By April 23, 2012 Read More →

Lone Wolf Syndrome

Perhaps as a result of having seen too many Rambo movies back in the day, there still exists this mentality out there whereby the hero survivalist plans to just head for the hills and hunker down in the wilderness if/when the excrement hits the rotary air movement device.  A couple years back, I coined the term “Lone Wolf Syndrome” to describe this sort of thinking.

The plan, such as it is, is to grab their trusty rucksack, filled with about sixty pounds of gear, and hightail it to the nearest state forest or other major wooded area, then proceed to live off the land for weeks, months, perhaps years.  Frequently, the survivalist will offhandedly mention that a dire fate awaits anyone who ventures into their area of operation.  They envision dining every night on freshly caught fish or snared rabbit, building an intricate shelter, and just enjoying the solitude of the wild.

The reality is, this is a plan doomed to fail.  First, there are very, VERY few people who could probably pull this off for any great length of time.  While many of us would certainly be capable of spending a few nights out in the rough with little in the way of gear and supplies, doing so for an extended period of time requires a vast array of skills as well as an high amount of mental stamina.

Second, the thought that you’d likely be the only person out there is likely to be a fallacy.  If you’ve ever gone hunting with a group, you know there is little else more frustrating than trying to deal with someone who really has no clue what they are doing.  They’re loud, always walking exactly where you don’t want them to be, that sort of nonsense.  Now, imagine an entire forest full of people like that! Yeah, hunting for dinner might not go so well.

Lastly, human beings are social animals by nature.  We tend to crave contact with other people.  There is a good reason why solitary confinement is considered extreme punishment in our correctional system. Even the much-vaunted mountain men of days gone by, came to town for news, supplies, and companionship, as well as stopping to visit with friendly Indian tribes.  And bear in mind in those days, there were far less people milling about and fewer still who were likely to be violent at the drop of a hat.

You’ll have to eat sometime.  You’ll have to sleep, poop, and perform a myriad of other tasks, all of which will call your attention away from constantly scanning for potential enemies.  Who will watch over your camp while you’re out hunting or checking traps?

A far better plan is to hunker down and shelter in place.  A secondary plan would be to have a place to go should your primary retreat location become untenable for some reason.  Remembering the rule of 3’s (have at least three ways to accomplish a given goal), set up multiple locations for fallback positions.  Ideally, all of these places will have a small group of family and/or friends who you can trust to watch your back while you watch theirs.

Jim Cobb writes as The Frugal Prepper in every issue of Survivalist Magazine. His primary website is and he also blogs daily for

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6 Comments on "Lone Wolf Syndrome"

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  1. Chris Watson says:

    I agree. If I had to guess, a fraction of one percent of the US population has the ability to survive more than 5-7 days without any modern conveniences or tools, beyond a knife, cordage, clothes, and water container. Eric Rudolph stayed on the lam for years in NC but had assistance and foraged in local towns. Community is the only sustainable survival practice, IMO.

  2. Good article I agree completely – the other thing that Lone Wolves don’t want to think about is the very strong possibility that all the game will be hunted almost right out of existence even in the most remote areas following a long term emergency where the masses are facing starvation in ONE season. Even out west. There just isn’t enough wild game and fish to feed everyone. If you think you are gonna live off of fish and game in the woods – all I have to say to you is: Good Luck with that. 

  3. Jeanne and Kip says:

    We live in a national forest in the west, in the mountains. If people think they’re going to hop in their loaded vehicles, hit the road for the wilderness, and survive, I have news for them. It ain’t gonna happen. Today’s example: ponds and streams are stocked with hatchery fish. There are very few wild fish now. In a disaster, nobody is going to feed the fingerlings in the hatchery, they’ll all die. What’s left in the streams, ponds, and rivers will be fished to zero. Not with fishing poles, either. In a panic, people will use nets, and hoard & protect what they get. You gonna tramp in the woods? When things get tough, it’s the mountain locals who set out snares and traps. How would you like to get your ankle snapped in half by traps because as a city slicker you have no clue what to look for or signs of lightly covered traps? Every winter we get 6-10 FEET of snow in our mountains. There are no animals out and about. They go to lower elevations where populations are, and it’s that population who will wipe out the animals. Wild mushrooms grow for an extremely short time, blink and you’ll miss them. Huckleberries may or may not produce, depends on rainfall. Last year there weren’t many huckleberries, what was there were hard black knots. Too dry. Everybody has guns in the mountains. They live in the mountains. In a disaster, they aren’t going to wait for you to make your road trip and beat them to the meat. Forget it. There isn’t that much game left anyway, even for the locals in the mountains. City folks buy 5-20 acres up here, cut down the trees, build houses, tear up the forest with 4-wheelers, shoot anything that moves because it feels great to have the freedom to shoot that gun you’ve hankered to shoot outside of town, development and timber companies clear-cut and destroyed a large part of the natural habitat for elk, deer, moose, mountain lions, bear, wolves, beavers, raccoons, you name it. They blame wolves, of course, which is a total crock of —-. Stay where you are and if and when you have to bug out, find an area that has moderate temperatures year-around. Otherwise, you’ll be just more bones scattered by wild animals after the spring snowmelt. You can ignore my advise or not. I live here, I know what it’s like.

  4. Thomas Kemmett says:

    A Lone Wolf will be just that, alone. I have talked with the people who live around me, we have come up with a “neighbor self defense force” plan. We will band together and we will survive together. We all have military or police experience. I have hunted for at least 40 years. The woods are a great place to be, but you still need a home base. Good article.

  5. mike saucer says:

    Good article and comments, I read where a group put it to a test. They broke into groups of ones, twos and threes. The one were very tired in a very short period of time, the threes did the best.

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