There you are, in your off grid solar powered survival complex somewhere in the Redoubt, in a very carefully selected location, stocked to the rafters with every conceivable supply and armament. You are completely prepared for literally anything that might happen. ”Bring it” is your motto. Happy and confident that you have reached the pinnacle of prepping, you sit down at the keyboard to take care of some work e-mail. You open the first email and find, congratulations, you’re going to New York City! New York City?
For those of us who have not moved to the middle of nowhere and set up a robust home-based business to take care of all our financial needs, the question we run into most often is will our prepping survive first contact with the real world. For the majority of us, prepping means prepping in the real world with all its limitations, variables, and complications. A very large percentage of us routinely travel in the course of our employment. Given this fact, you can either decide that traveling is a risk you have to assume and cannot be prepared for, or you can look at travel as another opportunity to hone your prepping skills and open your eyes to a wide array of contingencies.
I had just that exact experience one recent winter. While I travel for business regularly, usually it is by vehicle. I will drive seven hours before I will fly two hours, because of the inherent advantages of driving, from a prepared person’s perspective. Flying, particularly post-9/11 is terrible, and you spend most of your time in an airport rather than actually traveling, and getting all your EDC gear through security is not possible. Traveling by vehicle presents certain advantages and disadvantages and is a topic for a separate article. However, on a regular basis, I must fly in the course of my employment. I usually cannot control the destination and time of year. Recently this resulted in my having to fly to, of all places, New York City! Now there are not a lot of places you can travel that are as hostile to the prepared traveler as New York City, and I was very worried about how I would adapt. To make matters even more challenging, it was for four days in the dead of winter. I survived the experience and have conducted my own “after action review” to see what I can learn from the experience. I decided to share those observations with you, so you might be better prepared in your struggle to prep practically in your day-to-day world.
It would be helpful to know a bit about me and my background, to evaluate my approach and philosophy. I am a dyed in the wool “trip wire” prepper who has been oriented towards preparedness since the Y2K event. “Trip wire” means that while I have a broad base of preps and plans, I have several “trip wires” or triggering events defined, which will cause me to dramatically accelerate food and water storage beyond current levels (aimed at surviving a one month civil/weather/global emergency). We have specific plans and lists of material to secure on short notice in quantity. I acknowledge that such an approach will not fare well in the event of a sudden Mass Coronal Ejection in the Carrington class or perfectly executed EMP attack (as in the book One Second After . However, in order to remain sane, I am preparing for those things that are most likely to affect my family from a statistical basis first, and then move towards the less likely possibilities. I know that the Yellowstone caldera mega eruption is overdue in geologic terms, but in terms of statistical probability, the thing I am most likely to experience and have to ensure my family’s survival through will be a civil/financial/economic/political crisis as a result of those fools in Washington D.C. I am an avid outdoorsman, hunter, fisherman, and reader, who lives in the Southeastern quadrant of the United States, in a place that would likely not require a bug out, unless a volcanic vent suddenly opened in my backyard. Nonetheless, we do have a fairly remote 150-acre property that is a one hour drive from our home. The property has shelter and would be our bug out location, if our tame city suddenly became uninhabitable. I travel regularly due to my job and do not consider myself one of those people who would struggle to travel, operate, and live off the land if circumstances required it.
My adventure to New York City can be broken down into three phases– preparation, execution, and evaluation.
Due to the nature of the work I do, I had notice of the New York City trip well in advance, and due to the size of the “project” I was able to have a partner on the project and fortunately I was able to arrange for a close friend and like-minded (prepper) co-worker to be my project partner. We had many discussions on how to prepare and were excited that we could have a “dry run” experience that we could learn from. Living in different cities, we arranged our flights so we would meet up at the hub airport and then fly into the city together. This way we were a team the whole time we were in NYC. When we left, we flew out on the same flight and parted ways at the hub airport for the second leg of our trip to our respective home bases. The weather forecast was terrible– single digit high temps, below zero at night with light snow off and on for the duration of our visit. When I fly, I never cease to be amazed by the number of business people flying carry on or carrying nothing other than a briefcase/computer bag, regardless of time of year, destination, or weather. They do not have outer wear or shoes you would want to walk very far in. My experiences have shown this to be sheer folly. I almost never fly carry on, since there is no way to bring the minimum of contingency equipment or clothing in a carry-on bag, in my opinion. I travel in clothing and outerwear that is commensurate for the weather and time of year, such that I could walk to my hotel if need be and sufficient to hike home in, if there was an “event”. In my checked bag would be a mostly empty small bug out bag that contained some maps, a knife sharpener (small tool), a fire steel  and striker, a lighter , tactical flashlight , headlamp  with backup batteries  for light, a full-sized multi-tool , and a folding knife . (This one item–the folding knife– took nearly an hour of research, and regardless how small, it was still dicey. Definitely do not leave the clip showing when you carry it.) I also spent time reviewing maps of the several blocks around my hotel, which was one block from my work site, and knew where every grocery, drug, and hardware store was located. This is especially important in a city setting where things could be right in front of you and you would not recognize them, since it was not a super store or strip mall. If I needed to forage for supplies in a pinch to carry in the empty small bug out bag, I knew exactly where to go. I also carried additional layers of clothing, should I find myself on foot in zero degree weather.
The trip went according to plan with no major hick-ups. The cab driver who took us to our hotel spoke little to no English and was totally lost. We had to navigate for him via our smart phones to help him find the small one-way street our hotel was on. The first day of work, it was a very disconcerting feeling to find ourselves half way up a very tall office building in New York City. The views were amazing, especially of the freedom tower going up where the World Trade Center used to be. Looking out across the city from this height, we could validate and visualize our route(s) if we found ourselves on foot at some point. We would work all day and night, leave the work site around midnight, and go out for a late dinner and beverages. We would discuss the day and what we had both learned and “war-game” what we would do if we had to leave on foot that moment. We both learned a great deal, and the experience caused us to re-evaluate aspects of our preps at home and when traveling.