Saturday, April 10, 2010

What To Do About It.
So the situation is worse than I thought. Simply staying where I am might not be the best solution.
I can plan to go down one of three possible paths – do I plan to:
1. Bug Out
2. Bug In, or
3. Build a Doomstead?
The answer is: If possible, I will prepare all three responses! Why? Because each will be the optimal action in a particular set of circumstances.
So let us review the possibilities and consider how they might be approached:
1. Bug Out.
To traditional survivalists this involves having a backpack ready and when the time comes you simply strap it on and “get out of dodge”. Usually there is some sort of plan or destination associated with the Bug Out strategy – though in some cases the plan is simply “I got me a gun. Anythin’ I need I can get with the gun.”

This plan might work in an apocalyptic future of Mutant Zombie Bikers (MZBs), but in the scenario of a slowly-developing crisis involving steadily-worsening economies, growing international tensions, slowly declining living standards, growing crime rates and increasing ethnic tensions, this simplistic plan doesn’t look like it will stack up well. I need bug-out plans that can cope with a sudden tsunami of Mutant Zombie Bikers, but also work for a slowly-emerging deterioration of day-to-day life.
To achieve this, the bug out plan could be a journey to a known destination or it could be that travelling is the plan - travelling as a sustainable lifestyle. Certainly Gypsies did it.

Numerous authors have commented that in times of dislocation the ability to move goods from where they are made to where they are needed is often a path to riches. Transportation is obviously the key. If we are assuming that fuel is hard to obtain, then having a viable form of transportation may mean that going on the road is a valid lifestyle choice. The Gypsy lifestyle or the life of a travelling tinker may be a future possibility.

Here are some transport options:
1. Campervan/caravan/etc. Pros: Comfortable and easy. Cons: You would need to keep a fuel cache somewhere. Petrol does not store well, so your vehicle would probably need to be diesel and you would probably need to have many hundreds of liters of diesel stockpiled. The cost of vehicle and stockpiled diesel will be significant.
2. Pushbike and tent. Pros: No fuel required and less up front expense. Bikes and bike trailers are sold at Kmart! Cons: Hard work. Slower. Your physical security may be more at risk.
3. Boat. Dmitry Orlov proposed this in a recent article (
Pros: A sail boat provides you with a bed, stove, table, chairs, etc. You have the comfort of a campervan with the fuel use of a pushbike.
Cons: Most serious boats (the kind that stay in the water, not the kind that you move on a trailer) require constant maintenance. If I buy one I will have to put in the work and money to maintain it, even if I’m not using it. Dmitry Orlov lives on his boat, so this effort is justified. I have toddler-age children. Toddlers and water aren’t a good combination, so living aboard is not an option for me. If I don’t intend to live on the boat, and I don’t have money to throw away on maintaining a boat that I don’t live on, then some compromise may be required. A trailer sailor might be a reasonable compromise.

Of course a traveler may be more vulnerable and subject to threats, extortion or robbery than someone who simply chooses to stay home. This strategy is not without risks. The risks will depend on where you travel, how you travel, how prepared you are, and who you deal with.

Regardless of what form of transport I choose, ultimately a backpack is still a viable last recourse. In a worst-case scenario I still might need to walk to my destination.

So, in addressing the “How do I do it” question, I will need:
• Packs (24 hour pack and 72 hr pack)
• Bikes and bike trailer?
• A boat on a trailer?
• Some way of addressing the issues of water, food, shelter and physical security.
2. Bug In.
I have talked about this option in other posts, so I will just summarize the high points:
• If you are “Bugging In” (staying where you are during a crisis), you don’t need to lay in provisions for an indefinite stay – you only need enough provisions to last a few months longer than everyone else. At that point either the crisis ends, or everyone leaves, and you inherit the resources of the neighborhood.
• Since most people only have a few days worth of supplies in their pantry, and shops run just-in-time inventories with only a few more days of supplies, all I really need is 6 months of simple calories and a garden that grows some fruit and vegetables.
• Sadly, “Bugging In” is not always an option. Fire, flood, war and civil conflict are just some of the things that might force me to Bug Out.

Addressing the “How to” question - for "bug in" I will need:
1. Enough calories for 6 months.
2. Access to a garden with fresh fruit and vegetables.
3. Some way of addressing the issues of water, waste management and physical security.

3. Build A Doomstead.
I am not a rich man. But I am a fairly well-paid professional who does not smoke, gamble, entertain expensive women, or otherwise fritter away money. My wife is equally boring, so we normally finish the week with a little extra money. I would like to spend my excess money on a swimming pool and nice holidays. But I’m starting to think that I need to spend the money on a “Holiday Home” that could double as a Doomstead. I can tell you that I would far prefer the nice holiday in Cairns or Fiji, but we don’t always get the future we want do we?

So I have started the process of:
1. Selecting a site
2. Building a doomstead (Off grid)
3. Stocking the Doomstead with enough stuff to create a nucleus community.
4. Identifying people that I would like to share it with.

Each of these tasks deserves a post – so more on each later.


  1. Nice analysis. There should, of course, be more disaster preparation at a community level. Indeed at various different levels. At a world-wide level I reckon we should have at least 2 years supply of food for everyone. It doesn't have to be a wonderful eating experience. Indeed the idea would be to keep topping it up while feeding the expiring stuff to edible animals.
    A crisis is a lever. We should all be using the impact of the small volcano in Iceland to convince people that bad stuff can happen and we should put much more money into preparation.

  2. Yes, people throughout history have striven to have at least one year of food reserves, and idelly two. The fact that we have run down the worldwide food reserves to a little over a month (as at March 19 2009 - ) is a little worrying. It heightens the need to set aside a supply yourself.

    I have just finished moving our supply. It is heavy. I start with the assumption that my garden will supply fruit/vegetables (vitamins/minerals) but is not large enough to supply allof the needed calories. So I have 6 months of simple calories for a family of 4. (1,800 Calories/day for adults, 1,200 for children - I assume that the garden supplies the remaining needed calories). The store is mostly sugar (which does not go off and can turn the fruit in my garden into preserved jam) and white rice (which goes off very slowly, so only needs rotation once every 2 years), with a little flour (which has to be rotated regularly).

  3. You could also consider a gasifier as a fuel source for your transport, then you can rely on the local landscape as a store of fuel. The blog is documenting his progress in building a woodgas ute which you might find useful.

    Selecting a site for your doomstead is the most critical part of the planning process in my opinion. I thought I'd made a fairly good analysis before we purchased a block of land, intending something similar, but we ended up being ruled by emotion in a lot of ways, as well as allowing the transient desire to be close to family to override the more sensible idea of actually moving somewhere that met certain critical criteria, such as climate. I guess sticking to the results of the analysis is as hard as making it.

    I'd also carefully consider the tradeoffs between buying an established site and starting from scratch, especially given the economic conditions, if you're at all contemplating starting from a bare site.

    For 200 - 300k you can often pick up a few acres that already has a lot of infrastructure in place: house, shedding, fences, power, water etc. To buy a blank block even for 100k or so, and then put all those things on there you would be looking to spend at least twice as much to arrive at the same effective end point, at least if you're following council regulations to do so. We didn't consider that carefully enough before jumping in. Thankfully we're not too proud to admit we made many mistakes and jump ship for a better plan, just so long as we can sell the current block.

    Best of luck with the planning and implementation, I look forward to following your adventures!

  4. Hi Aeldric. It is some time since we exchanged a few emails. You seem to have gone off boats. We sailed from the Uk to Australia with 3 children, the youngest of whom was 2 when we left. Being careful and setting the boat up for kids was the key to a successful and safe trip.

    Having said that maintenance is definitely a much bigger issue. Setting your boat up as simply as possible is important. Diesel will probably be available for a long time, however managing energy usage is critical anyway. There are some great boats available. I believe you can pick decent boats up in the US just by paying the outstanding marina fees.