Technology and Survivalists

cash One thing I’ve noticed in the past is that every time I’ve really needed technology the most is when it let me down.  I was thinking about this the other night after my cell phone shut itself down never to start again.  I happened to be on call that night for work and in order to dial into the company network I need to have security software that ran on my phone.  No phone, no network.  It got me thinking about the other times I’ve really needed some kind of technology only to have it fail and leave me twisting in the wind.

By Jarhead Survivor, a contributing author SHTFBlog & Survival Cache

For example, not long ago I was in Canada and needed to use my debit card to book a hotel room.  My little boy was with me and cranky after being in the car for so long and when I gave them the card it was declined.  I had plenty of money in the account, it just wouldn’t accept the card.  So I pulled out my laptop to connect to the wifi to see what was going on and when I went to my bank site the online banking was down.  Lucky for me my dad was traveling with me and loaned me enough money to book the room, but to say I was feeling stressed is an understatement.  Carrying large amounts of cash is a little more difficult to do these days, but a lesson I learned here is that it’s a good idea to have at least a few hundred dollars on me to cover emergencies like this.  Lesson learned.

Another time years ago when I was in the service we were running fire missions on the new (at the time) ballistic computers.  I was the Fire Direction Control (FDC) Chief and still carried an old fashioned plotting board.  We’d been in the field practicing shooting for a couple of weeks when the batteries started to die.  We were setting up to shoot on a Saturday when my computer suddenly quit.  Oops.  We’d gone through all the batteries and there were none left in the battalion!  So we had three mortar declination diagramplatoons set up to fire and no computers.  I whipped out my old plotting board without telling anybody and plotted all the information on it while the CO and everybody else was freaking out.

Admittedly I was a little rusty, but I ran through a few dry fire missions and was pretty confident I could shoot the mission.  I told the CO to give me a round of HE (High Explosive) and shot it from our center gun.  It was pretty close and with a few adjustments I was able to shoot the whole platoon.  Success!  But then the commanders from the other platoons showed up wondering how the hell we were shooting and when I showed them the plotting board (ancient technology by that point) they were duly amazed.  Pretty soon I was shooting three platoons off the plotting board – something I’d never done before.

Data Storage

solar generatorOne of the greatest things about computers is their capacity for storage.  I love the fact that I can store a thousand books on a USB drive the size of a quarter, but I hate the fact that it runs on electricity.  I have a bunch of paper books in my library that will be of great benefit if things ever go south, but admittedly I have more stored on an electronic USB hard drive.  I also have a solar panel hooked to a deep cycle battery with an inverter so that I can charge electronics if I need them.  I’ve used it to charge phones and tablets as well as to power LED lights during power outages and it’s been rock solid for years.

If you do have something saved on computer storage make sure you the means retrieve it if you need it.  Having a laptop with no way to charge it would be a pretty sad situation to be in if the power went out for good.  I would suggest keeping your most critical documents and books in hard copy somewhere that you can get to.  A strong enough EMP or Carrington type event will theoretically render most delicate electronics useless

Compass vs GPS

Here’s one that every one of you knows to be true:  when the SHTF and you need to bug-out, knowing how to read a map and compass could save your life.  But I’d be willing to bet less than 10% of you reading this could reliably navigate through the woods on a point to point course.  Here’s a small test of your knowledge:  do you know how to adjust for the Grid/Magnetic angle in your area?  Do you know what it is?  If you can’t answer this question point to point land navigation will be impossible for you.  You’ll be able to go from road to road or other big targets, but a destination like a field or building would be difficult at best for you to find when pulling information from a map to use on your compass.

Is GPS a bad thing?  Not at all.  I love GPS.  It takes the guess work out and I like to use my phone to navigate when I’m out hiking.  But here’s a couple of things I’ve observed over the past couple of years:  one time I was hiking in the woods behind my house and called up the GPS and for some reason it showed my location more than ten miles from where I actually was.  I tried to adjust it, but to no avail.  I pulled out my map and compass and continued on the old fashioned way.  I downloaded another app that was supposed to show a compass needle on it.  Coolest thing ever!  Except it pointed west instead of north.  I looked it up and it’s a pretty common problem with android phones.

Also Read: Death By GPS

compass2If there’s one skill that you should pick up I highly recommend learning how to read a map and compass.  I put it right up there with learning how to start a fire, building a shelter, and knowing how to find water in the wilderness.  Imagine that you’re trying to get to your (Bug Out Location) BOL with your family and you’ve had to detour from your route because of traffic or what have you.  You’re suddenly on foot carrying your BOBs and dependent on ground based land navigation.  Could you find your way to your destination if the GPS you’re carrying died?  Can you find your location on a map using terrain association?  Could you hook around a road block or a town if need be and get back on track?  Can you look at a topographic map and determine what kind of terrain you have ahead of you?

Technology Isn’t Bad

Technology isn’t bad, folks.  Far from it.  I love technology and all the gizmos available today.  It’s our dependence on it that has me worried.  Even if you have the smartest phone, and the sharpest GPS unit, and the latest tablet, you should still be able to do the things your mission requires without them, like shooting that fire mission on a plotting board instead of a computer like I mentioned above.  How to get by without it?  Imagine the worst case scenario when TSHTF and plan for it as if you don’t have any of your of electronic toys.  If there are no communications make sure you’ve set up preplanned things to do with anybody you need to communicate with.  For example:  if the phones go down during a huge storm make sure everybody in your family/unit/tribe knows what to do.  Maybe you have a standing order with your kids of, “If the power goes out and we can’t talk go to grandpa’s house and stay there until me or mom can pick you up,” or whatever your situation is.  Make sure you have plans in place ahead of time.

Can’t navigate without a GPS?  You might want to consider taking at least a basic land nav course, and you might want to include others in your family as a back up in case you’re not there.  Give them the skills to survive.  My oldest daughter has had some training and my six year old son has shown some interest in map and compass lately.  He’ll know his pace count soon and understand the cardinal directions by the summer.

Use Technology to Help You Prepare

It’s fine to use technology to help you get ready for the dark times that potentially lie ahead, but when the power goes out make sure you have a way to d0 those important things without electronic devices.

Go Camping Without It

Here’s something to try:  load up your pack without any electronics and go camping.  Keep a journal of your trip and use it as a learning experience.  I love camping with just the basics such as a knife and axe, sleeping bag, lantern and oil, canteen and canteen cup, poncho, and a little food and water.  When you don’t have a phone in your hand you tend to look up at the night sky instead of down into your lap.  You’ll think more and consume less.  I love writing down ideas in my journal by the light of the campfire and the lantern.

Try it.  You just might like it.
Questions? Comments?

Sound off below!
-Jarhead Survivor

BTW:  I’m curious to know how many of you can or can’t navigate with map and compass.  Do you think a basic Land Navigation course would be useful?  Don’t have enough time to devote to it?  Already an expert and good to go?   Don’t think you’ll ever need to use it?  Leave a comment below and let me know.

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13 comments… add one
  • cliff Hammond January 12, 2016, 4:23 pm

    It is one PhD the first things I teach my students. How to use a map and compass. It’s like learning math, if you can’t do it without a calculator you can’t do it with a calculator.

  • Ray January 12, 2016, 10:56 pm

    I have ONE thing in my bag that uses batteries. My flashlight . We live in a world of planed obsolescence, where everything was designed around failure and a working factory/ supply grid. In even a local SHTF event that grid fails rapidly. If you burden yourself with useless “Gee Wizz” toys you won’t live near as long. The simpler and more robust your equipment the longer it will last without resupply or spare parts.

  • Pineslayer January 12, 2016, 11:44 pm

    I am proud to say I don’t have or know how to use a smartphone. I can use a computer and probably could figure out a phone quick enough, but I haven’t fallen in love, yet. My wife just got sucked in because work forced the issue, she was the last holdout. They have amazing capabilities, I’ll give all of you that. I should have one, if nothing else to blend in :)

    Jarhead, love the story of your plotting board. We all need to embrace old school tech.

    With Iran and N. K. testing missiles, what could go wrong?

  • irishdutchuncle January 13, 2016, 12:20 am

    Happy New Year all.

    I’m more likely to buy a GPS for my drone than for myself. it will happen someday, but it’s not high on my list of priorities. my wife has GPS on her smart phone, (she’s the only one that can tell me where to go)
    I prefer a map on paper.

    if I had to navigate by dead reckoning now, I probably would end up that way, but I can read the map.

  • Road Warrior January 13, 2016, 6:46 am

    Part of the Maine Hunter Safety Course has always been land nav. Granted, it was more in-depth when I took my first one 26 years ago than when I took my son for his a couple years ago, but it’s still there. I’ve always been a big proponent of keeping my map and compass skills up to snuff, even though I’ll admit I use some pretty cool GPS apps while hunting.

  • Leon Pantenburg January 13, 2016, 10:20 am

    Good points! I don’t trust the safety on a firearm or anything with batteries. A few weeks back, I was hiking in the desert, and my GPS, for no reason I can determine said I was half a mile from my vehicle. I could clearly see the rig 100 yards away. I always carry a map and compass, and I have never gotten lost relying on them.

  • Methane January 13, 2016, 1:58 pm

    I’m pretty good at land nav during daylight, but always have problems during darkness. Terrain association at night sucks. Okay when stick to roads, but get lost easily when I leave the trail.

  • Doc Montana January 13, 2016, 5:16 pm

    I rarely think of this as either / or.

    The power of tech is impressive, but of course it has its limits. However, when the tech works, its pretty powerful in that it gives you superpowers. I love my GPSs. Yes that’s plural. I have car GPSs, handheld receivers, and GPS watches. The only failures I’ve had has been with battery life, and satellite reception in those crazy city that build things over 10 stories tall. Oh, and that snow storm in Tacoma (but I don’t know what happened there).

    I use GPSs camping, running, hiking, fishing, cycling, hunting, boating, and even skiing. I alway have one handy when driving in blizzards to give locations of accidents since mile markers are covered in snow and miles apart. (pun intended).

    On the solar panel side, I have Goal Zero and Eton products that kick butt. Charge everything and work as advertised.

    My flashlights have chips and circuits, but provide a screaming level of performance and brightness. I don’t see the chip as the weakness but the fact that any “electric torch” has limits.

    In fact, as one who lives and breaths computers as well as bushcraft, I have no hesitation living in both the modern and primitive world. So in a nutshell, I push the limits of adventure and survival using photons, but have all the backup equipment and knowledge to shift to Plan B when the grid stops flowing.

    But when it comes to a compass, you need one, three actually. One on your wrist or watch strap. One in your pocket, and one big one in you kit to use with topo maps. I’ve found my way out of blizzard with them, but also found my way back home using the stars. Didn’t see that one mentioned and it’s as technology-free as possible.

  • Chuck Findlay January 14, 2016, 1:23 am

    This is gong to generate a lot of (you are a fool) responses, but I find I don’t use a compass much any more. I have taught myself to almost instinctively know what direction is north, west, east and south. My Son says it’s spooky the way you do that.

    Several years ago I bought the book ” Finding Your Way Without Map or Compass” by Harold Gatty. He trained Jimmy Doolittle and I think Lindbergh.

    The book tells you how to look at weeds, trees, wind patters, migration patters, weathering patterns on buildings, reflections in the sky, and several other ways to find directions.

    I can (and do as kinda of a hobby) look at an outdoor painting and figure out what direction is north on the painting. Again my son says it’s spooky.

    It’s a good and fascinating book to have. Amazon sells it…

    PS: Not that I don’t have compasses, there is a nice military one sitting on a book shelf 6-feet from me right now, it’s just I don’t use and really need them.

    As far as maps I have numerous ones and use them (and a GPS) to get to house addresses for work. But living in the East (Ohio) there is really not much need for one when in the bush as there is no bush. I’m sure out West or some other remote place a map is more useful.

    It’s really empowering to know where you are and to know the direction.

  • Chuck Findlay January 14, 2016, 2:41 am

    As far as the vulnerability of digital information I solve it by burning word files, PDF files and downloaded U-Tube videos to DVD’s. DVD’s are hard copies that every computer made today can read. I have solar panels (not as many as I would like, but enough) that I can and do use to charge things. I haven’t used them to charge a laptop yet, but I can do it if needed. I like books, I have a LOT of them but electronic storage is very nice for the space it takes up. I have the Nook Simple Touch (a low end e-ink black & white model) that can read PDF files and I have it loaded up with lots of free survival PDF’s I downloaded. Being a basic model it uses little electricity and will run for over 2-weeks on a charge. I also charge it with my Goal Zero panel in a few hours.

    Even if we were to have an EMP attack I don’t see all computers going dead. I did a bit of research and EMP will likely be a very hit & miss thing on small electronic devices as the EMP wavelength will be much longer then the small devices use so they will not get hit hard. And distance and cover will also mitigate the effect. I’ve even read that a lot of autos will survive many only needing to be restarted to continue to work. None of us really know the effects EMP will inflect but I think the doom & gloom people tend to dwell on the extreme.

    The Goal Zero Plus-10 panel is a nice compact solar panel to have and is quite portable while still delivering a usable amount of power. It charges any USB device, I use it to charge my cell pones, my Nook, a few MP-3 players, small MP3 speakers and a USb flashlight. It also charges all my Eneloop AA & AAA batteries. It’s well worth the price.

  • BamaMan January 19, 2016, 3:26 pm

    These would be useful to get out of the initial pinch quicker, efficiently, in the dark, quietly, etc…but knowing you will not have them when batteries die. Why not have one

  • Michael Pons February 14, 2016, 10:12 pm

    I think a basic Land Navigation course would be useful? Perhaps u can write a series of article on Land Navigation Skills.


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