Lots of people talk prepping, but few actually do prepping, let alone in a methodical way. But there is a hierarchy to be considered and it does make sense to start early on your future plans for maximum personal survivability.

At the top of the hierarchy is maintaining your person freedom. This involves not being beholden to anyone whenever possible. This is where our advice on property ownership comes into play.

There are only two ways to own property: Outright (free, clear & fee simple with no HOA dues) or 100% leveraged in which case an HOA doesn’t matter because you don’t really own the property.

Trouble is that In the case of 100% leveraged, you are susceptible to the economics winds and you could be out on your ear if things don’t go well and you miss payments. It’s one of life’s big incentives not to miss work.

Many people are willing to take this risk (100%) because they have an alternative (and fully paid-up) lifestyle in their back pocket.

Take living in a motorhome/RV for example. A simple 10 acre patch of land, a few solar panels, some seeds, water source, and you might be able to make a go of things.

Unfortunately, to really “make it” in an RV the prepping strategy has to be more comprehensive.

To begin with, you need to ensure that land you plan to settle on is not covered by obnoxious zoning laws. These have cropped up all over the country in order to prevent people from “dropping out” from under the tax-yoke imposed by the Government for Money paradigm. Motor homes only pay property tax in some states.

Oh, sure, “Man’s Home is his Castle..” sounds fine, but stop paying property taxes, or cross a zoning trip-wire, and see how it works out. You will be mightily disappointed.

Assuming you have no zoning exclusions for RV occupancy, you will then need to figure out sewage facilities. Depending on state and locality, you might be forced to connect to a municipal system (for money, of course) or you may be required to put in an expensive system.

One reason we are still in Texas is that with more than 10 Acres of Land a person who owns property in here can still put in their own gravity (energy-free) system. Worse, though, is smaller land owners are often TOLD they must put in an aerobic system that requires power in order to operate. Might work several days, or a week or two, but needing power for basic sanitation falls right into the stupid column as we see it.

On closer inspection you will often find a collection of pseudo-environmentalists and installers who have put up an unholy alliance in order to stomp out low-maintenance gravity type septic systems. Again, don’t try to leave the Government for Money model unless you study carefully and in advance. There’s a huge cost difference between gravity and aerobic systems. Some places you don’t have a choice.

Now, let’s assume you have septic covered, and you can park your RV and live in it legally on your own land. Not so quick—don’t move in yet!

Your next problem is a water source. Some states require a permit to drill for water on your own land. Yes, Government for Money, again, eh? Creek or river water? Water rights loom large.

OK, let’s assume you figure that one out, too. What could go wrong?

Well, living in an RV sounds like a cool way to live EXCEPT it’s a little small. Trust me on this, having lived 11 years on a 40-foot sailboat, I know of what I speak.

The solution is simple: Put in a foundation pad, with the intention of putting in a small wood stove and a bigger shower and maybe another living room. Leave one side open to the coach and it starts to sound pretty good, doesn’t it?

Well, until the inspectors come.

I’ve heard that in some states (New Mexico) state concrete inspectors claim province over anything concrete, though I will defer to New Mexico Mike to see if this is an overblown report from a contractor we know who did commercial work.

After the pad, then there is the building permit. Yep, permit police.

And then, you might want to put in some wiring, but again, you need to see if there’s a state or locally required inspection even if you go completely off-grid. While you’re at it, put in a tractor shed on the other end, or somewhere you can lock up a rototiller and put up some food.

After that (almost home now) you have only plumbing, and in Oregon, you need to be worried about any obstructions that you put in that can change rainwater runoff, particularly small dams.

This landed one Oregon resident in jail some years ago and was widely cited as being a “jailing over rainwater” but it was really about putting in dams and not going through a permitting process.

Still, this circles around to the question of government’s proper role in telling property owners what they can, and cannot do on their own land – especially where there are downstream concerns or water users.

Boats are fraught with similar problems. And in the same way, the bloom has been taken off that by excessive law enforcement efforts. Homeland Security runs high-powered inflatable boats around Puget Sound, conducting “boardings” of small craft while the Mexico border leaks like a sieve.

Let me tell you an interesting sea story to put some of the risks of living on the high seas into perspective.

As a reporter I was on hand in April 1978 when a rusty small tramp freighter, the Helena Star was docked at Seattle after being seized 130 miles off the Washington coast with 37 tons of marijuana aboard. ($1000 a pound? Seems a little steep to me…This was 1978 remember and with inflation that would be $230 an ounce today…hmmm…sorry got distracted.)

Back to the story: The US claimed a 200 mile economic zone as the basis for the seizure in what were nominally international waters. The 1982 UN Law of the Seas Convention put territorial waters at 12 nautical miles. We note also that the “The United States invoked a contiguous zone out to 24 nmi on 24 September 1999.”

By the time all of the Helena Star cases were adjudicated, the US had extended its Exlusive Economic Zone out 200 miles, but again this was not formalized until i1982 and the Helena Star case involved a seizure four years earlier.

The basis of US jurisdiction beyond 12 NM. Territorial waters dates back to a presidential proclamation by President Truman in 1946. However, the 200 mile number did not arise until 1982.

Wikipedia notes that:

“The territorial sea is regarded as the sovereign territory of the state, although foreign ships (civilian) are allowed innocent passage through it, or transit passage for straits; this sovereignty also extends to the airspace over and seabed below. Adjustment of these boundaries is called, in international law, maritime delimitation.

I think about the Helena Star case, now and then, just as I’d thought through the event many times during the period when my main “long-term prepping” solution was an ocean-ready well-provisioned 40 foot sailboat.

The Helena Star case demonstrated to me that regardless of what laws may exist, the governments of the world have made it abundantly clear that there is no more “free space” left on Earth, including the high seas.

Still, it is possible to live aboard a boat, but again in terms of prepping, there are other major issues to solve in advance. Moorage is the main one. Starts around $10 bucks per foot of boat length per month, depending on which coast and how big the city and local demand. Lead time to live aboard in a city like Seattle was running a 3-year wait, last time I checked.

Some loc al governments have taken to harassing innocent liveaboards out of what would otherwise be a grand (not to mention very affordable) lifestyle. Living on a boat is dandy. Helps to like small spaces, the sound of rain on deck, and have a good heating system. Gives you an excused to buy high-end night vision gear, but then again, so does hunting.

“Back in the day” a couple in a small sailboat could literally get lost for a few years and hang out on the hook (at anchor) in one of the hundreds of the small bays and inlets of British Columbia and Southeast Alaska. They would simply live as free people. Subsistence fishing doesn’t seem like it should be seasonal or illegal, but welcome to the real world.

Nowadays, such efforts are surveiled from space, boardings are done by the Coast Guard or Homeland to check that a) fire extinguishers are in date for inspections and b) there is no overboard discharge of sewage. Anything out of line and here comes officialdom to save us from ourselves. Been one place too long? “Time to move on…” In Canadian waters your tourism entry permit will have expired just when you settle into the flow. That leaves Southeast (Alaska) which is cold, although how much colder than 8-inches of snow on deck that I’ve lived through isn’t clear. Haven’t wintered over in Alaska. Seattle and Puget Sound was cold enough.

Go ashore and a further cadre of officialdom is there to confront: Land management, private land owners, and state land agencies. Public lands, once free for the enjoyment of ALL are now leased-back to us through a system of permits imposed by fiat. No permit, no use.

Regardless, however, if the SHTF, there is nothing like having options. RVs and sailboats are good ones…with a huge qualifier.

Running away in a motorhome is risky depending on time needed for travel and distance to your landing zone. Same thing with boats. You need to anticipate and beat the crowd. Piracy can be anticipated, 200 miles from other people is hard to get, and being on a boat fleeing a big city is very much as risk from runaway law enforcement. The best piracy tool ever made is the 24 mile Furuno color radar up the mast a ways.

Eventually, you might decide, like we did, that far-out rural areas are a better choice, but once an economic meltdown gets rolling, sanity may return first to RV encampments (look up Quartzsite Arizona, sometime) and quiet backwater bays with a few closely cooperating families on them.

Definitely food for thought.

Write when you get rich,