I live alone. No, I’m not a hermit, curmudgeon, recluse, or ogre. I simply choose to live alone, and if normality as we know it dissolves, I am prepared to survive alone.
As a typical working stiff, I spend the majority of the daylight hours at work. My office is 34 miles away from my home. If things suddenly take a turn for the worse while I am at work, I will have to make it back alone across those 34 miles to get home. Home is where most of my preps are stored. Home is where I am most acclimated, and while home may not be where I ultimately stay, it is where I would prefer to begin life under different rules. If I am unable to drive, or if conditions are such that a moving vehicle is a target, I am prepared to make the trek home on foot. I keep a Get Home Bag, stocked with the normal contents and Grey Man clothes, in my truck. The contents of the bag and the clothes are adjusted with the seasons, because I don’t see the need in dragging along the extra weight of thermal underwear and heavy jackets in the summer. The extra footwear, which I keep in my truck, changes with the seasons as well. In addition to the Get Home Bag in my truck, I keep a case of bottled water and some non-perishable food hidden in my office on the off chance I am aware of a problem before leaving my office or in case I have to fall back to my office and Shelter In Place during an event. No one else knows about my office stash. I have mapped out multiple routes for this potential journey under abnormal conditions and have driven as many of those routes as possible to look for bottlenecks, potentially hostile areas, et cetera. I have reviewed satellite views of my primary and alternate routes home and identified potential shelters, including agricultural and utilitarian structures and abandoned buildings that are not too far off the beaten path to use along the way, if necessary. Along my primary daily commute route, I have identified potential water sources and food sources, including pecan trees, blackberry thickets, fig trees, and more. I am working on locating these same resources along my alternate routes and marking them on a map, rather than relying on memory. In short, I am doing as much preparation and reconnaissance as possible and integrating those elements into multiple plans. You will notice I haven’t mentioned anything groundbreaking here; it’s just common sense planning. If I haven’t lost you to boredom and you are still engaged at this point, you will also notice that none of this planning and recon requires an additional body, eyes, or brain. All of these preparations can be performed alone.
The prospect of traveling alone is in no way daunting to me. I readily admit that operating alone does create certain practical, security, and tactical challenges, such as blatantly violating the Two Is One and One Is None rule. However, being alone also offers the lone operator the ability to move quickly, quietly, and decisively without the added emotional concerns of protecting another soul. It does, however, require one to be more careful, more alert, and more deliberate– none of which are bad practices. Surviving alone means you have no one to back you up and no one to bail you out. If you get sick or injured, you are on your own. Quoting William H. Johnsen, “If it is to be, it’s up to me.” Plan accordingly. Develop the mindset, skill set, and tool set needed to survive alone, with mindset and skill set being the most important elements among that trinity.
The biggest obstacle most people encounter when attempting to live alone is conquering loneliness. Humans have evolved into pack animals. We crave companionship, acceptance, and the reassurance of the pack. Almost everything we do requires us to interact with and in many ways depend upon our family, coworkers, teammates, congregation, or the grand collective known as society. We marry, we join churches, social clubs, civic organizations, and political parties. We network, and we identify with strangers based on the team logo on their jackets or shirts. In short, being part of a group, being “one of us” is a societal expectation. The modern, outward expression of this emotional tendency has led to the explosion of social media where we create online personas and acquire large numbers of “friends” with whom we eagerly and publicly share our inner most thoughts and feelings so we can be accepted and “liked”. So it’s no wonder that most people feel more than a little odd when they find themselves living alone or consciously choose to live alone.
However, living alone and preparing alone can also be very liberating. In many ways, preparing alone is easier than the more traditional arrangement of living with a spouse, companion, or relative. You may not have anyone to bounce ideas or decisions off of, but you also don’t have to realign your priorities to appease someone else. You learn to become self sufficient and with self sufficiency comes the satisfaction of knowing that you succeeded on your own. As you build on your solo successes and become more and more comfortable with yourself, you suddenly realize that what you have discovered is confidence– confidence in yourself and confidence in your abilities. Confidence is a mindset, and the proper mindset is one of the most powerful tools you can possess.
With loneliness in check and confidence at your disposal, it is time to focus on the task at hand– preparing for foreseeable scenarios. Living alone gives you complete control over your allocation of time and effort. Knowing that you are focusing on being completely self reliant, it makes sense to invest in yourself by keeping in shape and learning a variety of skills, such as; first aid, hunting, fishing, land navigation, self defense, wild crafting, foraging, basic construction techniques, basic electrical, plumbing, and on and on. Survival literally lies in your hands and your hands alone. Make the most of your time now to increase your skill sets, and you will automatically increase your confidence, which further enhances your mindset.
Living alone has forced me to master the art of cooking for one. Cooking is clearly a skill set. Planning properly and mastering the art of cooking for one while not wasting food gives me a few extra dollars that I can invest in my preps. Under normal circumstances, cooking well for one simply takes a little extra forethought and planning. You either cut recipes in half or quarters or you plan on having leftovers. I prefer to cook with fresh meat, so my butcher is now used to opening their pre-packaged quantities and selling me half or less of the normal portion. My fish monger knows I will only be getting one fish filet or a handful of shrimp or scallops. While I prefer to cook with fresh meat, I am not averse to freezing cooked meats and meals, so half-cup, plastic storage containers and Ziploc bags are two of my best friends in the kitchen.
In a survival situation I probably won’t have access to a refrigerator or freezer, so I have made plans for that scenario as well. Rather than only stocking up on the typical 14 or 15 ounce cans of vegetables, I have chosen to keep a supply of the smaller, single serving canned meats and vegetables available as well. Commercially available freeze-dried meals packaged in the single meal sized re-sealable Mylar pouches, like the Mountain House variety, are labeled as two servings per pouch. Because of this, I have set aside a large supply of sandwich sized Ziploc bags. If I am ever forced to resort to using my supply of Mountain House meals I will divide the dry contents in the prepackaged pouches and move half of the contents in the pouch to a Ziploc bag to be cooked later. I have purchased a few small Thermos type containers with wide mouths and screw-on lids that I plan on using for cooking the portion stored in the Ziploc container. I have chosen to stick with the pouch sized option rather than the #10 cans from the standpoint of convenience and portability. Once a #10 can is opened, greater care must be taken to preserve its contents while an unopened Mylar pouch remains quite robust. The pouch sized portions are also a convenient size for bartering if that opportunity presents itself.
Foraging is another skill set. Foraging for one should increase the chances of finding enough edibles to make a meal. This theory should hold true when fishing and hunting small game as well. While we all consider ourselves to be master hunter gatherers, the truth is sometimes it is hard to catch more than one fish or kill more than one squirrel, rabbit, or small bird. The thought of splitting only one fish, one small bird, one squirrel, or one rabbit with another person doesn’t sound very filling or appealing. Considering the lack of refrigeration in a survival situation, hunting or fishing for one means you can stop that activity and not expend additional energy once you have acquired one serving. It is also hard to hunt or fish and watch your back at the same time. More time spent hunting and fishing is more time spent exposed, moving, and making noise. Remember, one of the advantages of surviving alone is reducing your detectable signature. Don’t squander that advantage.
Reducing one’s signature brings up the topics of defense and caching. Defense is the one area where being alone becomes a disadvantage. Unless you hold a tactically superior position with an excellent escape route, it would be best to avoid a fight whenever possible. Because of the tactical disadvantage of fighting alone, there may be times when you are forced to immediately flee a location, leaving behind your possessions, or times when you are unable to return to your home, shelter, or stash. Caching supplies in multiple locations will be an essential tactic for the lone survivor. Even if the opportunity of joining a like-minded, civilized group presents itself, you may want to leave hidden caches off-site, in case your group is overrun by bad folks or in case the group turns out to be less than trustworthy. If you find yourself being stripped of your belongings and thrown out of the group, having stashed resources may be a lifesaver.
With no one else around to help with a division of labor, the lone survivor will have to work smarter not harder. Calories and energy will be precious resources. The lone survivor will need to employ what a friend of mine refers to as the Min-Max approach. My friend is a former body builder, living and thriving alone. She has taken a principle she learned as a body builder and applied it to all aspects of her life. As a result, she lives quite comfortably while working what most people would consider part-time hours. She explains her lifestyle as attaining the maximum amount of results from a minimum amount of work. In a survival situation this might mean selecting vegetable varieties for your survival garden that can be allowed to climb a fence and not worry about the weeds underneath rather than tending a typical garden plot with exposed soil and raised rows. Or it might mean preserving your energy by luring game to you rather than chasing it around the forest. I find the Min-Max principle very intriguing and am trying to weave it into my current lifestyle as well as my contingency planning.
Tools are cool. Guns, backpacks, binoculars, fishing rods, fire starters, first aid kits, bug out vehicles, and the list of cool tools is endless, but the lone survivor will be less likely to plant a flag and dig in at a single location than a group would. Being mobile, the lone survivor will need to think long and hard about how much gear they are willing to haul around. Why haul around a fishing rod you aren’t going to use today? If you are carrying a firearm, do you really want to drag around a thousand rounds of ammunition? Water is extremely heavy. How much of your water supply do you want to carry around? As I mentioned before, caching will be an essential skill. Whether you are sheltering in place in an urban or suburban environment or are deep in the woods, moving from hiding place to hiding place, the lone operator simply can’t haul around all of their resources. Finding appropriate caches or hides for your resources will be essential. How widely your supplies are disbursed will depend on the scenario and your ability to safely move from location to location.
From my perspective, the idea of surviving alone is not scary or intimidating. And while one option I have planned for is to connect with known associates and combine our skills, knowledge, and manpower into a formidable group, I am also planning to survive alone if that is the best option for the given scenario. Ruling out one option or the other just doesn’t make sense. We all know that the first thing that breaks is the plan. Also, even though I agree that Two is One and One is None, with the proper planning and a little luck, surviving as one doesn’t have to mean all hope is lost.