Moving for Preppers

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The prepping community is always full of well-meaning advice about “where” a prepper should move to increase the chances of survival during an SHTF scenario, but the information on “how” to move is hard to find.

I’m in the process of getting ready for a big move – across the continent and into another country. I’ve been at this prepping gig for quite some time, and have relocated several times throughout, but I’ve never undertaken a venture this big. When we relocated here to the forests of Central Ontario, I thought the 8 hour drive in the moving van was a pretty big deal. Now, I’m putting it in perspective against our upcoming 40+ hour drive, and it seems like a walk in the park.

As with any move, there are the basics that you must take care of:

  • Finding a home on the other end
  • Establishing services in your new home
  • Sorting through what to take and what to ditch
  • Figuring out how you’re going to move all your stuff (moving company? moving van? trailer? ship it?)
  • Transporting pets/livestock
  • The move itself

Finding your home on the opposite end can be a challenge from a distance. Of course, as preppers, we look for different things in our new home than the average family. We want a water source, room for gardening, geographical isolation, alternative heat – all the things a perfect homestead should have. Check out this video about Joel Skousen‘s book, Strategic Relocation, for more information.

Once you have found your home you can then set up your needed utilities via telephone and email. If you have contacts in the area, be sure to get recommendations regarding the different providers.

Now for the big job…sorting your belongings

Sorting through all your stuff and packing is the biggest job when undertaking a move. Many people who lead a preparedness lifestyle have accumulated a lot of “stuff” – we dismantle no-longer-working items for the spare parts, we save buttons and rubber bands, and we have stockpiles of all sorts. I have been going through our belongings a bit at a time, and I’m feeling rather “hoarderesque”. It’s hard for me to discard those “things that might be useful someday” but we aren’t taking a lot. We’re moving on a budget, and you have to consider that in a long distance move, everything you take costs money. It takes up valuable space on the moving van and the additional weight of each item uses gas. For some things, it will be cheaper to replace them on the other end.

When sorting through the contents of your house, you need to ask yourself a few questions before you discard it:

  1. Would I be able to easily replace this in the future? I get a lot of my things at yard sales and thrift stores, and this makes some of them tough to replace. For example, I have an antique coffee grinder, an adorable little device with a hand crank. I picked it up for $3, cleaned it and now use it on a regular basis in my kitchen. It could be tough to replace because of the age and condition, so my beloved coffee grinder has made the cut. On the other hand, I have a toaster that I still use even though only one side actually works now. (Yes, I am so cheap that I turn the bread partway through the toasting time.) I could easily find another one (that works!) for just a few dollars at a thrift store when I move, so the toaster is history.
  2. How much would it cost to replace this in the future? This is a similar concept to question #1. My collection of shampoos and soaps from the dollar store will take up a lot of space, and I can quickly and easily build a new stockpile of these items. My oldest daughter, who is starting college, will become the beneficiary of a host of cleaning supplies, health and beauty aids, and small appliances. Other items that have not made the cut are inexpensive bulk-purchased beans and rice, canned goods, and 18 year old bath towels that have been moved numerous times to sit in the back of numerous closets, waiting for the day they are needed. Finally, most of our furniture is “vintage” – which is a nice way of saying that it came from yard sales and the occasional curbside pile. So we’ve decided to refurnish from yard sales when we arrive at our new home, rather than moving our assortment of household paraphernalia.
  3. Is it worth the space in the moving van? We are towing a trailer for our move, so space is limited to the most important items. How you choose the importance of an item is a personal decision for everyone. We are taking some things that aren’t particularly useful, but they are sentimental – gifts from departed loved ones and photo albums, for example. We are also taking expensive preps, like the Big Berkey water filter, the pressure canner, an assortment of books collected over the years, hand tools, and other off-grid kitchen tools. My beloved collection of canning jars will be among the last items to be put in, as they could be fairly easily and inexpensively replaced if they don’t fit in the trailer. A great way to save space is to pack clothing and linens in “space bags”.

Over the next few weeks, we will have the entire house sorted. We’re giving away some items to friends and family, holding a yard sale, and then donating the rest of the items that didn’t win a place on the trailer.

How will you get there?

There are many options for moving your household.

The options for moving your belongings are many:

  • Rent a moving van
  • Hire movers
  • Tow a trailer
  • Ship your items (Check Greyhound, Amtrak, airlines, and the USPS for rates)
  • Take only what fits in your vehicle

We have opted to buy a trailer and tow it behind our SUV. We can either keep the trailer when we arrive, or we can sell it and recoup some of our moving costs. We compared the cost of buying a trailer vs. renting a trailer, and for this amount of time, the amount was nearly identical.

Animals are another consideration. In our situation, we are sending our cat by air and a friend will pick her up at the airport on the other end and keep her until we arrive. (I can’t imagine listening to the cat wail throughout a week in the car, plus I’m worried she’ll bolt at the first opportunity out of her carrier.) The dog, on the other hand, is an enthusiastic traveler (not to mention a bit of added security), so she’ll hang out with us in the SUV, head cheerfully out the window breathing in the smells of 2 provinces and 11 states.

The move itself

The end of the undertaking is near…your truck or trailer is loaded up with all of your worldly possessions. The kids are buckled in, and the dog has her head out the window. There are some considerations for the road trip itself, some of which are unique to preppers.

For me, I have to combat my discomfort at being on the road, far away from home. I always worry that a life-altering SHTF event will occur when I’m in the middle of a field in South Dakota, with no friends or family within 500 miles. (I can’t be the only one who thinks this way!) It is the preparedness mindset to constantly run scenarios – EMPs, sudden gas shortages, nuclear disasters, natural disasters… if these things happen while you’re on the road, you are a refugee.

The good news is, if you are driving your possessions, you have every prep that you felt was worth keeping in that big rolling bug-out bag of a trailer. The bad news is, you have to protect those items, and you have to get them to a secure place. Be as prepared as possible, with food that doesn’t require cooking, comfortable hiking wear readily available, camping gear easily accessible, and all of the necessary defense items.

Another consideration is general security. This is particularly important if you are moving weapons. Be sure that your truck or trailer is locked securely and consider installing some type of alarm on the door of the cargo area. Be prepared to protect your family and possessions (all within the confines of local laws, of course). Choose stopping points and parking spaces carefully, and consider cracking a window if you are staying in a motel, so that you can hear what is going on outside.

Use common sense safety measures during the road trip:

  • Keep the kids within view of an adult at all times.
  • Keep a cell phone charged in case you need to call for help. (If you are like me and don’t use cell phones, consider the purchase of an inexpensive Tracfone for the trip).
  • Make sure your vehicle maintenance has been taken care of before your departure.
  • Don’t let the fuel level drop below 1/4 of a tank – in remote areas, gas stations can be few and far between.
  • Always have plenty of drinking water in the vehicle, especially in hot weather.
  • Follow the rules of the road.
  • Remember that the police are not always your friend. Be very aware of your surroundings if you are pulled over. If possible, pull over in a public area, like a restaurant parking lot.
  • Don’t get lost – use a GPS or maps to stay on course.
  • Pay attention to your surroundings – ditch the headphones and remain alert during rest stops.
  • Be constantly prepared to defend yourself if necessary.
  • Follow your gut – if you have a bad feeling about a situation, chances are, you’re right.

OPSEC

A very important issue is OPSEC – (operational security). If you choose to hire a moving company or have people you don’t know extremely well unloading your truck, you want to take care that your possessions don’t scream PREPPER. Otherwise you’ll hear that phrase we all love so much, “I know where I’m coming if I ever run out of food.”

One option is to box up your supplies like long-term food storage or weapons in boxes labeled with different names – even something vague like “basement”. I know that all of the moving specialists tell you to be specific about what you write on the outsides of the boxes, but you really don’t want people commenting on the 37 boxes of beans or the 20 boxes of ammo that they’ve just lugged into your new abode.

Of course, the best OPSEC is moving all of the items yourself.

Home Sweet Home

Undertaking a cross country move is an enormous operation. Be sure to smell the roses during the trip by enjoying the sights of the country through which you are traveling. We’re planning to make this the trip of a lifetime, by stopping at some interesting destinations and camping in some of the most beautiful places on the continent.

When you arrive at the other end and get everything unloaded at your destination, the months of preparation will all be worthwhile. I can’t wait to start digging in the dirt in my new garden and setting up our new homestead!

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