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If you’re not familiar with the 7 P’s and you plan on bugging out in a disaster, you should be.
The 7 P’s are, in order:
Many people plan on bugging out when “it” happens to a wilderness location of one sort or another, but that’s a sketchy plan, at best.
The following is a primer to get you thinking in the right direction on identifying bug-out locations in wilderness and desert areas.
Keep in mind that when “it” happens, there are going to be tens of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands of people with the same general idea as you do your planning and use that fact to spur you to finding multiple alternate and contingent locations. With that, I’ll turn things over to Barbara. David Out:
Scouting for a bug-out location in the wilderness or the desert is important for several reasons. If an escape plan only consists of “I’m getting out of dodge if things get get dangerous,” you will find yourself in trouble when you find yourself competing with hundreds, if not thousands of equally unprepared people trying to bug out.
Assessing your circumstances well before circumstances force you to bug out improves your chances of survival. For instance, would you and the rest of your family or group be able to handle climbing hills, mountainsides, or crossing difficult terrain with the gear that you plan to bug out with? Are there small children involved? Is there a back-up location within hiking distance with water?
(Ox’s note: The answer to this may vary greatly throughout your life. I had an injury late last year that caused most of my muscles to atrophy and took me from being incredibly fit to only being able to do curls with 25 pound weights and my endurance to crater. I’m recovering quickly now, but I could not carry out my bug-out plan from last fall right now and I’ll be in WAY better shape at the end of the year than I am now. The point I want to make is that your plans need to be realistic and based on the realities of what your abilities are TODAY…not what they were, and not what you hope they will be in the future.)
In some cases, standing your ground may be your best option. Weighing the pros and cons of surviving in place versus bugging out should be decided upon now, while times are relatively good. As a family or a group, there should be a consensus about where that line in the sand lies; when is it tactically prudent to stand your ground, and when it’s time to go.
If You Must Flee To The Wilderness
Taking off for the woods isn’t a long-term plan if it doesn’t include a water source like a stream, or a natural spring, or a lake or creek.
If you haven’t scouted for a safe location within striking distance from your home, it’s time to do some discovering while asking yourself the following:
- Is it far enough from a dense population for relative safety?
- Is there a nearby water source?
- Is fishing an option?
- Even in remote areas, you’ll have company– riots and looting will drive people to take shelter where they feel they can hide. Is the area large enough to keep a reasonable distance from others who may want what you have?
- Is there more than one way in and out to escape if it becomes necessary and can you absolutely, positively control it if not?
- Are there places where you can build a shelter without drawing attention to yourself? (You can build an improvised shelter with a chainsaw and a couple gallons of gas/oil that will GREATLY multiply the effectiveness of any tent(s) that you may have. Think of it as a layered system…the logs provide the primary and the tent is nested inside providing the secondary.)
- Is there wild game (including fish)? Especially SMALL wild game that you can harvest on a daily basis? Are there edible worms, slugs, ants, and other edibles?
- Do wild edible plants grow in the area? Are there edible (and easily identifiable) mushrooms?
In a wilderness setting, all of the above are important to survival. You must have shelter, you must have water, and you must have a food source that can come from fishing, or gathering wild edible plants, or hunting or snaring animals should your supplies outlast what you pack in.
It’s optimal if you can bury a cache of critical supplies at your chosen location, well before the need arises.
(David’s note: In fact, caches are kind of central to the 7 P’s. Caches are often the proof that a bug-out location has matured beyond the “dream” stage to the “plan” stage. Put another way, if you don’t have one or more caches set up, you don’t have a plan…you just have a dream. That’s neither good nor bad. It is what it is and it’s an honest reflection. Either decide to be content with it for now or change it, but don’t get upset with the reflection.)
* * *
Desert Regions Come with Higher Risks
Unfortunately, MANY people live in areas that have no chance of supporting the number of bodies that are living there, like Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Salt Lake City, Phoenix, El Paso, and more. We can’t know ahead of time what may occur that would force us to flee our home. What we can do is have a good grasp of the pros and cons of where we flee to. The desert is one of the harshest environments to survive in because of sweltering summer temperatures, the lack of water (which, as drought continues its stranglehold on desert areas, will likely grow worse), and the venomous creatures that make the desert their home.
When scouting for a bug-out location, your best bet may be to search out abandoned buildings, or buildings that are likely to become abandoned soon after SHTF. If there is a water source nearby, and wild edible foods (refer to Wild Edible Plants Can Save Your Life ) you may discover that remaining in civilization, rather than trying to survive in the desert, is the best choice.
Finding Water In The Desert
Scouting for a location that has water, before a crisis, is an absolute necessity, no matter your location. If you must flee to the desert, even for a short time, packing water in is only a temporary solution. Especially in the summer when temperatures can climb to a blistering 118 degrees or higher.
However, if you’re caught unprepared, the following are ways to find small amounts of water in the desert:
- Look for plants and trees as they grow near water. Birds, swarming insects and mosquitoes are an indication that water is nearby.
- Collect dew by capturing it in clothing that be wrung out for drinking.
- Follow a wash where water has run in the past. Where there is protruding rock, or the beginning of a cliff or mountain, that is where water tends to gather as it acts as a natural dam. Dig down around 2 feet. If the dirt is moist, continue digging until water pools and collect it through a plastic tube or straw, or by sopping up the water with a bandanna or fabric, which can be squeezed out for drinking.
- Boulders sometimes have indentations from wear. These divots may hold water after a rain.
- The barrel cactus and prickly pear cactus store liquid in their pulp which can be chewed for the moisture, but the pulp should not be eaten. Although the saguaro cactus can store up to 200 gallons of water, the water it holds can be toxic to humans.
Staying Cool & Clothing
- It is possible for sand to be 30 degrees hotter than air temperature! Find a shaded area, make your own shaded area with a tarp that includes protection from the hot sand, or find a cave–but watch where you tread if you are lucky enough to locate one!
- (Ox’s note: Dig! In the desert, digging as little as a foot or two into the ground and covering the hole with a tarp or something else to block the sun will keep you comfortably cool in most desert conditions.)
- Don’t remove clothing, thinking it will help you stay cooler. Clothing will help to prevent sweat from evaporating and lessening the body’s ability to cool down. Long sleeves, hats, and long pants will help to avoid excessive sun exposure. The best desert gear is wicking fabrics made with a UPF of at least 30 for a base layer. You should also include a warming layer of wool or fleece for chilly evening temperatures and a windbreaker. Light colors are best, as they reflect heat in the daylight hours.
- If you must travel, do it at night and early morning, but be aware that desert temperatures can drop dramatically, and in winter time in certain locations, temperatures can dive below freezing–another argument for packing layered clothing if heading for the desert. A Pair of goggles and a dust mask will protect you from a sandstorms that desert areas are known for.
Watch Where You Step!
In the desert there is a higher likelihood of encountering a venomous snake or the Bark Scorpion and Gila Monster, the only scorpion and lizard in the U.S. with the potential to cause death (specifically victims with a compromised immune system, the very young and the elderly)–both are desert dwellers.
The Bark Scorpion’s range is Arizona, California, Nevada, New Mexico and Utah. Their habitat is varied: they can be found in trees (thus the name Bark Scorpion), in woodpiles or fallen trees, on steep rock walls, under rocks, and in rock crevices. There have been cases where they have crawled into tents, shoes, clothing and bedding.
The Bark Scorpion is yellow or gray in color and small–about 2 to 3 inches from head to stinger. Their sting can be fatal for about 1% of adults and 25% of children under the age of 5. Serious symptoms from the Bark Scorpion include increased salivation, blurred vision and trouble focusing, slurred speech, mussel twitches, abdominal cramps, seizures and trouble breathing. Although anti-venom is available where the Bark Scorpion is prevalent, in a SHTF scenario where medical treatment is unavailable, treatment should include placing an ice pack on the sting ASAP to decrease the poison’s spread. If the person is having difficulty breathing, assist their breathing by rolling them on their side, or by putting in an airway if you have the medical experience to do so. Rest and fluids will help the victim and IV fluids are optimal until the symptoms subside within 24 to 48 hours.
The Gila Monster is the only venomous lizard in the U.S. Although their venom is as toxic as a the western diamondback, they release only a small amount of venom They are desert dwellers and are often found in rocky foothills–sometimes at elevations as high as 5,000 feet. There is no anti-venom for the bite of a Gila Monster, therefore the best cure is to give them a wide berth. Gila Monsters bite down on the victim, latching on and making it difficult to detach them. Experts advise immersing a determined Gila Monster in cool or cold water as the most effective way to get them to detach from the victim. Treat the bite to avoid infection and the victim hydrated with plenty of water.
The good news here is that Gila Monsters are slow and relatively shy. There hasn’t been a reported death related to a Gila Monster bite since the late1930’s. But if you’re new to the desert and even think they’d make a good addition at mealtime…think again!
The following are poisonous snakes you could encounter in the desert: The Great Basin Rattlesnake, Mojave Rattlesnake, Sidewinder, Western Diamondback, Prairie Rattlesnake, Southern Pacific, Black-tailed Rattlesnakes, Arizona Coral Snake.
It is important to know what venomous snakes are native to your region and how to identify them. Here are a few guidelines to follow to avoid snakebite;
- Avoid walking through tall grass and brush.
- Never put your hand in a crevasse before checking first.
- Snakes climb. Be watchful when walking under low-lying branches.
- Wear leg protection like boots and long pants.
- Don’t set up camp near a fallen tree, a rocky area, or tall grass.
- If you pitch a tent, keep it zipped and keep shoes inside.
- When fishing, bathing,or gathering water survey the area for snakes before nearing or entering water.
Sandstorms can hail a one-two punch–rains that if sufficient enough can bring flash flooding. Flooding can happen quickly because sand doesn’t absorb great amounts of water quickly. Stay clear of camping in dry channels, lake beds and ditches, because flood conditions can create a wall of water 10 to 30 feet high. Never make camp in a dry creek, a dry lake bed or near a ditch. Rather, find higher ground to rest.
(Ox’s note: What’s it all come down to? The 7 P’s. Get to know your intended bug-out location/AO (area of operations) as intimately as possible now and you won’t be dealing with unknowns in addition to having your world turned upside down in a real bug-out scenario. Set caches. Have alternate and contingent plans in case some knucklehead is in your primary bug-out location when you show up, and prepare yourself mentally to be able to survive anywhere. If possible, plan to hunt big game on public lands this fall. You’ll QUICKLY find out that lots of people think they already have “dibs” on public lands…not only for hunting, but for future bug-out locations.
Also, if you’re fortunate enough to be able to “strategically relocate” to your ideal location, like we have, there are STILL reasons to bug out. Personally, our family faces the annual threat of the forest that we live in catching fire and having to evacuate, in an instant. In other words, everyone needs a “Plan B”. What’s yours?)
Do you plan to bug out to a wilderness or desert location if you’re forced to flee? Or have you decided to survive in place, come what may? Have any tips or survival-related stories to share? It could save a life! Please post your comments below.
God bless and stay safe,
David Morris and Survival Diva