How Would YOU Get Around If the SHTF? All-Season Transportation Options

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by 1stMarineJarHead

According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary:

Transportation

trans·​por·​ta·​tion | \ ˌtran(t)s-pər-ˈtā-shən
Definition of transportation

1 : an act, process, or instance of transporting or being transported
2a : means of conveyance or travel from one place to another
b : public conveyance of passengers or goods especially as a commercial enterprise
3 : banishment to a penal colony

Okay, banishment to a penal colony was a new one for me.

If the SHTF, what is your primary means of  “conveyance or travel from one place to another?” If fuel availability is in question, that lift or ride might not be an option. And your options will change with the weather if you live in a place with distinct seasons.

Keep in mind that transportation isn’t just about bugging out fifty miles to your lodge. You’ll still have to get around on a regular basis for a variety of reasons.

Winter transportation

For me, here in the Great White (i.e. snow) North, if the fuel is not available and the snowplows are not running how do I get around where we average 20 feet (yep, feet) of snow a year? What are your options for bugging out or just getting from Point A to Point B?

Snowshoes

Not the old school, look like wood tennis rackets strapped to your feet. The new modern ones are a mix of metal, composite and plastics. I bought my first pair (similar to these) after taking the dogs out for their daily walk in our first real snow of the season when we moved to the farm. Later I upgraded to this pair.

At first, I highly doubted their merit, would I use them more than a few times and then they would spend the rest of their days in a forgotten corner in the attic.

Nope.

I use them nearly every day in the winter.

Cross Country Skis

I have used the ones for use on groomed trails, and after some trial and error (and a lot of harsh language) I finally got the hang of it and could get up a good fast pace.

There are manufacturers who make skis for non-groomed trails. True backcountry, hilly terrain skis. A few of the neighbors have these. I need to get a pair.

Snowmobiles

A number of people have them around here. If you had the fuel to burn, a snowmobile could be used to get around.

Every fall the local snowmobile club around here comes out to check the trails for possible fallen trees to prevent accidents. Stick to areas where you know they are clear. That small looking mound of snow might be a tree or surface boulder.

Horseback

Prior to the invention of the automobile, people used animals to get around. Could it be done again? Sure.

But the average American does not know how to care for properly, let alone ride a horse. I know food goes in that end, manure comes out the other end, you sit up there, and horses generally like apples. That is about the extent of my knowledge of horses.

There is going to be a serious learning curve. Obviously horseback riding could be done in any season as long as you are not putting your animal at risk with extreme conditions.

Making your trails

The first trails blazed for the winter season are generally the hardest.

Each time I go out, I take the same path as the action of snowshoeing packs the snow down. After a half a dozen or so, the trial is more like walking on a sidewalk vs walking in wet sand or deep mud. The exception is if we get significant snowfall, but even then it is still better than starting over.

The same goes for cross country skiing.

Interestingly enough, the local wildlife uses our snowshoeing trails. We find deer, rabbit, and what looks like coy tracks. They know it is easier too.

Someone may comment about leaving tracks giving away my position/OPSEC. That is true. The moment I walk out of the house I am going to leave a track. But I figure we get to that point in SHTF, my whereabouts are going to be known by the fires I have going to stay warm and cook with. Same with nearly everyone else who heats with wood, and that is most of us up here.

Transporting items

I carry a backpack for storing away layers, additional layers if it is really cold out, and of course a first aid kit (NOTE: Update your first aid kits to reflect the seasons).

Otherwise, I try to keep it as light as possible to keep the exertion at a minimum. If I have to haul something to the neighbors, rather then trying to hump it all in a backpack, a cheap plastic toboggan and length of static rope is easier to pull across the snow.

Winter Safety Tips

Despite it being winter, the kind of physical exertion that comes with either snowshoeing or cross-country skiing can still cause heat exhaustion. If you are not used to it, take your time.

With snow boots and the snowshoes, it is like strapping an extra 8lbs of weight to your feet. And then walking through deep snow.

We tend to overdress for the winter and then find ourselves outright sweating like it was a summer day. Layers are best. I can remove layers as needed.

As part of Daisy’s Prepper Health and Fitness Challenge, today I did about 2 miles of snowshoeing. I had to remove the performance layer, took off the gloves, opened the parka underarm/pit zips, and under zipped the parka and fleece halfway. I was still warm and sweating.

If you can find them or afford them, wool products are great. One winter one of the dogs fell through the ice into the brook. He could not get out. Into the brook I went snowshoes and all. Water came over the top of one of my boots and into my socks, soaking my foot. Once I pulled the dog and myself out of the water, we made it double time for home. Halfway there, I discovered my one wet foot was no longer cold but warm. Even wet, wool maintains its warming properties.

Carry water with you. A water bladder next to your performance layer, and keep the water tube if you have one there too. In single-digit temps, I have had the water in the tube mouthpiece freeze when I left it out once.

Warm Weather Transportation

Let’s not forget our Southerners!

Courtesy of the USMC, I have been to some of the hottest and most humid places on earth, to include my beloved Island.

While the location may be different, swap out snow and cold with heat and humidity, the idea is still the same: how do you get around?

Walking?

I recommend seeing Daisy’s Health and Fitness Challenge on walking/moving.

Bicycling?

Not only do you have the correct bicycle for your terrain, fitted to you correctly, but do you have the physical fitness to ride 10, 20 or more miles? Hilly terrain?

I just read an article 2 out of 5 adults cannot fix a single household problem without Google. What about a flat tire on the side of the road with no Google?

Summer Safety Tips

Water and staying hydrated still apply. Do not overexert yourself.

Loadout applies too. Rather than trying to haul a load in a backpack, do you have some kind of pull behind trailer?
Spare parts. Not only tires, and tubes, but extra cables, and even chains. Yes, if you put a lot of miles on a bicycle, the chain actually stretches. In my youth, I rode three Tour of the Scioto River Valley (TOSRV) bicycle tours.

How would you get around?

There is a wee bit of strife going on in the Middle East right now. Some have even suggested the possibility of a cyber-attack on our electrical grid. If something like that would come to pass, and as some studies have suggested it could be a year or four before we get back to “normal,” how would you fare?

About 1stMarineJarHead

1stMarineJarHead is not only a former Marine, but also a former EMT-B, Wilderness EMT (courtesy of NOLS), and volunteer firefighter.

He currently resides in the great white (i.e. snowy) Northeast with his wife and dogs. He raises chickens, rabbits, goats, occasionally hogs, cows and sometimes ducks. He grows various veggies and has a weird fondness for rutabagas. He enjoys reading, writing, cooking from scratch, making charcuterie, target shooting, and is currently expanding his woodworking skills.

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19 Responses

  1. What do you think is the different between a summer and a winter first aid kit? Sunscreen, mosquito lotion, and benadryl to treat the bites in the summer. Winter?

    1. I take the sun screen and bug juice out, as you note, not going to need them in the winter.
      And, they would likely freeze.
      Not sure how or if they would remain effective from repeated freezing and thawing.

    2. Cinnamon Grammy I carry more chapstick in the winter though I carry some in the summer.
      Small regular lotion for windburn in the winter.
      Other than what 1stMarineJarHead says bout pulling out stuff that San freeze and/or rupture.

  2. Your neck of the woods sounds like mine. I snowshoe but don’t ski. A lot of people have snowmobiles here.
    One advantage I have is a flowing well so I have water when the power is out.

  3. Beyond the backpack, there’s a variety of two-wheel trailer systems. The simplest is probably the classic airline compactable luggage cart that can also carry groceries or anything else up to its rated capacity. I have a $22 one from Aldi that’s rated for 150 pounds — way more than I could ever handle in a backpack.

    The next level up might be the two-wheel hiking trailer, either via retail or DIY. There are plenty of how-to videos on YouTube for both categories. There’s even one from the Netherlands about hiking a couple of thousand kilometers with a loaded hiking trailer.

    Next up might be the bicycle cargo trailer, either via retail or a DIY conversion of a two-child carrier bicycle trailer.

    Then if you really want some inspiration from American history, read the “Handcarts to Zion” book about the Mormons’ 1856-1860 exodus to the far west. Those who couldn’t afford horses or oxen for transportation and wagon hauling used two-wheel wooden carts that they loaded with all that could be carried and pulled on foot. Most made the trip alive; some died along the way. Here’s that book:

    https://www.amazon.com/s?k=handcarts+to+zion&i=stripbooks&ref=nb_sb_noss_1

    –Lewis

    1. I can tell you, two wheeled systems or four, do not do well in snow, unless the path is well blazed (aka, compacted).
      We had a snow storm that was not supposed to hit us, hit us and dump 12 inches of snow in 12 hours. The 4-wheeled drive ATV could not get up the hill. I had to put the last hog down, load it on the plastic toboggan, and haul it back to the barn for processing. All via snowshoe. That was a good 500-600m and 250lbs of dead weight.

      Not sure on how well horses would work on un-plowed roads, but the Amish here, they do a lot better on plowed roads. The one Amish appreciated me and my truck coming up his drive. Made it easier for his horse and carriage.

  4. Do snowshoes enable you walk on top of the snow? I always thought they would still sink into the snow, perhaps only a little less than regular hiking boots.

    1. Newly fallen snow, or somewhere you have not blazed a new path, yes, you do sink into the snow. But as you have a larger surface area, you do not sink nearly as deep when compared to straight hiking/winter boots.
      You can definitely tell the difference!

    2. Snow? What’s that?

      Seriously, many years ago when I lived in snow country, I had a pair of what Norwegians called “turski”. They were longer and wider than the typical cross-country skis sold today, with about twice the area. They were not heavy.

      When walking across new fallen snow, they generally sank no more than about 8 inches, it didn’t matter how deep was the snow. That was true even for soft powder. Still was tiring to cut a new trail.

      On a groomed trail, they were generally as fast, if not faster, than the typical cross-country skis, only racing skis were faster. But then I tended to wax fast. When I lived in snow country, I did a few hundred miles a winter. Just cruising on a groomed trail didn’t take a lot of energy, but the speed was a fast jog to a run.

      That’s just my experience from many years ago.

      I feel old and fat now, but I can still hike miles up mountain trails. I look around me and see that the typical person half my age can’t keep up with me, neither speed nor distance, when I just walk. I sometimes wonder how they will fare should conditions turn really bad?

      1. I have to agree with you, cross country skiing is a lot easier than snowshoeing.
        Got a good friend who has a good set of XC skis. She does well (in her latter 50s) than me on those skis for groomed trails.

  5. Snowmobiling??
    You got to be kidding. First of all you would make a lot of noise and you would be tracked back to your camp or bug out location and attacked for your supplies.
    The second thing is, What are you going to run them on? If SHTF don’t expect to find gas. 100% Alcohol based fuels won’t run well in machines designed for gas without a lot of problems or modifications. It will tend to shorten the useful life of those engines, not designed for 100% Alcohol. if it actually does work in them.
    Sure you might have these for a few months after SHTf, but not in the long term.
    As far a bicycles, don’t expect them to last long after SHTF with out spare parts. They too would tend to make you a target for a raid.

    More than likely the best choice for traveling long distances will be riding horses, mules and such, or in using dog sleds and pack animals. Possibly with livestock drawn wagons or carts.
    Otherwise it will be walking, skiing, etc.

    Here is a classic fallacy promoted by our leaders: that they can repair the grid after a year or so.
    The truth is, If the grid goes down for a year or more, its never coming back up.

    The damage to done to our infrastructure by the looting, arson and general destruction that would occur in the breakdown of society that followed a grid collapse would be immense.
    Since cities can not exist with out food being brought in. and with out fuel , few people will remain there. So that, will cause the scattering of qualified personnel needed to rebuild and maintain the system. Assuming that they would even have survived that long.

    Common sense would tell you that without modern vehicles to transport new line, transformers and replacement poles, you are not going to fix anything. Then without cranes to lift poles into place or powered equipment to dig holes for the poles and no cement available, its just not happening.
    Since most substation transformers are extremely large and heavy there would be no way to ship them in and install replacements without modern technology.

    Then there is the issue of feeding and housing all the workmen, while you are trying to rebuild the electrical system, without any major food production system, water services, or modern transportation.
    Not including the need for usable shelters, heat or cooling, medical and sanitation services for the encampment, as well as armed security to protect both the workers and their supplies.

    It might be possible to do in a few small select areas, by the locals themselves, but it would be an ever increasing hardship to try to expand it as time went on. The lack of replacement parts and supplies would cause a reasonable person to save them for the existing system repairs , rather than pushing to expand the coverage area.

    The other thing is that if the US goes down, the world economy would collapse (SHTF everywhere) and there would be no outside support to help us rebuild, send us part and supplies, etc.

    Once SHTF, anything mechanical will brake down and become unrepairable rather quickly. So consider that fact, in deciding how to fill your long term transportation needs.

    1. Snowmobiles are like motorcycles.
      You can hear the Harley hogs, or street bikes coming from a long way off. Those Honda Goldwings, or BMW Paris-Dakars, they can be at my driveway before I know it.
      Same goes for the snowmobiles.
      I know this as there is a snowmobile trail on my South and East side of my property.

      As I mentioned, if you have fuel to burn, by all means, use your snowmobile.

      As to bicycles, I was a registered Cat 4 (back when there was only 4 categories) bicycle racer in Crit and Road racing. A short ride was 30-40 miles. A long ride, 70 miles in a afternoon. That was 5-6 days a week. Cable stretching was the biggest factor, after flats. Both are easily mitigated by cheap spar parts in the here and now. My chain stretching was a shocker. But again, I put several thousand miles on that Cannondale every year. I did bust a rim racing in NM for a season. But that was intense training and racing. A bicycle can operate for a very long period of time with basic maintenance. Now, that may be a challenge for the Millennials, but the rest of us, not so much.

      I can and do hear my Amish neighbors horses and carriages from a good distance. So do the dogs.

      The rest of your post, I do not disagree. I think you are more spot on than most.

      1. Australia was a penal colony that the British transported their convicts to, so if you are ever coming to Australia you can use the word transported to describe the journey.

        As a hot climate country most of the advice wasn’t relevant to us here. I would suggest water travel as the way to go. Most of the pre 1900 towns and cities were built on water ways for transport, river access and a boat was one of the main transport methods before fossil fuels. That’s the world over, the US has the great lakes and the canal system that was used for shipping and is still maintained. The British have a long standing tradition of rivers canals and weirs. The Australian towns are mostly coastal, Everywhere in Asia is built on water ways. Some in India worship the Ganges.

        Which gets me onto my rant for the day, we often get tourists getting lost in the outback in Australia, I am baffled as to why. If you ever get lost head downhill until you find a watercourse, then follow the water course. By doing this you are heading towards water to drink, and you are heading to where people build farms, houses and towns; and you are heading towards shade and shelter in the river bank. If you can’t move, light a signal fire, you shouldn’t be lost more than a day or so.

        If you are travelling in a hot climate double your water, if the book says half a gallon per day (2l) but if it’s hot you will need more. That water ration is for when you are not actively exerting energy. Double the water.

        1. As I stated, this was more for those in the Northern latitudes.
          But the same applies to everyone if the grid, JIT/BAU system fails.
          How do you get around? What is your means of transportation?
          Even walking will require a degree of not only water intake, but caloric intake as well. We all might get a bit thinner as a result.
          For those of you on hypertension Rx, or type 2 diabetes Rx, could be a good thing. I recall when in California a land slide wiped out a major road, some residents were forced to use a long series of stairs. Many of them lost weight, and some even could go off their Rx drugs.

          Regardless, what everyone needs to think about is how are they going to get around if automobile transport fails.

          The world gets a lot smaller.

          Caring about what happens the next city, or state, or country or half way around the world becomes moot.

  6. Though I keep my car and truck tanks full,sooner or later they will run out. Enter,bike. Living in rural Az it is generally safe for doing so. During July and August I bike early in the morning,or evening. I would not go out unless absolutely necessary.

  7. I am a wheelbarrel and 5-7 gal. bucket guy,and for winter still use the old wooden shoes.I bought a ice house sled for winter and my dad whos over 70 uses it the rest of the year to pick up stixs before he mows.If it all goes side ways it will be hand carts,and small wagons,even 2 wheel dollys.As animals get used the transportion grid will grow but don’t forget about water ways in warm weather and useing the ice in winter.

  8. Before WW2 it was a grand event to travel much beyond your say 40 mile radii neighborhood. Desperation had folks going wherever they thought jobs and food was during the Great Depression. Not all made the trip safely as deaths from exposure and starvation occurred.

    The Interstate highway system and improvements in air travel in very recent times made commuting 60 plus miles to a daily job “ordinary”.

    Post SHTF lack of fuel or even due to economics issue COST of fuel will make travel again a life changing event.

    Walking, snowshoeing, x-country skis, bicycles for those that can maintain them will be the Automobile of the age.

    All this assumes it’s not dangerous due to bandits, disease and such to travel beyond your known area again.

  9. This is a really great topic to discuss; with plenty of nuances and variables. I really appreciated your thoughts on cold weather travel. I’m from northern Ontario, Canada where this kind of travel is our reality for months of the year. I’ve seen too many local preppers around these parts take an over simplified approach to prepping that does not take into account the cold and the snow.

    Two of my immediate neighbors run dog teams (one neighbhor has 23 dogs!)… my family’s approach is snowshoes and ‘pulks’ (long sleds with canvas gear bags)… the pulks have ropes inside PVC that connect to the puller via a military style H harness.. We also use hot tents with little wood stoves. Like the author said, wool is a must. We use wool anoraks (long hobbit looking coats) with light canvas overcoats to cut the wind all held up/together with a traditional sash. Also, do not underestimate the amount of water or calories needed to travel like this. Along with jerky we eat mass quantities of M&MS and peanuts

    1. I was thinking of using a length of static rope, then tie a double bowline and run it across my shoulder and down under my opposite underarm. But the military H harness is a great idea!

      Thank you, and thank you for your post!

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