So much information on prepping is geared toward prepping for a group of people, whether that is a family unit, a group of families, or a mutual assistance group (MAG) that goes beyond your family and neighborhood boundaries. But not everyone is prepping for a group.
Perhaps it is by choice, perhaps not, but the bottom line is that they are going to go it alone. They won’t have anybody to depend on but themselves, and in the bargain they aren’t worried about anyone but themselves.
There are people out there who are prepping for themselves and only themselves. They are on their own for whatever reason, be it that they choose to be or have found themselves in that situation.
This is not an approach for everyone, but for those of a lone wolf mentality, some alterations to typical procedure must be made in order to maximize chances of success while minimizing opportunities for mishap.
In this article, we’ll be covering tips, guidance and best practices for prepping and surviving alone.
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Pros and Cons of Prepping Solo
An individual enjoys some advantages, but also faces some disadvantages to prepping and surviving on their own. It is important to understand these, because if you do, you will be able to play to those advantages and make plans to minimize the disadvantages as much as possible.
Some preppers are thoroughly enamored with the idea of going it alone during an SHTF situation, or even a legitimate apocalypse.
Perhaps it is an inflated sense of self-confidence. Maybe they have been lulled into a romantic notion of the one, lone survivor taking on all comers against all odds thanks to countless media portrayals of just such an event.
Maybe it is a personal choice, one governed by a ruthless adherence to self-preservation at all costs, or forced upon them by circumstances beyond their control.
Whatever the reason, things are definitely going to be different for the solo survivor. Like any other operational choice when it comes to prepping, this choice will come with advantages and disadvantages.
Frankly, it often has many more disadvantages. People are social by nature, and we do best in groups.
When it comes time to divvy up tasking, make light work of a big job or pool resources to ensure in group survival it is definitely beneficial to have some fellows at your side.
But on the other hand, it isn’t all bad news for the lone wolf. Compared to any group, the resource demands facing an individual are far less than those incurred by a small army of mouths to feed.
Secrecy and evasion are far easier to achieve on your own. You’ll even be able to act and react quicker since you won’t have to go through the gyrations of reaching consensus, or informing all members of your group of the plan to ensure you’re on the same page.
You might already be of the lone survivor lifestyle, or you’re considering it as a cultivated strategy. Whatever the case, let’s go over some advantages and disadvantages below.
You can move more quickly and quietly on your own.
Discretion is the better part of valor when in a survival situation, especially considering that detection might result in a direct attack from other, desperate survivors, or deranged criminal elements.
Even if it doesn’t, at first, it could queue you up for later investigation, something you definitely don’t want. As you can imagine, multiple survivors living in one place are far more likely to be detected under the same circumstances than an individual.
This is especially important when trying to move through an area discreet, be it urban terrain or uninhabited wilderness.
Likewise, obstacles such as challenging crossings, climbs, or scrambles will take far more time when an entire group must negotiate it.
If you are on your own you can be up, over or under and moving forward once again using only as much time as it takes for you to clear the obstacle.
You need less food, water and supplies.
One of the single best advantages of going it alone in a survival situation is that you will not need to accumulate nearly as much food, water, and other provisions as you would with a family or group to take care of.
This will impact both bugging out and bugging in, and bugging in particularly is made far easier since whatever supplies you have on hand can be stretched much further without any need to leave your shelter to resupply.
The same applies when bugging out, but during a group bug out each member is generally responsible for carrying what food they will need for the journey plus a little extra, providing a sort of insurance policy for the entire group. You’ll only have what you can carry under those circumstances.
It is easier to conceal yourself and cover your tracks if it’s just you, rather than a group.
More people take up more room, and leave far more evidence of human occupation and passage than does a single human.
This is another perk for going it alone, as cautious movement and careful attention to detail is going to leave far less evidence of you ever having been there compared to a larger group.
Trying to move through wilderness locations in particular with many people in tow means leaving as little sign as possible for potential pursuers is virtually impossible.
When detection might mean death it is imperative you remain concealed and cover your tracks, and you’ll have a much easier time doing that on your own.
You can make decisions more quickly because there is no one to negotiate (or argue) with.
If you have ever experienced the misery of group rule by committee, or consensus, you know how slow, cumbersome and grueling it can be.
Everybody has their own idea of what constitutes “best”, “proper” or “correct”, and when the chips are down and time is very much a life-saving resource, interpersonal dynamics can serve as a big bag of sandy wrenches in the works of what should be a well-oiled machine.
Decision making slows to a crawl, tempers flare, and a fissure starts to form in the fellowship. While it is true that groups with long established leadership are less likely to suffer these effects, you can never truly eliminate them.
That won’t be an issue for the lone wolf, as they will be the captain of their efforts and the commanders of their own souls, no one else’s.
With no one to hamper their decision making matrix or contest the plan, you’ll be able to implement and execute in record time so long as you have enough information to make an informed decision.
Security of an area is more difficult because there is no one to share watch shifts or perimeter duty with.
One of the single, greatest disadvantages of solo prepping is the lack of additional personnel to help provide security.
Security is especially vital in any societal collapse or civil unrest situation, most particularly in built-up urban areas or secluded locations that still see some human traffic.
You will always need someone to watch your back when you are engaged with a task, and someone to help keep watch while others sleep.
The bottom line is that it is always better to have more eyes and more brains looking out for trouble than less. If you are going it alone you won’t have anyone to keep an eye on your six or to watch the perimeter while you get some shut eye.
Time and time again throughout history people going solo have been bushwhacked unawares my folks out to get them.
It can get lonely because there is no one to talk to and no companionship.
Though not an issue for everybody, isolation is an insidious threat to your mental and emotional well-being. Lacking companionship, it is easy to feel cut off, alone and generally hopeless.
People are just in a better mood when they have other people to respond to, good or bad, for the most part. There is also no one to bounce ideas off of, or who can contribute solutions to problems.
Chances are you are not so misanthropic that you are 100% happier with zero, meaningful human contact. Even jerks have people that they love and care about, and furthermore people that they enjoy interacting with.
Being locked up in your own head with nothing but your own internal dialogue to keep you company can prove to be a brutal sentence under certain circumstances…
There is no one to share the workload with.
Many hands make light work of even the biggest or most complicated tasks, and that certainly counts for the difficult task of long-term survival.
Whether it is scavenging, working in the garden, repairing damage to a structure or hauling supplies back to base camp, having able hands and strong backs in abundance is a major perk.
Without a group to back you up, you’ll be limited in your work capacity, and there is no shortage of chores that will need to be tended to day in and day out. Certain tasks will become impossible, either from a lack of manpower or brain power.
You might be able to avoid certain brute force tasks through clever implementation of tools and machines, but nothing beats a team of ready workers when you really need them.
With these advantages and disadvantages in mind, it is important to realize that adjustments have to be made when prepping for one person. Let’s take a look.
Adjustments when Prepping for One
There is no doubt that prepping for one person means you have to make changes to how you prepare. You have to look at every aspect of prepping from the perspective of how you can do it for just one person—you!
You’ll need to change the way you approach problem solving as a solo prepper. Your margin for error gets even smaller than it would in a group survival scenario, or even the common situation where you are the leader of your family’s survival efforts.
When things go wrong, break down or turn into serious trouble you have no one around to reliably back you up, or even know that you are in a bad situation.
This means certain plans and procedures that are more or less safe and reliable bets with even one other person accompanying you may no longer be viable or viable only in extremis.
Getting into a fight, for instance, should be an option of uttermost last resort. It doesn’t matter if you are God’s gift to ass-kicking; if you get injured you may no longer be able to provide for your continued safety, or be able to put in work that must be done in order to survive a long-term situation.
In many cases, it will be better to simply bolt or even give up what you have if you are being shaken down for goods- so long as you think the attackers will let you go in the exchange.
Accordingly, your self-defense planning should revolve around staying hidden, concealed, beneath notice or providing for a certain and rapid escape route out of your home or base camp.
If that notion does not sit well with you, or you aren’t willing to acclimatize to this mode of operation, ask yourself why not. Could it be that your ego is getting in the way? Your temperament is just one of many things that will have to be “tuned” to the business of solo survival.
The following sections will address further adjustments that must occur in the same circumstances.
Human beings are meant to live in community. We need it and crave it for various reasons, not the least of which is that we figured out hundreds of thousands of years ago that our chances of survival increased when we lived and worked together.
When you have just yourself to take care of, you will have to get used to being alone—and that is no small feat for most people. Just think about the use of solitary confinement as a punishment. Enough said.
This is not to say that you cannot live and prep alone. You can, but you have to be just as prepared for that as you are for the SHTF event that might come.
Since chances are you already live alone, you are perhaps used to caring for just yourself and manage perfectly fine on your own, you have a head start.
However, even if you live alone, in current society you can still get out and socialize, chat with your neighbors, visit with friends. You might still have a job outside of the house where you interact with others.
This is very different than going it alone for survival. Plus, any of us could end up alone at any time during a disaster and we need to be able to mentally handle that and keep our sanity.
After all, let’s face it. Prepping and being alone after a SHTF event occurs means that you will be living in solitude much or all of the time and that will take its toll mentally.
For this reason, you need to ensure that you are able to keep busy on a constant basis so that when you are surviving on your own you will be able to keep your mental focus on various tasks rather than your loneliness.
Your survival duties and chores will be a big part of this, but you can also be sure to have some hobbies to keep you busy. In addition, make sure you have variety in what you do each day so you don’t get bogged down in the same old routine day-after-day.
If you are on your own, you will need to learn many skillsets. While this is a good idea in any situation and with any number of people in your group, when you are on your own, you truly need to know how to do everything you need to do to stay alive.
One of the biggest advantages a survival group has is the sum total of their knowledge and lived experience that they can bring to bear on a problem affecting the group.
While it is generally good practice to ensure all members are more or less competent at the basics of survival, most groups will naturally have a member who is more adept at medicine, one who is a seasoned naturalist, and another who is an expert at small unit infantry tactics or marksmanship.
Lacking this council of peers, the lone wolf survivor can only draw from his own mental resources and what written resources he has in the form of manuals, guides and so forth.
For instance, you might come across on appealing, cherry-red berry in your travels through the woods. Is it safe to eat? Don’t know! So will you take a chance on it in ignorance or pass up a potentially nutritious and tasty source of free food?
Likewise, dealing with a serious injury is no time for “figure it out”, and if you are surviving on your own you won’t be able to call out a medic and expect your group doc to come running over to stitch you back together.
What to Carry
When you’re on your own, you need to think of traveling light if you have to bug out. Sure, you won’t need as much in the way of food, water, and supplies when you’re on your own, but there are basic tools you should have and there is no one but you to carry them.
There will be some tools and equipment you will have on you at all times, such as a fire starting kit, a knife, a multi-tool, and a hatchet, but you won’t carry hundreds of rounds of bullets or gallons of water.
Aside from carefully considering what you will carry on your person at all times, the lone prepper will have to make use of caches more than someone prepping for a group.
Whether you are bugging out, on the move, or bugging in, you need to carefully consider how many caches you need, what you should store in them, and where they should be located. When you have caches of supplies, food, and water spread out around your home or a pre-planned travel route, you will always have what you need when you need it.
Every prepper should be in good physical condition because there will be a lot of physical strain on the body and potentially a lot less food and sleep. However, for the lone prepper, their level of physical fitness and stamina must be at its absolute highest going into SHTF.
Only by maintaining high levels of physical fitness and overall health can you drastically decrease your chances of injury and illness across all the many hazards and challenges attendant to survival.
The bottom line is that fit people are hardier and much harder to hurt by any means, and you’ll need all the extra insurance you can get as a lone wolf prepper.
Also consider that the greater demands on your time and the sheer amount of tasks you’ll have to take care of all on your own in order to survive will mandate you have greater reserves of energy and better resistance to fatigue than your average prepper.
Even if you have a nice, secluded bugout location and you make it there in one piece, the daily work that needs to be done to ensure your survival is hard, grueling work. Energy conservation will be paramount for the lone prepper.
Consider the Nomadic Life
Defending your home, your preps, or your bugout location can be difficult. Many believe that it simply isn’t possible if you are by yourself and they are right. If a large group of looters or desperate people show up, fighting them off alone is not a reasonable expectation.
If you have to get out of dodge because you can’t defend your home or your bugout location, then being on the move might be the best thing.
Being constantly on the move definitely has its drawbacks, such as not being able to grow a garden, have well water, keep animals, or set down roots, but if you have a those things, you are a target. Period.
If you are on your own, then moving from place to place will allow you to keep out of sight, hunt and gather as you go, and become less of a target. Not everyone will want to live this kind of lifestyle, even if they are on their own, but it is worth considering and might become necessity at some point.
Prepping Alone vs. Surviving Alone
I must point out that there is a distinct difference between prepping alone, and truly surviving alone. If you want to get down to the nitty gritty, any of us can prep alone and in fact I would wager that most of us probably do just that.
We plot and plan, purchase and store, learn and practice all on our own so that we may be a better use to our families or our survival groups, if applicable.
Though we might not conduct the actual business of preparation in a team environment, we are nonetheless working towards survival in a team environment.
This is not the same thing as surviving alone. Surviving alone entails facing all of the dangers and uncertainty of a survival situation with no one else depending on you and you depending on no other as well.
From beginning to end, all of your efforts are directed solely towards the preservation of your own life and or treasure.
As mentioned above, some folks for whatever reason have no choice of matter, but for those who do, think carefully before you commit to this decision.
Sadly, there is a reason the vast majority of lone survivors throughout history– in any setting and dealing with any circumstances- usually don’t make it.
The “One, True Hero” who beats the odds, overcomes all obstacles, including himself, and takes care of business is not quite mythical, but it’s close.
The reason why extant examples of this trope in life are so worthy of conversation is because they are so very, very rare. Most of them die, unknown and unsought.
You must get comfortable with that notion. Approach this choice with eyes wide open knowing full well that your chances of survival go up exponentially across all domains as part of even a small group.
If you are having second thoughts, at least explore the idea of surviving as part of a group. We have plenty of articles on this site that can help you do just that.
Ultimately, most preppers agree that you really cannot go it alone in the long-run, and that to survive, we need the help of others.
Despite this, there are many preppers out there who are alone because they feel more comfortable that way or life circumstances have placed them in the position of prepping for only themselves.
If you are one of them, then do the very best you can with what you have, ensuring that you build up your physical fitness, skillset, and make plans according to what you are capable of on your own.
If you truly wish to prep with others, rather than going it alone, then try to seek out like-minded preppers who you can get to know and team up with before the SHTF.
You need to do this now and you can look on forums and go to local meetups to find people you can connect with. Once society has collapsed, it will be much harder to find the people you would like to work with. Happy prepping!
An urban prepper and rural wannabe, Karen has been working as a freelance writer for a decade and prepping for about half that time. She has gathered a wealth of knowledge on preparing for SHTF, but there is always more to learn and she has a passion for gathering and sharing that knowledge with other like-minded folk. Karen lives in London, Canada with her two children and plethora of cats.