It is one thing to plan and prepare for safe travels before and even during a crisis or a major disaster, but not too many preppers have a plan for how they will travel safely and in good order after a major disaster takes hold.
Have you stopped to consider how long you might truly be living in working in the aftermath? You should, since it will affect every element of your life, including your travels.
There is so much we take for granted today when traveling…
We know where we are going, generally how we will get there, the routes we take will be clearly marked, clear, safe and we enjoy all manner of protection when traveling from first responders as well as private interests who can swoop in to help us when we run afoul of accident or get waylaid.
It is not hard to imagine that you will be lacking most or even all of those factors in the aftermath of a serious crisis.
And the situation might stay that way for some time. Will you be prepared to set out across the land on foot or by vehicle in an era where you are far from guaranteed to arrive safely at your destination? We will help you prepare for that eventuality in this article.
A Free Man (or Woman) Traveling the Land
It is easy to forget just how dangerous travel was in eras past. There were not necessarily highways as we enjoy them today. There certainly weren’t interstates.
Road signs might have been non-existent, or if they did exist, they could have been inaccurate or easily tampered with.
There was definitely no Highway Patrol, no AAA and, potentially, not even many other fellow travelers to help you if you got in a jam.
All sorts of hazards have awaited travelers over the centuries, everything from becoming stranded or overtaken by bad weather to getting lost or even waylaid by highwaymen and bandits.
If you were not fortunate enough to have people in your party, real traveling companions that you could count on, all you had and could rely on was your own wit, grit and resourcefulness to get yourself out of a potentially lethal situation.
Every once in a blue moon, a Good Samaritan might happen by and help a stranded traveler.
But as we all know the expectation of mercy and helpfulness when someone was truly helpless was hardly a thing that could be depended on until our modern age.
If you call yourself a prepper, it is definitely in your best interest to have a contingency plan for dealing with these types of conditions should they befall us again.
In the wake of a major natural or man-made disaster you might no longer be able to rely on the technology, the services, the landmarks and the flat-out certainty when traveling that you are used to.
If you only had to take care of yourself, and take care of business while en route to your destination under the new paradigm is the difference between life and death, between reaching your loved ones or getting back home, ask yourself honestly: will you be up to the task?
Considerations for Post-SHTF Travel
You will have plenty to plan and consider while properly traveling in the aftermath of a major disaster.
If you are going anywhere further than down the street or perhaps across town, you must treat the journey with extraordinary seriousness. Becoming stranded, getting lost, injured or attacked could mean certain death.
Below are a few considerations that should be factored into your trip planning:
If at all possible, attempt to ascertain the conditions of your route before striking off. This could be challenging if modern communications are disrupted.
You want to know if the route has been physically damaged, is clogged with traffic from evacuees coming or going, or just an ocean of stalled and abandoned vehicles after the situation became untenable.
If you’re unable to raise anybody at your destination or at any official agency that can offer guidance via phone, radio or some other electronic method, try to find someone who has recently come into town via the way you plan on going and ask him or her about the conditions on the path.
Any information might make the difference. You’ll need to know if it is completely impassable, partially passable or clear, along with any possible detours that might exist.
One major consideration is the presence or absence of road signs, Trail markers or any other dependable physical landmarks so you can navigate reliably to your destination.
Do not assume that you will know the way just because you have traveled it a hundred, or even a thousand times before things went really bad: the entire landscape is liable to look very different from the way it did before.
Also factor in the return trip if you are planning one. Just because a route is clear does not mean it will stay that way, and deteriorating road conditions due to weather or other circumstances are far from out of the question.
You might trade a certain outcome where you are for being marooned with an unknown outcome elsewhere if you are not careful.
How far are you going? Are you going across town, across the county, all the way across the state or halfway across the country?
With greater distance comes more challenges and a greater logistical burden, including your method of conveyance, the supplies required and the overall exposure to risk or mishap.
If you are not going far by vehicle, for instance, and something goes wrong be it a flat tire or other mechanical breakdown, you can always grab your essential goodies and hoof it back home or on to your destination.
This will not be a surefire Plan B if you are making a trip of several hundred miles, however. There are too many variables to compute to say your outcome will be anything but uncertain.
Generally, the greater the distance you are traveling means you must weigh even more cautiously the downsides to not making the trip compared to making a trip over a shorter distance.
Getting derailed or sidetracked on a short trip is usually nothing to worry about. The same thing happening on a long trip could spell disaster.
Whether you’re making a short trip or a lengthy one, do you know where you can stop if you get into trouble or just get tired?
This is especially important on long trips as you might imagine, as having a safe place to stop, rest and attend to other creature requirements of the flesh will be mandatory.
It isn’t safe to stop just anywhere, as you can be more vulnerable to all kinds of things, not the least of which he’s being overtaken by your fellow man who has bad intentions for you, or exposed to the elements.
This is critical if you are traveling on foot; an automobile can at least offer the nominal protection and shelter of its bodywork.
A poorly-planned stop will do nothing but increase your vulnerability, all other things being equal.
You will face increased danger from your fellow man anytime you are living in a without-rule-of-law scenario, for instance the kind we experienced in 2020 that has made travel so risky and uncertain.
When policing agencies and efforts start to fall apart or lose effectiveness at any level you will see an increase in crime, no matter what other existential threat everyone, as a populace, is facing. There are always wolves at the border, and this situation will be no different.
Be they desperate or merely of a criminal bent makes very little difference, practically; many of them will want what you have, including the contents of your BOB, the supplies your vehicle carries if you are driving one, and the vehicle itself.
Some of them will just want to kill you for sport. Others will want to do worse things. Do you have a plan for dealing with such an eventuality?
Hand-to-hand skills are always useful, but the presence of weapons is a virtual certainty, and you must be able to respond in kind.
Effective use of a weapon requires training, and there will be no or little time for training after an SHTF event. Get armed, get trained and practice now so that you will have proficiency later.
Even then, if you are traveling alone, you will be extraordinarily vulnerable to even a single attacker. Multiple attackers will be a critical threat.
Do not delude yourself. This danger magnifies when you are stopped or resting, but blundering into a roadblock or ambush is far from out of the question, and a constant threat on the most heavily traveled routes.
Consider what terrain you might be facing in your travels. Especially if you are forced to go off road and travel cross-country, the condition of the underlying terrain will drastically alter your timetable, and the effort/fuel required to transit.
Making a bad call or running into bad luck on terrain might see you halted or, even worse, stuck fast. This is definitely what you would call a bad day if you are traveling by vehicle.
Terrain that you could typically count on, assuming you know the area and your route well, could be transformed into a hazardous trap by bad weather: snow, rain and attendant conditions of reduced visibility will all affect your progress as well as your safety.
If you do get stuck or run into terrain that you cannot risk traversing, do you have a back-up plan? Is there a detour you can take or an entirely alternate wrapped?
For vehicles, do you have any recovery gear like a winch, straps, shovels, jacks and so forth? Failing to plan for these eventualities can spell disaster.
Before embarking on any dangerous adventure, any seasoned wasteland wanderer or expert survivor will advise you to file a flight plan with a third party that you can expect to at least give a damn if you go missing or are significantly overdue.
This might be difficult to arrange in a post SHTF setting, but it is still achievable so long as you are not a complete Lone Wolf.
Filing of your flight plan is simple. You’re simply handing off your intended route along with any alternate routes to a third party that you know you can trust to come look for you or, if they cannot come look for you, to send someone who will if you do not arrive or return by a certain time.
A smart flight plan will leave some wiggle room for contingencies, delays and other generally harmless mishaps, but not so much that you’ll be stranded for an extended period of time sucking down supplies or slowly bleeding out.
Your contact can be someone at your home base or at your intended destination if you can raise them, but what matters most is that they know what your plan is and that they have a plan of their own for seeking you out if you do not show up by a certain time.
One of the most obvious and simple factors for planning any trip is also one where many preppers stumble or get things wrong. What do you need to successfully negotiate your trip, and how much of it?
Fuel is obviously one critical factor, even if you are traveling on foot. A steady supply of calories taken in will keep you operating mentally and physically at peak condition.
It is true that you can go quite a while with no food before you starve to death, but you will start to deteriorate physically and mentally once you have missed several meals.
Vehicles will require liquid fuel, of course, and assuming it is not a one-tank trip you will have to make allowances for the weight, space and security of spare fuel containers.
Other supplies will abound as well: spare parts if you have them along with tools to take care of any mechanical breakdowns or flat tires, shelter supplies in the form of tents, bivys, blankets and so forth.
Perhaps some spare clothing. Various other survival supplies that you should already have in your BOB, and so forth.
All of these things will count against your personal weight tolerances if you are moving on foot, or your vehicle’s space and carrying capacity if going by auto.
Post-SHTF travel will be significantly different from the comparatively smooth, safe and easy travel that we enjoy today. The experience will be harrowing, dangerous, stressful and full of uncertainty.
But like any other facet of survival you must prepare for this contingency. Take the time to study the factors we have outlined above, and you’ll be ready to minimize risk, and help ensure a positive outcome when the time comes to hit the road on a lengthy trip or a short one after the shit hits the fan.
Tom Marlowe grew up with a gun in his hand, and has held all kinds of jobs in the gun industry: range safety, sales, instruction and consulting, He has the experience in helping civilian shooters figure out what firearms work best for them.