Great gardens that grow heaps of high-calorie food don’t just happen – you have to build them. I learned that this year when I tried growing a guerrilla garden in a nearby field, described here on FinalPrepper. To summarize, I sprayed Round-up on a 10’x10’ plot in an abandoned farm field, chopped holes in the ground every square foot, and then dropped in a couple of corn kernels. No watering, no fertilizing, no amendments of any kind to the soil. Just to see what would grow, if I needed extra growing room in a SHTF situation, and couldn’t spend lots of time tending my guerrilla garden. These lessons learned can also be helpful if you are converting a part of your entire lawn to a survival garden after SHTF.

Lesson #1 – Unimproved field gardens are not as productive as established gardens, so expect less food.

My home garden produced 16 pounds of field corn in 100 square feet because the soil was improved with composted kitchen scraps, and I could water it during dry spells. My guerrilla gardening only produced about 4 pounds in 100 square feet. Therefore, we have to improve the soil and/or plant more land for a needed quantity of food when starting a garden from scratch.

Plan of Action #1 – The soil in the field is piss-poor: compact, full of clay, and lacking in humus – probably why it was no longer used as a farm. To improve the soil for next spring’s planting, I turned over the 10’x10’plot with my trusty spade. Next, I hauled a couple of 30 gallon bags of grass clippings and fallen leaves from my car, down the path about ¼ mile, and spread the contents over the plot. Finally, to break up the clay and improve fertility, I spread about four pounds each of lime and pelletized gypsum. I will turn and add the same amendments in the spring a few weeks before planting. Once the crop has sprouted, I will mulch the plants with grass clippings to reduce evaporation and the need for watering.


Lesson #2 – Deer and other wild animals will eat whatever they can find, unless they can be scared away or blocked.

Plan of Action #2 – Because the plot is far from human activity, the deer see my guerrilla garden as safe for them. My job is to make it seem inhabited by humans to the deer, without giving its location away to human passersby.   I have read that clothing that has been worn keeps a human smell for weeks, and can be used to repel deer, or funnel them to a kill zone. I can try that with the orphan and “holey” socks my wife is determined to throw away. I have also read that human hair and urine have a repellent effect when sprinkled around a garden perimeter. Rather than courting danger by transporting sloshing bottles of urine in my car, I think I’ll stick to saving floor sweepings when I cut my children’s hair. In a SHTF situation, I could dump our semi-composted humanure on the garden to keep everybody away!


Lesson #3 – Crop selection is important.

Corn seemed to be a good choice for field planting, as it has a high calorie density/pound, but it turned out to be a terrible choice for guerrilla gardening. Because the corn that did develop was so tall, it was exposed and the opposite of stealthy. Any hungry deer or person within 100 yards could spot it, but because we are in an “all-normal” situation, only deer attacked it.  Also, corn is needy, requiring lots of fertilizer or rich soil and plenty of water.


Plant of Action #3 – Next spring, I will plant sweet potato sections with eyes in this plot.

Advantages –

  • Sweet potatoes can be planted earlier (late April) compared to corn (mid-late May) in our region, as the growth is underground for a few weeks, protecting it from frost.
  • Because the crop is underground, it is less vulnerable to attack by animals or people.
  • The vines are above ground and low, less visible, and could easily be mistaken by people for vines of some non-edible plant.
  • Sweet potatoes provide more calories per square foot than corn, at least in my garden. My 10’x10’ garden plot of field corn produced 1600 cal/lb x 16 lb = 25,600 calories. My 10’ x 10’ sweet potato bed produced 390 cal/lb x 108 lb = 42,120 calories.

Learn more about Guerrilla Gardening and how you might be able to use this in austere situations.

Disadvantages –

* Sweet potatoes are more vulnerable to underground pests like moles. While last year I got a harvest of about 108 lb, this year moles ate all but about 2 pounds of my crop, and I didn’t even know it until digging time! Next year I will definitely defend my garden with some of these mole-proofing ideas, but I will put away needed supplies this year.

* Corn can last for several years when stored in a cool dry place, sweet potatoes generally last about a year in a root cellar. I had good luck with my sweet potatoes in the basement this year, as we just finished eating the 2014 crop early this October.

* Sweet potatoes require loose soil, so they are more work-intensive and only suitable for small gardens, not acre-sized fields.

* Corn is more versatile than sweet potatoes – You can cook cracked corn, grits, hominy, and grind cornmeal for bread. Sweet potatoes you can just bake whole, or put into stews.

Lesson #4 – The one plot I had was found and attacked by deer.

Plan of Action – Next year I won’t “put all my eggs in one basket”. I started a second garden next year, out of sight of the first plot, by turning and amended another 10’ x 10’ plot. That way, if someone hungry discovers the first plot, all is not lost, and if both plots are safe, I have doubled production. This lesson applies to other storage decisions, like splitting your emergency food storage into two areas of your house, or burying some in a cache in your backyard.


It is important to know how to quickly build a survival garden. Even if you are not lucky enough to have an abandoned farm near your house, you may still have an urban lot, remote public park, or other area where you can try your hand at guerrilla gardening. Just be discrete, and don’t get caught. If you want to play it safe, just pick a sunny part of your lawn, and start converting it into a garden this fall – the experience gained may save your life!


  Great gardens that grow heaps of high-calorie food don’t just happen – you have to build them. I learned that this year when I tried growing a guerrilla garden in


Around six years ago I stopped running (got suddenly sick of it) but for the 15 years before that it was basically a part-time job for me. Over that time I did around 100 marathons (42.2km 26.2 miles) and 100 ultramarathons (anything over 26.2 miles). Since getting into the concepts of prepping for SHTF I have been thinking that my previous experience as an ultra-marathon runner has left me with many great tips and ideas for everyone to travel more than 26 miles unsupported. No I am not telling you to run to get back to your home or bug out location but if you can then great! I certainly could not do it anymore! My best race was 6 hours and 24 minutes in a 50 miler to give my experience here some context and I could pop out sub three-hour marathons easily. That said all these ultramarathoning tips I learned the very hard way and perhaps some might help you even if you are planning only to walk home or to your bug out location?


Ultramarathoners prep and we never know if we will finish the race when we line up. We prep our minds and our bodies and I will talk about the body first.

Vaseline is more than a fire starter:

Slap it on or skin becomes badly excoriated from the continual friction or running for hours. Between the thighs and buttocks and do not skimp on it at all. Between the underarms as well as you will be surprised at how painful friction burns are the next day. Runners’ nipples are the partial removal of your nipples from friction and hurt like crazy the next day. All these friction points need Vaseline as you will not notice them until too late. Put a small dab directly on the nipple and cover with a bandage. As you walk or even run for hours check these friction points at rest stops and reapply as required.

Sun lotion is an everyday thing:

Run or walk for 9 hours with the sun mainly hitting you from one direction and you will burn even on a cloudy day. Winter is worse as you do not think about it or notice it. SP 30 or higher and yes use expensive “sport” ones and I recommend the waterproof versions for swimming. The cheaper ones fail quickly. In Summer always have some with you on your journey and reapply it often. The main areas to get burned are top of the head even through hair, tips of the nose and ears, and lips. The backs of your knees if in shorts or thin trousers and exposed elbows get burned fast and need more frequent sun lotion applications. Your neck and head should be covered so use a bandanna!

Clothing is optional:

Yes there are naked races but I’d avoid long distance over trails in the buff. However your choice of clothing is optional. Layers of course and remember you will feel a lot warmer once you start moving so set off a bit cold not comfortable. Remove the hat and clothes early not late as sweat will end your race early (see Just Doing It section). For races or bugging out you should visit specialty stores and online sites that have great quality gear designed for you to move in for hours. Compression socks are a good idea. Wicking inner layers are essential and they better not rub! Test all clothing out before the real event. Trash bags are good for rain and wind protection and every prepper should have some but they make you sweat badly. No doubt you have seen runners wearing them before the race starts but did you know the trash bags can be slit along the sides and holes made to keep you mainly dry and let the sweat out? Three holes (head and arms) is never going to help you avoid dehydration and rain is actually real nice to be in when you are moving hard.Marathonbook

Clothing for running (triathlon, long distance hiking, etc. as well but they are not areas I can speak about) is much lighter and better designed for hard forward movement than traditional camo/military gear. It is a bit non-functional for our purpose but many new developments come along all the time including jackets with multiple pockets for long distance events. Think outside the military choices here. At the very least look at hiker clothing if you cannot bring yourself to try running gear.

These boot were made for walking:

I expect many people will get upset by this but in all honesty for fast return to home or fast bug outs please do not wear military or hiking boots. Their weight will cause severe leg and lower back fatigue in only a few hours unless you use them daily before the event. A decent pair of trail running shoes works almost as well and should be totally fine in most scenarios. They work very well on asphalt but road shoes do not usually work well on rough trails. Sure the ankle is not encased but the flexibility of the shoe and its lower weight mean it is much more suitable for hard moving over miles and miles.

They work fine on ice and snow and wet rock provided you have a quality trail shoe and have tested it out. If you are running stop using the heavy trail shoe after 25 miles and put on a lighter pair for the rest of the trip. Many people in road races do this in reverse which is a shame as they cannot lift the legs as high after 25 miles and dropping foot weight helps with this to some extent.

For trail shoes visit a store and try a bunch on wearing the socks you would use in the event (race or the end of the world). Find one or two that work and then ask if last year’s model is available. Do not pay more than $120 and not less than $60. Higher priced ones are not doing anything for your abilities no matter what mumbo jumbo the clerk says and cheap shoes are not helpful. Tell the clerk you want a “decent pair of trail shoes to do an ultra-marathon”. Then say you are starting running, have no idea about how to do it, have no running experience, and have not decided the race yet but it will be a trail race. Expect them to be puzzled but distance on trail is the shoe you need and it has to fit your foot type. This is why you must have an experienced person fit the shoe to you rather than buy something from a chain store or online.

The Mind is the major muscle here:

The very first ultra-marathon I did was on a bet and was 100 miles of trail. I did 70 miles and had to quit. I had not read and reread the maps, I had not thought about what and where I would eat and drink, and I had no real conviction that I could do it. When the wall hit me I had no experience and no belief I could walk through it and get on with the race. Practice is ideal and as close to the event conditions as possible. So for bugging out or getting home on foot from work do all or at least some of the route for real and carry and dress in what you would be doing in SHTF.


Volunteer at a local 100 Miler race or equivalent triathlon/bike race. Help out at an aid station for the entire event and realize just how tired the participants must be. Who makes it and who fails and why? Jot down notes on tips and gear. Ultramarathons are ideal for this as many runners get very chatty late in the race!

Sweetness is Critical:

Being relaxed and happy is vital before the start. Do not start all anxious and stressed. Likely you will be but then take 2 minutes silence to think about your life and why finishing this event is important. Being sweet means you likely have people with you in this event (race or SHTF) so check them out for issues before the start. Have they got Vaseline or sun lotion on? Do they have water and food?

Carbo-loading is an immense topic but it works. If you know you will bug out in 24 hours or have to go on a 20+ milers then hit the rice and pasta. Pig out as you will burn all this and more. It is a bit more complex than I am saying here but just upping the carbohydrates prior to the start for 24 to 48 hours will help.


Set rest intervals and enjoy them:

I use rest intervals every hour and a 5 minute walk or a full sit down if I am in trouble. Vary these as you do not want to ever stop on an uphill as restarting is hard. Momentum is vital but so is adequate rest and hydration and nutrition from the very, very start of the event. Sure you are hyped up and can keep going but it has been estimated that every minute of sensible rest in the first half of a race equals two to four minutes of less time taken to do the last half. Simply put going to hard and/or for too long at the beginning will make the journey much longer, much harder, and often causes failure to finish. You are doing something very hard so be nice to yourself.

Later on keep the rest intervals at 5 minutes and walk or sit but increase their frequency. You might find yourself doing one minute rest and one minute walking after many hours. Is it worth it? I have revived and gone on to finish well but mostly the smart move is to stop the event and recover. With a bug in or a get home scenario camping out might be dangerous so again your mind has prepared for this and you have sites preselected in case you cannot make it without sleeping.

Water, water, everywhere:

Drink 500ml (one pint) an hour every hour. If it is hot increase this. At 40C I found I needed about one litre (two pints) every ten to fifteen minutes but I was running hard and in great shape. Dehydration will end your journey and can easily end you in very hot or very cold conditions. Drink a lot of water and do not ration it. Have the resupply sources (shops are not a good idea for us but gas stations are great in normal events) fixed in your mind in advance. Rivers, industrial pipes, pools, and best of all are buried caches of snacks and water along the line of march. Think no effort water treatment and fast. A life straw is not a smart move here as you need effort to get clean water. You are going to be very, very tired. There are multiple sports bottle filters that work great. Scoop them full and put in a tablet as well (better safe than having diarrhea). Bladder type bags are excellent and I recommend one that you have trained on. They can be a bit fiddly until you get used to them. Even with this I would have a minimum of two liters in four bottles as well.


Water alone will kill you:

Not going to be technical but hard efforts lasting hours need you to drink a lot of water but you need to add in salts or your brain will swell and burst (literally in the worst case scenario). Drinking any sports drink you like that comes as a power (you can easily make your own). Mix it half or a third strength but never full strength. Keep one bottle sizes in separate small plastic bags and dump one in and add water are you are all set without thinking. This is not your only source of salts and you want to avoid slow egress from your stomach which happens with full strength. Get trained to drink hot water and hot sports drinks in case you need to move mid-Summer. Sure cold drinks work better in being absorbed and cooling you but will you have an ice bucket with you in SHTF? Salt tablets and capsules are meant to work great but for me they did nothing and they sure cost a ton. Again, get out of the house and train for the event using what you would use in the event. Have multiple varieties of flavors here not just one or two. Variety gives you a focus and helps you focus on planning what flavor you want at the next rest stop. Sounds silly but really helps to get you through events after being mobile for eight-hour or more.

I have used very light beer in races and it works very well after 4 hours in getting your mind back into the thing. Basically the liver has little resistance to the alcohol after prolonged exercise so you get smashed in a more controlled way but it is not a great idea. I use it as a last-ditch method to finish and it worked all 5 times.


Please use and carry sports gels and bars. Eat every hour at the beginning at least 500 Cal. Up this later on. This sounds a lot but works out to one gel packet every 15 minutes. Again resupply is going to be useful. Have different flavors and different makes. Use hard and soft bars. Variety is vital here. Crush up chips into small bags and pour into your mouth before a water break. You are burning massive calories here even if just walking hard. Running out of energy to fuel yourself is painful and a horrible thing so avoid it.

Trail mix is dreadful on the trail. Choking hazard and very dry. Same with nuts. Big chewy bites is the way to go. You are likely different from me so train and use what works for yourself. I am fine with that!

Mentally it will not be long before you are focused on what you will eat at the next rest stop. It gets to be a main motivator or a main failing as the cravings hit. You have done this before and know what you want, when you want it, and are actually carrying it. Dates work great for me but if I use them every snack I get very fed up of them very fast.

Go Girl Female Urination Device

Go Girl Female Urination Device.

Ultramarathoing tips for Sanitation:

Pee in the middle of the trail. Do not waste effort going off trail to pee behind a tree. Look at your pee and up the fluids if too yellow and decrease them if too clear. However after multiple hours clear may mean you are also in a critical salt shortage but you have been taking salts in from the beginning right?

Carry a small pack of Kleenex. Hop slightly off or next to the trail. Scoop a small holes and vacate your bowels. Do it quickly as on trails the flies come real fast. Wipe, wipe, cover reapply Vaseline to your nether regions. If weight allows a good baby wipe is a thing of sublime beauty in these situations.

My first outdoor bowel movement was a classic in how not to do it. I tried for 10 miles to hang on to it to get to an aid station. It was very painful. Your bowels are partially shut down and go as soon as you need to.

Getting there without effort:

Use a car. Otherwise use these tips to make the crushing pain a bit less.

Roads have camber as do trails. This means hard top roads generally are higher in the middle than at the sides while trails generally are lower in the middle than the sides. If you are walking the side of the road or trail move over every 15 to 30 minutes to the other side and do this from the start and keep on doing it. It sounds insane but the extra half-inch your outside leg has to move compared to the inside leg will cause all sorts of problems if you keep doing it for hours. Ideally walk down the flat middle or the flat outside of all trails and roads. Security issues might make this a bad move so plan it out in advance.

Most trails and roads curve a lot except in Florida! Seriously cut all corners from the beginning if safe to do so. Cut them very gently and about 50-100 yards out from the turn. Over miles this is cutting down the distance you have to walk or run by a decent amount.

Jog/Walk on the flats and the down hills. Walk gently uphill taking extra rests. Focus on the next visible objective not how many miles you need to go. The event is over if you do not make the next tree and if you keep thinking “I’ve got 40 miles of this to go!” you are literally talking yourself into failure.

Pace is a key issue. As I said go slower than you can right from the beginning. Every 5 to 10 minutes alter your pace a bit. Either walk a bit slower or a bit faster. Swing your arms more or less. Do this for a minute and then relax back into your natural pace and rhythm. This pushes back the time your muscles fail due to repetitive strain. If you are in good shape jog a little of safe down hills but not too much as that will cause muscle strain. Put your main faster intervals in on flat terrain (if you have any. If not then whatever passes for “flat”).

Night Owls are a hoot:

If you plan at doing this at night practice it. The world looks very differently at night especially if the grid is down. A decent head lamp is what most people use but I always used a hand flash light. I found I could sweep the trail much easier with the light source in my hand while going forward. Have at least two flashlights with spare easily obtainable if the one in use just switches off.

Most people pushing for 24 hours or more crash at 0300 and revive after sun up. Plan on that. If the terrain is very hard sleep through the hardest hours. But we are all unique and I find that time I am relaxed, awake, and very functional. When the sun comes up I crash badly. I have worked night shifts for decades but the dawn hitting me and myself falling asleep as I walked was unexpected.

Herd Mentality:

Women tend to be better at long distance than men and lighter men better than heavier men. Take this into account if you are in a group. The slower member is at the front or next to the front and never 200 yards behind. They go faster at the front. If the group splits up for any reason the explorers move while the rest stay put spread out along the probable route of return for the explorers but in visual range of each other. If both groups continue to move but at differing paces expect finding each other again to be impossible. I would never recommend splitting up. I have done it in races when our lead pack gets lost (this happens a lot in ultra-marathons!) but it burns time and is risky.

Look after each other. If you are the leader and no one is checking on your mental and physical state you are doing a bad job. Everyone has a buddy and everyone looks after everyone else. People will crash mentally so those who are okay need to be able and willing to take the lead and push the nearly dead.

Geographically brain-dead:

Honestly trails are tough and some people are much netter at reading terrain and maps than others are. Use the good navigators and trust them. One rule is use a paper map and check it at each and every fork in your road no matter how obvious the route seems to be. At night this is a practiced skill so do not move at night unless you have been on the terrain before and have great navigational skills. I have seen runners take the wrong route and literally end up twenty miles off course before they realized it.

Post event issues:

Every muscle will ache for days unless you are fit. The harder you push yourself in terms of early pace the worse this will be. This will get better but to get it gone faster try these tips

  • Keep the pace slow until the hall way mark
  • Do not run all out ever even for short distances
  • Avoid smashing down hills at speed. It sure feels great and I can do it but most people cannot
  • The next day go for a two-hour walk. Seriously this helps

Often after arrival lying in bed or on the floor of a shower is all you can do. Get up, get dry, change those clothes, and get fatty high calorie hot foods into yourself. You will actually not feel hungry at all but once you start eating you won’t stop. Beer is also very helpful afterwards especially heavy stouts.


I hope this helps with your bug out or return home plans. I would love to see tips from serious cyclists, trail bikers, and triathletes illustrating those secret parts of their sports that preppers could use when hauling ourselves long distances. The main rule I would say is each of us is unique and what worked for me may very well mot work at all for you. Practice makes perfect J

  Around six years ago I stopped running (got suddenly sick of it) but for the 15 years before that it was basically a part-time job for me. Over that time

Okay, so you don’t want to be the “lone wolf” prepper on your block. You’ve experienced the “strength in numbers” approach working on teams at work or school, and believe making friends, forming alliances before a catastrophic event is preferred. Maybe you’ve read a few of the survivor novels or have seen the movies/series where a prepper group convoys to their bug out destination. The fictional group’s platoon size, weapons with endless ammo, and burning need to escape Anytown USA for the bug out promised land, carry them through the perilous journey and daily human attrition. These stories make for great TV drama, but we can only gain a few practical tips from some of the scenarios presented as we consider the benefits of realistically starting a prepper network.

Could the lack of a connection with a local prepper network be the missing piece to your family’s survival strategy in a regional or global disaster? Do you feel the need to connect with folks in your building, on your block, in your subdivision or in the same township for mutual support? Should your planning even go further, starting an independent civilian militia?

So you’re thinking “Plug into the prepper network here in Anytown or start a small group with like-minded folks.” You believe that the network is all upside… strength in numbers, combined resources, and sharing the security work….in short, more eyes, ears and hands to share the burden. Plugging into the network could significantly increase your family’s survive and thrive capability.

What could go wrong with starting a prepper network?

Think Again! I used to think like this until our town experienced a tornado. My family, neighbors and fellow citizens taught me some key lessons and drastically changed my perspective on starting a prepper network .   I’m not naive or delusional. In a long-term SHTF situation, I’m certain that hungry, armed gangs will visit our half yuppie, half farm community from their city turf literally 15 minutes away. They will be seeking food, firearms, ammunition, fuel, water filtration equipment, better vehicles, cigarettes, liquor and maybe even hostages. No, I don’t plan to “play Alamo” and die in place to defend my family and property. I’ll need to be on an effective team. So, I’m really for being on a team, but for me it’s a question of when to form the team and with whom. Please consider my observations and lessons learned. Take what you can use in your prepping, but please don’t dismiss them as conceptual or fiction.

Perceptions – Prepper vs. Survivalist vs Militia Member.

The US public and news media do not differentiate between the terms Prepper, Survivalist and Militia Member. Will it help your prepping or your survival if all your neighbors perceive your some flavor of extremist?   Joe Six Pack cannot describe the difference between Prepper, Survivalist and Militia Member. Mrs. Six Pack fears all of them for no reason.

In US cities, the media has succeeded. Citizens perceive gun owners as a criminal fringe. Why do they need all those guns when we have the police to protect us? The citizenry actually believe laws will keep criminals from obtaining firearms and the police will protect them.

Militia groups can be a good place to get training with a larger group.

NRA members and anyone dubbed a “gun enthusiast” are considered worse than average gun owners … extremist advocates, on the fringe of society. Who should dare to stand up to the government to retain their rights?   Two of my neighbors have asked how many guns I own. I always provide the standard answer, “just a couple of 22 target pistols.” Family members are forbidden from sharing any firearms or prepper resource information to friends and neighbors. My high school age daughters have learned to tolerate their male classmates bragging about shooting and hunting, remaining silent on their training and our equipment.

Do you want your neighbor’s perceiving you’re a Prepper, Survivalist or Militia Member? Will they treat you, your wife, or your children differently? How is their knowledge of your activities and resources to your advantage?

God, Walmart, and the Nanny State will Not Care for You.

If you’re reading this, you’re probably a prepper open to ideas and improvements, or at least a future prepper with some level of self-actualization. You embrace the unknown or ambiguity, adapt and overcome adversity. You have high awareness of the real world and you get things done. You are the poster child for self-reliant.

Most of our fellow citizens don’t think like us and are not self-reliant. They have bought into the “Somebody Else is Always Responsible” approach to life.

I don’t know about your neighbors, but my neighbors believe the anonymous “They” in the Nanny State (city, county, or state) will actually take care of their safety, water, electricity and natural gas needs in times of crisis. This includes immediately after a tornado erases 600 homes, severely damages 400 more, 25% of a community, including the homes and family homes of the 15 people who run your city. One neighbors wife assured me that “they will get the power restored” when the temperature was headed to 17 degrees that night. Her husband had gone to work, leaving the family, including a physically handicapped son, without power and heat. I offered a connection to my generator set, but was again assured “they will take care of it.”

Our city leaders were so swamped, they couldn’t communicate the changes in No-Go zones due to debris, curfews placed in force, or the homeowner cleanup restrictions the 2 days FEMA conducted their assessment. My neighbors believed the mayor and his crew could handle things. Part of the city’s electric grid was wiped out, but the mayor remarked, “city website, we don’t have time for that, we’re conducting news conferences.” Citizens outside the damage zone started a Facebook page to spread the messages. City leadership was overwhelmed and to be fair nothing could have prepared them for this.

Two of my neighbors referenced God taking care of their future. My BS detector went off recognizing rationalization for inaction. I immediately suggested God had empowered them to take care of themselves and not wait on our city officials. These folks had young children.   I was told things were now in God’s hands and he was guiding our city and county leaders in the recovery. I reminded them that, except in extremely rare cases, God works through man, so they should get moving to obtain water, food and heat for their children, perhaps moving to relatives just outside the city.

Walmart’s & Kroger’s shelves were empty by Day 2. My neighbors somehow think it’s their corporate responsibility to continue to supply them., even when debris prevent the 25 daily tractor-trailer deliveries.   Walmart got lumped in with the proverbial “they” in the Nanny State. Citizens were shocked at how fast the shelves were empty, not just limited selections, literally empty.

Some people will not be willing to work too hard no matter the situation.

Some people will not be willing to work too hard no matter the situation.

Real World Responsibilities.

Before you plug into a prepper network, perhaps you might review you responsibilities in priority order.

Yourself. You are responsible for taking care of yourself (safety, hygiene, health) to avoid becoming a burden on your family.

Immediate Family. If you’re a parent or caring for an elder, you are responsible for them (safety, food, water, hygiene, health). In a SHTF environment, your family responsibility exceeds everything else, including friends, neighbors, colleagues, and fellow citizens. This extends to retrieving relatives to consolidate the family in one location and obtaining resources to sustain your family.

Neighbors & Friends. You should visit and assist neighbors, especially elderly and those with young children. You can assist, but do not deplete your family’s resources to assist. I checked on elderly that had no power, no communications (depleted cell batteries), no vehicle fuel and were heating one room with their propane kitchen oven. They declined to relocate to a relative’s home or a motel. I collected all their batteries, recharged, and returned them, violating the local curfew.

Neighborhood Group. Part of your family safety responsibility could become forming and engaging with a new neighborhood defense group. This needs to be done before security or looting becomes a problem. You should limit the resources you share with the group. You must mentally prepare to defend the neighborhood, relocate within the neighborhood, and/or relocate to consolidate with another neighborhood defense group.

Privacy and OPSEC.

Do we advertise when we earn a raise, buy a new TV, acquire a new gun, or install new carpet? Of course we don’t. So why would we disclose we have resources by joining local prepper groups or recruiting neighbors to form a block safety group? What advantage do you gain by non-family members’ awareness of your resources and plans?

What’s Yours is Mine, Really?

Sharing is Caring right? We believe it won’t happen to us. Wrong. My neighbors believe I should plan, buy, store & maintain emergency resources. They didn’t say this directly. Some joked “Why should I buy it when you have it and we can share it?” Others opined, “We’ve only needed emergency power twice in 10 years, so why should I invest in a generator set? This won’t happen to us again.” The What’s Your is Mine approach gets really dangerous when the crisis is extended and your neighbors believe it applies to food, water, firearms, ammunition and fuel.

Resources – Food, Water, Fuel, Power & Daylight.

Based on our neighbors’ communications and apparent resource levels, we recognized a greater need to remain silent regarding our resources. We turned off all exterior lighting. We perceived the need to have blackout curtains in a long-term crisis to conceal we powered up our home.

      1. Food – Several neighbors expressed concern the day of the tornado because they only had 1-2 days food on-hand. They were concerned with feeding their children. This planning is irresponsible for the middle class economic level my neighbors live at. We don’t understand. My family maintains a minimum of 30 days food in the pantry all year. We have five months of freeze-dried food from various suppliers in storage.
      2. Water – The tornado broke a water main and wiped out the water treatment facilities, both supply and waste treatment. My neighbors had no ability to filter water and local supplies of bottled water were purchased within 4 hours. The neighbors were complaining by the evening of Day 1, and trapped due to the curfew, preventing them from leaving town to search for water. Our teens whined about non-potable water until I explained it’s uses. I reminded them of our stored bottle water, approximately 40 gallons and had them retrieve some from the basement. This brought smiles when they recognized no need to boil water. We then took the time to locate our portable water filtration system. We also talked about obtaining water from our two 40 gallon water heaters and storing water in the home.
      3. Fuel – No local fuel stations had backup power. We had 3 days generator fuel on hand without siphoning from a garden tractor or pickup truck. Siphoning from cars and trucks is difficult with modern cars. Our cars and trucks all head ¾ tank of gas, so we didn’t feel we were at risk. I sent two family members out for more fuel about 3 hours after the event. I failed to brief them properly and arm them. They did not understand how far they needed to travel outside the community to obtain fuel and encountered long lines after trying to obtain fuel at 6 stations. Firearms weren’t needed, but there were arguments at gas stations when customers had many gas cans in their trunks. Trip elapsed time was more than 2 hours. Neighbors did not complain about fuel.
      4. Electricity – Our subdivision of almost 400 homes had only 5 homeowners running generator sets.   I wondered if neighbors asked for shared power, could they provide the fuel to run the generator sets. In a long-term power outage, money collected would be useless unless I could obtain fuel. Most local gas stations do not have backup generators and do not have electrical connections that would allow portable generator connection without an electrician and rewiring. Finding the other 4 generators was easy because they were so loud. We’re using a much quieter Honda 3Kw generator and position it for additional sound suppression. We were able to power our home using only the 3Kw by not using the microwave, dishwasher, washer and dryer.
      5. Daylight – One valuable lesson learned is that temporary electrical re-wiring needs to be completed during daylight because it takes 4x longer in the dark by flashlight. We saved the temporary wiring and can now safely power up in 30 minutes or less.

Today’s Network Won’t Exist on Day 2.

Will the network you plug into pre-crisis, exist during the crisis? More than 40% of our neighbors did not remain in their undamaged homes during this short-term, post-tornado crisis for our subdivision. There were multiple reasons for residency change; 1) Moved in with Family Elsewhere, 2) Bugged out to a Vacation Home; and 3) Didn’t Make It Home from Travel, Stayed Away. What will the percentage of those who remain home be in a longer crisis requiring a common defense team? How hard is activating a prepper network when 50% of the members have relocated? Will members still have the same pre-crisis priorities when the prepper network is activated?

Leadership & Planning.

All family members did not return until 2 ½ hours after the tornado struck. One family member was redirected by police and debris, making a 10 minute ride, 2+ hours. She had to drive out-of-town, around through another community, and then back into town. Family members crossed debris fields and could have become stranded, requiring retrieval by other family members.

Without knowing the extent of the massive damage, the family waited another 1.5 hours to meet informally, prioritize tasks, and execute the hasty plan. In retrospect, we should have met immediately upon all members return and checked on elderly neighbors, deployed to obtain more fuel, setup the generator, and connect wiring during daylight.

Waiting for the family to return, friends and classmates were reporting erased and highly damaged homes in the tornado’s path. I walked into the damage area to assess damage on a family member’s residence and found no damage. We later returned on foot to retrieve a car and clothes. Police advised if we left with the car, she would not be permitted to return. We asked the restriction’s duration and were told duration was unknown.

Cell Networks.

Cell phone networks were overloaded with voice traffic. We reverted to text to communicate with each other. Many family members and friends were calling us from outside the area to check on us. They were seeing TV news coverage of the damage we couldn’t see without power or media. We texted them our status and asked them to stop calling so we could communicate with each other. We preempted some calls by texting our status before being asked and pleading for no calls.

Disaster Tourism.

Our city was inundated with disaster tourists immediately after the tornado. Cars from outside town with 3-5 occupants were everywhere, blocking and clogging traffic. Implementation of No-Go zones with police road blocks reduced this, but left us in long lines to pass the road blocks. We did not expect this and were unprepared.

Make sure you are not.

Okay, so you don’t want to be the “lone wolf” prepper on your block. You’ve experienced the “strength in numbers” approach working on teams at work or school, and believe

The moments after a crisis or disaster can be incredibly chaotic. In today’s world, we receive near instantaneous feedback from news outlets, images on TV and the internet of destruction and rumors. The fog of any major event like this can leave us confused and in some cases panicked. If you are involved in the actual disaster yourself, you may be injured or scared. When you are faced with this type of scenario most people are usually quick to contact loved ones to discuss what happened and to touch base.

If you are in the middle of an event like this though, that need to touch base might require physically moving to another location. In all of the pandemonium you might need to make your way back home and if your family or group is spread out in multiple locations, it is a good idea to have a rally point that everyone is aware of and knows to go to in the case of an emergency. Having a plan for where everyone will meet after a disaster will ensure that there is no question for your family on what to do and where to go. This is a part of a larger plan on how to Bug Out that we will be talking about over the next weeks.

Multiple Rally Point options may be best recorded on a map.

Multiple Rally Point options may be best recorded on paper.

Traits of a good Rally Point

Easy to find – A good rally point is some place that is easy to find. You probably don’t want your rally point to be that stream 5 miles into the woods in most situations. If your family was faced with an event that caused a wide-spread dispersing of people, you want a place that is familiar and your family can find without having to revert to a map, GPS or anything more than memory.

Offers cover and concealment – If you are displaced from your home; your rally point might have to shelter you for the night. I wouldn’t pick a place like the park bench in central park where we first kissed unless your plan is to meet there and move to someplace more fortified. Your rally point should be a hard structure that you can stay in if needed to wait for the rest of your group.  Cover will give you the added benefit of offering protection from small arms fire. This may not be possible or practical depending on where your family members are, but worth consideration.

Away from lines of drift – In a grid-down scenario you might have heard of the terms lines of drift. This refers to the tendency people have of taking the path of least resistance out of major metropolitan areas. Major highways will be the first route people take until their cars no longer work or there is a major traffic snarl. Then they will start walking and gradually take side roads looking for shelter and refuge. You want your rally point to be away from areas like this to avoid being caught in the trap of too many other desperate people who may view your group or supplies as targets.

Defensible for short periods of time –Ideally, your rally point would be someplace hardened that you could defend if needed. This may be a concrete reinforced building that you could barricade yourself into. I know this makes a rally point location harder to find, but may factor into your considerations depending on your circumstances. It could be a high location on a hill with plenty of cover from rocks or large downed trees. It could be a bunker…

Types of Rally

Initial – In a true bug out scenario, you may have in your survival plan several different rally points at various locations. The initial rally point may be your first location that everyone is supposed to meet at. This could be that park bench, a friend’s house a short distance out of town or a central location in town.

Depending on how far you plan to go you may have other rally points to meet along the route you are planning to make. In situations like this, you may have multiple points based upon the route you might have to take. For instance, one route may be blocked to traffic so you would need to take back roads to your destination. Communicating the route you are taking is going to be crucial so having a method to talk to the other members of your group either by radio or shortwave needs to be considered too.

Objective rally point (ORP) – Your objective rally point may be your retreat location or a neighbor’s home in another state or city. This would be the final destination for all of the members to meet and regroup after a situation that caused everyone to have to leave home in the first place.

Your personal rally point could be as simple as your home. Whenever I am traveling, my family knows that if anything happens, to stay home and I will come to them. If they have to leave for some reason, they will leave a note telling me where they went and I will find them. Having a plan for keeping your family together or reuniting them after a disaster will help you in your preparedness plan.

Identifying which type is best for your family

If you are new to prepping or even if you have been prepping for years, your plans for what to do if we have a major SHTF event may fall into one of two camps. The first camp is going to Hunker down or shelter in place. The second group plans to Bug out to a remote location. If your plan is to Bug Out and your family is not all together, planning a rally point in route to your destination makes perfect sense. On the other side of the coin, if your plan is to Hunker down and shelter in place at your home, but that home is unreachable due to a natural disaster what will you do? It is times like this that a rally point would be wise to plan for.

It may seem to be the biggest hurdle to getting something like this done, but a conversation has to be initiated about topics like this and even more importantly followed through. As parents, in most homes you have a conversation with your child that goes something like this. If there is ever a fire, you get out of the house and meet at the mailbox. That is a simple refrain, it’s easy for kids to understand and visualize and gives them a sense of security that they know what to do if something bad happens. For a major emergency, their house may be just fine and the lines blurred more. If your house is on fire, you know it’s time to go. You easily feel the heat and fear that drives you to get out of the building and move to a location where you are supposed to be.

With something less definite you would need to have gate keeping types of events and a plan for how this works. Most of this rally point idea is focused on a situation where you are unable to communicate with your family. If you are in contact, then meeting is much simpler. However, there may be situations where you will not be able to communicate and your family will need to know what to do if they can’t contact you.  For example:

  1. If all communications are out and you can’t reach me. – Non weather related
  2. If I am out of town and martial law is declared
  3. If travel is stopped – no driving/roads are blocked/ no flights are taking off
  4. If there is a chemical spill nearby – Should have options for different directions – based upon likelihood of this happening.


Each families situation is different but identifying the causes that you may be faced with would be step one.

Once you have an idea for what situations would prompt going to your rally point and assuming there are multiple rally points, you would need to determine which Rally point would be used and how long someone should stay there. The last thing you want is for everyone to be showing up at different rally points and then leaving to go to other rally points missing each-other in the process and potentially being in an unsafe situation needlessly. This brings up a good question. Isn’t it better to simply pick one place that you will be safe in and stay there?

In a perfect world, you would be able to say if the SHTF I will be at Aunt Kathy’s. Everyone would be able to get there, knows where it is and it provides a single location that hopefully would already have supplies that you need. If not, you can at least plan to bury caches along the route to your Aunt’s house. Not everyone has a single, remote location they can run to.

On a recent trip my wife and I agreed upon a rally point she would be at if I had to come and find her. She was vacationing with family several hours away and worked out a location. If anything were to happen I was going to get her and if she wasn’t in the location she was supposed to be, she let me know how to find her. Let’s assume for arguments sake the “anything” that went wrong in this hypothetical was the grid going down. Real SHTF time comes to our neck of the woods finally and the world is thrown into complete chaos. In this case, there was a state park nearby. She said she would be 45 minutes’ walk inside the main entrance to the park which happened to be across the street from where she was staying. Knowing about how long it takes her to walk 45 minutes, I could go to that location and reconnect with her. For distances like this it is a plan not without drawbacks, but it does remove one risk that landmarks such as buildings would be destroyed and provided she stayed put for the entire time it took me to find her, this would work.

You can also use the rally point concept if the world hasn’t gone to hell. What if your children are lost at an amusement park or the mall? Identifying a rally point before you start the day will give them a place to go if they are separated. What if you were at a mall and some nut started shooting? With a rally point, your children would know exactly where to go if they could to meet back up with you. It prevents a lot of searching and worry.

I know there are a wide range of other aspects of this concept that I could go into, but for now start planning a rally point for your family. Beginning those discussions can help you all get on the same page so that if a disaster happens, you will know where to go. If you have created your own Rally point, please share what you decided in the comments below.

The moments after a crisis or disaster can be incredibly chaotic. In today’s world, we receive near instantaneous feedback from news outlets, images on TV and the internet of destruction