March 29, 2013


In my opinion, if society collapses and it's every man for himself, I think the best plan is to remain isolated for about 2 years, then begin to aggressively make friends and form alliances with the good survivors.

Why would you need to form alliances? Trade, companionship, security, and many other reasons. However, security is going to be the most important for many people. There will basically be 2 types of survivors: those who did it the legitimate self-sufficient way without harming others and those who did it the dirty way by stealing and killing. Unfortunately, after a collapse, it won't take long for the bad guys to rise to prominence and become the strongest powers in the land. They will be warlords, gangsters, and drug cartels, whose only method of survival will be to steal from others. At some point, the good guys will have to rise and stand their ground against any of these bad forces that come their way..... unless of course you are OK with living under the kingdoms led by MS13, the Zetas, and prison gangs that get let out.

So how do you go about forming alliances if you don't already have the luxury of knowing all the people in your survival area?

You should start with my recommendations in my blog of What to Do When You See Other People in a Collapsed Society. Once you've followed those guidelines and you decide you would like to get to know them better, there are a few different methods you can use. (I am thinking in the mindset of rural bug out areas, but some of these methods can apply to other settings)

If you've been able to spy on them, but they haven't seen you yet, you can initiate correspondence with them. You can write a message on a paper saying something like 'Hi, I'm your neighbor. My name is ____. I assure you I'm friendly. These are dangerous times, so I didn't want to meet you in person yet. Congratulations on being able to survive this long. It looks like you're doing OK, but maybe in the future we can help each other out somehow. My group of men, women, and children are about 2 miles away (you can lie about the distance here). We are surviving independently. Life is so different now, but we will live on. Here's a small gift of 10 tomato seeds. If you are interested in becoming acquaintances, please write back. About 1/4 mile east of your camp, you will see a small tree with orange tape around it. Next to that tree is a mossy boulder. Put your letter in the zip lock bag and then put it under the boulder. You don't have to do it right away. I'll check every week or two and then I'll write back to you. Thank you. Good luck and God bless.' You can write this message on a paper, put it inside a zip lock bag with a pen as well, tie it around a rock, throw it close to their camp, then disappear into the woods. Obviously, you don't have to use the tree with orange tape and mossy boulder as the mailbox. You could use anything as a makeshift mailbox as long as they can find it and the mail won't be found and stolen by random people walking by.

If for some reason you don't have the time to do this long courting process or you just don't have the materials for it, you could try the direct approach. I don't recommend it, because attempting something like this could always go bad, but here's what I would do. I would pick a point about 50 yards from the other peoples' camp to meet them. I would have a couple of my friends hiding with their rifles aimed toward the meeting point as backup just in case. I would have my shotgun leaning up against a tree about 20 yards behind me, just in case I need to retreat and grab it. I would have a handgun concealed on me somewhere just in case. I would have some gifts with me to give to them. I would try to look as non-threatening as possible. Then, from the point about 50 yards from their camp, I would yell and say, "Hellooo". I would wave and smile. I would wave a white flag. Hopefully they will come out. I would want to talk to them from a distance though. I would let them know the usual, 'I mean you no harm...' and take it from there and try to get to know them as best as possible. Ideally, I would do it over a few different meetings using a similar setup. During the meeting though, make sure they don't send some guys out on the flank to check you out and surround you. That could get ugly when they stumble upon your friends who are covering you.

If you see others who are wandering and struggling to survive, it might be best to leave them alone, BUT if you have enough supplies to help them out, you can take on the role of the mysterious mentor. First of all, meet them using neutral zone guidelines from my previous blog. Then without letting them know much about you, AND DEFINITELY NOT WHERE YOU LIVE, you can teach them survival skills. You can set up a camp for them 1 mile from where you are, build them a shelter, show them how to start a fire, teach them to filter water, show them what foods to forage for, give them some seeds to plant, etc. You can then build a relationship with them. An alliance of sorts will be established. You might even give them a walkie talkie and check up on them every evening. A possible subsequent step would be to move them to within earshot of your camp. Having allies within earshot of your camp is a great thing, because they can come running when there is trouble. Just yell or blow a whistle 3 times or shoot your gun 3 times.

Taking this concept a step further, you might want to actually adopt others into your group at some point. If you've determined they are good people, you can trust them, and they will be an asset, not a hindrance, you might want to proceed in this direction. In fact, I encourage every survivor camp to grow more food than they can eat, that way, you will be able to easily adopt others into your camp. Before you do this, you should establish some rules they will have to agree to. It will be rules like, 'Everybody works. Don't bring strangers into camp. etc.' You'll come up with your own rules. You'll also have to decide what kind of society you will be. Is there one leader, or is it a democracy? Is there a counsel of elders? Will only the original survivors in your group be considered a 'citizen' who gets to vote?

Over time, you will be able to build up alliances. You'll establish better communications with one another. You'll have messengers and traders travelling about. You can have systems of morse code or whip cracking. You can secure envelopes with wax emblems. You can use certain radio channels. You can even use carrier pigeons. Hopefully, you'll get to the point where you can stand against any of the gangs out there. Once you are sure you've reached that point, you might want to consider building forts and re-establishing cities (but new ones in the wilderness).  

Be smart. Be wise. Form alliances and survive.

March 27, 2013


Everyone who is in the prepping mentality seems to have plans on how they will deal with others. Most are armed and will fight others if necessary. Others are not willing to take the violent route. But on a practical level, how will it all work out? Will you fight everybody? Will you cooperate with everybody or anybody? How should we diagnose each meeting, or sighting of others in a world where society has already collapsed? They could be dangerous or they could be friendly, so how do you navigate those complexities?

In this article, I am generally assuming the setting is in very rural bugout areas, but some of this applies to urban areas as well.

Here are some crucial questions to determine exactly what the situation is. Once we have answered these questions, appropriate action can be taken.

Are they on your property, near your property, in a neutral zone, or on their property?

You see them, but have they seen you?

Have they seen your property?

How many of them are there?

How many of you are there?

How many of them are able bodies wielding guns?

How many of your group are able bodies wielding guns?

Is it men, women, children, elderly?

These are the crucial questions for before contact is actually made. Knowing the answers to these questions will determine your course of action. Here's roughly how I would go about the situations:

If I see them before they see me, and they are not coming towards my property, I want to know more about them, so I will follow and spy on them if possible. This is why ghillie suits and spotting scopes or binoculars are valuable for after the shtf. It is extremely helpful to know who the good guys and who the bad guys are in your general area, also how many people seem to be just wandering through. So take the time to spy on them to learn about your neighbors, but don't get caught. Find out how many of them there are. Find out if they are surviving ok, and how they are surviving--the legitimate self-sufficient way or are they looting/stealing. See if they have any skills or valuable items to trade. Take note of how they treat their women and children, because that can be very telling. Mark on the map where you saw them and where they are living. Take pictures of them if you can to show the rest of your group. It's like being a sniper, but without shooting anybody.

If I see somebody in a neutral zone and they see me as well, I will likely make cordial, hesitant contact with them. The only situation where I would leave right away is if they have me outnumbered and they have guns. I would probably say something like, "Oh, I'm sorry I didn't see you there. I mean you no harm. I'm just out hunting." (and maybe add, "It's too dangerous to talk to strangers these days, so I gotta go.") And then hurry away, but don't run. Leave in a direction that is not toward your camp, so they don't try to follow or track you). Even if you are a grown man with pride, I would still do something like this. It's not worth the risk. If you get killed, who's going to provide for your family? But if they don't outnumber me like that, I would say, "Hi. How's it going?" with a half smile. Depending on how they react, my next move would probably be to say, "I mean you no harm. I'm just out trying to hunt and forage...struggling to survive ya know?" I would get within talking distance, but not too close in case it gets violent, and I would be near a tree or boulder for cover. I wouldn't point my gun at them. It might seem like a natural reaction to point your gun at them, but doing so can escalate a situation quicker than pee freezes at the south pole. I would ask if they want to do an 'info exchange' and share news. I want to know their story and I would tell them a semi-true story of myself. Never tell them how awesome you are at surviving and how much supplies you have or where you live. Make some stuff up and tell them there are more men in your group than there really are if you need to. At the same time, you might want to help them a little. Show them what is edible in the area and explain to them how they can filter their water. Maybe even give them a 'go away kit'. It helps to make friends, because over time, you want to build an alliance and a militia if need be (to fight warlords and gangsters). You might also be on the lookout for potential people to adopt into your group. For more on forming alliances, read this blog article. If it doesn't end up being a cordial meeting, or you didn't get the impression that they were telling you the truth, you can try and follow them and spy, but only if you're good at it, because if you get caught, that wouldn't look good.

If I happen to stumble upon someone else's camp, I would throw up my hands immediately and say, "I'm sorry. I'm here by mistake. I mean you no harm. I was just out hunting and foraging. My apologies." Then I'd leave. Best case scenario, they are super nice and you can talk to them at a distance for a while, but keep an eye around your back, so that nobody sneaks behind you. Continue in a similar fashion as the neutral zone meeting. Good scenario, they let you leave. Take notes of what you saw, mark them down on a map, and maybe spy on them in a couple weeks. Bad scenario, they get real angry and it possibly gets violent. Do your best to get out alive. Don't leave in the direction of your camp.

If others approach your camp, go into battle stations mode. Put out fires, children inside, hide valuable stuff, grab guns and armor. If they are coming your way and they will see your camp, try to intercept them before they see your camp. Treat it as a neutral zone meeting, but DO NOT let them get any closer to your camp. Always have your partners in a hidden location with crosshairs on the strangers just in case. If they already see your camp, greet them with a firm, yet cordial greeting. If they just saw your camp, like 2 seconds ago, you might be able to direct their attention away and meet with them off in the woods a little further before they get a chance to fully scope out your living situation. If it's too late for that, you can do 1 of 2 things: 1) Let them know that this is private property and you would like for them to leave and never come back as this land barely has enough game to keep you alive. 2) Start asking them questions on the spot quickly. Ex. "You're on private property. What are you doing here? What's your names? Where do you live? How many are in your party?" etc. Depending on their responses, you might be able to soften up to them and treat it as a neutral zone meeting. If the meeting isn't friendly, finish it by letting them know they are not welcome and if they come back, they will be shot. If it ends up being a really bad meeting and you get the impression they will be back in force and in greater numbers, like the Sand People of Star Wars, do a risk-cost-benefit analysis if you need to bug out to another location or just be on the lookout 24-7. No matter how the meeting goes, you can try to follow and spy.

In any meeting, always be on the lookout for ambushes.

One final thought, if it is a meeting with women or children, consider having one of your own women meet with them, following all the strategies outlined above. Men will be more intimidating and there will be an ever present fear of rape.

Also, read my blog article about Thinking Like a Sniper Behind Enemy Lines After Society Collapses.

March 20, 2013


Here's some ideas I have for safe communications in a world without rule of law, where it's every man for himself.  Let me know what you think of these or if you have alternative ideas.  In general, I have bug out locations in the wilderness in mind here.  Urban communications will be a little different.

Communicating within your group:

1. As much as possible, don't travel alone.

2. When the group is split up, keep in constant communication using walkie talkies.

3. Have multiple systems of non-verbal communications:  ex. military hand signals, sign language, whistles, animal calls, but above all, have a distress signal, such as 3 gun shots or 3 whistle blows.

4. Try to learn a second language or code talk as a group.  It might help in the presence of hostiles.

5. If the group might get split up, establish a rendezvous point or backup bug out location.

6. Carry a paper and pen with you often in case you need to write a note to someone else in a situation where you can't talk to them directly, but you know they will be in that place later.

7.  If you leave the group, always let them know where you will be, how long you plan on being gone, and what to do if you don't come back in time.

8. Whenever you return to camp/home/base, call out to your people so they know you are coming and that you're not an intruder.

Communicating with people outside your group:

A lot of this depends on the situation.  Is it men, women, children?  How many?  Are they armed?  What are their ages?  What's their education level?  Are they surviving ok?  How are they surviving?  Are they aware of you?  Do they know where you live?  Do you know where they live?  How will they interpret your behavior and appearance?  In a worst case scenario, could you take them in a gunfight or will they likely overpower you?  Do they have valuable skills for a post-apocalypse world?  These are just some of the things you need to consider

I'll go into more detail in another blog article, but here's a few simple rules to go by.

1. If they are bad guys and can easily whip you in a gunfight, avoid them and try not to let them know where you live and what supplies you have.

2. If they are good people and will be an asset (or not much of a drag) to your group, find ways to get to know them better to test them out.  Let them know that you are friendly, but don't reveal all info, like how much food you have until you know you can trust them.  Perhaps you can give them a 'Go Away Kit' to earn their trust.  Consider all options.  They might join your group directly.  They might move in as a neighbor.  They might just join your wider alliance and go off and do their own thing.  Read my other article on forming alliances after the collapse.

3. If you run into others unexpectedly, just smile and say, "Hello there."  Don't point your gun at them.  Let them know that you are a nice guy and won't harm them.  However, come up with a story ahead of time that you are a struggling survivor who is just in wonder mode.  Don't let them know that you are loaded with tons of supplies.  Don't tell them where you live.  Just ask if you can have an 'Info Exchange'.  An 'Info Exchange' is helpful, because electricity and most forms of communication will be out, so apart from a few radio operators, the only method of spreading news will be face to face and hearing from travelers.  In the 'Info Exchange' they can tell you what they know and what they've heard.  You can do the same.  You can also give them a few quick lessons on survival.

4. If you come across others unexpectedly, but they don't see you yet, spy on them.  Do reconnaissance and determine if they are #1 or #2 above.  Good guys or bad guys?  Put those ghillie suits and spotting scopes to use.  Don't attempt to communicate until you've figured them out.

5.  If others come across your campground unexpectedly, warn the group and quietly move them into battle stations (i.e. put fires out, children inside, hide anything valuable, and able bodies get their guns and armor).  Have somebody approach them in a friendly, yet firm manner.  However, don't get too close, in case it gets violent.  Get within talking distance, but not within hand-gun-kill-you-without-aiming distance.  Be standing close to a tree or rock for cover just in case.  Have your gun with you, but don't aim it at them.  Have a few riflemen keeping aim at them at all times.  You might even have to tell the intruders that they have crosshairs on them right now, so don't try anything stupid.  Also, try not to allow them to get close enough to see what you have and how many people are in your group.  If you need to, lie and say there are more men than there really are.

6. Always be on the lookout for traps and ambushes!  How many times have I seen that in apocalyptic movies?

March 15, 2013


Here's my philosophy that leads me toward the best barter items for after society collapses.

If it's CHEAP, SMALL, and LIGHTWEIGHT now, yet will be SCARCE, VALUABLE, and EXCHANGEABLE later, it is a good barter item.  The better something fits this category, the better it will be as a barter item.

I also want to mention that it is not wise to count on one barter item.  Don't put all your stock in 22lr ammo.  You might come across somebody someday who has no need for 22lr ammo, but they are desperately seeking first aid supplies.  You want to have enough diversity in your barter items, that you can do business with everyone.  And by helping your local trade community, you will in turn, help yourself in the long run.

Another very important point to remember is that there will be different phases of trade after the collapse.  At first, people will be mostly interested in practical things that will help them survive.  Later, people will start to be more interested in precious metals, more advanced equipment, luxuries, and more standard forms of trade.

Here we go...


It's cheap, small, and exchangeable.  It will be very valuable later, and possibly become a standard form of currency.  Many guns use it.  It's good for hunting, protection, etc.


Don't neglect other types of ammo.  If 22lr ammo will be valuable later, just imagine how valuable other caliber ammo can be to the people who need it.


So cheap, so small, so lightweight, and SOOO VALUABLE LATER.  Only downside is they don't last forever.  Also, if they are not in original manufactured packaging, people might not believe you that they actually are vegetable seeds.  They might think you are trying to sell them grass seeds or something.


Matches and lighters will run out eventually.  These last for thousands of strikes, but I guess they too run out eventually.  They are small and cheap now.


They are very small, lightweight, and quite cheap.  They can start fires long as the sun is shining enough.


Similar concept and they're cheap, so why not buy a bunch in bulk to diversify your barter items.


Emergency radios are certainly one of the more expensive barter items I would consider.  The only reason I consider this option is because I plan on broadcasting using an amateur radio, so by trading out these radios, I know I will have an audience of people I can continue to help, teach, and build a rapport.


This package would be so valuable and powerful, that you just might want to have a second package of it to give or trade in an extreme situation.  Keep it hidden in a safe waterproof place though.  Not cheap now, but might save your life later.


Obvious reasons.  Some of it is cheap too.


They fit the description of a good barter item.  Very excellent choice that not a lot of people consider.  For someone who has spent a few weeks clumsily setting snares and figure fours, these would be a Godsent.


We won't realize how valuable these are until we no longer have them.  Again, cheap, small, lightweight, and valuable later.


Kinda obvious, but if you find yourself bartering with food, it also means that the person you are trading with is not surviving in a self-sustainable way yet, so you have to be careful with this one.


They can be lifesavers.  These are really more of a 'Go Away' kit item than a traditional barter item, but still good for barter as well.  Print out dozens of copies, buuuuut you also have to consider if the people you give these to will be competing with you for foraged foods, so be careful.


If you learn how to make it, this can be a continual supply of a barter item for you.


If you've ever used them, you know they are amazing.  On cold nights, they are worth their weight in gold if you don't have good insulation.  But these are also more like a 'Go Away' item for a wondering vagabond.


Right now many people are aware of their value.  Their standard size and value will likely be accepted in trade everywhere.


It's a precious metal but in a small form that can be weighed out, so you can get an accurate amount for an equal trade.  What's the point of having gold coins that are worth $2,000 each?  I guess you could cut and chip pieces off of them?  I would go with flakes or really small beads.



All I really did here was go through my own list of survival supplies and pick out all the items that basically fit the criteria described above.  It's a good way to build up your barter supplies.  Just get double or triple of a lot of the items you will need, and then focus on really stocking up on the ones that most accurately fit the barter description.  I think this is a better plan than all alcohol or all 22lr or all silver, because different people will be in need of different items.  It's best to have options for trade.

March 13, 2013


[see my full list here]

Your most valuable items will vary depending on your survival situation, so here is the situation for this list...

Temperate mountainous areas of North America.  Also closely aligns with woodlands and pairies.  Not flood-prone area.  Not a lot of snow.  EMP scenario, but works well for many types of survival scenarios.  Long-term survival (i.e. more than a year).  Clothes are not listed.  Female, infant, elder, handicapped, medical conditions are not catered too--I'm just not an expert on these needs.  This is a one person survival list, but it also assumes you will add to your group over time.  A year-round water source is nearby.  

Items are listed in order of importance, with most important listed first.

Without further adieu...TO THE LIST

  1. all purpose survival knife
  2. Fire starter
  3. assorted seeds and beans (something to grow for every season if possible, also sprouts (alfalfa, soy, mung), asparagus, medicinal plants, and cash crops)
  4. mess kit (first method for water purification)
  5. sleep system
  6. hunting rifle with suppressor, scope, night vision scope(converter?), thermal imaging scope , and extra magazines
  7. ammo
  8. survival sage (1st source of electricity)
  9. emergency radio am/fm/shortwave/noaa w/light and crank powered (2nd source of electricity)
  10. buckets with air tight lids, food grade
  11. big ole first aid kit (make sure it has sutures , quick clot, lots of reusable bandages, antiseptic, antibiotics, slings, air splints, blister prevention/treatment, surgeon disinfectant soap, latex gloves, aspirin, immodium ad, etc.)
  12. shovel
  13. rat traps
  14. toothbrushes
  15. big tarps (at least 3: water proof shelter, fish pond-black tarp if cold area [pond liner], rain catchment)
  16. large backpack
  17. paracord
  18. axe
  19. water bottle (stainless steel)
  20. 9 months of stored food (freeze dried, dehydrated, canned, powdered, grains, sugar, honey, etc.)
  21. binder with hard copies of most important survival info, including color pictures of edibles in the wild in your area and how to prepare them, laminated or waterproofed somehow
  22. large water filter with extra filters (second method for water purification)
  23. maps topo and political/street
  24. baking soda
  25. mason jars
  26. Tattler reusable jar lids and gaskets
  27. pressure cooker/canner
  28. cotton towels all sizes
  29. tilapia (live, or best type of fish possible)
  30. compass
  31. cooking set (spatula, tongs, ladel, knives, etc)
  32. BioLite BaseCamp Stove (3rd source of electricity)
  33. LED flashlight/lantern (handcranked)
  34. multi-tool
  35. grill rack for cooking/dehydrating
  36. gun cleaning kit
  37. knife sharpening kit with honing oil
  38. camouflaged infrared perimeter silent alarm system
  39. dental repair kit
  40. gorilla tape (camouflaged)
  41. hand gun with suppressor, laser, and holster
  42. ammo for it
  43. ghillie suit
  44. spotting scope with tripod (or binoculars)
  45. rechargeable batteries (all sizes)
  46. battery recharger
  47. walkie talkies
  48. bleach (third method of water purification)
  49. signal mirror
  50. dwarf fruit trees
  51. MP3 player & headphones
  52. cutlery
  53. hand operated grain mill
  1. large barrels with the siphon, wrench, and faucet attachments
  2. cooking oil
  3. multi-vitamins
  4. mosquito net
  5. soap
  6. mylar ziplock bags all sizes heavy duty
  7. desiccant packs
  8. toothpaste
  9. pens
  10. printer paper
  11. reading glasses
  12. wood stove with chimney piping and roof panel protector
  13. work gloves
  14. heavy duty aluminum foil
  15. doctor's toolbag
  16. cutting board
  17. dental floss
  1. horse with all its gear (male & female if possible)
  2. outdoors cook set
  3. dentist's tools
  4. lighters
  5. petroleum jelly
  6. bow saw with extra blades (or buck saw)
  7. salt
  8. paintbrush (for manual pollination)
  9. chickenwire
  10. rabbits
  11. razors (some prefer to go with old school blades, save space and money, but requires more skill)
  12. low power laptop packed with software/movies/music/games/podcasts/family photos/etc
  13. cash
  14. sledgehammer
  15. glass vials
  16. patch kit for plastic/tarp/rubber?
  17. hand auger drill set
  18. water well hand pump set
  19. radio antenna extension
  20. small backpack
  21. emergency blanket
  22. family canopy with screen and magnet closure
  23. camouflage netting for vehicle, campground, outposts, hunting, etc.
  24. sewing kit
  25. hand pump pressure sprayer
  26. insect mesh hat
  27. camp shower
  28. go away kits
  29. spare fabrics (cotton, denim, leather, etc)
  30. rain suit

Some common items I've seen on other lists, but I don't think you would need or want in a scenario where society fully collapses are:

fuel like propane  (too heavy and it runs out eventually.)
gas stove
regular batteries  (get rechargable ones)
generator  (requires gas that won't be around for long and it makes so much noise, which tells people you are there and you have electricity.  But if you are gonna use a wood gasifier to power it and you MUST, maybe you can get soundproof padding to put around it in a way that still allows air to get in.)
matches  (just use lighters and fire starters)

Also, here are some questions to consider as you select your survival items:

How long will it last?
Can you make it instead?
Can you scavenge it instead?
Is it a need or want?
Is there a better alternative?
Was is the value/space ratio? (flint high value, small space; wood stove mid-high value, large space)