Walking through the environment with all you own on your back. Down a quiet hill, to a crystal clear watercourse for a drink. Refill your bottles as you look around. There is a small blackberry thicket where you grab a snack.
You hear a noise as you move off from the creek to higher point. You are attuned to what is going on around you and in a split second you realize there is something close.
Another person. You glide quietly to a good hiding spot, and watch this intruder to your area. It looks like a hunter. Weapons and camo clothes. They head down to the water and grab a drink like you did. They cross the course and move up the other side and into the distance. No-one touched your berries.
Do you follow? Do you continue on like you never saw them? Do you have to make cold camp tonight so they don’t know you are in the area? Will they stay here a long time? Will you have to fight for your food?
A nomadic hunter gatherer. A little too romantic, what is it really like?
On the surface it looks like a great move. You aren’t tied down to an area. You don’t have to defend anything. You can up and move away from anything that is not to your liking. So, why not?
I say no, and here is why…
To start with, let me say this. It is a good skill to have, and an aspect that I would definitely recommend training for. But long term it is a no from me.
I would but suggest that many of the ideas of being a nomadic hunter and gatherer should be in your plan in some way. All the reasons listed above are in my opinion reasons why you should not be nomadic.
I have lived off grid in what I would say is a situation somewhat akin to the nomadic style. Here is a couple of things to consider:
It is tiring living this lifestyle. Add in a few of these variables and you have recipe that is fraught with difficulty.
Let’s take a closer look at this plan. Take these factors into account when planning this lifestyle. A plan like this will need to be more detailed than we have time to outline here. This discussion should give you some good pointers to start you in the right direction if you decide to go down a path like this.
THE BAD AND THE WORSE
You will always look for food, water and warmth. You will find it tiring and unreliable. This will compound over time to wear you thin. You will be a tired and lonely, a walking mistake waiting to happen.
The other option is that you are in a hostile environment. A constant patrol will wear you down as fast as looking for food. You could say that these two are the same problem in different clothing. Here’s the kicker – you could have to do both at the same time.
In the army you will patrol and know that your food is either on your pack or at least on its way, even if it is a few days away. All you have to worry about is the active patrol. This will be enough to have you wanting a rest.
Where and how will you rest as a lone wolf nomad? Who will stand piquet as you grab a half hour of sleep?
This problem is enough to say this plan needs to be well thought out and adjusted somewhat to be successful.
I would suggest that a permanent plan combined with a roving patrol is the way to go. This will allow you to have all the benefits of both of the situations.
If you have to leave your fortress, you will be able to survive because you have been practicing your nomadic hunter gatherer skills on your patrols. If you use a plan based on the one I am about to speak of you may have an easier way of living this lifestyle.
At the least you will see some of the issues you will have to deal with.
With my approach you may even have the opportunity to bug out on patrol for a time, and re-group and come back stronger. During this time you may come up with a plan to take back what is yours.
I am getting excited, let’s not put the horse before the cart. Read on to find out more.
THE NUTS AND BOLTS
The first thing is to define this plan a little more. What do I want, what do I need.
I would not like to do this alone. Are you going to take a family? What will you do with the young, the old, the weak and the sick? No this shoots the plan down straight away.
Ideally you would like to be at least a two, up to around an eight man team. I would say the best plan would be a team of two, with another team of two working nearby. Each team would have a defined range to work in.
This brings me to my next point, how far exactly are you going to travel? Establishing a range, an area that you move through is definitely best practice. Think like a wolf or some kind of prey animal that has a territory that it works. This works for them because it is a good plan. Make it yours.
Knowing these two considerations, I propose this; a permanent bug in place – a farm, a property – that you will set up as any other prepper might. I want this property to have acres of wild bushland. This can be a place to hunt and to store things.
I would have this property boundary with more unused and un-owned bushland – like a state forest. Failing this, I would have property close to a forest that I can work with.
So I set up a small homestead on my property, solar power, water, some pasture, food gardens etc. Somewhere in my bushland area I can have many smaller bug out buildings or features as I choose.
Let’s say, a small shelter or two, maybe a hide, and a couple of food areas. I could plant a few fruit trees. I could have a small pumpkin patch. I can identify where edible plants are already growing and attempt to nurture, or at least not to destroy these areas. Tactically I will have a few good lookout positions that view different things as well.
I will attempt to not establish tracks and pathways to these features, if I can. Now I have a great area where I can have the best of both worlds at my fingertips.
From this point let’s forget about the homestead details, but I will assume it is there. Already I am sure you will start to see where I am going and the advantages this situation may have for me. Back to the more nomadic side of the plan.
You are looking for a spot that is the headwaters, or close to the headwaters of a water source. This is where the water is cleanest. You will also have a more remote and steeper area. Now, these areas are passed up as low value. They are harder to farm and harder to build on.
It should be a little easier and cheaper to get your hands on this type of property. This type of landscape will be easier to defend and harder to attack. Go for something that is heavily wooded.
This describes the top of a small valley. You would do well to be able to travel across the valley, from high point to high point in a day or two by foot. This will allow you to be able to look into neighboring valleys to see what’s going on. If there is nobody in these valleys even better.
You can bug out to the top of the ridgeline and look back down into your own property if there is a threat there. You can go into the uninhabited valley at night and you won’t have to make cold camp. You can also make escape routes if you need them.
You can use these vantage points to see if anyone is moving into the area, and decide on a plan for moving forward. Ideally you will have friendlies – maybe even with the same plan as you – in the valleys next to your own. You will want the same up-stream and down-stream if possible.
You can call it what you will – but as a nomadic hunter, you are definitely patrolling. It’s time to establish your routes.
I would suggest patrolling to locate all the features I outlined earlier. Site your shelters and your potential gardens. Try not to use the same routes, this will carve pathways into the landscape. You want to know how to reach these points from different angles of approach. You never know where you will have to come from.
Establish a way to get water, and then see if you can find another way to get water. Once you are set up you can come up with a schedule. Don’t be regular, but try to get out to each location once a month.
If you have a wild lemon tree for example, no need to get out there every month, but while it is fruiting you could harvest it. Get up to your secondary shelters and see that they are clean. Establish a way to catch rain water. Plant some fruit trees around.
You want to be a hunter – hunt.
Identify where and when game lives and moves through your areas. You may want to nurture game. I mean don’t hunt for fun, let the game multiply so that it is easier when you need to hunt it. The less it sees of humans the better.
Real hunter gatherers had a connection with the land they roamed. You will need this if you are going to survive. Knowing there is berries at a location could be the difference between eating and being hungry. Knowing that berries grow there could also lead you to bigger game as birds will know they can feed there as well.
Many modern humans walk over nature, not through it. Get out in your range and get to know it well.
Have you ever slashed a paddock and found a passion fruit vine on a fence? Have you ever found a tomato or pumpkin growing behind your garden shed? Things like this come and go in nature all the time. You want to have a relationship with your area that lets you find these kind of things.
Your patrols should be practice for the real deal. You should be collecting intel. Not just where food is, but where good lookout points, escape routes etc. are. You can also be looking at who else is in or near your area.
You may be able to find someone with whom you can team up with.
Let’s say you are going to remain nomadic. You could approach someone who is in a location like the ideal one we have already spoken of. You could tell them of your nomadic plans and ask them if you can set your range up close to them.
Try to sell the team work aspect. You can run security/early warning patrols and posts. You may be able to hunt larger game to share and trade with them. If you are a lone wolf, shooting large game will be a waste, most of the time. You would be stupid to shoot something too big – but – if you could trade most of that meat for vegetables or something, everybody wins.
If you are a team of lone wolf nomads or small teams you could work in a similar way, providing security to each other and sharing plentiful hunts to reduce wastage.
All these strategies will work.
We could go on forever with more details, but let’s not forget these few things. They may not seem important now while you have them.
The comfort you get from being out of the wind (I hate it) the rain, and the ability to have a warm shower is huge. You will find that you get less and less done each day as these things grind away at you.
Human interaction – having someone to talk to is another great thing for our health. You will miss it when you don’t have it.
Make sure you have these in your plan somewhere. I am not going to hit you with a statistic but I am sure when you start to look at it you will see that these things (that are easily overlooked when thinking about this lifestyle) make huge difference to your survival and success rate.
But here is the kicker for this article – check out this; I read a book a few years ago called “Into The Wild” about Chris McCandless. That was a great read.
The story, as told in the book is great and I would recommend reading it. Aside from Chris, the book also talks about a few other people. This is how I came to know of Gene Rosellini. In the book he is called “The Mayor of Hippie Cove” he gets a brief mention, but enough to tell his story. Google him and make your own mind up.
Gene was intelligent and educated. He did an experiment for 10 years. In the experiment he lived off the land like a stone age human would have. He tried many different “eras” not just stone age but he said “…it is not possible for human beings as we know them to live off the land”.
Like I said, you should do your own checking into his story. I for one am in agreeance with him. Here is a link to some of the main points of Gene as told in the book.
Do learn to survive as a nomadic hunter gatherer. Don’t rely on it as long term solution.
If you are set on the idea, try to put in place the strategies I have spoken of here. You don’t have to buy the type of land I describe, but identify where some is. You will have a potential range that you can work. As long as someone else doesn’t get there first.
Well there it is in a nutshell. I hope you can draw some interesting points from this. I think a diverse approach – with aspects of the nomadic/hunter gatherer – is the best bet for survival.
I could almost write a novel on this and your individual circumstances need to be considered. I can’t do that for you. Learn from those who have come before you. Don’t discard their experience because you think you can do it better. That is unlikely.
Share your thoughts in the comments below. I would love to have a discussion with you. I will try to get on and answer/reply if I can.
James Liddell is a freelance writer from Australia.
He has served in the Australian Army and lives on his off grid homestead in New South Wales.