The worst day of any flavor of apocalypse—killer robots, zombies or The Spanish Flu of 1918 on Steroids—will be Day 1, when civilization as we know it goes buh-bye faster than an airline steward can wave you off a Boeing Dreamliner.
What’s the best way to get ready for the chaos of that first day?
Step Number 1: Where Will You Be?
Unless you’re retired or on vacation, you’re typically (a) at work or school, (b) in your happy home, (c) traveling between those two places or (d) running errands and such.
Where you are makes all the difference in the world when the world goes sideways, because most people will have all their useful possessions and loved ones back home, not in their cubicle at work or the trunk of their car.
It also matters because you probably work or study in a city and live somewhere less populated. And when things go south, the last place you want to be is in a city, because that’s where the most trouble will be. Trouble is defined as hordes of zombies, armies of killer robots or scavengers willing to pull a gun so they can loot the mall before you can.
This means you’ll need different plans and contingencies depending on your location when WATERWORLD starts being non-fiction or Donald Trump starts mashing buttons on the nuclear suitcase.
Step Number 2: Where Do You Want to Go?
Conventional wisdom would say “home,” which is wrong. Without power, heat and running water, homes will become magnets for scavengers searching for gear and supplies.
The real trouble will be food, which will run out quickly, seeing how semi’s won’t be delivering Doritos to Safeway anymore and farmers won’t be planting and harvesting Doritos anymore in the first place.
Of the essentials of food, shelter and clothing, food will be the toughest problem. Farming isn’t a good answer, since even if you already had a working farm and 10 years of experience as a farmer, the starving masses will show up and devour all your hard work.
So what did smart people do before farming was a thing? Well, the ones who survived were hunters and gatherers. Nimble nomads who followed food sources along with the seasons.
That’s the best strategy, since it keeps you out in the wilderness, close to food and far away from (a) zombies, aliens or killer robots and (b) populated areas where scavengers will be killing each other as they battle over quickly dwindling resources.
This makes it critical to pick a good area with a source of fresh water and a variety of food sources.
That rendezvous point, ideally, would be halfway between home and work/school, so no matter where you are, it’s easy to reach.
Step Number 3: Who Do You Want to Rendezvous With?
“Friends and family” is the obvious answer and the wrong one, since there’s a fifty-fifty chance zombies will show up right in the middle of a staff meeting about TPS reports.
Making it through chaos and craziness all the way to the rendezvous point will be tough. Having a stalwart band of coworkers along for the trip, now, would truly boost your survival chances.
Asking people to meet you at the rendezvous point AFTER things get crazy, well, that won’t work at all. You have to figure this stuff out ahead of time.
Step Number 4: What Do You Need?
Out in the prepper community, you’ll see a crazy number of acronyms. Some of them apply here:
- BOB is short for “Bug Out Bag,” pre-packed so you can simply grab it and go.
- GHB means “Get Home Back,” with gear meant to, I don’t know, get you home.
- INCH stands for “I’m Not Coming Home,” so it’s a more complete set of supplies, food and tools.
This series of posts hates complicated things, including acronyms. Hates them worse than black licorice and fruitcake. We’re all about simple and sturdy, cheap and sustainable.
Forget having four different sets of bags for different reasons. Keep it simple and have One Backpack of the Apocalypse, a single bag to rule them all.
This backpack will be with you whether you’re at home, at work, at school or stuck in traffic while radio shock jocks pretend to be outraged about something to fill three hours of airtime. How will it faithfully and magically stay by your side with you at work, home and while you commute and do errands? Here’s the trick: you’ll give that One Backpack and a Pair of Hiking Boots a comfy home in the trunk of your automobile.
The question of what goes into a One Backpack of the Apocalypse is deep, with a lot of options for specific teams. It’s worth a few posts to drill down on that.
Here’s the TL;DR version of what you’ll put in there: ways to make fire, filter water, catch food, stay warm, catch food, fix boo-boos, navigate, create shelter and defend yourself. Check out Survival Lilly, who’s from Austria and is completely practical.
P.S. Every loved one, neighbor, cousin you still talk to and coworker you take along can be of whatever shape, size, age, gender or background. Go wild. The lone condition for making them part of your Nimble Band of Nomads is they need to have their own One Backpack of the Apocalypse, because none of this will work if there are 15 people wandering around trying to share a single set of gear. That’s how you all win a Darwin Award.
Step Number 5: Prep Your Rendezvous Point
To get fully prepared, make your rendezvous point a welcoming safe haven.
Bury food and supplies in waterproof containers, like five-gallon paint buckets. Create a rough shelter, whether it’s a lean-to made of logs or a big tent you stash nearby.
While this is a good topic for a post, here’s one smart, easy way to make a shelter with no tools.
Bring your friends out there, wearing their hiking boots and backpacks, and stay one night. Make a campfire, filter water from the nearby stream or lake and figure out what you’re missing now, not after the aliens land and it’s too late.
Step 6: Be a Nimble Nomad with Food In Your Tummy
The last step is to figure out how you’ll migrate and follow food sources along with the seasons.
Migrating doesn’t mean traveling thousands of miles like the birds that fly from South America to Alaska and such. That’s crazy talk. You can accomplish what they do by simply heading into the mountains during the spring and summer, then back down to the valleys and the coast during winters.
The easiest way to do this is to follow rivers, either in a small boat or on foot. Rivers are born as streams on the tops of mountains after Zeus sends a stork and all that. This make navigation easy.
Finally, practice a bit of hunting and gathering. Spend a night or two at this rendezvous point with backup rations that you don’t touch. Practice trapping squirrels and rabbits, picking non-poisonous berries and catching these things I like to call “fish.”
P.S. Hunting big game like deer is a whole different topic. I live in deer country, and know all sorts of friends who also hunt bears and cougars. But this is not my expertise. Cute little deer hang out on my property, knowing that I only shoot photos of them, while the cougars hide in trees and the bears munch all my blackberries. I leave them be. If you want to practice this sort of thing, get a hunting license and buddy up with an expert. Big game is nothing to play around with and even a successful hunt means a lot of hard work to preserve the meat and make use of the fur and hide.
- Chapter 1—You’re Doing It Wrong
- Chapter 2—Lone Wolf in a Bunker vs Nimble Nomad with Friends
- Chapter 3—Getting Around
- Chapter 4—One Backpack and a Pair of Hiking Boots
- Chapter 5—Yes, Any Sort of Apocalypse Means Looting the Mall
- Chapter 6—Suit Up with Seriously Practical Armor
- Chapter 7—Fire and Water
- Chapter 8—Blades, Bludgeons and Bad Ideas
- Chapter 9—Getting Real about Long Range Weapons
Next week: Chapter 11—The Most Likely Flavors of Doom