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What Really Happens When SHTF? Top Post-Collapse Myths Preppers Fall For

Avatar for Jodie Weston Jodie Weston  |  Updated: August 29, 2018
What Really Happens When SHTF? Top Post-Collapse Myths Preppers Fall For

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When it comes to SHTF scenarios, there are many myths about what the various stages of a post-collapse world would look like. Of course, there are different causes for collapse that would present a very different set of survival situations to contend with.

For example, a pandemic would make for a very different-looking collapse than a coordinated nuclear strike on major cities. While there are plenty of factors that would remain constant – for example, any crisis that severe would also come with an economic meltdown — better understanding what really happens in a SHTF situation will help you know how to survive if one should ever occur.

Stages of Collapse

The situations that arise in each stage of collapse are very different. In addition, each type of crisis can happen with a huge range of severity. This article assumes that collapse is total, and very little remnant of our previous society exists.

So, here are some of the most common post-collapse myths that are all too easy to fall for:

You’ll Use Gold & Silver as Currency

Gold and silver are excellent hedges against inflation and other currency crises. After all, after 5,000 years, humanity has consistently returned to gold in times of economic devastation. Is it because gold is shiny? Malleable? In limited supply? Whatever the reason, humans have assigned great value to this metal and seems unlikely to change anytime soon.

However, in a total collapse, it doesn’t make sense that gold and silver would immediately become a widely-accepted new currency. First off, how many non-preppers do you know who own physical gold and silver?

gold bars value prepper

Second, in the early stages, mere survival will be much more important than establishing new mediums of trade. Therefore, you’re better off bartering goods like food, water filters, feminine hygiene products, and other universally-needed essentials than trying to convince a cattle-raising neighbor to accept a gram of gold in exchange for some meat.

More likely, gold and silver would start being used as currency once enough time passes that some semblance of a formal society has begun to take shape. It would have to be at a point when day-to-day survival is no longer as much of a struggle, and more advanced systems, such as currency systems, can begin to be established.

Innovations such as digital cryptocurrencies could theoretically allow for a faster return to a system of standardized money, but there is no reason to believe that electricity and web access would still exist in many of the theoretical disaster situations that could occur.

Your Guns Will Protect You if the Government Becomes Tyrannical

Many prepping and survival websites, especially those with hyper-masculine or militant bent, focus on the threat of violence after SHTF, whether from marauding neighbors or tyrannical governments.

I do believe personally that an armed populace provides some general deterrent to the emergence of full-blown government tyrannies. And while guns certainly provide protection against violent thieves and attackers, defending your liberty with your guns against the U.S. military simply isn’t realistic.

guns shooting shot bullet prepper

I don’t think it’s a good way to think about surviving in a real-world situation where the government has become so overtly totalitarian that troops are rounding people up.

For example, in a severe pandemic, one could imagine martial law being declared so that people could be forced into government quarantine centers, or forced to accept some kind of vaccine or treatment for whatever disease has been unleashed. Any attempt to fight measures like these with guns is more likely to get you vaporized by a drone than free from whatever the government is trying to force you to do.

You’ll be Able to Organize with Fellow Preppers Using Cell Phones

Even if you keep a non-smartphone on hand, do you really think that networks will be available to send calls and texts? Executive orders signed under previous U.S. administrations allow the government, during an emergency, to seize control of cellular networks in the name of national security.

You’d be better off joining a community of CB radio devotees and getting your license, as these older forms of communication are more difficult to commandeer or shut down.

If You Have to Bug Out, You Can Survive by Eating Plants

As a passionate devotee of foraging, I’m all about learning as many edible plant and mushroom species as possible. Knowing how to eat and use edible and medicinal wild plants and mushrooms can make all the difference in terms of getting starches, minerals, vitamins, and medicine that you can’t get from other sources.

But with the caloric and protein needs of wilderness and SHTF survival, it would be difficult or impossible to survive on plants alone, even if you know all the edible ones in your area. Native American tribes foraged many wild plants for food and medicine but also relied heavily on hunting and agriculture.

tree greenery grass

The irony of a vegan diet is that, while many enjoy feeling closer to the earth as one of the benefits of veganism, it’s the modern privilege of not having to fight for one’s survival on a day-to-day basis that enables us to be able to completely avoid foods like meat, fish, eggs, and dairy, and still fulfill our nutritional needs.

Whether you’re trekking through the woods to get to your hidden bug-out shelter or surviving on a farm in a remote area, you’ll probably have to abandon vegetarianism in the name of survival. And while those plants you can identify make fantastic much-needed additions to your diet, you’ll have to be able to hunt or trap in addition to foraging. If you can also find a way to grow food, then that will further improve your chances.

You Can Bug Out, or In, Indefinitely

Very few people are equipped for a truly long-term bug-out. You can prep and prep, but you can never prepare for every situation, much less ensure you can bug out to the extent that you start a semi-permanent new life.

This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do your best, and finances are always a factor in terms of being able to afford what you need for a wide variety of situations, including long-term bug-outs, very few people would actually survive for an extended period if forced to grab a gear bag and run off to the woods.

Same goes for having to bug in. After all, you can only fit so many supplies in your own home, so your options for long-term survival end up being even more limited.

You Can’t Survive Without a Stockpile of Guns and Ammo

Don’t get me wrong: guns are an enormously helpful survival tool, both for hunting and defense. But there are plenty of situations where they would be useless, or where other supplies or traits would be much more helpful.

As mentioned above, a tyrannical government as technologically advanced as that of the United States would probably not be deterred by anything but the most determined and well-nourished guerrilla resistance.

In this kind of scenario, wits, people skills, and charisma would likely be more helpful.

Your Bug-Out House is Safe

There are lots of great reasons to prepare a bug-out property if you can afford it. But assuming this will protect you entirely is foolish.

cabin winter forest jungle prepper shtf

An important part of prepping and survival is to remain realistic, and from weather to pandemic to economic crisis, it’s important to remember that we all have holes in our plans. The best we can do is expect the unexpected, and prep optimistically based on that philosophy.

It’s Going to be Hard, But I’m Ready

Sorry to break it to you, but if we’re talking about a true SHTF collapse, the most realistic attitude to have calls to mind the saying, “I only know that I know nothing.

Assume that you won’t be ready for every situation, and your mind will be more open as to ways your prepping strategy can be improved. When collapse arrives, maintaining morale is critical, but overconfidence can be deadly.

Final Thoughts

Understand that no prep, or plan, is perfect. But by remaining realistic about our limitations, and the near-endless variety of emergency situations that can arise, we can increase our chances of survival and remain on the best-possible footing if disaster ever truly strikes.

One need look no further to history’s real-life disaster zones, dictatorships, and economic collapses to begin getting a realistic idea of what life looks like in the early and middle stages of a systemic crisis. From the 2004 tsunami to the Arab Spring, from Hurricane Katrina to the Venezuelan economic meltdown, we have plenty of examples to draw and extrapolate from – if we take the time to study them!

Author Bio: Eric is a nature-loving writer, experience junkie, and former Boy Scout who never forgot that time-honored Scout Motto: Be prepared. Aside from camping and survival, he loves writing about travel, history, and anything he finds strange and unique!

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16 Responses to “What Really Happens When SHTF? Top Post-Collapse Myths Preppers Fall For”

  1. Great article, thanks. I think we should all start taking our prepping even more seriously since I see this country going down the wrong road faster and faster than ever. Here are some useful resources you might want to check out:

    25 Foods You Must Have in Your Prepper’s Pantry:

    Prepper’s Corner Facebook Group:

    10 things to do immediately after SHTF:

  2. Gay,
    Not sure where your # 1 reply got his info “”Seagate says: August 30, 2018 at 7:47 am”” but I want you to know that as soon as I saw the SPLG was a main supplier of the information I knew I didn’t have the need or time to read any farther. They are a Soros funded progressive liberal group that does the dirty work for others by labeling groups as hate groups with little or no information or understanding. I fear I would rather follow the KKK before the SPLG. At least I know where the KKK comes from, the Democratic party.
    I would be interested in learning more about local militia groups, especially ones not recommended by the SPLG.

  3. Great post. Of course, it is silly to think that if the military wants something that anything is going to stop them. And most sensible people are not going to join a militia, even if a militia could do anything more than temporarily slow down military action, especially when most militias have extremist political views that are as bad as anything we see coming out of the government (especially the current administration, with its subservience to the super-wealthy). Sure, the current administration is seeking to divide us and demonize crucial entities like a free press, and push conspiracy theories about the “deep state,” but our government is likely to survive the current crisis and continue to be oriented towards maintaining some semblance of democracy and civilization. As has been pointed out, the U.S. military is unlikely to turn on its fellow citizens, at least in a large scale way. The greatest dangers are from environmental catastrophes and epidemics. Environmental disasters include slow-moving disasters threatening our food supply, like global warming, or a rapid loss of food supply due to something a huge volcanic eruption (which would also kill large numbers of people) or an infectious agent destroying vast swaths of the monoculture propagated by our industrial agriculture. Epidemics could kill millions easily (who knows what infectious agents lurk out there?). The real problem will be loss of food supplies and disruption in services (medical services, food delivery systems, etc.) caused by both loss of food and loss of people. That’s why it’s important to stock up on food, as well as grow your own, and be near a supply of water. And hope that you don’t need much in the way of advanced medical care. At least until some sort of normalcy returns. Hunting is going to be of limited value in a SHTF scenario, as game populations will be quickly depleted. And building local community will be essential. “Lone wolfs” won’t be lone for long. They’ll be dead. And if it’s truly a SHTF scenario, you’re going to need luck as well as preps.

  4. Thanks for a realistic look at planning for the future, whatever it might hold. I think the real danger from government is the ability to divide our country into various factions and demonize some of them, such as happened in the last administration, and deep state groups funding its continuation.

    On a more local and personal level, I enjoy learning about various plants and herbs that would be useful as food and for medicinal purposes, and have been for years. I love gardening. I can hunt, field dress, skin and process a deer or a rabbit. I raise goats and chickens. I feel like I have stored up non-perishables that would last my family a while. However, my feelings of adequacy quickly vaporized when I was walking with my family in the woods looking for an old graveyard. It was early spring before much in the way of vegetation started putting out. I was lost in my own thoughts for a moment… If I were stuck out here with my family, and couldn’t return home, what would we eat? I didn’t see any of the plants I’d learned about. I could make a make-shift shelter and I fire with what I had with me, but it would be a miserable night to say the least. Where would I find water and treat it to keep us from getting sick? I know how to do that, IF I have the right materials to do it with. Really made me think.
    Thank you for bringing a little realism for us to consider!

  5. Hi Farmer Phyl,

    As a veteran, I would love to believe your logic, but you are completely wrong. Those who do not know the past are condemned to repeat it, as the saying goes.

    Please read :

    I would have sworn that active military would never attack veterans and their families, but MacArthur, Patton and Eisenhower, all household names, led the attack.

    Personally, I think you will be disarmed long before the military is unleashed with martial law. Every police department these days has a SWAT team, if you think you are going to do anything other than whine, when these guys with AR-15’s and body armor crash through your door at 4:00 AM, you are just stupid. They will take down resistance one house at a time, and there is nothing you can do to stop them.

    The time to fight back is now. You will never win an armed conflict with SWAT or military, you are just dreaming there. What needs to happen first and foremost is that we take back our government and force it to obey our constitution. We have no chance if it comes to a gunfight, but we do have a slim chance at the ballot box. We need to wake up our neighbors and get people to vote out the scumbags and vote in some real people who do not like the direction our country is going.

    The sad part is, people never believe that they can make a difference or that they need to take personal responsibility for making changes. If the shooting starts, it is too late and we have lost.

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