Survival Myths Debunked



I am Selco and I am from the Balkan region, and as some of you may know it was hell here from 92-95, anyway, for 1 whole year I lived and survived in a city WITHOUT: electricity, fuel, running water, food distribution, without any kind of organized law or government. The city was surrounded for 1 year and it actually was a real SHTF situation. Our allies were our enemies from one day to the next. Today I’m prepared and share my experience on this blog.

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Over the years being in the Prepper and Survival community,  I realize that my favorite topics for writing are about survival myths.

There are two reasons for that. First I have been through SHTF, so it is obviously clear to me what are the myths about survival and what are the truths, in other words it is kinda easy for me to write about it.

Second reason is because at the same time it’s hard. It is not hard to write about it, but it is hard to explain to people what it’s all about.

Reason for that, is not because I consider most of the Prepper’s idiots, it is about the preconceptions inexperienced people have about survival, or being ready for SHTF.

That preconception is so huge, and so deep, it has been plugged or conditioned into a lot of Preppers so hard, over so many years of bombarding from youtube, blogs, forums, movies and similar that sometimes it look simply hopeless too fight.


Where to Look?


I remember for the first time seeing and teaching a group of students who considered themselves survivalists and Preppers. After few hours of talking with them my first impression was to tell them, or to yell at them „ you are so fucking dead when SHTF, on second day you are dead!!!“

Of course I did not tell them that, but the point is that their survival mentality and mine were like two completely different worlds.

No they were not idiots, just regular folks who look and checked for the most common information about survival out there available, or most commercialized, or coolest.

And no, I do not think that everyone needs to go through years of war in order to become survivalist, just some common sense and some effort.

It is like they learned everything they knew about survival from the guy on youtube channel, who read it from the book, which was written by a guy who heard something from a friend some time ago. So many of the sources they ‘relied’ on or trusted were dangerously worthless…

Folks, there is much more to learn from let’s say a diary of holocaust survivor, than from youtube guy who is testing his new BOB in his backyard!

Actually I would rather have memorized the diary book, instead of owning the BOBs that most of the youtube guys are testing and recommending!

This whole topic is huge, but let’s address the more common mistakes I see all the time. Each of them is not a mistake by itself, but if you put these as a ‘priority’ it is something that definitely will get you killed when SHTF:


The ‘Cool’ Factor


Here is a scenario that happened. A student on my survival course has been offered to choose some equipment to complete a survival training task, the amount of equipment to choose from was limited.

He is trying to ensure he has covered all of the ‘seven priorities’ of Urban Survival. When he gets to the water „section“ there were two items, a camping stove set (The Trangia model), and an old dirty plastic bottle, he could choose one.

He choose the plastic bottle for the section „water“.

I asked him ‘can you tell me why did you choose plastic bottle instead of the camping stove set?’, his answer was: “I saw on youtube that plastic bottle can be use for boiling water and making it sterile“.

I asked him:“ why did you not choose the camping stove set, it can do same thing, much easier, can do even more things, and last much longer etc etc“?

He did not have an answer for that, other than his previous one.

Folks, watching something on youtube (believe it or not) that looks cool, does not necessary mean it is right, or right for every situation.

I believe that youtube video was about using plastic bottle in survival when you do not have anything else, but taking it instead of something really useful just because looks cool or it’s a ‘good trick’???

This Plastic bottle story is just one example, many other times on various courses I see very similar things.

Internet is full of good advice about tactics, techniques, and equipment for SHTF, problem is, that in the same time internet is full of s..t, so choose carefully where you look to learn something, Check for guys who CREDIBLY tested something or experienced it, or you test it yourself before real SHTF.

I know, it is big industry and big money out there about let’s say „ how to survive end of the world with cool equipment and looking cool“, but from my experience I did not see cool equipment in my time, and the ‘cool’ people died very early on…

Folks who survived had stuff that worked and mentality that worked. ‘Coolness’ was not important in that time, even if someone had some ideas about looking and being cool, those ideas gone with first bullets hissing around their heads.

If you’re preparing to have cool equipment (only) and look cool when SHTF you are doing something wrong. Seriously.


Commodities, Peace of Mind, and Degrees of Knowledge


Again, having a commodity by itself when SHTF, on it’s own is not a problem. There is nothing wrong in preparing to be in as much comfort as possible when SHTF.

But huge number of Preppers are preparing only for that! And that is wrong.

Simplest example here, is man who is preparing for SHTF by buying good generator, in order to have as much comfort possible when SHTF, but at the same time he does not know ways to start a simple fire.

Generator here is something like an upgrade, fire (knowledge) is essential.

Nothing wrong with owning a generator, if you also know and have supplies up to the level where a generator ‘fits in’.

Or you have man who has 5 assault rifles, and a lot of ‘knowledge’ (youtube again) about tactical movement – but he has NO clue how hard (noisy) it is to move through partially destroyed buildings, or he never fired the rifle inside an enclosed space (room, empty corridor) and did not experience the impact of that event on his ears.

Nothing wrong with owning 5 rifles, if you know everything up to that level.

Five rifles alone does not mean s..t.

Internet is full of advertising that if you do (or buy) whatever they offer you, you’re going to have something like ‘best time of your life when SHTF.’

Of course it is a lie, even if you are fully prepared it is not going to be a joyride, it is going to be hard and life changing.

And by ‘buying solutions’ then you are just buying peace of mind, nothing more. Worse still, you are seriously underestimating SHTF.

PLEASE make some common sense decisions in your preparing. Do not find yourself in situation where you have 30 spices in your pantry but you do not have duct tape or an axe.

Start from the basic in every „pillar“ of survival, evenly, then build on that base with logic and sense. Build all pillars up at the same time, don’t take ‘defense’ for example and focus and build that to the highest level while ignoring the six others…

I’ve written about these before, but just as a brief re-cap, the seven ‘pillars’ of Urban Preparedness are:

1) Fire

2) Water

3) Shelter

4) Food

5) Signalling/Communication

6) Medical/Hygiene

7) Defense

Use the internet to help your preps, but confidence check your sources, and do not believe everything you read/see!!!

I see and read to many people treating Prepping like some ‘fun game’ as opposed to the serious matter it is. Please choose your approach wisely folks…



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24 Responses

  1. The seven pillars are essential. And know how to USE the tools you have. Now.
    Another note of confirmation: Having spent several years traveling in Third World countries, the most essential on my personal list is WATER. Without water you last 3 days, maybe. With polluted water, you last a few weeks or so. Thank you, Selco, for trying to hammer some sense into our heads.

  2. I’m just your average old-time prepper. I have a point, hopefully I can convey it. Prepping is peace-of-mind to an extent, and for some people, that’s ALL it is. Survival is attitude. It’s easy to have a great attitude when everything is normal. SHTF is going to SUCK, and you will be SHOCKED by it, no matter how well you think you’ve prepped. With this in mind, PREPARE for that shock, prepare to handle ANY situation with minimal “things”, so that the shock doesn’t paralyze you. You will NOT be ready. Keeping this one fact in mind makes you MORE ready.

    The power goes out in my neighborhood quite often. When it does, when it’s dark in the house, and I’m walking around with a lantern, I STILL turn light switches on and off. I KNOW they’re not working. But it’s such a habit, my mind STILL operates subconsciously as if they are. After a short while, it gets cooler in the house. I think about how the furnace will go on soon. But it won’t, not until the power comes back. It’s easy to “make do”, when you KNOW it’s temporary. How about when it’s permanent? Now it’s on YOU.

    Think about all the things that you take for granted on a daily basis, and the habitual way in which you use them. They’re all on Selco’s list. You will reach for that “thing”, you are so used to that “thing”, and it doesn’t exist. Thinking about this isn’t the same as living it. When that thing is gone, REALLY gone, that will be your first of MANY jarring practical lessons. At least consider your plan from this angle.

    1. Thanks BH!
      Good points! When SHTF it is shock, but it is completely new level of shock when man realize it is not temporary thing, and that brings completely new set of rules.

  3. Selco, I would like to know how you break down #3 Shelter… I kind of have

    1 house
    2 shed
    3 vehicles
    4 tents
    5 tarps
    6 water proof clothing
    7 garbage bags, dumpsters, makeshift tin?
    8 other unoccupied?

    1. Thanks for commenting FlatEarther!
      I break it down based completely on my situations, pillars are there to start work and “wrapping” your mind around system of preparing and important topics that you need to cover.
      Let me give you one example: under shelter pillar I have (i know) what apartments gonna be abandoned and empty in first few days of SHTF very close to my location, because I know when and where people gonna run from those spaces. Let s say I made mistake in 50 % of those places (they gonna be unavailable for me-destroyed, occupied or simply too dangerous) that still give me like 4 alternative shelter places for first few days if i need to abandon my home (let s say on my way to BOL).
      So, what I am trying to say, it is not only about physical things, it is about right info too. Yes I too have tents, tarps etc. I also plan to spend few nights in trash bag shelter if needed.
      To break you down “shelter” I would need much more then one comment answering here.
      Under the “shelter” there are alternative places in my town, and on my way to BOL, that i gathered info about it for long time, and still again if in 50% they are unavailable it is still good number.
      Have plan what you want to do when SHTF, and where you want to be, and wrap it around pillars if you understand me, and then have alternative plans, and then-however stupid may sound- be ready to forget whole plan in split second and work new “on the fly” because development of situation will force you.

  4. I realize life won’t be easy if shtf so ive taught myself how to grow a garden, raise chickens, repurpose old items, can, and start a fire. I’ve read a lot of books but you have to practice the skills you read about because it isn’t as easy to do them as it sounds.

  5. So, what are we preparing for?

    What does the end of the world look like?

    I find it difficult to declare definitively what preparations may be right or may be wrong.

    Chief Quartermaster Phillips [“Apocalypse Now”] said: “My orders say I’m not supposed to know where I’m taking this boat, so I don’t! But one look at you, and I know it’s gonna be hot!”

    It is probably gonna be hot.


  6. “So, what are we preparing for?”

    Exactly. Prepare like you don’t know, because you DON’T. Certain exigencies take precedence over others, that’s what you should concern yourself with. Beyond that, it’s just fashion.

  7. BH, you, me, we be three.

    You can know that you have arrived when you are alive [may have a shot] and are gazing upon the one preparing the meal and you are admiring that smudgey face and those dirty fingernails.

    You are alive and you are somehow miraculously fed, and the world around you has gone away.


  8. I take your words to heart Selco. I saw a video of a policeman dying in a fight that he should have won. He was standing up trying to handle a skinny guy on drugs who already has pistol out. Cop uses his left hand to fight two hands of gunman. Cop is trying to pull his own gun out with right hand. Bad guy shoots cop in head. Cop falls dead like a tree tipping over. This was actual security camera footage. I’m learning from you that we must not think about pulling our gun when bad guy already is hand to hand fighting and he has gun. We’re too close to run away. Must deal with the hands trying to point gun at our head first. Same for any situation where you first respond and deal with whatever immediate threat is hitting you. That means making ourselves smarter and focused. And teaching partners quickly how to do best thing, especially when they are guys without experience. I have supplies and a stash place but I know how to improvise and scrounge if I have to leave all my stuff behind.
    Thank you and may God bless your family.

  9. No one is/can be prepared for any situation they have not experienced personally. That is how we learn. The teacher is the experience. Live and repeat the learning experience and muscle memory builds. Reading and watching u-tube/dvd/tv does not substitute for being there. You can not really prepare for a “black swan” event. You can only be ready for an event such as tornado, flood, or other weather event that has happened in the past. This is why listening to survivors of a catastrophe is so important. Your survivor mindset is paramount to the end game.

  10. Way back in middle school, I read the memoir of a man who survived in Poland, during the German occupation. It was actually the transcripts of extensive interviews of the man, when he was in his 50’s. He was already an orphan, and @ 12 years old, when the war broke out. He did not have a very good life in the orphanage, before the war, and had been in trouble for petty crime. To survive, he became a “black marketeer”, trading, stealing, bartering, begging to get what he needed to survive. He freely admitted trading with the enemy German soldiers, smuggling food into the Jewish ghetto for exorbitant prices, and stealing whatever, from whoever, whenever he could. He clearly wasn’t proud of much of what he had done during the war, but neither was he particularly ashamed, either. He was very matter-of-fact about what he had to do to survive. His earlier run-ins with police taught him that people in authority are always ripe for corruption, and he knew which ones were likely to collaborate with the Germans. Having already been a thief, he had learned how to move quietly through the urban landscape. He learned not to be so enamored with the pleasures of normal life, that you make bad decisions. He talked about the closest he came to starving, was after he traded an excessive amount of his food, just to get some small amount of chocolate. He did it thinking he could resupply himself, as usual. Unfortunately, some kind of military action effectively blockaded him for several weeks. He talked about people giving the last of their food to a dying family member, even when it would make no difference. He talked about how “cold” he became with other people, not really having any friends during the war, and being a “loner” after the war. His preparation for his “SHTF” was the “school of hard knocks”.

  11. I followed you closely years ago and did my best to bond with your Ethos but over time realised you lived through Hell. I did a lot of research on the Bosnian/Serbian conflict and while I felt for your story of Survival which is huge, I could never relate to your backstory and the necessity of your choices where I am from. I am from Australia. We have relative Peace apart from shitty Government and the occaisional local idiot who maims a few bystanders. I was one of the first to buy your initial videos / online course. I have taken much info from your courses but I feel my side of the world is relatively peacefull. It demands focus on all the brothers and sisters around me having babies and the Parents ageing and needing constant attention. I live in Australia and I feel for you bastards living in War Torn countries. We have a lot to answer for Politically but we are not our Politicians….who most of us hate right now. My friends and I still prep but we now…after many years have perspective. Australia is both lucky…and fucked at the same time pending the future developments of the World.

    1. Thanks Anthony!
      I completely understand your point, and your “hard time” to bond with some stuff.
      Actually I completely had exact situation and feeling when I tried to bond with other folks stories before my SHTF experience. With stories of folks who had been trough hell. Those folks, my relatives shared some experiences with me, but somehow I thought it is something that happened before, and since word and society is going in better direction it is impossible to happen again. And I was wrong.
      And to be honest, I understood that stories completely only when SHTF in my case. I kinda understand what is all about.
      It is hard to bring your experience to people when their completely life is totally out of your story ( and experience).
      What is important for you here is that when SHTF there, you will remember some things that you learned maybe from me, you ll understand and you ll be faster, or less in shock.
      And do not forget that no matter where you live, no matter how modern and “law and order” society you are in-it is only thin layer of glue that holds things together.
      When that glue goes away, all that stay is people and resources. Too many people and too little resources. That s it.

  12. Selco,
    Don’t know if you got my email or not, but this post was sure a good one. Thanks for taking the time to straighten out what is a real problem for modern prepper mindset. It is real easy for folks to get disconnected and forget what’s important. If you can’t think your way past trouble with little to nothing to work with, stuff ain’t gonna help your cause much more.

  13. I’ve been thinking more about the attitude mindset. Selco, please correct me if I’m wrong, I haven’t lived through what you’ve lived through. But I think the key is perseverance. This is sort of like “don’t quit”, but more.

    I have several close friends. One is the sort that is “unstoppable”. He will do WHATEVER it takes to get done what he needs done. BUT, he has no follow-through. He has flat out admitted that if the water and electricity go out permanently, he’ll kill himself rather than live through that difficulty. He’s ready to go, as long as the resources are inexhaustible. When creativity and improvisation become necessary, he wants nothing to do with it. So he’s out, for certain.

    Another friend, he’s not really a prepper. He likes the idea generally, but he’s more content to live his day-to-day. But he’s a PITA. He WILL NOT QUIT. He gets MAD in a certain way when things don’t go his way, and he aims to outlast the difficulty. I am like this, x10. If things go south, WHEN they go south, because they do here from time to time anyway in small ways, these difficulties — challenges, as I look at them — spur me on. The difficulty in a certain way is the “crisis introduction to other self” that you may have read about elsewhere.

    This isn’t to say that you know everything or have everything you’ll need to survive. You may not, there’s no way to completely plan for it. But having the mindset, or more the “programming”, where difficulties increase your resolve. This is a good attitude to have. It’s something that you can work on right now. Gauge how you respond when things don’t go according to plan. Do you get discouraged? Do you quit? Do you make weak efforts and then move on? Or do you GET IT DONE? Every problem in your life, every difficulty, approach it head-on. Fight, knowing that your efforts will succeed. Don’t be careless, don’t be sloppy. Just focus and overcome. If you fail, try again.

    When the end comes for you, you probably won’t even know it. Hopefully you won’t. But there’s nothing you can do about it, so much so that it’s not even worth worrying about. It’s coming for all of us, that’s a guarantee. Meanwhile, don’t glide through life. Don’t take the easy way, unless the easy way actually promotes survival. Don’t get involved in unnecessary difficulty, but don’t allow yourself to be defeated by simple, important things. Your life may depend on certain abilities and the KNOWLEDGE that you POSSESS those abilities one day.

  14. Everyone seems to forget, under the pillar of shelter, you have to include clothing. What kind of clothes to wear for your environment, how to look after it and how to repair it. Remember, clothing is your very first line of shelter.
    Also, because the location where you are may not be tenable, I would add an eighth pillar to survival. If you need to move, navigation skills may be important. Not only using a GPS but knowing how to properly use a map and compass. Know how to move across the terrain. In winter, do you need to use cross country skis or snowshoes, do you know how? Are you going to have to climb a cliff, rappel down a wall or cross a ravine or swamp, do you know how to?
    All of my preparations revolve around eight pillars and I plan accordingly. I don’t consider them in any particular order as that can change with my situation.

    1. Thanks Richard, people usually forget everyday small things, because those things are usual in normal life-not matter of life and death situation. Of course things like clothing and footwear are important, it sucks if people realize that only when SHTF and man findhimself walking 10 kilometers in wrong shoes or without extra socks etc.

      Navigational skills are basic skills that every survivalist must know to some depth, using map and compass are really right at the “beginning” of that depth.
      Under our pillars system it goes under number 5.Signalling/Communication

  15. To continue my adventures shopping at the Salvation Army Shop..:-).. I bought a couple of “uncool” survival items which relate to cooking. A couple of aluminum camp pots. We call them a “billy” in British culture. A small pot with a lid and a loop wire handle which allows them to be hung over a fire. A household pot with a handle would be difficult to use over a campfire. I guess I already have some somewhere, but not small (4l) and aluminum (so durable and light).
    Also a small aluminum pressure cooker. A “Hawkin ” brand made in India.. simple and robust.. for $4.00. The Indians cook a lot of dried peas/lentils and I guess rice. These will cook a lot faster in a pressure cooker which will save on fuel. I have a lot of small butane cannister camp stoves. After the SHTF I want to make these last as long as I can..they are so quick and convenient compared with a fire.
    A pressure cooker used to sterilize water is faster because it is sealed, and also gets to a higher temperatue. I have a collection of big ones, some heavy stainless steel, but a small light “camping” type seems a useful item.
    If it is cheap… then you really can’t go wrong… Still hoarding…… :-). downunder…

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