I think it’s safe to say with some conviction that in the year of 2012 the concept of survival prepping is NOT an alien one to most Americans. When National Geographic decides there is a viable market for a prepper TV show (no matter how misrepresentative of true preppers it may be), when Walmart starts stocking shelves with long term emergency food storage kits, when survivalism in general becomes one of the few growing business markets in the midst of an otherwise disintegrating economy; you know that the methodology has gone “mainstream”. There is a noticeable and expanding concern amongst Americans that we are, indeed, on the verge of something new and unfortunate.
Is it the big bad hoodoo of the soon to expire Mayan Calendar? For a few, maybe, but for the majority of us, no. That jazz is a carnival sideshow designed to make the prepping culture appear ridiculous. We don’t need to believe in magical prophecies to know that there is a catastrophic road ahead; all we have to do is look at the stark realities of our current circumstances. It does not take much awareness anymore to notice looming fiscal volatility, social unrest, the potential for unrestrained war, and the totalitarian boldness of our government. I’ll take the wrath of Quetzalcoatl any day over the manure storm that is approaching us currently.
With some estimating a count of 3 million prepper families and growing in the U.S., the motto of “beans, bullets, and band-aids” is finding a home amongst legions. However, being closely involved in the survivalist movement during the past six years and speaking with literally thousands of preppers, it has become clear to me that we still have a long journey ahead of us before we can claim true efficiency and mastery.
Sadly, having a stockpile of food, weapons, and some slick tactical gear is not enough to ensure a high likelihood of survival, at least not in any of the social collapses that have occurred in the past century around the world. It’s a start, but only just…
There are a number of detrimental weakness to the survivalist movement and considerable holes in prepper knowledge that must be addressed now while we have the time and relative safety to do so. The greatest threat to the common survivalist is not economic collapse, roving bandits, Blackwater mercenaries, or predator drones; those dangers are a piece of cake compared to the threat of an overblown ego, which will get a man killed faster than the most sophisticated smart bomb. If we cannot accept that there is always more to learn, and room to improve, we have been defeated before we have begun.
The following is just a short list of the many areas in which there is obvious and acute inadequacy in the movement overall…
Secondary Retreat Locations
Never put all your eggs in one basket. I hear a lot of tough talk from some survivalists who claim they would rather die than leave their property. Of course, I suspect they will see the error in this brand of bravado when the legitimate chance of death actually arises. There is no harm whatsoever in having a backup plan. I’m not sure any survivalist who doesn’t is really a survivalist. Stand your ground when necessary, but don’t let pure pride and stupidity prevent you from living to fight again another day.
Physical Fitness And Health
You may be the Tom Berenger-like master sniper of your particular county, but if you can’t run a hundred yards with your rifle rig without going into coronary thrombosis, then you aren’t going to live long during a collapse scenario. Even those preppers who have age as an excuse…don’t really have an excuse. I personally know survivalists and homesteaders in their 60’s and 70’s who could physically outmatch numerous other preppers of the same age or younger without much effort. The difference? They make a concerted effort to take care of their health.
Sometimes certain wise-cracks made by the insipid yuppies of our modern era against suvivalists are true, and we should take serious note when this occurs. The primary insult being that many of us are far too fat to outrun or outfight a paper sack, let alone a determined opponent. I have, to be honest, seen chest beating antics from more than a few clinically obese “preppers” that were truly embarrassing. On the bright side, this does not have to be a permanent hindrance to our success.
The solution is simple: Eat less. Eat healthier. Exercise more.
A person who has attained a high level of physical fitness has done more than prove his prowess. He has also proven he has the will and the passion to pursue a directed goal and achieve it, regardless of difficulty. This is where the adults are separated from the children in this world. Are you willing to endure extreme difficulty to win something of legitimate value? Do you have the self discipline to forgo certain luxuries and comforts to gain long term advantages? Or, would you rather take the path of least resistance and certain doom? Personal health is no joke for the survivalist.
Community Building And Networking
Organization is not the strongest suit of the survivalist movement for a number of reasons. The first being that our paranoia completely impedes our ability to work with others. Now, to be clear, it is not paranoia if they are really out to get you, and with multiple leaked documents like the MIAC Report, the Virginia Fusion Center Report, and the DHS reports on “right wing extremism”, it is not as if our concerns are unfounded. However, the movement needs to realize that the primary object of labeling us as “extremists” and categorizing us as potential threats to national security is to create crippling fear. Their main goal is to condition preppers to censor themselves, and to stifle their own organizational efforts.
Solid community, even open formation of community, is necessary for countless reasons. The more we isolate ourselves from one another now, the more alone and vulnerable we will be tomorrow. Calls for “OPSEC” should be embraced to a point, but they can also become an excuse for laziness and inaction. No prepper who goes it alone during crisis is going to come out unscathed, if they come out alive at all. This is the great forgotten lesson of survival, from the Depression and Weimar Germany, to Argentina and Bosnia; those persons and families who were isolated simply did not make it. The wide spectrum of skill sets and supplies needed to establish a survival foundation are far too many for any single prepper to attain.
The logical fallacy that usually prevents survival networking is the argument that if you are a bigger group, you are a bigger target. This thinking shows a lack of prioritization. During a social or economic collapse, EVERYONE is a target. National chaos does not make distinctions between those who never shared their survivalist tendencies and those who did. The DHS might, but they are not the biggest threat to the common prepper. The most dangerous environment for the prepper, no matter what the circumstances may be, is one in which he has no support.
If you do not have ample neighbors and friends on board with the prepper lifestyle, and who can be counted on in an emergency, then you are not ready, nor are your chances very good. Period.
Barter Markets And Trade Skills
At Alt-Market we relentlessly promote the idea of decentralized trade markets because, to be frank, they are going to spring up one day soon whether the IRS, the DOJ, or the Federal Reserve likes it or not. The crisis in the EU has proven my position on the inevitability of the barter dynamic conclusively. These private trade networks are becoming the new foundation for countries like Greece, Italy, and Spain, and it should be noted that the financial instabilities in America far outweigh any of the problem in those places. If we know that economic danger is on the horizon, and we know that barter markets will be the immediate result, then why not build them now, instead of waiting and scrambling after disaster strikes?
Any survivalist that does not know who he will be trading for essential supplies, and who does not know what skills he will use to garner those supplies, is in for a world of hurt.
Overlooked But Vital Items
There is a saying in the survival movement: You’re never done prepping. I absolutely agree. Unless you are a millionaire with a highly organized brain, there will always be some other piece of equipment that you’ll discover you need down the line. That said, there are some things every prepper should have, but many, from my observations, do not. I have also heard every excuse imaginable and some unimaginable when such people are presented with the recommendation that they obtain these items, lack of money being the usual suspect.
Yes, many of us are broke, or feel broke, these days Invariably, though, when most survivalists examine their financial situation carefully, they will discover a host of peripheral expenses that are unnecessary or outright extravagant. I once had a would-be survivalist make the argument that he could not afford a year’s supply of food, then admit that he had just went on a Carnival Cruise to the Caribbean. This is an extreme example, but it illustrates a common hang up. Now is not the time for people to live beyond their means, or to shrug off their preps so that they can have a new La-Z-Boy, cable TV, an internet gaming account, a high priced vacation, a six day a week stockpile of beer (hey, cut back a day, guys! Try it out and see how it fits) etc. Times are changing, and they will definitely change without us if we are not careful.
There is always a way to get the preps you need, if you are motivated enough to make it happen. Here are a few items that seem to escape from people’s lists:
Extra Survival Clothing: Clothing is a real pain for a lot of survivalists because it is one prep that they must absolutely purchase doubles and triples of. Good durable shoes, pants, even socks, can get expensive. Base layer clothing like Smart Wool sometimes costs in the range of $100 or more for a single set. Take the pain, bite the bullet, and get the absolute best clothing you can find in multiples. It may have to last you quite a long time without replacement, especially the artificial fabrics. Imagine having to wear the same vapor producing sweat drenched crusty duds day in and day out while sharing a retreat location with some less than amused buddies. They may end up coming after you before the looters do.
Body Armor: This stuff is going to be at a premium in the near future. I have already seen price spikes in good body armor in the days after the Aurora Theater shootings. Why? Because the fear is that the establishment will move to try to ban said gear in response, causing a rush to purchase. That fear is not misplaced. Plus, I would imagine a bullet to the gut, whether accidental or intentional, is not an event to celebrate with a rootbeer float. Believe it or not, body armor rigs that include rifle plates are extremely sparse amongst preppers right now, and this simply can’t continue.
Gas Masks And Filters: Not long ago I wrote about the revolutions and rebellions that took place in Russia after the formation of the Soviet Union against the abuses of communism. At that time, the more successful the rebellion, the more apt the Soviets were to dump chemical weapons over entire towns, mountains, and valleys, to erase the problem. Never expect that a tyrannical government is going to fight fair. In fact, expect that they won’t. Even if you don’t foresee such an event taking place in the U.S., it is imperative that every person owns not just a gas mask, but extra filters as well. Plan on dealing with multiple incidences in which your air will be unsafe to breath.
NBC Alert Items: How many preppers do you know with a Geiger Counter? I know three, out of the hundreds I speak with regularly. This is not a good sign. If the Fukushima disaster has taught us anything, it is that radiological threats are not just relegated to the realm of nuclear bombs. Every community should have several Geiger Counter devices handy, along with chemical warfare strips which change color when exposed to an offending airborne agent. Remember the panic buying that ensued in Japan for these kinds of goods after the reactor meltdown? Don’t overlook radioactivity. Knowing what has been hit by concentrated fallout and what hasn’t is a tremendous advantage.
Thermal Countermeasures: A box of road flares, IR flashlights, and IR floodlights, should be in every survivalists home. With the advent of predator drones armed with night vision and thermal vision, as well as numerous other nasty weapons platforms, the need for countermeasures that create false thermal signatures to confuse an attacker with this kind of technology is a must.
Extra First Aid Supplies: During a collapse, you become the hospital, and no amount of Obamacare is going to help you. Almost every prepper has a first aid kit, but few have one that will really last through a prolonged crisis. Collapse brings with it all kinds of injuries and sicknesses we never think of facing in our current atmosphere, with more frequency than I believe many would like to admit possible. A sterile bandage may be as sought after and as rare as a warm shower in the near future, so stock an ample supply.
Solar Panels: I am astonished at how many preppers still do not have any solar power capability today. It’s FREE off grid power, for god’s sake! Pay the initial costs, and at at least buy a system that is capable of charging and running batteries and essential electronics that will aid you in your survival.
Greenhouse: When discussing the idea of relocation, I sometimes hear the assertion that places like Montana are terrible for growing food (usually from people who have never lived in Montana). In fact, a survival garden could be grown almost anywhere, regardless of region or climate, if you use the right methods. One of the best methods is the use of a greenhouse, which many preppers do not have. Set aside your preconceptions of what gardening is, and do what works. Even in winter, some plants can be grown in a greenhouse environment to provide you and your family with precious vitamin rich food. Just build it.
Raw Building Materials: Do you have a stockpile of lumber and nails? What about raw iron and steel? Sealants to repel pests and maintain your home? Bags of concrete to reinforce a new addition? Think about how much you will need to build after the final shoe drops. Probably a lot more than you have ever built in your life…
No Room For Error
Time is running short, and if we are to succeed as a movement, we must be ready to hold a candle to ourselves, admit where we are lacking, and fix the problem while we have the luxury to do so. Ultimately, the most important and most ignored aspect of prepping is our own mindset. Do we have the correct sense of urgency, and are we acting on it? Have we prepared ourselves psychologically for the difficulties ahead? Are we ready to make sacrifices for survival and victory? Will we have what it takes at our core to see this thing through? At this very moment, many do not. But, they have the potential to rise to the occasion. The decision is theirs to make…
You can contact Brandon Smith at: firstname.lastname@example.org
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