Dear Black Bag Confidential Reader,
Last week was tough, I’m not gonna lie…
I spent the entire week off the grid. I didn’t have a cellphone with me. I didn’t have a tent or a sleeping bag either. I slept about two–three hours every night, hiked as much as 24 miles a day and ate very little throughout the week. When I got home, the scale showed I’d lost 8 pounds — although I was sure I’d lost a heck of a lot more.
In a moment, I’ll tell you why I went off the grid, but first, I want to share some of the lessons I learned so you can benefit from my experience without having to torture yourself like I did.
Lesson #1: Going to the bathroom (number two) is never fun out in the wild. I spent the entire week using leaves to wipe my behind. I dreaded using the bathroom every morning, but you do what you gotta do. I highly recommend keeping a roll of toilet paper in every vehicle you own in case you ever get stranded. Also, have some extra toilet paper stored in your house for emergencies only.
Lesson #2: I was about 10,000 feet up in the mountains of southern Utah. At night, it was freezing. Many nights, I would have to get up every 30 minutes to do jumping jacks or run in place just to keep warm. Like pooping in the woods, being cold is rather miserable. Make sure you have sleeping bags at home for your entire family in case the grid goes down in the winter. Also, keep a change of warm clothes in your vehicle. Lastly, I recommend buying a propane camping heater (or several) for your home for emergencies (I own four).
Lesson #3: A good survival knife is the most valuable item you can have with you. I went off the grid with almost no supplies — including matches or a lighter. But I was able to make a bow drill and start a fire with the help of my knife. I also used my knife for a dozen other tasks (including making a spoon), and it didn’t fail me once.
Lesson #4: During my week in the wilderness, I hiked more miles that I’d like to count, which means I ended up in a different environment each night. Wherever I found myself, one of the critical things I did before I went to bed was put a layer of duff underneath me. Duff is anything you can find — pine needles, leaves, bark — to put between you and the ground to help keep you warm. One of the best nights of rest I got was when I piled about two feet of duff on the ground on which to sleep.
Lesson #5: I didn’t have a GPS or any electronics with me, so the only way I was able to navigate was using a paper map of the area. The lesson here is that you should have a paper map of your area in your home and in your car in case you’re forced to evacuate and you need to determine alternative escape routes. You should also know how to read it. The sad truth is if I handed most 20-year-olds a paper map, they’d have no idea how to use it.
Lesson #6: For a week, I mostly lived off trail mix and oats. As I mentioned earlier, I lost 8 pounds, but remember, the human body is resilient. Most people can survive 30 days without food. However, starving is never fun, so make sure you’ve got plenty of food storage for your family so you can eat well in an emergency.
Lesson #7: The No. 1 aspect of survival is mental toughness. I have never been the fastest, smartest or strongest guy, but mentally, I am one tough son of a gun. Of course, there were times last week I wanted to quit, but I knew I never would. It’s like when I was going through training with the CIA and there were big football player guys who threw in the towel — but not me. You can have plenty of food and the best gear in the world, but if you’re not mentally tough, you won’t last long.
When I returned home Saturday night, I was grateful to take a shower and lie in a bed that didn’t consist of rocks or red ants. I ate an entire pizza for dinner and slept for 13 hours that night.
If you asked me if I had fun last week, the answer would be a resounding no. However, life isn’t always supposed to be fun. I went off the grid because I’m continually practicing survival skills and learning the hard lessons to keep my family (and yours) safer.
Some of the work I do is more enjoyable — like testing a new gun. But I know that unless I constantly push myself, I won’t be prepared for a true survival situation when it occurs.