Survival Skills: Learning from Insurgent Tactics

Survival Skills


For those that like to maintain a state of readiness to deal with uncertain times, it’s important to maintain a steady, regular supply of clean water, food, first aid, tools and survival skills. If you’ve ever watched the show “Doomsday Preppers”, you’ll likely see that there are quite a few people who have their own ideas about how to survive a catastrophic scenario – aka SHTF. One thing you may notice from that show, as well, is many rely on static compounds.

While that is one strategy, we’re going to explore another.

There are a few life lessons we can take to heart from none other than watching how insurgents evaded NATO and US forces in Afghanistan.

Survival Skills – Lessons from Insurgent Tactics

There’s not too much to love about the Taliban. This article is NOT advocating them in any way, shape or form. Ruthless, cunning, and deceptive, they have managed to survive and thwart efforts to be stamped out by US forces throughout more than ten years of active pursuit.

The best military in the world could never, even at their height, completely eliminate their activity. How did the Taliban and their allies manage to evade capture so well?

“Strategically Placed Supply Caches – A Survival Skill to Learn”

No man can survive for more than three to four days without fresh water. Nor can he fight without ammunition or some form of food.

Taliban Survival Skills - Cache
Photo by Spc. Justin Young – “The appearance of U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) visual information does not imply or constitute DoD endorsement.”


When US forces discovered these caches, they would often either destroy in place or attempt to collect intelligence from them. But one thing was extremely apparent – the Taliban never put all their eggs in one basket. And if you’re developing plans to survive in the event of a disaster, neither should you.

Castles Fall, Plans Change, and Survivors Move Fast

Unless you personally have a small army with its own independent supply of ammunition and arms, you can never assume any defensive fortification you hold – be it home, improvised structure, or bedrock-built castle – will hold for any length of time.

Why?  Because you need to sleep.  Outside of water, the only thing human beings can’t do without for three to four days is sleep.

More importantly, your survival skills in a true survival situation are:

  • evacuating to a safer location.
  • ensuring that fresh supplies are available to rebuild.
  • assuring catastrophic loses to your pursuers.

Iron-reinforced walls, embankments, brick and mortar fortifications, sandbags, and overlapping fields of fire are all very well and good.  But, again, without personnel to man those walls – the only purpose of them is to delay and resist an enemy advancing upon you.

Good News – Survival IS Cheap; Obtaining Survival Skills are Too!

Vietnam Survival Skills
*”Vietnam War 1968 – Urges” by manhhai is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Historically, take a look at any military force that has had to resist a much stronger, better-equipped one.

Whether it be the North Vietnamese in 1967 or the Taliban in 2007 or the Sinoloa Cartel in Northern Mexico, the same core principles always apply.

  • Stay light
  • Stay fast
  • Never put all your eggs in one basket

You don’t need multi-million dollar complexes, advanced sensor technology, or even the best arms and munitions to pull this off.  You just need to understand your needs, your family’s needs, and not be afraid to put in plenty of sweat capital.

Here’s what all three guerilla forces employed as their main modes of movement for short distances: tunnels, caches, and spider holes.

Tunnels, Caches, and Spider Holes

The tunnels only need to be big enough to crawl through and they’re only meant to get you from one position to another without being harassed.  Reinforce with wood or, ideally, non-corrosive materials.

Spider holes are also another survival skill that is great for keeping you and some supplies off the beaten path.  They can sometimes even store more than just you for really short amounts of time.

Never put more into a spider hole than you’re willing to lose.  Always mark the location in some distinct way that only you would identify and understand.



Caches can be big or small stores of essential emergency items such as medical supplies, food, water, tools, and ammunition.  They can double as short-term safe houses or spider holes. The basic rule of thumb: the bigger the cache, the more you have to haul.

Plan multiple routes and place caches along those routes.  If you take Route A versus Route B, you may have the opportunity to double back and collect some of those items.  In a survival situation, whenever it is feasible to take all supplies with you and leave nothing behind – that’s what you should do.  Don’t leave anything behind to help your pursuers.

Seal food, water, and ammunition in plastic and, ideally, metal containers.  Apply light squirts of vinegar across the exterior of the container to mask your individual smell.

I have found a 2-liter plastic soda bottle that is just the right size to fit inside one of my standard caching tubes so I always make the center tube of the cache (the one that I hopefully find first) my drinking water cache. If you shop around you will find that you can locate cans just the right size to fit your caching tubes. This, of course, assumes that you want to cache over the counter foods in cans and plan on rotating your stores on a regular basis. There is a lot to be said for emergency rations being the same foods you are used to eating in a non-emergency situation. There is no “shock” to your digestive tract (nobody needs a case of diarrhea or constipation at a time like this ) by eating all freeze-dried trail food (or other emergency rations) all of a sudden instead of your normal diet. You can also cache items that are not your ordinary emergency foods in caches, such as canned meats, chicken, fish, etc. if using and rotating standard canned foods. This will help you plan and keep a balanced diet. SOURCE – Your Survival Cache Pt. 3

And remember: survival in an SHTF situation depends more on mobility than it does on fortification.  No fortification lasts forever and no one can run forever. Find the perfect balance!


About the Author: Bobby Norman is an avid blogger with particular interests in guns and shooting.



*“Vietnam War 1968 – Urges”by manhhai is licensed under CC BY 2.0

2 thoughts on “Survival Skills: Learning from Insurgent Tactics”

  1. Brian Harkness

    Great article! Thanks for sharing. It is never a good idea to have all your eggs in one basket

  2. TheSouthernNationalist

    I really like the cache ideas, I’m going to get started on mine.

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