10 things I learned in 10 years of Modern Survivalism
It is now ten years since I first published my first book “The Modern Survival Manual: Surviving the Economic Collapse”.
About the same time I started with my website and adopted modern survivalism not as a hobby but a way of life. In my case it wasn’t the cold war or Y2k that got me into this. It was the economic collapse of 2001 in Argentina were I saw first-hand how things change, many of them fast, some much slower and what happens to people and the society they live in.
I guess I always had an interest in survival and preparedness but just didn’t call it that way. I’ve had a knife in my pocket from a very early age. Broke my first one when was about seven.
I found a little pocket knife in drawer and made it my own. After a few days no one seemed to notice so in my pocket it stayed. I can see now how to everyone around me it must have been a completely forgettable object, maybe something my grandfather brought from Spain during one of his trips and left it there. For me on the other hand… man! That little slipjoint pocket knife was as good as Excalibur for my young eyes.
I used it to cut everything I came across. Spent entire afternoons in the back yard, seeing what was inside everything. One day chasing after a particularly quick ant which I intended to chop with light taps of the blade the knife snapped in half. Today I understand that little knife was very hard carbon steel. Too hard and brittle to go around chopping ants with but probably perfect for years of use, used just for cutting as it was intended for.
So a knife lived in my pocket ever since. I started reading everything I could and jumped at every chance I got to be outdoors. But for me it wasn’t just that, my knife was indeed with me at all times, even in school. Some liberals may squeal at the idea, but back in the day… lets just say that if my teacher needed to cut something he just shouted out my name and I would proudly hand over whatever knife I had with me. The school itself had a .22 rifle target shooting range… next the playground. My, how the world has “moved” since then.
Back in those days a pitiful Maglite Solitaire was the best you could do for a pocket flashlight. The larger 2XAA Mini Maglite was a bit too big for pocket daily carry. The Maglite Solitare, how pathetic. Maybe 5 lumens top? About the same amount of minutes worth of runtime mind you. And the light bulb would burn itself out every few batteries worth of runtime so you had to keep spare lightbulbs around. Eventually I got a large 3xD Maglite which became my “big” light.
I still remember thinking even then: “one day technology will advance so much they’ll manage to make a flashlight that is brighter or has much better runtime. Maybe a new type of battery”. I would have been thrilled to even find a battery that gave me just one hour of good runtime in my Solitiare rather than dimming visible in front of my eyes by the minute.
And then one day reading a local gun magazine in Argentina I read about this revolutionary technology. A keychain light with a bulb that emitted a light visible two miles away, and it never needed to have its battery replaced. I guess that back in those days to have 10 hours of runtime must as well have meant a lifetime worth of light, which in some ways it was compared to the technology of the day. It emitted a blue light (LED technology wasn’t quite there yet) but who cared? For someone used to a Solitaire it might as well have been magic, better even. I convinced my folks to let me travel alone while in my early teens (a different, safer time) and went downtown to get myself one of these revolutionary flashlights directly from the importer. Since then I never stopped I guess. Then came the Tikkas, the shower of cheap Chinese (and poorly made) lights and a few years later here we are today.
What I’m saying is that I’ve always been a bit like this in one way or another, carrying certain tools, stashing food and water around the house like some lunatic, reading and learning about survivalism as much as I could.
2001 was the big wakeup call. There I got to see how a lot of what I had been doing had little practical use on a day to day basis. I kept doing the things that worked for me with the “Be prepared” mentality but also changing what needed to be changed and incorporating more skills. I had already started shooting by then but I got a lot more serious about it when crime became more of a problem and people around me got targeted, hurt or killed. I was lucky in having received realistic defensive shooting training by the time I was 15. I convinced my mother that if I got good enough grades she’d sign me up for the shooting classes this new range that had just opened in our town was offering. It was run my former military men and they had some pretty good idea of what they were doing, considering the time and place.
It has been an interesting decade so far. Now looking in retrospective, in a much safer place and living a much different life I can look back and see the road travelled so far.
Here’s ten tips, maybe the 10 most important lessons I learned:
1)Get yourself a Glock 9mm, Glock 17 or 19, and shoot it until you master it. If you can, get a carry permit and carry that same gun. Take defensive shooting classes, train as often as realistically possible and sign up for IPSC competitions to stay fast and accurate.
2)Rice and beans. Better yet rice and lentils. Buy them, stock plenty of them and learn to cook them in as many ways as possible. Its one of the best survival foods to stockpile and one of the healthiest too. Shelf life is outstanding when stored properly and bang per buck its hard to beat too.
3)Stay fit. Eat well, keep those portion size reasonable and stay as healthy as you can. Is this important for survival? You bet. Your body is your most important tool and keeping it in shape is crucial. Is this important if the end of the world never happens, if you don’t even have to suffer a serious short or long term disaster? Again, you bet. Purely talking about survival rates here nothing influences both your survival rate and quality of life as taking care of yourself, eat well, work out and basically staying as healthy as possible.
4)Stay happy/positive. Otherwise, what’s the point?
Don’t let the doom and gloom take over your life. I know of people that couldn’t keep it under control and ended up losing loved ones, ended up alone. Prepare to live, don’t live to prepare. If your life IS preparedness, then make damn sure you and the people around you are enjoying it. Besides, enjoying life is essential to preparedness itself. The sad, depressing mood is what gets most people in one way or another when times get tough. You have to be a pretty positive, cheerful SOB to survive when SHTF because there’s already too much negative to go around. When things get tough for real there’s not much to hold on to in terms of hope, but you better find it or else you’re done.
5) ‘Don’t let yourself get attached to anything you are not willing to walk out on in 30 seconds flat if you feel the heat around the corner.’ Neil McCauley, Heat (1995)
Besides being a great movie quote, it also happens to be the ultimate survival tip. The ability to move when you have to and the courage to do so.
You read about bugging out all the time… but who actually does it? Well, sometimes you do because of storms or other short terms disasters, but the idea of leaving everything behind and leaving your country for good freaks people out. Yet when that’s what you have to do, staying when you should be going makes all the difference in the world. Millions throughout history have escaped their countries from various disasters. The difference between being a refugee and expat or immigrant is in how well prepared you are.
I suppose for me its natural since my grandparents emigrated and my family travelled and lived in different countries too, but when shit really hits the fan, and I mean when it does BAD and everything gets splattered… yes, the ability to move. Having the resources and above all the mindset to do so.
This is one of the least favourite topics because it puts people out of their comfort zone. People know what they know, have a home with all their stuff and the idea of leaving it all behind and starting over elsewhere freaks them out. But when Venezuela happens, when east Ukraine happens, South Africa, Argentina and countless countries that have been torn by war or tyrannical governments, even natural/manmade disasters like the Fukushima nuclear disaster, Chernobyl or Katrina, bugging out and relocating is the only smart thing to do.
I like my stuff, my toys, but I do understand that stuff if just that and I can get rid of it, and just as easily get new guns and gear and various “junk” later on. Material things are easily replaceable. Loved ones not so much.
6)You don’t need a ton of gear or a ton of guns. Know what you need and keep it simple and well organized. Some folks think they are survivalists when they are actually hoarders just piling junk. Keep it simple, keep it organized and even if I often don’t follow my own advice ask yourself if you really need something before spending money on “preps”. Believe me when I tell you that in roughly 70% of the cases, you’re better off just putting that money aside for when you need it. It will be more useful than whatever you thought you desperately needed.
Learn the difference between “need” and “want”. You need a basic firearms battery for self defense. Buth that 9th pistol you bought, chances are you don’t really need it that much and falls more into the “want/like” category. And that’s just perfect, but do know the difference.
7)Savings are one of the most important preps. Cash is king and when SHTF that rainy day cushion saves the day. Cash, bank accounts and precious metals. Try keeping your eggs in a few different baskets. I find money to be, by far, the most valuable tool or physical asset people have in some of the worst situations. What if there’s a large scale disaster and you need to move to another state or another country entirely? Sure I want a nice knife if stranded on some tropical island… but what about getting fired, getting hurt or sick and needing expensive medical treatment? I know which one sounds more fun, but I also know which one is more likely to happen.
8)Make a realistic risk assessment. Be honest about it and make a contingency plan accordingly. If A happens, the what is step B, what do we do? Are you too fat? That will kill you faster than any zombie or looter, SHTF or not and probably sooner than you think. Step B should be eating healthy, working out and getting in shape ASAP. Are floods a risk in your area? Wild fires, social unrest? What do you do in that case?
9)Don’t treasure stuff, treasure the people in your life, treasure the skills and knowhow you acquire over the years and expand on it. That’s what matters the most.
10)Start with your EDC, this is your most important first line of defence, the tools you will actually have with you when you need them. Then work on your car kit, your home away from home and finally the supplies kept home so as to deal with different situations, from power outages, storms, home invaders, looters, etc. Keep in mind the basics and remember the Rule of Three (you can’t live three minutes without air, three hours of exposure, three days without water and three weeks without food).
Fernando “FerFAL” Aguirre is the author of “The Modern Survival Manual: Surviving the Economic Collapse” and “Bugging Out and Relocating: When Staying is not an Option”