Nov 252012
 

International bug-out locations may be tempting, but getting there in an emergency may be too problematic to make them practical.

The whole idea of a retreat is to get away from the worst of any problem situation and to go to a place, away from the problem, where you can hope to live a safe, satisfactory and sustainable life until the world as we know it returns back to normal.

Usually people confine their thoughts for retreats to locations within a day or (at the most) two drive of their main residence.  But, on the basis of ‘if some distance is good, maybe more distance is even better’ why not look further afield?  And, in particular, because some problems will be confined to specific regions or political/social zones, why not set up a retreat very far away, and in a totally different region and political/social system – in a foreign country?

As part of our ongoing series on international retreats, we look in this article on the topic of traveling to your international retreat – ie, bugging out, particularly when TSHTF.

We’ve written several times on the topic of traveling to your retreat when you sense the onset of a Level 2 or 3 situation, but primarily in the context of traveling only a short distance, domestically.  Now we consider traveling longer distances, internationally.

Distance is Not Your Friend When Bugging Out

Many people worry about the possibility of encountering difficulties when moving to their retreat, and generally people limit how far away they locate their retreat so as to make it less challenging to get to in troubled times.

When you start thinking about traveling to an international location, clearly these difficulties magnify greatly.  Assuming you’re not simply considering Canada or Mexico, then pretty much anywhere you might choose to relocate to requires either a plane ride or a boat trip, and certainly in the case of flying, would require you to travel on a commercial jet service because any affordable type of light airplane you could own yourself would not have nearly the range needed.

The thought of having to rely on an airline, and a regular ordinary scheduled flight, as a means to get to our bug-out location makes us very uncomfortable.  There are several reasons why we don’t like this arrangement, starting off with the fact we don’t like needing to rely on people and things totally outside of our control, a dislike made greater by the realization that in an EMP or solar storm event, planes will be some of the first things to be disabled.

There are two more reasons worthy of mention too.  The first is cost.  Anywhere international is by definition going to cost more money to fly to, because it is further away.  This cost differential is made even worse because international flights can be less competitive than domestic flights.

Furthermore, ticket costs for international travel are more directly related to how far in advance you buy your tickets.  That is somewhat the case for buying domestic tickets too, although not as much these days as was the case before.  For an international ticket, you’ll usually find the cheapest fares require a 21 day (or sometimes longer) advance purchase, and if you are buying tickets within a week of when you want to travel, you could be paying two, three or four times more money.  If you are within three days of travel, expect the fares to go even higher again.

Let me ask you this – how often do you expect to have more than three weeks clear advance warning of a Level 2/3 situation occurring?  Usually, by their very nature, such things are completely unexpected.

The second issue is availability.  These days, flights operate with a greater percentage of passengers on them than ever before.  A couple of decades ago, flights averaged about a 65% load factor – in other words, one seat in every three was empty, and, if needed, a flight could take half as many people again as they typically would.  This gave a good amount of ‘surge capacity’ – if one flight was cancelled, then the offloaded passengers could be quickly loaded onto other flights, for example, and at peak travel times (eg Thanksgiving) it was still possible to get seats on flights, even when booking last-minute.

But these days, flights often operate with 80% – 90% loads.  That gives flights much less ability to accept additional passengers, and some popular international routes are often close to full on every flight.  A single cancelled flight can disrupt travel patterns for days, and if you want to travel at peak times (eg around Christmas) you might find that if you haven’t booked your flights two or more months in advance, there are no seats to be found for a week or more either side of your preferred travel dates.

Let me ask you this – how comfortable would you feel if, WTSHTF, you had to wait a week to get a seat on a flight out of where you live and on to your retreat?  Will the flights still even be operating a week later?

The Need to Plan Ahead

One of the things we conclude about bugging out to a domestic retreat is that you probably have a several day head-start on the large mass of evacuees from cities when a Level 2/3 event occurs.  Even if there is a small immediate growth in people bugging out (ie other far-sighted prepared people such as yourself) it will be some days before gridlock – and panic – sets in on the roads, and hopefully you’ll be well and truly at your retreat long before that happens.

But what about bugging out internationally?  Instead of simply driving somewhere on freeways that can easily accept twice the normal/average amount of vehicles, you are needing to squeeze onto flights that are already at close to capacity.  Instead of an additional capacity on freeways for maybe 50,000 – 500,000 extra people to travel out of a city each day, you’re instead on an air route that might have excess capacity of only 50 – 500 people a day.

We also expect that international travelers will be quicker to respond to ‘the gathering storm’ of any adverse event.  It will be harder to ‘beat the rush’ and the rush, when it happens, won’t just mean very very slow travel; it will mean days at an airport with no movement away from ‘Ground Zero’ of whatever problem you’re seeking to avoid at all.  Meanwhile, unless you’re an ultra-frequent flier paying full fare for first class travel, you’ll regularly be finding new people arriving at the airport and being placed ahead of you on the waiting list, with higher priority access to flights based on their elite frequent flier status and/or the higher level fare they can afford to pay.

Making it worse, this all assumes that air travel schedules remain in place and unaffected by whatever the problem is that may be developing.  Air travel is an intensely infrastructure-reliant means of transportation, and when flying by commercial carrier, you are unable to influence any of the dependencies your flight is based upon.  Will jet fuel be available?  Will planes be able to fly in and out of your airport?  Will air traffic control systems be operable?  Will the ground crew and air crew all report for duty?  Will the planes be commandeered by the authorities and diverted for other ‘essential’ purposes?  Will the airlines themselves redirect their flights and planes to serve other markets as a result of whatever the event is that is causing your need to bug out?  And so on.

Don’t forget, as mentioned above, the fact that if the Level 2/3 situation comes about as a result of an EMP attack or massive solar storm, then the avionics on planes and in their engines will likely be fried and many of the planes themselves will be inoperative.

Plus, a week after TSHTF, maybe the country your bug-out location is in has altered its immigration policies to avoid a flood of refugees, and you might find yourself turned away at the border, once you do manage to get there.

The Opposite Strategy – a Delayed Bug-Out

Some people say they’ll survive in place as long as they can and only bug out to their retreat when things are truly bad and after the ‘first wave’ of evacuees has passed.

We’ve never felt this to be a good strategy, but depending on where you live and where your retreat is located, it might be feasible to consider it in some cases.  Maybe your bug-out will involve flying by light plane somewhere, or traveling by boat – that way, when you do travel to your retreat, you can do so without exposing yourself on the regular roads, and without relying on the roads remaining open and freely passable.

But if you’re bugging out internationally, our guess is that the ability to fly out of the US – and into the other country – is something that will get more and more difficult with the passing of time.

The Cost of a False Alarm

So, clearly a bug-out strategy to another country requires you to leave at the first sign of trouble.

It is no big deal to risk false alarms and to bug out possibly unnecessarily, when a domestic bug-out simply sees you and your family piling into your pickup truck and driving 500 – 1000 miles.  You can turn around at any time and return home and only be out the cost of the gas, and maybe you’ve had to ‘pull a sickie’ and take a day or two off work.  But other than that, a domestic bug-out is something you can undo at pretty much any time with a minimum of fuss or cost.  You simply do a U-turn and start driving back again.

This is good, and encourages you to ‘head for the hills’ at the first sign of trouble (which is also good).

But if your bug-out involves a 12 hour flight to a foreign country, things are not quite so simple, and neither is the cost quite so trivial.  There’s nowhere you could fly at short notice for less than $1000 per person, and in many cases you could find yourself paying $2,000 or more per person to travel.  First class tickets can go the high side of $10,000 per person.

In other words, for two of you, you need to anticipate that a short notice bug-out on your part might cost as much as $5,000 and perhaps much more, and if you are mistaken, you’ll be out of the country for at least a couple of days and potentially much longer.  That surely discourages you from getting out of Dodge at the first sign of any trouble, doesn’t it!  And it adds a huge cost penalty any time you unnecessarily evacuate only to then come straight back home again.

Regular Visits to Your Retreat

Wherever your retreat is, you’re going to want to visit it at least once a year, just to make sure it remains in good functional order and condition, and to remain somewhat familiar with the retreat and living conditions there.

Even if your retreat is more than 500 miles away domestically, you can still go there, spend a night, and come back in little more than a single weekend, and with no more cost than a few tanks full of gas.

But heading to a retreat somewhere in the southern hemisphere or Asia – that’s a very different issue entirely from both a time and cost point of view.  It is unlikely you’ll be able to visit so often, and you’ll be less familiar with everything – your retreat itself, and the society/country in which it is based – if/when you have to bug out for real.  You’ll be much more an obvious outsider and foreigner and much more vulnerable to local scams and corruption than would be the case if your retreat was merely in a nearby state, and still in the US.

International Travel by Boat

Flying is not the only way you can get to far-away places.  You could also make your way to a US port and then travel from there by ship or boat.

Although, in ‘normal’ times, it is possible to arrange to travel by freighter to some places around the world, you can forget any such thing in a crisis.  Freighter schedules will be disrupted, the crew will board their own families, and the booking support systems for such services will cease functioning anyway.  Plus there aren’t daily departures.  You might have to wait 2 – 3 weeks, even assuming that the ship then departing would agree to accommodate you on its sailing.

Cruise ships are also unreliable as a way of bugging out somewhere, besides which they don’t really go anywhere very useful.

But it might be possible to bug out on your own boat.  You’d need to own a big boat for it to be capable of safely carrying out ocean crossings, and you’d ideally need to have three or four or more people traveling with you so as to crew the boat 24/7 while at sea.  Plan on a 50 ft or larger motor boat, or a 60 ft or larger yacht as a bare minimum size, and note that it will need to be constructed to oceangoing/passage-making standards, rather than to more common ‘floating gin palace’ standards such as you’ll see in the marinas around the coast.

The boat would also have to have the capability to travel many thousands of miles.  The longest leg of any typical international journey is about 2500 miles (ie west coast USA to Hawaii); just about all other routes can have you island and coastal hopping in shorter legs.  But this requirement to be capable of a 2500 mile voyage assumes resupply and refueling capabilities upon arriving in Hawaii; and for that matter, even the island and coastal hopping routes also assume similar refueling/resupply services at each stop.

There will be two negative impacts on your ocean voyaging after an extreme event.  The first will be disruptions to normal refueling and resupply capabilities.  The second is that lawlessness may see pirates attack your boat.   You might have heard about the Somali pirates, but piracy at a low-level, and of smaller private boats rather than large commercial ships is dismayingly common in many other parts of the world as well, including central/south America and much of Asia.  Such lawlessness can be expected to massively increase in a Level 2/3 situation.

Ideally your boat should be able to travel all the way to your destination without needing to be refueled or resupplied.  That probably means using sail power for much of your journey – while wind is free, it is also unreliable and your speed will probably halve, meaning you’ll need more provisions (and possibly more water depending on what water makers your boat has) for the journey.

Taking any boat on an ocean-going voyage is a fairly daunting and challenging experience, and sailing requires considerably more skill and experience and the speed you’ll proceed at is of course weather dependent.  You might cover less than 50 difficult miles in a day, you might cover 200.  So you have to plan for the worst, while hoping for the best.  You don’t want to find yourself becalmed in the middle of the ocean with no food and no water.  And in a situation where maybe the weather reporting services will be down, you’ll not be able to rely on state of the art assistance for finding the best routes and weather.  Oh – you’ll also have to assume that the GPS service is down too.

On the other hand, the good news is that a sailing vessel – or at least, its sail based propulsion – is EMP resistant.  But remember all the electronic accessories and other devices on the boat and be sure they are protected.

Summary

Most people will find that choosing an international location for their retreat is not a practical solution.  While, on the one hand, it might be the very best theoretical solution in terms of avoiding some types of scenarios that could massively destroy the US while leaving much of the rest of the world unharmed, the practical challenges of bugging out from one’s normal home to one’s international retreat are massive.

Most of us will find ourselves with the choice between an international retreat that has associated with it a high risk of not being able to get to it in the event a Level 2/3 situation occurs; or a domestic retreat that while not quite as effective a solution to surviving a Level 2/3 event, is much more readily reached in such a situation.

The other choice we may face is between spending our money to build a really good retreat in the US and to create a reliable way of getting there, or to spend much more money to build a retreat offshore somewhere and to drain a lot of our funds into some way of hopefully being able to get there in an emergency.

Ideally, for those with no shortage of funds, one should have both domestic and foreign retreats.  But if you have to choose between only one of these two options, most people will probably concentrate on doing the best they can with a domestic retreat.  ‘A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush’ – or, in our case, a for sure reachable retreat is much more desirable than a retreat which may be impossible to get to.

Sep 012012
 

No matter what your form of transportation, your bugging out will be better if you do it with others in a convoy.

Getting from your normal residence to your retreat during a time of emergency is something that may (or – hopefully – may not) be a difficult and challenging experience.

We all hope that due to our greater level of awareness, we’ll recognize a society-destroying event sooner than the other people around us, and so we anticipate having a head start over the rest of the population.  While others are passively waiting for the government to magically come and save them, and are anxiously eating the last of the food in their cupboards, we’re ‘getting out of Dodge’ and making our way to our retreat, wherever it may be.

But that’s a best case scenario, isn’t it.  We sometimes see how the slightest flashpoints can create sudden outbreaks of rioting and lawlessness, and particularly if the route to our retreat takes us unavoidably through other population concentrations on the way, while we can cross our fingers and hope for the best, it is more prudent to also plan for some less optimum situations as well.

Many people write about increasingly convoluted strategies to succeed in getting to one’s retreat – indeed, we write a lot on the essential topic of how to bug out, too – see our collection of articles on bugging out.

But one of the most overlooked strategies that can most directly boost the positive outcome of getting to our retreat is a very simple one.  Travel with other people.  Don’t do it alone, by yourself.

If you simply travel with a second couple or family, in a second vehicle, you then have an automatic back-up and redundancy.  Your vehicle could fail, or theirs could, and hopefully you could then all squash into the one vehicle to continue your journey.

Plus you have more skills and resources at hand.  Maybe if you have a problem with your vehicle, between the larger group of you, you will have the resources, the tools, and the spare parts to solve the problem and resume your journey.  You only need one set of tools, no matter how many vehicles in the group traveling together, so you can have some cars save weight, and/or carry more and other things instead.

There’s a very great truth in the adage ‘safety in numbers’.  Casual opportunistic ‘bandits’, rogue cops, or whatever other challenges you might face while bugging out will be more interested in picking off single vehicles without witnesses or support vehicles nearby.  In the early stages of bugging out, the various lawless groups will not yet have coalesced into any sort of organized and more formidable form, they will be ad hoc small groups of individuals seeking to prey on even smaller groups of victims.

Of course, if the people you plan to bug out with are slow and unwilling to leave when you wish to leave, you have to make a difficult decision – which is preferable?  The head start and time advantage of leaving early before a mass exodus and a rise of lawlessness making your travels both more difficult and more dangerous?  Or the extra comfort and security of having other people to travel with you?

The answer to that difficult question depends a bit on your circumstance and the route and conditions involved in traveling to your retreat.  We’d certainly advocate getting out of your city as a high priority, and maybe agreeing to meet up with other members of your community at a relatively safe location part-way along the route, in a less populated area.

This is part of the benefit of the Code Green Halfway House, for people traveling to reach the Code Green community retreat.  Even if there is no-one else in your local town, by the time you get to the Halfway House, you are likely to meet up with other people who are fanning in from other areas, and you can then travel the rest of the way in a more secure convoy.

The bottom line is clear and self-evident, but seldom stated.  No matter what mode of vehicle you are using, your bugging out plan should start with an attempt to join up with fellow preppers and to travel together.  This is clearly another reason why you need to have a retreat community, rather than just a single residence for only yourself and immediate family.

Aug 292012
 

Sometimes a motorbike will get you to your retreat more certainly than a car. And sometimes, not.

If you are as fortunate as to have a retreat location somewhere, one of your concerns is how you might get there at a time when everyone else is leaving the urban region you normally live in, too.  If you don’t already have a retreat, one of the factors that will influence where you choose to buy/build/join one will be how practical it will be for you to ‘bug out’ (also termed GOOD – Get Out Of Dodge) to your retreat WTSHTF.

Happily we generally predict that you will not encounter a terribly congested crush of people all rushing to leave your city at the same time, for the simple fact that people won’t all simultaneously choose to evacuate, and even once they’ve chosen to do so, they’ll take varying amounts of time to get prepared, into their vehicle, and to start driving.  If you act swiftly, you’ll have anywhere from an hour to a week of head start over the main crushing exodus of people.  We discuss this in detail in our article ‘Bugging Out – Easy or Hard?’.

None the less, you didn’t become a prudent prepper by only hoping for the best.  You are a prudent prepper because you consider less than optimum conditions and outcomes, and for sure, one of these would be traffic congestion that interferes with your ability to conveniently get where you need to be.

For example, if for whatever reason you end up delaying your own departure until the crowds have all started to leave, you can be sure to expect all the roads away from the center of the urban area will be clogged full of traffic, no matter where the roads go to.

The main roads out will be clogged by people heading for the major highways.  The secondary and tertiary roads will be clogged by people thinking themselves to be clever and avoiding the primary routes, but they’ll almost certainly find traffic just as bad on the secondary/tertiary roads as on the major routes.

Unless you follow our earlier advice and consider a (float) plane as a bug-out vehicle, you’ll be stuck in the same ‘parking lot’ traffic as everyone else.  Not only will this be frustrating, but it will be dangerous too.  What will people who are fleeing for their lives do when their own car runs out of gas?  What will they do when the nighttime temperatures drop way low and they’re only in shirtsleeves?  What will they do when they are hungry and thirsty?  And there you are, stalled on the road right next to them?  Or perhaps, there you are, driving slowly past the stalled traffic, a tempting target for people who have had their own transportation fail.

Furthermore, what will happen to the traffic as cars gradually run out of gas while stopped in the center lane of traffic.  Stalled vehicles – even if pushed to the sides of the road – will further block traffic and make the process even worse.

People have come up with all sorts of imaginative alternatives to using the regular family car, or even a seemingly more capable 4WD vehicle.  But few of them are practical, depending also on the weather, the terrain, and the distance you must travel.  Assuming a worst case for weather, and hoping you’re putting at least 100 miles between you and the urban area you formerly lived in, and you’ll know yourself about the terrain issues you’ll encounter along the route, it is probably the case that for most of us, walking or pedaling are not going to be appealing or feasible solutions.

SUVs and 4WDs

Many people believe they can best ensure successfully bugging out to their retreat by using a SUV/4WD vehicle.

Let’s quickly consider the popular myths about SUVs and 4WDs.  They are not go-anywhere and go-everywhere vehicles.  They’ll get bottomed out in soft snow.  They’ll slip on the ice.  They’ll get stuck in mud.  They can only travel through a foot or two’s depth of water.  They can only climb over a certain limited height of obstacles on the ground (probably less than 10″ – even a Hummer H1 only gets 16″), and they need sufficient width of clear track to drive on (seven feet, plus or minus a bit – try finding that in the bush or forest).

Most of the time, they can’t drive through fences or even knock down fence posts and gates.

Some type of 4WD/SUV can be helpful if you need to make brief excursions off the sealed road such as driving on the shoulder around a crush of stalled cars, but for true off-roading, forget it.  You need some sort of specialty vehicle, and even if it has good traction, it still needs substantial width and clearance to get around obstacles, between trees, over boulders, and so on.  Even the mighty M1 Abrams Main Battle Tank can be stopped by a tank-trap.

But there is a vehicle that suffers from very few of these constraints, and costs very much less than an M1 – less even than a well used 4WD.

Motorcycles as a Bug-out Solution

And so, after all that build up, our suggestion.  How about using a motorcycle.

The obvious downsides to a motorbike are the limitation on the stuff you can bring with you, and your exposure to the elements (and possibly to hostile nearby citizens too).

But there are two huge upsides.  The first is the ability to get through stalled vehicular traffic.  The second is to engage in some reasonably extensive off-roading if there is no easy way to get where you need to go via regular surface streets and routes.

In this first part of our series on motorbikes, we look at some of the key things to consider.  Subsequently we’ll look at some innovative ways to make motorbikes more practical and useful.

Power

You don’t need nearly as powerful a bike as you may think you need.  You’re not going to be wanting to set any speed records while bugging out (and you’ll probably not need to worry about being chased as part of the process).  Getting a more powerful bike does not mean you are getting a more reliable or useful bike – in fact, it means quite the opposite.

A more powerful bike will have a bigger engine, which means it will be a heavier bike.  If the bike falls over, it will be harder to pick up.  If you’re having to man-handle the bike to maneuver over and around obstacles, this will be more difficult.

A more powerful bike probably has more cylinders, and from our perspective, added cylinders don’t add to a vehicle’s redundancy and make it more reliable, they add to the vehicle’s complexity and make it more likely to have a maintenance issue at the very wrong time.

More powerful bikes might need a reverse gear (another complication) and an electric starter (another complication).  Oh, they’ll also cost you more money, too.

The more powerful bike will probably also have lower fuel economy, which leads to the next consideration.

Range

This can be a constraining issue with a motorbike.  Whereas with a car or truck, you can load up the vehicle with extra fuel and not greatly impact on the vehicle’s driveability, it is harder to add extra petrol tanks to a motorbike.

Assuming you have a smaller sized bike and moderate sized engine, you can realistically expect, after exercising a bit of care in model selection, to find a bike giving you 40 – 65 mpg.  Some give even better performance, including, strangely enough, the classic old British Royal Enfields (now made in India) which offer about 80 mpg.

Four-stroke bikes are more economical than two-stroke bikes.

The second issue that determines your bike’s range is how many gallons of gas does its tank hold?  Many bikes seem to hold something like 2.5 gallons or so; some bikes will hold as little as a gallon, and larger bikes will hold 4 – 5 gallons.

It is usually possible to have the standard tank on motorbikes with small takes replaced with a larger sized tank, which will typically increase its capacity up to 4.5 – 5 gallons.  And if you wanted to pay for a custom designed tank, you can probably increase this capacity even further.  A gallon of gas takes up 231 cubic inches – think of a cube measuring 6″ on each side, and that holds about a gallon inside it.  So even adding just an inch or so in some of the dimensions of the gas tank can have a significant impact on its capacity.  Another way to think of a gallon is to think of the large 2L bottles of soda or water in supermarkets – they are almost exactly half a gallon.

You can of course carry external extra tanks of gas, either in a backpack or attached to the bike in some appropriate form.  A gallon of gas weighs just over 6lbs (plus container weight); so a 15 lb container will hold about 2 gallons of gas.  Carrying 2 – 4 gallons of extra gas with you is neither too bulky nor too heavy, although of course, if you are carrying extra petrol, you probably should transfer it into the bike’s tank at the first opportunity so as to unburden yourself from the extra bulk and weight of carrying it.

So, with 4.5 gallons or more in the bike’s tank to start, and another say 4 gallons in additional fuel carried with you, you’ve conveniently got 8.5 gallons of gas, which at somewhere from 40 – 80 mpg will get you 300 – 650 miles.  In theory.

But note that, for most bikes, the fuel economy figures assume driving down the highway, at a nice constant untroubled 50 – 60 mph or so.  Struggling up hillsides in first gear will get you massively less economy than cruising on the seal.  Being jammed in stop and go traffic (not such an issue on a bike) will also drop your economy appreciably.  In the case of a bike, you’ll not be so much stuck in the stop and go traffic as very carefully driving between cars at maybe 10 – 20 mph, and that’s usually a less economical speed than at 40+ mph.

So you’ll need to adjust your theoretical perfect fuel economy and range for the reality of what you think it will take for you to get where you need to go.

Which leads to the next point.

How Far to Cover in a Day

Driving a motorbike is much more physically stressful than driving a car.  In a car you are in a comfortable air-conditioned and quiet vehicle, you’ve no wind or rain blowing in your face, few bumps, and you can turn up the stereo and relax away the miles for a full day.

On a bike you’re experiencing some degree of discomfort at the best of times, exacerbated by the wind pushing back at you, flying things getting in your face, mouth, eyes and everywhere, possibly rain and mud, loud noises, and temperatures that are inevitably too hot or too cold.

You’re also working much harder mentally as well as physically.  On a bike, you become magically semi-invisible to regular motorists, and you need to always be in a heightened state of alertness, ready for the cars around you to do incredibly dangerous things because they just didn’t notice you.  The motorcyclist’s mantra is that ‘On a bike, you pay for other people’s mistakes’.

If we further assume that you’re riding your bike in otherwise stalled traffic, you’re going to be slowly passing between stalled vehicles, terrified of doors suddenly opening in front of you (either by accident or deliberately by jealous frustrated annoyed motorists who hate to see someone else enjoying more success leaving the city than they are).  When you’re not doing that, you might be doing some uncomfortable, difficult and physically stressful off-roading to detour around impassable or dangerous groups of cars.

So you can’t go nearly as far as you think you can in a day when riding a bike.  Even in the most optimum of conditions, you should plan on riding less distance than you’d drive ‘normally’.  In a G.O.O.D. situation, perhaps you might find that 200 – 300 miles a day is close to realistic.

If your retreat is 400 miles away, we’d probably encourage you to try to get all the way there in a single day, depending on time of year/weather/traffic.  But if it is 500 miles away, you may need to plan on spending a night somewhere – even out in the open – as part of your journey.  Such a consideration has suddenly massively increased the inconvenience of traveling by motorbike, if you need to carry with you not only extra fuel but also equipment to camp out overnight, too.

On the other hand, see your glass as half full, not half empty!  You’re using a bike rather than car because a car might not be able to make it at all.  At least the motorbike will get you where you need to go, whereas the car might fail totally.

Note – the preceding comments are generalities.  You should adapt them to reflect the reality of the driving conditions you anticipate experiencing.  If you have a couple of difficult mountain passes to cross, and if you have several major cities you’ll have to drive through on the way, then by all means low-ball your daily driving.  If it is mid-winter with snow, drop your estimate still further (see our discussion on weather in part 2 of this series).  But if you expect to be racing along nearly empty and flat straight warm desert roads, then you can push out the amount of driving you will do to a much greater distance.

Summary

This is the first part of what will be a three part series.  You should read on to parts two and three (when published) to get further advice and suggestions as to how to plan to use a motorbike (or motorbikes) as part or all of your bugging-out strategy.

Jul 082012
 

The Maverick Flying Car offers a novel way to possibly make your way to your retreat.

One of the greatest concerns for most preppers is how to get acceptably close to a ‘five nines’ (ie 99.999%) certainty that, in an extreme situation, they can be guaranteed the ability to safely and successfully travel from their normal residence to their retreat.

We’ve discussed the subject from several perspectives in other articles (here’s the category listing for our articles about bugging out) and for people who are choosing to participate in the Code Green community, we are preparing a ‘Halfway House‘ to make it easier to travel to our retreat location.

But the concern unavoidably remains.  As preppers, we necessarily need to prudently consider not only best case scenarios, but also scenarios moving closer and closer to the ultimate worst case, and to establish a level of preparedness and response that we feel represents the best compromise, for each of us, between likely risks, prioritized preparations and – the ultimate constraint for many of us – associated costs.

Here’s a novel new concept that we offer as much for thought as for serious consideration, but which might prove to be of practical interest to some people – the Maverick flying car.

This is one of the more practical car/plane combinations that we’ve seen.  We’ve been following the concept of flying cars for decades, and it is a subject marked primarily by hype and disappointment – by extravagant promises (and even more extravagant associated costs of ownership) and subsequent failures to deliver and failed ventures.

But the Maverick flying car seems to actually make good on its promises, and may offer a practical solution for people who feel unable to rely on road based travel to their retreat, but who don’t wish to commit to the substantial cost and additional complicating factors of a fully aviation based method of travel.

The Maverick is at its best on the road with, among other things, a top speed in the realm of 100 mph and a 0-60 time of 3.9 seconds, as well as some off-road capabilities too which could be helpful if needing to take marginal alternate routes.  It offers a generous 450 mile range, more or less, based on a 30 mpg fuel consumption.  If you drove it carefully on sealed roads at steady speeds, we are certain you’d get appreciably improved range.

If you face obstacles or problems on the road, however, you need only 100 yards to take-off and get airborne (and subsequently you can land in a similarly short distance).  Note that these distances assume no immediate vertical obstacles – if there was a cliff face immediately at the end of the 100 yd take-off distance you’d have a problem!

Note also these vehicles presumably have some weather limitations in terms of the amount of wind and cross wind that can be present to allow them to safely take off and land.  And, with an open cab, you’d want to be sure to be bundled up very warmly before setting off on your journey, especially in winter time.

Range Issues

The vehicle has a greatly reduced range when airborne – in theory about 120 miles.  This would be insufficient for most bugging out purposes, but needs to be considered from two perspectives.

The first perspective is to appreciate that the vehicle is primarily a road vehicle.  You would transition to flight only to bypass obstacles on your path – for example, unplowed roads impassable due to snow, bridges that had fallen, trees blocking the road, or traffic jams.  Maybe you’d actually be able to go all the way to your retreat without needing to take-off at all.

The second perspective is to understand that the stated range – three hours flying time at a cruising speed of 40 mph – assumes a normal weight load on the craft.  There are two strategies to greatly increase the vehicle’s flying range.  The first is simply to overload the vehicle beyond its officially rated capacity.  Its normal certification is for a maximum gross weight of 1320 lbs, but if you fill out paperwork and pay a fee, the FAA will allow the vehicle to operate with a higher maximum gross weight of 1430 lbs.  That extra 110 lbs could be in the form of extra petrol.  The weight of petrol varies with its temperature and specific formulation, but as a rule of thumb, assume 6.25lbs per gallon of petrol, and so 110 lbs equates to 17.5 gallons (assuming you don’t need extra containers) which would give you another 140 airborne miles or 525 road miles, or a mix of both.

Indeed, you can overload the vehicle more than that.  The manufacturer has tested the vehicle at 1500 lbs – a further 70 lbs of weight or 11.2 gallons of gas, giving still more range (90 miles of flight, 170 miles on roads).

There’s another possibility too.  Instead of driving/flying the vehicle with a partner, fly it solo.  The weight that would have been your companion can be fuel instead.

So, one way or another, it seems realistic to expect something in excess of a 750 miles range if driven on the road, and each mile of flight would subtract almost 4 miles from the road range – for example, you could fly 50 miles and drive 560 miles, giving you more than 600 miles of combined air/ground travel.

One last thing about range.  Remember that when you’re flying, you can travel ‘as the crow flies’, in a straight line.  This can be a much more direct path than if you are having to follow every curve and twist and turn on a surface road.  100 miles in a straight line by air is considerably more than 100 miles on the ground.

Summary

Our retreat can only be useful to us if we can be sure of getting there.  Depending on the type of situation that has triggered your decision to ‘bug out’ and to move to your retreat, your normal travel experience may become more challenging.  Indeed, even in normal times, if your route involves mountain passes that can sometimes be closed due to heavy snowfalls in the winter, you may occasionally have problems getting where you need to go.

If the route to your retreat involves a tricky mountain pass in the winter, and/or possibly a major city that you wanted to be able to detour, this ‘mixed mode’ method of bugging out might be ideal and give you the certainty and reassurance you need.

The Maverick ‘flying car’ currently sells for $94,000.  We’ve not seen or flown one, and this is not an endorsement, merely an informational article – you’d need to do your own further research to see if they represent a practical concept for you to consider.  More details on their website and here’s a link to a detailed six page fact sheet.

The FAA has even created a special category of pilot license that is easier to qualify for to enable you to lawfully fly these types of  craft.

Jun 212012
 

The popular 1960s tv comedy Green Acres told of a city slicker couple’s challenges adapting to the countryside. Don’t let it put you off considering a similar strategy.

Most preppers seek to cling to their current lifestyles as long as possible.  This is as true of the surgeon with his $500,000+ income as it is an office or blue-collar worker with a $50,000- income.

So people prepare for an alternate life and alternate world that would greet them if/when they ever needed to respond to a Level 2/3 scenario and evacuate to their carefully prepared retreat, while maintaining their current vulnerable lifestyle.  Their preparations embody a mix of anxious concern and desire to retain as much of life’s current experiences and perceived benefits as possible, for as long as possible.

Don’t get us wrong.  This is understandable.  We all have many ties that bind us to our current lives and communities.  There are our jobs, of course.  Maybe we have children (or, for that matter, aged parents) who also cause us to want to stay in an area.  There is our established network of friend and contacts, our current reasonably optimized lifestyle and residence, and, of course, there is inertia, resistance to change, and fear of the unknown.

There is also the fact that most of us currently live in medium/large sized cities, which for all their vulnerabilities and challenges also provide great convenience in terms of a wider range of shopping opportunities, entertainment, health-care, education, and just about everything compared to what we’d experience in the typically much smaller communities we’d move to if bugging out to our retreat location.

We repeat.  These are all valid points, and for many people, it makes sense to continue to lead their present life as best they can, while also prudently preparing for a possible future breakdown in current lifestyles.

In these cases, you of course also need to consider how you’ll get to your retreat WTSHTF and what the ‘trigger events’ are that would cause you to start such a process.  There’s no point in having a retreat waiting for you if you can’t get to it; and if an EMP disables your vehicle, or if an earthquake or other natural disaster closes the roads, or if a mass exodus of fellow citizens clogs the roads to the point of impossibility, the issue of how to get to the retreat suddenly changes from already potentially challenging to a massive problem (but not one without solutions).

We have an entire section of this site with helpful articles about ‘bugging out’ and evacuating to a retreat.

There is also the consideration that if you did suddenly need to withdraw to your retreat, you’d be arriving ‘cold’.  Sure, you might have a supply of long-life seeds to make a start on gardening whenever the next growing season begins, and sure, you probably have plenty of dried and other food stored to tide you over until you get closer to self-sufficiency, but the fact remains that you’re suddenly jumping into the deep end of the pool, with perhaps untested skills, untested resources, and untested just about everything.

This is a bit of a worry.  If you’ve not had some seasons of crop planting, you really don’t know what to expect in terms of water and fertilizer, soil quality, bugs and diseases, yields, and so on.  You don’t know which crops will grow best and which don’t really work as well as expected.  You’re not sure if your projections and assumptions are valid or not.

You’re also appearing ‘out of nowhere’ and hoping to be accepted into whatever local community exists in the area at a time when all such communities will become very inward looking and resistant to welcoming in more outsiders – unless, of course, such outsiders bring with them definite skills or resources that will clearly benefit the community.

There are strategies and approaches to managing these considerations.  None of these issues are ‘fatal’ or without solutions.

For example, some people have caretakers already residing at their retreat location, with the caretaker or caretakers managing the farming of the land and other aspects of the retreat, so that you’d arrive to find successful ongoing sustaining operations underway, and an established history and knowledge of what grows and how to grow it best.  If a location is well-chosen and being well farmed, these caretakers will pay their own way and maybe even generate a bit of profit too.  There’s no downside and a lot of upside to that type of situation.

If you choose the lower cost option of joining a Code Green Community, you’d also be moving to an area that was already underway with farming operations, and you’d simply help ramp up those activities (and possibly also compensate with more manpower due to the use of machinery becoming more constrained).  This addresses many of the problems of moving to an area ‘cold’, with no contacts, no community, and no experience and knowledge of what to expect.

Even if you do simply arrive ‘cold’ to your own retreat, that’s not the worst outcome, particularly if you are well stocked with supplies and have been careful in how you’ve projected your future sustainability activities so as to protect yourself from any nasty surprises.

But there’s another alternative too – the one we hint at in our title above and discuss below.  Bear with us as we set the scene, then reveal the solution.

A Growing Economic Vulnerability

Many people have never really stopped to question the assumptions that have defined, driven, and constrained their lives to date.

Certainly, our modern society is a self-sustaining and self-reinforcing concept, with huge vested interests urging us to conform and consume.  Imagine what would happen if people stopped buying new cars as regularly as they currently do.  Imagine what would happen if people stopped eating out as often as they do.  If they stopped buying designer clothing and up-market brand accessories.  If they downsized their home.  If they stopped wasting so much food that is thrown out uneaten.  And so on.  If they abandoned the siren-call of fashion and wore generic clothing for multiple seasons, repairing as necessary, rather than changing wardrobes every year.

Our lives have become trapped in a spiral of diminishing returns.  We have to work harder to pay for the time-saving indulgences we both enjoy and also need due to working so hard.  The economy as a whole relies on people continuing to spend, spend, spend way more than they actually need to.  If we – and everyone else – stopped spending so much, the economy would collapse like a popped balloon, and rather than all being better off, we’d find our jobs disappearing and we’d end up being worse off.

We don’t wish to sound ‘counter-culture’, and indeed, we engage in many of these activities ourselves.  But when we talk about the vulnerabilities of cities and modern society, there’s this underlying economic vulnerability too – our economy, in the US more so than just about anywhere else, is built on this assumption of ongoing conspicuous/unnecessary consumption.  We have more retail stores per head of population than any other country in the world, we eat out more than any other country, we have more, newer and larger cars than any other country, larger houses, and so on.

Some of this is benign and good and is a happy result of our nation’s extraordinary economic success and strength over the last 100+ years.  But some of it is the result of careful marketing and social manipulation, subtly encouraging us to view things as ‘must have’ items when in reality they are very optional, and then creating huge economic drivers (like the auto industry) which rely on people continuing to embrace the unnecessary levels of expenditure and consumption.

Few people have stopped to question the assumptions that are automatically made about their lifestyles.  Whether it is social pressures (‘keeping up with the neighbors’) or personal indulgence or whatever else, we happily follow in step with the rest of society, spending more and working more to pay for the extra and unnecessary expenditures we make.

But all of this points to a growing economic vulnerability – our nation’s overall economic activity these days seems to be in largest part either the government deliberately spending money it doesn’t have or else our own spending money we don’t really need to spend.  Things of real value are being neglected, while things of abstract value are being worshipped (Is/was Facebook really worth $100 billion – a website that actually contributes nothing to our essential lives?).

We’ve built a house of cards, and there is a growing risk it could all come crashing down.

Confronting the Uncertainties in Our Current Lives

As we prep for the unknown future, we are thinking primarily in the terms of disasters that are national – or at least, extensively distributed over a number of states – in scope.  A complete loss of the power grid.  An EMP.  An influenza pandemic and the breakdown in society that could follow.  An asteroid strike.  Or whatever else.

But there is another type of possible disaster, too.  A personal level disaster that impacts only on us.  The loss of our job, and possibly the inability to get a replacement job.  This could happen for any number of reasons, most outside our control.

All of a sudden, we’d find ourselves with the lifestyle that assumes ongoing oversized paychecks every month, but without the paychecks.

Sure, we’d cut back, but we still would be obliged to make the payments on any debt we have (car loans, credit card balances, etc).  We’d still have the monthly costs of our primary dwelling.  And if we’re no longer working, once the unemployment benefits ran out, we’d have no income source at all until such time as we could land another job.

Can you see where this is going?

Bugging Out Very Early

We’re merely inviting and encouraging you to think about the implications of making a major lifestyle change, on your own terms and timetable, not after it is too late, but when you still have options and can fully optimize what you’re doing.

What say you sold off your current house (if you own one) and moved to your retreat.  What say you quit your current job, or at the very least, downgrade it to a limited amount of part-time tele-commute type work from your retreat.  What say you cut down or eliminate entirely much of the unnecessary extravagances in your life.  Take a zero off your clothing and shoe budgets, for example.  Take a zero off your eating out and entertainment budgets too.  Swap expensive nights out at restaurants, shows and clubs for inexpensive nights in with good friends and family – the pleasure you’ll derive will be the same, but the cost will be much less.  Keep cars for 150,000 miles or more.  Borrow books and videos from the local library.  Cook food from raw ingredients, rather than buy it pre-processed and pre-cooked.

And what say you become a Code Green community pathfinder now.  Or perhaps take up or create some sort of small country business type activity in the nearby town or village your retreat is close to.  Or become a farmer and start working your land; maybe growing crops, maybe raising animals (or both).

Your outgoings would massively collapse down, so you wouldn’t need to earn nearly as much to keep ahead of your bills.  You could choose to adopt a more leisurely, relaxed type of lifestyle where quality of life becomes more real and possible.

What we’re suggesting you evaluate is creating a sustainable quality lifestyle now – a lifestyle that would change only somewhat if TEOTWAWKI should occur.  You’d not only be fully prepped with very little at risk or vulnerable, but you might discover a peace and contentment that has been lost sight of in many people’s lives and lifestyles.

There’s nothing revolutionary about this suggestion or this lifestyle.  You don’t need to become a hippy, grow a beard, and wear a peace symbol round your neck.  You simply switch from being a city-dweller living a city lifestyle, to becoming a country resident living a country lifestyle.

People have been living semi-self-contained and semi-self-sufficient lifestyles for hundreds of years.  It has formerly been the norm that a farmer grows enough food for his own family and some surplus to trade with at the town market for the other things he can’t grow or make himself.  It is only in the last 150 years or so, since industrialization and mass production, that people have shifted from directly making the essentials for their life and sustenance, and now working in ‘derivative’ jobs removed from the actual farm land or factory floor.  It is still possible to lead a good life with a ‘real’ rather than ‘artificial’ job, creating real goods or providing real services, rather than being some sort of abstract ‘knowledge’ type worker.  Oh, we’re not knocking knowledge workers per se (guess what we are!) but merely pointing out that much of our society these days is involved in jobs that don’t actually ensure the strength, security and success of the society.

A Huge Change – But Don’t Dismiss it Outright

We’re not expecting you to stop at this point and say ‘Oh my gosh.  You are so right!’ and immediately chuck in your job, and move tomorrow to the countryside.  That would be foolish.

But we are asking/suggesting you don’t do the opposite – you don’t instead sneer and say ‘That’s the stupidest thing I’ve read today’ and click away from the site, never to return.

Instead, think about the concept.  Let it settle and develop.  Occasionally think about how you could change or restructure your life, and then, on a planned basis and on your own terms, you can make the changes in your life to enable this shift of life style.

This could be the best type of prepping at all – changing your life now, on your terms, so that whatever happens in the future, you’ll not be as massively affected by it as you would be with no changes.

This is the ultimate in prepping.  It will take time to master.  🙂

Jun 012012
 

The Prepper’s Nightmare – A jam-packed freeway trapping him in the city he’s trying to evacuate.

One of the things we think about and try to anticipate and prepare for is how to leave our normal residences and ‘bug out’ to our retreats in a Level 2/3 situation.

There is a general assumption that in such an event, all roads out of the town/city we live in will be jam-packed with everyone else, all fleeing the city, too.  This makes intuitive sense – but the intuitive sense is based on an assumption we shouldn’t make.  This assumption is that everyone else will be thinking like us and acting like us at the same time.

Let’s face it – few people think like us or act like us today, and so it seems unreasonable to assume that immediately after TSHTF, there will suddenly be a city-wide conversion to our mindset and values, and everyone will lemming-like follow everyone else, and stream out of the city simultaneously.

We think – we don’t know for certain, of course, none of us do; but we think/hope that the reality of how the public will respond to such an event might show much less uniform consensus of opinion and action.

There are several reasons for thinking this.

1.  Home is the Safest Most Welcoming Place for Most

Firstly, if something massively life changing does occur, most people’s natural instinctive reaction will be to retreat to their place of greatest comfort and safety.  For people with no retreat awaiting their arrival, that place will be wherever they currently live, or maybe with other friends/family, who are probably located somewhere in the immediate vicinity.

Children may choose to return to their parents (eg college kids), and grandparents might choose to move in with their children, but these would most commonly be movements within the local area.  If they involved longer travel, the movements probably wouldn’t be initiated immediately, and in any event would most likely be from one major city to another major city – unlike us; we’ll be moving out of the cities entirely to our more rural retreats.

Not many people have refuges elsewhere that await their arrival, so both the ability and the urge to evacuate will be very low in most people’s minds.

2.  Waiting for the Government to Save the Day

Secondly, most people will passively expect ‘the government’ to ‘do something’ to save them.  It will take days or even weeks for it to be apparent that the government and its resources are stretched beyond breaking point and unable to provide the care and assistance they need.

Most people have become so conditioned to expecting any type of help for any type of problem to be available close to immediately, just by calling 911 in an emergency, or some other type of support organization in less dire scenarios, that it will take some time for the ugly reality to finally be accepted for what it is, and for them to realize that they are truly on their own.

As an amusing related thought, while most people expect the government to do something to help, they have also become accustomed to some government inefficiencies and delays, so the first few days of nothing happening will be accepted without panic or overly great concern.  With annoyance, yes.  But panic, probably not.

3.  False Reassurance from Public Figures and Media

Thirdly, if any type of central authority and government functionality survives whatever the Level 2/3 event is, their immediate response to the population as a whole will be a calming one, telling people to stay calm, not to act rashly, not to rush out and buy up all the food and resources they can, and to patiently wait for the authorities to impose a new form of order and structure.

There is no way any politician or other public official will ever willingly or prematurely say ‘I relinquish all my power, I have completely failed and am unable to help, you’re on your own’.  Neither will they say ‘OMG!  It is the end of the world as we know it!’  Instead they’ll utter meaningless platitudes advising people to be calm and patient, and reassuring us that the authorities are rushing to do all they can to help.  In other words, ‘Trust us, we’re from the government, and we’ll be there to help you – real soon now’.

The main stream news media will adopt their mantle of false statesmanlike behavior and will also counsel their audiences to remain calm and trust in the authorities.

The few people who realize the truth are more likely to ‘get out of Dodge’ as quickly as they can, on their own, rather than to make the process of getting out of Dodge more difficult than it might already be, and so they can be first to find an alternate place to settle in for the duration of the emergency.  If anyone does make public their concerns, they’ll be jeered at for being defeatist or alarmist.

4.  Inability to Evacuate

Some people simply won’t be able to evacuate an area, whether they want to or not.

This might be because they don’t have transportation, or the transportation they do have is inadequate, or because they have insufficient gas in their tank to drive more than a very short distance.

Due to not all people always filling their tank all the way to the top when they stop for gas, it is a fair guess that fewer than half the cars on the road, at any given moment, have more than half a tank of gas in them, and most of those people don’t have any additional gas supplies at home.

Like it or not, most people are limited to being able to drive no more than one or at the most two hundred miles, purely due to having insufficient gas.

Realization of Reality Will be Slow and Gradual

We are keyed up with our bug-out bags, our bug-out vehicles, and have already mentally accepted the possibility that life as we know it could end without warning at any time.  We would not have so much mental inertia to overcome, and would not need to do so much prior to commencing an evacuation from the city.

We can be out the door and on the way to our retreat in a very short period of time measured in possibly minutes, and certainly no more than hours.  But most of our neighbors will still be wondering what happened, and what will happen next to restore life back to normal, watching us from behind their curtains as we back our car out of the driveway or parking lot on the way to the main road out of town.

We have tried to think of Level 2/3 type events that would result in an instant mass exodus of people, and we’ve not been able to do so (can you?).  Just about every event is likely to see most people wait in the safety of their homes for some magical government agency to come and ‘make things right’ for them.

The only possible exceptions we’ve come up with are things like tsunamis or nuclear incidents.  But we keep circling back to the issue – where would people go to instead?  City dwellers look to their city services for support, not to farmers in the countryside (if they even think of such people at all).  The countryside, to many city folks, is ’empty’ and lacking in support resources.

For those people who aren’t quite so passively peaceful, if they don’t have somewhere to go that offers better safety/security/survival, it will take them more time to get sufficiently motivated to turn their back on their homes and lives and hit the road, going who knows where – possibly ‘from the frying pan into the fire’.  In a major/national Level 2/3 event, there will not be any obviously ‘better’ places to evacuate to.

For example, a failure of the electricity grid – many people will think ‘There’s no power anywhere in the country, so it makes no sense to leave my home and city, because nowhere is any better off’.  That is false reasoning, as you well know.  These people aren’t thinking ‘Not only is there no electricity, but soon there will be no water or food either, and there’ll be riots and looting as starving people do whatever they can to find food in a city that has none’.

But the time to educate your neighbors of the fallacy of their reasoning is not then.  Now, you can gently attempt to share your beliefs with them.  But after a Level 2/3 event, the rules have changed, and they are now on their own, because you too are on your own, with only the support of other participative members of your prepping community to count on.  Anyone else is dead weight, is ‘overhead’ and merely stretches your scarce and precious resources further.

A Situation When Traffic Might be Jammed

About the only situation we can think of which would cause a worst-case scenario would be some sort of evacuation call by the authorities – activating the ’emergency broadcast system’ (do you even know what that is and how it would work?) sort of thing and compelling everyone to urgently evacuate an area.  Perhaps this could be due to a tsunami expected to hit in some hours time, a hurricane in some days time, or a nuclear power plant becoming uncontrollable.

What other types of catastrophic events would have enough lead time to allow for a warning and people to respond to that warning?  We’d be lucky to get 15 – 20 minutes warning of an incoming ICBM;  and probably less by the time the warning finally reached us directly.  An earthquake or solar storm/electricity grid failure – probably no warning at all.

Should You Plan for the Best or the Worst?

Now for the really ugly question.  Should you plan your bug-out strategy based on a best case scenario – ie, empty roads, a full tank of gas and plenty more at as many freeway gas stations as you care to stop at, and a fully working vehicle?  Or is an essential part of prepping the initial assumption that things will not be ‘best case’ in any respect?

In other words, on a continuum from a pleasant Sunday afternoon drive, without the traffic at one extreme; and a grueling overland trek, fighting off crazed hordes of zombies at every turn at the other extreme; where do you decide to set your own marker for the degree of planning and preparation necessary?

That’s a decision only you can make.  But we will say that if you’ve had sufficient foresight to invest potentially hundreds of thousands of dollars, maybe even millions of dollars, in a remote rural retreat, it would be a terrible shame if you didn’t spend a few more thousands/tens of thousands of dollars to guarantee your ability to make it to your retreat in adverse circumstances.

May 132012
 

Initially it will be ‘other people’ and ‘bad people’ rioting and looting. But within a week or two, it will be your neighbors, too.

We came across an interesting article on a survivalist blog.  The writer said he believed that too many people are being too negative in terms of their projections about what will happen after TEOTWAWKI.

This writer spoke about his belief in the basic goodness of the American people, and offered up various high-minded platitudes to this effect.  As well as platitudes, he also described in some detail a scenario that he believed would apply.

Basically, it was the ‘neighborhood watch on steroids’ concept, where the residents in a neighborhood all banded together to defend themselves against roving gangs of looters and rioters.

A mean-minded person would point out that his reference to roving gangs of goblins already acknowledged that cities would become lawless to a greater or lesser extent.  But let’s not score points through rhetoric, and let’s concentrate instead on the viability of smaller neighborhood communities managing to keep law and order within their own cul-de-sac or apartment complex or gated community or whatever.

He added the comment ‘around where I live, there are more rifles than people’; that may or may not be true about where you live, but it doesn’t really matter and obscures an appreciation of the issues that do matter.

Let’s simply agree with this optimistic view of the future – that you and your neighbors have lots of weapons, are decent honest people, and you all effectively band together harmoniously and create your own micro-community and safe zone, keeping the goblins away.

Bravo.

But….

What happens next?

By this we simply mean, what happens when food starts to run low in your little micro-community? We see three breakdown events occurring in the days after the creation of your neighborhood cooperative.

First Breakdown

The first level of breakdown will be when your tiny self-defense cooperative is first formed.  What’s the betting that part of the deal will be the organizers saying ‘We need to join together and pool our resources for our shared common good’.  Now that all sounds fine and dandy when they’re saying ‘We all need to take turns watching out for raiders and repelling them’ but the chances they are also saying ‘And let’s pool all our food and other survival resources’.

So right from day one, you’ll be under pressure from your fellow law-abiding neighbors to share away everything you have to help them.  In return for this, they are offering additional security – ostensibly from others outside your neighborhood, but the unwritten unstated ugliness is you’re also getting security from them, too.

However, let’s say this is not a problem.  Maybe you are all equally prepared, so redistribution of all your supplies has little effect.

Second Breakdown

But now for stage two.  Some people in your community have strangely used up their share of the pooled community supplies much faster than others.  Are they secretly hoarding food?  Eating twice as much as anyone else?  Or just being wasteful?  Whatever the cause, your community and you now have your second social crisis.  Do you reward these people’s bad behavior and give them more food – especially because, at this point, everyone’s supplies are now diminishing.

With any measure of remaining civilization, this is almost certainly what will happen, because not only will some people be lobbying for more food, half the other people will also be looking ahead to the point where they too will be needing support from anyone who still has surplus food.  So they’ll support the concept of daily redistributions of food based on need, because they see themselves becoming net beneficiaries of the policy, too.  A bit like taxing a few wealthy people to feed the many poor people, right?

Besides which, while you might have had to shoot at and maybe even hit looters attempting to attack your community, they have all been strangers at a distance, and there’s been a life or death, them or us, element to the encounter.  But are you to let one of your neighbors starve in front of you?  And will they just passively starve while you continue to eat, or will they fight you to get your food?

The outcome of this second breakdown is almost certain – you give up still more of your own prepared supplies in exchange for a little bit more peace and safety within your community.

Third Breakdown

Now for stage three, and this is the point where we feel we must surely ‘win’ the argument (we use quotes, because we wish we were wrong, but we fear we are right).

You’re now at the point where everyone in your community group has exhausted their food supplies.  What do you do now?

Your choices are starkly simple.  You stay where you are, and slowly starve to death, or alternatively, you do whatever it takes to get additional food for your friends, your families, and yourselves.

This is the point where all community members, of all communities, have no choice but to become ‘lawless looters’ – except that it won’t just be empty stores you’ll be smashing into to steal food from.  The stores will already have been emptied, days or weeks ago.  The only places where you can get food now are places where people still have food and are protecting their food from people like – yes, from people like you.

What do you do when your polite request for a gift of food is rebuffed?  What do you do after you’ve offered to pay them with money, with valuables, with anything at all they care to ask for, and they’ve still refused to sell/exchange even a single food item?

Most people will manage to become morally outraged at this, and so will then see what happens next not as their own transition to a lawless looter, but instead, they’ll see themselves as morally empowered to fairly redistribute the remaining food and to stop selfish people from illegally hoarding more food than they could ever truly need.

These people will not see themselves as killing the current lawful owners of whatever food remains.  They’ll see themselves saving the lives of many others when they secure the food and redistribute it.

Indeed, what passes for the remaining lawful authorities will probably pass urgent laws making it illegal to keep more than a day or two of food in one’s house, requiring ‘hoarders’ to give up their food, and authorizing any necessary level of force to take it from these demon selfish ‘hoarders’.  (Do we need to add that the people passing such laws are very unlikely to be preppers?)

The Life or Death Question That Has Only One Answer

We agree with the person who wrote the positive heartwarming article.  Many communities will band together to create isolated pockets of safety where the rule of law prevails.  Maybe even entire towns and cities will do so.

But what happens when the food runs out?  Let’s assume there’s less than a week of food for the community.  Maybe on half rations, that will keep people reasonably healthy and comfortable for two weeks.  But if there’s no clear sign of food resupply coming any time soon, at some point people will be forced to choose between taking food by force from wherever they can find it, or passively dying of starvation in their dwellings.

A starving person has no choice – they have to do whatever it takes to find food.

How Fast Will the Collapse Occur

Probably the total collapse of society doesn’t occur instantly.  Depending on the nature of the Level 2/3 event, it may take some days or even weeks for a clear understanding of the changed world to be broadly accepted.

Maybe the authorities will succeed in maintaining order to start with.  But police and national guardsmen have to eat, too, and so do their families.  This sets in place another no-win situation.  Either the security forces are given food while the rest of the population starves, or else the security forces starve alongside the population as a whole.

In the former case, the alienation between the communities and the security forces will grow to the point where ordinary people will no longer feel inhibited at revolting against uniformed officers with guns and badges.  In the latter case, the security forces won’t hesitate too long to join in the lawlessness themselves, because if they don’t, they’ll die.

Things might slowly decay over the course of a week or two – maybe even three or four, but if populations can’t eat lawfully, they’ll do whatever it takes to get food, any way they can.

And because of the very nature of cities and our country today, there is no way that urban concentrations can become self-supporting.  Some cities have a million or more people, and little or no food growing resources within 100 miles.

Do you know how much food a typical person needs to eat every day?  Let’s say, on low rations, they need half a pound of solids (plus lots of water).  That is 500,000 lbs of solids every day – 250 tons of food a day to support a million people.  Where will 250 tons of food a day come from?

People can’t start planting gardens today and harvesting enough food to live tomorrow.  Apartment dwellers can’t do it at all.  People with yards would need seed, fertilizer, and patience – what say the Level 2/3 event comes just after the end of a growing season, with perhaps 200 non-growing days now to wait through before seed can be sown and crops started?

Without the promise of adequate resupplies of food, there is no avoiding this outcome.  Level 3 events, by definition, imply no resupply for over a year, Level 2 events for somewhere between some weeks and a year or so.

The collapse will come, at a rate determined by the remaining supply of food and the certainty of future resupply.  The cities will become totally lawless and anarchistic, and the former city dwellers will necessarily stream out from the cities in their essential quest for food.

These people will stop only when they find food or die.

What You Must Do

Prepping for a Level 2 or 3 event must start from the decision that you will abandon your urban residence and flee to a safer retreat, far from urban concentrations of people.

Stockpiling food in an urban location will only result in it being taken from you and you finding yourself no better equipped to survive than the unprepared people all around you.

You must develop a plan to leave the city and to live in a place where you have stockpiled food and where you can transition to a self-contained and sustainable lifestyle.  City living does not, will not, and can not allow for this.

Are We Being Too Optimistic?

You might think this article is negative – perhaps even too negative.  So please now consider reading an article based on comments from a veteran police officer, but if you don’t have the time to read the entire article, its title will give you a clue as to what it says :  Cities Will Collapse Even Sooner Than We Fear.

May 122012
 

Why limit yourself to small floatplanes. The updated G-111 Grumman Albatross can hold up to 28 passengers and three crew.

We received several emails from readers – and pilots – commenting on and asking questions about our earlier article recommending a floatplane as a bug-out vehicle.

It was not and is not our intention to fully explain all issues of owning and flying a plane to non-pilots as part of what was a 1600 word article – there’s just way too much complexity.  Our intention was/is to point out the key issues and to encourage you to further research an option you may not have otherwise considered.

We did feel it a bit unfair to be accused of failing to point out several downsides to relying on a plane, when they were indeed specifically mentioned in the article (such as, for example, the possible loss of GPS as a navaid).  Hey guys – read the articles before you criticize them for not including things that actually are in them!

Anyway, the article drew a lot of interest, so we are pleased to provide some more introduction to this topic.  Here are some more comments in a further 2800 words of content.  If you haven’t already, perhaps you should read our original article first, then come back here for some additional considerations.

1.  Location Issues

The big concern we all have in a bug-out situation is getting stuck in an increasingly insecure and dangerous mess of traffic along with everyone else leaving our urban area, fleeing whatever Level 2 or 3 disaster it is that is causing the exodus.

In this article, we look carefully at the risk of getting stuck in a mass exodus of traffic, and actually conclude that such a risk is minor rather than substantial.  But just because a risk is minor does not mean it is not still present.

From the risk-averse perspective of continuing to be concerned about being stuck in bumper to bumper traffic, the ability to fly over the top of the stalled traffic, cruising at 150 mph in the uncongested sky while people below are inching along in stop and go, bumper to bumper traffic sure sounds wonderful, in theory.

But there are some challenges that will affect some people more than others.  The first is getting to your plane in the area you live, and being able to fly it out of the region.

If you have a regular plane, this assumes that the airport the plane is housed at is reasonably accessible to you, and it further assumes there is a cooperative air traffic control system still in place, or, failing that, at least a clear taxiway and runway that you can get to in your plane to take off.

More assumptions – some survivalist blogs have posted comments from people saying that if something goes seriously wrong, they’ll simply head to the airport and steal the first plane they can get their hands on.  What happens if that is your plane?  You are assuming that your plane will be waiting for you, and in flyable condition.  What say the event that forces your evacuation has impacted on the airport, and the planes there?

This of course is part of the reason we like float planes.  They can be discreetly moored or garaged on the shore of pretty much any lake with enough straight-line distance to take-off; or on the side of the ocean, or sometimes even on a stretch of river or reservoir.  The people who think of stealing a plane at an airport are less likely to know about your plane on a lake (assuming it is discreetly stored) and also fewer people know how to fly float planes than know how to fly regular planes.

1.1  Destination Location Issues

You don’t need to be able to fly right up to your retreat’s front door – although for sure that would be ideal.  The bug-out plane flight can be limited to merely getting you out of the major urban area you need to leave, and over the top of any other urban zones or other obstacles on the way.

As long as you have some pre-positioned vehicles, or an ultra-reliable person who can and will for sure be there to meet you, you can fly to pretty much anywhere that achieves the objectives in the previous paragraph (another reason for needing good long-distance radio comms).

We are assuming that your retreat will be at least 100 miles from major population centers and some distance from smaller towns and definitely removed from major roads and routes.

Make sure that wherever you do land is located so there are no remaining potential obstacles in your path to your ultimate destination.  Obstacles could be other major population centers, or the need to cross over freeways or other routes that will be quickly filled with refugees from cities (not just the city you are leaving behind, maybe from other cities too – possibly even traveling in the opposite direction).

If you are making one single trip and are happy to then discard the plane, particularly in response to a Level 3 event, you can probably fly to anywhere that has suitable area to land, no matter whether it be a restricted area such as a reservoir or something or not.  If you’re just going to be landing, getting out of the plane, transferring immediately to waiting vehicles, then driving away, by the time any local officials have responded to your flight, you’ll be already gone.  But if you don’t want to completely ‘burn your bridges’ and if you also want to be able to do some practice runs, you’ll need to be a bit more sensitive to where you legally can and can’t land your plane.

2.  Getting to Your Plane

Wherever your plane is, it is reasonable to anticipate a moderately worst case scenario that all the roads will be jammed, in all directions.  Unless you live extremely close to your plane, getting to your plane could be difficult.

Our recommendation, for what is probably a short journey, is to consider a bicycle, a powered bicycle, or a motorbike.  Being as how the airplane is limiting the amount of stuff you can take with you when you fly out of your urban area, the inability to load up a car full of gear is not so relevant.

On the other hand, your journey to where your plane is located may take you further in to the center of the urban area, and possibly through areas with rioting and looting.  You’re vulnerable as one or two people on an open bike, whereas at least in a regular vehicle you have some more protection against casual violence by bystanders.

Again, a plus for floatplanes is if you live in an area with several different lakes to choose from.

3.  How Large a Lake or Other Body of Water Is Needed

This depends a bit on the type of float plane you would fly, the altitude the body of water is at, the temperature, wind and water conditions and how fully loaded the plane would be.

It also depends on what is directly in front of you after taking off.  If there are any nearby vertical obstructions (buildings, hills, whatever) you not only need to be able to take-off but also to gain enough altitude to fly over the top of these obstructions, or to have enough room to do a gentle turn away from them towards a clearer direction to gain altitude.

Best case scenario, you should hope for about a half mile of straight water.  Some planes can take off in less space, others may require more.

The same issues also apply to the amount of straight-line water you’ll need to land, although landing generally requires less distance than taking off.

Note that higher temperatures and elevations require longer distances, as of course do more fully laden planes.  Tail winds are very bad, head winds are good, and water conditions are best with a slight ripple, but not large waves and also not glassy smooth conditions.

In a river, it is great to take off down-river, and slightly better to land up-river.

4.  Float Planes May Have Lower Load Limits and Shorter Range

The floats probably weigh more than a conventional undercarriage for a plane, so be sure, when checking out plane options, that you’re understanding the specifications for a float-fitted plane rather than a conventional version of the same model plane.

Lower load limits mean not just fewer passengers and less stuff, but perhaps also less fuel, which means less range.  And while we don’t have exact figures at hand, we’ll guess that floats are slightly less aerodynamic and may cause the plane to burn fuel slightly faster during the cruise portion of flight, due to greater wind resistance.

With each pound of load capacity being greatly needed, either for people, things, or fuel, this might also give you and anyone else flying with you the inducement you need to lose a little weight.  In a light plane, each pound you lose allows you to add enough extra fuel to extend the plane’s range by 5 – 10 miles.

5.  Navigational Issues

Many Level 2/3 scenarios might include the disabling of some or all of the common navigational aids that pilots rely upon to work out where they are and where they are going, and so you should plan on being able to get where you need to go using nothing more than a compass, paper map, and timer.

Needless to say, you can’t stop and ask for directions when flying a plane, and if you’re planning on using nearly all your fuel to get where you need to go, you can’t afford to waste any fuel by unnecessary flying around or low-altitude flying, trying to recognize land-marks.

You’ll of course need to practice flying the route using only compass, map and timer, several times.  With the wonderful nature of modern navaids (VOR, ADF, and especially moving map type GPS units) these traditional navigational skills have been largely overlooked by many of us.

It also goes without saying that almost certainly, the place you’ll choose to land at your destination doesn’t have modern airport landing aids – neither ILS or even VASI type aids.

This also leads to the next point.

6.  Weather and Time Issues

Essentially you’ll need to be flying in some type of modified VFR type scenario, primarily due to the possible need to navigate visually.

You could do this by going above the clouds, flying on a certain heading for a certain time, then popping down below the clouds for a quick look-see and adjustment from time to time, of course.

Float planes are more weather sensitive, when taking off and landing, than regular planes on regular runways.

Your biggest concern is probably the weather and light conditions at your destination, because even though you might have back-up landing locations, you almost certainly don’t have any personal support resources (ie vehicles) at these backup locations, and in a SHTF type situation, you might have no way of getting any weather reports relating to your destination before heading to it.

The likely need for visual navigation, and the challenges of landing on a lake, probably mean that most of your traveling, and particularly the final part of it, will need to be done in the daytime.  This might force you to spend some number of additional uncomfortable and dangerous hours staying in the urban concentration before you can leave.

7.  Multiple Trips to Evacuate Multiple People

A possibility is to consider making more than one trip to evacuate your group members.  If you have a four seater plane, this means you can take yourself and three others in one flight – four altogether.  If you could return, you could then load another three people for a second flight, making a total of seven.  With a six seater, this would allow for 11 people in two flights.

In such a case, you need to consider where you choose as your destination.  It doesn’t need to be as close as possible to your retreat – although the closer to your ultimate destination, the better.  It just needs to be safely far away (in terms of both distance and leadtime) from the exodus of other people leaving the city.

If you choose a point 100 air miles away, that might be 120 road miles, and might take you just under an hour from climbing onboard the plane to getting off it at the other end (cruising at 120 mph, slower on the climb, and time to taxi in and out).  Flying back to get a second load of passengers would take you maybe another two hours for the roundtrip, perhaps a little less (and assuming no need to refuel in the middle).

Add perhaps 30 minutes to get to your plane from your residence, and so in total, your group would be all able to leave the far away location 3 1/2 hours after you started your evacuation.  But that same 3 1/2 hours also gives plenty of time for the first elements of any exodus of people in regular cars to be at the same place.

A 100 mile flight is fine if you make it only once, but if you need to go back, it is better to fly further, or to a point that will not require you to then travel overland via a major arterial evacuation route.

A location 150 miles away (say 180 road miles) would take you about 4 3/4 hours or so from when you leave your house to when the plane returns with the second load.  There would be many fewer vehicles at that same distance – some will have turned off, some will have run out of gas, and only the very early ‘advance guard’ of people will be driving by at that point, and perhaps due to their ‘success’ they’ll not be such potential threats.

A 200 mile distance (240 road miles) is probably getting close to the safe range of your plane on a single tank of fuel ( ie 600 flying miles, plus three take-offs and climbs to cruising altitude).  This would be a 6 hour total maneuver.

Of course, if two trips are good, are three trips better?  If four seats are good and six seats better, how about eight, ten, twelve or more seats?  It is hard to decide where to draw the line, which brings us to one of the key constraints.

If you were making multiple trips to collect members of your group, this opens up another possibility.  There’s no reason why you have to return to the same location to load more people each time.  Maybe you go to a different place to collect other people, and maybe you even become a glorified bus, making multiple stops for different people in locations that work for each person.

It also means, assuming you have radio communications, that you can vary the pickup location based on where the people you are collecting can get to, based on traffic and weather conditions, etc.

Keep in mind that sooner or later, if you’re doing multiple runs, you’ll probably need to refuel your plane.  This would be preferably done at the distant location, which is more likely to be more secure.

At the close-in location to the city, you have too many uncontrolled variables that might impact on your security and safety.  You’ll want to be able to swoop in, land, quickly load your passengers, and then leave again before any local people have formed into a group and come to commandeer your plane or to say ‘You can’t do that here’ or whatever other form of interference they may choose to mount.

8.  Cost

It should go without saying that flying is far from the lowest cost way of traveling to your retreat.  You need to buy a plane, and then you have all the ongoing costs of keeping it maintained, insured, and hangared.  You also need vehicles to get you to your plane – vehicles that will of course then be abandoned, and other vehicles to get you from your plane to your retreat – vehicles that are in addition to the vehicles you own and normally drive in the city.

Depending on the size of your family group, your plane, and the feasibility of doing two (or more) trips to bring more people with you, it might be possible to share the costs of a plane with other people, making it more affordable.

This might also remove you from the need to get a pilot’s license and to get type rated for a float plane.  If someone else in the group can do the flying, so much the better for you.

This is something where the Code Green Community may be able to help.  Contact us if this is something you’d like to participate in.

An Alternative Type of Plane

Please also visit our article on a Flying Car for a compromise vehicle that can be both flown and driven.

Apr 292012
 

The timeless nature of the Cessna 182 is shown in this 2009 picture of a 1956 model – ie, when it was already 53 years old.

One of the big challenges we must consider and confront is how we would manage to get from our normal residences to our retreats if/when a major disaster is about to occur (or has already occurred).

The ideal choice is, of course, to simply hop into the family car and drive there normally.  But doing this would only be possible if you were able to anticipate any such disasters and get all the way to your retreat some hours before anyone else started to react the same way, and before the roads started to clog up with vehicles and become a giant solid unmoving parking lot.

In the best case scenario, you could do this; indeed not just in best case scenarios but also in more generally anticipated scenarios too.  We discuss the likelihood of traffic congestion interfering with your ‘bug out’ activities here.

Nonetheless, as a prudent prepper, you need to consider not only reasonable scenarios but unreasonable scenarios too.  And planes can be useful not just for avoiding road congestion, but for other reasons too.

Planes Are Useful Alternatives for Many Reasons

A plane can of course get you anywhere quicker than any vehicle can.

A plane can allow you to delay your decision to bug out, because you don’t need to be so concerned about beating the traffic.  Sometimes it can be advantageous to delay a decision as long as prudent, and if you have a plane as a transportation option, you have more time up your sleeve.

A plane gives you another route to where you’re going.  Maybe the roads are closed due to bad weather or as a side effect of the situation that triggered the crisis.  An earthquake, for example, might have caused bridges to fall, a volcano erupting might destroy roads with molten lava runs.

Weather issues may have a much greater impact on travel by road in a Level 2 or 3 scenario.  For example, if a road is washed out, it may not be repaired again.  Or, if a heavy snowfall occurs, there might be no snow removal crews and no snow removal equipment to clear the road, causing it to remain closed all winter long.

While planes are also weather dependent to an extent, the type of weather issues that affect them are short-term rather than potentially 3+ months in duration, and they give you a second chance in the game and more ways to get from where you were to where you want to be.

Most planes don’t have more range than a car with lots of additional gas tanks, but their speed means that what might be a two or three day journey by car can be done comfortably in a single day in a plane, with just one take-off and one landing.

Because plane travel is not dependent on roads, you never run the situation of ‘you can’t get there from here’ – you simply fly directly, the shortest way you wish, between any two points, whereas the roads underneath you might meander around and detour through dog-leg loops, adding hundreds of miles to your journey.

Planes travel is also safer – you’re not going to get speeding tickets or otherwise hassled, whether by law enforcement or other drivers and onlookers while flying through the air.

Flying to Your Retreat In Your Own Airplane

We offer this suggestion completely seriously.  If you live not a long way from a general aviation airport (ie one where private planes can be stored, and where they fly in and out), and if the budget allows it, consider buying a private plane.

A plane as a bug-out-vehicle has the huge advantage that it is not likely to suffer congested roadways.  On the other hand, it relies upon some infrastructure being in place both where it will depart from and where it will land and provides a somewhat weather-dependent means of transportation.

It also has limitations in terms of how many people and how much cargo it can carry (assuming you get a small single engined plane) – although maybe you can ferry people and materials to your retreat in two or three journeys if you can’t fit everything you must get into the plane for a single flight.

Even Better – a Float Plane

Maybe both your normal residence and your retreat is closer to a lake than to an airport (or to a sheltered bay in the ocean).  In such a case, a float plane is better than a regular plane, because whereas airports can experience problems (for example an earthquake which rips up the runway), and may even be operating under emergency air traffic control restrictions that impede private flying, lakes have no such problems at all.

Float planes are more weather dependent, and also become more limited to daylight hours of operation only, so there are trade-offs to consider and evaluate.

Airport/Lake Location Doesn’t Matter for Your Retreat So Much

Note also that the most important issue is the proximity of a suitable lake or airport to your normal location.  It doesn’t matter nearly as much at your retreat.  This is because we are assuming it may be very difficult to travel from your home to the airport or lake where the plane takes off from, but it will probably be comparatively easy to travel on from where you land to your final retreat, due to it being in a low density rural location where the roads are unlikely to be jammed full of people urgently trying to get out of town.

It is much more practical to plan to drive the last 5 or 10, or even 50 or 100 miles to your retreat once you’ve got out of and away from the major population centers.  You need to take to the air to get out of the cities, but once you’re in a rural setting, you can more comfortably plan to complete your journey with relatively few problems by some type of automobile.

Note also the Code Green Halfway House – maybe your objective is merely to fly to the Code Green Halfway House, at which point you can then retrieve a backup vehicle, freshen up, and complete your journey the next day.

Time is Money – Speed is Survival

If you are driving by car to your retreat, you’ll be traveling at the same speed as everyone else who is also evacuating the city you live in.  You’ll be potentially at risk from the people in the cars all around you every minute of your journey, and they’ll be ‘with you’ every part of the way.  And when you finally arrive at your retreat, you might find some unwelcome and uninvited strangers have already got there before you!

But a plane gives you two huge advantages.  The first advantage is that you’re flying at 120 – 180 mph rather than driving at anything from 0 – 70 mph, depending on traffic.  The second is that you’re traveling quite literally ‘as the crow flies’ – in a straight line, the shortest route possible.  These advantage combine to help you get where you’re going massively more quickly, and apart from the vulnerabilities getting to the city airport you fly out of, the rest of the way is comparatively safe.

The Cost of a Plane

Planes are not as expensive as you might think.  While you can certainly spend over a million dollars for a plane, older planes can be had for as little as $50,000.

A 30 – 40 year old single engine Cessna 172, capable of carrying four people (ie a pilot plus three others) and a little freight (depending on passenger weights and how much fuel is loaded) up to 850 miles on a full 56 gallon tank of gas, while cruising at 140 mph can probably be purchased for something in the range of $50,000 – $75,000.  Newer, larger, faster planes, and with more range, of course go up in price, but you can still get something good for $100,000 or less.

Airplanes are subject to strict maintenance, inspection and certification requirements, and are also flown many fewer hours each year than a car is driven.  You can buy an older plane with much more confidence than you would an older car.

You’d of course need to get a private pilot’s license, and you might want other family members to get one too in case you’re incapacitated, and for more overall operational flexibility.  Learning to fly is more complicated than learning to drive, of course, but 80+ year old grandmothers have learned to fly, as have 15 year old teenagers, and every type of person in between.

Spread the Cost More Ways

Consider getting another couple to buy into the plane with you.  A four seater plane can hold four people, after all, and one of the key things you want to do is to have more people in or adjacent to your retreat than just yourself.  There is safety in numbers, and if those same numbers can also reduce the cost of buying and maintaining a plane, so much the better.

Operational Considerations

You need a plane and you need somewhere secure to store it at your home airport or lake.  You need a private pilot’s license.

You’ll want to keep the plane fully fueled, and if you might be ferrying passengers and supplies on multiple flights, you’ll want a supply of fuel at your destination and possibly top-up fuel at your home base as well (depending on how far the plane must fly for each roundtrip).

You’ll also need a vehicle and somewhere secure to store it at the place you’ll be flying to.

Most airplane engines run on a special type of ‘av gas’ but some planes and their engines can be adapted to run on regular automobile gasoline.  If you had your plane modified for regular auto gasoline, it would be more versatile and easier to refuel in the future.

Although you’d want to make use of the latest GPS and avionics, be sure you can navigate without GPS because many worst case scenarios involve the loss of GPS service.

Read More On This Topic

This article has proved popular, and we’ve now added a second article with much more information – More on Planes as Bug-Out Vehicles.