More Great Survival Tips from American Family Survival

Alternative Bug Out Vehicles To Consider

There is a lot of attention paid to bug out vehicles, from the average 4×4 truck to some really heavy-duty vehicles which are designed more as urban combat vehicles than anything else. While I drool over those just as much as anyone else, I recognize that they are beyond my price range. Besides, in a true TEOTWAWKI event, gasoline and diesel will probably be scarce, making those options a bit impractical.

My personal bug out vehicle, like many people, is my daily drive. I’ve done a few things to it to make it more appropriate for a survival situation, without going overboard to the point of attracting attention. But more than anything, I’ve equipped it with the supplies and gear I think I would need, if I was forced to bug out.

Even so, I’m not fully convinced that bugging out in a car, truck or SUV is the best solution in all cases. We all assume that the roads will be crowded with other people trying to evacuate and turning those roads into parking lots; yet nobody has a plan to deal with that. Not only that, but what about finding more fuel? Even in a simple evacuation, like for a hurricane, the gas stations sell out. What about a grid-down situation, where they can’t even pump the gas out of the underground tanks?

For this reason, I don’t just think of trucks and SUVs when I’m thinking about bug out vehicles. As with most things, I tend to think outside the box; or in this case, outside the wheels.


If you live near either coast, or on the Gulf of Mexico, you should seriously consider a sailboat as a getaway vehicle. While such boats can be rather expensive; if you’re a handyman you could buy a used one that needs some TLC and refurbish it yourself. That would give you a bug out vehicle which few others would be able to follow.

In the case of pretty much any emergency, a sailboat will allow you to get away from people, the biggest danger you face. Powered by the wind, you would be able to travel pretty much anywhere, without having to worry about buying fuel. You can eve fish for dinner, right from your bug out vehicle.


I’d have to say that the horse was the original bug out vehicle. You could always leave town quickly, taking to the hills, on trails that others can’t follow. Fuel is abundant and maintenance is pretty low. Just make sure you have a pack horse too, as you would be overburdening your horse to make it carry you and all your gear.

Of course, the drawback to horses is the cost of buying them in the first place and then keeping them. Unless you’re going to stable the horse somewhere, you’re going to need some land to have it on. You’ll also have to invest the time in caring for it and riding it regularly.

Bicycle with Trailer

Perhaps a variant of the horse idea is to use an off-road bicycle, towing a small, lightweight trailer for your pack. They make trailers for taking your kids along, as well as ones which are just for cargo. Weight is an issue, so you want to make sure you have good, lightweight backpacking equipment; but then, you’ll want that anyway.

Hauling a trailer with a bicycle definitely limits the places it can go, off road. But you’ll still be able to take quite a few trails, or even ride it down the shoulder of the road, passing all those cars stopped in traffic.


Speaking of passing the cars stopped in the 100-mile-long parking lot, have you thought about a motorcycle? We’ve all seen people cutting through the traffic on one, riding the line between lanes. One of the larger trail bikes would also make it possible to ride off the road, expanding your options.

As with the bicycle, you can pull a small trailer with a motorcycle. Of course, you don’t want to forget it’s there, if you go off road. Get carried away, and you could leave your gear, along with pieces of trailer, scattered along the trail behind you.


Bugging Out With The Elderly

I have a somewhat unique situation; but then, so do we all. My particular situation is that my wife works for the city and her 85 year old mother lives a few miles away. Just to complicate things, we live in a hurricane zone, right on the Gulf of Mexico. What all this means is that my wife is one of the people who would be manning the city’s emergency operations center (EOC) in a crisis, so we couldn’t bug out until the entire city had evacuated. By then, it might be too late. And of course, we’ve got to take her mom with us.

While that creates a rather set of problems, it’s not insurmountable. But it does mean that my survival plans might be considerably different than others. Yet I can’t help but think that there are others out there who have similar situations, especially elderly family members who will need to be cared for.

To start with, we have to accept the idea that it’s harder to bug out with the elderly. They don’t move as fast, can’t walk as far, and have a host of other needs which mitigate against being able to bug out easily. But that doesn’t mean that it’s impossible. Leaving them behind, to live or probably die on their own, is not an option that most of us want to take.

Before bugging out, there’s bugging in. While there are disasters which would necessitate a bug out, there are also many which we can ride out in our homes. So I’m not only preparing our home for survival, I’m preparing hers. I’ve added in rainwater capture, have made her home more secure, and have a stockpile of supplies. There’s even enough gasoline there to allow us to travel back and forth between her house and ours a number of times, if we need more supplies.

I’ve also made provision for her health. Like many elderly people, mom takes a number of different medications every day. I do too. So I have a stockpile of those meds, both in my home as part of our stockpile and with our bug out gear. I buy my meds in Mexico, where they can be bought over the counter in any pharmacy.

As for bugging out, we have no plans to bug out into the wild; at least not unless we manage to build a cabin somewhere. Rather, we’ve established ourselves with a small town, where we are known by one of the churches and some of the local businesspeople. We visit the town regularly, building relationship, as well as a supply cache. We even have enough of a relationship with the owner of a local motel, that I can be assured of getting a room in an emergency. That’s pre-planned and pre-paid.

Having those relationships and that cache guarantees that we’ll be able to get into town, even if they set up roadblocks. Chances are pretty good that a little name dropping will be the key to open that door and if that’s not enough, I can show that I have a storage area there, saying I need to get to it.

Actually, the hardest part of all this was convincing my mother-in-law that I know what to do in the event of a disaster. She wasn’t aware of what I write about, until she tried to educate me about what to do in the case of a hurricane. Then, when I filled her in on what she had forgotten, she realized I knew more about it than she did.


Preparing For Survival Gardening

Growing a survival garden has become a mainstream idea in the prepping community. Many people have started their own vegetable gardens, learning how to grow plants and preserve what they grow. This helps ensure that they’ll have at least some food to eat, whenever they are faced with a long-term survival situation.

But in reality, most of these people aren’t really ready for a major disaster, at least not in their gardens. The truth is, their gardens just aren’t big enough. So, while they will provide some food to eat, it won’t be enough.

Several years ago, the idea of vertical gardening hit the prepping community like a thunderstorm. Someone even wrote a book about how you could grow everything you need in a four foot square garden, if you used vertical gardening. I’m not really sure how much that person eats, but I’m sure it can’t be much, if they think that you can grow a year’s worth of food in that little space.

There are people who live totally off of what they raise in their gardens. I’ve run across articles talking about these people through the years. But in each and every one of those cases, they had turned their entire backyard into a garden, not just a small patch.

That’s real survival gardening, of the type we’re all going to have to do if there is ever a TEOTWAWKI event serious enough that we will have to produce our own food for the long-term. Therefore, the question is, are we ready for gardening on that sort of scale?

While I doubt you want to turn your entire yard into a garden right now and grow all your food, if that’s part of your survival plan, than you need to be prepared to do so. Regardless of when it is done, it will take time, energy and the right supplies to make it happen.

So, what will it take and what do we need to have ready?

  • Your yard’s soil probably isn’t good enough for growing much more than grass. Fortify it with fertilizers and mulch, preparing it for growing something more important.
  • Stockpile seed, fertilizers and chemicals, so that you’ll have enough to expand your garden.
  • Make sure you have the physical tools necessary to dig up your grass and make planting beds.
  • Develop a plan, broken down into stages, so that you’ll know how you are going to expand your garden when the time comes.
  • Figure out where you’re going to get enough water from to water your garden. You might need to put in a well.
  • Plant fruit trees now, so that they have time to grow.
  • Start a mulch pile for fertilizer, recycling the nutrients from green matter back into the soil.
  • If you don’t have a high enough worm count in your soil, import some. You can buy bulk worms online. It might also be worthwhile to start a worm far, so that you have enough worms for the expansion. Besides, they make good feed for fish.
  • Keep in mind that your neighbors are going to notice your garden. Plan on being able to help them get started, at least with seed, so that they don’t come steal from your garden.


Preparing Your Home For Bugging In

The debate about bugging out or bugging in usually comes down on the side of bugging in, except in those situation where it isn’t possible. There are just too many advantages that your home offers, most notably providing you with shelter and containing pretty much all your possessions. But that doesn’t mean that your home is the ideal survival retreat. Rather, your home is just a starting point.

While you could just bug in, there in your home, without any further preparation, that’s not necessarily a good idea. Rather, your home should be considered a framework to work within, preparing it to become the best survival retreat you can make it.

More than anything, this requires becoming as self-sufficient as possible, while also working out plans for what to do in those areas where you cannot become self-sufficient. As part of that, it would be important to be able to survive, without having to leave your property. There’s always going to be a risk of being attacked or someone invading your home while you’re gone, if you have to leave your property. This risk would increase, if you leave on a schedule, such as leaving every morning to haul water back to the house from a river a mile away.

So, what should you do, besides stockpiling, to make your home into a survival retreat?

Heating & Cooking

Unless you live in the Deep South, you’re going to need to be able to heat your home in some way. For most of us, that means heating with wood, in either a fireplace or wood burning stove. Either of those will provide some means of cooking as well.

But this is going to require more than just installing a wood burning stove and buying a pile of wood. Your stove is really only going to heat the room that it is installed in. So you’re going to need to adopt some other strategies for keeping warm in the winter, such as using bed warmers to warm up the sheets before getting in for the night.

Reliable Water Source

Water is probably the biggest problem for most of us, as not many people own a home on the lake or with running water flowing through it. The idea of getting water from local sources, like lakes and rivers is a good one, except that it requires leaving your property. You’d be better off if you had your own water source, right there at your home.

That means either using rainwater capture or putting in a well, depending on what will work best in your climate. Another option, for those who live in high humidity areas, is to set up fog catchers to draw moisture out of the air.

Eliminating Waste

Waste disposal is going to be a problem, especially the disposal of human waste. While some things, like food packaging, can be burnt in your fire, other things can’t. Digging a hole for an outhouse may not be an enjoyable task, but it might be the best thing you can do.

Grow Your Own Food

For any long-term survival situation, we have to think in terms of growing our own food. That means growing a lot of food, both plants and animals. This will become a large part of the work that we all have to do in the event of a permanent grid-down situation.

Set Up Your Defenses

Make sure that your home is ready to be defended. Just the fact that you are doing well, while others are suffering, can be enough to invite attack. People will see the smoke from your fire, smell your food cooking, and see your garden growing. You can’t fully hide those things. When they get hungry enough, you can expect some of them to gather together and attack.

You never want to be the one who is provoking violence, but you need to be ready when it comes. That mean making your home more defensible and making sure that you family or survival team is ready to take on any attack.


Salt – Nature’s Preservative

Anyone who is going to be growing their own food also needs to know how to preserve it. This was a normal part of life for our ancestors, way back when; and it is an important survival skill for preppers to know. Wasting food, when there isn’t enough to go around, is almost criminal. But worse than that, it can make it harder to survive.

There are a number of common food preservation techniques you can learn, such as canning and drying of food. But one of the interesting things we encounter in just about any of these, is the use of salt. That common denominator is because salt is a natural preservative. We find salt in use in canning, dehydrating, curing and smoking. Obviously there’s a good reason for that.

But just how can salt preserve food?

Bacteria, the biggest thing we’re trying to protect food from, when we preserve it, requires a moist environment. That’s key to how salt works as a preservative, as salt helps to dry out the food, to the point where bacteria can’t survive.

Take a piece of meat sometime and cover it with a layer of salt. Within minutes, the salt will be soaking wet. Where did that moisture come from? It came out of the meat’s cells, following what is known as “osmosis.”

While the word osmosis is used in casual conversation in a number of different ways, it has an actual scientific meaning. In this application, that definition would be that osmosis is the movement of water molecules through the semi-permeable cell membrane, from a region of low salt concentration to an area of higher salt concentration.[1] In doing this, it lowers the water content of the meat’s cells.

Since osmosis is a law of biology and chemistry, it really doesn’t care what sort of cells it is getting the water out of. The majority of that water comes out of the meat, because that is the largest quantity available. But bacteria are cells too, so any bacteria which are present in the meat or on its surface will lose water as well. Once they lose enough water, they will die.

So salt will kill bacteria directly, keeping our food safe. Taking this a step further, food which is salted and then dehydrated is not only bacteria free, but any bacteria landing on the surface of that food will die quickly. The dry food is a hostile environment to the bacteria and the presence of salt helps speed up the process of killing the bacteria by drawing water out of it.

Salt alone isn’t enough, as salt won’t keep most insects and rodents out of food, although it will keep ants out of the food. Proper packaging is required to keep other types of insects and rodents out of your food supply; something that they can’t just gnaw their way through.

The same preserving effect happens with sugar, in the same way. But sugar is only is used in the preservation of fruit. Fruit naturally contains sugar, but additional sugar is used at some times. In addition, some fruits are acidic, which also adds to the hostility of the environment for the bacteria, although it can attract ants and bees.

Be sure to have a goodly stock of both salt and sugar in your stockpile; not only for eating, but for preserving food that you grow and hunt.

[1] This definition has been modified to deal with the specific circumstances, salt and a cell wall. The fuller definition involves the movement of a solvent (water is a solvent) through a semipermiable membrane from an area of low solute concentration (the salt) to one of higher concentration.

Oh, and you should always carry a glass breaker inside your vehicle. The Tactical Tomahawk has a built in glass breaker in it’s handle!

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