By far the most common blind spot for prepping and survival is practice. Too many people take the time to read up on survival techniques but never take the time to try them out in advance. This can be applied to anything from fire-starting, to building shelters, to using a HAM radio. You never want to put yourself in a situation where you must use a technique for the first time in an actual survival situation.
Here are a few more specific points to which you should pay special attention:
Starting a fire is one of the four pillars of survival and is one of the most important techniques you can learn. Fire can maintain body temperature, purify water, cook meat, and keep away insects and predators. However, there are several ways that fire can go wrong. Never underestimate how difficult it can be.
The first mistake people make is assuming that building a fire can be done quickly. Depending on the conditions and the quality of the wood, it can sometimes take hours to get a fire going. Any time that it has been raining, it can greatly extend the time needed. In addition, cold temperatures can make it more difficult keep the flames going. Finally, using wood that is too thick can smother your fire and require you to start over.
Another blind spot is thinking that all ignition sources require equal amounts of skill. Using a lens to start fire is one of the most difficult and unpredictable ignition sources. You must have strong, direct sunlight and dry, fluffy tinder to even have a chance. The beam must be focused to the smallest point possible, and you must remain perfectly still. Friction fire is another ignition source that is very difficult. The method is tough, but the hardest part is finding the right type of wood. In many cases you will have to try several types of wood before finding one that will create an ember.
Whether your family is on board with your prepping or not, there are certain scenarios in which everybody has to be on the same page. When bugging in specific people need to be in charge of inventory, security, pets, kids, and keeping it dark at night. Something as simple as keeping lights turned off can be difficult if not previously discussed.
When bugging out your family needs to know where the BOBs are kept, where you are headed, and how you are getting there. If there is a fire in the middle of the night, your family should know who is getting everybody outside, who is calling 911, and who is grabbing the fire extinguisher. If your basement starts to flood your family should know of a designated place to which you can move furniture and one person to cut the power.
Never forget that the proficiency of your family is dictated by the weakest link, not the strongest. You will travel at the pace of your slowest person. You will eat based on the group’s ability to find food. You will stay warm based on the group’s ability to build a shelter and keep a fire going. Focus on not only your development, but the development of the rest of your family. You may never get them to be as prepared as you are, but any improvement can make a huge difference.
Living With Limited Resources
Despite regular suggestions otherwise, many survivalists and preppers still plan to get by relying on limited resources. Preppers in particular, sometimes think that having a solid storage cache replaces the need to know how to get by without that storage. Unfortunately, nobody really knows how long your SHTF situation will last. In addition, you may have to bug out and leave those supplies behind. There is also the possibility that looters might take what is yours.
There are a few resources that could lull a prepper into a false sense of security. Firearm ammunition is one of them. Keep in mind that any large scale SHTF situation would cause every round of ammo to be pulled off the shelves. Unless you know how to load your own rounds, the ammunition you have on hand is likely all you will get. If you use those rounds for hunting, your supply will slowly run low. If you use them for self-defense, you may burn through them very quickly.
Unleaded gasoline and diesel are another resource that will run out quickly. Gas stations will likely be swarmed. With stop and go traffic on the highways, the gas in your tank will be gone soon enough. If you decide to bug out, you are better to find other means of transportation such as bicycles or travelling on foot.
Food and purified water can be an example as well. Many preppers store up hundreds of pounds of food and clean water, but eventually it will run out. To make it long term, skills like gardening, hunting, fishing, trapping, food preservation, and water purification are absolutely essential. These skills can help you stay fed and hydrated for years instead of weeks.
My BOB Is All I Need
On almost every prepping and survival website you will see a mention of bug out bags. This pack is supposed to be filled with tools that can help you survive if you have to leave your home either on foot or by vehicle. However, this is only one scenario that may play out. The gear you require to leave your home is going to be different than what you need to get back home from your workplace.
Let us face it… there are plenty of situations in which you may not be home when SHTF. A daytime emergency would leave most survivalists trying to get home from work. You may have kids at school or daycare to grab on your way home. Your SHTF scenario might be when your car breaks down in the wilderness, or when your plane goes down in the ocean. Any of these situations would be very different from voluntarily leaving your home.
This is where your get home back and everyday carry kits come into play. A get home bag would be kept at work and would only have the tools needed to make it home. In most cases, this would be a smaller pack and more focused on items needed in an urban environment.
Geographic Areas Other Than Yours
It makes sense that most of the effort put into prepping and survival is based on the environment in which you live. You plan for the plant and animal life from your area, the climate you are accustomed to, and the dangers found in that area. However, your SHTF situation may take place somewhere completely different. You may be travelling when it happens, or you may choose to leave your home and head to a completely different area.
One way to correct this blind spot is to focus on plants and animals that can be found in multiple ecosystems. When learning wild edible plants, there are several that can be found all around the world. There are animals such as rats and mice that can be trapped in many different climates. Cold weather is by far the most dangerous type you can face, and hypothermia can be a risk even in the desert or rain forest. Find risks and resources that are common around the world.
Another option is to pick a few foreign environments and learn all you can about them. If you live in temperate forests like I do, you might study rain forests, the desert, and the arctic. This would give you a general understanding of the ways survival may be different. To take it a step further, you may plan a vacation or camping trip in these areas to test some of your knowledge.
In the end, blind spots will be different for each person. The key is identifying them early enough that you can do something about it. One way to do this is to get the opinions of others. Spend some time with other preppers and survivalists. See what points of focus they have that you do not. Take any feedback that they can give you and ask all the questions you can.
Another way to find these blind spots is called mind-mapping. The best way to do this is with a white board or chalk board. Write a specific point of focus or SHTF scenario on the board and then draw lines out from that to smaller categories. For example, ‘fire’ might be your main topic. From there you have ‘ignition source’, ‘tinder’, ‘kindling’, ‘fuel’, ‘design’, ‘accelerants’, and ‘fire assistance products’. Under ‘ignition source’ you may have ‘ferro rod’, ‘friction fire’, ‘lenses’, ‘lighters’, ‘matches’, ‘electric’, ‘chemical’, and ‘air pressure’. This process will let you see if your survival plan is missing anything important.
The last and possibly best way to see blind spots in your survival and prepping is to test yourself. Not everybody has the time or resources to participate in survival challenges, but that is how I find my blind spots. On my last challenge I traveled 34 miles by foot over three days. I quickly realized that the climbing aspect of the challenge was a blind spot for me. I did not expect the terrain in this area to be so steep and rocky. If I did this challenge over again, I may take climbing gear to be a safer.
If you cannot do an all-out survival challenge, camping trips can be a good middle ground. Instead of making the whole experience a challenge, just test yourself on smaller aspects of survival. Perhaps you leave the tent behind and make a shelter from natural materials, or bring the tent but agree to only eat food you find in the wild. Anything you can do to make yourself better prepared will help eliminate those blind spots and make you a better prepper and survivalist.