Skill – Patrolling

Another area which a lot of preparedness groups overlook is patrolling.  They apparently believe that a fence or some fields will give them advance notice ahead of time of any threats.

The purpose of patrolling is to get out and see what is happening in the areas around your position.

One can defend from inside their own facility, but how will you know if a group is watching you from a nearby hilltop, devising a plan to attack you, unless you go out and check that hilltop?

But before you run directly to the hill and walk right up, there are a few scouting skills that you should develop and train on.

The first is the ability to move over rough terrain.  That seems simple, but when was the last time you walked through the woods, not on a trail or a road?  When was the last time you did it carrying a heavy load?  When was the last time you moved cross country, carrying a load, and trying to stay quiet enough to not be detected?  It’s not as simple as just walking in rough country.

The best training for this is rucking.  Rucking is loading up a backpack (a “ruck”) with gear, putting it on, and walking.  Start with doing it on sidewalks and roads until you get used to moving with a heavy load.  Then, begin moving cross country with it.

After you have the basics down, begin learning how to move quietly in the brush.  It’s very tempting to walk along trails, and you can do so very quietly, but if there are other people about, some of whom may want to do you harm, where do you think they’ll be?

A caution here…People who train for “rucking” events train for speed while moving carrying a load…you aren’t.  You will not be entering a competition to be first over finish line, you are training to be able move a distance with a load QUIETLY and remaining undetected.  Don’t confuse the two.  I stopped participating with a local veterans rucking group because they were going for time.  I’m going for stealth and life preservation, not speed.

Throughout the patrol and when training, frequently conduct “SLLS”.  This means “Stop, Look, Listen, Smell”.  Take either a knee or the prone position and just observe.  Observe with all your senses, including smell, which is a vital sense on patrol.  There are many smells that only humans cause (cooking, fire, etc.).  Do this for 5 minutes.  There is a tendency just to pause.  Wait….take the full 5 minutes.  Everyone on the patrol should face outboard in a different direction.

Learn the basics of using cover and concealment.  Cover is anything that can stop bullets and concealment is anything that can hide you from observation. Cover is frequently also concealment, but the reverse is not always true.  Plan your movements to parallel trails, but keeping cover and concealment between you and the trail, so that you can observe it without being seen.

Stacking trees is a skill to provide both cover and concealment.  You can angle your self behind trees, enabling you to remain covered and concealed, while watching or engaging someone.  It’s a skill only learned by practice in the field.

Stealth is an important outdoors skill that is helpful for hunting, and absolutely vital for patrolling.  The entire object of a patrol is to find information without giving any away.  Learn to walk without stepping on sticks, and how to move through heavy brush without the noise of moving too much brush.  Again, it’s a skill that is only learned through practice.

We’ve discussed the need for a backpack of gear, but what is a good basic “existence” load?  I’ll discuss what I carry in my ruck as a rule, and you can decide what you want or need.  Remember, it’s always dependent on your local situation, weather, and climate.  I keep in the ruck the basics to survive outdoors in all weather.  Inside the main compartment I have a rain suit, both pants and jacket.  They are Goretex (USMC Issue), so they also function as a wind-proof layer.  Inside a waterproof bag in the main compartment, I keep a poncho liner (blanket), a couple of pairs of extra socks, and change of underwear/t-shirt.  You don’t know how long you’ll be in the field, even you were only going for a few hours.  In other compartments on the bag I keep a full first aid kit, a USMC rain poncho (for use as a tent), a few tent stakes, some paracord, gloves, a camouflage face mask and camouflage face paint, a firearms cleaning kit, two “broken-down” MREs (removed from the packaging), waterproof matches, binoculars, and a fixed blade knife.

This gives me enough gear to survive comfortably for about 72 hours in the field without a need for resupply.  The bag weighs out at about 25-30 pounds and is a very comfortable weight.  

Another caution…invest in a HIGH QUALITY backpack.  Even brands like 5.11 don’t hold up very well in rough country with a heavy load.  I have two bags that I switch between, depending on the environment.  The first is a USMC ILBE Assault Pack.  It’s designed by Arctyrex, and is very sturdy (the USMC is demanding).  The bag I have is the original in Woodland MARPAT, not the newer coyote tan one.  I also have the full-ruck pack that the assault pack attaches to, but that’s not for patrolling.   The other patrol bag I have is the Apollo II bag from Highland Tactical (  This bag is in ATACS Arid/Urban camouflage pattern.  

I know a lot of people recommend avoiding camouflage bags to stay as a “gray man”, but we are discussing patrolling in a without rule of law situation, and I believe fully in using camouflage.  In a WROL patrol, being unseen is far better than being seen and taken as a sheep.  In the unlikely event that someone sees me when patrolling in these conditions, I would rather that they have NO DOUBT that I am a WOLF, rather than mistaking me for a SHEEP.

The next area of skill needed for patrolling in a WROL situation is observation.  Observation is different from seeing.  You can see without observing.  

Always try to observe from a concealed position.  Look around objects, not over them.  With practice, you can learn to use binoculars through brush by focusing them beyond the brush.   Never part brush to look through it, just look through it.  Be sure that you blend in with the background.  You may have to change your individual camouflage when moving from a wooded area to a field, for example.  Wearing dark green camouflage in a sandy area will make you stand out, and vice verse.

Human beings, by nature, are lazy creatures.  We generally look for other humans at eye level first, then we look at obvious places.  Use this to your advantage by remaining as low to the ground as you can to observe.  Another possibility is to observe from an elevated position, but understand that this limits your mobility.

Make sure that when moving or observing, that you do not skyline yourself.  Cross hills and ridges at low points or wooded areas only.

 An important thing to understand for patrolling is the concept of twilight.  Every evening and every morning there is a period called nautical twilight as the sun sets or rises.  It is a very difficult time for observation, because the sky is light, but the ground is dark.  The best way to use this in a preparedness/survival situation is ensure that at twilight you are as low to the ground as possible and still.  The human eye sees movement and contrast.  If you observe while still from ground level at either evening or morning twilight, you will have an advantage over anyone who is walking upright.

Communications is an important issue.  The members of the patrol (never less than 2, and preferably 4), should have radios to communicate with each other.  I know, some of you may say “why, if they are together”.  If the members of a patrol are close enough to each other to be able to hear each other whisper, they are way too close to each other.  They should remain 5-15 meters apart.  Each person having a handheld radio with earpiece would enable them to communicate at great distance by whispering into the radio.

The patrol also needs to be able to communicate back to the location that sent out the patrol.  Having an armed group approach your compound without communications is dangerous, you might mistake them for an opposing group.

Again, short-range handheld radios should be sufficient.  Yes, I know some HAM radio operator is going to jump into the comments on this, but…If you have an 8 watt Baofeng radio and transmit on full power, you’ll be fine in a rural area.  Yes, I know it violates the FCC regulations, but if society has collapsed to the point that I have to send out patrols for local security, then the FCC is not anywhere on my concern list at that moment.  By the way, immediate protection of life and property are permissible reasons to violate FCC Regulations, according to the FCC.

An ancillary skill to patrolling is navigation.  The ability to navigate using a paper map and a compass is crucial.  I know that many in the preparedness community preach about having the latest and greatest handheld GPS, but the truth is that you cannot rely on GPS.  In a grid down situation, GPS performance will begin to degrade almost immediately, since the system relies on the ground stations having power.  Also, the US Navy, during the Second Amendment protests at the Virginia Capitol last year, showed their capability to shut off GPS reception any time that they want.  It’s not unconceivable that the US Military would do the same in an emergency.

All information gathered on the patrol should be documented thoroughly, as you don’t know what information may become relevant later.  I recommend Rite in the Rain products (  I carry mine, along with the paper map in my BattleBoard Scout (  All of this fits easily in my backpack.

No patrol should ever be undertaken without a plan.  The plan should cover what the patrol is designed to accomplish, the areas which the patrol will visit, and the information that the patrol is seeking.  There should also be contingency plans in the event of trouble during the patrol.

Lastly, understand that there are no Lone Wolves.  Rid yourself of that concept.  You need a tribe, you need partners.  Find a like minded group and form a mutual aid group.  Caution…never call yourself an M word.  Yes, that word (the M word mentioned in Amendment 2).  Thats like putting out bait for the ATF and FBI.  No, you aren’t doing anything wrong, but why invite scrutiny?

It’s even mentioned in God’s Ultimate Tactical Handbook….

Saul also went to to his home in Gibeah,

Accompanied by valiant men whose hearts God had touched.

1 Samuel 10:26

If Saul had a team of valiant men a few thousand years ago, you need one today.

Find others, and work on these skills together.

Patrolling is a vital skill and in a WROL situation, it should be an ongoing activity.  


Published by JD

I am the author of the Tactical Wisdom Series. I am a personal protection specialist and a veteran of the US Marine Corps. I conduct preparedness and self-defense training.

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