It's been a while since I wrote an entry in this series, but it hasn't been forgotten!
Could someone disappear into the wilderness, with only a bag on their back, and hope to survive long term? The idea is hearkens back to older times, when mountain men, explorers, long hunters and others lived in the untamed wilds, with little in the way of outside support.
As a survival strategy, on the surface, surviving out tough times in the wilderness has a lot going for it. In many parts of the country, there are vast, empty tracks of wilderness where someone could walk off and never be seen again. In tough times, even in a massive, worldwide collapse, the wilderness would still offer a refuge from the chaos and violence of more populated areas. And, with enough wilderness skill, one could conceivably survive off nature's bounty - wild edibles, trapping, hunting and fishing to keep your belly full.
Real life isn't so simple and easy--I remember reading that the average life expectancy of a mountain man was a measly year. That's not exactly a long time. And they typically had horses loaded down with gear to help.
Injury, illness, weather, predators, starvation, dehydration - there's a long list of challenges to confront. And there are a lot of people who are planning to head to the mountains in case of trouble, so the local forest might not be so empty post-collapse.
Of course, you will have to deal with injury, illness, bad weather, predators, starvation, dehydration and potential raiders just about anywhere after a worldwide, long term collapse--country, city, small towns, suburbs, you name it. Post-collapse wilderness survival is often dismissed off hand - but doing so, is, I think, rather foolish. If you don't have any better options, the remoteness, seclusion and natural resources of the wilderness could well provide an excellent means for survival.
History is full of examples of people who have retreated to the forest and wild places and survived. One is the Bielski partisans from WWII - a group of Polish Jews who retreated to the nearby forests and then organized an armed resistance against the Nazis.
A more recent example: the Taliban and al-Qaeda in Afghanistan. They retreat to the remote reaches of the mountains and hunker down in caves, often evading U.S. forces and, at the end of the day, surviving and living to fight another day.
It's certainly possible - heck, the Native Americans were surviving in the wilds of North America for a long time.
You would of course want to stack the deck in your favor as much as possible - people, animals, tools, food supplies, and the right location would all go a long way. A group of skilled survivors on pack horses loaded down with tools and supplies would have much better chances than a lone guy with a pack on his back. If you were limited to what you could carry in, some pre-positioned caches would be wise.
Edited to Add: Just to clarify, a lone guy with nothing but a backpack full of gear will have a rough time. A lone guy with a backpack will always have a tough time. There's only so much one person can do and only so much you can carry on your back. The more help you have, the better your odds. More people, more equipment, more supplies, etc. A group on horseback, on ATVs, 4x4s and so on, loaded down with gear and supplies, will have an easier go of surviving.
There's also nothing to say that once in the wilderness, you couldn't leave for resupply, scouting, scavenging, barter, etc.
Finally - yes, you would have to have some very strong wilderness survival skills. You wouldn't need to be Dave Canterbury, but you'd need to be very good - knowledge of wild edibles, hunting, trapping, bushcrafting and so on.
Your shelter would be a make-or-break thing; a backpacking tent is not going to stand up to long term use, sustained bad weather or winter temperatures. There are a variety of viable long-term wilderness shelters - teepees, yurts, walled expedition tents, cabins, huts, shacks, dugouts/bunkers, and more. Most are going to require more than a knife to build. You may need to pack in the shelter itself on a vehicle or animal, or you may need to carry heavier use tools, a stove or similar.
Trapping is generally the most productive means of getting meat - hunting and fishing being hit-or-miss - so having animal and fish traps available, plus the knowledge on how to produce primitive traps, would help keep you fed.
Camouflage would be your primary defense - a remote location, plus good camouflage and noise/light/smell discipline would do a lot to help avoid any kind of conflict, but ample and intelligent use of camouflage would further any advantages there. And, of course, you'd want ample firearms in case your camouflage failed or you needed to go on the offensive.
Anyways, some food for thought. Is wilderness survival anyone's primary plan in the event of a wide scale collapse? Anyone have any experience living in a primitive shelter long term. Any good points I missed? Let me know in the comments section.