So many of the people in the preparedness community build massive stockpiles of supplies, including food, camping gear, backpacks, weapons & ammo, and all that ultra tacti-cool stuff. The problem is, they rarely get off the couch and train, and they rarely get out and use their gear.
It does you no good to have a cool backpacking tent, but have no idea how to set it up. Having an ultra-light backpacking stove is great, unless you have no idea how to use it. Your 70 pound “bug out bag” may very well be well-stocked, but unless you’ve trained on carrying it over distances for a long time, you’re going to die of a heart attack on day one and end up as loot drop for someone who comes across your body.
Some of you may think, “But I’m bugging in, so this doesn’t apply to me.” That’s not true. You are bugging in, until you have to bug out. If the mob shows up and burns your house down because you refuse to hand over your food, then steadfastly refusing to bug out becomes silly. So, even if you intend to bug in, having the ability to bug out and survive in the outdoors for 72 hours with just what’s on your back, until a threat leaves the area for example, is a good skill and ability to have.
How do we move from a modern, sedentary lifestyle to being prepared to survive and move outdoors in an emergency? In this article, we’re going to discuss a training progression that I suggested in my book, The Base Line Training Manual. (Available from Books-a-Million or the dreaded Amazon.) It’s a way to start out with small actions, and build up to a full exercise.
The first thing is to remember that we aren’t just going out in the woods for a hike or a camping trip. We are training for survival in a potential Without Rule of Law (WROL) situation, so act like it. When conducting these exercises, focus on trying to avoid contact with other humans you come across, try to stay unobserved, and be obsessive about security measures. A WROL world will require that for survival.
Your First Test
The first test is simply putting on the backpack and going for a walk in the woods. Walk out into the woods for one hour, then walk back for one hour. Simple, right? That’s our baseline. There are a few caveats though. Even if you’re using a trail system, don’t walk on trails. Don’t train in a way in which you won’t operate. Train to move cross country, avoiding anywhere that other people will be.
Some of you may recognize this as similar to the new fitness fad of rucking, but it’s not the same. When people going rucking, they are always trying for time and always on roads or trails. They are striving for at least 4 miles an hour. You can’t move safely and securely in potentially hostile territory at that rate. The USMC has a standard, even on roads, that a forced march move only 4 kilometers in one hour, which is less than 3 miles. Cross country, they drop the rate of movement to just about a mile and a half in an hour. Don’t focus on speed, focus on quiet movement, observing your surroundings very carefully.
After having done this a few times, we move into what I call the “lunch test”. Before leaving, break into your survival food stash and get out a portable meal. This may be an MRE, or a couple of pouched food items like backpacking meals, or canned food. Just make sure it’s realistic, because in a WROL situation, you won’t be taking out a turkey club on rye into the field. Always bring water and your intended cooking system.
Do the same movement, out into the field for at least one hour. Once you get out at the apex, set up a secure site. By this, I don’t mean just sit down on a log. Find a concealed spot, away from trails, with good observation of where anyone may approach you from. If you brought out a radio unit (and I recommend you do for realism), first set up your radio, including any larger, tree-mounted antennas, just like you would on a halt during an actual patrol.
Then, remove your lunch and cooking system from your pack, and hide your pack. Why? Because in a real WROL situation, if my pack isn’t on my shoulders, then it should be hidden within reach. If I have to leave immediately because someone stumbled into my site, I can leave the hidden pack and circle back to it later, after breaking contact. We are training for realism.
Next, we cook the lunch, and eat it. This can be a good way to test out some of the different types of food you’ve bought to make sure that you can prepare actual meals. For example, a pouch of diced chicken and a can of Spanish Rice becomes a full meal, and so does a pouch of pulled pork dumped into that can of Beanie-Weenie that you know is in your survival stash.
While cooking and eating your lunch, continue to remain focused on remaining undetected and security. Continue to watch avenues of approach and stay low in your site. Once you’re done eating, clean out your gear and pack up all your trash. I realize that in a true WROL situation, you’d probably bury the trash, but right now we’ll carry it out.
Take down the radio, antenna, and anything else you’ve set up, and stow all gear in your pack. Put the pack on, and then check the site. It should be sterile and leave no sign that you were there. Camouflage any sign of your presence. Move out and return to your vehicle.
The next test is called the overnight test and it’s exactly what you’d think. You are going to head out and camp overnight using only your survival gear. Don’t bring the camp chair and a cooler, we aren’t doing a “campout”. Bring along survival food and gear. Bring your basic load of firearms and ammo, we’re going for realism.
The biggest piece of this is to go somewhere where you aren’t tempted to “cheat” and use your existing support systems. Don’t camp in the backyard, in other words.
Next Step in a Logical Progression
Drive somewhere and park in a place where you will need move on foot for a couple of hours to get to your site. Gear up, and conduct a foot movement from the car to the overnight site, moving tactically and acting as though you are truly moving in a WROL situation, avoiding contact.
Once you get to the site, first find a “security position” or a spot where you can defend the site from the most likely avenue of approach. Remember that in a WROL situation, security is our number one priority. Stash your pack near this spot, and begin your site set up. First, set up your radio and antenna, and for realism it’s a good idea to have pre-planned someone to make contact with. Make the radio contact and advise that you are in place.
Prepare your evening meal and clean up from it just as we did on the lunch test.
Only after we’ve eaten and just before going to sleep do we set up our tent or shelter, whatever it is. The longer your tent or shelter is up, the more risk there is of being seen. Also, if someone stumbles into your site, you can’t leave immediately unless you want to leave your shelter behind. Set it up as quietly as possible.
Whenever we are in the field, we never fully unpack our ruck or backpack. We only take things out as we use them. Then we stow them when we are done. We want to maintain the ability to throw it on and move with as much of our gear as we can possibly have. The pack should never be out of arms reach.
Once the shelter and sleep system are set up, secure everything else in your pack and find a secure hiding spot for your pack near where you are sleeping.
It’s a good idea to plan on being in your security position, whether it’s a ditch, depression, behind a downed tree, whatever for the evening and dawn “stand-to” periods. The most dangerous time of day is twilight, both evening and morning. You should train to get into the habit, whether on your own or with your group, of “standing-to” and manning security positions from one-half hour before sunset until a half-hour after sunset, and one-half hour before sunrise until one-half hour after sunrise. Coincidentally, in a WROL situation, these are good times to spot and take game animals that may wander through.
In the morning, the first thing to do is a security sweep, making sure that everything is undisturbed and that there is no one near. Immediately secure your shelter and sleeping system. Then, conduct “self-administration”, cleaning yourself, changing clothes, brushing teeth, etc. After that, secure that gear and get out your breakfast and cooking system. A quick note on that: make sure it’s an actual breakfast, because those Nature Valley breakfast bars will all have expired less than 60 days into a WROL situation. We are training for realism. Pack up from breakfast and secure the trash again.
Now that we’ve had breakfast and put away all our gear, check the site to see if you need to camouflage any signs of your presence. Don’t forget to camouflage and fill in your sanitation trench or cat hole.
Finally, conduct secure patrolling movement back to your vehicle.
You could extend this to a weekend trip, but use different campsites on both days. In other words, get up and spend the day moving to the second campsite during the day. Repeat all the other steps at the second site. When you stop for lunch, perform exactly as I already described.
These training exercises will help us train ourselves for day-to-day life in a WROL situation. Even if you bug in or have a secure bug-out location, you will need to run local security patrols to ensure that no one is out there, secretly observing you, and some of those will need to be days-long patrols. And, as we mentioned before, you may have to leave a secure location for a few days, until a threat passes.
In my next article, I’ll discuss how to conduct a full team exercise.