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LEARN From a “Bug Out” That ACTUALLY Happened

Courtesy of the Smithsonian

Courtesy of the Smithsonian

In 1978 a Soviet geological team was searching Siberia for oil and mineral reserves.  What they found was nothing short of astounding. 

About a year ago the Smithsonian ran an article chronicling the Lykov’s family flight into Siberia running from the Bolshevik’s Christian purge.  The year was 1936 and the Bolsheviks were persecuting and murdering Russian Orthodox Christians.  First they drove them from the cities and then pursued them to the edge of Siberia.  After seeing his brother shot and killed Karp Lykov  feared  the same fate for his family.  They took a few possessions and some seeds and bolted off into the desolate Siberian Mountains.  Karp Lykov fled the purge with his wife Akulina, his 9 year old son Savin and two year old daughter Natalia.   For the next 40 years they lived isolated from the rest of the world. This is an amazing story of birth, life, near starvation, self-sufficiency, and death. I would suggest that you read this phenomenal article as it is one of the very few accounts of a family “bugging out” and living most of their lives away from civilization.

My point is not to rewrite this article but to comment on this story from a prepper’s perspective.  You can find the original article here.

While I always stress that sheltering in place or having evacuation plan to a bug out location is much better than sheer “bugging out” the Lykov story is the ultimate bug out.  From the account in the story they loaded up a wagon and headed into the woods.  Whenever I read something like this my brain automatically shunts to analytical mode and I begin dissecting the story.  How did they survive?  How would I fare in the same situation?  Here is a look at some of my thoughts from the Lykov story:

Karp Lykov and his daughter.  Courtesy of the Smithsonian

Karp Lykov and his daughter. Courtesy of the Smithsonian


The story makes mention that they left with their possessions and some seeds.  The mention of the seeds is important but the underlying truth is what matters.  It was the seeds that allowed the Lykov family to survive.  Delving a little deeper you have to make an assumption.  Although somewhat industrialized by the 1930’s, most Russians away from big cities were farmers or served the farming communities.  The fact that Karp had seeds ready to go I would assume that he was a farmer by trade.

How many of us have gear that we don’t know how to use?  While the Tin Hat Ranch’s ultimate goal is to eradicate ignorance as the leading cause of death, what percentage of us do anything more than have a garden to supplement the food we buy in the store?  We’ve just begun the “Survival: Soup to Nuts” series where we will take a look at every aspect of what it takes to live self-sufficiently.  Working in tandem with our friends at the Family First Seed Bank we will show you how to raise a garden from seed, harvest, and preserve seeds for next year.  A purchase from Family First would give you a bigger supply of seeds with a greater variety than that carried by Karp, but what then?  What happens when it is just you, the seeds, and some dirt?

Without knowledge of farming the Lykov’s would have not survived.  I feel that we as preppers place too much emphasis on all of the wrong skill sets.  While much of the skills and gear available to the prepping community can help us in the short term it is farming that is crucial to long term survival.  I often tell new preppers to focus on the Rule of Threes when building their survival model.  For someone new it is imperative to know what can kill you first. Last on the list in the Rule of Three’s is food.  Sure, you can survive for three weeks without it, but as a survival situation starts stretching into months and years it is food that becomes most important.  A person can only afford and store so much freeze dried food.  Seeds are nearly useless without the knowledge to bring them to fruition.  It is the actual act of raising crops and the knowledge required that will save your life.



All gear has a lifespan.  While the Lykov story doesn’t go into great detail it does make mention they had a couple of kettles that served them for years…until rust overtook them.  We place a heavy emphasis in the prepping community on gear and rightly so.  All gear is designed to make any task we face easier to deal with, from shelter to tools.  Without gear and the infrastructure behind it we are left with our hands, sticks and maybe rocks.  When purchasing a piece of gear how many of you factor in its useful lifespan?

When I purchase or look for a piece of gear to review I absolutely consider the lifespan of the gear.  I will contact the manufacturer and ask them point blank, “how long will your gear survive with constant use”?  Case in point, in the next month or so you will see a review on the StoveTec rocket stove.  When the lights go out and the petroleum products most of us rely on for cooking dry up we are going to have to find an alternative source for cooking.  Not considering the StoveTec we have a few options, cooking over an open fire in a fire place, installing a purpose built wood fired cast iron stove, or lastly, cooking over a fire in the open to name a few.  The reason I am going to recommend the StoveTec is simple, it is very efficient.  You can cook with a fraction of the wood required by the other methods leaving the other fuel to serve other purposes. That being said one of the first questions I asked about the product was “what is its lifespan?”.  Even being high a quality piece of gear, with stainless construction and a ceramic lining, the StoveTec has a limited lifespan.  According to the manufacture that lifespan is 10 years of constant firing.

Once the gear gives up, just like the farming aspect, we have to revert to knowledge and ingenuity.  The Lykov’s didn’t have access to metal.  Once their kettles rusted out they had to resort to other methods of cooking, in their case they were limited to cooking potato patties fortified with ground rye and hemp seeds.  This highlights the importance of a vast number of skills that are necessary to the prepping community.  While the Lykov’s were all alone in Siberia chances are in a long term survival situation in the United States we will be in small communities.  No one person can be everything.  To continue even a modest modern lifestyle it will take blacksmiths, engineers, wood workers, etc.  More importantly it will take a leader to organize communities’ resources and keep the peace.  Not everyone that survives an apocalypse will be a prepper.  Your advantage as a prepper is that you are putting thought and resources into surviving now when it is not required.  When considering your plan think one step further than the gear.  Think about what you would do when the gear fails.  Think about not just what you can do but what your neighbors can do.  Plan on how to deal with these folks for the betterment of the community, you will need it.  While I am not suggesting a communist attitude towards survival, in the end communism never works.  Just know that as a prepper you wield a tremendous power being steps ahead of everyone else.  A good use of that power would be to guide the community as opposed to taking advantage of them.


No Guns

The Lykov’s didn’t have weapons.  In fact I think it would be safe to assume that they didn’t possess the skills they employed for primitive hunting before their flight into Siberia.  They “hunted” by digging traps and running down animals.  That’s right, they stalked animals until they died of exhaustion.  If you are faced with hunting large game without a weapon you still have a great advantage, your mind.  When faced with a predator  a deer or elk will sprint a short distance until it feels it is out of danger.  This short sprint will expend a great deal of the animals stored resources, namely water.  You as a human can carry water with a tool, like a water bottle, bladder, etc.  and the animal cannot.  If you can keep the animal in “flight mode” it will not stop for water.  The animal will die of dehydration before it stops to drink.  Keep in mind, this might take a few days.   This is the method used by the Lykov’s to put meat on the table.  With information at our fingertips, the “I want it all, right now” attitude how many of us are mentally prepared to stalk an animal for days?  Even if we could be mentally prepared, how many of us are in the physical condition necessary to perform such a task?



The last thing I will mention is salt.  The geologists that found the Lykov’s offered to bring them any supply they wished.  Surprisingly, after spending 40 years in remote Siberia the one thing they requested was salt.  In the prepper community we place so much emphasis on storing things like gold and silver we overlook a basic inexpensive commodity like salt.  Salt is not only necessary to life but when existence is stripped down to bare elements it is salt that gives life savor. In a lights out scenario salt will become more valuable than gold.  I won’t go into great detail, but if you don’t believe me check out this article I wrote a few months back.  It might surprise you.

These four topics are just a few things we can learn from the Lykov’s.  There is no doubt a lifetime worth of lessons that can be learned from this story.  As always, I encourage you to head back over to the Facebook page to discuss your thoughts (click here).

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