Former CIA Officer Jason Hanson Reveals...

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I’m Back on the Grid: (Tough) Lessons Learned

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Last week was tough, I’m not gonna lie…

I spent the entire week off the grid. I didn’t have a cell phone with me. I didn’t have a tent or a sleeping bag either.

I slept about 2-3 hours every night, hiked as much as 24 miles a day, and ate very little throughout the week. When I stepped on the scale when I got home, I’d lost 8 pounds even though I was sure I’d lost a heck of a lot more.

In a moment, I’ll tell you why I went off the grid, but first, here are some lessons learned that you can hopefully use without having to torture yourself like I did:

  1. Going to the bathroom (#2) is never fun out in the wild. I spent the entire week using leaves to wipe my behind. Every morning when I needed to use the bathroom I dreaded it, but you do what you got to do. So, I highly recommend keeping a roll of toilet paper in every car you own in case you ever get stranded. Also, have some extra toilet paper stored in your house that is for emergencies only.
  2. I was about 10,000 feet up in the mountains of southern Utah. At night, it was freezing. Many nights, I would have to get up every 30 minutes and do jumping jacks and run in place just to keep warm. Like pooping in the woods, being cold is rather miserable. Make sure you have sleeping bags at home for every member of your family in case the grid goes down in the winter. Also, have some warm clothes in your vehicle. I’d also buy a propane camping heater for your home for emergencies (I own 4 of them.)
  3. A good survival knife is the most valuable item you can have with you. Since I went off the grid with almost no supplies, I didn’t have matches or a lighter with me. But, I was able to make a bow drill and have fire thanks to my knife. I also used my knife for a dozen other tasks (including making a spoon) and it never failed me once.
  4. Since I hiked more miles that I’d like to count, I found myself in different environments at night. And, some nights I had more materials to build a shelter than others. Wherever I found myself, one of the critical things I did before I went to bed was to put a layer of duff underneath me. Duff is anything you can find such as pine needles, leaves, bark – anything to put between you and the ground to help keep you warmer. One of the best nights of sleep I had was when I had about two feet of duff on the ground.
  5. The only way I knew where I was going was thanks to a paper map of the area, I didn’t have a GPS or any electronics with me. I encourage you to have a paper map of your area in your home and car in case you ever have to evacuate and you need to know alternate routes. The sad truth is, if I handed most 20-year-olds a paper map they’d have no idea how to use it.
  6. I lived off of mostly trail mix and oats. Like I mentioned earlier, I lost 8 pounds in a week. Remember, most people can survive 30 days without food so the human body is resilient. However, starving is never fun so make sure you’ve got plenty of food storage for your family so they can eat rather well in an emergency.
  7. The #1 most important aspect of survival is mental toughness. I have never been the fastest guy, the smartest, or the strongest, but I am one mentally tough son-of-a-gun. Of course, there were times that I wanted to quit last week but I knew I never would. It’s like when I was with the CIA going through training and there were big football player guys who threw in the towel but not me. So, you can have the best gear in the world and plenty of food, but if you’re not mentally tough you won’t last long.

Off the grid in the Utah Mountains

When I got home Saturday night, I was grateful to take a shower and have a bed that didn’t consist of rocks or red ants. I also slept for 13 hours that night and ate an entire pizza.

If you asked me if I had fun last week, the answer would be a resounding no. However, life isn’t always supposed to be fun. I went off grid because I’m continually preparing and learning to better keep my family (and yours) safer.

Some work I do is more enjoyable (like testing a new gun) but unless I constantly push myself and do things I know 95% of people won’t, then I won’t be fully prepared for a true survival situation that is very likely to occur one day in the crazy times we live in.


  • Nancy kelly says:

    Well, I’m glad you survived.. thanks for sharing..
    you didn’t mention about water or a water straw???
    think what you had faced in colder weather? Why didn’t you take branches and build yourself a protection from the weather and elements? and more duff on the ground?
    Did you eat your food all dry?

    • Jason Hanson says:


      As I mentioned in my comment to Meledie, I took the SurvFilter with me for water. If I had been in colder weather, I would have handled things differently. I was intentionally trying to stay out of my comfort zone and push myself.

      Stay Safe!

  • Meledie Knopf says:

    You never mentioned how you deal of with your water situation. Did you have a straw-type filter, bottle w/filter or at least a metal container so you could at least boil it? At least it was a quiet week!

  • Brad says:

    Jason, Thanks for your insightful postings! I sometimes read one while traveling and make a mental note to revisit the topic when I return home. I’d love a way to search your blog for the item of interest.

    • Jason Crawford says:

      Hey Brad,

      Thanks to your comment, we’ve added a search option on the right-hand column of the site. I hope it helps you and others find the content you’re looking for.

  • Catherine says:

    Wow Jason, you REALLY did it! Good for you–kudos! Three questions, though. How would you feed your family if the worst case scenario developed and you were ALL out in the woods. Did you kill any animals? Then, what protection did you take against animals? I used to live in the deep woods and I know about bears, wolves, etc.. Wouldn’t it have been possible for you to have taken a sleeping bag with you? I don’t understand your exercise of sleeping on the ground because you wouldn’t if your family were along. If I’ve missed the point, please straighten me out. I fully agree with the concept of “making do in a ‘what if’ situation”, but weren’t you doing this with that in mind for your family?

    • Jason Hanson says:


      I put myself in the most difficult situation possible because we never know what will happen. I always have bug-out bags packed in our vehicle. However, there may be situations where that bag is not accessible. A car fire or rollover can result in those bags being lost and us having to survive without them. While I do everything in my power to prevent my family from having to live off the land, it’s still important to prepare for the worst. I also simply wanted to push myself and needed to get out of my comfort zone to do that.

      As for feeding my family, I am capable of hunting or trapping animals. In normal times, there are laws regarding this. So for this trip I took my food. But I would feed my family with plants and small game in an emergency situation such as I was simulating.

      The only weapon I took with me on this trip was the NOC Knife ( Most of the time animals like bear and wolves will try to avoid you. But this knife is the only thing I would have had if they did decide to attack. Again, I wanted to push myself and get out of my comfort zone.

      Stay Safe!

  • Wes says:

    Wow, that’s amazing. Thank you for sharing your experience and the things you learned along the way.

    I appreciate the idea of keeping TP in all vehicles. I do keep water and some snacks just in case.

    I also learned last year that it’s important to have walking shoes in the car. I’m from California and live in flip flops but that doesn’t go over very well in the winter here in Oregon.

    My son, lucky it wasn’t me, got stranded 2 miles from home last winter because he couldn’t get up the hill in the snow. Thankfully he and his fiance both were wearing good shoes and had jackets with them. If it was me, I wouldn’t have.

    Come to think of it, yesterday we drove many miles from home and, had something happened, I would have had to walk all the way back in…flip flops.

    It’s one thing to know what to do and another to actually do it.

    Thanks for the reminder and the information.

  • I love reading your stories, wish I was anything like you and hope one day to be able to say I came kind of close the way you try through courses. I have burglaries now and than and have purchased your great but very cheap knife. With the knife open on my desk nothing seems to happen. Life is great !! E

  • Larry says:

    Very well done! I am glad you went off grid for me. I often think about trying it and do intend to do a weekend test of my Shumer-hits-the fan preps, but I keep putting it off. I will be 72 next week so I need to schedule it and not procrastinate.

    BTW – did you encounter other folks or were you in such a remote area that you saw no one during your week? If you di, how did the conversation go?

  • Murray says:

    Glad you didn’t run into a Bigfoot…

  • Kris Ward says:

    Very good reading Jason. Thank you for the continued lessons and info!

  • Ruben D Alfaro says:

    Hi Jason,
    Great story. I would like to make you aware of a product, if you don’t know already, since toilet paper is big and bulky. Listed below is a web address that is better than and much more convenient product for prepping than toilet paper.
    Your Comrade in arms,

  • T. L. Walker says:

    Hi Jason;
    My son spent weeks hiking in the rocky mountains several years ago with a group of survival hikers. He told me that they developed an after-toilet cleaning technique using a water bottle equipped with a nozzle. They named the practice “backwoods bidet”—use your imagination. I thought it was quite clever.

  • Someone says:

    Glad you did it instead of me. You showed people it is not a game but very serious in surviving when things get tough. Will take your recommendations to add to my bug-out .

  • Mark Willis says:


    You forgot one not so minor detail about the toilet paper in your car: keep it in a plastic storage bag so that it will stay dry (and usable) when you have to hit the trail.

  • Mark Willis says:


    Why in the world didn’t you take a phone with you? I mean, I know you were trying to simulate a real world survival situation, but that seems to be taking it to extremes. The fact is, you weren’t in a real life collapse situation, and if you had wound up getting injured without being able to get help, you could have died, leaving your very young family without anyone to take care of them in even what passes for normal, regular, everyday life, let alone in a collapse. Seems a little irresponsible and self-centered to me.

    • Jason Hanson says:


      I took certain precautions such as informing people of my route and planning my route where I could reach people even if I were injured. Of course there is risk involved, but I mitigated that risk as much as possible. Additionally, there were likely areas where that cell phone wouldn’t have signal anyways, so planning to rely on it may be more dangerous than not having it.

      I don’t do these often, but it’s important to keep my skills up-to-date. It’s both important to make sure I’m prepared for a disaster and to make sure I’m continuously providing the readers with relevant information. There are many people on the Internet who don’t keep up with their skills and start giving bad theoretical advise. I don’t want to lose touch with reality and begin to fall into that trap.

      Stay Safe!

  • Mark Willis says:


    There are a lot more people than just 20-year olds and younger who don’t know how to use a topo and compass. And as you mentioned, that is a crucial skill. Why don’t you consider adding a video on that subject to your spy escape and evasion series?

    • Jason Crawford says:

      Hey Mark,

      I hope you don’t mind if I cut in here while we’re waiting on Jason Hanson to get to your other comment (that comment will be held in moderation until Jason Hanson can respond so that it isn’t forgotten).

      The truth of the matter is that land navigation is a complex topic that would require a lot of time to develop a quality video. In addition, the basics can be very boring. Jason Hanson tried teaching it at one point but got a lot of feedback about it not being exciting enough.

      For now, we do have plans to create an e-book on land navigation for the members of the Personal Protection Alliance. We have also discussed including some land navigation training in live classes in the future. Whether we do that or not will depend on us finding a way to make it exciting. I have some ideas in mind to make it work, but it’s still early in development.

      Hopefully, that answers your question.

  • Mark Willis says:

    Jason Crawford:

    You are absolutely right. I have been using topos and compass for so many decades that I have completely forgotten how difficult and complex it was to become even basically competent with them. Fortunately, we had the old orienteering clubs back then, which made it a lot more fun, and gave me plenty of practical experience. Too bad they don’t seem to be around anymore.

    • Jason Crawford says:

      Hey Mark,

      Although they may be rare, orienteering clubs do still exist. I lost a young man in Afghanistan who had been a member of one in high school. I really enjoyed working with that kid because his orienteering skills were great and I got to spend my time with him teaching him the tactical route planning and maneuvers while everyone else was learning the basics.

      I did find a list of orienteering clubs here:

      There are also new games that like Geocaching that can be used to get people started. I know you come by often, so you may have already seen it, but I wrote about using Geocaching to learn it here:

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