I watch a lot of the “Prepper” movies, to see how realistic they are, and to see how the principles I discuss would have helped the heroes in the movie. SPOILER ALERT…if you haven’t seen “The Road”, with Vigo Mortensen, there are a few spoilers in here, but I’ll try to limit them.
Before we get started, I wanted to announce that my first book, “The Base Line Training Manual” is out and available on Amazon in both eBook and paperback. I personally recommend paperback, because it’s designed to be a pocket reference. We’re already working on book two, “Fieldcraft”. These two books will cover all the issues we discuss here.
First, the movie is fairly good, but the back and forth between flashbacks and current time gets a little confusing. It was fairly realistic, but it was definitely not perfect in it’s depiction.
The first lesson is that when we see the flashback scenes, the “Man” (Vigo) was caught up in a normalcy bias before being forced to flee, and the belief that things would “work out” or somehow “get better”, while the “Woman” was a realist. Understand that in a WROL situation hoping for things to get better is not a successful strategy. Never be so tied to a location that you can’t walk out on virtually no notice.
Next, throughout the movie, they kept approaching houses, barns, and vehicles for shelter. Before approaching these structures, they usually hid their supplies before approaching on foot. That’s a great tactic and is certainly always a good idea.
The problem is that by approaching structures meant for humans, you will frequently encounter humans. In a WROL/Collapse scenario, that’s something to be avoided if you can do it. While the movie showed him using binoculars to scope locations before approaching, it was always a quick peek. I realize that it’s a movie, but if we are going to approach a structure like that, we would be better served by establishing a concealed observation post and watching the structure for at least a few HOURS beforehand.
In the movie, sure enough, nearly every time that they entered a structure like that, other humans, nearly always intent on harm, found them in short order.
Avoid areas where other humans will gather if you are trying to remain undetected, which will usually be our goal.
The prudent see danger and take refuge;
But the simple keep going and pay the penalty.
Another issue is that they frequently traveled and camped along roads. As I’ve pointed out before, roads and trails are what military units call “natural lines of drift”, and along with rivers and cleared areas, mean places that people like refugees will gather and travel. Traveling via any of these lines of drift increases the chance of an encounter.
A better way is to “hand-rail” them. Move in cover along the feature, so that you can follow it, without using it. Yes, it would be much easier traveling on the road, especially with a shopping cart, like they had, but we aren’t looking for easy, we’re looking for safe.
They frequently camped inside vehicles directly on the road, which in a WROL situation is DANGEROUS. Sure enough, a large armed force came rolling up the road one morning and they had to run and hide. Because they had left their cart right next to the vehicle they slept in, the bad guys took all their gear, leaving them with two empty backpacks and they had to start over.
Gather up your belongings to leave the land,
You who live under siege.
As I point out on this blog and in my book, before settling in for the night, you should hide your gear, except for what you are sleeping in. Your backpack should remain packed, except for what you are using as shelter while you sleep. That way, if you have to run, you leave behind a bare minimum of gear. If your main supplies had been stashed, you could come back later and retrieve them.
The other point I regularly make is that you should always move about 100 meters away from your main line of march before setting up a camp. This way, if you were near the road, people on the road wouldn’t see you and anyone following you wouldn’t stumble into the camp.
Another point I took issue with in the movie was that they had a fire every single night. Fires should only be used before dark, unless you are CERTAIN that you are in a secure location.
At one point, they encounter a fully stocked, but vacant underground shelter. They occupied it, and the Man made sure to camouflage the entrances, particularly the emergency exit hatch. The issue is that they became complacent, staying there longer that they should have, and sure enough, someone found them.
I will stand at my watch
And station myself on the ramparts.
The issue wasn’t with being found; that’s a given in that it was a manmade structure, and we’ve already discussed that risk, it’s that they were caught by surprise, because they neglected security. In a WROL situation, you must be obsessive about security. It must become a state of mind. You must always consider how other people might approach your position, and then address the risk.
At another point, the Man left the Boy for a bit, and the Boy was supposed to keep watch. Sure enough, he fell asleep and a thief came along, and stole all of their gear. As I said before, in a WROL situation, security is a matter of life and death.
As the movie comes to a close, you find that the Man and the Boy have been followed the entire way by another group. As I’ve mentioned before, it’s important to occasionally check to see if you are being followed. Making a 90 degree turn, moving 30 meters off your route and setting up a hasty ambush watching the area you just traveled is a simple and secure way to see if you are being followed.
Fortunately for the Boy, the party following them was friendly, and not hostile.
Sometimes it’s fun to watch these movies and consider how you would have done it and how the characters could have improved.
Sure, the mistakes they made are intentional, so that’s not a boring movie of two people camping, but some people watch these and conflate them with real-world applications.
I hope these ideas help you in your planning.
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