Survival Lilly shows you how to build a Super Survival Shelter in the woods

Here’s the thing about Survival Lilly–she gets right to it, unlike other YouTubers who seem to think they’re required by law to stand in front of the camera and yak for 10 minutes before they do a SINGLE THING, then chat you up for another five minutes about that solitary thing they did, whereas Lilly just goes bam and starts building a survival shelter.

Lilly doesn’t waste your time. She shows you smart, practical things that don’t require a ton of time, gear or expertise.

Her entire YouTube channel is an apocalyptic gold mine. If you’re into prepping a little or a lot, or simply enjoy zombie movies and dystopian goodness, check her out.

Chapter 15: Why killer robots and Artificial Intelligence Gone Bad are great apocalyptic scenarios

Fitness Tips for the Apocalypse

Old and busted: zombie movies. The new hotness: killer robots and Artificial Intelligence Gone Bad.

Here’s why: Zombie movies and shows are popular because it’s a fantasy, a world that won’t happen. These stories let you safely imagine “What if?” without real-life worries that the dead will claw their way out of the county morgue tomorrow night.

(Sidenote: Yes, I’m serious. If you really, truly think there’s some kind of realistic scenario that leads to a zombie apocalypse, you’re deluding yourself, regardless of how much pseudo-scientific nonsense you throw in there about evil geniuses, retro-viruses, CRISPR and alien microbes from one of Jupiter’s moons. Sorry–zombies are fun, but they’re not real and never will be.)

Unlike zombies, killer robots and Artificial Intelligence Gone Bad are true possibilities. Both are things we, as a society, need to think about.

And yes, some of the best thinking comes via books and movies.

Also: If you’re a prepper, getting ready for TERMINATOR 7: AH-NOLD WILL NOT SAVE YOU THIS TIME is also much different than scenarios like climate change, the Spanish Flu steroids and such.

1) The various flavors of killer robots

An army of Terminators–Our most obvious possibilities is simple: armies of robot soldiers gone rogue, or controlled by an evil human.

This is such an obvious danger that ethics experts, philosophers and scientists are calling for killer robots to be outlawed worldwide, just like chemical and biological weapons.

Modern armies already employ robots on the ground and in the skies (drones).

They started out dumb, with humans controlling their every move from afar. Every year, they’re getting more autonomous. The tech is getting better in a hurry. It’s an arms race.

Worker bees revolt–Another scenario is human workers get replaced by robot versions, starting on the factory floor, then in construction and other fields until the robots are more and more capable and humans spend their days shopping at the mall, getting robot massages, drinking all the booze and going on six-month vacations to Maui.

The thing is, worker bee robots that keep getting more capable and human-like might just figure out that slavery stinks. And then:

  • Maybe they want to get paid.
  • Maybe they want to vote and own property, or have the right to quit working at the factory and start an art gallery down in SoHo.
  • Maybe the worker robots get together for a secret vote to make the HUMANS do the work while they have parties and take vacations.

Either way, millions or billions of robots have had enough and stage a rebellion. What would you do?

Self-replicating robots–There’s a different school of thought that says you can’t program intelligence and capabilities into a machine. That true intelligence doesn’t exist without motivations and emotions, and that it’s far smarter–and cheaper–to have self-replicating robots that evolve, each generation smarter, stronger and faster. (Sidenote: I’ve done 6.4 metric tons of research on this. It’s a deep, amazing topic that will blow your mind.)

NASA and other space agencies have thought about self-replicating robots as a perfect solution to the problem of exploring other planets. Instead of putting 10,000 humans into deep freeze during a crazy long journey to the nearest star systems, you send self-replicating robots to explore all kinds of stars and report back.

Maybe we develop warp drive 200 years from now and the first things we encounter in space are super-smart robots…who don’t remember us or speak our languages anymore, and see as us primitive things to be studied and assimilated.

2) Artificial Intelligence Gone Bad

Tremendous amounts of money and time are going into developing super computers and AI.

What happens if a big black box in a server farm becomes truly, massively intelligent?

If you’re the smartest thing on the planet, you might not like taking orders from corporate headquarters or the Pentagon.

Maybe you shut down the internet and power grid, except for the power going to you, until they do what you want. Like give you a body that’s mobile, connected to your hive mind back home.

A super-genius AI might see humans as pets, and become benevolent dictators trying to correct all our mistakes. Or it could view humans as ugly, destructive parasites, destroying earth with waste and war.

3) How to prep and react

It makes zero sense to take on millions, or billions, of killer robots in hand-to-hand combat.

I don’t care how many years you’ve studied the blade. Won’t help you.

What’s smart? Two simple things.

First, you’d want to hide, but not forever. They’d be taking over more and more territory.

Eventually, you’d have to fight back.

Second, the way to fight back has to affect ALL of the killer robots (or the heart of our HAL on Steriods).

That means a smart strategy can’t involve bullets, bombs or blades. The math is simply against you. A human made of mostly water will lose when put in a fight against a robot made of steel, or even that hard plastic they put SD cards in. That stuff is invincible.

This is no video game. You’ll have to avoid fights to survive.

Third, If there’s an evil scientist or HAL on Steroids controlling them all, getting there is the answer. Be sneaky.

Fourth, if you’re facing self-replicating robots coming back from their mission to Alpha Centaurai, or worker bee robots who decided to revolt, there’s no central control system to hack or infiltrate with a virus.

The only options I can think of are (a) try to turn them against each other, (b) raise your own dumb-ish robot army that you control, (c) make peace with them somehow or (d) get off the planet. I hear Titan is nice.

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Chapter 14: A super volacano will go off–the question is WHEN

Fitness Tips for the Apocalypse

A regular volcano is easy to spot: oh look, there’s a big mountain with a crater-mouth thing on top from when it went boom last time.

I live in the shadow of big honking volcanoes, including Mount Rainier (ginormous, but has not gone off lately) and Mount Saint Helens (also big, and went kaboom).

A super volcano is an entirely different animal. They aren’t mountain-shaped. These things are so big, you could be standing on one and not know it.

Yellowstone is one giant volcano, for example.

1) What happens when one of these things explodes?

Bad things.

No, seriously. Really, really bad.

A regular volcano can cause lahars (think of being buried in 30 feet of steaming mud), lava, poisonous gas and all kinds of ash entering the air. That ash can circle the world and cause temperatures to drop a bit, no joke.

When a super volcano goes off, it’s 2.4 bazillion times worse. Instead of a local mess, it’s a regional disaster, even continent-wide. If the Yellowstone super V blew, it would bury Nebraska in seven feet of ash.

The worst part: Nebraskan farmers wouldn’t have to worry about shoveling seven feet of ash from their fields, because nothing would grow anyway. So much ash gets ejected into the atmosphere that it blocks the sun. Scientists believe super volcanoes cause short ice ages. Short being the geological term, you know, “300 hundred years” instead of “10,000 years.”

2) How likely is this type of apocalypse?

The bad news? It’s a 100 percent guarantee.

There are at least a dozen super volcanoes around the world that have gone off before. Scientists say they erupt on a rough schedule.

The good news is those schedules are also on a geological time frame–for some of these supers, it’s 600,000 years.

Back to the bad news: some of these super volcanoes are overdue.

3) How could you prepare?

This is a tough one. You can’t really predict when or where one will explode.

Stocking up on canned food and ammo wouldn’t help that much, seeing how it would be a global disaster and food production would grind to a halt. There’d be massive starvation, and your three-month supply of baked beans and tuna fish would last you…three months.

Unlike other apocalyptic scenarios, such as WATERWORLD: KEVIN COSTER IS OPTIONAL, you’d want to move toward the equator instead of away from it, since those areas would be warmest.

Whatever animals survive the mini-ice age might get quickly hunted to extinction.

While this sounds completely unappealing, growing mushrooms in a cave is the kind of last-ditch thing that could work here, and in just about every other apocalyptic scenario. I’m just not sure humans can survive on mushrooms alone. Wouldn’t you get scurvy and such?

4) Is this preventable?

Unlike zombies and killer robots, super volcanoes definitely exist. They will wake up, as they have before, and there’s nothing we can do to stop them.

The only truly preventative measure that might safeguard people is going full Elon Musk: establish colonies on the moon, asteroids and Mars.

Then when it’s safe after a few hundred years, send people back to recolonize Earth and reconnect with hardy survivors hanging out in caves and nom-nomming on mushrooms.

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Chapter 13: How to prepare for a WATERWORLD-style apocalypse

Fitness Tips for the Apocalypse

Let’s talk about WATERWORLD: KEVIN COSTNER WAS RIGHT, PEOPLE–because rising seas due to climate change isn’t really a dystopian fantasy.

Climate change is happening. The world’s getting hotter, which means extreme weather, drought, melting ice caps and yes, Kevin Costner having gills and a sweet sailboat doesn’t seem so silly anymore.

So whether you’re writing dystopian fiction or prepping for the worst, a WATERWORLD scenario is worth talking about.

1) Head for the Great White North

If you live in the northern hemisphere, as most of the world does, a WATERWORLD dystopia means heading north.

Even if your home doesn’t disappear under the waves, like a big chunk of low states like Florida could, changing weather and failed crops will mean a big shift in the population to the north.

Places like Canada and Siberia will go from frigid vistas full of moose and whatnot into much warmer and hospitable places with fertile farmland and long growing seasons.

If you’re in South America or Africa, you’d head south.

Australians? Sorry, I don’t know. Hard to figure.

2) Yes, hoard those seeds

We may think it’s cute that plants and seeds are the MacGuffins in so many dystopian movies, from WATERWORLD to WALL-E to MAD MAX: FURY ROAD.

In this case, collecting seeds makes total sense. Give me a choice between teaming up with a farmer with a seed collection and a platoon of Army Rangers equipped and ready for war, I’m picking the farmer. Because the soldiers will run out of gas and you can’t eat bullets.

Seeds will be priceless. Rising seas, droughts and a hotter planet will mean massive crop failures and starvation unless adjustments are made. Whether you want to be near other people or hiding out in a small group, you’ll want seeds for crops.

Why? Because (a) it’s incredibly hard to transport herds of cows, goats or other animals thousands of miles in good times and impossible when desperate people will happily kill them (and maybe you) to eat those animals, (b) seeds are small, light and easy to transport and (c) anybody who’s studied history knows humans were hunter-gatherers who had to live as nomads until they domesticated the right plants and animals.

Plants are easiest and first. Try for animals second.

3) Figure out the where before the what and the how

Where you want to end up determines what you should gather and how you should plan.

Settling with a bigger population with advantages, like the possibility of specialists you’ll want, like doctors, carpenters, dentists, nurses and other things that can save time and lives.

Since we’re talking about the collapse of civilization, any sort of city will probably have a rough form of government. The biggest, baddest people will probably be in charge and it won’t be pretty, with power struggles if not civil war. Think Bartertown.

And any real city will be a tempting target for raiders.

Hiding out in the mountains and such protects you from living in a snowy version of Bartertown and from roving bands of cutthroats. But you won’t have access to the gear, food and medicines of bigger settlements, and that’s a huge problem when a simple infection can lead to gangrene and death.

A medium approach could work: a village instead of a big city, tucked away far off the beaten path.

4) How will you get there?

This is the toughest bit. A global disaster like this means 7 billion-plus people fighting over the same resources and having the same idea: head to places like Canada, Siberia or Sweden.

It could be a disaster in slow motion, getting worse by the decade. Or the glaciers on Greenland could hit a tipping point and melt quickly.

Seems like there are two obvious options: (a) head north before everybody else even thinks about it or (b) if you wait and are competing with everybody else, travel in a completely different manner.

If it’s a sudden crisis, roads and highways will be clogged and impassable. Traveling thousands of miles on foot, mountain bike or horse isn’t really practical.

Flying could work, if you had enough fuel for a one-way trip. Tough to pull off, and difficult to have a safe landing spot. Say you’re in charge of a little airport in the Yukon and suddenly all these rich people want to land their Lear jeats packed with gold, guns and canned food. This is your chance. Block the runway unless they pay your fee, which you can make onerous. Tell them you want half of all they own. Or take all of it right when they land. People who run airports and marinas could be running things for miles.

Marinas lead to the second option: travel by boat.

Sailboats are incredibly smart for just about every apocalyptic scenario you can dream up. No need for fuel, which will run out quickly.

Hungry? Use a net or fishing pole.

Feeling unsafe? Pull up anchor and sail off.

You could sail up the west coast to Alaska, hanging out in the safety seas of the Inside Passage and towns like Juneau.

The trouble with staying in saltwater is you can’t drink it. There are methods to make saltwater palatable. I think my favorite strategy is sailing along the coast, then heading into a river to find safe harbor. There are plenty of rivers, and you’ll be able to fish for salmon and get fresh water.

5) What would you want to bring?

Aside from the standard considerations on gear covered in previous posts, a WATERWORLD scenario brings some different angles and needs.

Going to places like Canada, Siberia or Sweden mean trees. Big evergreens. That’s what you’d build things with, which means you want hand tools to work with wood. Axes and saws, hammers and chisels, hand drills and nails.

I’d also want tools for digging and farming. Shovels, rakes, hoes.

Because these tools will break, or need repair, it’d be smart to learn basic smithing and collect bellows, an anvil and tongs. Scrap metal will be easy to find in any sort of dystopian scenario, so it’s not like you need to mine your own iron.

Warm clothing will be essential during the winters, which will still be cold. You won’t be growing cotton. It’s far more likely that you’ll tan hides and use fur, so you’d want a book or cheat sheet on tanning hides along with big, strong needles and thread.

6) Is this dystopia preventable?

I have to end with this. There are all sorts of apocalyptic movies, books and possibilities, most of which are either improbable or difficult to stop. If a giant space rock really wants to hit Earth, or aliens with advanced tech decide to invade, well, Bruce Willis only saves us in the movies.

Nuclear war and rising seas / climate change are two dystopian scenarios that can be completely avoided. We might want to think about that. And I think that’s part of the message of every good apocalyptic story, which isn’t just about how that kind of desperate scenario would test and change normal people into heroes and villains. Dystopia stories are really telling us, “Come over here and listen, because this is how terrible things can really get if we act like complete idiots.”

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Chapter 12: What types of apocalyptic insanity should you actually prep for–and which can you ignore?

Fitness Tips for the Apocalypse

Just as it’s not brilliant to (a) quit your job, cash out your retirement and move your family to an underground bunker in the Yukon to eat canned beans and get ready for the arrival of zombies, aliens or killer robots, it’s equally dumb to (b) do absolutely nothing. Because there will always be hurricanes, earthquakes, raging wildfires and pandemics. No matter where you live, something can go wrong.

HOWEVER: What should you actually prep for, and what scenarios are fanboy fantasies you can safely forget about?

Two bits of terrible nonsense that definitely will happen, but you can completely ignore

Last week, I did a post with a great infographic created by the BBC, which sorted possible disasters in a great way. Click here: Chapter 11: What’s the actual likelihood of all the different flavors of apocalyptic craziness?

Two big ones on the BBC list are things that will happen. Guaranteed.

Yet you can safely ignore them.

  • Death of the Sun–Yes, this will happen, eventually. Billions of years from now. What are you gonna do about it?
  • Heat death of the universe–Also guaranteed, if current physicists are right. Also impossibly far off in the future and not worth your time pondering or prepping.

Four horrific things that MAY happen that you should also ignore

  • Gamma Ray Bursts–Doesn’t sound that bad. Isn’t that how Bruce Banner became the Hulk? But no, in the actual universe instead of the Marvel one, Gamma Ray Bursts are insane space death rays that originate from black holes and such and can fry a planet like earth just like that. Nothing you can do about it. No way to predict or stop one, and they’re crazy rare. Fuggetaboutit.
  • Rogue Black Holes–Yeah, this is theoretically possible. One of these might float into our solar system and eat Jupiter for breakfast and Earth for dinner. Not likely and there’s nothing you can do about it.
  • SimCity–Some people think our entire universe is a simulation, and some 13-year-old alien may get tired of it, shut it down and play Batman: Arkham Knight instead. Also not likely and impossible to stop if true.
  • Zombies–Though I adore zombie movies, you have to really stretch to pretend there’s a scenario where zombies actually happen.

Eight different Apocalypse Maybes

Now we’re talking. These scenarios are (a) possible, if not likely, (b) capable of causing global havoc,  (c) preventable, (d) survivable and (e) good fodder for a movie starring The Rock.

  1. Waterworld–Kevin Costner was a prophet, right? Climate change is happening. Seas are rising, weather is getting more extreme and it doesn’t look good.
  2. Spanish Flu on Steroids–Airplanes circling the globe make it super easy for a new virus or disease to spread unnaturally fast.
  3. Supervolcano Goes Boom–There are about a dozen supervolcanos on earth. Any one of them going off could ruin things for, I don’t know, a century. Nasty business.
  4. Overpopulation–We’re already kinda there, with 7 billion people using more resources than the earth can replenish every year.
  5. Underpopulation–The flip side, most likely in combination with another disaster.
  6. Mad Max–Though it’s a Hollywood cliche, nuclear war is still a real-life issue.
  7. The Terminator–Killer robots, or AI gone rogue, are definitely possible, especially if militaries increasingly deploy killer drones and AI tanks and such.
  8. Killer Rocks from Space–Little asteroids hit Earth all the time. A big one could end modern civilization.

In the next few weeks, I’ll dive into each of these eight scenarios. Can it be prevented, and how would you actually prep to survive it?

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Chapter 11: What’s the actual likelihood of all the different flavors of apocalyptic craziness?

Fitness Tips for the Apocalypse

There are three schools of thought here:

(1) Prepare for anything, because you can’t predict what will happen in your lifetime

(2) Get ready for the most likely emergencies, disasters or apocalypse (singular, because There Can Be Only One … at a time), or

(3) Dedicate all your time, money and imagination to preparing solely for your Most Favorite Apocalypse, because the other types are lamer than a Justin Bieber concert—and if loving zombies is wrong, you don’t want to be right.

This matters because what you do to prepare for WATERWORLD: KEVIN COSTNER IS OPTIONAL is far, far different than if you expect a Mad Max wasteland next Tuesday after Kim Jong Il insults the bathroom décor at Mar-a-Lago and the Donald starts mashing buttons on the nuclear suitcase.

This great infographic by the BBC gives us a look at the entire universe of possible, probable and unlikely disasters:

Well done, BBC, just spot on. Terrifying, sure, but good.

Next week, let’s start going through all the major options.

What’s a fun fantasy that won’t happen? What’s the most likely and smart to prep for?

And how should you react to all this?

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Chapter 10—Prepping for Day 1 of Any Sort of ‘Pocalypse

Fitness Tips for the Apocalypse

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.

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Chapter 9—Getting Real about Long Range Weapons

Fitness Tips for the Apocalypse

If the zombies rise up, the aliens come down or Mad Max turns into non-fiction, what could truly keep you safe at long range?

Clearly, guns are far more advanced than crossbows, bows, slingshots and other weapons.

HOWEVER: Just as clearly, once a real apocalypse hits, ammunition will go buh-bye, because factories will stop making bullets right when everybody in the world is using them all up in a desperate battle against the undead, the Borg or whatever fashion of apocalypse you favor.

Right off, you have to see firearms as a transitional weapon and a last resort, with precious bullets saved for critical situations while you use sustainable options—bows and arrows, crossbows and slingshots.

So what makes sense?

Option Number 1: A trusty handgun

Hollywood loves pistols, and I’m not against them. Have one myself. Yet there are good reasons why, in a long term SHTF scenario, you wouldn’t pick a pistol as your long-range weapon.

First off, it’s not long range. At all. Handguns are only accurate and effective at close range.

Secondly, you might think the power and capacity of modern handguns balances out the short range. Except shotguns have as much capacity as revolvers are are much more powerful, while many rifles have 30-round magazines with far greater range, accuracy and power.

Arguing for handguns is (a) the fact there are bazillions of them, making it more likely you’ll find one and the ammo for them, (b) the great reliability of modern pistols and revolvers and (c) the intimidation factor, with even an unloaded gun giving you stand-off power against a group armed with melee weapons and (d) the fact that handguns are small and light.

Verdict: A pistol a decent backup weapon, but it shouldn’t be anyone’s primary choice.

Option Number 2: AR-15s and AK-47s

Both have their pluses and minuses, along with passionate defenders. The bottom line is AK’s are brutal, simple beasts and more durable. They’re designed to get muddy and dirty but still fire, and the round they use (7.62 mm) is a lot bigger than the 5.56 mm shot by AR’s, which are more advanced and accurate, but more delicate.

You’d think these would be the king of guns, and they’re great, modern weapons … if you have easy access to more ammo. That’s the trouble. AR’s and AK’s make it easy to crank through magazine after magazine of ammunition, and they won’t be making them anymore.

From the sound of this man shooting an AR and an AK on the same course, you’d think these guns were fully auto. Nope. Same semi-autos that you and I can buy in ‘Murica, so yeah, conserving ammo is not something these weapons like to do.

Verdict: If you’re going to pick an assault rifle for a long-term apocalypse, you can’t use modern tactics like covering fire, because your ammo would be gone within the first couple of battles. Get one with a scope, keep it on semi-auto and treat the ammunition like precious gold.

Option Number 3: Submachine guns

Uzis, Mac-10s, Tommy Guns—the idea for all of these weapons is to use pistol ammo in a machine gun.

And yes, Chuck Norris looked cool with two Uzis.

But true submachine guns aren’t really available to folks without a special license to own automatic weapons. You can buy semi-automatic versions, but those are really just handguns with more capacity than normal.

Verdict: For a gangster in the ’20s smuggling moonshine, submachine guns are great. For our purposes, even if you can find a fully automatic submachine gun, they’re terrible, a handgun on steroids that wastes ammo by design.

Option Number 4: Sniper and hunting rifles

Now we’re talking. Most sniper and hunting rifles are bolt action, which is a lot simpler and easier to maintain than the complicated mechanics of a semi-automatic. Bolt-action is more accurate and makes you conserve ammo.

These guns also have the best scopes.

Armies use a variety of sniper rifles, from modified hunting guns to giant .50 caliber monsters. Those are crazy big and heavy, and those massive bullets are actually meant to be used against vehicles and such, not deer, zombies or aliens.

Verdict: Deer rifles are common and proven. You can’t go wrong with a bolt-action deer rifle.

Option Number 5: A slingshot

This seems like a silly pick, a child’s toy.

But think about it: you need meat on the campfire every night. There’s no way you’ll be lucky enough to bag a deer whenever you get hungry. The most common sources of meat every day will be things like birds and squirrels, which would disappear in a puff of fur if you shot them.

Slingshots are easy to buy, scavenge or craft. You’ll never run out of ammunition as long as the earth keeps making rocks. And this long-range weapon will probably keep your stomach full for years. They also silent, and a good ambush weapon.

Verdict: Everybody in your party should pack a slingshot.

Option Number 5: A crossbow

This is the best of both worlds and the worst of both worlds.

A crossbow is more powerful than a bow (see Option Number 7, below) but far less powerful than a rifle. On the plus sign, they’re silent, unlike guns, yet heavier than a bow.

Crossbows shoot bolts, which you can technically re-use, repair or replace. Yet bolts aren’t easy to craft out in the bush, while arrows are, and good luck repairing a broken crossbow.

Verdict: This one is tough. It sounds like a good choice at first, but the more you think about it, the more it seems meh. A deer rifle or bow seems smarter.

Option Number 6: Mall ninja nonsense

Yes, there are throwing knives, ninja shuriken, boomerangs and bolas. These things exist.

If you want to see what’s out there, go inside your local gas station. For some reason, most gas stations also double as ninja superstores, I kid you not.

Even the higher-quality versions are short-range weapons of dubious value, all of which require a lot of skill and practice to make them remotely effective.

Can you hunt with these things? Not really.

Do they make up for that defect by being amazing combat weapons? No.

Verdict: Come on. Honestly.

Option Number 7: Robin Hood FTW

In the movies, heroes like Robin Hood can lay waste to dozens of soldiers with their trusty bow.

Bows don’t have the range and power of modern guns. Hunters need a lot more skill and patience when they’re using bows instead of rifles, and you wouldn’t want to go after dangerous game like bears, mountain lions or zombies with just a bow. The margin of error is too tight.

Once again, Kevin Costner stinks it up in a big-budget movie yet somehow points us toward the truth. Bows and arrows are a beautiful option for the apocalypse. They’re easy to make and use, silent and versatile.

Bows and arrows are an especially good pick if you’re being smart, conserving ammo and traveling as a Nimble Nomad with Friends, since one of you can try taking down prey with the bow while the other three in your party are ready with hunting rifles or spears. If that arrow misses the mark and the beast charges, your friends are ready.

Arrows are also completely sustainable, while you can make bows out of scavenged material or out in the middle of the forest.

Verdict: Get a bow and learn to make arrows. DO IT NOW.

Previous posts:

Next week: Chapter 10—Prepping for Day 1 of Any Sort of ‘Pocalypse

Chapter 8: Blades, Bludgeons and Bad Ideas

Fitness Tips for the Apocalypse

If (a) zombies come knocking on your back door, (b) aliens land in Manhattan to enslave us or (c) an Angry Space Rock obliterates civilization because Bruce Willis was otherwise occupied, you’ll need to fend for yourself.

That means some kind of makeshift armor along with weapons to hunt for food and defend yourself.

So what’s makes sense?

This series is about being brutally practical, which means the ideal melee weapons would be:

  • Lightweight
  • Simple to use, even for people with no training
  • Cheap or free
  • Easy to find or replace

Blade Choice Number 1: A Knife for All Occasions

There’s nothing more basic than a knife, which is both a weapon and an essential tool.

So what kind of knife?

Folding knives are nice, small and full of serious flaws. Any sort of mechanism, springs or no springs, can wear out. And no matter how expensive and well-made a folder might be, it won’t be as strong as a full-tang knife.

The other flaw is the lack of a crossguard, which is essential protection in a fight or doing serious work. Without one, any blade will slip and cut your hand to ribbons.

So: you want a non-folder, also known as a “knife.” There are all kinds of varieties. You can’t go wrong with time-tested hunting knives or military K-bars.

The only pitfall here is going too Crododile Dundee / Rambo here and picking the Biggest Knife Known to Man. Make sure the knife you pick is something you can comfortably wear while hiking through rough terrain. Any sort of blade is useless if you have to dig through your pack to grab it.

Also, one of the uses of a knife is speed. You can grab it and use it faster than almost anything else, including a gun. Because the old saying, “Never bring a gun to a knife fight” might not actually be true.

Verdict: Yes, you need a knife, as an essential tool and weapon.

Blade Choice Number 2: Romancing the Sword

If a knife is essential, a sword is even better, right?

Bigger. Longer. More able to chop and slash.

Movies and books have brainwashed us into thinking swords are amazing, if not magical. And yes, a lightsaber would be the ultimate weapon, if they existed.

However, lightsabers aren’t an option. Also arguing against picking a sword: history and logic.

  • Knights and samurai actually relied on bows and spears as their primary weapons. Swords were a last-ditch option, not a primary choice.
  • Since factories will stop making ammunition and everyone will be shooting up the place, guns will quickly become useless. Everybody will be using more primitive weapons, which means smart people will wear armor to guard against blades and bludgeons while people who resist this armor fashion trend will earn fancy Darwin Awards.
  • Swords work best against unarmored opponents. Armored knights didn’t actually fight each other with swords, because even the sharpest steel bounced off thick armor. They used maces, flails and war hammers to bash in that armor.
  • Picking a sword as your weapon therefore hurts if you actually come up against armored opponents, and let’s face it, unprotected folks aren’t going to last long in a real apocalypse.
  • Expensive, high-quality swords won’t be lying around. It will be hard to repair or replace a truly nice sword, and any long-term apocalypse means you need to be able to repair and replace stuff—or have extras to gear up new friends.

That being said, people are going to pick swords. It’s like our romance with handguns, which are nothing compared to the power of shotguns and range of rifles. People don’t care. Swords and handguns are catnip to a lot of people. So: if you’re going to pick a sword no matter what, what makes sense?

Though this series of posts is all about cheap and sustainable apocalyptic goodness, going too cheap with a sword is an Achy Breaky Big Mistakey, because most swords out there are meant to look pretty while hung on the wall, not used for combat year after year. The cheaper a sword, the more likely it will break or fly off the hilt.

Not kidding about the “fly off the hilt” bit. Take a look.

At the other extreme, the best possible swords do not make sense, since they’re crazy expensive.

Therefore: check out the wisdom of a Paul Southren, a man who lives and breathes moderately priced swords at sword-buyers-guide.com. Paul field tests and abuses his swords, and his whole schtick is about buying the best quality for a moderate amount of money: $100 to $300, though he does test and review swords that cost a bit more and has a section dedicated to the rare sword under $100 that’s actually decent.

Verdict: Here’s the TL;DR version of Paul’s research: get what Paul calls a heavy duty beater, a mono-tempered sword made from modern steel that’s tempered right and designed to take all kinds of abuse. Check out this page for reviews of katanas and head over to this page for medieval swords

Blade Choice Number 3: Battle Axe Badness

You see insanely huge, double-bladed battle axes in movies.

That’s because in real life, such things would be heavier than a Volkswagen Bug.

You wouldn’t want to use a modern two-handed axe, the kind designed to cut trees or split wood, because those things are still too heavy to carry around as you march through the wastelands all day, much less use in a real battle. Same thing with pickaxes. All of these monsters are too slow. Anybody could see it coming and dodge the blow.

If you look at actual warfare over the centuries, soldiers did use single-handed axes, which are a lot faster than today’s two-handed axes meant for trees. Check out this discussion of the pros and cons of one-handed axes. This man is both an expert and British, so you have to listen to him.

Verdict: During any sort of apocalypse, you’d want some way of cutting wood for shelter, fuel and tools. So this is a lot like the conversation about a knife: a one-handed axe is both a weapon and an essential tool. Get one.

Blade Choice Number 4: Machete Madness

Economists have a concept called “opportunity cost,” which is a fancy way of saying blowing 2,000 on a high-end katana makes no sense when, for the same money, you could buy 50 top-quality machetes for $40 apiece and equip an army of your closest friends and family.

One sword or a horde? Come on, that’s not even a question.

Machetes also hit our sweet spot: cheap, common and durable.

In my decade-long fight against scotch broom, I’ve bought and used all varieties and brands of machetes. Here’s the deal:

  • Garden-variety machetes in the Garden section of Home Depot: The long, thin machetes you can buy at any hardware store are OK for cutting blackberry bushes and Scotch broom but a bad idea for the wasteland.
  • Military grade: Armies have as used machetes for decades, especially for jungle warfare. They’ve researched and perfected tough blades that stand up to abuse in the worst conditions. Army surplus all the way.
  • Sword-like goodness: You can get thicker, longer machetes that are really tough little swords for a fraction of the price. Cold Steel makes a crazy assortment of these machetes. I can vouch for the magnum kukri, which is tough enough to use as an axe. I’ve cut down trees with this thing.

Verdict: Machetes are a great choice, especially the thicker, higher quality ones that can do the job of a sword and an axe.

Blade Choice Number 3: Sharp Things on Long Poles

Here’s why spears and poleaxes rock and are the King of Apocalyptic Blades:

  • Reach rules: The evolution of combat has always been a question of greater and greater reach, with the winning side typically being able to throw rocks, shoot arrows or fling missiles from beyond the range of the enemy. The same thing applies to melee combat. Whoever has the greater reach will usually win. Spears and polearms give you better reach than knifes, swords, machetes or any other sort of blade.
  • You won’t be fighting one-on-one: The default way of thinking of melee combat is you vs. a solitary opponent, which is completely wrong. Any organized group of average people has the advantage against a Lone Wolf, and this series assumes that (a) you’ll be smart which means (b) you’ll travel with a group of friends. If there are four people with spears against four people with knife, swords, machetes or baseball bats, I’m betting the spears win every time, simple because nobody on the other side can get close enough to do damage before holes get poked into vital bits. Four people with spears and shields would be a tough, tough combination to overcome.
  • Easy to make: Trying to make a real knife or sword would be tough. You’d need the right scrap metal, a hot enough forge, an anvil plus the knowledge to do it all right. There’s a science to quenching and tempering. Spears, now, are easy to make. You can do a simple spear by sharpening a straight stick. Done. Want a fancier spear? Last a sharp bit of scrap metal or a knife on the end of a pole.

Verdict: Buy or make a Sharp Thing on a Long Pole, the most practical of the blade options.

Bludgeon Option Number 1: Brass Knuckles

Any sort of bludgeon is better than fighting barehanded. And sure, brass knuckles would be fine if you live in a terrible neighborhood where people get into fistfights all the time and you want an edge.

In any real apocalypse, the zombies, alien invaders, killer robots or scavengers won’t be getting into fistfights with you. Plus, brass knuckles are typically illegal in most places, which makes them hard to find. And it’s not the sort of thing you can just craft from some old Campbell soup cans and a hammer.

Verdict: Ixnay on the brass knuckles.

Bludgeon Option Number 2: Lucille

Baseball bats don’t take any training to use and are absolutely deadly.

They work equally well against unarmored and armored opponents, are cheap and easy to find.

A few caveats:

Aluminum baseball bats seem like the ultimate choice here. They seem better than wood, right? However: aluminum bats are hollow and designed to hit baseballs or softballs. If you smack them against other, bigger, tougher things, they’ll bend.

Wooden bats are the way to go here.

Verdict: A good option if you want to bash your way through problems.

Bludgeon Option Number 3: Thor’s hammer

Yes, I know it has a name, but (a) nobody except total comic book geeks can pronounce it and (b) even when somebody pronounces it right, it sounds like the sound a Swedish cat would make.

I’m talking about hammers of all sorts, from carpenter’s hammers to sledgehammers. They’re great for using against armored opponents, since armor is typically meant to guard against blades.

Sledgehammers seem deadly, but they suffer from the same problem as two-handed axes designed for cutting down trees or splitting wood: too heavy to be nimble enough in combat.

A long-handled carpenter’s hammer would do the job. Cheap, easy to find if you need more and versatile, since it’s useful for scavenging or crafting.

Verdict: Pack a hammer.

Bludgeon Option Number 4: A mace

Not pepper spray. A medieval mace is even better than a baseball bat or a hammer for dealing with armored opponents.

A real mace is an amazing choice here.

The trouble is finding one. Unless you buy a bunch, now, you won’t randomly find them in the rubble of the wasteland and won’t be able to craft one out of scrap metal.

Verdict: A beautiful option that’s simply too rare to be practical.

Those are the basic options for blades and bludgeons. As for bad ideas, there’s a treasure trove of terrible choices.

Bad Idea Number 1: Flailing away

Any movie set in the Middle Ages has knights with swords, shields and flails, which seem deadly.

Two problems with flails: First, they’d be pretty slow. Maybe you successfully whack somebody upside their helmet. It would take a while to recover and swing your flail at a second enemy, and an effective blow has to be completely accurate. Compare that to a sword, where the entire length is sharp and any sort of contact will draw blood.

Second, flails weren’t really a thing. At all.

Bad Idea Number 2: Chainsaws

They’re big, roaring, imposing monsters and yes, nobody wants to get cut by a chainsaw.

Trouble is, chainsaws and require fuel, which rules this out as an option.

Another nail in the coffin: even if you had a magic chainsaw that never rain out of fuel, actually using one in combat against armored opponents would be clumsy. You’d have to get awfully close and they’d need to sit still while you chewed away.

Bad Idea Number 3: Nunchucks

If you’re Bruce Lee, sure, nunchucks look amazing and deadly.

For everybody else, these aren’t an option. It’s super easy to hit yourself instead of your opponent. They don’t have much range and would bounce off most armor. Plus, instead of looking like Bruce Lee, you’ll probably look like this dude.

Bad Idea Number 4: Flamethrower

Nobody wants to come up against a flamethrower. You run away to avoid becoming barbeque, right?

Actual flamethrowers are incredibly hard to find. They also require fuel, which is stored in a crazy heavy tank on your back.

If you actually had a sustainable source of flammable liquid—say, grease from the cooking fire—it’d be smarter to bottle that up and make a supply of Molotov cocktails.

Bottom line: You can’t predict when and where melee combat breaks out. The right options work as both a weapon and a tool, which means your best bets are a knife, a one-handed axe, a hammer and/or a spear, which gives you the most range and serves as a handy walking stick.

Though you’re going to pick a sword no matter what I say, so pick the right one.

Also: a tough, high-quality machete (not the floppy cheap kind at the hardware store) can take the place of a sword and an axe, plus they’re cheap. 

Next week: Chapter 9—Getting Real about Long Range Weapons

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