Perspectives on Patrolling- Part 2, by J.M.

We are looking at patrolling in a post-SHTF scenario. In part 1, I reviewed the definition of “patrol” and objectives of patrolling as well as planning, though we only concluded the portion about general operational planning. Let’s continue to discussing planning and move forward.

Planning (continued)

Mission planning is the planning performed for a specific patrol. This should include goals and objectives, route, timing/duration, rally points, communications, intelligence, weather, organization, rules of engagement, and load-out.

Goals and Objectives

What are the goals and objectives? Basically, what should the patrol accomplish? Both primary and secondary goals and objectives should be defined and all members made aware of them. Goals and objectives may also be prioritized, with patrol abort requirements attached to each. For example, if the patrol identifies a critical threat to the safety of the home group while on patrol, or a member receives a serious injury, they should immediately break off the patrol and return home.


What is the route the patrol intends to follow? This should be drawn on a map at the home base and memorized by the patrol members. That way if the patrol is compromised or a potential threat obtains the patrol’s maps, they can’t use them to locate your home base. You should avoid developing set patterns of routes in order to minimize the risk of a patrol being intercepted or ambushed. Following the same patrol routes every time tends to lull people into a sense of complacency, which can have fatal results.


Determining the timing and duration of the patrol defines when the patrol leaves, how long they should plan to be gone, and how overdue they can be before it’s considered an emergency. The route and objectives will drive a lot of this, and issues such as weather, individual patrol member fitness, and conditions encountered along the way can also impact it. As with the route, you should avoid following set timing patterns. Typical patrols will most likely be one to three days in length. If you have access to night-vision gear, you can plan patrols that leave, return, and operate during both day and night to reduce their risk of exposure and avoid providing potential enemies with information regarding the strength remaining at your home base.

Rally Points

Rally points are defined locations where patrol members can meet if they get separated. There should be at least one rally point for each leg of the route.


Communications between patrol members as well as between the patrol and their home base should be reviewed. Code designations for people and locations should be assigned and rotated for each patrol so that someone listening in on your communications won’t be able to learn a pattern.


Any information that has been collected to date that may be relevant within the area of the patrol’s operations should be reviewed. This should include information on known or suspected human or natural threats, possible obstacles, et cetera.


Potential weather issues should be reviewed and planned for. The patrol should also have the skills and tools necessary to allow them to predict significant weather changes with a reasonable degree of accuracy.


Organization of the patrol considers who will be going on the patrol and who’s in charge. A chain of command should be defined in case the primary leader is disabled.

Rules of Engagement

There should be clear rules of engagement. What should patrol members do if they encounter strangers, or people that are known or potential threats?


Load-out organizes what each member of the patrol will carry with them. It’ll be pretty awkward if eight hours into the patrol you discover that no one brought toilet paper.

Create a Mission Planning Template

You should start by creating a mission planning template that has space for all of the information you consider critical for planning a patrol. Print off several hundred copies of the template and store them in a sealed container.

While all of this should be planned and discussed, it is also important to remember that the patrol will likely encounter situations and circumstances that weren’t considered, and they may have to make difficult decisions on the spot. Directions that sounded reasonable when discussed in a warm and safe house a few days ago may completely conflict with what’s necessary for the health and safety of the patrol or the group, and they should have the latitude to do what they deem necessary based on the circumstances they encounter.

Dress and Kit

The appearance of the patrol members can have a big impact on their ability to collect intelligence from human sources. If a family with small children is walking along and sees a group of heavily armed people wearing camos and loaded with tactical gear approaching, they’re probably going to run away as fast as they can. I’m of the opinion that for the first few weeks after some types of events, most people will tend to be more scared and confused rather than desperate and dangerous. Where I live, camouflage and open carry are uncommon, so seeing those for the first time will be a shock for a lot of people.

A Less Threatening Facade

You may want to adapt the appearance and kit for one or two patrol members to present a less threatening facade and have them be the point people for anyone you encounter. For example, they could wear normal clothing, like jeans and a shirt, and carry a generic backpack. They could also wear something like a Maxpedition Proteus Versipack waist pack in front to cover up a handgun in a reverse-cant cross-draw IWB holster. The handgun is hidden, but it can be drawn quickly, and resting your hands on top of the waist pack looks perfectly natural while keeping them within inches of the handgun. Inside the backpack they can carry something like a folded Kel-Tec Sub-2000 9mm carbine that can be brought into play in a couple of seconds. (I use a rig similar to this and wear it regularly on hikes to get comfortable with it.)

Contact Specialists

These “contact specialists” should walk some distance in front of the rest of the patrol and signal the team when they see other people, allowing the other team members to find some concealment from where they can cover the contact specialists while they engage the contacts. For circumstances in this scenario where the contact specialists do need to employ camouflage, they can carry a camouflage jacket and overpants, poncho, or an oversuit made from camouflage mesh.

Once the overall situation in your area of operations has deteriorated beyond a certain level of safety, full battle rattle should be in order for all patrol members. Full battle rattle should include camouflage clothing, load-bearing equipment, firearms, and backpack.

Camouflage Clothing

Wear camouflage clothing appropriate for your area of operations and time of year. I recommend that all patrol members use the same camouflage patterns. This will simplify recognition in the field, although it shouldn’t be relied upon exclusively. There are too many options to cover here in detail, but one recommendation is that if you live in an area that gets snow you should consider sewing a simple poncho and pair of overpants out of white silnylon and including a white balaclava. Brush a few small splotches of gray or brown paint around to break up the outline even more. Avoid cotton covers, like the German army surplus snow camo ponchos, since these can get soaked and freeze.

Load-bearing Equipment

Load-bearing equipment (LBE), such as a battle belt or vest, is necessary to carry items you may need quick or to gain frequent access to. This should include ammunition, optics, night vision, batteries, and an individual first-aid kit.


For firearms, your patrol should have a carbine and handgun, at a minimum. If you live in an area with terrain that offers long sight distances, you may also want at least one weapon for long-range shooting, in order to more effectively cover patrol members when they’re interacting with strangers.


For a two- or three-day patrol, you should be able to get by with a backpack around 25L in size.

As a recon patrol, one of your primary objectives is to be able move quickly and quietly. One of the keys to that is packing only what is absolutely necessary to survive for 2-3 days away from your home base. For example, since one of your objectives would be to avoid any shooting engagements and you most likely won’t have full-auto weapons, 210 rounds of carbine ammunition should be enough. (This is one loaded 30-round magazine, three on your LBE, and three more in your backpack.) Additional considerations regarding kit will be discussed later.


Knowing where you are, where you’re going, and your options for getting there are navigation skills that are critical aspects of patrolling. While you may be able to use GPS on your phone or a handheld GPS unit for a while after a TEOTWAKI event (assuming you downloaded maps beforehand), you should also develop map reading and navigation skills for when they stop working. Stock up on and practice using a good selection of maps that cover your potential patrol areas. Also, make sure you always obtain at least two identical copies of each map so that you can have one at your home base and one or more with the patrol.

Best Patrol Maps

The best options for patrol maps are those that show both natural and man-made features. In the U.S., USGS Topographic maps are probably the best choice, and you can find them in a lot of different sizes, shapes, and resolutions. Another option is the Delorme Atlas and Gazetteer maps, which are available for every U.S. state. However, you’ll need to cut out the individual pages.

Additional Map Considerations

Here are some additional considerations regarding maps:

  • Maps carried by patrol members should be waterproof (or at least water resistant). You can put them in a case, or cover them with clear acetate.
  • When communicating map locations over the radio, you should use grid coordinates instead of location names or descriptions, whenever possible. Many maps come with grids printed on them. You can also draw a grid with a fine-point sharpie or laminate the map with an adhesive grid transparency. If the grids on your maps don’t provide fine enough resolution, you can subdivide them visually. For example, the center of a grid square is “0”, the upper-left quadrant of is “1”, upper-right is “2”, et cetera. Append the sub-grid on the end of the grid coordinates when you communicate them.
  • Assuming your maps are coated or inside a clear plastic case, bring a grease pencil (also called a china marker) to mark the locations of items of interest discovered during the patrol. You shouldn’t write any details on the map. Just put a small number at the location, then write the corresponding number in a notebook (carried by a different person), and provide the details in that.
  • Avoid drawing a series of number notations that follow your patrol route, since that can point someone right back to your home base. Add some meaningless numbers at random locations around the map to disguise your trail in case the map gets compromised.

A Compass

In addition to maps, you’ll need a good compass and the skills to use it to effectively navigate with the map. There are a number of good articles online that provide details on land navigation. I recommend that you practice until you’re comfortable with the skill. A good exercise in map and compass navigation is to blindfold someone, take them out into a wilderness area, give them a map and a compass (and a general idea of their location, if you’re feeling generous), and have them find their way to a designated rally point. Have another person that knows where they are stay with them for safety.

Tomorrow, we will look at movement of the patrol and contact.

See Also:

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  1. I see this article “straying” into a fiction/parody of reality. Kind of a militia/”one second after” kind of projection. For example the author suggest that “contact specialists” in jeans and a shirt should walk ahead so as not to scare the citizens. Then suggests that this specialist carry camo clothing including a camo mesh suit. Seriously? Step away from the camo! Even in a full SHTF situation I can only see full camo as attracting unwanted attention.

    It is damned near impossible for half a dozen men or more to “gear up” and “patrol” without attracting attention. The “uniform” absolutely assures you will attract attention. I would rethink some of this with the goal being to fit in not stand out.

  2. I believe you’ll need to tailor your approach to the situation and location. For example, where I live here in New England there are lots of heavily forested areas and I can walk for miles without leaving them. Wearing some appropriate camo clothing would reduce the chances of being spotted if I need to perform some reconnaissance without being seen.

  3. I would argue that the decision as to whether or not to employ camouflage uniforms depends a lot on the situation and location. I live in New England, and there’s a lot of heavily wooded areas, so I can walk around for hours and never leave the woods. If I wanted to run a recon patrol and minimize my chances of being seen, some basic woodland camouflage would help a lot.

  4. Being a New Englander as well except living in the city , camo would definitely stick out although one doesn’t have to travel far to find large sections of wooded area.

    We have the opportunity to relocate just 12 miles outside of the city to a suburban area. One area of the town is boarded by an old army base since donated to the state as a park and another large Recreational Park area on the other side of town.

    These act as natural buffers to the undesirables in the surrounding areas however would become infiltration points for such riff-raff. Having some camo to blend in while observing bad guys moving into your AO is not a bad idea.

    Getting your neighbor Joe six-pack on board ? Well , that’s another story.

  5. As a child I remember the Scrooge McDuck comic and in it were the bad guys; the Beagle boys. They looked the part and always wore an eyemask. Silly stuff.

    Here is the problem with full camo; you look the part. You may look perfect out in the woods during bowhunting season but otherwise you look para-military and attract attention which is the exact opposite off the purpose of wearing camo. Every now and then some perp gets arrested wearing some kind of disguise and the police who have a sense of humor will take pictures of them in their disguise which makes them look, well pretty foolish. If you are in full camo you will look pretty foolish not to mention attract everyone’s attention. If you are in a group all in full camo than simply multiply that bad effect by the number of your group.

    There are alternatives. Dark, not all black clothing. Not matching as in black shirt, pants, hat and jacket. Not all grey or all khaki either. Wear what most people in your area would wear at that time of year but in more muted tones. If you are in the city you could wear greys and browns. If you are in the country/woods you could wear browns and greens. If you are in the desert you could wear browns or tans. Also if you are in a group wear different things.

    Just an aside; where we live there are about half a dozen Mormon missionary pairs around and you will see them walking, sometimes biking on the street or in restaurants. They stand out; tie, black pants, white shirt and a black or dark jacket (not suit jacket). Don’t get me wrong, not dissing them, in fact the opposite they are always great people and I respect them for their efforts. Just a good example on how to stand out vs not stand out.

    Where I live most men where jeans or khakis. Most women too. A simple shirt or sweatshirt and a light jacket in poor weather. Most guys wear a baseball hat. The last 100 people that passed me in the last few days dressed like this I could nnot tell you anything about them. However the girls in pink and blue hair stand out as does that poor young lady weighing about 400 lbs wearing short shorts yesterday. As do the last two sightings of Mormon missionaries. In my local Safeway management is on a spruce up effort probably to better deal with the local Walmart store. They all wear dark slacks, white shirt, dark tie and a jacket. I can spot them a mile away. If there are two or three or four I know they are all together. Now this is fine for Safeway management types but it is the death knell for a group trying to be covert.

    Honestly, not intended to offend, it would be smarter to dress like Dumber and Dumber in the movie than to wear camo or anything even approaching a uniform. dress like a slouch/slob. Maybe one guy dresses like a homeless/hobo, one dress like a retiree having coffee with friends, another dress like a nerd, another like a 20 something high school dropout looking to buy some pot. Dress down, wear muted colors, intentionally dress different from the others in your group, carry cheap Walmart backpacks vs the latest GI OD pack with all the neat stuff on it. Don’t dress like a Marine patrol.

  6. I appreciate all of the comments. I would argue that whether or not wearing camo makes any sense depends a lot on your situation and location. There’s a lot of heavily wooded areas where I live, and if I wanted to run a recon patrol just to collect intel and not be seen by or interact with anyone, wearing camo would make a lot of sense. On the other hand, if we plan on making contact with folks we come across dressing more casually would be a better approach.

  7. Patrolling with deterrence as objective will benefit from wearing a uniform of some kind. If reconnaissance is the objective, blend in with the environment and avoid the unfriendly element. Use force multipliers.

    Consider a different purpose: recovering livestock.

    One aspect that might be contentious in scheduling patrols is taking the moon phase into account and also seasonal, monthly and weekly crime trends in a prolonged breakdown.

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