Prepping can be difficult enough when you have your family, or at least a few survival companions to help you. If you are alone, truly alone, it can be extraordinarily difficult, not to mention very risky. The challenges you’ll face as a solo prepper will be enormous in all but the most basic of survival situations.
There is a popular myth in prepping lore, if you want to call it that, and it is that of the lone, rugged individualist, the classic mountain main archetype that informs us one can really, truly be completely self-sufficient if you are strong enough, skilled enough, good enough.
It is a popular and fine story, but in reality, the overwhelming majority of lone individuals facing truly austere conditions and hard times, cut off, alone, isolated, died terribly in short order from lack or from mishap that affected their ability to get work done.
It is today, thanks to technology and centuries of distilled know-how, possible to survive if you are going it alone, but it will be tough. You’ll need to prepare to the utmost, plan with redundancy and survivability in mind and have more than a little luck.
In this article we’ll give you some hard-hitting advice on how to make that happen.
The Challenges of Prepping Solo
No matter how ill-advised it is, you might not have any choice when it comes time to survive alone in a hostile and potentially deadly situation. Maybe all your friends and relations are either dead or far away.
Maybe you live or work in remote areas, or perhaps you flat just don’t prefer the company of people and don’t maintain many close connections. Whatever the reason, you will be surviving on your wits and wiles alone, with no safety net, no backup, no companions.
In a serious crisis, that spells trouble with a capital ‘T’. You see, humans are social organisms. We survive and thrive not on the merits and strengths of any lone individual, no matter how exceptionally talented, how skilled and how formidable.
There are no demigods on earth, no superheroes that get to break the rules. You cannot cheat the mountain and its inviolable laws, though a few vanishingly rare have managed to put off paying the bill for a time, or in the rarest of circumstances.
It is society, as a concept, that allows man to push back the dark wilderness around the circle of firelight. Humans working together carve out civilization from untamed land.
Humans working together complete literally monumental tasks in timeframes that would be frankly the work of lifetimes for an individual. Humans working together detect, respond to and dismantle threats that would easily dispatch a lone person.
Without a group, or at the very least a partner to back you up, you’ll have no one to watch over you when you sleep. No one to help you carry when the load gets heavy.
No one to keep an out when danger looms close. You’ll have no one to help tend to your wounds and the work that will not wait in spite of it. You won’t have those eyes in the back of your head, or the extra set of ears to listen for the cue. You will not have more than one lonely brain to set against the task at hand.
In short, you’ll be completely on your own, completely responsible for your outcome. You had better hope you measure up: no mistakes. We’ll look at the skills and disciplines you must attain and refine if you hope to accomplish this in the next section.
You are your First and Only ‘First Responder’
As a solo prepper, you and you alone have to be your “team”. You are the guide, the woodsman, the doctor, the shooter, the driver, the tech, the horticulturalist, the hunter and the engineer.
You may not have to be all of those things, depending on how things shake out for you, where you live, the event itself and so on, but if you should need one of those people on your SHTF excursion, guess what- you better be him!
In everyday, normal, peaceful life it is the specialists who get the accolades. You find that one thing you rock at, and refine it to a level of utter mastery.
In emergencies of all kinds, especially ones where sustained, long term chaos reigns and the societal paradigm is completely upended if it remains intact at all, it is the opposite: generalists, those who are adaptable across a wide variety of potential challenges and circumstances who will survive, even thrive.
Think of it this way, in everyday life, should you run up against a problem you yourself cannot surmount, you have a sort of ‘pause’ button most of the time.
You can phone a friend, call an expert or take to the internet in search of answers (ahem). You can pay a professional to sort the problem out.
You can, oftentimes, ignore it, defer resolution, with no major ill effects thanks to the cushion provided by society, that cushion being a thousand other options for carrying on with life.
The opposite again will be true in a real SHTF crisis. Let’s say you are hungry. You should eat. Or should you? How much food is left? It does not just come off a shelf or out of a drive-through window anymore.
Should you stretch your calorie budget? Where will you look for or procure food from when your supply runs out? If you don’t provide, you don’t eat! It sounds obvious, but the totality of it is terrifying and humbling.
We can go through similar examples for everything from drinking water to hygiene to shelter to self-defense. There is no calling the cops, no hopping into a warm shower, no getting a drink from a clean, reliable source.
In the next section I’ll layout what should be your foundational preps if you are planning to be, or fearing you’ll become, a lone prepper.
The Mind War
Even if you are alone as a prepper, you won’t be alone alone. You’ll have yourself for company!
What?! Has Tim lost his last marble down the storm drain of quackery?
Not quite, reader, at least not yet. What I mean by that seemingly absurd statement is that you will be dealing with your own best friend and worst critic: the voice inside your head.
Lest you laugh that statement off as sissy frou-frou talk, you must know that mental and emotional stability is critical for surviving both short and long term crises.
Stress takes a toll on even the most stalwart person, and where the mind goes so goes the body. There have been plenty of tales throughout history of survivors being found after the smoke cleared, dead, surrounded by plenty of supplies and untouched by the disaster.
They lost hope, and saw taking their life as the only way out. Some very literally lie down and just die from despair. It is not the stuff of movies, I assure you.
Stress will degrade your performance insidiously: fear, doubt, anxiety, resentment, worry, every last one a virus of the mind that will corrode your judgment and sap your strength and will alike.
While you cannot be truly free of any of them (unless you are a robot) you can manage them! And you must to have any hope of enduring the days, weeks, months or years of hardship, danger and solitude that will be your new normal.
To a degree, your mental and emotional equilibrium is partially determined by your genetics. Some folks are more wired for neuroticism (worry and associated emotional states) and others are more geared toward believing in a positive outcome.
Nonetheless, don’t let yourself off the hook for your tendencies. Discipline, always discipline, is the answer. If your mind controls your thoughts, and your thoughts control your words and your words, even to yourself, start to dictate your actions then what controls your mind? You do.
Positive self-talk and mastery is a skill, it is a habit, and it is one you must master to improve your chances of survival.
Start by not letting yourself off the hook in everyday life. If you start to get stressed out and begin a snivel-me-timbers session, have discipline!
Clamp it off, take some deep breaths, and start problem solving. Institute a strict no complaints rule for yourself. Any acknowledgement of a problem must have a solution hot on its heels. That is one easy way to begin the task of mentally hardening yourself for the trials to come.
Do that for two weeks straight, diligently, and you’ll be surprised at how much calmer and more insulated from stress you are.
Consider a Dog or a Cat
You might not have to go totally alone after all. If you live in a remote area, or even if you are an urbanite and planning to bug out, a dog or cat can be a valuable addition to your prepping arsenal, not to diminish our faithful and noble furry friends! Far from it, domesticated animals have long been valued by humanity as working assets long before “mere” companionship.
A dog or cat can serve as an early warning system, both having sensory organs far more potent than the comparatively dull sense of humans. Dogs especially take to barking as warning with little or no provocation, and can often sense a threat in other people before it appears.
Cats, while not quite as suitable for warning of the approach of others considering their nature, can be trained to alert as well, as are phenomenally adept at keeping small pests like rodents and bugs at bay.
And just as importantly, a dog or cat can serve as a proper companion, something to help you live for another day, a reason to keep striving. Frankly they can help keep you sane.
Choosing to do so is not without risks of its own though. Both need food and care, and both will become stressed in the same types of situations that will stress you out.
Potential harm or injury to your faithful friend can increase your own stress load, and you’ll ethically need to become passingly alright at veterinary care I order to provide for their injuries and wellbeing as you provide for your own.
Additional logistical burdens aside, a dog or cat can be an excellent “wingman” to your preps.
You Might Not Be Alone Now…
But you could be. This is a threat for aging and senior preppers. Time mandates that all things pass away, and that includes connections with people you already have, related or otherwise.
People die or fall into failing mental states. Some people move or are moved away for long term care and end of life options. Assuming you don’t want to consider an end-of-society event the end of the line for yourself, you should plan now on how you’ll overcome being marooned socially.
This is far from easy, but this guide can get you started. The single best thing you can do is to rage, rage, rage against the dying of the light: keep in shape, eat right, maintain strength and skill and you’ll have as good a chance as most. It is shocking how much you can hold on to if you decide to wear out rather than rust out.
No matter how faithful, how sincere or how loyal your people are, life gets a vote in whether they are able to help you or not. Don’t become complacent! In the end, every man and woman will face the darkness alone.
You might have to persevere alone long before that fateful day arrives. Make sure you are up to it as long as you can.
At Least Logistics Will Be a Cinch
A major part of prepping is laying in all the goods and consumable supplies you’ll need to survive whatever comes your way. This is often abbreviated with the tongue in cheek jingle of “Beans, Bullets and Bandages,” which, while humorous, is a pretty good mnemonic for reminding yourself to focus on the essentials- food/water, self-defense and medical.
You’ll have one silver lining at least as a solo prepper: only one mouth to feed, body to heat and life to save. You will have an easy time sorting out how much food, water, toilet paper and whatever else you stash no matter what your survival plan is so long as you know what you need in your environment.
Holding down the fort and bugging in? You will be constrained only by your finances and the room to store it. Grabbing your BOB and hitting the road? All you need to know is how much you can carry for you and you alone until you need resupply.
You’ll spend less, too, prepping only for yourself. Any parent knows how expensive things get with kids when you need to buy and supply multiples of everything, no imagine caring and supplying for multiple adults, especially high-dollar gear!
You Must be a Proper MacGyver
It’s an old cliché, but a valid one. You’ll need to be reasonably astute at all kinds of tasks and be functionally competent in many skills to stand a chance when the sky starts falling.
In a single day, you might need to escape your hometown on foot carrying a heavy pack, fend off rampaging rioters or looters, establish an overland heading to a safe place, make camp in the middle of the wilderness, survive a cold and wet night outdoors and splint a sprained ankle before hotwiring a car and later rigging up a primitive antenna.
Even the simplest of disasters can put you in danger and your skills to a severe test. If there is a major industrial accident, fire and chemical spill in your hometown, can you seal off your house, quickly, to keep potentially dangerous fumes out? If you need to hightail it out anyway, do you know how to use a gas mask? Do you know how to make a gas mask?
If you get hurt- shot, stabbed, poisoned, sick- do you know how to render self-aid and care? You won’t be able to dial a doctor or hop on Web M.D. If you need to hole up somewhere temporarily, do you know how to setup your little camp so you can rest easy, hidden from passersby and with noisemaker traps ready to alert to sneaks in the night?
Do you know how to purify water from a questionable source? Do you know how to procure food with no equipment, not even fire?
You’ll need to become passably competent in all those things to survive as a solo prepper. It is not just throwing on a backpack full of goodies and heading to the woods with beef jerky in hand at the first sign of trouble.
The good news is it is a far sight easier to become “pretty good” at something instead of mastering it, and we have tons and tons of articles to help you get started.
You Must be Able to Do the Work of Many
As I mentioned above, you will be surviving without any of the boons provided by a group, or even one partner. This will not lessen the entries on your survival agenda however, and one of the most taxing things you may have to undertake alone is seriously heavy lifting, awkward carries and other such tasks that nominally require multiple people to accomplish efficiently and safely.
If you are clever, however, you can make use of simple machines and improvised mechanical contrivances to aid you. Some of the oldest force multipliers on earth are literal, well, force multipliers! Taking the form of wedges, wheels, levers and pulleys, one person can double, triple or even geometrically increase the force they exert.
The best part about these systems is they are easy to improvise wherever you go from found objects and even natural materials. You will need to learn and practice with all of them, and any massive weight under the control of one person is a dangerous thing, but if your alternative is to make do, go without or go around, you can choose none of the above and get it done.
By way of a few “for instances” you can use pulley’s to life massive loads for building, clearing debris or moving supplies. Pipes can serve as rollers, allowing you to move such massive loads as shipping crates, concrete barricades, and more.
Wedges can split even the hardest materials if you are diligent. The usefulness of levers need no introduction and a crowbar is often included as an “auto-take” for many urban survival BOBs.
You Must Plan as if You are on the Moon
I am not talking about fantasy prepping here: no zombie apocalypse or alien invasion stuff, it stays on the Silver Screen where it belongs. No, what
I am referring to is the notion that you will operating in a Zero-Margin-for-Error mode; if you screw up, get hurt, get lost or just plain cannot hack it, no one will be there to catch you.
There will be no rescue mission. No one to bail you out, unless you are blessed enough to be happened upon by a Good Samaritan. It is alright to hope for such a thing but, however vital hope is to emotional and spiritual wellbeing, it is never, ever a strategy.
And you do need a strategy. What you’ll need to do as a solo prepper is detail everything, assess every phase of your plan and labor over the specifics in such a way as to minimize the risks to the greatest degree possible. This means you’ll be making tradeoffs more than a group might.
Have a movement phase in your bug-out plan where you’ll encounter potential chokepoints and road blockages, either man-made or natural?
A convoy of vehicles with a group could potentially clear them in a timely fashion. You might be better off to go around the long way. That means more fuel. That means more time.
A lone prepper also cannot carry quite as much as efficiently as a group can, where consumables of all kinds- fuel, ammo, water, food- are spread out more or less evenly across all members of the party to be used by anyone if needed.
You’ll have you’re the whole of your stores, literally, on your back. If you are facing long and arduous movement, you won’t be able to cross load your gear to the other members if you are injured or just exhausted. You’ll have to ditch or suffer on.
This means longer journeys will only be feasible if you move by vehicle that affords you some cargo capacity or you pre-emplace and maintain hidden prepper caches.
This is what it means to be a solo prepper if you intend to survive.
Conflict Avoidance and Escape will Be Crucial
Way too many preppers, in their heart of hearts, have a notion that they’ll stand up to and kick the asses of those who would prey on the weak, ailing and shocked during a crisis.
History has time and time again shown us that the worst elements of society (and the worst traits of humanity) percolate to the surface and make their presences known during major, long-term crises.
While it is imperative that you make ready to fight them, with fists and feet and with weapons, you must place even more emphasis on avoiding trouble at all possible.
Fighting, even plain old fisticuffs without weapons, simply has far too great a chance of critically injuring you in the fracas. Multiply that risk times a thousand if weapons come out.
A badly jammed finger or worse a broken hand will badly hamper your ability to do all kinds of things, from building a fire to rummaging around in your pack.
Oh, and you can bet weapons will be out in abundance. A gunshot wound requires proper medical care to stabilize the patient and treat it long term.
It is after all a devastating puncture, one that carries with it an immense risk of infection aside from the obviously deadly effects of blood loss and organ damage.
Even a scratch hit from a bullet, or a shallow cut or stick from a knife can be deadly far after the fight when doctors and their precious pills are long gone.
Conflict avoidance for preppers is knowing how to remain unseen, not get targeted by attackers, deescalating verbal showdowns and, if you have to fight, extricating yourself before it turns really nasty.
Consider the Nomadic Lifestyle
Maintaining a fixed location as a solo prepper is one thing; protecting a solo location is another. A bad turn of luck can see your idyllic retreat rendered uninhabitable or too dangerous to stay at.
What are you to do? Test Fate? That’s an option. Or, if you have planned and prepared accordingly, pulling up your tent pegs, so to speak, is another.
You can live the life of a nomad prepper on your own two feet, but the concept really shines when you have some form of conveyance. A vehicle like an SUV, truck or even something as large as an RV or camper potentially can provide you with power, mobility, cargo capacity, speed and a degree of shelter.
Heck, you could rely on a dirt bike, even a bicycle if you travel really light. Even a horse would be better than nothing if you have the skills!
None of these are without drawbacks, though. The most obvious is their need for fuel. But considering your plan is to live out of one, not so much drive it around all the time, your fuel supply will go much farther than being a dedicated vehicle for cross-country use.
The ability to roll away with your shelter, in the case of a larger vehicle is a great boon and massive labor saver for a solo prepper.
Aside from the obvious logistical requirements, there are a few second order effects to consider as well. Any motorized vehicle will make a considerable amount of noise and attract attention.
In the case of automobiles and RV’s, they’ll be conspicuous and difficult to hide. You should invest in learning some camouflage techniques if you want to go that route. Military manuals on that topic are freely available and easy to understand.
If you choose to go with a dirt bike or cross-country motorcycle you’ll have the advantage of maneuverability and you can at least push them if they break down or run out of gas.
They are also easy to hide, though their cargo space is limited to a couple of saddle bags, small items lashed to the seat or fenders and perhaps a sidecar.
Bicycles are even more limited on cargo, and muscle powered, but they can be carried and are nearly silent. Horses are mostly quiet, maneuverable and can carry a fair bit of cargo, but are large draft animals and as such require care and significant feeding.
You’ll have to account for both before you ever dream of trying to survive relying on one, to say nothing of learning how to ride and manage such a powerful animal.
In the end you will still not be free from the concerns of prepping solo: you’ll need to know where you are going, how to get there and how to survive when you get there.
Each of the modes of transport above has advantages and disadvantages, but their major boon- saving you tons of labor and a fair amount of risk in travel- means they are something that solo prepper should consider carefully before deciding to bug-in or head out on foot.
Solo prepping is not heroic, cool or anything else but risky, risky business, and should only be undertaken if you find yourself overtaken by events, or your lifeway dictates it is the only option available to you.
You’ll need to emphasize developing and planning certain facets of your SHTF plan compared to preppers making ready in a group, but if you work diligently and stay sharp, it is possible to face a crisis and come through it unscathed all alone.