Monday, August 30, 2010

Interview on Modern Survival Online

I recently did interview answering questions about Bug Out and related topics for Rourke at  I like these interviews with other survival writers because the questions sometimes put a different angle on topics that I've discussed here and in my book, leading to answers that may cover something I've over-looked before.  You can read the full interview along with Rourke's comments on his latest post today, but I'm also publishing the questions and answers for my readers here:

  • Rourke: What do you think is the biggest myth associated with “bugging out”?
During the course of researching and writing my book I spent a lot of time on various survival forums, blogs and websites to get a feel for the survivalist/prepper community and see what others were doing and how they approach the subject.  I was surprised, to be honest, at how negative most of the discussions and articles were on the viability of bugging out as a survival strategy.  Although the term “bugging out” may be relatively new in common usage, people have been forced to flee their enemies and seek refuge in the countryside or the wilderness for as long as there has been any semblance of civilization.  In many cases it has come down to getting out fast or staying behind and dying.

There’s a difference in becoming a refuge at the mercy of everyone you encounter and having the skills, equipment and advance plans already worked out as to how and where you will bug out.  Bugging out is not the answer for every situation, but to answer the question, I think this is the biggest myth – that you can’t do it and that you can’t survive in the wilderness.  I am always amazed by those who say that a well-prepared and experienced person cannot survive on the land.  I know plenty who can, and they don’t even consider themselves to be survivalists in any shape or form.  Keep in mind that this does not always imply TEOTWAWKI, and in most cases you won’t have to live off the land for extended periods of time.  It’s just that knowing how to travel and live in the wild opens up a lot of options that you otherwise would not have, and it could save your life. 
  • Rourke: I have just started reading Bug Out, and was really taken with your background – specifically your immense traveling. What was your most difficult situation you found yourself in?
It’s kind of hard to pick one, as there have been a few.  Looking back at some of the things I’ve done, I’m amazed that I’m still here sometimes.  Most of my scariest mishaps have been on the water, simply from biting off more than I could chew for my skill level at the time.  But, that’s how you learn, if you don’t die in the process. 
  • Rourke: I see survival & preparedness more and more in mainstream media. From television shows such as Dual Survival, to news reports on urban families that are storing food “just in case”. Why do you think survival is becoming so popular?
I think here in the U.S. there is a lot of fear and uncertainty about stability of the economy and fear of more government control, and loss of individual rights, which in turn could lead to internal strife and disorder.  There is the increasing fear of more widespread terrorism and the possibility of larger-scale war.  All of these things are fueling the fire of interest in survival.  But I think another reason for the popularity of such books and television shows is the disconnect with nature and the basics so many people feel in this high-tech world of easy living, insulated as we are from much of the “real” world.  We have a craving to learn to do simple things, like build a fire, forage for food or navigate across trackless terrain.
  • Rourke: When considering a Bug Out Vehicle (BOV) - what are the top characteristics that should be considered in its selection?
 Whether the “vehicle” is a four-wheel-drive SUV, a motorcycle, bicycle, canoe, motorboat, or whatever – look for simplicity, no-nonsense rugged construction and ease of maintenance and repair in less than optimum circumstances.  My philosophy in choosing every piece of gear or any vehicle or boat is to pick the simplest and most basic one that will do the tasks I require of it. 
  • Rourke: One of the categories of survival & preparedness supplies that I think are often overlooked in survival planning is communication. What kind of equipment do you recommend for bugging out?
 I’ve mentioned marine-band VHF hand-held radios on my blog, as many people may not consider them.  These radios, while technically illegal to use on land during normal times, could be viable in a bug-out situation, because they give you a longer transmitting range than FRS radios or most other hand-held units.  Many of the better ones are also extremely rugged, and can withstand submersion in water and still function.  The best ones have the option of using rechargeable or disposable batteries, making them suitable for long-term off-the-grid use.  There are also many channels available on the VHF band, so finding one that’s not busy should be easy, especially the farther you are from navigable water.
  • Rourke: You favor a machete over a knife – can you explain the reasoning for this?
 Well, actually what I point out in my book is that I favor a machete over an axe or hatchet.  If possible, I would still have a knife, but yes, if I could have only one, I would take the machete because with care and skill it can do practically anything a knife can do, in addition to those much bigger jobs knives can’t do.  I could go on and on about the usefulness of a machete, and I have expanded on it some on my blog and will do so again in the future.  One thing I’ll mention here is that for the purpose of bugging out the machete offers tremendous cutting ability and versatility in a slim, easily carried and lightweight package.  You can slip a sheathed machete down in the bug out bag out of sight of others, and it’s so lightweight you’ll hardly know it’s there either until you need it.
  • Rourke: One of the most talked about aspects of survivalism are firearms with a tremendous amount of varying opinions – What role do firearms play in bugging out?
 The primary roles, of course, are hunting and self-defense – from both human and animal aggressors.  My philosophy of bugging out is to remain as low-key, unnoticed and invisible as possible.  For that reason I don’t plan to carry offensive weapons as there is a limit to the weight and bulk of ammo and all the other essential gear you can take with you in a bug-out situation.  The best firearms for this use should be usable for both hunting and defense.  That’s why I like a matched lever action rifle and revolver in a medium caliber like .357 Magnum.  Sure, a semi-auto battle rifle would be better in an all-out gunfight, but a good lever action is pretty fast to handle as well.  I mainly like the lever guns for the slim profile and light weight, which like machetes, make them easy to pack and easy to carry in hand all day.
  • Rourke: If you had to choose one firearm to Bug Out with – what would your choice be?
It would be hard to give up the short .357 Magnum lever action rifle, but, I would probably take a .22 rifle if I could have nothing else, simply because of the amount of ammo that could be easily carried and the huge variety of game of all sorts that can be taken with it.  I’ve taken various .22 rifles on a number of my trips and feel confident that a good one would be the best all-around firearm for wilderness survival if I couldn’t take a larger caliber rifle to go with it.  As for particular models, I like many of them, including the Ruger 10/22, the Marlin Papoose, the Henry Youth Lever (same length as my Winchester Trapper) and the Marlin Model 60.
  • Rourke: What are the Top 5 items that should be included in Bug Out supplies? 
  1. Clothing and shelter for the expected conditions in the region and the season.
  2. A reliable means of making fire, long-term, for example Fire Steel.
  3. A reliable means of carrying water and purifying water found, for example, sturdy Nalgene bottles and Polar Pure water treatment.
  4. A machete if no other cutting tool, but a  fixed blade knife, folder or multi-tool would be nice to have as well.
  5. A metal pot, as described in my book.  A metal pot that can withstand cooking in a fire will enable you to utilize all sorts of wild foods that must be boiled, for example, a variety of roots, inner bark, leafy greens, etc.
These are the top 5 considerations as far as what cannot be easily found or improvised in the wilderness in a hurry, when you are on the move and hiding out/evading.   
  • Rourke: Is there a particular part of the country that you consider vastly superior than others for bugging out?
 That’s a tough call, because every region has its advantages and disadvantages.  Of course, I’m comfortable with the South, having grown up here.  Some may not like the snakes, bugs and heat, but at least you don’t have to worry about freezing to death and edible plants and a huge variety of animal foods are abundant.  But I’ve spent quality wilderness time in every region and have enjoyed them all.  Part of what makes a region more suitable is the presence of natural features such as rivers, swamps, rugged mountains or deserts that have limited human habitation since the days of early settlement and left large tracts of roadless areas that remain wild to this day.
  • Rourke: From your viewpoint on the world today – what is the likelihood that there could be a major disaster that could create populations to be involved in a mass exodus from heavily populated areas? What might that disaster be in your estimation?
 When a civilization becomes as complex and interdependent as ours is today, there is always the chance of a major disruption, whether from natural causes or man-made causes.  I think war or major unrest from within would be one scenario that would make it unsafe to remain in heavily populated areas, as far as man-caused disasters.  Some kind of unprecedented natural event like solar flares that could take out the power grid would be a plausible natural disaster that could cause such an exodus, as large cities would be untenable in a long-term grid-down event, as we saw in a shorter duration event in  New Orleans after Katrina.
  • Rourke: I see you have a new book coming out – Would You Survive? Please tell us about it.
The new book is intended to be more of an entertaining read than anything else, but it will also get you thinking by putting the reader in each of 13 survival scenarios that each present their own challenges and difficulties.  Some of these scenarios are the kind that you could find yourself in simply by being in the wrong place at the wrong time, like an active shooter situation at a busy shopping mall.. Others could happen through over-confidence in one’s abilities or ignorance of the dangers of a given environment, for example, the desert, tropical rain forest or Alaskan bush.  It’s been an interesting project to work on, as my research has led me to read many books and dig up lots of survivor’s stories from all sorts of related situations. 
  • Rourke: Any other new projects on the horizon you would like to tell my readers?
 I am working on another possible project, but it’s much too early to announce yet until I have time to develop the idea.
  • Rourke: Thank you.


  1. I think one of the reasons the choice to bugout is met with negative comments is that it is usually framed in the context of the worst scenario. If it were possible to stay in your home and you have 12 cords of firewood, 2 years supply of food a 1/4 acre garden then bugging out with nothing but a machete and a pot seems pretty stupid by comparison. I think the odds are against you if you but out. Probably in the same bad scenario 50% of people who bug in will die and 98% of people who bug out will die. Bugging out in a true SHTF situation should only be the last possible option if you cannot stay where you are and will surely die if you do.

  2. Well again, if you read the answer to the question about what kind of scenario would justify bugging out, you see that my answer would be a major unrest or all-out war type situation, or long-term grid-down scenario in an urban or suburban environment. In such a scenario, if you stay you die as you would not be able to defend your position long term against those who are not prepared and will be desperate to take what resources you have. The only hope in that situation is to evade and escape.

    Bugging in could work fine if you're out in the country or in a quiet small town where neighbors help each other out with defense and other duties and there is enough land and resources to sustain your family/community for the duration of the event. Unfortunately, many people do not live in such situations. I wrote to the book simply to give them an alternative to think about. Hopefully, no one will need it, but it's better to be prepared and knowledgeable than not.

  3. Good interview! Bugging out is always a possibility for us; the question I worry about is when to do so; since we want to be ahead of the crowds. Traffic in our city is horrible.

  4. Apartment Prepper, yes, in a city the size of the one you reside in, if you're going to get out you're going to have to do so at the first sign of trouble. We all know what has happened in teh past with botched hurricane evacuations.

  5. Those are great excerpts from the interview - thanks for posting them.

    I guess the strangest thing about prepping is the event you don't see that comes to pass. I cannot recall anyone mentioning the effects of an oil leak off shore like the recent BP event. We still don't know if that will be a game changer, but I'm pretty sure a lot of preppers in the area were very surprised - I did not see that one coming either!

    Again - good interview. Kudos to you and ModernSurvival online for it.

  6. A recommendation for that machete - Cold Steel Bowie (the short model).

    Blade tip is thin enough to act like a standard knife tip. To choke up on it, run a paracord (or bungie if you like), through the lanyard and tie it to your elbow. Your hand can now grasp the blade on the spine, just behind the upper blade 'edge' (as it were).

    You can drill a hole through the blade here to help use as a drawknife. A branch or steel bolt can be inserted through it. You can also push down on it with more force, or grasp fixed in place and rotate blade like a paper cutter to shave down object.

    All in all, its not bad for a $20 blade. Just a consideration is all I'm saying.

  7. I've had an eye on that Cold Steel Bowie machete for awhile. I haven't tried one yet, but I like the look of it, so I probably will.

  8. Scott, I read this yesterday on Modern Survival's blog. Really good interview!

  9. FYI, I've posted a review.

  10. Suburban Survivalist: Yes, I saw that review. Thanks a lot and I'm glad you found the book useful.

  11. Another good post. I'm about to do a test of my bugout kit - more of a minimalist bag - this weekend. It just comes down to an overnight in the woods here in Maine, which I've done before many many times. But it's a good excuse to get out in the wilderness again!

  12. raugustine1963,

    Good luck with your overnight test. I'll bet it's nice camping in the Maine woods about now. It's still like summertime here in Mississippi, in the 90's today.


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