The first chapter in my new book, Bug Out: The Complete Plan for Escaping a Catastrophic Disaster Before It's Too Late, is entitled THE FANTASY & THE REALITY OF LIVING OFF THE LAND. I started the book off with this chapter because I see a huge amount of debate and misinformation about the subject posted all around the Internet in various discussion forums, blogs and websites. Here's an excerpt from that chapter:
It took a long time for modern humans to progress from Stone Age hunter-gatherers to the creators of an artificial environment almost completely insulated and protected from the uncertainties of nature.
As a result, you cannot expect the transition in the other direction to be much easier. Knowledge has been lost, skills that are necessary to thrive in the wild are difficult to learn, and senses and instincts are dulled by lack of daily use in a world where survival of the fittest is no longer the rule.
Although many people today engage in outdoor pursuits like hunting, fishing, hiking, camping, and canoeing, they often do so with the help of expensive high-tech gear like satellite communication and navigation equipment, sophisticated ultra-lightweight stoves, freeze-dried foods, and clothing and shelter systems made of synthetic fabrics. Unfortunately, much of this equipment will eventually fail and may not be replaceable. This is not a problem in times of normalcy when resupplying or returning to civilization are viable options, but in a SHTF situation, you will far better served by cultivating skills and knowledge.
Our ancestors would be amused, to say the least, at the sight of a modern backpacker struggling along under the weight of a bulky pack almost as large as the bearer. They, like the few remaining bands of
aboriginal people still living in isolated groups today in places like the Amazon Basin and New Guinea, could get by with practically nothing but what could be found in their environment.
To approach the prospect of bugging out into the wilderness from a realistic perspective, you have to strike a balance somewhere between the naked native adept and the overburdened recreational outdoorsman when it comes to equipping yourself for survival. It’s also important to have realistic expectations about what life in the wild will be like, whether it is just for a few days or for a period of weeks or months.
I wrote this for the book because I did not want to mislead total newbies to the idea of outdoor survival that bugging out to the wild to live off the land after SHTF would be a picnic. It seems that people fall into two categories when discussing this topic - those with Rambo fantasies and no experience who think all they need is a knife and a pocket survival kit, and those who think the only way humans can survive is to have a stockpile of every meal they intend to eat for the next five years or beyond.
The truth, of course, is that humans are incredibly adaptable, which is how we got to where we are now in the first place. We can adapt to changing conditions, and while many individuals are unable or unwilling to do so, those who have the desire and the right attitude can and will be able to adjust to any living conditions ranging from modern comfort all the way back to primeval hand-to-mouth survival. Don't ever forget that in the span of human existence, the time of the modern Industrial Age is but a few moments compared to the millennia that our ancestors lived a wild or semi-wild existence adjusted to as needed by changing circumstances. If you think of this time-span in terms of the hours of a single day - our modern separation from nature began probably in the last hour before midnight - and during the previous 23 hours people lived as hunters and gatherers, subsistence farmers and nomadic herders before the invention of internal combustion engines and long-distance communication.
To suggest that it would be impossible for a modern human to survive in the wild or live off the land is absurd. Sure, it might be hard, as generations of easy living have dulled our senses and awareness and knowledge that was once taken for granted has been lost. But we have other advantages to make up for it, at least as long as they last - such as better cutting tools and hunting weapons, easy and portable ways to make fire, stay warm and dry, etc. And even stripped of these modern implements and materials to make them, we can certainly re-learn the time-tested skills of making our tools from what is found in our environment as our ancestors did, as many modern hobbyists and primitive skills enthusiasts do today. For all our sophistication, who knows if we are more intelligent than the "savages" we descended from, but there's certainly no reason to think we are any less so. If they could live on this planet using only simple resources easily obtained in nature - then at least a few of us can too.
This is a subject I've been interested in my entire life, going all the way back to when I was seven or so, setting out in the woods behind my parent's house to hunt squirrels with an old Benjamin pellet gun. I constantly thought about what it would be like to have to hunt to eat and how difficult or easy it would be. I've experimented with it extensively since those days, in all sorts of environments ranging from the woods and swamps where I grew up hunting in Mississippi to places like tropical seashores and reefs, the North Woods, desert, mountain and jungle habitats. Each environment has it's unique challenges, of course, and each environment also offers unique resources. Will there be enough of these resources to feed and shelter everyone pouring out of the cities in an attempt to bug out after a SHTF situation? Of course not. But how many of these people do you really think are going to try to bug out and take care of themselves in the first place? The answer is not very many. Modern civilized people have been conditioned NOT to think in terms of self-sufficiency. Instead, they will wait for someone else to come to their rescue, leaving the truly remote and difficult-to-reach uninhabited areas available to those of us who are willing to take our chances there.
If you have any doubts about your wilderness survival skills, now is the time to practice. Even if you didn't grow up hunting, fishing or foraging for wild edibles, it's never too late to start learning how. Do this long enough, and your confidence will greatly improve that you can take care of yourself and those dependent upon you if you are ever put to the test. Don't be like those who spend their days surfing the Internet for their survival information, echoing what others say by posting on forums about how it would be impossible to survive by bugging out because they personally couldn't do it. Find out for yourself and prove it by doing. And all this isn't to say you shouldn't have other preps and perhaps a "bug-in" survival retreat. There's nothing at all wrong with having more than one plan and back-ups as well - just try to be as ready as possible by being willing to adapt - and willing to stay or go as circumstances dictate.
I'll be posting a lot more on this topic, and I look forward to your comments and questions, and accounts of your own experiences in wilderness survival or living off the land if you have them.
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