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!

    During the Russian coup attempt in 1991, the military and the populace were divided on which side they supported. When an incident escalated to the point of violence, 3 people were killed. Both sides seemed shocked and horrified and the coup quickly de-escalated. The Russian people and the military simply did not want to wage war on any part of their own people. This is a realistic response of a well trained military, which is different than a bunch of thugs and criminals.

    Our military personnel are first and foremost patriotic Americans. Most wouldn’t want to kill Americans. Many would simply refuse such orders. All this said, it doesn’t mean we shouldn’t have serious concerns about a tyrannical government. Tyranny sneaks up on people. It usually is implemented in small incremental steps, through laws and regulations (think Nazi Germany).

  2. You mention that there are lessons to be learned from various historical event, many of them recent: Weimar Germany, Zimbabwe and Venezuela’s Collapse, etc. Do you have any sources of where we can go to find this information. I am all about learning from the experience of others rather than through my own pain. Thanks

  3. Hi Gayle- I really like this article. The real deal is that we probably will not have to defend ourselves against our own government., unless we have another civil war. Yes, pandemics could occur, Femma camps could open, etc. However Marshal Law would be declared and most people would be ordered to shelter in place. The bigger concern would be the civilian lawlessness and lack of food & water, and lack of emergency medical services, etc. Various forms of weapons are helpful, but honestly– turn to a higher power and hunker down. I am a true URBAN prepper, and in the big city- these is no bugging out……..crowded freeways, super markets would be sold out in less than 24 hours, Airlines would be grounded, gas stations going dry……..ATM’s spitting out dust….a whole lot of people will get desperate and then religious,,,
    I am very grateful for all of your research – “YOU GO GIRL” !!!!!!

  4. “the government” is also made up of human beings, they are subject to the same diseases and other problems that you and I are, they are not infallible, far from it.

  5. I need to bust the myth of your myth regarding the government/military. Unlike Seagate, who wants us to join a militia, I prefer to not even worry about such an eventuality if the SHTF, simply because I understand both math and human nature. Note that I’m talking about real SHTF, not a semi-catastrophe like a massive earthquake in California or a stock market panic, both of which may be bad but not apocalyptic (unless you’re in CA at the time!).

    Math (rough) – 1.5M active, 1M reserve. Of the active military, many are not in the US, but let’s presume all are. Of all military, many are not front line forces so firearm capability is not “top gun”, but let’s again presume all are. So 2.5M military, all on US soil, all serious warriors.

    US population = 330M. 1% capably armed = 3.3M. 5% capably armed = 16.5M. I think you can see where this is going.

    Now human nature. How many members of the military (or law enforcement, or first responders) will be hanging around waiting to take orders when they have families exposed to the same issues that you and I are in a real SHTF scenario. Just look at the Katrina/New Orleans debacle and the stories of cops showing up in Florida IN THEIR PATROL CARS to escape the hurricane. I’m willing to guess that roughly zero military/LEOs will be “on the job” after a week or two. A version of this conversation supposedly came up in a forum of super-rich preppers wondering how they could keep the commitment of the security forces for their underground billion dollar bunkers. (Rich people don’t want to dirty their hands fighting off marauder, no surprise). There was no answer to this question but at least they understood human nature and the extent of loyalty to a paycheck when money no longer exists. The same applies to moral duty when the country no longer exists.

    To sum up, I fear the government much more when it’s working in normal times than I ever will after the SHTF.

  6. Like the guy, Gene’s friend, who said he didn’t stock food because he knew how to shoot a deer…blah, blah….
    Yeah, why didn’t any of us think of that?? Duh..and here we are storing food for our families!!!

  7. True most people confuse movies and books with fact. With that said, after 414 days of SHTF experience for our family I would suggest that a gun will keep tptb at bay.

    And yes we have not left our property since July 17th, 2017.

    With the example that is given in this article, personally I would rather die than live on my knees as a slave.

  8. One of the best, most realistic articles I’ve read in a long time. People who believe they & their buddies will turn into Rambo & outsmart the government are having difficulty separating Hollywood from real life.

  9. Gaye, you are to negative about surviving against the government. It is true that we have allowed the military to become so powerful that they can withstand attacks from major powers and so it seems unrealistic that civilians can withstand an attack by them. This is not true. Remember that a tiny virus can take down a very big man or a nation. Our civilian size can be a powerhouse.

    The military have vests that many civilians do not however a 30-06 to the face where there is no vest will bring down an elephant. As you said that it is not possible to predict and defend against all situations which is why you cannot fight by yourself. A good war movie will give you some ideas how to attack. And yes our side will lose a few good men also. But eventually we will be free.

    Join a militia now before it is to late. Find your state and JOIN NOW! Active Patriot Groups in the US in 2016 https://www.splcenter.org/fighting-hate/intelligence-report/2017/active-patriot-groups-us-2016

    Active ‘Patriot’ Groups in the United States in 2011

    One other point is the Bundy incident. If you will remember how many civilians showed up to defend the Bundies. Many of them were marine and army personnel. And then there is the fact that the military are very much aware of the situation and most likely will not come against us. As the saying goes ‘freedom isn’t free’. Live free or die, hopefully the other side will die. It is also a good idea to find out where National Guard bases are located and where members of congress and local government live. Attack the politicians. The military will not attack without orders. Cut off the head of the snake and the snake stops attacking.

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