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Monday, August 9, 2010

and the winner is...

Last week we discussed alternatives to the traditional G.O.O.D. vehicle and noted the strengths and weaknesses of each. This week, as promised, we will look at what are likely the most versatile bug-out vehicles of all. In my opinion, such as it is, these are the most flexible options available.

The first of those options is the horse. Humans have used horses nearly as long as we have had anything we can call civilization, and in fact, the horse is largely responsible for our success as a species. The ability to use the horse as personal transportation and for haulage has been pivotal in the success or lack of it in any number of societies.

The horse certainly has its weaknesses as a method of bugging out. It requires accommodation near you, it can fall prey to disease, theft, hunger and thirst. It requires skill to handle, train, ride and care for, and it and its gear can be expensive to acquire and maintain. They are also quite large. Not as large as an SUV, perhaps, but certainly harder to hide than a person. But then there are no perfect bug-out vehicles, are there?

There are quite a few strengths to consider as well. Primary among these is mobility. I strongly feel that having the ability to get off of the roads, both large and small, is paramount to a successful bug-out. The stealthier you can be and the farther you can stay from others will determine how quickly and safely you can get where you’re going. As well, a horse can go where no vehicle could ever hope to be. Rivers, steep slopes, swamp, deep snow, and forest are all navigable by a horse to a far greater extent than any vehicle.

The second advantage of the horse is fuel. All vehicles are limited by the amount of fuel available to run them. A horse is self-fueling on the landscape around it for much of the year. Even in winter, there is vegetation to be found under the snow, and grain can be carried as a supplement.

By the way, your horse will still start after a natural or man-made EMP. Also, you can’t eat an SUV if you’re starving….

Another advantage is load capacity. While the horse is a large and strong animal, it has a smaller load capacity than most people think. Most equine experts recommend that horses not carry a load equivalent to more than 25% of their body weight. This means that a larger riding horse of 500-600 kg (1100-1300 pounds) shouldn’t be required to carry more than about 150kg (330 pounds) for any length of time. That might seem like a small load, but if that load is you and 50 kg (110 pounds) of gear, that’s not bad at all. That is at least as good as a bicycle, and maybe better.

That load can be increased if a cart or wagon is employed. The horse will be able to pull three or four times what it could carry, making for a very respectable payload. The vehicle is relatively simple to maintain and repair, and is nearly as reliable as the horse itself. However, the increased payload comes with a tradeoff in mobility, which might make it a less appealing option.

Horses are a relatively quick mode of travel. While they don’t walk all that much quicker than humans, a trotting or cantering horse is significantly faster, and at a gallop reaching 40 to 50 kph (25 to 30 mph), there is no comparison. And speed, combined with the ability to avoid the more traveled routes might make the difference between making it to your refuge in good time, or not making it at all.

Those are just the high points, and before you jump on this option, do a LOT of research, and ensure you have all the necessary skills required.

The final bug-out vehicle is you. Over the centuries, humans have proved that they can cover amazing distances, navigate the most inhospitable environments and difficult terrains, travel through almost any weather from blizzard to blistering heat, are stealthy, reasonably fast (12 to 20 miles a day is not uncommon among seasoned hikers), and keep going when food, water and hope are all but exhausted.

Our main weakness is that we can’t carry a lot. When you limit it to a sustainable 25% of bodyweight, it means a 90-kilogram (200 pound) man is carrying only about 22 kilograms (fifty pounds) of load. That’s not a lot, especially if you are carrying shelter, weapons, clothing, and medicine besides water and food. And the smaller the person, the lighter the load.

Again, like the horse, you can get around that by pulling or pushing a cart, or pulling a pulk in the winter. And like the horse, it can negate your primary advantage, mobility. The lack of capacity can be negated somewhat by pre-positioning supplies in caches, or by being very careful in what you carry. With a little forethought, a week of food can be carried. Hikers on the West Coast Trail do it all the time.

So there you have a number of alternatives to the traditional SUV bug-out vehicle. Whether you have that and stick to it, or perhaps have or will select one or more of the alternatives I’ve mentioned is up to you. The main thing here is to select, using your best judgment, the method you think has the highest probability of success for you and yours.

Don’t let me or anyone else convince you we know best. Think about your own situation, make a decision, and act. Oh, and have a Plan B to get out. Just in case.

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