Wasteland Survival Skills

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This topic contains 16 replies, has 4 voices, and was last updated by  Crow Bar 1 day, 18 hours ago.

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  • #24195

    Mouse Wizard

    Finally someone asked.

    From Anon 411:

    @Mouse, You keep talking about “wasteland survival skills”. Are there any books specifically on those skills? Or are you just pulling our leg with that phrase? A quick search on Amazon shows only fiction book. Anybody know of such books?

    Anon was responding in the “Scientists Declare Climate Crisis” thread where I postulated:

    Folks, you’re standing at the edge of a meadow, looking uphill at the trees, and focusing on this tree, or that tree. Meanwhile, that rumbling you hear is the avalanche heading your way from above the very thin line of trees.

    That avalanche is composed of four interacting predicaments:

    • Climate Chaos
    • Economic Disruption
    • Resource Depletion
    • Social Disintegration

    The whole band is building to a crescendo. Interlocking triggers and feedback loops between natural and human systems will kill most of us. If you plan to come out the other side of that bottleneck, you’ll need supplies, fortitude, luck, and wasteland survival skills. Get cracking.

    First, background:

    In regard to the crisis, everyone is talking about one or more of the above predicaments. The problem I have with that is that talking won’t work, and neither will action. A predicament, by definition, has no viable solution. It’s going to run its course.

    Picking away at the foundations of climate change doesn’t have any effect on the next polar vortex, fire event, flood event, or hurricane. If there is a dark organization dedicated to one world government bent on eugenics they’re pretty incompetent given the trends in population over, like.. .ever. Believing in abiotic oil doesn’t change the fact that we’re about out of potash. Saying warming trends are based on falsified data won’t bring back the 50% of plankton we’ve already lost. Economic trends are downward for all but a few, and it’s something most on the left or right seem to agree on, but with different solutions in mind. Trickle down, tax and spend, we’ve tried those enough to know they’re both pipe dreams. And of course the actual conversations we’re having today demonstrate how far down the social disintegration path we’ve already gone. Yesterday I saw a hand-made sign in the back window of a car that said “Civil War 2020.” That’s not viable. As soon as it’s dangerous to go to work people will stop going to work, but they will have stopped shopping long before. US economy collapses dragging the rest of the world down with it. Likewise, if China’s economy collapses the US will fall in short order. Everything is intertwingled.

    There are no viable solutions to the above predicaments. That’s why they are predicaments. Predicaments will run their course.

    Community is key:

    This particular set of predicaments will interact in strange and unpredictable ways. Eventually everything will grind to a halt. At that point, you need to be in a physically contiguous, geographically defensible community capable of pulling together to grow the food necessary, provide basic law and order, cut off / defend against those outside that want in, and provide enough social interaction that it’s a better solution than a bullet to the head.

    There will be such communities scattered across the landscape. Between them will be a lot of wasteland.

    Topsoil blowing away because the crops didn’t get planted or there weren’t the fertilizers or herbicides available to make it work, or the powered irrigation sprinklers aren’t powered anymore. Burned out cities. Droughts and wildfires or flooded out areas with buildings rotting into the ground from the mud and mold. Radioactive plumes from last ditch nuclear exchanges, or something as basic as nuclear power plants improperly shut down. Toxic plumes from failed retention ponds of manufacturers, frackers, or whatever. A multi-spectral wasteland.

    Some communities will last longer than others, for whatever reason. If you’re not in a community you’ll need to cross the wasteland to find one. If your community fails you’ll need to cross the wasteland to find another one. There are areas where they are likely to be or become. Getting there is the issue.

    Hence wasteland survival skills. Acquire them. Teach them so they can be passed down. And don’t forget the skills necessary to be an asset to a community, especially if you don’t have the strength, fortitude, or desire to be a farm laborer. But you can’t get there without crossing the wasteland.

    What are those skills?

    Well, living off the land is a non-starter even today. So you’ll need to explore and push forward carefully, preserving your ability to fall back and try a different path. This means good land navigation skills in a world of hand-drawn maps. A good compass will be precious. Paper and ink as well. The ability to transport, without fuel or animal support, significant quantities of supplies. Planting caches along the way, then going back and re-supplying, and pushing forward again. Using the supplies at your current bug-in location to provide a chain of re-supply points across the wasteland to your intended destination.

    Before you go, you need a clue about where to go. Otherwise it’s a pointless endeavor. How that clue will be acquired is unpredictable at this point.

    As you go, you need to scout the terrain forward very carefully. Monitor for radiation without benefit of batteries.  A Kearny Fallout Meter will be pretty much the only viable option. You’ll be checking it every day at noon, giving yourself enough time to backtrack to the last clean location.

    You will need good binoculars, a spotting scope, and the ability to sit in a high point all day and just scan for activity before proceeding. Deer hunting (especially bow hunting) references talk about that surveillance skill a lot. Know what a tailings pond or retention pond looks like from a distance. Consider each the source of a toxic plume. Which way does the water flow? Where are the most likely natural points to find clean water? The ability to read the land for that information will be essential.

    Trapping will be viable a couple of years after the humans deal with their overshoot by dying off. Small animals will come first because they’re close to the bottom of the food chain. Traps are heavy, as are the tools to maintain them.

    You will need to be quiet and stealthy. Night travel is a non-starter unless you really like falling into holes and such. Camouflage with native plants in the current season will be necessary. And make sure you know how to make and repair footwear and clothing using salvaged materials. Small animal skins are not very durable. You’ll need tools for that as well. Scissors are multi-purpose, but needles, not so much. Know how to make needles and various threads from natural sources.

    One of your most precious items will be stainless steel water stuff. A distiller. Filters have a life span. Steel: much longer lifespan. Multi-generational. Heavy. Takes time. Requires a fire. A stealthy fire, yet powerful. An extended Dakota Hole fireplace becomes a basic rocket stove. Another skill to pass along. Steel water bottles will also be precious after the plastic ones rot away. A steel shovel to dig the hole, and for caching. How deep do you plant a cache?

    How you haul all this stuff depends on the terrain and available pathways. You can re-purpose abandoned bicycles into human-powered carts.  A one-wheel Chinese wheelbarrow if you’re going single-track, a two-wheeled cart is easier to handle but not on a single track. The ability to build this depends on tools. More weight. Hence the cart. Having the tools and the experience of doing it before makes it possible to do it again. Tools will be a precious hand-down to multiple generations.

    If you make it to another viable community, just the fact that you got there will be a story to tell and you’ll have invaluable intel for their leadership.

    So get the skills and the tools. Two sets of tools; one set in cache (floods and firestorms and such). This will take time and a lot of trial and error. If you’re old, your sole purpose in acquiring the capabilities will be passing them on to someone of appropriate age and fitness. If you’re young, get fit. Acquire the skills along with your intended community-valued skill set, whether that’s permaculture, carpentry, chemistry, whatever. A whole ‘nuther set of tools will be needed for whatever choice is made.

    Get cracking. Time’s a-wasting.

  • #24200

    Mouse Wizard

    I really need to acknowledge Category5 over at Dark Green Mountain Survival Research Center for pulling me from depression to acceptance with his fine words about the problems we face and the community-based solutions needed to get through all of this. Without him I would still be flailing around, lost in the details and losing ground. Thanks to him I’m prepped, I’m bugged in, and I’m training my children now.

  • #24202

    anon 411

    @Mouse, You bring up a lot of good points and I’m going to have to mull over these points before I can answer. However, you did mention bicycles as freight carriers. Here are a series of very good articles on that one point.

    The Incredible and Efficient Use of a Bicycle as a Bug Out Vehicle (Part 1)

    The Incredible and Efficient Use of a Bicycle as a Bug Out Vehicle (Part 2)

    The Incredible and Efficient Use of a Bicycle as a Bug Out Vehicle (Part 3)

  • #24205

    Crow Bar

    Dont necessarily agree with everything, but a pretty good post!

  • #24211

    Mouse Wizard

    I guess the point I didn’t really emphasize is: Get bugged in to a community as quickly as you can, because it takes time to integrate. The Wasteland skills presume an environment where nearly all of the ammo is gone, the batteries are all dead, etc. If you’re navigating wasteland prior to those conditions, feel free to take advantage of available tech. But have the no-tech skills ready to pass on.

  • #24212

    anon 411


    What you describe sounds a lot like a Mad Max world. I suppose something like that could occur some few years after a grid down situation.

    I’m not sure I have ever seen an article or book on the environmental hazards that you mention. There are shuttered nuclear reactors around, but I wonder how long that takes to do. Can that be done with resources on hand in a couple of months, or does it take years and include shipping nuclear waste to established storage facilities? Does the nuclear power industry even do any contingency planning for this scale of disaster? Probably not and almost certainly haven’t stockpiles of supplies to sustain the technicians for the time needed to actually perform such a shutdown. And what about planning for the technicians families? If most of the existing nuclear power plants now in the US were to not be shut down safely and developed toxic plumes (that lasted thousands of years) there would be very little livable land left in the US. There was a book written in the early/middle 1980’s on the subject of safe places after a disaster. I think it was by Mark Skousen, but I don’t think I have that book anymore and a search on Amazon doesn’t find anything.

    You describe a world without electricity. Heck, you describe a world of subsistence living, slow starvation. That’s the road back to medieval living where little to nothing is left of our technological civilization. Given the environmental hazards that you mention it’s the path back to the caves. Darn few caves in the US! That must not be allowed to happen! See my articles at https://www.theorganicprepper.com/category/preppers/the-information-specialist-series/

    So the solution is to establish such a community as you describe. I have some 50 pages of notes I made on that subject some years ago. But turning that into a useful book would take a good bit of effort. Establishing such a community now, before disaster strikes, would take money and be difficult to achieve given the lack of privacy today and the need to remain a Gray Man. Also, such a community must support the saving of knowledge as mentioned in my articles, otherwise what’s the point? It’s a shame that this forum doesn’t have a “files” area where people can upload files of useful content.

  • #24213

    Mouse Wizard

    @ Anon 411:

    Shutting down a nuclear reactor is a standard, well-rehearsed process. The problem is the spent fuel cooling tanks. If they dry out then zirconium fires could result. The problem is minimized by the fact that most of the spent fuel in the tank is cool enough to be pulled out to dry storage. The “hot” fuel can then be re-distributed in the water so there’s no real need to circulate the water through a cooling unit. Hot fuel also cools down fairly quickly. From people I’ve talked to, and others have posted, it’ll be a problem solved for the most part. Just pull the cold rods, which are the vast majority, and lay them on whatever horizontal concrete surface is available once all the dry casks are used up. The entire plant will become a dead zone but not the surrounding area.

    Remember that the technicians and operators of a power plant live near that plant. They don’t want their communities destroyed by a zirconium fire, so action will be taken to prevent it and damn the regulations. This can be done with resources on hand and fairly quickly.

    However, there is always the chance of human error. A few plants are bound to go bad, but not enough to wipe out life in general. The radiation plumes from those few plants are what I’m talking about. If you’re still cautious, take a look at a map of reactor locations and simply choose to be west of the Mississippi river in the US.

    Civilization will come back, as humans are a very inventive lot, and a lot of libraries are going to be intact because people like you will take special efforts to preserve that knowledge. It’ll take a couple of generations after the die-off before “points of light” capable of manufacturing critical things such as batteries, solar panels, greenhouse glass, and rubber tires emerge and distribution networks start to form again. The only reason this will be sustainable will be the substantially reduced population. Migrations toward the poles will have to take place because the warming pulse is baked into the cake at this point.

    • #24232

      anon 411


      “a lot of libraries are going to be intact because people like you will take special efforts to preserve that knowledge”. I take that as a compliment, thanks! I wonder though how many people really are saving the maps, books, etc that I recommended in my articles. Through the comments on those articles I’m sure 2 other people are saving that info. That makes THREE with me. THREE! I’m just a retiree living on SS. I don’t have any hardened Panasonic Toughbook laptops or tablets. I wish I did but even used ones are a couple of grand. Even if I had ONE, what’s that prepper mantra “2 is 1, 1 is none”. I’m diligent on seeking out and storing this stuff. I have about 2 TBs now. But realistically, what are the chances my collection of data survives a TEOTWAWKI event and gets into the hands of somebody that knows what to do with it? Small. You can bet that several billionaires are saving this kind of data. I’ll bet several have full backups of archive.org, maybe LOC, maybe Hathy Trust and other stuff. It strikes me as unlikely that a billionaire has the same use of that data in mind that I do. Any reasonable person would assume that a billionaire would set themselves up as a king, or worse, if they had this data. That’s not going to help us preppers one bit. I would feel better if I knew 1000 preppers were storing this data. Better still if it was 10,000. Sorry to burst your bubble on libraries surviving Mouse. I wish I was confident that they would.

  • #24214

    Mouse Wizard

    Finding and integrating with an existing community that is highly likely to be viable post-collapse is hard.

    Creating a community like that from scratch requires a billionaire, or at the least a few millionaires, to make it happen. I’m pretty sure that would wind up as some kind of feudal thing and that’s unpredictable. Not sure I would want to participate.

    Best to scout around for viable communities now.

  • #24217

    Crow Bar

    Mouse is correct about the power plants and the people who live around them.
    Have good friends who lived in the shadow of a cooling tower. No kidding, from their back window see the steam clouds. They moved but not for the plant, but two neighbors were real A-holes.
    But a lot of the plants workers lived in the neighborhood. They are very motivated to make sure them and theirs dont get irradiated. And they are mostly too old to bug out.
    The question is, have some of them sat around and thought up a way to keep the power going, at least locally?

    Wasteland does bring Mad Max, desert wasteland (or CA) to mind.
    But unless there is some major weather pattern change, we get up to 22ft of snow a year, and a good bit of rain too.
    Loss of the grid for a prolonged period of time, say a year or longer, the population would see a serious decrease.
    Living in caves? No.
    I look to my Amish neighbors, and we all would have to adapt their kind of lifestyle. They can read, write, speak at least 3 languages, make a lot of things by hand, are dang good carpenters, know all about horses, and making things by hand.
    Us English (as they call us) know we are going to need them for survival. And they may need us for self-defense.
    Upside, myself a more than a few neighbors have differing skills, and we all have a lot of books on various skill sets.

  • #24220

    anon 411


    You have mentioned Amish neighbors before. There is supposed to be an Amish community in my state, although probably a small one. Or maybe they are Mennonites, I don’t know. Any idea how I might find them?

  • #24221

    Crow Bar

    Off the top of my head, nope.
    Every Amish community is different. They seem to have a given date that they follow to. I.e. they set a date sometime in the late 1800s or early 1900s and any technology prior to that date, is allowed.
    My community is not allowed to ride bicycles. But the one about 120 miles West of here, is. That community also can have glass windows on their carriages. The one I live amongest, they are not.
    Some will have a landline and could be listed in the white pages, if those still existed, and people still listed themselves.
    Long of the short, I have no idea unless they somehow had a business listed in and was posted to the Yellow pages.
    Do we even have the Yellow pages anymore?

  • #24224

    Josefina Arenas

    The Amish have survival down…laundry hand washed and hung from a reel clothesline out a window, hand tools in the carpentry shop, animals and crops raised year round.  It would be good to study the Amish.

  • #24226

    Crow Bar

    And they hang their cloths outside, year round!

  • #24244

    Crow Bar

    I recall an article about how some billionaires were buying up those decommissioned missile silos and turning them into their own private bunkers.
    The guy who was speaking about potential disasters was approached by a few who had a question: How do they keep control of “the help?” Especially security, as the billionaires knew they did not have those skill sets or were not physically able. Some kind of device to shock them into obedience? Or some why that only they can get access to the food and keep “the help” dependent on them.
    The guy was floored.

    Personally, we moved into a rural area, and got to know the neighbors. For the most part, of those we know, we are known as good people.
    As with any community, there will be those one offs, the A-holes. When SHTF, it might get worse. But, if you can put out a sense of calm, of cooperation, and even provide leadership, I think some of that stress and crisis can be avoided.

  • #24258

    anon 411


    Ambition, power and loyalty (of “the help”), or lack thereof, is the root cause of most human conflict and has been for thousands of years. That’s why I say ruler-less anarchy will never work. I’m always surprised when somebody here says something that sounds like they favor anarchy. In my opinion you can only have a society of equals (under the law, anyway) in a civilized world. That is the very reason I push for restoring civilization after it fails.

    Where there is no law there is no restraint on the evil that people do. That is expressed in the comments of most every article Selco writes. Without civilization there is no law.

  • #24262

    Crow Bar

    I dont think civilization will be completely gone.
    Just a new or old version of it will come around. Something like the old West of the late 1800s era.
    A full on total collapse, it might take a generation or two before might even get back to early 1900s like lifestyle.

    Yeah, people who call themselves anarchists are real bad news.

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