Plans Fail → Skills Endure

by Todd Walker

All the Survival Blogs in the world… cannot save you!

Coming from a fellow survival blogger, this may seem a bit strange. Hang with me as I explain.


My good friend, Daisy Luther – owner and writer at The Organic Prepper, wrote an article recently about reality checks in the prepper world. My favorite line in her article came from someone who is all too familiar with punches in the mouth…

Everyone’s got a plan ’till they get punched in the mouth.

~ Mike Tyson

Like him or not, Tyson lands a stiff right hook in the mouth of every person who has ever attempted to plan for the unknown. You don’t have to be a professional boxer to understand that when life punches you in the mouth, Plan A goes bye-bye.

The self-reliant skills you, your family – and ultimately – your community possess will get you through the unknown unknowns. Your Plan B of getting out of dodge with your bug out bags loaded – children and pets in tow – is sound on paper. Have you actually put it to the test? Do you have a pre-determined destination besides the remote National Forest “teaming with wildlife and wild edibles?” No worries, there will be other desperate “like-minded” people in the hills willing to “lend” a helping hand.

Not so fast!

This popular SHTF survival plan has refugee written all over it.

Dirt Road Girl and I both have bug out bags and vehicle kits packed just in case. But we’re also realistic about our survivability if we ever need to get to our retreat on foot. And we don’t have young children tagging along for the hundred mile hike – just our two rescue mutts. Our Plan B only goes into action when a true SHTF scenario prevents us from staying put.

Young children changes the plan. Immediately. This point was driven home on my recent bushcraft trip with my second grade grandson. What you think might be a 72 hour trip would likely turn into a week or more. Packing enough food for that length of time would be prohibitive. You’re best bet would be to have several pre-planned, well stocked pit stops (friends and relatives) along the way and…

a fist full of skills!

We’ll cover two today – one for each fist.

Plan B Skills Go Beyond Your Bag of Stuff

The less you know, the more you need. No slam here. Just stating the facts.

In the early stages of my journey to self-reliance, I packed so much shiny survival stuff that I needed a pack mule for conveyance. Funny thing is, as my skills increased, my pack weight shrunk like it was on a late-night infomercial diet.

Plan B Skills transcend your stuff. You’ll never regret spending more time watching YouTube tutorials, reading how-to articles, and practical preparedness books. But here’s the catch…

You must practice the skills for yourself. That’s how trading theory for ACTION becomes personal!

Here are two essential skills that go beyond your bug out bag…

Fire Craft

Yep, I listed it first. Fire is life. So is water. Prioritizing your self-reliance skills is like playing the game of Rock, Paper, Scissors. You throw paper and Mother Nature throws scissors. You lose.

It’s simple. You can’t physically carry enough water on a physically demanding  journey. Water weighs over 8 pounds per gallon. A Bic Lighter weighs nearly nothing. Fire creates potable water.

Plan A for water is a commercial water filter. It’s in my bag of stuff. Plan B relies on fire craft skills and a container.

Fire is beautifully redundant. With fire, you now have the ability to…

  • Purify water
  • Cook food
  • Stay warmth
  • Add comfort and security
  • Keep bugs and wild critters away
  • Signal rescuers if you want to be found
  • Boost morale – an overlooked commodity
  • Make stuff
  • Brew coffee – arguably its most important use 😉

If you’ve hung out here for any length of time, you know I love fire craft. If fire is life out there, carry modern fire tools (Plan A) – but Practice Primitive (Plan B) fire craft. Plan B is not for the faint of heart. But every self-reliant man, woman and child can – and should – have fun building primitive fire skills.

Plan A Fire Craft Kit:

Plan B Fire Craft Skills:

  • Friction based – Bow drill, hand drill, fire plow are a few options
  • Flint and steel – char material needed to catch a spark

Shelter Craft

Develop and practice the skill of creating cover. A dry cover protect you from the elements to prevent hypothermia and hyperthermia.

Many options are available in the shelter category. Buy, make, or barter for a durable Plan A covering for thermoregulation. Consider space, weight, quality, and redundant uses for your shelter.

  • USGI poncho – This poncho is military issue and very tough. It can be used as a tarp shelter, cover your body and pack, and can even be made into a mini canoe.
Think Outside the Tent for Shelter

Poncho and hiking poles for a quick shelter

  •  Silnylon – a lightweight covering that is water and wind proof
  • Contractor Trash bags – Good for emergency shelter and collecting resources
  • Waxed canvas – a more traditional shelter which weighs more but bomb proof
  • Oilskin cloth tarp – cotton fabric treated with oil and wax
  • Walled tents
  • Space blanket
  • Proper clothing offers shelter
  • Natural rock ledges, caves, and hollow trees
  • Build your own shelter – hone your cutting tools and build a shelter

A roll of tarred bank line, used billboard, natural material, a saw, axe, and knife were used to build my Trapper’s Shelter

The importance of setting up shelter – especially in the dark – shouldn’t be overlooked. If you’re a hammock sleeper, do you remember how to tie the knots to hang your tarp and hammock in the dark? Practice tying a few useful knots until they’re automatic.

Plan B Skills are Your Knock Out Punch

I’ve been punched in the mouth many times – literally and figuratively. Both jabs hurt. But at the end of your bout, in the flurry of flying fists, the skills you’re Doing, not the stuff you’ve read about, will keep you from tapping out when your life is on the line.

Keep Doing the Stuff of Self-Reliance,


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Categories: Bushcraft, Doing the Stuff, Self-reliance | Tags: , , | 7 Comments

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7 thoughts on “Plans Fail → Skills Endure

  1. GoneWithTheWind

    Although not the intent there is another lesson from the Mike Tyson quote. You can avoid a punch in the mouth. You can avoid or to a great extent mitigate the effects and the suprise of negative events. When I was a much younger man I was still out somewhere at 2 in the morning and often I had consumed some alcohol and was in the company of people who had consumed alcohol. I saw accidents, fights, assaults and even missed seeing a fatal stabbing by minutes. Today at 71 I hear about these things, I even know where most of them happen in the city I live in and other cities I am familiar with. I also pay attention to world events and have learned from history. This may help me avoid dangerous situations not involving an actual punch but might involve something far worse for all humanity. My plan A is to avoid that literal or rhetorical punch in the mouth.


  2. Pingback: Prepper News Watch for August 21, 2014 | The Preparedness Podcast

  3. I have always said, you can have all the best survival gear in the world, but if you do not have any skills to use them properly, you mind as well not have them at all because they will be practically useless to you.


  4. Pingback: Prepper News Watch for August 22, 2014 | The Preparedness Podcast

  5. As they say, “Two is one and one is none.” Ensuring that you have more than one plan to accomplish a task is good insurance. Your point, that skills need to be part of your plan, is the best insurance.


  6. Pingback: Plans Fail → Skills Endure | TheSurvivalPlaceBlog

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