Something’s gone south, and it’s time to grab that car bag and hoof it for home. You did a good job of setting up the bag, and it’s there when you need it. Nice! Now, can you actually walk home with that on your back? Can you do it without injuring yourself or turning your feet into a mass of blisters that will hobble you and perhaps get infected?
Or maybe your plan for getting yourself out of this ditch on a snowy night includes some quality time with the snow shovel you pre-positioned in the trunk. Are you going to give yourself a heart attack hucking all that snow around?
If you’re not fit to do a job, your need won’t magically make you capable.
Go anywhere where people have strenuous fun and you’ll find a lot of people who just assumed they could manage it — maybe because they used to be able to, maybe because other people do — and discovered they couldn’t. They’re miserable, and maybe hurt. Could they have gutted it out if it was a desperate situation? Some could. Some couldn’t. If it’s a crisis and you find out a strong will alone can’t make the flesh capable, you could be stuck in a situation worse than when you started.
If any of your plans require physical activity, the only way to be confident you can do it and do it safely is to practice it.
The first few practices will tell you if your gear is suitable. If the pack doesn’t fit you right, or the shoes you have in the car or wear regularly rub after the first mile, you need to know that and get that fixed. I’ve found it Really useful to get out in the gear I expect to use in normal Missouri weather too — and normal Missouri weather means too hot, too cold, too wet, and perfect (rotate every ten minutes). I didn’t know if my shoes were suitably waterproof until I walked in the rain.
Once you’ve got the gear checked … sorry. Not done. The body has to get its practice, consistently, or it won’t be ready. Bodies will remodel themselves in response to the stress you put on them. If they don’t get the stress, they don’t remodel themselves to be able to handle stress. Then the stress comes, and they fail.
If I can’t drive home, my plan is to walk it. Today I practiced it – wearing the bag I’ve got packed, wearing boots and clothes like those I leave in the bag, using my hydration system. I didn’t walk the 25 miles along a busy highway, but I walked for several miles, on the same kinds of surfaces and hills.
Salty’s plans don’t include walking unless he must; his bug-out plan is his bicycle. He not only rides it often, he rides it with its panniers loaded with stuff. That makes a difference, but now he knows how to deal with the difference.
If you don’t practice it, you don’t know that you can do it; and you’re not fully prepped. If you prefer to be a stealthy prepper, no problem! Salty’s panniers are often loaded with groceries; nothing more mundane than that. I tell the curious that I’m getting ready for a hiking trip.
The Other Payoff: Health
This practice thing seems like a lot of work for a plan you might never need to implement? A valid point perhaps (we only have so much time to spend); but there is a very big additional payoff on the same effort. The single best way to take care of you and yours in a crises where medical care is not immediately available is to not need medical care.
I don’t have a source for you, but only because I’ve seen the same idea expressed all over the place by dozens of people in the health and health research fields: Regular exercise is the single best prescription a doctor can write (or would be, if more people would get that prescription filled). It’s as good at reducing depression as the best depression meds; more successful at eliminating Type II diabetes than any drug, better for avoiding heart attacks (if done at the right time) than a quadruple bypass surgery. It is, simply, your best bet for living the last half of your life in good health without needing significant ongoing medical care.
As a prepper, I love answers that fill multiple needs. Regularly doing the physical things your preparedness plans call upon you to do helps you improve those plans and make them realistic, and it improves your long-term health and well-being regardless of if the crisis actually arises.