But just last month I spent a few days in Tennessee and North Carolina, and while there had a chance to do some hiking in one of my favorite wild places in the East - the Joyce Kilmer-Slickrock Wilderness Area. The leaves were mostly in full fall colors in the lower elevations and were already gone above 4,000 feet. That first week of November, conditions were perfect for exploring and camping and the mountain forests seemed benign and beckoning:
But I've also hiked this area in December and January in years past, picking my times between winter storms, and as I walked familiar paths on this recent trip, I thought about what it would be like here in a bug-out context. What would you do if circumstances forced you into prolonged stay in late fall with winter approaching, or perhaps even worse, if you had to suddenly leave the comfort of your home in winter? The same area could very well look like this:
How would you prepare to operate in such conditions? Do you have the clothing and shelter you would need to stay warm and dry, and have you tested it on actual trips? Have you experimented with shelter-building and fire-making in winter conditions? How much will cold temperatures and snow and ice slow down your rate of travel? Will you still be able to navigate? And if you are focused on keeping warm, especially at night, will you still be able to keep a low profile and stay out of sight of any potential threats? What about staying hydrated and carrying enough food or finding sources to supplement your supplies along the way? All of these things will become much more difficult in winter, and the consequences of failure could be much swifter.
If you live in a colder region than I do and there's a chance you may need such skills in a real-life survival scenario, now is the time to practice them. As with any kind of survival training, familiarity gained by experience is the best way to build the confidence you need to know you can prevail if really put to the test. You might even find, as many people do, that you prefer winter hiking and camping, especially if you love solitude and the challenges of staying comfortable in conditions that keep most people indoors.
For further reading on clothing, gear and logistics of operating in winter, there's an excellent post from earlier this week on the Warrior Talk News site called The Winter Warrior. Much of what Suarez International Staff Instructor, Eric W. Pfleger discusses could be applicable to anyone considering bug-out strategies, and includes: clothing and footwear selection, hygiene, hydration and first aid considerations, and weapons care, transportation and counter-tracking measures. It's an article well worth your time to check out.