Perspectives on Patrolling- Part 5, by J.M.

Today is the final part of this article on patrolling in the post-SHTF scenario. If you just jumping in here and have missed the earlier parts, go back and look at what has been covered already, including objectives, planning, navigation, movement, contact, observing and more.

Bivouacking

Let’s look at the practical concerns of bivouacking within a patrol group. Even if everyone in the patrol is in perfect physical shape, you’ll still need to stop for food and rest occasionally. Since you will be walking a lot, you’ll be burning a lot of calories, which you’ll need to replace. Food is obviously a very personal decision. However, keep in mind that for patrolling you’ll need food that is light and compact, has a high calorie count, and is easy to prepare. You could have the patrol forage, fish, or hunt for food. But that will take time away from achieving their primary objectives. It might also expose them to greater risk.

Patrol Meal Choice

My choice for patrol meals are custom freeze-dried meals that I create using ingredients from various #10 FD cans. I store them in a vacuum-packed sealed mylar bag with an oxygen absorber. They can be prepared quickly by just adding hot water, which I heat up with a simple alcohol burner, pot stand, wind break, and lightweight pot. Denatured alcohol is inexpensive and stores forever.

This approach eliminates the smell and light from a wood fire, which can travel quite a distance. I also stock a good selection of spice packets in a waterproof container along with a small bottle of hot sauce. Alternatively, you could stock and carry military MREs with heaters, but they tend to be heavier since they contain their own water. Also, some people don’t like them.

Eat Away From Where You Will Camp

Regardless of what you eat, you should plan to have breakfast after you break camp in the morning right before you leave. Then, find a secure location to have lunch, and have dinner well before you select a sleeping location. The smell of food can attract dangerous animals (both two-legged and four-legged). So, you want to ensure you prepare and eat it somewhere you won’t be hanging around for very long.

Sleeping Plan

For sleeping you should plan on locating a bivouac site while it’s still light enough to see the terrain and determine its suitability in terms of safety and security. Have two-member teams recon the area out to at least 50 yards around the site to make sure there aren’t any hidden dangers nearby. You should plan on having half of the team on security and half sleeping at any given time. To simplify set up and take down, you could have the people coming off security utilize the shelters of the people going on when they switch. You could also have them “hot bunk” and use the blanket/sleeping bag of the person that’s replacing them. However, that’s a personal decision. For added security, you can set up tripwires with small bells or cans with pebbles inside attached across the most likely approaches. Assuming your sentries are awake and paying attention, that should be enough to alert them. Anything louder, like a shotgun shell tripwire, or something brighter, like a flare tripwire, stands the chance of exposing your location to anyone quite a distance away, even if it was just tripped by some wildlife.

Sleeping Gear

Sleeping gear for patrols is another area that’s open to a lot of discussion and subject to personal preference. If the temperature is going to stay above 45°F in the evenings, I usually carry a portable hammock with a built-in mosquito net, a blanket or woobie, and a foam sleeping pad. For colder evenings, I add a mylar blanket. I can hang the hammock as designed, or lay it out on the ground and suspend the mosquito netting if it’s buggy out. If rain is a possibility, I use my poncho as a tarp.

Benefits of Foam Sleeping Pad Over Inflatable One

I believe the foam sleeping pad is a better choice for patrols than an inflatable one. I have several reasons for this, which follow:

  • You can cut it, poke holes in it, burn it, et cetera, and it will continue to function; severe tears can be quickly repaired with duct tape,
  • Even though it’s bulkier, it can be trimmed down to just the size you need,
  • It works well as a flotation device, if you need to cross a water obstacle,
  • It’s faster to set up and take down than an inflatable one,
  • It makes a great back rest when leaning up against a tree or a ground pad while laying down in an OP,
  • You can cut it up and use it for padding when splinting a broken bone, and
  • You can buy several foam pads for the price of a single inflatable pad.

Cold Weather Modular Sleeping System

When the weather starts getting really cold and snowy I’d recommend switching to a military-style modular cold weather sleeping system, some good quality cold-weather rated sleeping bags and individual bivvies’, or two-person all season tents. Pay attention to the weight of anything you buy. This is one area where a good investment in a light and warm solution will pay big dividends.

Health and Safety

Going on patrol in a post-SHTF world will expose the team members to a lot of potential risks and hazards they may not normally have to worry about. Having the right training, procedures, and kit available can help minimize the potential risks.

Toilet Practices

Good toilet practices are critical, even when moving about on a patrol. Members should move well clear of the trail to use the bathroom, and a cat hole should be dug at least 10” deep for burying any solid wastes. If anyone needs to go to the bathroom after the bivouac is set up, they should be escorted by a second member at least 50’ away from the camp. Do not use the bathroom within 50’ of any body of water that could potentially be used as a drinking source by anyone. Have every team member carry at least three days’ worth of toilet paper and a small plastic hand trowel in a waterproof bag in their backpack.

Biological Hazards

Biological hazards, such as diseases, will most likely be rampant in a world without access to advanced medicine. All team member should carry N95 face masks and heavy-duty latex gloves and use them when interacting with anyone that could be sick or when touching or moving anything that could be carrying dangerous germs.

Foot Care

Since the team will be doing a lot of walking, potential foot issues are a big concern. Every team member should carry at least one clean change of socks in a waterproof bag, a small bottle of foot powder, and some moleskins. The team medic should check everyone’s feet for blisters each night as a standard part of setting up the bivouac.

Body Cleanliness and Odor Detection

A clean body is important to maintain health as well as to remain undetected. It’s interesting to read stories from the Vietnam and Middle East conflicts, where both sides tell about being able to frequently smell potential enemies before they could see them. So, you should avoid eating any foods that will produce a strong smell, like garlic.

Team members should wear under-clothing that incorporates anti-microbial properties, like merino wool, bamboo, and synthetic clothing, and is quick drying. Provide team members with low-odor deodorant to help control body odor. They should also wash each evening using wipes or no-rinse soap and shampoo. It’s hard to stay stealthy and pay attention to your surroundings when you’re fighting a serious case of jock itch or head lice.

Bugs

Mosquitoes, ticks, flies, and other bugs can carry deadly diseases. Use Permethrin on clothing and employ mosquito netting, especially at dusk. If ticks are a problem in your area/season, team members should check themselves each evening as they’re washing.

Avoid Dehydration

Dehydration can be a serious problem with the levels of exertion that patrols will expending, both in winter as well as summer. Patrol leaders should regularly check the water levels of each team member to ensure they have been drinking regularly. Team members should also carry powdered electrolytes, such as Gatorade, to replenish what they lose when sweating heavily.

Tactical Gloves

Have each patrol member wear a good set of tactical gloves, like those from Mechanix Wear. Patrol movement and activities will typically result in a lot of touching of various surfaces. It is much easier to prevent cuts, scrapes, punctures, and infections than to fix them.

Diarrhea

Based on the experiences of some friends of mine who’ve done a lot of it, one of the most common ailments associated with patrolling in wilderness areas is diarrhea. Carry a good supply of anti-diarrheal medication.

Other Kit

Throughout this article I’ve discussed various pieces of kit that patrol members should carry. However, there are a few more items that need to be included. Those items follow with description.

Water

I recommend that each patrol member carry at least 4-5 liters of water on them and have the ability to filter water sources for refilling in the field. I’m partial to a 2.5L hydration bladder inside my backpack and a USGI-style 2-quart plastic canteen on my belt or on a strap. For a filter, I use the Survivor Filter Pro, as it has both biological elements as well as activated carbon filters. However, like everything else, there are a lot of options available.

Multitool

A multitool is handy, because anyone who has ever been on a patrol in the military knows that things seldom break. (Sarcasm inserted.) Just in case, be sure to have one.

Repair Kit

You may need a basic repair kit. I recommend one with some 100 MPH tape, some wire, a sewing kit, a Speedy Stitcher with some nylon thread, and some super glue.

Cutting Tools

The choice of cutting tools is another area that’s subject to a lot of personal preference, but you should at least plan on having a good knife and a small hatchet or saw. My preference is a Zero Tolerance folding knife, a Gerber Downrange Tomahawk, and a small Primos folding saw. The tomahawk is useful as a weapon and for prying open doors, and the grip built into the head allows me to use the pry-bar end to break up dirt so I don’t need an entrenching tool. I use the Primos saw for cutting branches for camouflage or to clear an opening under a fallen tree for a bivouac, since sawing makes less noise than chopping.

Flashlight

I carry a combination of a Streamlight Sidewinder Military Model flashlight on my vest (with red LEDs), an Olight h04 headlamp (with red LEDs) for use at the bivouac, and an old SureFire for which I made a red lens cover. Whatever flashlight(s) you chose, make sure they support a low/moonlight/firefly mode and that you have a red filter or red LEDs so you don’t ruin your night vision.

Entrenching Tool

It might make sense to have one or two entrenching tools with the patrol. I can’t really see patrols having to do a lot of digging, but the need may arise to bury a body or to rescue someone that’s buried. The downside is that the good ones weigh a lot.

Spare Batteries

  • Have at least one extra set of batteries for each of your devices that require them. The loss of communications, for example, due to dead batteries is not a good situation, especially in a conflict situation.

Post Mortem

Once a patrol has returned to the home base, all of the maps and notebooks that document the patrol’s intelligence and observations should be assembled for review by the security and intelligence staff. All of the patrol team members (current and future) should meet to discuss what happened, what was discovered, what went well, and what could use improvement, with someone assigned to take notes during the discussion. Any lessons learned should be applied towards planning and improving future patrols.

Conclusion

Despite the length of this article, I’ve only just touched the surface of what you need to do in order to run effective patrols in a post-SHTF world. While I’ve generally focused on larger patrols, much of what I’ve discussed can potentially be applied even if you only have two people available. Take the time to think about where and why you’d need to run patrols and how many people you’d have available. Then start practicing and stocking up.

If you’d like to learn more, I recommend that you read the following resources:

See Also:

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22 Comments

  1. Excellent series, you have presented a huge amount of highly valuable information. These articles definitely get printed and put into my emergency information library. Thanks for your contribution.

  2. Your comment “custom freeze-dried meals that I create using ingredients from various #10 FD cans.” intrigued me. Is it possible you could explain this better and perhaps give some examples?

      1. Re: my custom FD meals – sure – for example, I take a cup of instant rice, a chicken bullion packet, a half cup of FD chicken, a half cup of FD green beans and put them all into a 1 qt. ziplock mylar bag along with an O2 absorber and vacuum seal it. To prepare it I tear off the top (above the ziplock), open and add the contents of the bullion packet, add 1 3/4 cups of boiling water, seal it, shake it and let it sit for about 7 minutes or so. I experimented a lot with different combinations, and the hardest thing to get right is how much water to add. I also realize that the ‘spoilage’ clock starts counting down as soon as you open the #10 FD cans, but I’ve eaten meals I put together like this 2 years ago and they’re fine.

        1. Thank you. You might consider taking tortillas. I have kept store bought flour tortillas in an opened package and unrefrigerated for a year and found them still good to eat. They are excellent for hiking. Good calories. Good bread replacement with considerably less bulk. I like to make PB&J burittos for breakfast, good with Nutella too. Good with a thick slathering of butter too. My lunch favorite is top ramen and one of those single serve packets of spam or tuna.

  3. Ramen spice packets are foil wrapped and come in many different flavors. To cut down on salt, I use only half a packet at a time, thus gaining a free unit every two meals. You build up a supply quickly and have a good choice of various flavors..

    Ramen packages are very light, and when combined with a protein (jerky) provides a pretty filling meal with lots of carbs. Salt for hot times – a hot liquid for cold = versatile meal, Very low cost too, A one pot meal that can easily be expanded for more.

  4. You may want to consider getting/using a Kelly Kettle for your hot water. The only thing I’ve seen beat mine is a JetBoil, and that only some times, plus my Kelly can use any fuel and still have hot water in jig time. Also, the Glock e-tool is quite light and very effective.

    1. Great idea. I love mine. As efficient as Kelly Kettles are, you shouldn’t have much smoke, anyway.

      Also, for (modern) tactical lighting, I’ll stick with green LED tactical lighting instead of the old red, or blue. Even the military has switched instrument panel lighting on aircraft from red to green, making it a little more compatible with NVD’s. You can actually be pretty bright with green LED lighting. Like all other camouflage techniques, no one expects to see green light in their mind’s eye.

  5. Please note I did not read any of the article, as I was formerly in the US Infantry, and I’m very familiar with actual patrolling, sans the half-ton of paper work and West Point Plan. The first thing that warned me off was the picture of all those guys on the road, and packed together so close that one grenade would kill all of them. That’s not a patrol, it’s a list of casualties. GI’s may love walking on roads getting from A to B, but the bad guys love mining those roads and any trail or other places that rookies love to explore. One of the hallmarks of a successful and aggressive patrol is to not booger it up with a million tasks and requirements of the West Point Plan, and just do it. Planning and briefing and debriefing are cogent and applicable, as long as it’s not to the 40th degree. Training for patrolling is very desirable prior to actual combat patrols, as anything can happen during them. Each patrol member knowing what to do is essential for mission success. My eyes glaze over when these things are done to death, as has often been the case at briefings. I have conducted fire team to platoon sized patrols and even when every mission requirement was made, Army officers were loathe to even let one attaboy slip, let alone simple acknowledgement that we did well. It seemed that no matter what we did, it was wrong. I made sure to let rank and file know that they did well, despite the West Point spinners. I fully realize that most readers here do not have the experience that I do in these matters, and that they should know as much as they can before stepping off on a patrol. But I have trained thousands of men, and simple is better than complicated. I’m here to tell you this because the actual combat patrols I’ve been on were simple and to the point, and I’m alive. Half and hour of training is better than a million words.

    1. “Please note I did not read any of the article…The first thing that warned me off was the picture of all those guys on the road”

      Wow. Talk about judging a book by it’s cover… Why would you judge an article that you didn’t read by a stock photo that the author didn’t have anything to do with? Read the article and then criticize it. Don’t criticize it based on straw-man arguments that have nothing to do with the article or the content.

    2. Hi Sean,

      After all of my U.S. Army experience (25 years total of Regular, Guard and Reserve Being born as 11B and retiring as an All Source Intell. Officer O3-E), I have to agree with a lot of what you’re saying, but HJL makes a valid point as well.

      You’re right. All that doctrinal, administrative BS pushed on you is one of the many reasons why I have to agree with a lot of military critics out there: That the U.S. military (talking U.S. Army here) is great at waging wars, but not good at winning them.

      Take for example the false narrative from the Vietnam War: That “we never lost a battle.” This has even been perpetuated by the U.S. gov’t itself, by having a lot of battle logs of just regular infantry units in the U.S. National Archives being given restricted classifications. Through the Freedom of Information act, historians have confirmed that even during the “good Army” years that S.L.A Marshall described (before Tet, the military collapsing due to drug use, anti-war GI activism, etc. – The documentary “Sir, No Sir” on YouTube is a must-see documentary), that entire platoons and companies got wiped-out in ambushes, due to poor prior planning, incorrectly assessing the enemy situation, etc. Granted, thanks to the Deep State at that time (the CFR in particular), the war was never meant to be won.

      Off the top of my head, in the case of Iraq, the treatment of prisoners at Abu Ghraib, etc. turned the entire Muslim world against the U.S. In addition to that, supply convoys always being given the same repeated route, etc.

      I think this has been an excellent series. I only have one caveat, though. We also need to remember that we are already in a state of slow, civilizational collapse. We also need to focus the here-and-now. For instance, the next time all those houses in your neighborhood become vacant (such as the 2008 financial collapse), how are you going to get rid of the drug dealers squatting in one of them? I can vouch for having used creative means of area denial and harassment operations to get rid of them.

  6. Sean – the picture was just mean for visual impact, not something meant to illustrate or recommend any actual patrol practices. One of the points I tried to make in the article was that patrolling post-SHTF wouldn’t be like it currently is in the military – it would need to be much more focused and practical, without all of the ‘organizational dynamics’ that currently exist in the military. That being said, I also believe that you need to do some structured planning, prep and post-mortem in order to make sure patrols accomplish the desired goals with while minimizing the potential for problems.

    Given your background I’d appreciate any additional comments or recommendations you might have on the content.

  7. Thank you for this series of articles. Any article that helps open peoples eyes to unfamiliar topics is greatly appreciated. As always your results may vary from man to man and situation to situation. Keep up the good work.

  8. With no offense to the author, as with most other blog articles or survival forum discussions on patrolling the suggestions here are both one-sided and myopic in terms of contact with other survivalists patrolling or those defending their retreat. Stealth (camo, night ops, hidden OPs) and deception (contact specialists) may sound like great ideas for a patrol to employ, until they’re observed or their ruse discovered, then they appear as a threat. Would the author’s advice be that we just need to be more sneaky and deceptive than those we encounter?

    The suggestion in the “Contacts Obviously Armed” section of part #3 of “asking” a smaller or more lightly armed group to disarm because his patrol wants to approach and talk to them is also troubling, he has no authority to make such a request except greater numbers and force of arms. And, what’s his RoE if someone(s) asks his patrol to do the same?

  9. SamlAm – you’re absolutely right – my article is pretty narrowly focused and assumes some conditions, but I’m also limited in how many scenarios I can cover in one article. How you approach it would depend a lot on current conditions – if you believe there are potential bad guys in your AO then using stealth makes sense. I would also hope that if you encountered another group of folks patrolling that both sides would be level-headed enough to make it a peaceful contact and that your RoE isn’t ‘shoot first, ask questions later’. I honestly believe that a post-SHTF world will harbor a lot of potential dangers for quite a while after whatever event caused it, and patrolling provides both the ability to gather intelligence on potential issues as well as opportunities for like-minded folks to meet and cooperate.

  10. I would suggest that if you encounter another patrol, post-SHTF, that you grab some cover immediately, make sure your patrol does the same, and call out to the other patrol that you’d like to “parlay”, talk, a bit. Then be sure and pass whatever information you have about the other patrol, how many, armed with what, etc, to the rest of your patrol. I’ve done this in combat patrols, where we encountered others who didn’t even speak good English, and it works. YMMV. Anyway, it beats all hell out of just blazing away at one another without even knowing why. When talking with the other patrol, just speak in generalities, like, “I’m just checking over the neighborhood” (notice: not MY neighborhood, as this would tell them where you are), and ask if they want a face to face on neutral ground. If your entreaties are returned by gunfire, well, you know you’re up against it, and do your best to extract you and your patrol from the area. Or, you can just remain concealed, make a salute report from what you see, and head for home. I did that once when with a sniper/radio recon team,(eight guys) and we sat and sweated and watched 75 NVA regulars go trooping by. It’s enough to make you old.

    1. Sean – LOL. Good stuff.

      In my case of actual (post-SHTF) patrolling, it would probably just be Yours Truly, at night, and in constant coms with the Misses through our MURS base station.

      If anything, focusing on the SALUTE format is critical. In my case, I’d mainly just be concerned with any threat to our house – There’s no community where I live (when you’re the only one who shows for a Neighborhood Association meeting AND you’re an admittedly recluse Survivalist, yeah, there’s no community). If for instance I come across some people who don’t look right (obviously armed, backwards hats, tattoos and earings in weird places) and I’m unnoticed, and I have the advantage (NV, suppression, etc), I’ll just leave the rest up to your imagination…

  11. I would not disarm to parley. I also would not speak to other patrol leader in a way that he/she could see me. The disarming stuff is for the birds and fairy tales from holly wood movies. Any suggestions by the other group that includes disarming to talk should be regarded with extreme suspicion. If they want a later sit-down, maybe over a meal in neutral land, it will have to be covered by your security force, but still armed, and the other group unable to physically see you. Only after a passage of time and events will you be able to meet with them face to face, and that is something each leader must decide on their own. The first parlay with the other group should be done with your second-in-command.

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