10 Survival Strategies That Are Downright Deceptive

There are basically two types of preppers getting ready for SHTF, those who are ready and willing for a fight and those who will avoid a fight as long as possible but fight back when needed.

If you’re in the latter camp, who would prefer to avoid a fight as long as possible, then you will need to become an expert at deceptive strategies and how a prepper can apply them to survive.

The best way to avoid a fight is to not be there, which means you want to do everything you can to make sure that you and your home or bug out location don’t become a target for those who are looking to steal your supplies and do harm to your family.

In the chaos following a natural disaster or SHTF event, the goal will be more than just survival, it will be staying out of the line of fire.

Yes, you may be able to relocate now or bug out so that you are isolated and away from the crowds of desperate people. But there will still be those individuals and possibly groups who will seek out places to loot for supplies. They may not find you immediately but the persistent ones will circle farther and farther from town until they eventually get to you.

And how do you protect yourself and your family from those preppers who take off into the woods thinking they can hunt and live off the land, only to discover that strategy isn’t feasible? They could very likely end up near your location at their most desperate point.

And if you’re stuck in a populated area, with other desperate people all around you who are also trying to survive, you have even more work to do in order to keep from becoming the target of these desperate neighbors.

So what to do? If you can master enough deceptive strategies to basically become less noticeable or at least avoid standing out, you have the best chance of survival without having a confrontation that could end in violence.

#1. Be Sure Your Clothing and Gear Blend In

The first thing to keep in mind when preparing for visual deception is your clothing and gear. You want to avoid “looking” like a prepper to those you interact with on a daily basis even now before SHTF.

This is part of OPSEC procedures. Looking like a prepper can make you a target even long before SHTF, folks will remember you and come looking for the supplies they’re sure you have stocked.

Don’t wear camo clothing, openly carry your weapon or use a tactical looking backpack. Make sure your EDC items aren’t too bulky and are either visibly hidden or considered normal use items.

Visit the goodwill or salvation army store and pick out several layers of clothing that you will wear following a SHTF event. Wear the clothes occasionally while working outdoors, don’t wash them or mend them if they get ripped or become thread bare.

When SHTF, start wearing your “worn and dirty” clothing, so you blend in with everyone else who hasn’t showered and will avoid becoming a target.

The same holds true for your vehicle. Don’t drive a decked out hummer around town or one stuffed to the gills with supplies pre-SHTF. It should be nondescript and shouldn’t stand out from other vehicles.

Use an older vehicle to make it easier to withstand a possible EMP, but make sure your car doesn’t scream “bug out vehicle” as you drive down the street.

Be careful when making modifications to your vehicle, do these in a garage or your backyard out of view from passersby. This precaution prevents your neighbors from having a reason to steal your decked out vehicle instead of taking their own when SHTF.

#2. Be Invisible or Look Desperate

If you are living in an urban or densely populated area or if you are planning to make a trip into a populated area and you are better prepared than those around you, then you have to be able to blend in and you best not look like you are better off than anyone else.

This means you are going to have to deceive others into believing that you are as desperate and hungry as everyone else.

Look hungry if you are out in public or around other people. Don’t overeat and even lose weight if you can so that you don’t look well fed when everyone else is thinning down from lack of food.

Keep your hair and appearance disheveled as if you just lack the energy and resources to keep yourself up.

Pre-SHTF act eccentric often enough so that neighbors consider it normal behavior for you. This way when SHTF, they won’t think it odd if they happen to see you building something in your backyard.

For more information on how to blend in with the crowd and be invisible, learn how to be a gray man.

#3. Learn to Negotiate

Flattery-There are times when flattery will get you out of a potentially dangerous situation or get you additional food rations or get you through a checkpoint. Before attempting to use flattery though, you need to be absolutely certain that this technique could work. It can sometimes backfire.

Bribery-Just like flattery, there are times when bribery will work in a tense situation. If you have stocked up on silver or ammunition or any of the other most desired items when SHTF, you can use these to “buy” your way through a checkpoint.

Again you need to be careful about using this technique. Once you are known for bribing your way out of things, people may come looking to see what they can take.

Be graceful and forgiving during all negotiations, but smart and tactful. Keep your emotions under control no matter what is said or done. Try to avoid impulsivity.

Pay attention to how someone says something versus what they are saying. Listen for any details that they might be leaving out of the conversation. Suggest solutions or options rather than stating them as an absolute or directive which could be perceived as you giving orders by the other party.

#4. It’s OK to Be a Little… Manipulative

Make a loud recording of dogs barking and growling so you can play it when you are alerted to someone on the perimeter of your property. For some less determined thieves, it will be enough to scare them off in search of an easier target.

Setup debris or other obstacles in your yard and around your perimeter to “lead” intruders to follow a certain path when trying to get into your home. This way you can be ready to ambush them.

Also post-SHTF it’s a good idea to board up first floor windows and sliding doors. This leaves less options for intruders to get inside without making noise and alerting you. Make sure you have a rope ladder for at least one 2nd floor window so you can escape from the inside if needed.

#5. Defend Your Home Tactically

Another tactic you can use is to make your home or bug out location look like it has already been abandoned and looted. This is part of preventing your home from becoming a target by making it appear like there is nothing there worth taking.

Think about all the safety practices that are used during normal times to convince thieves that someone is home and then do the opposite.

Shove some mail into the mailbox or pile up some newspapers on the front step or at the end of the drive. Spray graffiti all over the outside walls of your home. Anything you can do to make your home look abandoned.

Use lights very sparingly once it gets dark unless you are using black out curtains or landscape fabric to block the light. If you use black out curtains, make sure they aren’t visible in the daytime.

Let the grass go uncut and don’t worry about raking leaves or picking up tree branches. Gather debris from other places and place it against your house, blocking the front door, or in the yard.

Get yourself several fake but realistic looking snakes, make sure they resemble poisonous ones, coil them near the door of your home and just inside the door to make it look like the house has been taken over by less than desirable reptiles.

Lay out a couple of long skins shed by actual snakes on the walkway up to the door, if you can get them to add to the illusion.

There are some preppers who will go so far as to burn their own land or house, enough so the exterior appears like the house is burned out and not worth exploring further.

You can also spray the perimeter of your property near the road with skunk spray each night. The thought that there could still be a skunk nearby will be enough to convince many people to move on to the next house.

If you have the foresight to have two wells, you can even taint the taste or even poison the well nearest the road so that anyone attempting to drink from it becomes either disgusted or ill. This increases the likelihood they will move on to another house rather than setup camp in your area.

Along this same vein, you can also have some decoy food in the cupboards for looters to find. To make sure they don’t want to return to your house to check for more in a couple days, poison the decoy food with laxative or something stronger. Make absolutely certain you keep the poisoned decoy food separate from your family’s stockpile.

Read more on home defense strategies here.

#6. Hide Your Supplies

When it comes to supplies, you’ll want to be fairly covert about your behavior pre and post-SHTF. Store your supplies in several hidden locations around your property so if one location is compromised, you still have other supplies.

Before SHTF, pull into the garage when unloading boxes of supplies or into the backyard so all your neighbors aren’t privy to how much you actually do have stocked. Have boxes of supplies delivered to the back door of your home instead of letting them sit out front where they can be observed.

If you must build an underground bunker to store your supplies, create a cover story so that folks won’t consider it when SHTF. For example, you could make it known that you are terrified of tornadoes and are simply building a temporary storm shelter.

Or because even a tornado shelter can be attractive in a post-SHTF situation, you could convince neighbors you are a wine collector and are building a wine storage cellar.

Another thing you can do is set up various survival caches around your back yard, at your bug out survival retreat, or anywhere else you know they’ll be safe.

trojan horse

#7. Use the Trojan Horse Technique

Disguise things so they look like something else similar to a Trojan horse. A typical swimming pool will hold a lot of water and won’t be obvious that you are storing water.

It’s just a matter of having a way to filter it once SHTF and you’ve got plenty of water for a little while. Make your ham radio antenna look like just another exhaust pipe on your roof.

If you must have a generator or solar power system, batteries, and charger, figure out how to disguise the equipment, perhaps in a fake “outhouse” on the side of the house.

If someone walked into it, they would see an outhouse. But beneath the outhouse on either side of your drop hole, you could have your batteries stored and the solar panels could be out of view on the roof, etc.

Create portable solar or wind power equipment by mounting them on a wagon or handcart so you can move them in and out of a garage or pull them to different hidden locations. You can also install them in vehicles such as your truck or RV. Some solar power gear is so lightweight that you can carry it in your backpack.

#8. Make Use of Camouflage

If you must use traditional row gardening, consider using large camouflage netting to help hide plants or your greenhouse from view of passersby.

Following a SHTF event, you can also use camouflage netting to hide any equipment such as a tractor or ATV in the woods when it’s not in use.

Carry the materials you need to paint your vehicle with a camouflage pattern (tape, paint, etc.) along with a machete, so that if you need to pull off the road and into the woods to sleep, you will be hidden from view.

Learn more about camouflage here.

#9. Use Defensive Landscaping

One area where many people go wrong is they secure the perimeter of their home or bug out location as if it were Fort Knox holding all the world’s gold within its walls.

Instead of installing flood lights and building a ten-foot high wall with barbed wire along the top, which basically screams to thieves that what you have inside is worth any expense to protect, consider using defensive landscaping instead.

Defensive landscaping is a way of using more natural looking materials to create the kind of perimeter around your home or bug out location that looks relatively normal and yet still deters intruders and make them think your house isn’t worth the effort.

A barrier made of dense thorny bushes along the edges of your property will deter quite a few would be looters. The type of plant you can use obviously will depend on the climate you live in and what grows well in your area but here are some suggestions:

Holly shrubs-these are big shrubs that are green year round, grow well in most types of soil, and come with leaves that are spiky enough to prick if you push into them.

Blackthorn-this is a shorter shrub, less than a foot tall, that is spiny, but has small dense leaves that make it very suitable as a hedge. Its flowers are white and it produces a dark, blue-black berry. It is also referred to as Sloe, since the fruit is used to flavor sloe gin.

Firethorn is great for growing a hedge that is virtually impenetrable. It can grow as high as fifteen feet and has thorny stems with brilliant reddish-orange berries and white flowers in the summer months.

Oleaster-this is a tree that is smaller in stature, typically reaching about 15-20 feet in height. Its leaves are lighter green and silvery on the underside, deceptively pretty, because the branches of the tree have spines. It can double as a food source because it does produce a sweet tasting yellow fruit and edible flowers. Oleaster will do okay in poor soil or dry climates and it’s a sturdy wind resistant tree.

Creeping Juniper-has thorny foliage and stems, its referred to as “blue rug”. It can be used to cover the ground at the edge of your property. It would not be fun to crawl on if you were trying to get through the bushes undetected.

Giant Rhubarb-is a plant with sturdy stems, pretty rough foliage, and large leaves. It does well near water so it would be great camouflage for a pond or stream.

There are many, many others that will work well including the Mountain and Blue Pines, sea buckthorn, and prickly ash. Some of these could be used around windows too to prevent anyone from getting close enough to look inside.

#10. Hide Your Survival Garden

A traditional row garden visible from the road will be a dead give-away that not only is the house not abandoned but that whoever lives there has supplies and food.

Use permaculture principles and edible landscaping to plant your garden in various sections around your house and property so that it blends into the landscape as possible. You can also plant less common plants which don’t look like food. The key is to make passersby think there is nothing there that is edible.

Take time now to learn about wild edible plants and how to cook and eat them safely. Plant wild edibles all around the yard along the road that most people won’t recognize is even food, such as:

Wild garlicWild mustard
Monkey flowerWild bee balm
Hop cloverRed clover
CattailsWild grape vine
Pine treesWatercress
Creeping charlieChickweed
Miner’s lettuce Joe pye weed
Milk thistleDaylilies
Field pennycressChicory
Wood sorrelLamb’s quarters
Sweet rocketYellow rocket
ColtsfootBeach lovage
Shepherd’s purseCommon mallow

Study the techniques involved in companion planting and building a food forest to ensure that your survival garden doesn’t make your home a target.

A food forest can be developed if you start now so that no one will even know that the “woods” at the edge of your property hides a secret garden of food.

Sure, a few people could stumble upon it if they happen to walk right through that area, but most people will walk right by or loot your house and yard without even bothering to enter the forest behind your home.

For most preppers, you will need to learn, practice, and then deploy a combination of deceptive strategies once SHTF so that you can avoid a confrontation for as long as possible. But deception will not be enough.

You will also want to be prepared by along with deceptive strategies you will want to learn about tactical home defense as well as  how to defend your home with guns. If you balance your knowledge and skills over all of these areas, you will have a much better chance of keeping your home and family safe from harm.

What are your favorite ideas for deceptive strategies? Let us know in the comments below.

deceptive strategies pinterest

About Megan Stewart

Megan Stewart
Born and raised in NE Ohio, with early memories that include grandpa teaching her to bait a hook and watching her mom, aunts, and grandmothers garden, sew, and can food, Megan is a true farm girl at heart. For Megan, the 2003 blackout, the events of 911, and the increasing frequency of natural disasters like Hurricane Katrina, spurred a desire to be more prepared for whatever may come along. Soon to be living off-grid, this mother of four and grandmother of nine grandsons and one granddaughter, is learning everything she can about preparedness, basic survival, and self-sufficient homesteading. She is passionate about sharing that knowledge so that others can be increasingly prepared to protect their families.


  1. Avatar

    Nice one Megan. I enjoyed your article. Informative and Relevant.

  2. Avatar
    Star Studded Yankee

    #11 – If the government is handing out food or water. Be in line with your hand out. If you are seen in line people will not think you have extra food at home. Besides your tax dollars paid for the food and water, so you might as well get some. Also your own stock pile will last longer.

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    But what if you’re looking for a fight, AND you want to hide?

  4. Avatar

    Um, what about getting together with your neighbours and working the problem as a group? You know, rather than watch them starve… Just saying.

    • Avatar

      Can’t you count on your neighbors? Mine are selfish as heck. I can’t trust them to be quiet so I can sleep I’m sure not gonna trust them to do their part when it hits the fan.

    • Dan F. Sullivan
      Dan F. Sullivan

      Absolutely, if they’re open to it. This isn’t about picking one or the other, it’s about doing both, we just focus on one aspect of survival in each article, in this case, deception strategies.

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