Some Transportation Alternatives, by Douglas H.

Transportation is so easy today, its laughable.  I can take a flight from Seattle, Washington to Hong Kong and arrive 13 hours later.  Before oil was processed to produce fuel, a trip from Seattle to Hong Kong took several months on a boat in cramped conditions and meager rations.  Millions, if not billions, of people take our current methods and modes of transportation for granted.  What if these modes of transportation were suddenly not available because of (insert scenario here)?  If you can’t think of a scenario, I’ll list a few:  Peak Oil, World War III, End of the Petro dollar, and/or a societal breakdown.  If cheap gasoline were no longer available, how would you get around?  This article will attempt to address concerns of what could happen and what a survivalist/prepper can do to become more prepared to get around in a post-disaster world. 

I want to first consider one of the most efficient methods of transportation: the bicycle.  The technology in making bicycles has changed very little over the past hundred years.  This is because the main concept is so simple and so efficient.  The main advances in technology for the bicycle have been the materials.  Expensive bicycles in today’s world are made out of light-weight, durable metals and plastics.  You can find cheaper bicycles, but they tend to be made from cheaper materials, which tend to be heavier and less durable.  As far as the type of bicycle I would go with, it depends on the terrain around you.  If speed and lightness is your requirement, a road bike may be for you; however, if there is rugged terrain around you, or if you want to go off-road a mountain bike would be best.  If you don’t have much cash, a cheap bike can be found at almost any department store for around a hundred bucks.  I would, however, pony up a little more dough for a lighter, heavier-duty one at a bike store.  Be sure you know how to repair your bike.  Talk it over with your bike mechanic and purchase the tools you will need in order to fix your bike.  The most common things are brake pads, tires, inner tubes, chains, and cables (for the shifters and brakes).  Be sure to have a few spare wheels, tires, inner tubes, and as mentioned before, chains.  As always, there are pros and cons to using a bicycle for transportation.  The upside is the light weight, effort to energy ratio, speed, low cost and ease of maintenance.  The downside is low cargo capacity, the need for roads or a trail, and they are also easy to steal.  One thing to consider is in a TEOTWAWKI situation, in almost every garage around the United States there is a bicycle, and sometimes spare parts.    So if you’re short of cash, you can skimp in the spare parts area and focus on something more important.

The Horse
People I’ve spoken to often praise horses as a main mode of transportation come TEOTWAWKI.  This is most likely due to the prevalence of the horse in books and movies of the old west.  While they do provide fast transportation, horses need a high level of care.  Horses often weigh around a thousand pounds and require a high input of feed to maintain energy levels.  Horses need plenty of grazing land and a fence or corral in order to be kept.  They also need to be fed during the winter, and the availability of hay or alfalfa will probably be almost nonexistent, depending upon where you live.  Unless you plan to ride bareback they also require a saddle and bridle which require maintenance.  Something else to consider is how others will see you.  Not many people will be riding around on a horse, and if people see you riding one, they perceive you as being wealthy.  You may then immediately become a target for theft or worse. 

If you do intend on living off of the land and traveling often, a horse may be the right mode of transportation for you, for the horse can graze constantly when you’re not traveling.  If you have a group with you, a buggy or wagon can be beneficial.  The issue is obtaining one post-disaster.  Be sure to know where you’re going and the land around you for horses need to be watered just as you do. 

Our Own Two Feet
People have been walking from place to place since…well, as long as we’ve existed.  Our own two feet are wonderful machines of transportation.  The only problem is they need to be covered, unless you’ve lived your life barefoot and don’t intend to walk on random sharp objects.  What you can do now is purchase several pairs of well-fitted hiking boots and other footwear you will need.  Tennis shoes wear out quickly, but you can run faster in a pair of tennis shoes than in boots.  The important thing is to purchase what you think you will need, and to be on the safe side, buy a few extra pairs and store them away.  If you have a bug out bag, it might be wise to throw in one of these extra pairs of shoes. 

Socks are often overlooked when prepping.  If you can afford it, buy several dozen pairs of socks that are suited to your environment.  The colder the environment, the thicker the sock you want.  Consider wool versus cotton as well.  Some people prefer one over the other, you will have to make your own choice.  The ability to wick water away from your foot is a definite must.  When walking long distances, or hiking, moisture is the enemy; water-wicking socks help remove moisture away from your skin, keeping your feet dry.  In your first-aid kit, also be sure to have some mole-skin; the best cure for blisters.  Mole-skin can be found in any first-aid section of most pharmacies.  Another addition to consider for your first aid kit is a spray or lotion for combating foot fungus.  If your toenails are yellow or unusually thick, then they are infected with fungus and need to be treated.

Waterproof boots are a must-have if you live in or near a wet environment.  If a flood happens and you don’t have a pair, you’ll regret not purchasing them.  They also work great in the mud.  If you happen to live in a snowy environment, you will want to purchase a good pair of snowshoes, and skis for cross-country skiing.  The ideal way to transport goods in a snowy or icy environment would be a sled and a team of sled-dogs, but they require a lot of upkeep and training.  A simpler way to transport goods would be a travois, which I will cover next. 

A travois is easy to build out of natural materials, and can be used to transport a load of goods, or even a person.  It is built by crossing two long poles or straight pieces of wood.  These two pieces of wood are bound together at one end; strips of leather, 550 cord, or rope will do, while a net or piece of canvas can be secured along the length of both poles, forming a triangle.  The narrow end of the triangle then leads to a person or draft animal to drag the travois after you’ve loaded it with goods.  Native American Indians used travois extensively, carting around goods, and even their tepee homes.  They also made smaller travois to be used by their children as well as dogs.  If a harness is made, it can actually be easier on your back if you use a travois instead of a large backpack.  You can also transport an injured person on a travois stretcher. 

Two-Wheel Carts
Hand cart have been used for centuries, and they are more efficient that a travois. They also don’t leave a rutted trail like a travois. They are relatively stable and can carry surprisingly large loads. Modern carts include garden carts and deer carriers. Modern carts use bicycle type tires, so you will have to plan for patching tires, just like with a bike. And like a bike, the tires can be treated with Slime, internally, for self-sealing of minor punctures. There are also “airless” foam-filled tire available,m although these have greater weight and rolling resistance than air-filled tires..

Water Transportation
Water transportation used to be the main method for transporting large amounts of goods before the invention of gasoline and diesel.  It is still the main method of transportation, but by use of large oceangoing barges carrying thousands of tons of materials, commodities and products.  What do these barges rely on?  Fuel. 

If you live by a body of water, or the ocean you definitely want to consider using water transportation.  Canoes, kayaks, floats, tubes, and row boats in general are excellent ways of traveling on the water.  They also provide a platform to fish from in deeper waters.  Live near a lake?  You most likely already have a kayak, canoe or small waterborne vessel.  If you don’t, put that on your priority list.  If you’re thinking about a kayak, there are several varieties.  Recreational kayaks tend to be shorter and wider, offering more stability.  They are, however, much slower than the racing kayaks, which tend to be slimmer and lighter.  There are lighter recreational kayaks, but will cost more money due to the materials used.  If you’re into SUP (Stand Up Paddling), that’s okay, but a SUP board is more for recreational use than practical use.  The only practical use I can see for a SUP board is for spear or bow fishing, and even then it’s not very practical.

Another thing to keep in mind is storing supplies in your boat, kayak or canoe.  Keep a few gallons of water, dried food and fishing supplies in the storage compartments, because you never know when that may come in handy down the line.  You can even think of it as your bug-out-boat.

Others Animals
Some may think using a cow or a donkey for transportation isn’t very logical.  At first, I would agree, but it depends.  As a last resort, a light rider can ride a cow or donkey but it isn’t going to go very fast.  Cows of course also provide more than just a mount.  A dairy cow can provide milk, providing that it hasn’t dried off.  A cow can also be used for meat as we very well know, so don’t begrudge the cow as a mode of transportation.  Cows as well as goats can also be used as pack animals.  Be sure the load is evenly distributed along the animal’s back, making the animal more comfortable and less likely to give you trouble during the trek.  Goats also give milk as well as cows as well as offering meat.  Sheep don’t make very good pack animals. Horses aren’t widely known for their milk, yet there are people, mostly in Mongolia, that are known for drinking horse milk.  Unless you have previous knowledge of milking a horse, do not attempt to milk a horse!  Attempting to do so can endanger your life.  I once had trouble milking one of our goats (it did not want to be milked), I can’t imagine the amount of trouble a horse can give you. 

Oxen or other large draft animals can be used to pull a wagon for group transportation or carrying large amounts of supplies.  Needless to say these animals will need to be taken care of, and the wagon will need to be maintained and fixed.  This includes spare parts, tools and a knowledge of carpentry.  These animals can also be used on a farm, for plowing, if you have the land available, and cleared land with good soil for growing crops. 

Man’s best friend can help you in a number of various ways.  They may not be able to carry much, but they can be given some food stuffs or other gear to carry, provided you have saddlebags that fit the animal.  Dogs, if trained, can be hunting companions as well.  They can aid in defense, and also be a wonderful companion.  They don’t take much to feed and generally take care of themselves very well.  If you also have several other animals, or a farm/ranch, dogs can also be trained to help protect your herd of animals.  Be sure your dog is trained, for domesticated dogs have been known to kill chickens, goats and other livestock simply because it is in their nature as a predatory animal. 

Hopefully this article points you in a direction you want to take for post-disaster transportation.  Once you have an idea, investigate your method further, and ask more questions of a subject matter expert.  The best thing is to adapt to your environment, now and in the future.  None of us have all of the answers, but if we adapt, and work together we will survive anything that comes our way.