I'm a big fan of living without regrets. If there's something you want to do, just do it. This mentality took me abroad for work, all over different countries, and let me to the homestead we're happily working on today. But looking back, it's not all sunshine and daisies. Hindsight is a killer, and I'm a little embarrassed at the mistakes I've made along the way. I may not be sporting too many grey hairs just yet but I do have some time on my belt, and as a survivalist approaching his mid-40's I'd like to share a few things with you.
Things I wish someone had told me, had I the foresight to actually listen. The mistakes I've made, and what I'd do differently if I was starting over. Of course, it could be argued that the path I took in life took me exactly where I needed to be (which is right here), but I still believe I'd have arrived a heck of a lot faster if someone told me this.
So, sit up, and pay attention. You're about to get a brain-dump of what matters most.
You need more than book knowledge
Despite the wealth of information available in print, or even video content online, when it comes to survival planning "book knowledge" is not enough. Anyone who has ever struggled to assemble a tent, or setup an Ikea cupboard – you know what I'm talking about. And forget trying to start a fire with a couple of bits of wood. It's tough, and not like the books.
There's a big difference between understanding how to do something, and actually being able to do it. And in survival, theory is a pale substitute for real experience. When my first shelter collapsed under the wind and I spent a long, cold night contemplating what had gone wrong, that's when I realized. I wasn't a survivalist. I was a survival geek. I needed to embrace my inner outdoorsman and put everything I had studied into practice, if I wanted to have any hope of actually using the information I accumulated in a real situation, I needed real-life experience. Make sure you're practicing in the outdoors.
You need to stay crazy-level organized
In the military there are logistics officers who have a full-time job of keeping all of their supplies in order. It's an important task, because if they get it wrong, the very survival of their troops comes into question. No ammo, or no food, and things go very wrong.
For me, I'm basically the opposite of organized. Struggled for years to even put a system in place, and it was only a couple of years back I decided to plan it all out. In doing so I discovered expired items on my shelves, food that the rats had gotten to, and when I started running numbers, my stockpile actually covered far fewer months than I thought it would. It's important to be organized, use a system with your preps, so you know exactly where you stand and what you've got. Without the data, you're shooting in the dark, and potentially even putting your family in a bad situation as well.
You can't get caught up on the conspiracies
It's almost a rabbit hole when you start doing your research, and as a self-confessed survival geek I went full throttle. Considering the big-ticket disasters, like a response to a nation-wide EMP or a large-scale nuclear attack. In addition to wasting countless hours on research, I dropped thousands of dollars into supplies that were the survival equivalent of a Ferrari. Flashy, but not really necessary. Some have proved smart buys, like my generator and portable solar charger, others, like my night vision goggles have sat unused on a shelf for months.
The right way to do survival is to focus on the basics, the disasters most likely to happen. Of course, once you've got these covered by all means, start considering your radiation fallout plans, but only once you've got a foundation in place. The most likely threats. That's the best use of your time, and you should adapt your training and preparation accordingly. It's also the best use of your money, putting it towards the investments you need to make for the most probably disasters. Don't buy silly gear that you don’t need.
You can't let yourself go physically
With time, a busy life, kids, a homestead, whatever it is going on in your life, it's common for fitness to take a back seat. I'm guilty of it myself. When I get busy at work I let my health slide, from what I'm eating to the time I spend working out. But that's a massive mistake.
One I realized after a brief hike with a couple of younger survivalists we were training. It was one of the first treks I'd done after a long winter of inactivity, and it put me on my ass. I struggled to keep up, with my pack on, and after I got home it must have been a week before I felt "right" again. It was then I vowed to never let myself go again. Regular hikes now feature in my family's life, no matter what else is going on – to ensure I've got the physical fitness needed to bug out effectively.
And that doesn't even cover personal security and self defense. Without constant exercise, training and conditioning, how can you possibly hope to hold your own in a fight. Perhaps it's someone wanting to take what you have, whether it's your resources, or even your family. You owe it to them to be able to protect your loved ones. So, sign up for some self-defense classes, even once a week will make a remarkable difference over the long run.
Now I get these are all pretty logical, and you're probably thinking – we'll sure, I get it. But if you want to have any hope of surviving the crisis that does come, apply these principles. Learn from my mistakes. I'd love to know how much better I'd have fared with the skills and experience I have today, but that's not how it works. All I can do is share everything I've learnt from 20+ years in the game, and hope you don't make the same mistakes as I did.