Camping & Survival

Survival Saturday: The Machines Will Fail You

I love technology. I’m a gadget freak, and I keep my thumb on the pulse of popular electronics and trends in the tech industry. When my friends and family have a question regarding anything that has batteries or plugs into the wall, I’m usually the first person on speed dial. I was born with what some non-techie types call a supernatural ability to look at a computer or other device and tell you not only what is wrong with it, but also how to fix it. Nevertheless, I have recently become aware that relying on even proven technology has the potential to be disastrous. Industry players have coined the phrase “Death by GPS” to explain the over reliance on technology to help us function in daily life. As an aspiring survivalist, I have concluded that while technology can and does make our lives easier, we must teach our younger generation the old ways. These ways don’t require a battery or a satellite orbiting the planet to function properly.


The Global Positioning System is a marvel of modern technology and convenience. While it does usually work quite well, remember that it doesn’t always work flawlessly. If you are in a bug out situation, your best bet is a compass and a map. No matter how busy the wireless network traffic is in your area, a compass and map will always work. It doesn’t require batteries, and in the right hands, is more accurate than any civilian GPS system on the market. In the news, there are many cases where motorists, led by their trusty GPS systems, were found weeks later off the beaten path, some alive, some dead. If you are in a snowed in area, or a remote road that isn’t paved, you may find yourself taking a wrong turn and not being able to get back. Relying on these devices is fine in some cases, but don’t follow them blindly, and always have a backup plan that doesn’t involve a space based orbital device that you have no control over.


Be prepared for a loss in communications. During my time in the military, I deployed to several large-scale emergencies, including Hurricane Katrina. When the choppers landed in New Orleans, I wasn’t surprised to see that my cell phone was not working. The storm devastated the cell phone network infrastructure, so we relied on crummy radios and runners for communication. Eventually text messaging began working, and we were able to get messages home with ease, but this took weeks in some areas. For those left behind in the wake of the storm, outside news was impossible to receive. Some were fortunate enough to have wind up radios to listen to broadcasts, and this saved some lives. Just remember that when the SHTF, your fancy little Andriod, iPhone or Blackberry is going to become an expensive paperweight.

Domestic Life

If you find yourself bugged in, such as in a blizzard or heavy storm, be ready to prepare food without power. In such situations, electrical power is usually the first thing to go. If you have a generator, you are lucky, but you can’t run your entire home off of a generator. Modern appliances such as dryers, stoves, refrigerators, and ovens can’t always run off of a small generator. Your best bet, especially if your emergency becomes long-term, is to learn to prepare food, wash clothes, and light your home without the use of external power. A fireplace with a cast iron dutch oven is an extremely useful tool in a no power scenario. I spent some time deployed to Bosnia a few years ago; we washed our clothes in buckets and hung them up to dry on 550 chord clothes lines. I have to admit, at first I considered this a primitive chore, and was annoyed by the lack of conveniences. Being born in the early 80s, I have never lived in a world without a washer and dryer. Those of you from the previous generation are probably chuckling right now, but go ask someone in their early 30s if they ever hung their clothes up outside to dry, your answer will probably be no.

It is important to teach our kids the old ways of doing things, not because of some nostalgic urge to preserving our heritage, but to ensure their well-being in the case of the world going awry. We built a top-heavy society that relies on technological marvels. Anything top-heavy is easy to tip over. A well-placed EMP device or a serious storm can cripple those who don’t know how to get by without their toys. If you come from a world where you know how to get by without the microchip, I encourage you to share your knowledge with the younger generation, and ensure that when the SHTF, we don’t end up lost like a busted GPS.

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1 Comment;

  1. This cannot be stressed enough for all of us, but especially the young people.

    It is easy to laugh and expect they will “figure things out” when the time comes. That is probably true to an extent, but it is important that the young people be trained to start thinking “out of the box” and of alternatives before they need them than when they need them.

    For example: The power went out during winter right as we were starting dinner. We lit the candles and lanterns, but the 12 year old did not know we could light the stove manually with a match when the power was off.

    Since I have been made aware and practicing “self reliance”, I have come to understand that like shooting, “the old ways” of navigation, gardening, preserving food are like shooting. These are perishable skills that must be practiced and honed.

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