns "the woods"? East of the Mississippi, most of "the woods" are under private ownership, and I can't imagine anyone will welcome your presence. West of the Mississippi, there are thousands of square miles of "woods" where you can disappear to your heart's content – for as long as it takes before you starve to death or die from exposure. I don't care how many campfires you know how to make or shelters you know how to build, you'll only last as long as the food in your backpack. After that, you'll either have to crawl back to civilization or die.

All this chatter of escaping to "the woods" never seems to address one logical question: What will you do once you're there? What will you do in the woods? Build a cabin? Live there forever? What?

Spare me the notion that you'll live off the land, because you won't. That's just a fantasy. A few years ago, I interviewed (by email) a bushcraft expert named Britt Ahart. If anyone can survive in "the woods," it's this man – and he had years of training to pull it off successfully. The rest of us ... not so much. (Read this to understand why.)

If I was going to recommend prepping skills to practice before you need them, my list would include:

• Gardening

• Cooking from scratch

• Food preservation

• Marksmanship

• Hunting

• Water purifcation

I'm sure you can add to this list.

Please, folks, if you're interested in prepping, skip the myths and get down to brass tacks. You're not going to be bugging out to "the woods" wiith your toddlers, elderly parents, and assorted pets. Put your time, effort, skills, and money into something realistic.


  1. You are so right, I have a couple of examples to add. I know this man, who is about 6'4 and has the muscle to back it up. I once mentioned to him about the SHTF moment and he quite confidently told me that he knows how to hunt and he would simply go out with his back pack and hunt for survival out in the woods. I just said hmm. This is in Idaho and I know you know about the cold. All I could think of (being a major clutz in life) what would happen with a sprained ankle or a laceration?
    Next up my neighbor. He is very overweight has to take a mountain of meds and his wife also has to take a bunch of meds and his elderly mother in law has moved in, he watches a show called Mountain Men (I have only seen trailers) so I guess he thinks this is what he needs to know. He asked me once, very seriously what was my plan for when the SHTF moment, I told him I was already in my bug out location, I was staying put. I live in a rural area. He said, and I could not believe this, that he had a plan that he would go in his 5th wheel and go out into the mountain for safety and he knew which roads to take. Now, since I live here and am quite familiar with the logging roads around us there is nothing much smaller that he could go on due to the size of his vehicle. I am guessing so would everybody else that know the roads. I just nodded.
    All those skills you listed are very good to learn for going camping and it is good to know how to take care of yourself. But seriously, "I will hunker down in the woods till it is over?" With who, the rest of the city?
    If my neighbor did leave, guess who will simply take over his property in his away time, squatters would be my guess. People need to take unintended consequences 101 to make thoughtful decisions. I myself have been practicing gardening, canning and I have chickens for eggs. I have stocked up and I hope we make it. All I can do is the best I can do. Moving out here was the most practical.

    1. "Unintended Consequences 101" should be taught in every high school or at the very least, the family dinner table.

    2. I watch MountainMen, too and cannot imagine doing what TomOrr does! He and his wife are the reason I watch the show and am always amazed at their knowledge and skills. As for using viewing MountainMen as a survival guide when TSHTF, I wouldn't last an hour!

  2. "Criminally misleading" more like criminally insane! Don't forget how people believe they are going to walk 50 miles a day as well. The simple truth is that there is a name for someone who bugs out. They are called a refugee.

  3. I read an article about how people destroyed the resources in the woods by hunting animals until it took 30 or so years for the animal population to recover from the stripping of woods of animals.
    We are lucky as we know we will not be trying to bug out anywhere! We know we would die in the woods due to lack of physical abilities. We can start a fire, can't build a proper shelter. We stay here.

  4. I think there are a lot of new people trying to establish stay at home gigs to make $ from home posting videos and writing articles. It's not just "survival" skills they're writing about. They're also writing stuff like "Stockpile these 5, 10, or 20 things before next week !" Or some future date. Or "Water Barh Can Everything!" Sometimes I click on such nonsense then pause to read comments or how many subscribers there are. Generally few. And comments yield their lists which are probably for food, water, heat, light, and so forth.
    I think many of these people are very young and haven't been on their own long enough to live through a bunch of storms, which school everyone on prepping for various disasters.

    Another scenario is that there are people writing and posting videos that want to create panic, confusion, and misdirects. There are people out there who enjoy creating problems for whatever twisted reason.
    It's best to just ignore them.
    All my life I've had to do lists. It's not a new thing. And most of my lists usually wind up having stuff rolled over onto other lists. Maybe something wasn't at the grocery store, or whatever. The point is, we're all busy. Too busy to get it all done at once and that's just life.
    There is an urgency going on and it's OK to heed that inner little voice saying something like, " there's been a drought going on for months. Maybe storing more water or storing it better would be a good idea ". Whatever that little inner voice is saying, stay busy and heed that, not endless articles and videos.
    No need to panic. Patrice and Don haven't gotten their chickens and cows yet. They're sticking to their lists and plans! That's all level headed people can do.

  5. It’s for this very reason that we bugged out permanently in 2015 but we don’t “live off the land” as we’ve a warm home, plenty of fire wood, huge now successful garden. Good neighbors that are all heavily armed, in a very rural area east of the Mississippi.

  6. I can't agree with you more. A good book to read is One Second After...also LIght's out. Just how do these people think they are going to get anywhere?
    We live in a hurricane center of action. Big Time. The roads are so clogged with routine evacuations that people can't get anywhere. Sometimes, accidents, road blocked, and NO fuel.
    I'm retired LEO. Where I now live (an island) everyone who stayed (lots of us) were open carrying after Ian. If looters were shot, they never found those bodies. Crabs have to eat, too. So, unless a person is set up to go to war with a well armed public, they'd best make other plans. They won't be coming here!

    1. This is me "replying" to my own post. Just today on a major SHTF website the guy is blathering on about bugging out to the back woods. We have been 500 miles north of the Arctic circle and not been alone. Just WHERE do these people think they are going. Remember all the people trying to escape Covid in RVs? Every park of every kind is jammed. Even where we used to winter camp in Michigan's UP is now nearly full in -30 below zero.

      3 of our friends today brought up that they are headed out to get ARs this week. These are people who know what they are doing.

      There is nothing people can do if the Jack booted thugs from government show up. That's what happened to the decent Germans in WWII.

      What we are all preparing for is the outsiders who think they are coming here to be survivalists in our"neighborhoods." I mentioned above what the roads are like in a ROUTINE hurricane evacuation.
      So, this guy today is still preaching this bug out and be a Jeramiah Johnson type. Not going to happen and they will all die one way or the other.
      When panic & fear sets in, rational thought goes out the window.
      Your posting may help sensible people. I hope so.
      I know that millions will die in cities. I also know that those who have prepared will not easily allow anyone who didn't prepare to take our stuff..

      When I was on the PD I told my troops "Failure to plan on your part does not constitute an emergency on my part."
      I pray that people figure out that bugging IN is the safe way for most. TV and movies are fiction.
      Thank you for promoting good sense.

  7. Not to mention all the other people that will be bugging out at the same time. So we have hundreds of people all marching off to the woods and trying to find that same safe hidey spot at the same time. Should be interesting.

  8. Yes, this exactly. My husband and I were discussing this the other day. We're both approaching 60 and laughed at the thought of ourselves bugging out. We're definitely bugging in. :-)

  9. Yes if you live in the country then bugging in and gardening etc. is a great idea. But most people live in cities and most cities will not be safe with out the rule of law. That is the assumption behind bugging out. As a long term strategy yes you are correct again you won't survive in the woods there simply isn't enough available nutritious food. But most proponents of bugging out acknowledge that and point out that you need to survive for 3 days maybe to get someplace safe or for a few weeks if it takes that long to get somewhere or for perhaps 4-6 weeks to get past the worst of the emergency phase of whatever it was that required leaving your home and possessions behind. Bugging in when you live back in the pines and far from a city makes perfect sense and gives you a position to criticize bugging out. Now try it in St Louis after SHTF. Or anyone of 200-400 other American cities that will become killing fields.

    The big fear is nuclear war. All of the studies have determined that in a nuclear war 25% or so of Americans will die in the first 72 hours. 50% in the first two weeks. Most of the rest within a year. Those numbers include people living on five acres with pantries full of food and gardens. Even bugging in will be a death sentence. Right now we are closer to nuclear war that we have even been and that includes 1962 during the Cuban missile crisis. I challenge you or anyone to come up with the correct solution for those hundreds of millions of Americans who live in cities if that happens...

    1. If nuclear war or terrorist attacks occur it'll probably be within a year. Unless God works more miracles. Who would have thought change of speaker would go unanimously to such a strong, principled man most Americans had never heard of.
      We need to keep praying.
      If the #3 person in line to lead our country was brought forth from chaos, He can work through the rest of this mess too to bring us through.

  10. unintended consequences senerio 101....
    you have successfully bugged out to the woods. you have your woodsman shelter set up and are prepared to ride it out safely in the woods for as long as it takes.
    a small group of bubbas a mile or so away, whos sole prepping supply is more beer, decide the bon fire should be bigger. in a few minutes, the woods are blazing.
    do you stay or do you go??? if you go, where are you going??? if you stay, how are you going to deal with the fire??? how are you going to survive in a woods that has been burned to the ground by a few idiots??

  11. If you have watched all of Dave Canterbury's videos you will understand he is about self sufficiency and woodcraft. Not about the end of the world as we know it and Armagedón. He is a down to earth practical person who loves the outdoors and learning how to live in it. A lot of those who create video on Youtube are quite similar, not the wild eyed "survivalists" they get labeled as. And a lot of the followers are pretty much the same. Yes there are some survivalists and there is an absolute recognition that history is quite likely to repeat itself and knowledge and preparations will be necessary to survive. But that is how it should be. I don't wear a seatbelt because I'm looking for an accident I wear it because I know an accident is possible and I want to prepare to survive it.

    I don't want to bug out. My home is where my food and essential tools and necessities are and I couldn't carry 1% of that if I had to bug out. But, there are cases where I must bug out; wild fires, civil unrest, natural disaster, war, martial law, etc. If I have to bug out and seconds/minutes count why wouldn't I want to be prepared? Why wouldn't I want to learn how to survive before I am forced to survive? I am not naive, I know the risks, the futility, the incredible difficulty of living off the land. Don't be fooled by my joking or positive attitude I know the problems.

    To everyone whose only plan is to bug in what are you prepared to do when that is impossible?

    1. Ironically I just wrote an article for Backwoods Home Magazine (not published yet) in which I distinguish between the silly "bugging out to the woods" bug-out bags, and the practical bug-out bags necessary to evacuate before a natural disaster such as a wildfire. Bottom line, you won't be camping in the woods if you're fleeing a wildfire, so the necessity of kindling a campfire or building a wilderness shelter are virtually nil. Instead, a bug-out bag should contain any portable things you would be devastated to lose, as well as documents to help you get back on your feet and deal with banks, insurance agencies, and other bureaucratic necessities. It should also contain personal clothing and sanitation items to allow you some measure of comfort and dignity for a few days.

      - Patrice

  12. Always some great ideas pop up in these comments! We left the big metro area in 2019 and found a bit of land where we are out of the city and away from the thugs and brigands. If you can move to a Red State, do so! We have a prepper pantry with long-term food storage, a garden, private water supply and good visibility. What I had thought important before has changed a bit now that we are pretty much "settled in."
    --water storage
    --food storage
    --firewood on hand
    --propane on hand, + alternate cooking methods
    --garden supplies, seeds, tools, fertilizer, etc
    --preserving equipment and storage

    Skills to learn would not be "knot tying", but sewing and darning and patching to make clothes functional as they wear out. How to perform necessary repairs to the homestead like electrical, plumbing, siding, windows and roofs rather than building a survival shelter with fir boughs! A big "YES!" vote for scratch cooking! And as far as water purification goes (also a big "YES!" vote) people should consider sewage disposal if the water is off or the grid is down. Know how to dig a basic latrine somewhere in your yard and screen it for privacy. This allows "nature" to take care of the S when the S hits the fan! Some say to have lots of heavy duty plastic garbage bags to contain all that stuff, and THEN WHAT!!?

    Reading FERFAL from "Surviving in Argentina" made a lot of sense to me. Life for him continued on but crime and shortages and financial instability were his big problems--reading a compass in the woods was not. He suggested having "junk" silver coins and gold neck chains for trade and barter when you need to make a deal. Local markets popped up when the economic crisis hit and those folks having valuable skills--car repair, sewing, baking bread--could trade for the other things they needed.

    I am glad Patrice started this post. I followed all the links. But always remember, that God will see us through the chaos. Trust in Him and stay safe.


  13. I've just read this article as I read the one mentioned a few days ago. Sorry if I sound like a d*ck but there is sooo many women that post articles here for some reason and each person's outlook and experience will be different. I myself have laughed at many articles posted here and got annoyed with many more because it seems to me that every author is trying to dismiss many aspects of some good info.

    I feel I am an intermediate level bushcraft practitioner and have experienced the great outdoors for 50 years which is most of my life. Some "myths" are certainly mind-boggling in their lack of practicality and others are sound and rational. If you already live in a rural setting it's not too difficult to find federal or up here we call it crown land that will do for a few days while you practice some skills and WATCH what the forest is doing around you. You don't have to trespass to enjoy time in the bush just figure out where you can go, you can even just pay to camp in a remote part of the state or provincial park.

    I have a few stark realities of my own to share if I may-
    1. Bugging in anywhere will certainly bring bad and desperate folks to your door and the end result will be bad for you. Warlords, sure they usually always form when there is no law and order and they will need a few extra forced labourers from your house.

    2. When bugging out, hunting for survival is an option that is well down the list of food acquisition in the woods as fishing, trapping, foraging, and even growing your own veggies like you do in your backyard are easier options for those that are experienced bushcraft vets.

    3. If you have children or elderly parents it's pretty OBVIOUS to anyone that bugging out is not an option, you'll just have to take your chances pooling resources with the dimwits living in your neighbourhood or immediate locale if you're in the country. Cross your fingers that someone doesn't shoot his foot off or decide he/she wants to be the boss of everyone before the bad guys come in to your area. Bugging out is only for one or two like-minded individuals with some commitment AND common sense.

    4. Finally, it's a great idea to have a cache of valuable critical supplies and foodstuffs stashed somewhere handy BEFORE you find that the Shid has Hit The Fan and use your wits, opsec and people skills to trade what you have for things you run out of. Always keep fit, keep hidden and have your head on a swivel to keep from making any mistakes that will end your time on this earth.

  14. There have been a couple or "reality" TV shows on preppers and a few documentaries too. The TV shows were comedies, not serious, intended to demean and ridicule, and the documentaries were most left wing propaganda. Much of it reflects the media's dislike of Americans and politicians dislike of anyone who wants to exist without them controlling their lives. They laughed at Noah too.

    If you do not plan than you plan to fail. I have been in a massive fire, destroyed hundreds of homes and displaced thousands of people. It went from "oh look a fire" to "get out, get the kids and get out" in no time. I have been through hurricanes, tornadoes, floods, snow storms so massive nothing moved for days. I believe in planning and being prepared. I am not crazy, don't have a tin foil hat, I know that nothing is certain in this world and people with life jackets sometimes drown too. But I also know that being unprepared when disaster strikes is world changing. I don't want to let my family down. I would not want to see my children and grandchildren suffer and maybe die because I laughed at others who prepared and therefore couldn't get past my bias and prepare for my own family. Make your own choices and live with the consequences.