Vehicular Retreating

“Land mobile” retreating in a recreational vehicle (RV) is another invitation to disaster. In a TEOTWAWKI situation, a fixed location retreat is vastly superior to going mobile. IMO, the myth of ”Road Warrior” mobility and firepower is in actuality just an expanded opportunity to wander into ambush after ambush. No vehicle short of a $70,000+ Cadillac Gage V100 wheeled armored personnel carrier (APC) would have both the cargo capacity and the ballistic protection required. (A little Ferret scout car just doesn’t have the capacity. I speak from personal experience on that!) Also, consider that you would need a pair of APCs to provide mutually supporting defensive fire. And then of course you will probably want a belt-fed for each. With spares and accessories that is an additional $3,000 per vehicle. If by chance you already have a fully stocked retreat established and have $150,000 in cash laying around for a couple of ultimate G.O.O.D. vehicles, see: Dave Uhrig’s website and then click on “Armor”. (I should mention that I have done business with Dave Uhrig on two occasions. He is quite reputable.) Note: I will discuss survival vehicles in greater detail in blog posts later this year.

Here is a dose of reality for you: If you choose to go entirely vehicle mobile eventually you will eventually lose a battle–most likely in a roadblock ambush–or your RV will break down. Or it will run out of fuel–with some likelihood that it will be on exposed terrain in an untenable situation. Also, since the logistics that you could carry would be limited, you will start out with an inherent disadvantage to fixed location retreats. This also creates the prospect that once your food supplies are depleted you will be tempted to take what you need from others. To paraphrase John Dibari (my high school chemistry instructor) when he described troublemakers: “If you aren’t part of the solution–you’re the precipitate.” (That is, someone who precipitates trouble–part of the problem, not the solution.) Scratch that idea!

Sea Mobile Retreating

A live-aboard sailboat or motor cruiser is another frequently touted retreat option. Unless you are an experienced blue water yachtsman with many years of experience, then I cannot recommend “sea mobile” retreating. I only know a few yachtsmen with this level of experience–most notably Mark Laughlin and Matthew Bracken. (BTW, Some of the characters and descriptions in Matt Bracken’s recent novel “Enemies Foreign and Domestic” shed some light on sea-mobile retreating.) IMHO, for a long term Crunch with anticipated fuel shortages, only a sailboat with an auxiliary engine makes sense. If you do choose this route, then by all means select the largest sailboat you can afford (and that can be manned by a small crew) with the following features:

A minimal radar cross section.
A retractable keel so that you can navigate shallows.
A very quiet auxiliary engine.
The largest fuel and fresh water tanks possible.
A full suite of communications gear (marine band, 2 Meter, CB, and HF.)
At least two Global Positioning System (GPS) receivers, plus a sextant in case the GPS satellites ever fail. (Or in case the GPS constellation is destroyed or significantly degraded by anti-satellite (ASAT) weapons.)
A hull and rigging design that will “blend in” with the crowd of seasonal yachtsmen.
Plenty of spare parts.

Be forewarned that your inevitable desire to add a large photovoltaic array will be in direct opposition to blending in. If you buy photovoltaic (PV) panels, buy canvas covers to make them less obvious when sailing near shore. A sailboat moored at night is vulnerable to sea-going looters. Even today, piracy is a problem, particularly in the Caribbean and the waters around Southeast Asia. This threat will surely expand by an order of magnitude WTSHTF. So plan your landfalls carefully!
Mobile approaches to retreating have too many drawbacks to recommend them, except perhaps in a few cases for someone with a huge budget. Pragmatically, you will need a defensible fixed location with a deep larder, tools, weapons, barter goods, and friends that you can count on. In essence, the only tenable “mobile” approach is for the very short term: a reliable vehicle that gets you to a well provisioned and defendable fixed retreat. (But I highly recommend living at you retreat year round, if at all possible. I will articulate this fully in future posts.)

A Special Note for Commonwealth Readers (Revised)

In yesterday’s post I should have been more specific when I used the term “British Commonwealth.” I had intended to direct my comments mainly toward the United Kingdom which is heavily urbanized and has a low quotient for self-sufficiency. A reader from Australia kindly pointed out my lapse in articulation. To clarify: I do believe that some of the more remote areas of Oz (particularly up at the fringe of The Wet), much of Western Canada, and perhaps parts of New Zealand that are well removed from major population centers could be a good places to survive WTSHTF. See my revised post, under the August 8, 2005 divider. Mea culpa. OBTW, a recent poll of Canadians showed that at least 35% of residents of the Western Provinces favor secession from the Ottawa government. Let freedom reign!

The Lightweight Bugout Bag, by “Jim Tanker”

My first bugout bag was actually a large army box that I had acquired in my many years in the military. I’m not sure how much that weighed but seemed like a hundred pounds. Most of the gear that I used back then was surplus army gear, actually the gear I was issued. I believe that most army gear was designed during The Inquisition. Any of you who have carried it know what I mean. Even my civilian pack topped out at 60 pounds, I didn’t know any better. In the last few years I’ve gotten into lightweight backpacking. There is a sect of backpackers that use the term “Ultra light” to describe their style of packing. Base weights of as little as 9 pounds are not uncommon if you have the money to buy them. 15-20 pound base pack weights are not too uncommon and fall into my category of light weight backpacking. Your base pack weight consists of everything you need to survive except expendables such as food, fuel, or water. Now understand that I’m not talking about a bug out bag at this point but shaving weight in some areas will shave weight for your bugout bag as well.

To start off with, I like to use civilian gear, for a few good reasons. The first is camouflage. If you go walking around in the city with a military rucksack on you are either a nut or a terrorist in the eyes of the sheeple. Not too many people would think twice of a person in clean clothes walking around with a nice internal frame backpack or even a duffle bag. Just think, you could carry around your bug out bag to work every day and just tell people that you are getting in shape for an upcoming backpacking trip. Secondly, it’s just so much more comfortable. That reason alone is enough to change for me. A good internal frame pack from any backpacking store will do fine. A balance in the volume to the weight of the pack should be looked at if you really want to reduce weight. I went for a 2900 cubic inch pack, to intentionally limit the volume that I have available. A lot of people buy a pack that is way too large for them and fill up the empty space with useless junk. I know, I’ve done it and went over a mountain with that pack, and I felt like a mule.

Jim’s Quote of the Day:

"A remarkable fact is how unafraid people are of influenza, even though the 1918-1919 pandemic killed upwards of 20 million people in a short period of time, a similar pandemic could recur, there is no cure for the disease, and flu vaccines are unreliable due to mutability of the virus." – Judge Richard A. Posner, Catastrophe: Risk and Response

The Illusion of Isolation

If you are an eastern urbanite and come to the conclusion that you need to buy “a cabin in upstate New York” or “a brick house in New Jersey’s Pine Barrens,” then you are wrong, quite possibly dead wrong. (By the way, I had both of those earnestly suggested, in e-mails from readers of my novel Patriots.) A rural area that is within an overall heavily populated region is not truly rural. It lacks real isolation from the basic problem–population. Most of these “rural” areas—except perhaps for a few fortunately bypassed zones, as I mentioned yesterday–will be overwhelmed by refugees and looters in a true TEOTWAWKI. You will need to be at least one tank of gas away from the larger metropolitan areas–preferably 300 miles or more, if possible.

Retreat Location Criteria

A retreat is not just “a cabin in the mountains.” Rather, it is a well-prepared and defensible redoubt with well-planned logistics. A proper survival retreat is in effect a modern day castle. Be prepared to escalate your defensive posture to match an escalating threat, and in a “worst case” your retreat will be so well defended that looters will most likely give up and find someone less prepared to prey upon. Ideally, a survival retreat is located in a region with the following characteristics:

A long growing season.
Geographic isolation from major population centers.
Sufficient year-round precipitation and surface water.
Rich topsoil.
A diverse economy and agriculture.
Away from interstate freeways and other channelized areas.
Low taxes.
Non-intrusive scale of government.
Favorable zoning and inexpensive building permits.
Minimal gun laws.
No major earthquake, hurricane, or tornado risks.
No flooding risk.
No tidal wave risk (at least 200 feet above sea level.)
Minimal forest fire risk.
A lifestyle geared toward self-sufficiency.
Demographics not factionalized either economically or racially.
Plentiful local sources of wood or coal.
No restrictions on keeping livestock.
Defendable terrain.
Not near a prison or large mental institution.
Inexpensive insurance rates (home, auto, health).
Upwind from major nuclear weapons targets.

After digesting the foregoing list and taking it seriously, you should be able to greatly narrow your search for potential retreat regions.

A Special Note for Commonwealth Readers (REVISED)

You will note that in my blog posts that I don’t make specific recommendations for regions in British Commonwealth countries that I consider safe havens. This is for two reasons: First, Because of my lack of familiarity with the terrain and microclimates, I don’t feel qualified to do so. Second, and more importantly, in my opinion there are no safe areas! The gun control laws and other facets of The Ubiquitous Nanny State have made your nations a poor place to stay in WTSHTF. Your laws prevent bearing arms for the defense of you own life and property. (And in most cases even owning guns or even some types of swords and knives!) Further, the multiple generations of people accustomed to deep dependency on the welfare state will make very dangerous neighbors. You will be outnumbered. It will mainly be criminals that will have guns, and you will be at their mercy. I cannot find words strong enough to implore you to emigrate to the United States if your circumstances make it feasible. You and your family will be much safer here! The only exceptions might be for those of you who live in some of Canada’s western provinces or the more remote regions of Australia or New Zealand. But even then you still have to live with some fairly draconian gun laws. If you plan on staying put, you should probably buy two fully redundant sets of guns. One to use, and one to cache. Your own government may come and collect the first set. And then it will be up to you just how you’ll interpret Rule 303.

I am also directing these comments to those of you living in unstable countries such Indonesia, Israel, Pakistan, The Philippines, South Africa, and Zimbabwe. Many of you are presently living in circumstances that are very similar to what I describe in this book. My hat is off to you. I can’t teach you what you already know so well. But I can recommend relocating to a rural region in the U.S. while it is still possible to do so. As they say at British football matches: “Take the gap!,” ladies and gents.

From The Memsahib: Selective Breeding

Selective breeding of small livestock is important to the survivalist because you will not be able to get replacement livestock from other sources if things get truly bad. You will have to maintain your own breeding population to replace those animal you consume, are killed by predators, die of disease, or even old age.

The first principle is that you will keep only a few male animals and a preponderance of female animals. The females of course gestate. The more females you have the more offspring can be produced. You will need some males. You certainly would want to have a “herd sire” and a spare. But you probably would not keep more than two because one male can service many females, and your space and feed will probably be limited. That having been said, your rooster, ram, buck goat, etc. should be the very best you can get. The old saying is that the male is 50% of the herd. He will provide his genetic material to ALL the offspring.

Once your animals are producing offspring, you will want to select the very best to raise up as replacements. First, they ought to be the daughters out of your very best females. Which are your best females? These would be the females that are healthy and have never been prone to any illness. Select chicks from your hens that started laying eggs the earliest, laid the most eggs, and kept laying even into the winter when the other hens stopped laying. For rabbits, select offspring from the does that raised the most bunnies to butcher weight on her milk alone. Select ones from does that breed readily, have large litters, but also have plenty of milk to feed their babies. For sheep and goats, select the offspring from the mothers that had no problems during their births, are calm mothers with lots of milk, never suffered from hoof or teeth problems, with well-formed udders and teats (“easy milkers”), and have been free of udder infections. Also, only select from ewes and doe goats that have twins. Twinning is an inherited trait. (Make sure your ram was a twin as well, because he can pass this gene on to his daughters).

The offspring you ought to eat first are the offspring from the inferior females that don’t lay as many eggs, don’t have twins, are prone to illnesses, are nervous mothers, or are less productive in some way. Your next step ids then to start raising up replacement young females. At the point when the yearlings come into production themselves you will want to cull your senior females that were not as healthy and productive as the others in the herd or flock. Your will also need to raise up a few young males to be eventual replacements. If you decide you have space to raise two young males you would be wise select males from two different mothers so as to maintain some genetic diversity.

In conclusion, I believe that your goal should be increased productivity and vigor in your herds and flocks. Obviously your goals will not be the same as someone who is breeding for “show”that is breeding for a certain look.

Jim’s Quote of the Day:

“The diligent farmer plants trees, of which he himself will never see the fruit.” (“Abores serit diligens agricola, quarum adspiciet baccam ipse numquam.”) – Marcus Tullius Cicero, Tusculanarum Disputationum (I,14)

Channelization and Lines of Drift

Most major routes out of major cities will be very dangerous places to be in the event of a massive involuntary urban exodus. Imagine the situation WTSHTF in small towns on either side of the Snoqualmie Pass in Washington, or near I-80 across the Donner Pass in California, or on the Columbia River Gorge (dividing Oregon and Washington), or virtually every other stretch of interstate freeway that is within 150 miles of a metropolitan region. These channelized areas (also called “refugee lines of drift” by Military Police war game planners) should be studiously avoided.

Conversely, there are areas between lines of drift that will likely be bypassed by refugees and looters, due to poor access.(Constrained by small winding mountainous roads, water obstacles, intervening canyon lands, et cetera.) Some of these bypassed zones may be fairly close to urban areas. It is a dangerous gamble, but if for some reason you must live near a city, I suggest that you carefully search for what may be a largely bypassed zone for your retreat and/or home. A few regions that may be bypassed come to mind, based on my travels and from first hand accounts by my associates. (There are many others that are similar–do some research to find ones in your region). These include:

Portions of the Ouachita Mountains, west of Little Rock, Arkansas
Some islands in the Great Lakes region
Parts of Sabine County, south of Shreveport, Louisiana
The periphery of Harry S. Truman reservoir, 60 miles southeast of Kansas City, Missouri.
Portions of Dewey and Custer Counties (80 miles west of Oklahoma City.)
The Santa Rita Mountains, southeast of Tucson, Arizona
The Chiracahua Mountains, in the southeast corner of Arizona
The Mount Hamilton region, Alameda County, California. (East of San Jose, and south of Livermore.)
Parts of the San Joaquin River Delta, east of San Francisco, California
Some islands in the Puget Sound, Washington

Driving the back roads of your region will probably reveal other similar areas that might be bypassed. BTW, I’d appreciate input from readers about other potentially bypassed areas.

A Special Request From Jim:

I’ve been amazed and gratified that this blog has already has already had 1,960+ unique blog accesses and a total of 29,395 page hits. That’s not bad for a site that is just three days old… I’m asking a favor: Please send a brief and informal announcement to all of of your family, friends, or co-workers that have an interest in preparedness, self-sufficiency or related survival issues. Let them know about Please help spread the word! Just remember, if they get motivated and squared away, they will be one less person knocking on your door in need of charity on TEOTWAWKI+1.

Letter Re: Raising Rabbits as a Protein Source for Tough Times

Glad to see your Blog page starting up. I wish you well with it. To add to your son’s warnings on a rabbit meat-only diet: Eating strictly rabbit meat, the lack of fat causes the human body to start to crave. Early mountain men & wilderness travelers found this out the hard way. It is sort of like a salt craving: One’s body goes through some hard times when this happens, up to including malnourishment symptoms. By the way, it is noteworthy that “New” vegetarians experience these symptoms until their body becomes accustomed to vegetable fats. This can be a long process. I hope this bit of info will help. Take care.
– The Bee Man

[JWR’s note: Some of the readers of my novel will remember The Bee Man from the Barter Faire chapter. Yes, he is a real life individual. And a real “character” to boot!]

Letter Re: “On Population Density”

Jim, read the ‘population density’ analysis and couldn’t agree more. When I was on the road moving to North Idaho earlier this year I came up[U.S.] I-5 and swung over through Washington. There are a lot of people in that corridor. But when I went back for the second load I went down [U.S.] 395. I was amazed at the absence of civilization (at least on a large scale) From John Day [Oregon] through northern California it was DESOLATE. To the uninitiated this would seem frightening. Sometimes a half hour would pass before you passed another car. And the Eastern slope of the Sierra Nevada isn’t bad either. (Except for the fact that its in California). When we again headed north it was up 395 to Reno then North/east on 80 to Winnemucca. That stretch as well is quite appealing. Checked eBay and there is a lot of land for sale in those parts ‘dirt cheap’. And the area you mentioned in Idaho County as well appealed to me for the same reasons–small towns and few of them! Good growing climate and lots of wildlife. Northern Idaho is quite frankly TOO CROWDED and we will be leaving here soon. My circumstances (family) dictate that I leave this area but I will be relocating to a smaller town in Nevada and will keep my eyes on these areas that you have mentioned. OBTW, I lived in D.C. in the eighties while in the Air Force and was amazed at the number of people there. You are right, less is better!
– J.M. in Post Falls, Idaho

JWR’s Reply:

I agree that the Coeur d’Alene area of northern Idaho has too many people. However, there are a lot areas that are outside of commute distance to Spokane and the Aluminum Gulch that are very lightly populated. And those same areas are also where rural acreage is still affordable.

Letter Re: Small Livestock on a Budget

Howdy Jim & Memsahib,
Regarding getting rabbits free after the usual Easter bunny buying frenzy – great idea. Get them producing, and optimize your cage designs at the same time by using those Easter bunnies as test subjects.

One notes however that the “pet” rabbits are generally not designed specifically for meat production, and there are oftentimes sizeable efficiency differences between the breeds. As soon as possible, consider sourcing true breed lines that are designed for meat – you’ll kick up production quite a bit. Using the 4H as a source is probably the best idea – depending on where you’re at. Our 4H locally has been absolutely decimated by PC folks….not many of the 4H clubs still extant here.

If possible, stay away from wooden cages, or wooden cage frames. The rabbit’s eat and chew the woods, damaging and weakening it – and the urine will soak in, making it pretty nasty after a while. If you’ve got to build from wood, make sure you staple the cage wires to the inside of the frames. For cleaning, a 15% bleach/water solution sprayed on liberally and allowed to soak in works well. I’d also say, if you’ve got to use wood, use Cedar or Redwood only.
Good sources for these (at least in urban areas) are old fences, decks, spa surrounds, etc. (At least once a year I advertise for free demolition and removal of a deck. That keeps me with enough Redwood for my projects.)

Ideally, make those cages out of only metal mesh. The wire cloth (hardware cloth, hot dipped galvanizing) that’s out there is miserable stuff to work with, but it’ll work in a pinch. Lot’s of sharp edges and spikes on it, so wear gloves. Plus it’s got the problem of spiking the rabbit’s feet, sometimes giving some nice cuts and abrasions.

The best mesh material is [Smooth] Welded Wire Mesh – 16/14 GA will do just fine. Something like 1/2″x1″ openings. Get some hog ring pliers and hog rings, wire cutters, 4×4’s and hinges for a bending brake (not absolutely necessary, but sometimes will save time and materials) and a tape measure and you’re in business. (OBTW, this stuff is also great for building aviaries, live animal traps, shrimp/lobster cages, fish weirs, etc.)

Great blog so far – looks like it’ll be a winner. I’ll be making it one of my commonly visited sites. – G.T.

JWR’s Reply:

Many thanks for your well-informed observations! I concur that wood-framed rabbit cages are a bad idea. At the Rawles Ranch we use only all-wire rabbit cages. We were able to find our latest batch (made by Bass Equipment, Inc.) via mail order when one of their distributors had a sale a couple of years back. The only wood that ever goes in our rabbit cages is a resting board. (A piece of scrap lumber–usually 2″x6″ or 2″x8″, about 18″ long. This keep the rabbits from getting infected haunches from extended exposure to wire mesh.) We change the resting boards regularly!