Three Letters Re: Hunter-Gatherer Mobile Survival

I just read Blue Sun’s comments and feel I too must comment.

I believe that he has the beginnings of what I envision as a End of the World scenario, inasmuch as the ‘friend’ from yesterday is the enemy of today.

But we part company when he is suggesting that deep woods is the location for survival.

I see no room for the weak or infirm nor women and children.

I see only a Jeremiah Johnson-style survival thing for a lone male that is young and in good health and very good shape.

How long one expects to be in that shape is directly connected to ones age and present shape.

And if you actually believe you can doctor and dentist yourself at all time, then please show me that person as I have not met Superman yet.

I see all the problems of trying to hunker down and survive, But that is preferable to being on the run and trying to live “of the land” as that is not healthy .Either in a physical or mental way.

The “lone survivor” is a romantic thought and we [ most real men ] that saw Robert Redford as Jeremiah Johnson for the most part thought I thought that was so cool.

As I saw that over 30 years ago, I did grow and get older and matured. Enough to see that lifestyle, if possible then not preferable for so many reasons.

We are a society of sociable people, meaning most normal people want interaction and a friendly face and voice to know.

I imagine it might be possible to survive under ‘the Lone Ranger’ woods walker existence. But after a few years of cold and hunger,the “survivor” might find themselves looking for a few books to read and a friendly voice to hear. Or might think of eating his gun barrel .

I am of the opinion that I will survive, and if I must then it could be alone. But to prefer that and to try for that is beyond this old timers ken! – Regards, – Lobo


I’ve often wondered as well, as to just how bad things could get in TEOTWAWKI situation.  Reading Blue Sun’s post encouraging hiking out and taking on the hunter-gatherer lifestyle I had a few thoughts.

First, I don’t know how many of your readers have read Octavia Butler’s novel Parable of the Sower.  It’s a TEOTWAWKI story written from the perspective of a teenage girl living in California several years after Peak Oil has crumbled our economy.  TEOTWAWKI happens over several years in the book, unlike the nuclear/EMP disaster of “One Second After“, but many of the same themes and ideas are there.  For instance, the problem of the newly homeless and looters.  After a few years of dwindling resources and a crumbling/no longer existent government, many will be leaving their homes, likely on foot, to scavenge to food and resources.  Some will eventually band together, many will follow the major streams of human traffic, from one town to the next (they will likely follow major routes first since those are the paths of least resistance and then move to smaller roads and towns), scrounging for resources and likely causing fires along the way (think Los Angeles riots).  With limited or non existent services such as police and fire departments, fires are likely to get way out of hand fast.  At first, this is likely to only effect the towns being looted, but eventually, these fires are likely to find their way into the forests, unchecked.  So how do the retreaters and the backpackers deal with this threat and how likely are they to survive it?

With a retreat, one can always remove brush and trees from the immediate area around their retreat, though this makes the retreat more noticeable, it reduces the chance of fire getting close to home.  Large cisterns can be used to store water which can help put out fires, though that also reduces your available drinking water (a problem if the fires hit during a dry season or drought).  Buildings can be built of less flammable materials such as cob, rammed earth, metal, stone or concrete, but there’s still the problem of air quality when a fire gets too close.  Gardens could easily be destroyed (but are replaceable), and orchards would be in danger if the trees were still young.  Livestock are likely to bolt, or worse, suffer and die from smoke inhalation.  A BOB would allow the retreater a quick exit if the worst happened and they were unable to keep the flames under control and away from their retreat.  Though the retreater would potentially take significant losses in a wild fire, those prepared would likely survive.

Backpackers would likely have a more difficult time dealing with forest fires.  For one, they’re in the mild of the fuel, which leaves them strongly at the mercy of the wind currents and how quickly and to which direction they push the flames.  Secondly, they are very restricted on just what they can carry and how quickly they can pack up camp.  If a fire came up on them in the night, they may not have a lot of time to get moving to safety.  Since they have so few resources, the lose of any resources could make life much more difficult, whether it be a sleeping bag, fire arm, knife, etc.  Smoke inhalation would be a much more significant danger.  Being in the forest would make determining the source(s) of the fire more difficult than being in a clearing near the forest. 

Now, all that being said, I can definitely understand and promote the need to be prepared to rough it and backpack in the wild as suggested in the post.  For one, we can never assume that we are completely safe in our retreat.  Much as the characters in Parable of the Sower discover, eventually the walls fall, or you get the negative attention of the wrong people… and when that happens you either stay and face whatever that may entail (death, rape, slavery, etc?) or you bug out for safety again. 

Personally, I hope to have a retreat setup for my family as backpacking with small children long term is likely an even harder task, but I will continue to keep my BOB ready and waiting, caches available with resources, just in case, long after TEOTWAWKI has happened.  And hopefully, my retreat will remain safe, at least until my daughter is old enough to walk and understand the need to remain quiet. – D. Momma


Given some modern medicine you can drastically reduce the infant mortality rate. So hunter-gatherers don’t necessarily have a short life span. Most people intending to hunter-gatherers after TEOTWAWKI have already reached maturity and are bringing modern amenities. If you’re referring to looters and criminals shortening their lifespan – then I also beg to differ. Statistically speaking any parcel of land you buy can be usurped by a far more remote parcel of land that can’t be bought, that is reachable only by hiking or far more difficult [terrain or water] obstacles.

JWR Replies: As I’ve mentioned before in SurvivalBlog, the greatest drawback to any mobile retreating scheme is that it doesn’t provide a stored supply of food to fall back upon. Whether you gather fish, game and plants or if raise your own, you cannot be sure of a bountiful harvest each and every year. Without a stored reserve, too much is left up to chance. A deep larder is your best insurance policy.