Monday, February 14, 2011

Heading for the Woods?

How many times on *prepper* or *survivalist* type forums have you seen the comment "If SHTF, I plan on heading for the woods/wilderness and living off the land!" ?
Lots of  times, right?
Most of the time the prospective wilderness survivor's vast experience in *living off the land* is limited to camp outs in their back yard when they made a brief foray into the Cub Scouts when they were 6 and reading "Hatchet" when they were 12.
You just knew that within 48 hours of arriving in a wilderness situation, the poster would be dead, severely injured, or just curled up in a fetal position under a covering of dry leaves whimpering.
No *real* books gave a lot of information on escaping into the wilderness in a crisis situation. A lot of fictional books do, but the heroes in those books  are either very young and lucky, or very well-equipped and prepared.
I recently received a non-fiction book that addresses this very subject.
Bug Out: The Complete Plan for Escaping a Catastrophic Disaster Before It's Too Late by Scott B. Williams
The guy that wrote it is (apparently) an experienced hiker, sea kayak-er, wilderness camper, bicyclist, etc. Wonderful!
He has visited and extensively hiked state parks, National Parks, National Forests and National Wilderness areas throughout the lower 48. He leaves Alaska and Hawaii out of the mix as he feels the folks that live in those states know their areas and have specific needs for wilderness survival that couldn't be specifically addressed in this book.
Mr. Williams is very expert on many on the topics he addresses in the book, but there are some major holes.
He addresses vehicles for bugging out, but fails to mention diesel fueled vehicles as transportation. If civil unrest occurs to the level he is assuming, diesel fueled vehicles could be a good choice for escape from an urban area. They can be fueled with alternative fuels better than gas powered cars/trucks/SUVs. An older model without all the computer chips and *brain boxes* in today's models would also be EMP resistant.
He gives a good overview of what to have in a bug out vehicle--regardless of type. Packing a sea kayak, a backpack, a bicycle, etc are covered.
He also covers escape and evasion from an urban area and what routes to take that may be over looked by the majority of the populace.
A lot of his book focuses on stealth and avoiding attracting attention to yourself, whether during your actual escape from an urban area or when camping in a wilderness area.
When he gets into actual regions of the lower 48, Mr Williams gives a rough over view of appropriate areas and the dangerous animals/insects/etc. that can be found in each region.
He identifies and gives over views of National Parks, Wilderness areas, etc for each state.
The book was...okay.
IF you are in prime physical shape and can withstand the rigors of hiking 20 to 30 miles into the back country of Yellowstone.
IF you have a sea kayak and the idea of paddling all day and camping at night appeals to you.
IF you have no spouse or children that you will have to take with you.

The book does seemed geared to the single man 17 to 35 years old with absolutely no health issues, no disabilities, and is in prime physical shape.
For the average reader in reasonable physical shape with a wife and kids....maybe not such a good reference.
Your mileage may vary, as they say.

There are a LOT of books out there on camping/hiking/woodcraft skills.
If you want a good book to begin with, I strongly suggest Woodcraft and Camping by George W. Sears Nessmuk. This book was written in 1884 (!!!) and is still in print due to it's usefulness and good, solid basic information. No fancy magnesium fire-starters, no propane stoves or gee-whiz hand held GPS units, just basic woodman's-ship that everyone should know or learn before foraying into the wilderness.
Nessmuk had the *less is more* philosophy. He carried about 26 pounds worth of gear with him when camping.65 years old, about 105 pounds and (probably) afflicted with TB, he went on solo camping/canoeing trips into the Andirondack Lakes.This is not the muscular prime healthy specimen we usually think of when we are thinking of outdoorsmen! Yet this man not only survived, he thrived in his environments.
I like to give this book to 8 to 12 year old boys for their birthday,especially those that are interested in hiking and camping.A good companion book to Hatchet or My Side of the Mountain.
The language in Woodcraft and Camping is a bit old fashioned and some of the equipment described is dated, but the philosophy and basics are as appropriate today as they were in 1884.


  1. I'll have to look for the Woodcraft and Camping book for our son. I'm sure he would love it.


  2. Joyful, if you click on the book title in my post, it will take you to Amazon. The book is around $6.50 there, not too pricey in this day and age!


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