*Coach Helder may earn money or products from the companies mentioned in this post
Since most of my Warrior Zero Project members follow the gear reviews that I post, there never seems to be a loss of quality gear during our training sessions. Their backpacks, mess gear, radios and even the dog gear is high-speed!
But… there is a common issue that I see with a big percentage of those that want to go out on the trail and travel for distance…
They rarely make it to the midway point!
I have seen many factors, continually repeated, that contribute to this failure.
I would like to go ahead and share 10 of the issues that stand out the most to me in hopes that you do not make the same mistakes. My goal is to help you accomplish your mission when the SHTF.
1: Physical Fitness Level:
Unfortunately, this may be the biggest aspect of preparedness that most preppers overlook. They feel that collecting gear and having survival skills is more than enough to be READY when SHTF. Well… If the only option in your preparedness plan consists of bugging-in, and all goes perfectly for you, then you may be OK. But for those like me, that include planning for being mobile and even on foot, we need to train and train often.
There are various methods to achieve a strong, physical fitness level that will enable you to accomplish your mission, with some reserves still left in the tank. There isn’t one supreme method that works for every individual. We are all different and what motivates one may be a chore for the other person attempting similar protocols.
The most important physical activity to adapt is one that is bio-mechanically sound and just as important… The one that you will stick with!
#2 Proper Footwear:
Wearing the right shoes or boots during your hike is a must. Something as simple as a blister will not only impede your mission but could complicate matters if it becomes infected. During an emergency scenario, where antibiotics will be scarce, we need to instill as many preventative measures as possible.
We need to be comfortable when we are out there hiking, for countless miles, on varied terrain. Your first point of contact with each passing step are your feet. If discomfort and pain begin to set in, it is literally a chain reaction that will impact the rest of the body.
Sizing has to be correct in order for your shoes to fit properly. Even a 1/4 inch too big or too small can wreak havoc on your feet. Wearing good quality socks and changing them often during your hike is a must. You also need to keep in mind that just like your physical preparedness, your shoes need time to break in. Covering great distances, without a proper break-in period, is never a great idea for either your body nor your shoes.
#3 Proper Nutrition:
Similar to physical fitness preparedness, a healthy diet tends to also be overlooked by many that are preparing for disasters. They take great care in combining the best components for their gear and the best fuel for their stoves… But when it comes to putting the best ingredients into their bodies, let’s just say that Ronald McDonald would certainly approve of their diet…
Our bodies are an incredibly designed machine. If you put inferior software into your computer, you usually open up the door for viruses and other annoyances. Well, your body works in a similar fashion. If you mainly consume food with very little nutritional value, your immune system becomes weak and vulnerable. When we add in the stress that is caused by physical activity such as hiking, your nervous system can go out of whack in a heartbeat.
When SHTF, we may be limited on the choices of food that we have to consume.. But luckily, in a training environment, we can easily add nutrient-rich food to our daily intake. This will not only keep you moving while on the trail but also maintains your immune system in peak condition. In an emergency situation, it may mean the difference between being an asset or a liability to your group.
#4 Backpack Placement:
How you pack your backpack or rucksack is more crucial than most are aware of. The contents need to remain stationary while you are on the move. The gear in your pack also need to be balanced. As we traverse the terrain, we are continually shifting our weight and momentum. If our gear is able to shift, sporadically, along with us, it places added strain on our joints & connective tissue. Knee, lower back and shoulder pain are usually the repercussions that we face when we allow our gear to move around freely in our packs.
However, the more prevalent issue with backpacks is their placement on our backs. I see many individuals wear their pack very low on their backs. This puts a lot of undue stress on the lower back. While we are hiking, the problem compounds because as we fatigue our core, we tend to lean forward, rounding our backs. That isn’t even a good position to walk from let alone trekking with a heavy bug out bag.
When we couple the shifting contents of our pack with it’s lower back placement, you can see why this can be a huge problem when we are trying to bug-out on foot.
To address these issues we need a quality pack. I’m not stating that you need to break the bank… but getting good quality straps, that aid in the placement of the pack on your back, is usually reserved for the higher quality packs. The way that we compartmentalize our packs, in order to stop the contents from shifting, also depends on the features and construction of our packs.
Wear your backpack high on your upper back. This will allow you to maintain proper alignment (a long spine) while on the move. This will alleviate a lot of the stress on your shoulders, knees & back allowing you to accomplish your mission more efficiently.
In the United States Marine Corps, we did a lot of forced marches. “Hiking” is not an adequate enough word to describe the action… so we refer to it as “humping.”
As we went on these humps, we had anywhere from 75-100lb. packs. We would hike for miles on end, regardless of the weather conditions.
Due to extreme heat exhaustion, these Marines would fall to the side of the trail and begin to convulse. Hence the name, the Funky Chicken Dance.
Hey, no one ever said that Marines were sensitive…
One of the biggest contributors to this funky chicken dance was dehydration. The individual was either dehydrated from the start or failed to keep up with his water intake. Taking frequent water breaks is imperative. We need to hydrate even when we don’t feel thirsty. Like most things, do not over-due it and remain consistent.
#6 Spread Heavy Gear Amongst Your Group:
When we bug-out as a group, there may be certain gear that is for the benefit of the whole group. This gear is in addition to your personal gear. It is crucial that you do not overload any individual on your team with group gear. You need to divvy up the group equipment amongst all the individuals. This practice is not only fair but also important for the sustainability of your group. If one person slows down… You ALL slow down!
I agree that certain members of your group can carry more than their share if they are bigger, stronger and have greater fitness levels. But at the same time, you don’t want to dog-out your group’s “star-athletes.” They won’t be nearly as effective if you wear him or her out before you even get to your basecamp.
Another good idea is to rotate the heavier packs amongst the whole group. Every couple of miles, backpacks can be switched allowing for greater recovery time for all the individuals in the rotation. This will keep your group moving, with energy to spare, throughout the duration of the emergency.
#7 Take Frequent Breaks:
If you are like me… when I’m on the trail, I just want to GO! I’ll barrel through the trail with one purpose on my mind… To get to my destination as fast as possible!
But once I get to my destination, I may need to rest for a while before I can get to whatever the next mission may be. But if it’s a SHTF situation, rest may be a luxury that I will not have access too. I have worked on this aspect of my training over the years by forcing myself to take frequent breaks. Just like we need intervals for intaking water, we also need to address our rest stops while on the move.
A good way to make these intervals easier for you is to combine your water consumption with your rest breaks. This will take more of the thinking out of the process allowing you to concentrate on the task at hand. More importantly, by taking these frequent breaks, you will be able to arrive at basecamp and perform further necessary work ( both expected and unexpected.)
#8 Wear Proper Clothing:
Failing to address your clothing needs will certainly contribute to you falling out of the hike. In the colder months, hypothermia is the obstacle that we have to deal with. When it comes to the warmer months, sunburn and heat exhaustion can contribute to our failure of the mission. One way to address both of these issues is with proper clothing.
Wearing a headcover is important in any season. It protects you from the sun as well as the cold. I feel the same about long sleeve shirts and blouses when it comes to any climate.
The additional benefit that we get from wearing long sleeves and long pants is the added protection from the environment. Tree branches, insects and poisonous plants are all obstacles that can take you out of commission.
Dressing in layers is also key when it comes to bugging-out on foot. As you progress through your hike and your body or the weather heats up, you can easily strip off a layer of clothing. This will enable you to cool down without wasting precious much time digging through your gear.
#9 Pack Light:
I always stress to my NTC Members that the more skills they possess, the less gear that they need to bring along in a SHTF situation. The heavier your pack, the easier it will be for you to fall out of the hike. When your pack is light, you are more mobile and can also cover much more ground enabling you to hike for longer distances.
We have the tendency to want to bring the “kitchen sink” along with us, even in a training scenario. Once again, if your fitness level is where it needs to be, you can certainly bring along more “conveniences.” The extra gear is great to have but not always necessary. If adding extra weight to your backpack disables you from completing your mission, then it’s a no-go.
Train more and learn more, so that you need to carry less!
#10 Mental Fortitude:
If you believe that you cannot accomplish the mission… You probably won’t. Positive thinking will go a long way in helping you ride out any emergency situation. Staying motivated is crucial for your survival but it also impacts your group.
Emergency situations are extremely stressful. If we break down mentally, all of those countless hours that we invested in our preparedness training become useless. This breakdown, if it continues, will impact your whole group. You need to be a productive member of your group as opposed to an anchor, weighing them down…
Embrace the little positives that may be happening within your group. Realize that things can always get much worst. Be thankful and know that, “This Too Shall Pass…”
Bottom Line: Keep in mind that getting to our destination is only the beginning. Once we get to our basecamp… That’s when the true mission really begins.
I shared 10 thoughts to help get you started and to stimulate your thinking. If you plan on heading out on foot during a SHTF scenario, get your practice in now. The more that you get out there with your gear, the better prepared that you will be when an emergency arises.
Remember, failure to accomplish the mission will not only affect you, but also impacts the ones that you love.
Prepare Yourself and Train Even Harder For Those That Depend On You!