By Conrad Novak, SurvivorsFortress.com |
As a prepper, so much of our focus goes into the planning stages. This makes sense considering that the best way to deal with the unexpected is to develop a series of contingencies explicitly designed to deal with them. However, no plan will follow accordingly. As such, it requires an agility of mind and breadth of skills to truly be prepared.
Since humans were able to survive in the wilds for thousands of years before finally settling down into an agrarian lifestyle, it logically follows that we are able to do the same–if we know the skills they used to survive. This is where bushcrafting comes into play.
This is a skillset that hinges on using the natural resources around you to ensure that you survive. While you may feel confident that your bug out plan accounts for all possibilities, bushcrafting skills provide a response should your plan run into a snag.
- Slimmer Bug Out Bag
One of the more enduring pastimes of preppers is to compare their bug out bags. While this exercise in friendly competition can provide a source for some well-earned bragging rights, it also functions as an effective way for preppers to exchange tricks of the trade and inspire each other with different load outs.
Comparing the contents of your bug out bag can show you new uses for items you packed that you did not already know. Moreover, this practice can allow unique items that may be relatively unknown to become more renowned. However, this can also lead to the dreaded weight creep where you find yourself wanting to add more and more gear to your bug out bag both to be more prepared and to keep up with the Joneses.
Unfortunately, too heavy of a bug out bag is one of the most common cardinal sins of bugging out. Considering a proper bug out will see you traversing well over a day’s worth of walking miles through rough or treacherous terrain, a heavy bug out bag merely adds to the risk of you suffering from some type of injury during your journey–a proposition that stands as arguably more dangerous than whatever disaster you were bugging out from in the first place.
With that in mind, bushcraft skills offer you an elegant alternative that is not only effective but worth bragging rights on its own. While your friend may show you a new water filtering straw, you can feel comfortable with your bushcraft skills that not only you can decontaminate water with materials you find in the environment, but you can find the water in the first place.
The fact that bushcraft skills can apply to arguably every aspect of bugging out only increases the amount of gear that becomes superfluous. While this does not mean you should simply dump everything for which you have bushcraft skills, it definitely provides some leeway in choosing how many redundancies you feel you need.
- Worst Case Scenario
In the best of circumstances, you would never need to grab your bug out bag and employ your bug out plan in the first place. Of course, you prep specifically because you are planning for how to respond to a bad scenario–not the best of circumstances. However, even the best bug out plan can go awry depending on how the disaster plays out.
That being said, your bug out plan can still provide a useful blueprint to see you and your party’s way out of the face of danger. At that point, all you have to do is survive the punishing wilds until you can reach your bug out shelter. Though, while bugging out, there is no guarantee that all of your planning and preparation will not hit one or more speed bumps along the way.
Arguably one of the more dangerous situations that can occur while bugging out is losing your pack. Not looters or predators or the harsh environment–no, losing your bug out bag is the most likely problem you are liable to face. The reason is simple: every second you are bugging out, there is a small but real risk that something happens to your bug out bag.
Depending on the route you choose to reach your bug out shelter, the odds of losing a bug out bag could increase. Keep in mind, the risk to the entire party remains the same if a bug out bag is lost, so if someone else loses their bug out bag, that can be just as dangerous as if you lose your own.
That is why bushcraft skills can become a lifesaver. While traversing the great outdoors, should someone lose their bug out bag on the trail, you do not have to worry so much how the rest of the party will accommodate that loss of resources. Instead, you can put your bushcraft skills to work to ensure the loss is mitigated and the effect negligible.
- Caught Off Guard
Spending a significant amount of time planning for disasters can provide a much-needed sense of security. Not only you will be physically prepared should disaster strike, you will also have trained your mind not respond instinctively to the chaos that a catastrophic disaster would visit upon your peers and neighbors.
However, a bug out plan is only as good as the contingencies for which it accounts. While it is nice to think that you can remain ever vigilant and ready at the drop of a hat to bug out, the reality is that there will be inevitable instances in your life where bugging out simply is not the top priority–even as a background consideration.
For instance, let us say that one of your close family members is having a destination wedding and you are invited to be the man or maid of honor. It is far more likely than not that you will not bring a bug out bag for you and each of your attending party members. Aside from the fact that the luggage fees would likely climb to outrageous prices, it is simply not practical to carry around thirty to fifty pounds of gear per person that is unlikely to see the light of day.
Still, that does not change the fact that a disaster can strike at any time, and should you be found in one of these inconvenient situations when it does, your bug out plan has just gone out the window. In this instance, you will need to think and act fast and improvise. Bushcrafting skills can provide an adequate response to a situation that otherwise seems primed for failure.
With these skills, every place and every situation can still be approached with a rational and effective response such that you are never truly caught off guard–even if all your attention is rightly focused elsewhere. Just make sure that you learn and practice bushcrafting skills associated with different biomes–or at least the one where you may find yourself away from the security of your bug out plan.
- Man-Made Is Temporary
The whole reason that you are a prepper in the first place has to do with the fact that you see the flaws in our modern society and wish to protect yourself from their potential failures. This risk will only continue to balloon as our global society becomes ever more interconnected, ever more interdependent. In this situation, the world is essentially asking for one large disaster to bring the entire house of cards tumbling down.
As a defense, you have taken the necessary steps, both actual and theoretical, to ensure that you will not be caught unaware and scrambling for someone or something else to save you should society collapse. However, if you have not developed your bushcrafting skills, you are simply delaying the inevitable rather than genuinely making sure you and your loved ones are not at risk.
In fact, after just a few moments of reflection, it should seem a bit odd to everyone without bushcrafting skills that you are prepping specifically because you believe civilized society is primed to fail, yet still place such faith in the objects and products of that society. Granted, the equipment made for preppers is generally of a higher quality than that made for the general public, but that does not change the fact that it is still designed to be finite.
As such, it is only a matter of time be you run out of your supplies or before they fail. This applies regardless of how well prepared you may think you are. Even if you have a bunker in a secluded part of Montana or Wyoming, that bunker likely relies on some sort of air-filtration system. Before long, it will need to be repaired or replaced altogether. If worse comes to worst, that may not be feasible.
In this instance, bushcrafting skills are not merely an investment in the immediate, they provide the security of a well-conceived bug out plan years–potentially decades–into the future when man-made preparations are likely to have exhausted themselves or malfunctioned. So long as nature exists and you know bushcrafting skills, you always have survival resources available.
- Be The Rock
When bugging out, the risks are manifold. The threat of exposure to the elements remains a constant and serious threat. Running out of resources and a perpetual weariness bogs you down while the need to ration burns the candle at both ends. Moreover, the fact that anyone you come across is liable to see you and your gear as a tempting reason to initiate violence only adds to the ever-growing paranoia.
While all of these difficulties take their toll on your body, an often overlooked risk is mental weariness that comes with the grueling physical tests. Just as dangerous as any physical threat is the breakdown of the mind while bugging out. This can take a number of forms, each just as threatening as the next whether it manifests cognitively or emotionally.
In fairness, the risk of cognitive decline is a bit more paramount as that will ultimately leave you more exposed. With your body tired and weakened, your attention may lapse. This opens you up to both environmental risks as well as man-made ones. Keep in mind, an injury on the road can be difficult to deal with, so someone slipping on a rock or tripping on a tree root and spraining their ankle poses just as much of a risk as losing a pack.
The other risk that comes with mental weariness is a generalized depression or feeling of hopelessness. While this can conceivably be easier to counter, should it set in, the effects are far more dangerous. Emotional strain can create dissension within the party, leading to squabbles that either derail advancement or alert hostile agents of your presence.
This can also lead to the same cognitive decline mentioned earlier. Finally, the effects of emotional depression also take their toll physically. However, bushcrafting skills can provide a sense of security to those around you. Even when things look dire, your party members can feel comfortable that you know how to respond to the situation so that even a major setback does not threaten the livelihood of the members.
- Cutting Costs
Depending on how far down the rabbit hole you go, bushcrafting skills can be deemed merely as those used for immediate survival or beyond. The overwhelming majority of goods, equipment, and supplies that you use in your everyday life started out as a skill that humans used well before sedentary societies existed.
Everything from clothes to logistics to cutlery is an ancient technology that stretches back tens of thousands of years–sometimes much further. While agrarian societies may have provided specialized names for these crafts and their members practiced them into becoming masters who specialized in these crafts to the exclusivity above all else, that was not the case for a band of nomadic humans in the stone age.
Considering the worst case scenarios for our society should all include a return to this type of technological level, it only makes sense that preppers develop these skills. In the course of doing so, you will not only further ensure the survival of you and your party, but you will ultimately learn how to construct a whole range of useful objects and tools.
The real takeaway from this process is that, should you develop your skills fully, the tools and equipment that you construct by hand are liable to be every bit as good–if not better–than many of the tools that you would otherwise spend hard-earned money to acquire. Granted, these items, like everything made by man, has a shelf life, but that is a small matter considering you can always make another assuming you have the supplies and time to do so.
As another bonus, developing some of the more advanced bushcrafting skills, like making pottery, tools, and clothing from raw materials, has become somewhat of a niche market on its own. This will actually provide you three benefits in one. Not only are you able to save money on equipment and supplies, but you will then be able to turn a profit by selling the items that you make once you have reached your own needs. Essentially, you will get paid simply for developing and honing skills you would otherwise practice for survival.
- Wherever You May Roam
Again and again, the need for developing bushcraft skills comes back to a consistent reason that arguably extends beyond mere preparation: failure. Keep in mind, this is not to imply that the failure rests on your shoulders. Instead, whether it is due to social constraints, the limitations of man-made objects, or the restrictions of the physical body, the prospect of failure looms over every bug out plan, waiting to drop the unforeseen right in our laps.
The most insidious and clandestine form of failure that can force the use of survival skills without significant resources is the need to flee. This is another instance where just a bit of thought should provide ample evidence of this premise. Basically, if a disaster drove you away from your home and the trappings of civilized life, what is to say that it could not do so wherever you designated your bug out location.
To push the point further, you may well have chosen a location that is nearly impregnable from a host of disasters, but it is impossible to make it foolproof unless you intend to live in an underground bunker–and even then, the threat of man-made failure remains. In this instance, the only reasonable thing to do would be to flee once again.
Of course, not everyone can afford to have numerous bug out shelters dotting the countryside for a 100-mile radius in all directions. As such, you will instead need to learn how to stay on the move, becoming nomadic like our stone age ancestors once again until you can find a location that can be secured. However, doing so will likely stretch you and your party well beyond whatever resources were cached for the prospect of bugging out.
This is where bushcraft skills can provide the agility to change your bug out plans on the fly. Whether you have reached your bug out shelter and must abandon it or whether you simply were never able to reach it due to the effects of the disaster in the first place, bushcrafting skills provide a lifeline and flexibility to survive no matter where your escape takes you.
The first hope of a prepper should be that their preparations are never needed. While some may look forward to that day, the smart approach is to not see it occur. Still, the point of prepping is to make sure you and your loved ones survive if it does.
One way to further make sure that you are prepared for a disaster that requires bugging out is to develop bushcrafting skills. Whether as a supplement, long-term viability, or simply to provide mental assurance to others, bushcrafting skills offer an additional level of security to see you through any issue.
To learn more about the different bushcrafting skills most useful in a survival setting, check out this guide. Everything from building a shelter to starting a fire–including multiple methods for all–can be found there. Remember, the last line of defense and your single greatest weapon in the fight for survival is a well-honed mind.
Conrad Novak is a proud father of two children. His journey as a prepper began when Hurricane Katrina hit and he lost his job due to the 2008 economic crisis. That made him realize that everything can change for the worst in a very short time. This experience was the detonator for him to pursue learning and becoming better prepared to face the kind of unexpected disasters that may occur at any point in our lives. You can read more of his content at SurvivorsFortress.com