We can be almost anywhere on earth within 24 hours using the various forms of modern transportation. Automobiles have greatly increased the amount of area we can cover in our daily lives, but what happens if we can’t use our vehicles anymore? The average human being can walk around 3 mph and can cover about 20 to 30 miles in a day. This of course varies by an individual’s fitness level and many other factors such as the terrain’s roughness/steepness, the weather, and the amount of load carried. Just think of it this way: it will take 2 to 3 days to walk the same distance that you can cover today by hopping in your car and driving an hour on a major highway. It will take a day to walk the same distance you can drive today in one hour, on a back road. The purpose of this article is to get you thinking about how quickly you can cover large distances today and how to come up with a plan to deal with getting there if modern transportation resources are not available.
Why can’t I travel?
You may be asking why can’t I drive, I store plenty of gas? That may be true at least for a short period of time, but I want to discuss long-term options. The two most obvious events that would limit our abilities to get around are an EMP/CME or total financial collapse. A few other events that I can think of that could put us in this situation are: Cyber-attack causing our fuel infrastructure to be down for months, localized natural disasters, the Marxist regime in DC doesn’t agree with state governments and decides to cut us off, or a supply chain breakdown that makes critical components unavailable.
Why do I need to travel?
I’m sure I’m not alone, but I think nothing about hopping in my vehicle and driving 20-30 minutes to go fishing or to forage plants. In a grid-down scenario the four main reasons that we need to travel are to: collect food (hunt, fish, and forage- including medicinal plants), collect firewood, collect water if the utilities go offline, and to get healthcare treatment. If you are lucky enough to live within walking distance of where you hunt, fish, forage and collect firewood this may not apply, but think about hauling home the heavy loads such as that deer you shot or the firewood you collected. If that ability suddenly ended tomorrow, what would you do? The longer this grid-down scenario goes, the fish and game closest to you will become depleted, so you will have to travel farther to hunt them.
The obvious way to reduce the amount of time you will need to leave your home to get supplies is to have everything you need at your home. For short-term events, having stored reserves of food, water, medical supplies, and off-grid heating/cooking methods will get you through. The long term and sustainable plan requires you to grow your own food and herbs, save seeds, raise and breed livestock, have medical knowledge and supplies, have the ability to get and purify your own water (well water, rain collection, or body of water), and supply your own heating/cooking fuels. Being completely self-sufficient is not possible. There will always be some other supply you need that can only be found away from your homestead. To be truly self-sufficient at the local level, we need to have a community that works well together. Every member of the community will rely on the other members for safety and security. One of the most important survival skills that is often overlooked is building this community. Make it part of your preps to build this community before you need it.
Alternate forms of transportation
On Foot – Foot travel is the oldest and most reliable form of transportation. Typically, a person can travel around 20 to 30 miles in a day. You can prepare for this situation now by having rugged, comfortable footwear that is broken in before you need it. You also need to get out there and start walking today to get yourself in shape. Make sure you have supplies for blister treatment. My guess is that the typical office working person could not walk nearly 20 miles on the first day after the grid goes down. Another thing to think about is hauling loads. Most people can carry 40 to 60 pounds in a well-designed backpack, but much more than that and your daily average distance is going to drop and your chance of injury increases. Keep in mind that on longer distances, the amount of rest time will increase, especially until your body is in shape for walking. Consider getting a wheeled cart to haul heavier loads or people that are unable to keep pace with the rest of the group, such as children. If you live in area that gets a lot of snow, consider getting a sled. In snowy locations, cross-country skis or snowshoes can be a lifesaver.
Bicycle – Bikes are very good option if roads or paths are available. People on bicycle tours typically average 40-60 miles per day. Again, being in shape and practicing the skill before it’s needed are crucial to maintaining these distances and avoiding injury. Carrying heavy loads will drop the average considerably, especially on hilly terrain. There are many load-carrying options available, such as saddlebags (panniers) and trailers. A stock of repair parts such as tires, tubes, brake pads are critical to have on hand; you’ll also need tools necessary to make any repairs.
Animals – Animals have been a reliable source of transportation for millennia. Earlier settlers in this country crossed the vast plains and mountain ranges in wagons pulled by horses, mules, and oxen. You will not suddenly be able to trade in your car for a horse on the day after the grid goes down. You would need to start acquiring them now, have the facilities and time to care for them, and train them. The daily travel distance is still going to be 20-30 miles, but you can haul much heavier loads. Dogs are another animal that have served human transportation needs for centuries. We most often think of dog sleds used for snow travel, but they can also be used to tow wheeled carts. A well-trained Iditarod team can cover over 100 miles in a day. Forty to fifty miles per day would be more reasonable to expect in everyday conditions. As with other animals, dogs require a lot of care, and you would need to start building a team now, before a crisis.
On Water – Human beings have been traveling vast distances over water for almost as long as they have been walking. In this scenario, I’m thinking more traveling over rivers, lakes, and canals than striking off over the ocean in a sailing vessel, but it depends on where you live. The most practical vessels would be canoes and small rowboats that could possibly be equipped with sails. Make sure your vessel is properly equipped with life preservers, navigation equipment, and a full complement of tools and survival gear as you probably won’t be able to call the Coast Guard for assistance.
Gasification – Gasification of wood, other biomass material, and coal is an option to keep using modern vehicles when fuel is no longer available. Smaller vehicles like lawnmowers or ATV/UTVs are excellent candidates for gasification. The basic principle is to burn the fuel in a low oxygen environment (pyrolysis), so the gases are released. These gases are piped into the internal combustion engine for fuel. Vehicles have been gasified in war zones and failed economies over the past 100 years. I have heard reports that it is quite common in North Korea still today. If the fuel is available and people have the knowledge, this option is an excellent way to keep our economy running.
PV-Powered Vehicles – For photovoltaic (PV)-powered vehicles, I’m not thinking today’s modern electric vehicle, because they require a lot of electricity from the grid or a huge solar array (or other alternative energy source) to remain operable. I’m thinking more of a lightweight buggy with a couple solar panels on top and a few salvaged car batteries that you can use to haul your firewood out of the woods. Another option may be a smaller panel and a battery to create an electrified three-wheeled bicycle like you see many of the Amish use.
Rail lines – There are tens of thousands of miles of rail lines crossing this country. In a grid-down scenario, finding an old hand pump cart or the motorized high rail cars that are used for maintenance would be an excellent way to travel between towns. This option would depend on your location and sources of fuel. I would only explore this option if you can be sure that trains are not operating. It would be extremely dangerous to use rail lines if modern trains are still operating.
A few other things to think about
I have listed a few alternative modes of transportation that for the most part were used before modern forms of transportation were invented. I’m sure you can come up more if you think about the ways they used to get around before the train, automobile, and airplane. Particularly, look at how people used to get around in your local area.
JWR Adds This Safety Caveat: You would of course need to first be absolutely sure that all train traffic have ceased, unless you are on long-abandoned tracks.
All of these alternatives require planning and training today in order to be prepared for tomorrow’s crisis.
Traveling in tomorrow’s world after a collapse will require some different tactics. All of the methods listed above are going to greatly reduce the miles covered in a day versus what you can do now in a modern automobile. This may require caching supplies along your route or building small huts/cabins in order to spend the night. Think about how trappers used line cabins to expand the amount of area they could cover.
You can’t do it all by yourself. In the scenarios I’ve discussed it will become extremely important to have other people to rely on for safety and security. You won’t have the option to call AAA or the police.
In my opinion, the most important rule of survival is “Do not fear”. It always reminds me of my favorite bible verse, Isaiah 41:10 (NIV): “So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”