Its the end of the world. Just how it comes doesn’t really matter, we could get nuclear war, global economic collapse, zombies, alien invasion, an incurable plague, environmental disaster–take your pick. But lets say its The End Time. How are you going to find your way around, Road Warrior?
First, you can’t stay where you are. Either you’ll run out of supplies, or your neighbors will find out you have a stash and come to steal it from you; oh, and lets not forget the ubiquitous roving gangs of marauders (every end of the world scenario has them). You’ll need to move, sooner or later, to find a place that has what you want, or someone who has it so you can take it from them. Even if you are lucky enough to live in some small, well-defended, self-supporting community, sooner or later its going to have to organize itself to share the dwindling inventory of resources, and the ever-increasing catalog of dirty, ugly jobs. All those happy prepper militias will quickly degenerate into warring feudal states, and statistically, you’re more likely to wind up a serf than a baron if you join one.
Yeah, you’re going to need to be able to travel, and since fuel, spare parts and draft animals will probably be in short supply, you will probably have to go on foot. Unfortunately, there’s a limit to how much you can carry on your back. Think about it, even if you’re young and in good shape, you’ll need several sets of clothes (maybe more, and bedclothes and portable shelter, too, depending on the climate), a few tools, weapons, and trade goods (cigarettes, ammo, canned goods). And depending on the climate and local geology, you may need water.
The only way you can move more than the mass of the standard infantry pack (80 lbs) for long periods in the bush is going to require a vehicle, and the only vehicle that needs no fuel or a smooth road (they will be regularly patrolled and roadblocked by marauders) is a boat, preferably one with a sail. This solves the problem of shelter as well as transport, and if you live near a large body of water, it provides security as well. A few weeks into the Apocalypse, pirate powerboats will be out of fuel, and you can either float Huck Finn style down a river, park yourself in the middle of a large lake, or find a small offshore island to hole up in. You can fish and hunt, collect rainwater and shellfish and if the place becomes inhospitable for whatever reason, you can weigh anchor and try another spot. And if those marauding gangs find you, you can leave before they muster up enough strength to come after you in force. Sure, sooner or later, entropy will catch up with you, things break down or wear out, but it could buy you some time. Just by moving every few days will ensure few or none know where you are. When the end of the world comes, don’t head for the hills, drive to the nearest marina and steal a small sailboat before it occurs to anyone else to do it. You can probably find one in pretty good shape, ready to go and undefended. And your car should be able to carry enough gear there for you to equip it in style. If you already have a boat, move quickly. You will need to be underway well before everyone else figures out just how bad things are.
So you have a boat, preferably one with some good sea legs, and you’re away from immediate danger, perhaps with family or trusted companions to help you survive. This is about the best you can hope for. But how do you get around? Specifically, how do you navigate? GPS will not be working, you can count on it! None of the other aids to navigation will be working, as power sources and batteries on buoys fail. Hopefully you’ll have charts, or maps of some sort, and your compass will still work, but that’s about it. In any case, you should learn the constellations and how to use them to find your way around.
For long distance navigation, there will be no way to reset your chronometer, and after a few months the Nautical Almanac will be out of date; so celestial navigation will no longer be an option. You will still be able to do latitude sailing using the sextant and stars for years, providing you learn how to correct for precession error in declination, but unless you’re an astronomer, that is probably not an option. Besides, where do you plan to go? Its as likely to be as bad there as it is where you are now.
People with access to coastal sailing craft, particularly on a coastline, are in a pretty good position to survive the immediate aftermath of an Apocalypse scenario, much more so than those holed up in a fallout shelter or a remote wilderness cabin, on a farm or small town, or on the road in some armored recreational vehicle. Its all survivalist fantasy, of course, we are all tied into civilization in ways we cannot even begin to fully understand. Sooner or later we will run out of canned goods, or ammunition, or gasoline. All we can hope for is that the system will get back up on its feet before we run out of luck.