After the SHTF every man and his dog will begin evacuating the cities to seek greener pastures, and keeping a low profile as you and your family mission to your bug out location is fundamental to staying safe. If no-one knows where your base camp is, they cannot sneak up on your family unawares, especially if you're trekking through potentially dangerous territory. Learning how to maintain a ‘dark camp’ effectively can make a massive difference to your survival chances, but many survivalists find this a foreign concept. Evading detection is something most of us have never considered in our daily lives, and it requires practice to get right. Our team of experts at APE Survival ran through the main problems typical campers have with their campsites, and have put together advice on these four challenges so you can better maintain a dark camp after the SHTF.
- Campsites are not concealed
- Campsites are highly visible over a great distance
- Noises from a campsite are easily detected
- Odors from a camp can carry for miles downwind.
Here's how you can combat all of these challenges:
Concealing a campsite
The best way to find a location for a dark campsite is to go where no-one else is willing to go. Never travel on the highways or trails, and you should even avoid following the natural lay of the land when you're hiking through the wild. You want to identify a spot that's thick and nasty with brush, that you almost sigh when you look at it - because of how hard it will be to get through. This is where you need to go, as it will guarantee no-one inadvertently stumbles across your camp. Take your time getting in there, and do your best to cover any of the tracks you make. Your campsite should also be out of direct line of sight. There are consumer-grade infra-red devices that can range for up to a mile, and if you're setting up camp in the middle of a grassy field you will stick out like a sore thumb. Find any structure that you can which will shelter you and your family from prying eyes, because the darkness is often not enough to keep you safe. Maybe you stumble across an old cabin, or a walled-off industrial compound, or if you're in the wild look for a valley or a cliff where the natural terrain and vegetation help conceal your camp.
Reducing your visibility
Once you've identified a location, sit and observe the surroundings to ensure it is truly remote. Once you're sure it's secure, start setting up your camp. This requires a bit of a knack, you don't want to start pitching tents at midday because you increase the chances of your camp being spotted, but you don't want to leave it too late and have to use a flashlight to set up camp in the dark. The lights from flashlights can be seen from a massive distance at night, if anyone is looking. Follow the rule of ’getting in late and leaving early’ so you're back on the road while the rest of the world is sleeping, keeping your chances of being discovered at a minimum by never staying in the same place for long. Ensure every reflective surface on your gear is covered, as the sun sparkling off the scope of your rifle or the pedal of your bike can be seen from a great distance. If you're travelling with a vehicle, break up its shape and cover all reflective surfaces with camouflage materials. The moon reflecting off a windshield can give away your position, and you definitely need to turn off all of your interior lights, so they do not flick on if you open the car's door during the night. If you do need to use a flashlight to locate something in your pack, use a low-lumen light with a red filter to reduce your visibility.
Remember how peaceful it was last time you went hiking? This reflects the importance of staying quiet, because in the wild you will usually hear something before you see it. Keep the noise in your camp at a minimum. Tapping tent pegs in with a hammer causes an echo sound that will travel to anyone listening, and never call out to your family with anything more than a low conversational tone. Don't start chopping trees down for firewood, or banging around all of your pots and pans. Everything that is non-essential to surviving the night needs to be stored and packed away, and all of your movements during the night need to be kept at a minimum, the more you try to achieve, the more noise you will make. Keep all of your movements calm and deliberate. Radio traffic should also be kept to a minimum, especially if you're using popular frequencies that anyone with a scanner can monitor if they're within range. Setting up a security perimeter is a great strategy to help identify any approaching threats, but be sure your sentries are sitting still with their eyes peeled, not aimlessly wandering about your location.
The smells from a fire can travel for miles, and a truly dark camp will be ‘cold,’ without any cooking in order to eliminate this threat. If this isn't an option and you do need to cook, use an alcohol stove that you've brought with you to do the cooking as this will eliminate most of the smoke. If you do need to use wood, find dry pieces that will burn without emitting smoke. You also need to dig a fire-pit to keep the flames out of sight, and aim to get all of your cooking done before dark so you do not give away the position of your camp from the glow of the flames. Maintaining a secure dark camp could make all the difference to your family's survival in a truly disastrous situation, so take these four challenges to heart and start practicing each next time you are camping in the wild. Are you going to be able to keep your next camping trip ‘dark’?